Long day. Got rolling with Sharon Johnson of Springfield Tourism meeting us at the State House Inn at 6:55 am. Oy. Then on to Shea’s Gas Station and a meeting with Mayor Tim Devlin riding up on his Harley. An interview with Bill Shea followed. He’s a funny, dry humored man in his mid-80’s, a survivor of Utah Beach at D-Day (WWII) and a gas station proprietor of over 50 years.
The highlight of the day, though, was the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. Even though I was working, I still felt a welling up of emotion at the museum, so much so that I had to step away for a moment to regain my composure. It came up first when Tom Schwartz, Illinois State historian, approached the Fort Sumter mural dedicated to the beginnings of the Civil War. As is frequently the case when the war is discussed, my heart was in my throat. So powerful is even a mere mention of the War Between the States to my ears. (Ken Burns’ “Civil War” had a similar effect on me, especially the last episode and his handling of the story of the surrender at Appomattox. I also enjoy visiting Civil War battlefields. As I mentioned in the blog entry about the Cahokia Mounds, something deep inside me stirs when I walk on the earth where my elders trod, especially when blood was spilled.) Also seeing Lincoln in his law office with his kids wreaking havoc on the place strangely brought up a deep feeling, maybe of love. Here the museum had succeeded in making Abe a man, a mortal, and not just an icon. To let it sink in what he and his family went through during the war and after, makes his humanity all the more inspiring and heartbreaking.
I give special thanks to Tom Schwartz for his tour and his excellent spirit of fun. He immediately grasped the kind of style we like to operate with, and he joined in with esprit. I’m proud of our segment here because I think it really shows how we can be respectful when necessary and still have a good time.
This shoot ended on the oddest note. We finished with Abe and family in the center plaza, and after Tom gave the website info I said to him, “Surely Abe had a sense of humor – how did it come out?” Without missing a beat, Tom cheerfully replied, “Well, he was a –“ and I thought the next word I heard was “pornographer.” There was a stunned silence, the camera was rolling, and I said, “Okay, that’s another story…”. We cut the camera, exchanged a few more pleasantries and I found I could not let Tom go without clarifying what I thought I heard him say. I mean, geez, this could be a major scoop. “Did you say Abe was a pornographer?” I said. Tom lit up and said, “He was a pun-ographer – he loved making puns.” I think Tom knew exactly what he was doing and I’m sure he delighted in my shock. Go ahead and say the two words really fast and you’ll see how puno-grapher can sound very much like something else.
I took a snooze on the road to Alton, but not before an impromptu stop at Kretzel’s Frozen Custard on North Grand Avenue in Springfield. It has become a tradition with Tom and I to find the best local soft ice cream or custard wherever we are, and to indulge in it. I picked up the camcorder and shot myself going on about the ice cream, doing the kind of bit I look forward to integrating into the show. (Or on the web as exclusive bonus video clips.) These little segments capture and express my love of the road, the unplanned stop, the discovered treasure, even if it’s only an ice cream cone. And the prices! A sundae for a dollar-fifty! Mama!