1860 photo taken 4 days after Mr. Lincoln visited Lincoln, Illinois, for the last time. Info at 3 below.

This President grew;
His town does too.
Link to Lincoln:
Lincoln & Logan County Development Partnership
 

Site Map
Testimonials

Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission of Lincoln, IL

1.
Abraham Lincoln and the Historic Postville Courthouse,
including a William Maxwell connection to the Postville Courthouse

2.
About Henry Ford and the Postville Courthouse, the Story of the Postville Courthouse Replica,
Tantivy, & the Postville Park Neighborhood in the
Route 66 Era


3.

The Rise of Abraham Lincoln and His History and Heritage in His First Namesake Town,
also the founding of Lincoln College, the plot to steal Lincoln's body, and memories of Lincoln College and the Rustic Tavern-Inn

4. 
Introduction to the Social & Economic History of Lincoln, Illinois,
including poetry by William Childress & commentary by Federal Judge Bob Goebel & Illinois Appellate Court Judge Jim Knecht

5.
"Social Consciousness in William Maxwell's Writings Based on Lincoln, Illinois" (an article published in the Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, winter 2005-06
)

5.a.
Peeking Behind the Wizard's Screen: William Maxwell's Literary Art as Revealed by a Study of the Black Characters in Billie Dyer and Other Stories

6.
Introduction to the Railroad & Route 66 Heritage of Lincoln, Illinois

7.
The Living Railroad Heritage of Lincoln, Illinois: on Track as a Symbol of the "Usable Past"


8.

Route 66 Overview Map of Lincoln with 42 Sites, Descriptions, & Photos

9.
The Hensons of Business Route 66

10.
The Wilsons of Business
Route 66
,
including the Wilson Grocery & Shell Station

11.
Route 66 Map & Photos Showing Lincoln Memorial Park
(former Chautauqua site),
the Historic Cemeteries, & Nearby Sites

12.
Route 66 Map & Photos Showing Salt Creek & Cemetery Hill,
including
the highway bridges, GM&O bridge, Madigan State Park, the old dam (with photos & Leigh's memoir of "shooting the rapids" over the old dam), & the Ernie Edwards' Pig-Hip Restaurant Museum in Broadwell

13.
The Historic Logan County Courthouse, Past & Present


14.
Route 66 Map with 51 Sites in the Business & Courthouse Square Historic District,
including locations of historical markers
(on the National Register of Historic Places)

15.
Vintage Scenes of the Business & Courthouse Square Historic District

16.
The Foley House:  A Monument to Civic Leadership
(on the National Register of Historic Places)

17.
Agriculture in
the Route 66 Era


18.
Arts & Entertainment Heritage,
including the Lincoln Theatre Roy Rogers' Riders Club of the 1950s

19.
Business Heritage

20.
Cars, Trucks & Gas Stations of the Route 66 Era

21.
Churches,
including the hometown churches of Author William Maxwell & Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr

22.
Factories, Past and Present

23.
Food Stores of
the Route 66 Era


24.
Government

25.
Hospitals, Past and Present

26.
Hotels & Restaurants of the Railroad & Route 66 Eras


27.
Lincoln Developmental Center
(Lincoln State School & Colony in the Route 66 era), plus
debunking the myth of Lincoln, Illinois, choosing the Asylum over the University of Illinois

28
.
Mining Coal, Limestone, & Sand & Gravel; Lincoln Lakes; & Utilities


29.

Museums & Parks, including the Lincoln College Museum and its Abraham Lincoln Collection, plus the Heritage-in-Flight Museum

30.
Neighborhoods
with Distinction

31.
News Media in the Route 66 Era

32.
The Odd Fellows' Children's Home

33.
Schools

34.
Memories of the 1900 Lincoln Community High School,
including Fred Blanford's dramatic account of the lost marble fountain of youth

35.
A Tribute to the Historians and Advocates of Lincoln, Illinois

36.
Watering Holes of the Route 66 Era

37.
The Historic 1953 Centennial Celebration of Lincoln, Illinois

38.
The Festive 2003 Sesqui-centennial Celebration of Lincoln, Illinois,
including photos of LCHS Class of 1960 dignitaries & the Blanfords

39.
Why Did the State Police Raid Lincoln, Illinois, on October 11, 1950?

40.
The Gambling Raids in Lincoln and Logan County, Illinois,
During the Late Route 66 Era (1950-1960)

_______

Pages in this section tell about Leigh Henson's Lincoln years, moving away, revisits, and career:

About Lincoln, Illinois;
This Web Site; & Me

A Tribute to Lincolnite Edward Darold Henson: World War II U.S. Army Veteran of the Battles for Normandy and the Hedgerows; Brittany and Brest; and the Ardennes (Battle of the Bulge)

For Remembrance, Understanding, & Fun: Lincoln Community High School Mid-20th-Century Alums' Internet Community
(a Web site and email exchange devoted to collaborative memoir and the sharing of photos related to Lincoln, Illinois)

Leigh Henson's Pilgrimage to Lincoln, Illinois, on
July 12, 2001

Leigh Henson's Review of Dr. Burkhardt's William Maxwell Biography

Leigh Henson's Review of Ernie Edwards' biography, Pig-Hips on Route 66, by William Kaszynski

Leigh Henson's Review of Jan Schumacher's Glimpses of Lincoln, Illinois

Teach Local Authors: Considering the Literature of Lincoln, Illinois

Web Site About
Leigh Henson's Professional Life

__________

Pages in this section are about the writing, memorabilia, and Web sites of other Lincolnites:

A Tribute to Bill and Phyllis Stigall:
Exemplary Faculty of Lincoln College at Mid-Twentieth Century

A Tribute to the Krotzes of Lincoln, Illinois

A Tribute to Robert Wilson (LCHS '46): Author of Young in Illinois, Movies Editor of December Magazine, Friend and Colleague of December Press Publisher Curt Johnson, and Correspondent with William Maxwell

Brad Dye (LCHS '60): His Lincoln, Illinois, Web Site,
including photos of many churches

Dave Armbrust's Memorabilia of Lincoln, Illinois

J. Richard
(JR) Fikuart
(LCHS '65):
T
he Fikuarts of Lincoln, Illinois, including their connections to the William Maxwell family and three generations of family fun at Lincoln Lakes

Jerry Gibson (LCHS '60): Lincoln, Illinois, Memoirs & Other Stories

Dave Johnson (LCHS '56): His Web Site for the Lincoln Community High School Class of 1956

Sportswriter David Kindred: Memoir of His Grandmother Lena & Her West Side Tavern on Sangamon Street in the Route 66 Era

Judge Jim Knecht
(LCHS '62): Memoir and Short Story, "Other People's Money," Set in Hickey's Billiards on Chicago Street in the Route 66 Era

William A. "Bill" Krueger (LCHS '52): Information for His Books About Murders in Lincoln

Norm Schroeder (LCHS '60): Short Stories

Stan Stringer Writes About His Family, Mark Holland, and Lincoln, Illinois

Thomas Walsh: Anecdotes Relating to This Legendary Attorney from Lincoln by Attorney Fred Blanford & Judge Jim Knecht

Leon Zeter (LCHS '53): His Web Site for the
Lincoln Community High School Class of 1953
,
including announcements of LCHS class reunions

(Post yours there.)
__________

 


Highway Sign of
the Times:
1926-1960

The Route 66
Association of Illinois

The Illinois State Historical Society

Illinois Tourism Site:
Enjoy Illinois

 

 

  Email a link to this page to someone who might be interested. This page is a major addition to Mr. Lincoln, Route 66, & Other Highlights of Lincoln, Illinois, and was published in the summer of 2004 after the "Best Web Site of the Year" award by the Illinois State Historical Society. Internet Explorer is the only browser that shows this page the way it was designed.  Your computer's settings may alter the display.

April 24, 2004: Awarded "Best Web Site of the Year" by the Illinois State Historical Society  
  "superior achievement: serves as a model for the profession and reaches a greater public"
 

to homepage

Marquee Lights of the Lincoln Theater, est. 1923, Lincoln, Illinois

 
  You can go home again. Email Leigh Henson at dlhenson@missouristate.edu .
 

A Tribute to Lincolnite Robert Wilson:
Author, Editor, and Film Scholar

     Dear Mr. Wilson, why on earth did you wait so long to make yourself known to me? . . . I like your book [Young in Illinois] very much indeed, and am proud to find my name in it. . . . The tragic sense doesn't grow on Huckleberry bushes. Or the ability to express it."

                                                       -- William Maxwell, letter to Robert Wilson (October 31, 1977)

     Robert Wilson (1928-1983) was born in Lincoln and graduated from Lincoln Community High School (LCHS), Class of 1946--the same class as my Uncle Gib Wilson (a major contributor to this project). Robert Wilson published Young in Illinois in 1975 as a special 112-page edition of December magazine. Young in Illinois consists of short stories based on Wilson's growing up in Lincoln as well as memoir relating to his experiences in Lincoln and Chicago. I discovered this book in 2003 while searching eBay for memorabilia of Lincoln, Illinois.

     Upon reading this work, I realized it was a small, neglected masterpiece, so I began using the Internet to find more information about the book and its author. I also knew I wanted to use this information to create this tribute page and add it to Mr. Lincoln, Route 66, and Other Highlights of Lincoln, Illinois. Through the Internet, I have been most fortunate in locating Robert Wilson's only child, Sue Young Wilson, a former editor of Lingua Franca and now a freelance writer and editor living in New York. She has generously provided information used on this page--photos, family information, and letters from William Maxwell to her father. Without the substantial information provided by her, I could not have created this tribute. At the bottom of this page, I provide Sue Young Wilson's email address. If you are a "Lincolnite at heart," please consider sending a brief email to thank her. (She explained to me that her first name is Sue Young and that she has no middle name.)

     Photo 1 below accompanied a Bloomington Pantagraph article by Paul Levin about Robert Wilson and Young in Illinois (August 29, 1976) soon after its 1975 publication.
 

1: Robert Wilson with Young in Illinois

      At the right is the front cover of Young in Illinois with a photo of St. Mary's Catholic Church. "The church steeple, beautifully aglow against the overhead sun" (Young in Illinois, p. 16). The bicycle racks and basketball hoop in the foreground were located on the playground across the street--the setting of the title short story. Photos in Young in Illinois were taken by John Cisco.

     This page develops the following topics:
 

2: Front Cover Showing St. Mary's Catholic Church at 4th and Maple Sts. in Lincoln, Illinois

  • A biographical sketch of Robert Wilson

  • Map and other information about the north Lincoln neighborhood of Robert Wilson

  • A look at Young in Illinois (1975)

  • Notes on Young in Illinois by Literary Critic Lee Walleck

  • Publisher Curt Johnson's remembrance of Robert Wilson (1985; 2003)

  • Analysis of William Maxwell's letters to Robert Wilson (1977-1980)

  • Sue Young Wilson's memoir of Lincoln, Illinois (2003-2004)

A Biographical Sketch of Robert Wilson

     Robert Wilson was born (1928), raised, and educated in Lincoln, Illinois. Following his high school graduation, Wilson attended Lincoln College, and there he earned an Associate of Arts degree in 1948. In 1952 he received a bachelor's degree from Roosevelt College in Chicago. After he was discharged from the Army in 1954, he began living in the Hyde Park area of Chicago and continued his education at Roosevelt College, where in 1959 he completed a master's degree in sociology. Then, for many years Wilson worked in Chicago as an editor of trade publications.

     Wilson used his writing and editing skills in the pursuit of his life-long fascination with movies. One of his essays in Young in Illinois, "Life and Art in the Thirties (for William Maxwell)," describes how this interest began in his childhood when he visited the movie theaters in downtown Lincoln, especially the Vogue (this essay appears later on this page). As a non-paying "labor of love," Wilson worked from 1963 to his death in 1983 as the movies editor for December magazine, a publication of December Press. Curt Johnson was the publisher; Wilson and he became colleagues and good friends. In a letter to me of December 29, 2003, Johnson describes December and Wilson's work as its movies editor: "For about 20 years December was (quite possibly) the leading independent literary magazine in the U.S. and so, the world with the notable exception of Paris Review. What Wilson did was contact movie writers and put together a section on movies for each issue. Developed the section. Was always great stuff (just as is the Temple University Press book on Ferguson)."  In 1971, despite divorce, job loss caused by a corporate merger, and hospitalization related to depression, Wilson edited a scholarly work titled The Film Criticism of Otis Ferguson, and it was published by Temple University Press.

       Sue Young Wilson writes, "By the early 1960s, Robert Wilson had established himself as an editor and had married OckJu Noh, the younger sister (newly arrived from Korea to study law at the University of Chicago) of the wife of a publishing colleague and friend. In 1965 they became the parents of Sue Young Wilson, who is Robert's only child. Robert and OckJu divorced in 1970; but he maintained a close relationship with his daughter, and the two of them saw, wrote, and called each other regularly until his death."

     Robert Wilson returned to live and write in Lincoln in the early 1970s. His daughter tells me that at some point during this period he taught a class in film at Lincoln College, and she remembers seeing him screen classic films to include in the course. In 1974-5, he received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to work on Young in Illinois, which (as noted above) was published in 1975 as a special 112-page issue of December magazine.

     As an aspiring creative writer and as a veteran editor, Robert Wilson was knowledgeable about the publishing industry and was well aware of his good fortune in obtaining the NEA fellowship. In the Pantagraph article, he notes how difficult it is to get published: "The day of writing your great short story and waiting for a return letter saying, 'You're the greatest,' is gone.  . . ." Wilson pointed to another trend that he said will hurt the literary community. "I don't think there's much interest in reading in the United States anymore. There's a relatively small number of people in the U.S. who do any type of serious reading. Even prominent writers are being read by the same segments of individuals. If a book doesn't sell 10,000 copies, it's sold as a remainder" ("Contrast of City, Small Town," Pantagraph, 8-29-76, p. C-8).

     In 1982 December Press published Wilson's The Otis Ferguson Reader. Curt Johnson describes Reader as "the only December Press book to get reviewed all over--The New Yorker, The New York Times, Harper's, The Village Voice, Downbeat--and favorably, and the only book in 25 years to make a nickel for the Press." Before Robert Wilson's passing in 1983, he had seen many of the favorable reviews (Green Isle in the Sea, p. 264).

     Robert Wilson died in Lincoln in 1983. He, his brother James, and their parents are buried in Union Cemetery at Lincoln.
 

3: Front Cover of TFCoOF

4: Front Cover of TOFR
 

Map and Other Information About the North Lincoln Neighborhood of Robert Wilson

5: Business Route 66 (in red) at the Heart of North Lincoln

     Notes: The map above (adapted from Yahoo) conforms to the convention of showing north at the top. The aerial photo below, however, was taken from the opposite orientation.

     The map shows the location of the small, neighborhood grocery store on Burlington Street owned and operated by Robert's parents just behind their home on north McLean Street.

     The main competitor of the Wilson Grocery of north Lincoln was the Krotz Grocery, 1010 N. Kickapoo Street. Three generations of Krotzes, including Barb, LCHS Class of 1960, owned and operated this grocery from 1919 to 1994. Then, for several years, Karl Krotz owned and operated the Krotz Bros. Lawn, Garden, and Pet Supply Center in this location. My description of the present-day business at this location--an "extreme" curiosity shop--expresses my interpretation of Karl (LCHS, 1956) and Bob (LCHS, 1946) Krotz's enterprise, which continues to bear the former name: the Krotz Bros. Lawn, Garden, and Pet Supply Center. The present business is partly a collectibles shop, partly a used Crosley auto parts store, and partly a (free) museum of eclectic and bizarre memorabilia relating to Lincoln, Illinois, and just about everywhere else. (I love the toy airplanes hanging from the ceiling, the political campaign buttons, and the photos of politicos, including a large one of the colorful Paul Powell). Well, you should visit the place to see for yourself. Karl's business card describes himself as "the Shabby Sheik." Later in 2004, I will add a Web page to this Lincoln Web site about Karl and the history of Krotz enterprises in this historic 1905-10 building--one of the best-kept secrets about Lincoln's history. The construction of the Krotz Building included materials from the 1858-1903 Logan County Courthouse. See 13. The Logan County Courthouse, Past and Present, for photos of a window in the Krotz Building that came from the historic 1858 courthouse, where Abraham Lincoln practiced law. He may even have gazed through this window.

     Originally I had mistaken the OK Tavern for Gorens' Tavern, but Pat Rogers, LCHS Class of 1957, emailed his correction. Pat identifies the location of Gorens' Tavern as "300 Butler right off Tremont." Thanks, Pat, for the "eagle eye." Gorens' location would be a little southeast of Wilson's north Lincoln neighborhood. The 1934-5 Polk's Lincoln City Directory lists a tavern owned by Fred Gardner at 1201 N. McLean, the same location as the OK.

     Gorens' was an African-American tavern and the site of the shotgun "crime of passion" slaying on New Year's eve of 1953. The assassin had confessed to the murder (Lincoln Evening Courier, April 26, 1954, p. 1). Native Lincolnites will be interested to know the Courier article says that after the slaying, the murderer visited the J&J Tavern on Pulaski Street in downtown Lincoln--one of the BoBs ("Buckets of Blood") mentioned by Fred Blanford. For a contemporary photo of the north McLean Street tavern and more info, see 36. Watering Holes of the Route 66 Era and scroll to 36.11. Also, for photos and other information relating to the giant shale pile, mine, and ice plant, see 28. Mining Coal, Limestone, & Sand & Gravel; Lincoln Lakes; & Utilities.

     Hopper's Tavern was a neighborhood watering hole in the 1930s, and this tavern is mentioned in Robert Wilson's memoir of Lincoln, as cited later on this page. Lincoln has never had very many neighborhood taverns, probably because the town was never large. My father, Darold, tells me that Hopper's name was Henry Geskey.
 

6: Adaptation of Two-Page Photo (taken 9-16-1960) in Gleason's Lincoln: A Pictorial History, pp. 40-41
 

7: Sue Young Wilson and Robert Wilson in the Front Yard of the Helen and William Wilson Home

8: Sue and Robert Wilson in the Back
Yard of the Wilson Home
 

      The above photos, both probably taken in the winter of 1973, have been provided by Sue Young Wilson. They show a proud father's love for his eight-year-old daughter. These photos also help depict the north Lincoln neighborhood of the Wilsons. The above photo at left was taken in the front yard of the Helen and William Wilson home on north McLean Street. The Wilson home and grocery store have since been demolished, and another house occupies the site. The photo shows McLean street was a brick pavement, like many streets in Lincoln, Illinois. Additionally, this photo shows typical neighborhood bungalows in the background.

     The above photo at right was taken in the back yard of the Wilson home, between the home and the Wilson Grocery Store, which appears in the background. The Wilson Grocery faced north on Burlington Street. The arrow identifies the water tank of the Stetson China Company on north Kickapoo Street (also formerly Business Route 66). The Stetson water tank also appears in the photo below. Stetson's has been gone since 1965, but the landmark water tank remains and is used by another enterprise. For information about the Stetson China Company, see 22. Factories, Past and Present.

9: GM&O Railroad Tracks Looking North Toward Chicago from
Keokuk Street (Business Route 66) in Lincoln, Illinois

(Mid-1970s photo by John Cisco in Young in Illinois)

     At the right of the photo is the Stetson China Company and its enduring water tank.
 

A Look at Young in Illinois (1975)

     "Young in Illinois is a beautiful book, steeped in bittersweet nostalgia, beautifully written."

                                                                               -- Curt Johnson, Green Isle in the Sea, p. 263.

     "Young in Illinois consists of five stories that read like a novel, slowly written, beautifully executed. . . . They are stories of youth and manhood, with all the pain, agony, loss, and acceptance."

                                                               -- The Chicago Tribune, quoted in Green Isle in the Sea

     Young in Illinois consists of autobiographical short stories and essays of memoir. The main characters of the short stories are sensitive young males trying to gain peer approval. The memoir typically compares the Lincoln and Chicago that Wilson knew in the past with the Lincoln and Chicago he knew later, mostly in the 1970s.

     Robert Wilson dedicated Young in Illinois to his parents. Robert Wilson's daughter, Sue Young Wilson, lovingly recalls her Wilson grandparents and provided me with copies of their obituaries to offer biographical information about them. Helen M. Wilson (1903-1987) was a daughter of Jacob and Margaret Renchler Grachek. She married William J. Wilson on June 5, 1927. He (1904-1986) was a son of David and Tena Heinzel Wilson. The two children of this marriage were Robert and James E. For 30 years William J. and Helen Wilson owned and operated a grocery store in north Lincoln on Burlington Street. In addition, the 1934-35 Polk's Lincoln, Illinois, City Directory states that Mr. Wilson clerked at the Basket Grocery on Chicago Street. Mr. Wilson also had been a Logan County deputy sheriff; a security guard for Lincoln College and Lincoln Community High School; a supporter of the Lincoln Railer Basketball Club; an assessor for East Lincoln Township, and a member of the Logan County Board. This information shows the William J. Wilsons were life-long, "salt of the earth" Lincolnites.
 

     Young in Illinois is especially significant because it provides a very rare account of a young innocent who goes from a small Midwestern town to the big city to work for years and then returns to the hometown with a seasoned perspective. The history of American literature shows few such "round trip" accounts. Also, Wilson's writings about Lincoln, Illinois--in many ways a typical small Midwestern town--, depict what it was like to grow up in the 1930s and 1940s in the less-privileged parts of Lincoln society than those depicted in William Maxwell's better-known, more-extensive writings set in Lincoln.

     Young in Illinois consists of the following (the dates in parentheses refer to the dates of original composition):

  • "Winner's Take" (composed in 1956) (autobiographical short story)
     

  • "Young in Illinois" (composed in 1954) (autobiographical short story). These early stories are marked by vivid social and psychological realism and skillful dialogue.
     

  • "The World Outside Illinois" (composed in 1965) (memoir of living in Chicago)
     

  • "Life and Art in the Thirties" (for William Maxwell) (composed in 1972) (memoir of growing up in Lincoln during the Depression)
     

  • "Chicago" (composed in 1975) (more memoir of living in Chicago and returning to Lincoln)

     In the following discussion, I use quotations from selections in Young in Illinois with the generous permission of Mr. Curt Johnson, publisher of December Press.

"Winner's Take" (composed in 1956)

     This short story is set in the late1930s near the coal-mining section of north Elmsville (Wilson adopts William Maxwell's fictional name for Lincoln, Illinois). The story opens with "soon to be seventh grader" Jack Thompson (fictional counterpart of Robert Wilson) pushing his face into the dirt as he tries to bite and pull out a matchstick, which he has driven into the ground with his pocketknife. Jack is practicing a key skill in the game of mumbly peg (or mumble peg, etc.), and he is thinking about a game of it that he had played the day before with pals, including Sandy and Mike. (This pocket-knife throwing game was popular with boys--and men--in early- to mid-20th century. For detailed information about how this game is played, including illustrations, see the link to Dan Beard's Web page titled "Mumbly Peg" in the Sources Cited at the end of this page.)
 

     Jack practices his skill as he waits for Finch, his playmate, so they can go hunting crawdads at the Branch [probably Brainerd's Branch--a small creek just a few blocks to the west of north Lincoln in the pasture of the owners of the grandest mansion in Lincoln, built by the Brainerds and owned by the McGraths in the Route 66 era]. Finch approaches, kicking a tin can; and Jack explains that Sandy, who lost the mumble peg game the day before, cannot go "craw-dad'n." Finch cannot go either because his Dad is sending him to town to buy nails needed in building a pump. Jack, unhappy with that news, is critical of Finch, who is a little younger.

     They discuss the mumble peg game of the day before. Finch insinuates that Mike falsely claimed that Sandy's knife throw had failed the two-finger test. (A knife throw was legal only if someone could slip two fingers between the blade and the ground where the blade attached to the knife handle.) Because Mike said Sandy had failed the test, Sandy had tried to pull the matchstick out of the ground with his teeth, but failed at that, too, and was doubly humiliated in front of the older boys. Jack defends Mike and begins to wrestle Finch as brothers Mike and Roy Wheeler show up.

    Jack commands Finch to take back his accusation about Mike, or Jack will tell the older two boys. Finch refuses. Jack and Finch begin to fight. Jack is eager to humble Finch and impress the older Mike.

     Jack discovers that the younger Finch is not easily beaten.  [The larger sans serif type in the passages below indicates quoted material from Wilson's writings.]
 

 

10: Robert Wilson and Friends

     The subjects of this photo are just a little younger than the characters in "Winner's Take"; but their clothing, pose, and expression suggest a definite passion for fun and games that must have followed them into their teens. Photo provided by Sue Young Wilson.

     "Finch wiped away tears with the sleeve of his shirt, and then jumped up. But before he could even get a punch off, Jack had hit him twice in the ribs and Finch staggered away, gagging and all doubled over in pain.

    "Now ya had enough?" Jack said excitedly. "Ya ready to stop messing with me? Huh?" As Jack waited for Finch to answer, he listened eagerly to the shouts of encouragement Mike and Roy were beginning to send up now that he was really showing them what he could do. For the first time in his life he actually felt they were behind him, on his side, with him all the way, and he was suddenly happier than he could ever remember. He didn't like knocking Finch around, but if Finch wanted to keep trying to play the big shot on him, well he was sure willing to keep dishing it out.

     Finch finally straightened up and, still gasping for breath, began to move weakly in Jack's direction. He stopped a few steps a way. "I never done nothing to you," Finch said in an accusing, sick voice.

     "Had enough?" Jack said harshly.

     "Drop dead. . ." As Jack's arm went back, Finch made a feeble attempt to block the swing. Jack's fist smashed into his mouth.

     "I think ya really hurt the kid that time," Mike said. "Better get him out of here, Jack, 'fore there's trouble. Our old man'll be home in a few minutes" (p. 11).

     Jack is frustrated that Mike and Roy's approval is short lived. In the end, Jack is alone and tearful with remorse from hurting Finch and failing to console him.
 

"Young in Illinois" (composed in 1954, pp. 13-40)

     In this lengthy short story, high school boys of the mid 1940s play basketball on the playground of St. Mary's Catholic grade school in Lincoln, Illinois, trying to impress one another and bantering--sometimes with off-color insults. The story dramatizes conflict between sophomore and junior boys. This story, like "Winner's Take," displays sharp realism of character, scene, and dialogue.

     At the opening, Paul Marshall, a high school sophomore, is tending to his father's grocery store while Paul's father runs errands. [Paul seems based on the author.] Paul's classmate, George Daniels, is there too, talking to his girlfriend June on the phone. Paul and George wait for Mr. Marshall to return so he can drive them to the playground of St. Mary's, where the boys will play basketball. When Mr. Marshall returns, he suggests George is good enough to play varsity basketball and should forget about a past conflict with the coach and try out next season. Paul acknowledges George's ability by referring to him as the Gipper or Gip. Paul's father closes the store and drives the boys to the playground, where they expect classmates Droopy and Rabbit to meet them.

     Paul and George beat Droopy and Rabbit in several games, increasing the margin of victory each time. As they begin to rest, Harry Riggs and Ed Anderson, who have been playing tennis, approach the other end of the basketball court where some grade school kids had been playing. Harry and Ed are the only juniors on the Elmsville varsity basketball team, and they stop to show off their shooting skill for the grade school kids.

     Then Harry and Ed walk over to the sophomores, and the bantering begins. Ed reveals himself as a foul-mouthed smart ass, bullying Rabbit. Paul hopes George will complete against Ed and humble him. Rabbit is amazed as George and Ed talk about their recent dates. Ed continues his edgy behavior toward Rabbit:

      "Say do me a favor, willya buddy? Ed asked, wheeling around. "Shake hands."

     "What?"

     "Come on, shake hands."

     Rabbit acted like it was a new game or something. Ed made a limp motion as if he were going to shake hands, then grabbed Rabbit by the elbow and tripped him over onto the ground. "Now get off my back, willya junior? Take a nap."

     The expression "shake hands" is sexual slang for masturbation, so Paul and George quickly understand the crude insult to Rabbit. Paul hopes George will retaliate. George says "a few calm but deadly words" to Ed, who tries to knee George in the stomach, but George quickly turns and deflects the move.

     Taking regular drags on his cigarette, Ed tells a story about how some of friends and he sexually humiliated a younger boy. That prompts Droopy, who had been quietly lying down, into action.

     "Say, Ed." Droopy had been stirring restlessly or uncomfortably in his stretched-out position for sometime now he sat up, reflectively running his hand along his jaw. "Do me a favor, willya?" he asked quietly.

     "What?" Ed said in a surprised voice, cocking his head in Droopy's direction.

     "Do me a favor, willya Ed? Shake hands."

     . . . . At first Ed only stared at Droopy. A slight, puzzled frown wavered on his face. Then the red started creeping over his neck, and his roughly handsome features hardened into a scowl as Droopy, his big body hunched over his knees, gazed back at him. . . ."

     Paul is amazed at Droopy's bold retaliation. Ed then begins to talk about George's girlfriend, implying she and her sister may be promiscuous. Paul senses that Ed is taking out his frustration on George and that George is letting down his friends by failing to stand up to Ed.

     "Paul hung his head, confusedly biting his lower lip. He just couldn't believe it. The Gipper giving in to a cheap, lousy bastard like that. And using June [George's girlfriend]. He had no right, no right at all to do that. George had betrayed them, that's what he had done" (p. 26).

     Next, all of them agree to choose sides and play a game of basketball. Paul is additionally unhappy because George and Ed decide they will be the ones choosing the sides. As Paul and George scrimmage on opposite teams, they compete fiercely, lose their tempers, and play rougher and rougher. Finally, George knocks Paul to the pavement. Getting to his feet, shaken and bleeding, Paul hesitates, then says with dramatic tough-guy understatement, "You fouled me. . . . "It's my out" (40). Readers are left wondering what effect this experience will have on the characters' friendship.
 

11: Robert Wilson and Gilbert Wilson Among Some Other Members of the
Lincoln Community High School Class of 1946 as Juniors in 1945

     The group photo from the 1945 Lincolnite was taken on the front steps of the 1925, red-brick building. (For photos showing the neo-Classical design of this structure, see 33. Schools.) 

     In each row of the above photo, students are identified from left to right. The white oval identifies Gilbert "Gib" Wilson, upper left, and Robert "Bob" Wilson, lower right. As far as I can determine, these Wilsons are not related.
     Bottom row: B. Wheeler, M. Shonewise, W. Shane, R. Worth, E. Winkel, S. Tibbs, J. Weaver, D. Tumilty
     Second row: P. Walker, J. Sheley, I. Taylor, M. Smith, I. Wachter
     Third row: L. Spurling, N. Smalley, P. Schrader, J. Strunk, L. Slayton, P. Stanley, B. Snyder
     Fourth row: H. Tellish, L(owell) Wilson (first cousin of Gib Wilson), B. Wehner, P. Slayton, F. Scott, E. Sielaff
     Fifth row: H. Schmidt, L. Williamson, D. Shroyer, H. Swille, F. Veff, B(ob) Wilson, D. Stoltz
     Sixth row: M. Wiggers, D. Werkman, L. Sheridan, P. Snyder, G(ilbert "Gib") Wilson, B. Wilmert
 

12: Young James and Robert Wilson (with oars) (date and place unknown; my guess is Miller Park in Bloomington, Illinois)
 

13: Robert Wilson
High School Graduation Photo

 

     The two photos above have been provided by Sue Young Wilson.
 

"The World Outside Illinois" (composed in 1965, pp. 41-51)

     This essay is a memoir of the author living in Chicago in mid- to late 1950s as a young man from a small Midwestern town (Lincoln) and becoming involved in the worldly urban lifestyle. The central scene is in a bar where the girlfriend of a wealthy, irresponsible male friend is a stripper.
 

"Life and Art in the Thirties (for William Maxwell)" (composed in 1972, pp. 73-81)

     "Life and Art in the Thirties (for William Maxwell)" is an essay of memoir about childhood during the1930s in the coal-mining area of north Lincoln, Illinois, during the Depression. The entire essay is reproduced here with the permission of December Press Publisher Curt Johnson.

     Of six kids I played with and knew well as a child, two were in penitentiaries at twenty-one, one was committed to an institution for the criminally insane, two became alcoholics and were dead at forty, and one ruined his back in a factory but later became the neighborhood's first school teacher at thirty-five. I was among the first in my neighborhood to go to college, and the second to enter a mental hospital, in 1970.

     Lincoln, Illinois in the 1930s was much as it is today physically. Not many side and back streets were paved and crude oil was used to keep down the dust; most of the houses in North Lincoln, a coal-mining neighborhood two blocks from our house, across the tracks, had outhouses and many homes hand-pumped water; water was heated on coal-burning stoves for baths in the homes I knew; kerosene lamps were often used in North Lincoln, but not in my neighborhood. Today, the outhouses, pumps, and kerosene lamps are gone, but not much else has changed. The trees were as numerous and high and green in the thirties, the homes, most of them, freshly painted every year or two, the lawns kept freshly mowed and free of leaves in the fall.

     The people had been there before the thirties, and lives then as now followed long, generational patterns. The sons of coal miners usually became coal miners, until the mines ran dry in the forties; later, like everyone else, they became factory workers, barbers, delivery men, and clerks. The sons of alcoholics became alcoholics, the sons of men who beat their wives beat their wives, the good, provident husbands brought up sons who paid their bills on time and went to church every Sunday.

     The fathers of some of my friends were on relief, but most of the men worked at their trades during the thirties, although the work might not last longer than six months out of the year. I don't know how the lives of these men changed from the twenties, because I was not born until 1928, but I wonder if they changed much at all. My friends, growing into the 1950s, were also old men at thirty.

     Fathers told their sons that living and earning a living were as hard as trying to break concrete with your fists, and the black rages that would erupt from a mood or a sullen supper conversation, the fists slamming against a head trying to duck away, the belts being jerked off pants and exploded in every which direction, were daily reminders that we had to learn to be men even if it killed us. But gradually, we stopped wanting to be men and the world of our childhood closed in upon us. Children should be seen and not heard and speak only when spoken to, and most of us stopped speaking at all, except to each other. [bold is mine]

     Our lives moved with the seasons and the school year. In the winter it was always cold, inside the house and out. Houses were hard to keep clean because of the soot from the stoves and the frequent backfires which blew ashes all over the room. We studied and listened to the radio sitting close to the big kitchen stove, behind which clothes were always hanging up to dry. In the mornings, clothing was heated on the oven door before we started getting ready for school. But as cold as it got, it was never too cold to go sledding on the streets after a snow, or to build a fortress for snowballing. In the summer, it was always hot, hotter inside the house than out usually. We wandered endlessly, from the abandoned stockyards along the tracks, to the makeshift ball diamonds, to the streams and creeks, sometimes stopping to help a friend gather coal along the railroad tracks, and then continuing on down the tracks to see where the horizon curved off. We were told never to stop and talk to tramps, although tramps who came to our homes, if they were reasonably neat and polite, were almost always fed, and we could sit with them on the backporch and listen to their stories while they ate. Around mealtime, the neighborhood was filled with eerie sounds, for most mothers had developed a distinctive cry to call their children home after not seeing them since breakfast or the noon dinner. Our mothers asked us to stay within a two-block area when it got close to dinner or supper so we could hear their calls. This was hard because no-one had a watch, so someone was always getting hit for being late when his father arrived home. But this was the only time we ever thought of time.

     If the seasons followed a ritual of marbles and football in the fall, sledding and basketball games and snow ball fights in the winter, marbles and kites and baseball in the spring, the days were remembered for our favorite programs on the radio, the nights for the trips downtown to get the newest treat at the ice cream parlor; But day or night, winter or summer, our thoughts were never far from the three movie theaters in town.

     Double popsicles and ice cream cones were a nickel, milk shakes and six dips of frosty freeze-covered with syrup were a dime, movies were a dime, an occasional supper consisting of a hamburger, french [no cap] fries and a milk shake cost twenty-five cents. We lived a nickel and dime life, and most of the dimes went for movies. I seldom went to fewer than four movies a week and usually more. The poorest of my friends always saw two movies a week (on Saturday afternoon and evening) and they stayed until the theater closed. In my neighborhood, wealth was measured by the number of movies one could see in a week. I was in awe of one  friend who went every day for a year. My own compulsion, which lasted twenty years, kept me in a movie theater fifteen-twenty hours a week. There was always a crossing back and forth between reel life and real life, as Andrew Sarris once put it, and those of my friends who crossed permanently over into real life were finished at an early age.

     I spent hour after hour listening to the radio--Jack Armstrong, Captain Midnight, Terry and the Pirates, Tom Mix--but I don't ever remember pretending to be a radio or comic strip hero, although I was always in and out of every movie I ever saw. Perhaps movies were a better and richer part of our daily life, and the radio and comic strips were a kind of fun and pretending that we knew was pretending. We lived in the movies.

     The first movie screen in Lincoln had been set up at the back of a confectionary store, and my mother told of watching Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and Mary Pickford, her favorites, while she enjoyed an ice cream soda with her mother. By the thirties, there were two movie theaters in town, and a third, the Vogue, opened in 1934 with a showing of Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch. The Vogue turned out to be narrow and barrenly disappointing, but I remember the excitement of going to that opening with my grandmother, and of seeing color posters of Buck Jones and Ken Maynard in the lobby, cowboys being brought to town for the first time by the new theater. The Vogue was converted to a Woolworth store in the fifties, and the Lincoln Theatre, gilt-edged and handsome in the thirties, survives today as the only show in town, dust, disheveled, and largely deserted except for weekends when two or three dozen high school kids drop in on  a date. The Grand Theatre was an old, rather decayed opera house with a vaguely sinister reputation, even in the thirties--some of the our mothers told us not to sit either in the balcony or under it in case the supports collapsed. Which meant that a lot of kids were packed into the first few rows of the theatre with that huge screen an inferno of light and action, especially on Saturday night, when we joined the toughest kids in town to watch the gritty, nonsinging cowboys like Bob Steele and Tom Tyler. These kids even wore their guns differently, strapped low and tied down with a thong just above the knee. One of my friends from North Lincoln spent hours every week waxing his holster until his gun would flash like greased lightning on a draw. Almost every kid in North Lincoln wore a gun, although it never protected them from anything.

     I remember a slow walk home from school with Gene, stopping to shoot marbles along the way on a warm spring afternoon. We were fifteen minutes late arriving at Gene's house; his father was in the barn doing the chores among the pigs and chickens many neighbors kept if they had the land for it behind their houses in town. I remember the grim look on the father's face when he told Gene he had missed doing his chores, took him into the barn and switched him eight or ten times across the back and legs with a buggy whip while Gene covered his face and head. Gene didn't cry or make a sound, which was something we had learned from the movies. We said so long and I went home.

     I remember Trey-ball Fletcher telling his younger brother not to grab for the bread at the dinner table, and when Sam reached anyway Trey-ball pinned his arm to the wooden kitchen table with a steak knife. Trey-ball's head had been banged against the wall so many times in school that everybody said he wasn't all there anymore. And perhaps he wasn't, my mother's concern was that I not get hit too many times in the head; my own feeling is that people telling me that I was going to end up in reform school with guards doing the beating was probably worse, and I never saw a prison picture without taking my bearings as one of the inmates. I spent the thirties walking to the electric chair with Cagney and Bogart, and no-one ever told me exactly what I was accused of. And I still don't know. All I remember is my friends getting their hair and ears pulled and their heads butted into walls, and I wouldn't speak to anyone who did these things. I hardly spoke at all in school from the time we transferred from our neighborhood school to the central junior high and on into high school.

     I remember kids being forced to jump into the muck at the bottom of a privy to retrieve a toy that had been thrown there, and an eye gouged out in a street fight, and threats to have our arms and legs broken if we didn't behave, and the one time it came true after David Preston had been warned not to take a shortcut through the yard of a man who lived on Park Place when we headed that direction to go craw-daddin. The last time we walked that way, the man called the city department of streets where David's father worked as a laborer; when David got home his father broke his arm with a baseball bat. [bold mine]

[Wilson breaks the essay here with an extra space and follows with a flush-left line.]

In the dreamlike, violent world of childhood we looked to the movie screen for an opening into the future. The kid who had been knocked down by his father could find in Cagney the possibilities of a tough, jaunty grace at thirty and not a mean-spirited alcoholism. To a skinny, dirty-mouthed and frightened girl, a Jean Harlow was as important as John Wayne to a skinny, frightened boy learning to walk with his slow authority. A lower-class boy who went to school to Cagney or Wayne was probably better off than going to school. The movies were always there, but once the dream had been lost or forgotten it was gone forever. Which is why I came to hate those films like Kings Row which locked one into a nightmarish double vision of the unrelieved meanness and nastiness of everyday life. The movies were real and they could haunt all your nights, or brighten all your days.

     In the flotsam of old memories, I think I felt for the first time the final loneliness of death when the empty horses were aligned at parade rest while the band played "My Country 'Tis of Thee" at the end of Lives of a Bengal Lancer. A fear more real than Frankenstein came out of the fog when the blind beggar grabbed the boy at the beginning of Treasure Island. And the realism of the disintegrating flesh in Lost Horizon was another black vision I have never forgotten. But so many of these fears in the theatre simply blended into the fear we had learned from adult life. Things to Come, with its vision of a world falling into endless war, was a realistic extension of the bubble gum cards we passed around after playing mumble peg. The cards were bloody scenes of the bombing of Ethiopia and the Rape of Nanking. The newsreels and "the March of Time," with its voice of doom leading us into the future, were enough to make us wish we had no future. "The War of the Worlds" panicked some of our fathers and mothers. I don't think many kids were that impressed.

     I don't remember a time when I wasn't afraid. The murky waters in a creek would make me fear the fish beneath the surface. But the fear became a chilly pleasure in the Vogue Theatre when the lightning crackled over the Frankenstein monster and the green-tinted castle of Dracula filled the screen. The fear was easy to escape by going to the popcorn machine in the lobby or by ducking under the seat. The pleasure was always there to take home with you: the endless afternoons spent climbing a tree with a rope knotted at one end to hook in the branch above like the Hawk of the Wilderness; slipping into the lake like Tarzan on the lookout for crocodiles; carrying a lunch on an all-day trip to a hobo jungle that held all the dark dangers of Trader Horn. The cowboys and the serials and the cartoons were a way of life, of the deepest and most profound pleasure and joy. The movie theater was a place that you dressed up for, that you went with your friends or your grandfather, that you could whisper in and eat popcorn and drink cokes in; it was the very best place you could ever go, and I know of nothing that has ever replaced it.

[Another break here.]

Although I could go to almost any movie I wanted, looking back I can see that many strange gaps in my experience of thirties movies were simply a reflection of the town and neighborhood I grew up in.  People tended to reject those kinds of experience that were too foreign from their own lives in the same way that they chose their friends or felt uneasy about big cities or other states. Films with Katharine Hepburn or with stars who talked with an upper-class or foreign accent were shunned. I never saw a film with Garbo, or an Ernst Lubitsch or von Sternberg film. Chaplin had lost his popularity by the thirties, and the misanthropy of Fields was a little too much like the town drunk. People had likes and dislikes regarding the stars they associated with in a movie theater that were at least as strong as their feelings about the people they lived and worked with, and often stronger. (My mother said she'd rather watch the inmates at the local asylum than go to a Marx Brothers picture.) However, those films that brought upper and lower classes into an uneasy but sympathetic relationship with each other were OK, and I learned to like the Katharine Hepburns with the Douglas Fairbanks and the Ray Millands because they were the girl friend or friend of James Stewart, Cooper, or Wayne. I don't ever remember coming to terms with middle-class people, either inside a theater or out, and it was enough to have a teacher recommend a movie like Zola or Pasteur to cross off everyone concerned with the movie forever (I don't remember seeing a Paul Muni film, either). The first boy to go to college from my neighborhood had earlier set himself apart by expressing a preference for the effete, but brave, Ray Milland over John Wayne in Reap the Wild Wind; he never again returned home (I have learned he became a homosexual, but I don't know, since the terms "student" and "queer" were used almost interchangeably).

     I maintained an uneasy balance between reading a book and playing basketball, but I never did well in school after I left our neighborhood elementary school. My grades were so low in high school that it is doubtful I would have graduated if the policy hadn't been to graduate everyone except the most violent malcontents and troublemakers. I came to fit into that classification, too, when it was discovered I hadn't taken certain essential courses because I disliked the teachers. The principal told me that it was too bad trash had to be kept in school at public expense, and then assigned me to make up the courses beginning at 7 o'clock in the morning. I sat in the empty classroom and stared at the home-room teachers without speaking or opening a book for six months and then I was graduated.

     I finally went to college after failing at two or three jobs, and after coming out of a deep and prolonged depression. I began to immerse myself in literature, but never quite in the same way I had cared for movies. The books I was discovering were by Joyce and Hemingway and Fitzgerald, and I read them in the furnace room of a college building where I would stay for days at a time, leaving only to go home to sleep. Literature for me became a strategy of survival, of the minimal means necessary to live and to function. I learned from "A Clean, Well Lighted Place," and from Chekhov and Dreiser and even from "The Time of Your Life." Samuel Beckett at a later point was another great teacher, and so was Nelson Algren, and so many others.

     Books and college were also an opening into a marginal career in publishing, that dark ghetto of former English majors who are neither writers nor businessmen; but editing, compared to packing boxes or laying floor tile, is a bookish, middle-class, rather pleasant occupation, and I remained at it until an explosive combination of disturbances in my personal and business life spit open the compartments of my mind and I found myself falling into a black chasm of fear, down and down towards that ultimate skid row that had seemed my fate from the very beginning. The fall was arrested in a psychiatric ward, where I remained for six months.

     After my release, I returned to Lincoln for a visit, to walk the quiet streets that were and were not the streets of my youth. I was drinking scotch and water, which was enough to define my difference from my companions, in a neighborhood tavern on my third day home and wondering about a front window that had been smashed and patched with cardboard, I found out from the bartender that Gene Baker was back in town for the first time since his confinement to a penal mental institution, many years ago, when he returned to Lincoln with a gun to kill the judge who had sentenced him to prison. I could only guess what had been said in the tavern, what sly sarcasm about his age and paunch and background had led Baker to flash in pride and rage when he and the kid who went through the window should have been able to foresee the consequences. But then, obviously, none of us had ever been able to foresee anything, starting as children [for photos of a Chicago Street bar where this scene could have occurred, see 16 and 17 below].

     And now I am leaving the tavern. The sun is warm and pleasant as I walk slowly towards home. To my left, down the railroad track, I can see the abandoned brick building where a pie factory was started in the late thirties. Since our mothers did their own baking, I could never figure out who bought the pies; but some of my friends dropped out of school after the eighth grade to begin working there at 25c an hour; the business didn't last long. All of the old factories are vacant now, the china factory, the casket factory. The sidewalks are deserted for as far as I can see. But then I am one of the few people in this town who walks; certainly no father will ever again trod home at noon for a hot dinner, nor will factories ever again blow their whistles to let the wives know their husbands are on the way. The cars are everywhere, and the television antennas rise like a forest above the tops of the houses. The little buildings, the groceries and the barber shops that once stood in backyards, either have been torn down or left permanently empty. A block from the railroad track is a shopping complex; even in this small town, people don't like the inconvenience of driving to the city square to do their shopping. I consider stopping for a cup of coffee. I stand on the sidewalk and look at the four or five modern businesses joined end to end. This block was grass and gravel when I was a child; a single wooden structure stood back from the road, and on hot nights "Hopper's," for that is what the tavern was called, would be crowded to the doors.

     When a hot day was beginning to cool into evening, I would be coming down the street carrying a tin bucket to have filled with beer. My grandfather has given me a quarter and I have my fist closed over it in the pocket of my short pants to that I won't lose it. The gravel hurts my bare feet. Inside, I stand politely behind the men lined up at the bar until Mr. Hopper notices me. The bucket is heavy when filled, and I am careful not to swing it on the way home even though the lid is firmly pressed down. I turn the corner towards our house. A car is parked in front of my father's grocery store. When that customer leaves, we will be able to eat supper.

     I wave to my grandfather. He is a tiny man in work pants and an undershirt. He is digging in my father's garden. My grandfather is the neatest man I have ever known; I enjoy watching even the careful way he shaves with a long, straight razor. He is able to build almost anything with his hands. But he has been sick for a long time and unable to find work. We take walks together, and once a week we go to the movies together. He is a kind, gentle man, and I feel bad when he has an attack.

    My mother comes out on the backporch and smiles at me. I hand her the bucket of beer to put next to the ice. My mother once won a beauty contest. She quit school after the eighth grade, but she is very smart. She has been unhappy since her mother died. When it storms, she sits in a corner and covers her head and cries. Her body begins to shake when the sky gets dark.

     My father puts a lock on the back door of the store. He is a tall, handsome man. He is in the store all day and on Saturday and part of Sunday; at night he goes downtown to play cards. My father is not happy. He seldom says anything, except to customers. He stops to watch my grandfather in the garden. They come up the walk together. My mother calls me in to supper. I am happy because the Vogue Theatre is opening tonight. I think that I shall be happy all the days of my life."
 

14: Vogue Theater Marquee in 1943

(Photo from Paul Gleason's Lincoln: A Pictorial History, p. 103)

     This photo is the only one I can find that shows the original Vogue Theater marquee the way that Robert Wilson would have seen it in the 1930s. Charles Stringer took this photo of Mark Holland buzzing Lincoln in his C-47 Dakota on March 23, 1943. Mark performed this stunt to impress his girlfriend, Marcella. The marquee says "Jack Benny The Meanest Man in the World." For an account of this incident written by Charles Stringer's son, Stan, see 36. Watering Holes of the Route 66 Era.
 

"Chicago" (composed in 1975, pages 83-112)

     This section is memoir that describes Wilson's living and working in Chicago from 1950 to the early 1970s, including the unreasonable demands of his job as editor, bouts with depression, losing his job, being divorced, and returning to Lincoln to live and write.

     Wilson describes the appeal of the big city for him: 

     "If you were born in a small town, you learned that the neat lawns and houses would stand as they had always stood, long before you were born, long after you would be dead. That the gardens and hedges, the trees and homes led a fragile life, protected from the mess and sordidness of people. If you could not learn to walk on the sidewalk (never the lawn), if you could not learn where a candy wrapper belonged, if you could not learn the thousand rules that protected the town, then your doom was sealed as surely as the fact that one day you had been born and one day you would die [emphasis mine].

     Gradually, and often painfully, you came also to learn that a thousand additional rules protected the families who lived in the homes from the mess and sordidness of their neighbors. The girl who had taken a boy into her basement at 15 was from the bad part of town and would stay there all the days of her life; the boy who began drinking beer or playing poker for money at 14 was from the bad part of town. These were only the first rules, of course; but although there were many of them, the rules were kept simple so that a whole generation could settle down by the time of high school graduation. If, somehow, you graduated from high school without finding your part of town, or finding it, could not settle down, there was Chicago" (p. 91) [emphasis mine].
 

     As in other parts of Young in Illinois, Wilson describes the challenges faced by a young man from a small downstate town when he moves to the big city.  After his discharge from the Army in 1954, Wilson lived in Hyde Park because he was "attracted moth-like to the memory of parties I had attended while on leave from the Army. Candles were burned in those book-lined apartments below the sidewalk. Slender girls with brown, graceful backs sat languidly on the floor, seemingly without thought of the expensive gowns they wore:  girls rumored to be the daughters or granddaughters of men who owned the glittering department stores on State Street, or the renegade daughters, perhaps, of steel manufacturers in the East. Who or what they were shimmered mutely in their dark beauty. In the early hours of the morning they would be gone." When Wilson attempted to correspond with one of them, she ignored his letters (p. 84).

15: Robert Wilson, 31

(Photo provided by Sue Young Wilson)
 

     Wilson then began to seek the society of others from downstate:

     "Gradually, my life took shape around the loneliness of the streets north of 53rd Street. I did not feel comfortable in the student bars or in the bars where the Beat writers hung out. I was no longer a student and did not have enough confidence to pass as a writer. A stubborn downstate accent led me to a small tavern around the corner from 51st and Lake Park Avenue, because the owner was from Little Egypt, that section around Cairo at the deepest tip of Illinois. In a neighborhood of students, teachers, and other professionals, he had managed to build a business around the eight or ten evening drinkers who came there mostly to talk about their hometowns--Mattoon or Danville, Illinois, a few deeper south cities like St. Louis and Memphis; lower-middle class men who worked as butchers and barbers in a neighborhood that was to be for them forever alien" (p. 85).

    In the early 1970s, Wilson returned to live and write in Lincoln. He describes walking about town, sometimes visiting bars and meeting locals, including some he had known in childhood. Wilson may have asked his photographer-collaborator, John Sisco, to take the photo below of the 100 block of Chicago Street in Lincoln because it was the location of one of the downtown bars that Wilson had remembered. The only building on this block I recall that had a tavern is identified by the black box in the photo below. The photo does not contain evidence that the building was used as a tavern at that time. The second photo below was taken in the 1960s, and it clearly shows that the building was then Veff's Tap.

     Note: Today (2004) "progress" has replaced all of these buildings with a parking lot. The buildings to the right of Ritchhart's, constructed of yellow brick, remain, however. As I recall, the building immediately to the right of Ritchhart's was the home of the Basket Grocery. Presently it houses the Logan County Historical and Genealogical Society, which is a combination museum and historical library open to the public. (As far as I can tell, the museum collection does not include any treasures from the Ace Novelty, which was an adjacent business popular in the Route 66 era.)
 


16: 100 Block of Chicago Street of the mid 1970s
with Location of Former Veff's Tap (black box)

(Photo by John Cisco from Young in Illinois, 1975)

     Wilson writes, "Pick a bar, perhaps on Chicago Street where there are many bars. The traumas that stunted the lives of these men and left them living in a world of permanent afternoons or evenings on Chicago Street are not easy to discover. You will hear them talk of World War II and Korea; sometimes of the Great Depression; of the corruption of cities and government; of the takeover by Blacks and the ignorance of young people. But you will learn little from these discussions, words floating in the stale air of empty afternoons that have lasted for 20 or more years.

     In a prairie town there is only one season--a season to be young, to play football or basketball, to fall in love and marry. This season must warm you each day of your life as the past inevitably recedes into dim memories and the pictures in a class album.

     For some men, though, the season becomes blighted; an awkward body, a fearful shyness, the savage laughter of girls, poverty, even the laughter of one's own family. The bitterness can never be forgotten or ever overcome; in a small town one grows old within the memories of a single generation, and another season will never spread its warmth along Chicago Street" (p. 102).
 

17: Businesses on Chicago Street in the 1950s and 1960s:
(l to r) Tumilty Heating, Veff's Tap, and L.B. Ritchhart Sales (auto supply ?hardware?)

(Photo provided by D.D. Welch and Fred Blanford)

     Veff's Tavern or another tavern in the next block south on Chicago Street, for example, the Empire, may have been the setting described above where two fighting patrons exited through the plate glass window.    

     In 1975 Wilson wrote the following about his hometown:

      The years have been kind to Lincoln. If the bandshell that stands in Latham Park is rotting and in disrepair, the homes around the park show the loving attention of twenty years of affluence. If the railroad station is now boarded-up, perhaps eventually to be torn down for a parking lot, the shopping center on the outskirts of town glitters in the sleek expanse of acres of new cars. There is even a live Rock lounge a block from the old high school, but the one time my brother went in he said he felt like an elderly hanger-on, and I am nine years older than my brother. Occasionally, I drink along Chicago Street.

     On walks around town, I find it easy to admire the freshly-painted houses, the immaculate lawns. Nothing changes for the worst except people. But, then, I know few people. The houses stretch for miles.

     I have run into two acquaintances from the North Lincoln days of the 30s and 40s. Tom Simpson, who quit school to join a carnival, has had open-heart surgery and spends his days caring for stray dogs that no-one ever seems to claim from the kennels Tom put up in his backyard. When I visited him, Tom proudly showed me a 'true-crime' paperback that quoted some of his testimony at a rape-murder trial in Chicago. (Tom had worked as a maintenance man at the local mental institution when the accused murderer had been a patient.) I was interested in the author's description of Tom: 'an elderly man who had worked hard all his life at physical labor.' Tom had been 47 when the book was written. People must age differently in Los Angeles, the author's home.

     Everything, but especially teeth, did go fast when Tom and I were young. Flowers were better cared for. Harry Sandel's teeth were almost completely black with rot when I ran into him at a bar on Chicago Street. At this point, it's possible that pride keeps Harry from having them pulled. On Chicago Street, everything and everyone is a survivor. I tried to interest Harry in talking about the night he scored over 50 points in an eighth-grade basketball game, but he said he couldn't remember doing it. Harry did want to talk about the trotting races which he attends every Saturday night, winter and summer in Chicago. I tried, but it had been over 10 years since I last bet on a race. I had never scored even two points in a varsity basketball game.

     After you leave a tavern, if you walk far enough north on Chicago Street, you will come to an abandoned pie factory along the tracks. I come this way often. East of the tracks a couple of blocks in the home of my parents. West of the tracks is the grocery store where I have set up my typewriter. The store is now a rooming house, one of the few in Lincoln. But the rooms are too small, the walls too thin, the tenants--construction workers in town for two or three months--too often suspicious if not hostile. As the years roll away, I think back to the furnished rooms in Hyde Park.

     I do not believe this voice will speak again. But then, on the other hand, my daughter's name is Sue Young Wilson" (Young in Illinois, pp. 111-112).

     Note:  as of the summer of 2004, the bandstand in Latham Park has been maintained, and the train depot has been converted into a destination restaurant.
 

Notes on Young in Illinois by Literary Critic Lee Walleck

     Lee Walleck was the literary editor of December magazine, which published Young in Illinois. He writes that Wilson was "always much more" to December magazine than its movies editor. "Personally, in spite of his predilection for the slivered [sic play on words] screen, I always liked him" (Green Isle in the Sea, p. 33).

     With regard to the first two stories in Young in Illinois, Walleck writes, "Self-effacing as always, Wilson does not elaborate about his two short stories. Both were almost published by large-circulation magazines in the mid-'50s, including New World Writing, which kept the manuscripts 2 1/2 years before finally rejecting them. (Thirty years ago quite a number of large-circulation U.S. magazines still published quality fiction. Had Wilson been published by them back then--who knows?) And in 1966 another of his stories, 'The World Outside Illinois,' was cited by Martha Foley as a 'notable' story of its year. Moreover, only three years ago (1982) his roundball epic was translated into German as 'Betonbasketball' and anthologized in American Freeway by Maro Verlag (8900 Augsburg1, Bismarckstr, 7 1/2 West Germany), the same year that a 7-foot West German transfer student played center for Wilson's hometown high school team in Lincoln, Illinois. Noblesse exchange" (Green Isle in the Sea, pp. 33-34).
 

Publisher Curt Johnson's Remembrance of Robert Wilson

     Curt Johnson was Robert Wilson's friend and colleague. Mr. Johnson is also an author, editor, and publisher of December magazine and December Press since 1962. He is especially noted for his novel Song for Three Voices and his nonfiction book Wicked City Chicago. He edited the milestone literary-publishing history titled Green Isle in the Sea: An Informal History of the Alternative Press, 1960-85. Mr. Johnson and I corresponded about Robert Wilson in the fall of 2003, and I could not have created this tribute to Robert Wilson without Mr. Johnson's generous cooperation and encouragement. Mr. Johnson tells me he has no computer, and I have posted his business address below under Sources Cited. Thus, if you are a "Lincolnite at heart," please consider sending him a brief note of thanks for helping with this tribute page.

     In a letter to me of October, 2003, Curt Johnson writes that "Bob Wilson was my closest friend for 30+ years. . . . I'm very glad you're doing what you're doing for Lincoln. Bob loved the town--and had his reservations about it. He corresponded with Maxwell. . . . I went with him to a junior college [Lincoln College] basketball game there. It's too bad he's not alive for you and him to get together and talk about the town."

     In Green Isle and the Sea, Johnson describes Wilson:

     "Bob Wilson died July 11, 1983. He was 55. He had grown up in Lincoln, Illinois, and spent most of his adult life in Chicago. He was a writer and editor best known for his collection of short stories and essays, Young in Illinois, and for The Film Criticism of Otis Ferguson (Temple University Press), which he co-edited. For the last 19 years of his life, Bob Wilson was also the movies editor of December.

     Bob's last 10 years were tortuous for him mentally and physically, I think, but he bore them with fortitude. Those who have read his "Young in Illinois" would know he would not complain.

     Young in Illinois is a beautiful book, steeped in bittersweet nostalgia, beautifully written. I once had to give a talk to high school student writers in Crete-Monee and asked them to read an essay from the book, 'Life and Art in the Thirties,' as preparation. These writers were born at least 25 years after the time Bob spoke of in his essay, but so evocative and skillful was his prose that when we discussed it they told me--at length--about all the many good things the essay had and did. [bold mine]

     Without Bob Wilson December magazine would have been quite different than it was and would never have lasted through to this year [1985].

     He cared about good writing, scotch whiskey, injustice, movies, basketball, jazz, his parents, and his daughter, Sue Young Wilson. Not at all in that order. And any man who hated two women and one man as he hated had to be a good man. And good men are harder and harder to find.
 

     The last time we were together in Chicago we spent an afternoon and evening talking, eating, drinking, and carousing and parted late at night to go our respective ways with our respective ladies of that evening. We rejoined at my apartment the next morning, a Saturday, about 10:00 o'clock. For breakfast I finished what little bourbon I had in the place while he started to work on a nearly full quart of scotch, which tastes, as is well known, like medicine. When I ran out of bourbon he shared his jug with me. He paced and I paced and we talked about our plans for December and about people and writers we'd known and things we'd done together, and let the sunlight stream into the room and got closer that Saturday to saying to each other what we really believed than we'd ever gotten in 25 years of knowing each other.

     He had for 10 years been trying to sell The Otis Ferguson Reader, a book ms. he'd co-edited, to commercial and university press publishers. Finally he asked me if I wanted it for December Press. The Reader is a collection of Ferguson's jazz pieces, among much else. I know nothing about jazz and Ferguson is best known as a film critic. But The Reader was good writing, even I could tell that, and if Bob said it was worth publishing I knew it was well worth publishing. (He had incorruptible standards; once I asked him to select my 10 best short stories out of 50 I'd had published so I could submit a collection to a contest. 'I would,' he told me, 'but you haven't got ten that good.')

     But that Saturday, at one point in our long, peaceful, continuously refilled discussion, I said that if I had to pay his co-editor (Dorothy Chamberlain, Ferguson's widow) more than I'd paid other December Press authors in the past for their work (almost nothing), to hell with it.
 

18: Editor Robert Wilson at December Magazine

(Photo from Green Isle in the Sea, p. 28)

     He frowned and half-smiled and paced, lit a cigarette, stopped his pacing, cleared his throat, frowned and half-smiled and said, "You have to, Curt. It's my book.'

     I saw him off to Lincoln about 3:30 that afternoon, both of us with a mild happy buzz on. That Saturday was the only day in my life I ever enjoyed scotch.

     The Ferguson book was published late in 1982. It is the only December Press book to get reviewed all over--The New Yorker, The New York Times, Harper's, The Village Voice, Downbeat--and favorably, and the only book in 25 years to make a nickel for the Press. Bob waited seven months after its publication, until all the enthusiastic reviews were in, and then he spread the Chicago Sunday Tribune out on the kitchen table in Lincoln, Illinois, late Sunday evening after supper on the 10th of July and started through it and that Monday morning at 3:30 his mother found him slumped over the papers, his head on his arms on the table, and bigod I miss him.

     The world of arts and letters--such as it is or they are today--will miss him, too (Green Isle in the Sea, pp. 263-264). Note: In an email of July 2010, Sue Young Wilson told me that Curt Johnson had passed away some time ago. With some Internet browsing, I discovered he was born in 1928 and died in 2008. Two good sources on Johnson's life and work are as follows:

http://poetrydispatch.wordpress.com/2008/06/10/curt-johnson-gott-ist-gross-und-gott-ist-gut/

http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/June-2010/On-Curt-Johnson-December-magazine-and-Raymond-Carver/index.php?cparticle=1&siarticle=0#artanc
 

19: Front Cover of Green Isle in the Sea
 

20: Curt Johnson from Green Isle in the Sea, p. 240

Analysis of William Maxwell's Correspondence with Robert Wilson (1977--1980)

     Robert Wilson wrote William Maxwell to tell him about the publication of Young in Illinois (1975) and to send him a copy. Sue Young Wilson explains, "Maxwell responded with a letter dated October 31, 1977; and this exchange began a correspondence that lasted several years. On Maxwell's side, it consisted of at least nine letters and a postcard he wrote to Wilson. Wilson clearly responded with an unknown number of letters to his mentor, who, as the correspondence continues and warms, increasingly answers as a personal friend. But since Wilson mailed his side of the exchange off to Maxwell, these letters were not among his papers at the time of his death. If Maxwell kept them, they may be in the collection of the latter's correspondence now held at the Rare Book & Special Collections Library of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (see link in Sources Cited). Maxwell's correspondence has not yet been completely logged into a database, but the Library is open to the public, and staff are available to help with searches."

     The letters reflect these writers' mutual interests in their craft and in the neighborhoods and houses referred to in Maxwell's publications set in Lincoln. Maxwell expresses encouragement for Wilson to write more and concern for Wilson's health. On some of these letters, Wilson wrote brief notes. Sue Young Wilson kindly provided me copies of these letters.

     In a letter dated October 31, 1977, Maxwell says he wishes Wilson would have introduced himself earlier, saying he would have wanted to help Wilson in the publishing world. Maxwell offers high praise for Young in Illinois and encouragement for Wilson to write more:

     "I like your book very much indeed, and am proud to find my name in it. It is the real thing. And very moving. And so well written. I particularly admire the trick of offering facts that would stop a clock in such an offhand way that they cannot fail to make the effect you intended them to make.

     Our memories are complementary. I was particularly struck by 'In a prairie town there is only one season--a season to be young, to play football or basketball, to fall in love and marry. This season must warm you each day of your life as the past inevitably recedes into dim memories and the pictures in a class album.' My bones tell me that this is correct, and surely all you would need for a novel. [bold mine]

     I hope you will go on letting me see what you write. The tragic sense doesn't grow on huckleberry bushes. Or the ability to express it. And if you should come to New York, please call me." [bold mine]

     In a letter to Wilson dated December, 1977, Maxwell says he mailed a copy of Over by the River to Wilson. The letter says, "you are to consider it a present from your mother and daughter. And me too, of course."

   At the top of Maxwell's letter to Wilson dated November 16, 1979, Wilson notes that he wrote a review of Maxwell's novel So Long, See You Tomorrow for the Chicago Tribune. The first paragraph of Maxwell's letter says,

     "For many reasons I wanted you to like that book, and I am very glad that you did. Placed one after another those quotations are extremely revealing. As you intended them to be. I don't expect any other reviewer to understand the book as well."

     On other literary matters, in a letter to Wilson of July 6, 1980, Maxwell refers to a question Wilson had asked about ranking "my novels according to excellence." Maxwell comments:

     "I think I would put They Came Like Swallows at the bottom of that list, and The Chateau third, but I know that TCLS moves people in a way that it doesn't move me, and suspect that I am simply too close to it to judge.

     In terms of the difficulty to writing them, I think I would have that they were all five equally difficult, for entirely different reasons in each case. In every case I was convinced that the whole idea was a mistake and I would never be able to pull it off. What bothered me most about So Long, See You Tomorrow was that, for the first time, I was writing about people I did not know but only had observed superficially as a child. I wrote and wrote and wrote, ever so many scenes that were never used, and finally wrote myself into what seemed like knowledge. There was also the difficulty of how to combine two separate stories [the story of Cletus Smith, whose father murdered Lloyd Wilson, and the autobiographical story of the author's friendship with Cletus]. I didn't know why I had to tell my own story as well at [sic] at Cletus's. I just knew it had to be done. And when I found the Giacometti quotation, I said I have found my novel."

    Maxwell encouraged Wilson to write more. After Wilson published Young in Illinois in 1975, he may have been working on another book. In a letter to Wilson dated September 14, 1979, Maxwell asked, "Are you able to get on with that book? I would like to know how things are with you." In a letter dated November 16, 1979, Maxwell wrote, "I hope you can continue to have your daughter near you, and that the move to Chicago turns out satisfactorily, and that you are able to write. You are the only person I have to pass the stick on to." This last sentence may imply that Maxwell regarded Wilson as inheriting the mantle of writing about Lincoln, Illinois.

     The letters refer to photos that Wilson took of houses in Lincoln owned by members of the Maxwell family and described in his writing. Wilson sent these photos to Maxwell. These houses included the childhood home of Maxwell that is the setting of They Came Like Swallows; the Ninth Street home of Maxwell's maternal grandparents, the Edward Dunallen Blinns; the north Kickapoo Street home of Maxwell's paternal grandparents, the Robert Creighton Maxwells; and the Park Place home of William Maxwell's father described in So Long

     In a letter of November 16, 1979, Maxwell writes,

     "I wish I had been with you the day you set out with your camera to take the old houses on Ninth Street. They have been rather prettied up. In the old days they were just white, with no shutters or any kind of shrubbery but bridalwreath. The Kiest house, next door to 184, is still the way it was apparently. With, I think, the same family living in it. You got the numbers right, and I misremembered the number of my grandfather's house [the Blinns]. I wouldn't have been able to tell anyone the number of our house, but when I saw the '184' I suddenly knew it was right. Through their paint jobs I recognize all those houses, each of which carries a carload of memories. Thank you for taking the pictures, and for the supplement from the Courier. The inside of my grandparents' house [the Robert C. Maxwells], which I have never seen sounds like a Fun House in a carnaval [sic]. But I suppose, in its period, it made sense. My cousin has an old picture of a children's party, grouped on the front steps. The lace curtains in the front window were an exact duplicate of the carpenter's scrollwork."

     In a letter to Wilson dated July 6, 1980, Maxwell responds to a photo of a Park Place house that Wilson had sent him. Wilson had alleged that this house was the one built by Maxwell's father and stepmother as described in So Long:

     "Though I would have preferred to be on your side of any argument, the truth is that the pictures you sent me are of the house Jim McGrath built. The house my father built--it is like a game of musical chairs, I am not even sure I have it right. But anyway, the house my father built is across the street. Mrs. Perry lives in it, so far as I know, and it is directly across from Dr. Bob Perry's present house. When we moved to Chicago [1923 when Maxwell was 15], Wallace Perry (the present Dr. Perry's father, who was also a doctor bought it from my father). When Ted McGrath married, his mother, who was Mrs. Perry's mother, lived in the Perrys' house, and when my father and stepmother moved back from Chicago they lived there. I am touched that you find all this interesting. The houses that move me (what is left of them are on 9th and 10th Street and elsewhere in the older part of town."

     Note:  As you might suspect, I have located the addresses all of these houses and have driven past them more than once--looking for the ghosts that surely inhabit these neighborhoods.
 

Sue Young Wilson's Memoir of Lincoln, Illinois

     "I do not believe this voice will speak again. But then, on the other hand, my daughter's name is Sue Young Wilson."
                                                                           -- Concluding sentences of Young in Illinois 

     Sue Young Wilson summarizes some of her childhood memories of Lincoln:

     "I could write you a whole book of essays about my own memories of Lincoln, and those my father shared with me as we walked about it. Lincoln was much beloved by me; when I was a child, I felt it as a second home, except better (because my absent father lived there; and my grandparents, whose first
female grandchild I was, doted on and spoiled me and fed me that wonderful fattening semi-Southern cooking (chicken and noodles and home-made mashed potatoes and gravy); and because it stood for vacation and peace and ease. With no trouble at all I can still conjure up all the smells of the place, from the newsprint in the news agency [Lincoln News Agency on Chicago Street] to the snow and cold earth of the winter fields to the smell of frying onions and hamburgers and chocolate milkshakes at the lunch counter I favored (Diamond Pete's?)" (from an email to Leigh, November 5, 2003).

     Note: Sue is referring to the late Pete Andrews' former Coney Island Gem Lunch Room, located on Pulaski Street in downtown Lincoln during the Route 66 era.

     In January, 2010,  Carolyn Wyse Miller Webster (widow of Roger Webster), LCHS Class of 1955, emailed me the following information and kindly gave permission for me add it to this Web page:

     "I grew up next door to the Wilsons, and can still picture Bob as he frequently walked by, on his way to a movie - head down, hands in his pockets.  He always had a smile to answer your hello, but he wasn't much of a conversationalist.  As I read his essay Life and Art in the Thirties (for William Maxwell), it all becomes understandable. 

     It's not difficult to put a few names with the toughies he knew and described in north Lincoln, but I am somewhat surprised there is no mention of Danny Baker.  It sticks in my mind that Danny was Bob's best friend in high school days, but I don't know what happened to him after he was discharged from the Army.

     I remember, too, when Bob graduated from Roosevelt University, married OckJu and and Sue Young was born, all of which were so exciting to his mother, Helen. 

     I was the same age as Bob's brother, Jim, so my memories are more detailed with Jim, Helen and Bill.  I can still see Bill coming out the back door of the grocery store when Helen called him to eat, and as he hoed the huge strawberry patch between their house and ours.  He loved to fish, and there was a catfish farm near Peoria where he frequently took the family on a weekend.  My mother told me Helen had been a beauty queen, but in a child's eye it was difficult to reconcile the mother of two with my Miss-America-version of a beauty queen.  She was a lively, friendly little bird who more than made up for the silence of the men she lived with.  

     I'm sorry to say I didn't realize the extent of his literary ability.  Life and Art.... is moving, articulate, and so completely descriptive.  I hope to find a copy of the entire Young in Illinois, to both read and treasure."
 

21: Helen Wilson, 1968
 

22: Sue and Penny, 1968
 

23: Helen, William, Robert, and Sue Young Wilson in 1973
at the Wilson Home on North McLean Street in Lincoln

4: Sue Young Wilson in 2003

    Books cited above are typically available at such online sellers as abebooks.com.
 

Sources Cited

     Beard, Dan. "Mumbly Peg." http://www.inquiry.net/outdoor/games/beard/mumbly_peg.htm

     Chamberlain, Dorothy, and Robert Wilson, eds. The Otis Ferguson Reader. Highland Park, IL: December Press, 1982.

     Gleason, Paul. Lincoln:  A Pictorial History. St. Louis, MO: G. Bradley Publishing, 1998.

     Kruchkow, Diane, and Curt Johnson, eds. Green Isle in the Sea: An Informal History of the Alternative Press, 1960-1965. Highland Park, IL: December Press, 1985.

     Levin, Paul. "Contrast of City, Small Town Basis of Lincoln Man's Book." Pantagraph, Sunday, August 29, 1976: C-8.

     Maxwell, William. Letters to Robert Wilson, 1977-1980.

     _______. Over by the River and Other Stories. Boston, MA: David R. Godine, Publisher, 1984.

     _______ . So Long, See You Tomorrow.  NY:  Vintage Books-Random House, Inc., 1996.

     _______ . The Chateau. NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1961.

     _______. They Came Like Swallows. NY: Vintage Books, 1997.

     Polk's Lincoln (Logan County, Ill.) City Directory 1934-35. Chicago, IL: R.L. Polk & Co. Publishers.

     University of Illinois Rare Book and Special Collections Library: http://www.library.uiuc.edu/rbx/index.html

     Wilson, Robert, ed. The Film Criticism of Otis Ferguson. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1971.

     Wilson, Robert. Young in Illinois. Chicago, IL: December Press, 1975.
 

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  Email comments, corrections, questions, or suggestions. 
Also please email me if this Web site helps you decide to visit Lincoln, Illinois:
dlhenson@missouristate.edu
 

"The Past Is But the Prelude"


 

The founding fathers of this town asked their attorney, Abraham Lincoln, for permission to name this new community after him, and he agreed.  On the first day lots were publicly sold--August 27, 1853--, Abraham Lincoln, near the site of the train depot, used watermelon juice to christen the town as Lincoln, Illinois.  It thus became the first town named for Abraham Lincoln before he became famous.