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Archive for the ‘Illinois’ Category

I awakened about 9:30 after one of the best night’s sleep I’ve had in months. The location was Peter and Byung’s office-turned-guestroom on the ground floor of their condo, a scant 15 feet from the guest bathroom with the night light above the vanity. I had said my goodnights to my hosts and their friend Chris, a delightful woman whom I thought might go out with me if two of us lived in the same city. She was so charming that before I toddled down to the guest room with a final nightcap of all the Sauterne wine I could pour into a medium-size glass without likely spilling any, I gave her a copy of my book Confluence of Legends. It was third of three I parted with during my visit, the second of two I gave away.  I was so at peace with the world that I almost forgot about the pair of shorts (Fruit of the Loom if you must know) I had packed for the excursion. I did, in fact, think of them. I considered the circumstance. I hadn’t perspired much over the last day. Everything in the shortsall area was commendably clean and un-offensively scented. “What the hell?” I said to myself. “I’ll save these shorts for Monday.” And I did

!Peter had invited me to come upstairs to their living room and read when I was ready to meet the day, explaining he is a “night person (as is Byung) and would not likely join me until pretty well into the morning. I was fine with that. While waiting, I finished the Mozart biography I had started the day before on the train. It was a small book. Peter and I were munching sliced apple and sipping coffee by 11.
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Then it was time to roll. I can’t remember the names of the main roads traveled but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if Peter had not taken a liking to me when I recited at Vachel Lindsay’s house in October 2010, I would have passed to dust having never shared this vista on a Sunday morning in Chicago. I consider Peter to be the A.J. Foyt, the Mario Andretti, the Sterling Moss of high-speed driving!
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The second picture here has been slightly retouched.

First stop on the day’s itinerary was the Chicago Zoo.
PP1216-5This part of the zoo is a small farm which is there to educate children of Chicago who will never see a farm: denizens of the city deep, who will never travel to rural USA far removed from a four-lane highway. I know this because Peter is a Chicago historian and tour guide for hire among other laudable attributes.
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We parked in a free parking curbside area near the lakefront. “On a clear day, you can see Indiana from here,” he explained. I was happy to see the lake; mad a memo to self to see more of it after the weather warms.  The zoo was closed for the winter, but the walking paths we well engaged by many on foot.

From this board walk, visitors in summer rent paddleboats to putter around a large, sheltered pond close to Lake Michigan. This area is part of Chicago’s Lincoln Park.
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One way to be certain you’re in Lincoln Park is this statue of Ulysses Grant on horseback close to the lake. At Chicago’s Grant Park, they boast a fine statue of Lincoln so visitors will know they’re in Grant park. This is a long telephoto pic, and I would looooooove to spend an entire morning or afternoon roaming this territory and getting close to Grant’s statue and beachfront.
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Another way to know you’re in Lincoln Park is this statue of Benjamin Franklin. That’s Peter posing for a picture he probably never thought would appear in this blog. The morning was chillier than I looks here. We were walking into a moderate headwind. It was good to know that the return to the car would be helped by  a tailwind.

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Mr Franklin was in good spirits. Must have been his hardy Boston lifestyle!

We were heading for the Chicago History Museum, a major attraction which should be on every visitor’s itinerary. It’s across the street from a major evangelist’s church, a beautiful brown stone complex with a sanctuary that seats about 3,000, Peter explained. He knew that the Sunday service had concluded shortly before we arrived on the museum side of the street, and he was curious about the place. So was I. There were still many attendees exiting the building after socializing, and the atmosphere was incredibly warm. Not a frown to be seen. We had no trouble entering that famous sanctuary and taking a few pictures. No one approached us and asked who we were or the purpose for our visit. Everyone was focused on their reason for being there; not ours.
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I could have spent an hour photographing the sanctuary.

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PP1216-13This is the view of the Chicago History Museum from the front of the church.
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Photography inside the museum is a challenge because of  the contrasting bright lights and moderate overall ambient light. Human eyes adjust to it better than cameras, but the displays are a real “tour de force” not only of Chicago, but of the culture of the USA as well.

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The woman is reading a very interesting, nutshell chronology of the land and the city. I knew the instant I saw her that I wanted to photograph her, but she was moving to the right faster than I hoped.  I neither know nor care what the door is on the right, and I know it’s a visual “ersatz element in this picture, but I did not want to interrupt her to ask her to “pose” for a picture more to the left.  I would have lost the authentic moment, and I do like how she stood at this fleeting half a second as she read the text on the wall.
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My true “photo harvest” from the museum came as we approached the stairway to the ground floor.
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The second picture is from the same position at the top as the first, but I stood closer to the edge to reveal the poster.

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Looking back up in the direction from whence we came.
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A final savoring of line and form.
PP1216-20Visible to the right of the fountain (closed for the winter) is the Chicago History Museum. Across the street is Ellie’s where we ate a fantastic lunch. It was terrific.

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A last look at a memorable museum.

I had a train to catch (that would depart Union Station) at 5:15, and we wanted to be arrived at the station with plenty of time to spare. En route back to Peter’s car — in fact almost across the street from it in Lincoln Park — we encountered this steel sculpture, another amazing presence . . .

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A pose of the wayfaring folkslinger (photo by host Peter). With Peter’s talent at the wheel, the trip to the station was a breeze.
PP1216-25Live long . . . . . . . . . . and proper.

Coming next on Return to Chi’ (or) I Didn’t Even Change My Shorts,  I have a picture perfect return to my home town as a sobering story unfolds before my ears. Look for it Sunday.

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Story in a box.

The picture of the gentleman in the dapper hat (upper left) sat on his wife’s bedside reading lamp table when John Thornton Walker was serving as a liaison pilot with the U.S. Army in Italy.  It had been taken at a Springfield, Illinois studio but had moved with Gerri (Geraldine) Walker when she returned to her home town in Indiana.  It came back to Springfield almost a month ago.

For the better part of the past week, I have engaged what promises to be a long task of transforming the story of a World War II hero from Springfield, Illinois from a box of photographs, newspaper clippings, two pilot’s log books, documents, and certificates into a book which I believe people will purchase and read and cherish. The book will describe the life of Gerri’s husband who attended Springfield High School, whose father was a Springfield firefighter,  who learned how to fly as Springfield Commercial Airport (re-named Southwest Airport in 1947), joined the Illinois Army National Guard before Pearl Harbor was attacked and flew artillery spotting and forward liaison planes (commonly known as “grasshoppers”) . . . . and never came home.

The box of memorabilia and a remarkable, restored, 65 pound brass plaque which used to greet visitors to Walker Army Airstrip, Virginia (dedicated to her husband in 1951)  were donated to AeroKnow Museum by the Walkers’ daughter Connie and her husband Richard Strouse.

Left to right: Richard Strouse, Job Conger, Connie Walker Strouse.

John Thornton Walker seldom signed  his full name or even “J. Thornton.”  As Thornton Walker he wrote aviation column for the Illinois State Journal.  His friends called him T. Through most of the book I’m writing about him and through most of my “Book Reports” here at Honey & Quinine, I will call him “JTW.” Some of JTW’s story was shared in my book Springfield Aviation produced by Arcadia Publishing and available everywhere 

Last week I started transcribing the information he recorded in his two log books: every flight he made that begins with his first flight as a student pilot April 7, 1937 and ends in his second log book, October 11, 1942 when he was training to be a liaison pilot with the US Army at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma.

Here are my transcription from the first flights recorded in his second log book. He was 26 years old when he started it. . . .

_____1938
11-8 – Decatur to Springfieldd – Taylorcraft BC — NC21221 —  :33 – picked up Dr. Turley’s plane
11-6 – Springfield to Springfield —  Fleet – NC726V —  :16 – took Gerrie for a ride
12-4 –– Springfield to Springfield  — Fleet – NC726V – 21 – vertical turns
12-16 — Springfield to Springfield – Taylorcraft BL —  NC21218  —  :05 – hop in new Lycoming 50 craft
12-17 — Springfield to Springfield –  Taylorcraft BL – NC21218 —  :08 – hop in new Lycoming 50 craft
12-24 — Springfield to Springfield – Taylorcraft 40  — NC19655 —  :15 – flying from right side
12-24 — Springfield to Springfield – Taylorcraft BC – NC21221  —  :04 —  hop with Metz
                                                                                                                  _____ 78:07
We know that he flew hardly at all during November, especially compared with 12 flights in April that year. Weather may have been a problem in November; perhaps a heavy work schedule or busy social life. We do know he was having fun in the air, picking up a friend’s airplane on the 8th, flying with his wife and later with a friend named Metz. He took many friends up for “hops” most lasting 15 minutes or less in the air.  He was also honing his new skills, practicing vertical turns, getting to know the new 50 hp Taylorcraft, but spending most of his time since his first lesson in 40 hp Taylorcraft. Before supper on Christmas Eve, 1938 he had logged 78 hours and seven minutes in control of a flying machine.

I don’t know for sure that I will include this transcription of when and where he flew, often the purpose of each flight, in what airplane and  its registration number, and how long he was in the air each time he flew as a student or pilot in command of the airplane. I believe JTW’s experience is typical of all Americans who learned to fly as civilians before World War II, and that is why I am inclined to include the transcription. I’m already laying it out in an appendix at the end of the book. I know that I will include pictures of most of the airplanes he flew, thanks to him being an avid photographer and to his family donating many pictures to AeroKnow Museum.

Every fact I have today was provided by a member of the Walker family. When Rich and Connie Strouse visited Springfield, they also visited Walker’s former home at 614 1/2 S. Douglas Avenue. I have contacted an employee of the State Journal-Register (modern version of the Illinois State Journal of Walker’s time, but was advised that their preserved newspapers (on microfilm I’m guessing) are not available to the  public at large, of which I am a member.  If  YOU know anything about the family of John Thornton Walker I cordially invite you to contact me by way of AeroKnow Museum or via my home telephone. The number is in the white pages.

FINALLY, I invite you who want to know more about JTW and his family — or have information and photos of the old airport, airplanes and pilots who flew from there to visit my AeroKnow Museum blog — http://aeroknow.wordpress.com  and my AeroKnow Museum Gallery of Flight blog — http://akmgallery.wordpress.com

I think when the book now in process comes off the press, we will have a record of a remarkable citizen of Illinois’ capital city who has been unknown or forgotten by almost everyone alive in Springfield today. What do you think?

Live long . . . . . .  . and proper.

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