Yesterday we drove about an hour north of Hickory Hollow Campground to Dixon, Illinois, a nice little town with a lot of history.
Former President Ronald Reagan grew up in Dixon and graduated from high school there. The Reagan family lived in several rental houses in Dixon, but the two-story frame house at 816 S. Hennepin Avenue is the only one that Reagan specifically mentions in his biography. The home has been restored to the way it looked when the Reagans lived here in the early 1920s.
The house has been furnished with period furniture and personal items, some of which were donated by President Reagan’s estate. There are many photographs throughout the house of the Reagan family during the time they lived here.
While it looks to be good sized from the outside, the house actually seems pretty small on the inside. But it was interesting to see where the future president lived a modest lifestyle while growing up. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable about the Reagan family and the history of Dixon, and shared a lot of interesting details with us.
The Visitor Center, next door to the Reagan home, has more photographs, a gift shop with books and souvenirs, and an 8-minute long video on President Reagan and his connection to Dixon.
After we toured the home we drove down the street past the school where Reagan and his older brother Neil attended classes, and the library where he borrowed hundreds of books over the years.
The street ends at the Rock River, where a statue of Ronald Reagan on horseback stands. A lot people don’t remember that before he became a politician, Reagan was a popular movie actor who starred in a lot of Westerns.
Ronald Reagan wasn’t the only American president with a Dixon connection. A short distance across the river, a 19-foot-high bronze statue honors Abraham Lincoln’s service here during the Blackhawk War. Lincoln is depicted as a 23-year-old Army captain, clean shaven and in uniform. This is the only statue in existence of Lincoln in uniform.
Being an old newspaperman, I couldn’t resist stopping at the Dixon Telegraph newspaper to check out the small museum that showcases the newspaper and the role it played in the history of the community. The display included the original printing press, some examples of old lead type, and lots of photographs from over the years.
Though we do everything on the computer these days, Miss Terry recalled using these tools when we first started the Gypsy Journal and laid everything out my hand. I actually worked as a printer’s devil for a while when I was a youngster, at an age when today’s kids are honing their skills on video games, so the lead type on display brought back some memories for me.
When we drove back to Utica, we made a stop at the JC Whitney outlet store, at the same exit as our campground. Long before there was an Internet, back in the days when the Amazon was only a river in South America, the JC Whitney catalog was the wish book for anybody who had an old car, truck, or motorcycle. In those pages, you could find anything and everything, from leather saddlebags to glass pack mufflers, eight-ball gearshift knobs, and every chrome goodie and doodad ever invented to make your hot rod look cool when you are cruising down the boulevard.
We had a good time wandering the aisles, and even found a few things we couldn’t live without. Miss Terry, who is the mechanical one in our family, was wishing she had a garage or workshop someplace to put all the nifty tools and gadgets we saw there.
We’ll be back on the road this morning, headed for Muskegon, Michigan. It’s been way too long since we’ve had some time with my cousin Berni Frees and her husband Rocky, two of our favorite people in the world. We’re really looking forward to spending a few days with them. It’s going to be a lot of fun, it always is.
Thought For The Day – Doesn’t a lightning rod on top of a church show a certain lack of faith?