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

 

 

  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"
 

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


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

 

The Fikuarts of Lincoln, Illinois, Including Their Connections to the William Maxwell Family and Three Generations of Family Fun at Lincoln Lakes

 
Introduction

    Most of the content of this page (text and photos) was written, compiled, and emailed by J. Richard (JR) Fikuart, LCHS Class of 1965, in the summer of 2003.  In some places, Leigh provides context and comments in [Leigh's Notes] based on the email dialogue prompted by JR's information.  JR presently lives in Brighton, Iowa.  Respond to him at jfikuart@hughes.net

     [Leigh's Note:  The drawing below by David Alan Badger (http://www.davidalanbadger.com/) shows the house at the southwest corner of Pekin and Ottawa Streets in Lincoln that has been home to three generations of the Fikuart family, beginning with his Grandfather Joshua, then his parents -- J. Frank and Marta --, and their son, JR:]

1: Badger's Drawing Shows the Wonderful Shade Trees That Surrounded the Home

     [Leigh's Note: JR explains that the yard had seven or eight elms and several walnut trees.  The elms fell victim to the Dutch elm disease of  the late 1940s.  From his back yard, Joshua had taken a photo of elm tree removal.  That photo and more information about Lincoln's trees is presented at 24. Government.  Scroll to the tree photo at 24.9.

     Mr. Badger describes the Fikuart home:  Ownership -- "In the early 1900s this was the home of James & Mary E. Gillespie. . . .  He was a native of Ireland. . . ; he was born in 1839. . . ; he came to the United States in 1859, settling in Greenfield, Illinois. . .; in 1864 he came to Lincoln. . . ; he was associated with his brother David in the mercantile business. . .; James managed the store; Gillespie and Company, located at 107 South Kickapoo. . .; there they sold dry goods & millinery. . . . also the home of Clara McCord, Lincoln College librarian. . . .; Clara was the sister of Professor Benjamin McCord, mathematics, at Lincoln College. . . .

     Architecture --  Italianate - 1840 to 1880. . . identifying features. . . low-pitched, cross hipped roof. . . asymmetrical facade. . .partial porch with chamfered supports, pedestaled . . . paired doors with arched glazing. . . .

     The Fikuart home is just one of many remaining historic houses that people enjoy seeing when they drive through Lincoln's traditional neighborhoods.  Historic houses of various styles may be observed -- Craftsman, Greek Revival, Italianate, Second Empire, Spanish, Tudor, and Victorian.]
 

Joshua and J. Frank Fikuart:  Father and Son Optometrists

2:  J. Frank Fikuart Soon After Graduating from
the Illinois College of Optometry in Chicago (Circa 1951)
 

3:  First Fikuart Optometry Office at 130 Chicago Street (undated)

     The first optometry office at 130 Chicago Street was south across the Pekin Street from Langellierís Ford [Lincoln and Mercury, too] and east across Chicago Street from the GM&O passenger depot.  [Note:  the service entrance to Langellier's can be seen at the left.]

     The office was broken into at one time by two wayward residents from the State School. The only thing missing were two pair of sunglasses which the students had acquired to aid them in their careers "in Hollywood."

     My father, J. Frank and grandfather, Joshua, practiced together at the 130 Chicago Street address for many years until grandfatherís retirement. Dad moved the office to Pulaski Street at that time.

4:  Josh in the New Office

J. Richard (JR) Fikuart's Memoir of Lincolnites Who Knew William Maxwell

     [Leigh's Note:  JR emailed the following information to me at my request for information about Lincolnites' connections to William Maxwell.]  

     My parents knew William Maxwell a little as they were friends of the Perrys [Thomas "Tom" Enlows Perry and Jerolane "Jeri" Matteson Perry, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. J. Vance Matteson of Los Angeles, CA (Paul Beaver, ed., History of Logan County Illinois 1982, pp. 460-461)].  Dad was a loyal friend to Tom as well as to Brewster Parker, both of whom died before their lives should have ceased.  Dad was also one of John Parker's loyal friends.  John Parker took good care of my parents when they were young and without lots of assets.  John instructed my father in the world of investments.  My father was a devoted friend of John's for this and many other reasons.  [Note:  For information provided by Fred Blanford about the John Parker family's historic century-old business, the Logan County Land Title Company, see 19. Business Heritage, including an old-time photo at 19.8.]

    I met Jo Jo Savage a couple of times as a result of his relationship to the Perrys.  Did you know him?  My parents' access to Jo Jo (sp?) and therefore Maxwell seemed to hinge on Mrs. Perry.  I remember as a child that Jeri (sp?) and Tom would often arrive at our parents' house and that my parents often shared her enthusiasm for the moment.  The evenings when they did were quite a treat. 

    I gather that the "McGrath family and fortune" had much to do with all of this interconnectedness with Maxwell, Savage and the Perrys.  I know the McGraths are an important part of Lincoln's social history, but I never knew how all fit together.  In general, I grew up inured to and uninterested in social class.  Perhaps, as you say, because I certainly didn't know or believe that I had elevated status in any parameter.  I just thought we were weird and therefore "special" in the not flattering sense of the term.

     Jo-Jo's mother was a Hodnett, I think part of the hub of wealthy Park Place group.  She married a Savage - not too rich, I guess, as she taught piano lessons.  They had the smallest house in Park Place.  Jo-Jo said he never took lessons, just listened.  Later she, a widow, and her three children moved to an apartment in Chicago - Northside.  Joe ended up being the child to live with her and loved her dearly.

     Joe Savage was a very interesting guy.  In Chicago Jo-Jo seemed to know everyone who was anybody in show business there and elsewhere.  I think I remember Dad saying that Joe sold formal wear for Sears.  It seemed odd for someone so fluidly mobile and adept.  I'm sure there is much more to his life which would be fascinating to explore. 

     JR also wrote that "Dad stated, 'Well, Joe was single, and I think actually he just used to call them up [show business people].  He was funny and his rapid fire repartee made people want to be with him.'"

     Joe met my wife during a trip to Chicago with my parents shortly after our marriage.  I remember he was stunned with her ability to sing all the old standards which she did to his piano accompaniment. 

     [Leigh's Note:  I do not know but can speculate on the connection between Mr. Savage and Lincoln, Illinois.  The Maxwell-Perry connection can be made from published information, including the works of Maxwell and The History of Logan County Illinois 1982, edited by Paul Beaver.   In So Long, See You Tomorrow, Maxwell acknowledges the help he received in researching information about the murder near Lincoln that is the focal event of the novel:  "I wrote to my stepcousin Tom Perry [who lived in Lincoln] and asked him if he could dig up for me those issues of the Courier-Herald that had anything in them about the murder of Lloyd Wilson" (So Long, p. 33).

     Tom Perry (Thomas Enlows Perry, 1923-?) was the son of Margaret McGrath (1891-?) and Wallace Brown Perry, M.D. (1891-1943) (Beaver, pp. 460 and 415).  Margaret McGrath was the only sister of Grace (1890-1972), (Beaver, p. 415).  Grace became the second wife of Author William Maxwell's father, William Keepers Maxwell, Sr.  Grace and William Maxwell, Sr., were married October 5, 1921 (Beaver, p. 415), in the Park Place home of Grace's sister (So Long, p. 22).

      Three of the four McGrath sisters' brothers were the principals of the McGrath Sand and Gravel Company with operations in several Illinois locations (a fourth brother was an attorney in Peoria, IL).  For more information about the McGrath men and their business, see 28. Mining Coal, Limestone, & Sand & Gravel; Lincoln Lakes; & Utilities (scroll to "The McGrath Sand and Gravel Company and William Maxwell's Description of Its Owners."  There, I quote Maxwell's account of the McGrath men taking young William to Chicago to be with his father and stepmother shortly after they moved there.  The McGraths' business yielded an affluent life style, and they treated young William Maxwell with benevolence that he appreciated -- they gave him spending money and treated him to dinner at the La Salle Hotel.

   My speculation is that on one of their trips to Chicago the McGraths may have enjoyed the piano playing of Jo Jo Savage in some establishment -- perhaps a hotel piano bar--, made his acquaintance, and invited him to Lincoln occasionally.  When Author William Maxwell and his wife, Emily, traveled to Lincoln from New York to visit family and friends, the McGraths, Perrys, and Maxwells -- all related --  certainly must have socialized.  Also, the McGraths and Perrys probably entertained their Lincolnite friends when such notables as William Maxwell and Jo Jo Savage were guests.

     JR Fikuart comments on this speculation by saying that the Savages were somehow related to the McGraths.  Presently that connection has not yet been clearly established.  JR mentions that Jo Jo had a sister named Joan and a brother named Mike.]

*  *  *  *  *

     Bob Goebel has sent some interesting family information (8-27-03) that connects the Goebels, McGraths, Perrys, and Maxwells; and I quote it below:

Friends,

     I call your attention to Paul Gleason's Lincoln, A Pictorial History (hopefully you have a copy of this wonderful book), p. 168-169, a photo of a 1926 birthday party at 132 Ninth Street, a few doors down the street from Maxwell's childhood home. Fourth from the left on the back row stands Blinn Maxwell (he's a tall 7 year old), William's brother, who was born shortly before their mother's death, likely the most emotionally traumatic event of William's life.

     I suppose all these kids would have come from that upper-middle class socio-economic strata Leigh describes on his web site. All of them are now deceased or in their 80's. Many of these people now live or lived out their lives as residents of Lincoln. Included are my father, Robert Goebel, (age 7, now deceased), his brother, my Uncle Dean Goebel (now deceased), his wife, Mary Finley Holmes Goebel (my Aunt Fin Fin, now deceased), Dr. Robert Perry (Maxwell's step-cousin, now deceased), Robert Woods (longtime Lincoln lawyer, now deceased), Emory Gaffney (longtime Lincoln CPA, living, who only recently stopped playing tennis on the Master's Circuit), Dr. Jim Aldendifer (my stepfather, living and retired Lincoln dentist, who married my mother 14 years after my dad's death), his sister Marianne Aldendifer Tucker (living in Florida), Tom Harris (living, still practicing law in Lincoln----lawyers tend to die with their boots on). All I have named, as well as others in the photo, were well-known to me during my childhood. My mother, the same age as these folks and also born in Lincoln, was absent from the group. She was raised by her divorced mother of two daughters who worked two jobs just to get by, thus, at this point in her life, not fitting the right social mold.

     Blinn Maxwell was a h.s. classmate of my father and stepfather, Jim Aldendifer. Blinn was raised by a Coffman family (I think a maternal relation) and lived in the brownstone house at the corner of Tenth and Union streets, just across from Bob Madigan's current home. He did not move to Chicago with his father and two brothers after his mother died. According to my stepfather, Blinn graduated from U of I and ultimately moved to Oxnard, California and practiced law with his brother, "Happy", the brother who lost his leg. . . . Blinn was back in Lincoln recently [fall, 2002] for the dedication of the Ninth Street plaque to William, and my Mom and Jim spoke with him briefly. Much of this may be spoken of in some of William's writings I have not yet read, so I apologize if I provide info already known to you.

     One of Jim Aldendifer's most vivid memories of William Maxwell was during WW II when he was home on leave and ran into Maxwell at a Christmas party at the Perry home on Park Place (Dr. Wallace and Marguerite Perry's house which I think was the So Long.... house built by William Maxwell, Sr. and sold to the Perry's when William moved to Chicago---this house remains in the Perry family and is currently owned by Ted, Tom and Jeri's son). Bill (Jim knew him by the more informal sobriquet) Maxwell was playing the piano and singing, "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition."

[Note:  Bob corrects the spelling of Margaret to Marguerite, and I had used the spelling found in my source of information about the McGrath family, Paul Beaver's History of Logan County 1982.]

     "Leigh, your Fikuart web page should be corrected to show Bob and Tom Perry's mother's name to be "Marguerite" rather than Margaret. This very cute and vivacious little lady was my grandmother Goebel's best friend and patted my head often when I was little and told me how cute I was. She continued doing this well into my high school years when she had to stand on tiptoe to reach the top of my head. Her son, Bob Perry, known to me as "Dr. Bob", practiced medicine with his father, Wallace, and uncle, Boyd Perry. Wallace must have died in the 40's as I remember only Dr. Bob and Dr. Boyd from my childhood. They had offices in a fairly small white frame home, converted to office use, behind Wayne Perry's Standard Oil station and I believe right next to the old Grand Theatre. Boyd Perry lived on Union Street in a white stucco home with a red tile roof on the south side of the alley between Ninth and Tenth streets. I "shot baskets" on many outdoor garage-attached basketball goals as I grew up including the one at Dr. Boyd's house where his tall daughter, Priscilla, about 4-5 years my senior, taught me how play H-O-R-S-E and "long and short" (or "21").

     Good story on my father's mother, known to me as Nana, who was a real menace behind the wheel as she grew older: Their family traded with Wayne Perry for many years (my Dad worked there during his high school years). She pulled in the station one morning to get a fill-up while on her way to visit the family burial plot at New Union Cemetery. These were the days when full service was the rule, and Wayne was personally filling her car, chatting about Nana's plans to visit the cemetery, washing her windshield, and checking her oil. Their relationship was such that she always ran a "tab" and he billed her monthly. During this process Wayne was called inside to the phone. With Wayne gone, thinking they were through, she drove off, ripping the gas hose from the pump, dangling the nozzle and part of the hose from the tank of her white '55 Ford Fairlane as she drove out Fifth Street. Wayne watched this in horror and amusement as he talked on the phone, and yelled for his mechanic to take the wrecker and "....go to the cemetery and get our hose back from Mrs. Goebel." He did and arrived just in time to extricate Nana from atop a tombstone she had just backed over. Her bill from Wayne was a little higher than usual that month.

     Respond to Bob at E_Robert_Goebel@kywd.uscourts.gov.

*     *    *    *    *

    JR's narrative continues:  "I loved Jonathon Winters as a child.  Joe gave my father a tape which he made at a private party where Winters was but one of the guests.  The conversation/banter was very off-color and a delight to my young ears.

    I'm glad to have your personal guidance to Maxwell's work.  My parents encouraged me to read more of him, but I resisted as a consequence - I'm pleased to have the second chance; however, a life in the applied sciences doesn't leave room for much else.  I must confess, also, that much of my spare time is spent in Internet pursuits.
 

     Steve Goebel [Bob's youngest brother, after Bruce] and I were friends growing up.  Stevie was wildly popular and was the only person between myself and abject nerddom.  I spent much of my young life in Lincoln bored to tears and socially inept except for my odd open welcome into all of my parents' adult dealings with the college crowd, etc.  My father had a way with the Lincoln intelligentsia and glitterati and was very insistent that I, "the child," not do anything to compromise his practice or his reputation.  My parents were a mystery to the ladies' groups and card clubs.  

 

     My parents, in their relative youth, were also involved in an organization called "Good Government," which along with "The Kickapoo Press," made a lot of Lincoln denizens very uncomfortable under the glare of the lights of ethical examination.  Are you familiar with this part of Lincoln's history?

     Before all this, Josh and Helen, my paternal grandmother did well socially, I believe.  Helen was a fairly close relation to Meriwether Lewis, and we made it into "the book" as a result.  I think Helen was in the DAR as well.

     Later in life, as a family, we stridently supported equal rights for African Americans and gays, were vocally opposed to the Vietnam War, had Jewish friends, the Silbermans, had Lincoln College friends, the Stevensons and others; and we knew and had in our home virtually every homosexual in town. 

     None of this allowed my parents or me to be very mainstream, nor did they aspire to it.  In most circles, I would introduce myself as "Martha Rehling's grandson" because she was (1) the most generous, loving and outgoing person I've ever known and (2) it was safe and avoided the often raised eyebrow.

     [Leigh's Note:  I had written JR that I knew the location of his home because I had attended the First Presbyterian Church, which was right across from his home at the corner of Pekin and Ottawa Streets.  I mentioned that my church attendance was mainly due to the pressures applied by certain family members.  I also mentioned that I sometimes felt uncomfortable among members of the congregation because I knew they were from a "higher" social level than my family.  JR replied with the following additional details about his growing up in Lincoln.]

     Your comments regarding church attendance toll the bells.  My experience was similar.  Martha Rehling, my grandmother, was parish visitor for the Methodist Church for decades.  When she was given babysitter duties, I went with her on her rounds.  She was constantly on the move.  I would deliver Mature Years with her.  The magazine was a Methodist sponsored publication.  I adored Martha, and the guilt I felt from disappointing her by not going to church and Sunday School was usually intolerable.  Martha also picked me up at Central School every Wednesday noon and took me to Tull's for lunch.  I had the ham salad sandwich, which was made of bologna, and a chocolate malt or soda.

     I actually studied theology at Cornell and the University of Iowa for a time with the idea that I might be a minister in that church.  The academic exposure to the roots of Christian theology taught me that my philosophy was actually decidedly Eastern in tenor.  I left school then and returned to Lincoln for a year or so.  While there in 1967/68, I worked for Homer Alvey and also at the Hotel Lincoln as night clerk, waiter, and bus boy in reverse order.  My shift as night clerk started at about 11 P.M.  Lincoln was an interesting place at night.
 

The Fikuarts' Friendship with Edna Blinn,  One of William Maxwell's Aunts

     [Leigh's Note:  William Maxwell often explicitly writes about family in his works set in Lincoln, Illinois.  His maternal Uncle Ted Blinn is the main subject of the story titled "The Man in the Moon," published in 1984 and included in All the Days and Nights:  The Collected Stories, Vintage Books, 1995, pp. 249-264.  Ted and his two wives are also mentioned in the book titled Ancestors (1971), which includes family history and autobiographical material.  JR Fikuart's family knew Ted's second wife, Edna.  Before I provide JR's memoir of her, here is a little background:

     After his first wife divorced him, Ted Blinn married Edna Skinner, and she is as fully portrayed in "The Man in the Moon" as Ted is.  Ted and Edna had lived in Chicago and lost their library business in the Depression. They had also lost a child at birth, then moved back to Lincoln.  She is depicted as a loving, devoted wife to Ted, adapting to and helping him cope with genteel poverty.  In Lincoln, Edna worked at the Lincoln Public Library for $75.00 per month as an assistant librarian.  She was very conscientious:  "She encouraged them [school children] to develop the habit of reading, and to make something of their lives.  Some of them came to think of her as a friend, and remained in touch with her after they left school" ("The Man in the Moon," p. 263).  She was an excellent homemaker and wife.  She also liked to paint.]

     Here is JR's recollection of Edna Blinn:

    Edna Blinn was sometimes my babysitter. I remember that she always brought us a plum pudding with hard sauce at Christmas time.

     My mother, Marta, told me that Edna always smelled very "clean." Edna went on at length one time about the fact that Ted had given her a gift of bath powder. She apparently never faltered in her loyalty to him.

     Mom also thinks she remembers that Ted lost an arm or hand in an automobile accident that may have been due to his not being entirely "alert."

     My father credits Edna (we always called her "Edna Blinn") with engendering his love of reading. When she was the Carnegie librarian, Dad would return with one book and she would send him home with another of her selection. I remember being impressed that my father had read Proust, no doubt because of Edna Blinnís tutelage.

     In addition to her love of books, Edna Blinn also painted. Deb and I have a painting which she gave to my parents. Dad was never sure whether she meant the piece to be an Impressionist rendering or it was what she saw of the subject with her extremely poor vision, which he had been responsible, as her optometrist, for attempting to correct over the years.

     [Leigh's Note:  How Ted Blinn lost an arm is described in Ancestors (1971):

     "Because my uncle (Ted) was so knowledgeable (about cars), he was invited to go to Chicago with friends who had bought a car there and were driving back to Lincoln in it.  The car went out of control and turned over.  My uncle lost an arm in the accident.  Nobody else was even hurt.  Annette says that he was not driving at the time, and that the car was going forty miles an hour, which I had trouble believing until I remembered what the unpaved country roads of that period were like.  It was probably muddy and the car went into a skid.  My uncle may have reached for the steering wheel.  He was found under it"  (p. 246)"  [Leigh's Note:  Of course, he may have been found under the steering wheel because he was the driver.]

Edna Blinn's Painting Owned by the JR Fikuarts

5:  J. Frank Fikuart Wonders:  Impressionism or the Result of Poor Vision?

          Maxwell describes Edna Blinn's paintings:  "There was nothing unusual about her watercolors but her oils were odd in an interesting way.  She couldn't afford proper canvas and used unsized canvas or cardboard, and instead of a tube of white lead she had a small can of house paint.  She had studied at the Art Institute when they [Ted and she] lived in Chicago.  I think now that she saw her life as being like that of Modigliani or some other bohemian starving in a garret on the Left Bank" ("The Man in the Moon," p. 264).

     These brief excerpts only hint at the depth of Maxwell's portrayal of his uncle and aunt and the complexity of their relationship to the rest of their family and other townspeople.  These characters and their relationships reveal a great deal about the upper-middle class society of this Midwestern town.  May I suggest that the best way to understand these matters is to read Maxwell's stories and books set in Lincoln.  They are available at www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com.
 

The Fikuarts at Lincoln Lakes

     My family spent almost every weekend at the [Lincoln] "Lakes" sailing, fishing, swimming and canoeing.  My youth would certainly have been less fulfilling without all of those experiences.
 

Joshua Fikuart

     The following picture is of my Grandfather Joshua in the "Bagears Barge."  The boat was purchased from Jack Harrison.  I'm not sure whether or not Jack knew of his moniker.
 

6:  Joshua Fikuart Rowing Pre- WW II "Bagears Barge"
Hand Crafted by the Jack Harrisons from Lincoln, Illinois

     Another spring ritual involved bringing the "bagears barge" in from the "lakes" to get its annual renewal with "Oakum", putty and paint.  It could be seen in the backyard on sawhorses every year as it underwent the very necessary repairs.  Dad told me in our recent conversations that the boat was made by the Harrisons, probably before WWII.  When they left for military service, grandfather was allowed to use the boat which was probably made of cypress.  After they returned from the service, they apparently decided to let Josh keep the boat.  He had the boat into his 90's. 

     The product "Oakum" was a mixture of sisal and creosote, we believe.  The boat would have to sit in the water for a period of time after its annual repair in order for "swelling" to take place that would seal the Oakum, putty and cypress planks into a cohesive mass.  The Oakum was forced between the planks first; then putty was applied.  The boat was then given several coats of battleship grey paint.  The entire affair was so heavy in later years that it took 4 or 5 people to return it to the water.

     [Leigh's Note:  The background of the photo above shows cottonwoods lining the south shore of the Lincoln Lakes, where boat docks were located.  Some of the boats docked there had outboard motors.  My family used to park under those cottonwoods and sit in the car or get out and walk as close as we could to the docks, observing the motor boats -- both the docked and running boats.  We were envious because we could not afford a boat with a motor.  The beach was located immediately to the left (west) of this shore. 

     I had mistaken the white building in the background as the boat house, but JR clarifies as follows:]

     The "white building" behind my grandfather in bagears [above photo] was actually a building owned by the folks who were responsible for managing the utilization of the lakes. [JR also said that from this structure bait and maybe fishing licenses were sold.]  Later there was another building to the right east of the white one, also of concrete block, where the caretaker lived.  To right of that building was the shed built by Lund later to become KVYC.  It is barely visible to the right of the ramp at the right of the white building in the photo.

     Ivy and her husband lived in the caretaker's house.  Ivy used to wander down to the shed when we were sailing on Sunday.  She and her hubby, I believe his name was Ray, had a dog who would fetch rocks.  Ivy always wore a tight tee-shirt and no bra and sported several years growth of whiskers.  She was a true folk delight and we adored her.  She found her husband dead on the toilet one afternoon. Her true sorrow matched with her matter-of-fact description of the day was an event Maxwell would have regretted not experiencing.  Tom Perry talked about it for years afterward and wove it into many stories.

     Anecdotally, my wife and I met, on a blind date, and fell in love under the cottonwoods by the boat docks in this picture.  Your initial enthusiasm for the photo of the setting propelled me forward.

     JR writes about the canoe shed:

     I talked to my father recently about the history of the canoe shed at Lincoln Lakes.

     The original canoe shed was built by "Doc" Lund and Herb Alexander according to J. Frank. The construction probably occurred between 1932 and 1934. Doc was a Norwegian but practiced in Lincoln as a "Swedish" massage therapist.

     The building was originally built to house canoes only and was constructed from boxcar siding which was removed from the boxcar as it was needed. When the shed was rebuilt by Tom Perry, Gil Dalton, Stu Wyneken and my father and others in the 70ís, the lettering from the boxcar was still visible on the old siding.

     [Note:  The rebuilt canoe shed is depicted in 12 below].
 

Fishing at Lincoln Lakes and Joshua Fikuart's "Secret Weapon" Fly Rod Bass Lure

     My father, J. Frank, or my grandfather, J. for Joshua, and I often went fishing at Lincoln Lakes when I was younger.  My grandfather was an inventor and an optometrist and jeweler as well.  He invented the "Secret Weapon" fly rod bass lure which he advertised in Field and Stream.  The name Secret Weapon was trademarked.  He sold the lures by mail to buyers responding to the advertisement.

     Grandfather was, of course, an accomplished angler himself.  He is pictured below with a routine catch for a day on the water.
 

7:  Joshua Fikuart in Three-Piece Suit with Gamefish Caught in Lincoln Lakes

     [Leigh's Note:  The fish at the left front, with dark vertical stripes, is a crappie, and the others are bass -- cannot tell whether largemouth or smallmouth --; either species of bass has the single horizontal dark stripe.  All of these species are fine fare when properly fried or grilled (I prefer the lighter, more delicate flavor of crappie). 

     The photos of Mr. Fikuart in suit suggest he may have gone to the Lakes directly from his optometry office after hours.  Also, fishing was considered a genteel sport, so professional attire was not considered inappropriate.]
 

Joshua Fikuart's "Secret Weapon" Field and Stream Advertisements

     The materials below are from my grandfatherís manufacturing operation. The Secret Weaponģ was advertised in Field and Stream magazine and was sold by mail.
 

 

 

 


8:  Info for the Wielder of the Secret Weapon

     The message above was included with each lure and also served as at least one of the ads in Field and Stream magazine.
 

 

 


9:  Ad for the Secret Weapon

     The above ad was included with each lure and also served as at least one of the ads in Field and Stream magazine. The piece above we believe was printed to convince wholesalers to feature the Secret Weapon in their inventory.

     Each lure was individually handcrafted. They were carved from cork and hand tied and painted. The painted lures were dried on a device attached to an old Edison phonograph. The phonograph motor drove a corrugated drum to which lures were attached. The drum rotated to insure that the paint dried evenly on the lure. Bass attacked the lure so viciously that even many coats of paint did not insure that damage did not occur as a result of their slashing attacks.

     The design and trademark were eventually sold to the Heddon bait company when advertising costs outstripped the revenue stream from the mail-order venture. Josh wrote all purchasers a personal letter complimenting them on their good judgment.
 

JR Fikuart Fishing with His Father, J. Frank

10:  JR and His Father, J. Frank, at the "Lakes" in John Parker's Johnson Boat
 

JR in "Bagears Barge"

11:  JR, 12, in "Bagears Barge"
 

Sailing at Lincoln Lakes

12:  Sailboats on Shore at the Kickapoo Valley Yacht and Canoe Club

    The first Sailfish® was purchased by John Parker around 1957. I took her on her maiden voyage launched from Roosevelt Point. I was about 10 years old at the time. I had sailed our familyís canoe at the Lakes so Dad felt comfortable with the trial voyage. The boat capsized in the first minutes of the voyage which John and my father observed from "the point." Dad reports that John bit off his pipe stem when the boat went over.

     Later, around 1960, Dad and I built a Sailfish from a kit. Our boat, and others to come later, was stored on racks at the Brannomís (sp?) house on the south shore of the main lake. We facetiously referred to it as Brannomís Beach Yacht Club (BBYC).

     Later when the boats were moved to the canoe shed across the lake, the group of sailors was known as the Kickapoo Valley Yacht and Canoe Club -- again facetiously.

13:  Logo of the Kickapoo Valley Yacht and Canoe Club

     Here is the KVYC logo as promised. It sports a picture of a canoe and paddles in the upper left quadrant and the KVYC pennant in the upper right. The pennant always flew on race days. The bottom half of the logo is the Allcort Sailfish® logo.

     Iím not sure who created the logo, but Iím sure Stu Wyneken would know if you sent it to him to examine. It might have been his sister or father.

     The whole "yacht club" thing was a spoof of places like the IVY Club in Peoria [Illinois Valley Yacht Club] which were difficult to access for the ordinary citizen.

     Bob Andrews, Doug Pokorski, Gil Dalton, Tom Perry, Fikuarts, Ginny Higgins and several others had "fish" in the shed. Many sailors upgraded to the Allcort Sunfish® when it became available. The Sunfish® had a well for oneís feet and was more comfortable to sail if more difficult to right when capsized.
 

14:  Sailboats in Storage Because of Flooding
 

15:  Ice "Going Out" on Lincoln Lakes

     Spring flooding often complicated preparations for the sailing season. The damage often necessitated extensive repairs.
 

16:  Weekend Regatta Looking West

    "Regattas" were held almost every summer weekend and the "cup" was awarded to the winner. The "cup" was a miniature trophy cup on a lanyard that was passed from the current holder to the winner in a ceremony replete with a traditional embrace.

     For most sailors the regattas were whimsy. I remember Brewster [Parker] being the notable exception. When he held the cup, he would often not compete, thereby retaining the cup for an inordinate span of weekends.

      Respond to J. Richard (JR) Fikuart at jfikuart@hughes.net.

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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.