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Sunday, September 04, 2011

Research and Collections


A division of the Illinois State Museum, which has nothing to do with what follows.

Let me take you on a trip. It was December 28, 1978, and the lawyers I was working for had been hired by some big time New York bankers to do some real estate work. I don't remember the specifics of the transaction, except there was a lot of money involved (for the time) and the real estate was in LaSalle County. On the morning the documents were to be recorded, they asked me if I wanted to drive the papers up there. I enthusiastically said I would, so I did. One of the partners handed me the keys to his Cadillac Eldorado convertible, and I hot-footed it out of town. Like a little vacation.

I remember the date because it was the second anniversary of my father's death. As I hit the highway, it occurred to me that I was doing something that wouldn't let me sit around crying all day. And I felt good, which was kind of unexpected.

The seat of LaSalle County is Ottawa, which is only about half interstate and the rest state highways from Springfield. Upon arriving in town, I went to the title company office, where the girl checked to make sure all the I's were dotted and T's crossed. We then walked over to the recorder's office and I was done. She asked me if I wanted to get lunch with her, but I said no. It sounds ridiculous now, but I had a major adrenalin rush from the drive and successfully completing my mission, and I wanted to get back to the car and be by myself before I came down.

I did get an egg salad sandwich, which I ate alone in the car in the parking lot of a little diner on the edge of town. Sitting there, I made the decision to take my time getting back to Springfield. No need to speed even though that thing could gun it to 120 in no time flat. As I turned the key in the ignition, I looked up at the steel gray sky, and got the brilliant idea to put the top down on the Caddy. In December. Then I leisurely took off down Route 6. I smiled as I watched in the rear-view mirror as my red tam bounced out of sight down the road behind me. Then it started spitting snow, which really hurts your face, even only doing 40 miles an hour. Also, it's hard to keep your eyes open when they're being pelted by precipitation.

These are the things I remember about that trip to Ottawa, none of which has anything to do with what follows. Except for Ottawa.

On Friday, the people of the City of Ottawa unveiled a monument to the girls who worked at Radium Dial Co. in the 1920s. There's a one hour and 45 minute documentary at the end of that link, which I ask you to please take the time to watch. Afterwards, whenever someone tells you regulation is bad for business and the economy, and hence, the people, point them there.

Posted by Marie at September 4, 2011 11:44 PM


Great story.

Ottawa was the last town I stayed in on a trip from Saginaw to Albuquerque and back. I was tired of chain hotels so I got off I-80 and drove into town to get a room at the Sands Motel (thanks Google!). I was watching TV when there was a really loud knock on the door. Stupidly I opened the door to see a rough looking young guy who quickly became very, very apologetic. Was he looking for a girlfriend? Mistress? Drug dealer? I don't know but it freaked me out for the rest of the night.

Posted by: joe Author Profile Page at September 5, 2011 6:13 PM

Thanks, joe. I would have been freaked out, too. I'm glad nothing happened.

Posted by: Marie Author Profile Page at September 5, 2011 7:55 PM

That Radium Girls story is horrible.

Regulation must be bad for business because they all fight it or run from it.

Posted by: Rob Author Profile Page at September 6, 2011 5:35 AM

Hey--that's a lovely reminiscence, Marie. Reminds me of many a drive in those parts. I love the fact you put the top down.

And regarding Ottawa: I just found a letter my great-grandfather wrote the LaSalle County clerk in 1936 as part of an attempt to find information about his family, which lived in Ottawa in the 1860s (he was born there, in fact).

Thanks for the link to the Radium Girls documentary. I'll watch it.

Posted by: Dan Author Profile Page at September 7, 2011 11:15 AM

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