Monthly Archives: September 2016

Midwest Roads, U.S.A. (32 Photos).

Photographs and text: John P. Walsh

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Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket is 22 miles southwest of downtown Chicago. Its address is 645 Joliet Road, Willowbrook, Illinois. It first opened in 1926 as a gas station/lunch counter on a brand-new Route 66. In 1939 the original owner, Irv Kolarik, served fried chicken for the first time. That was 80 years ago. The one-story brick commercial building was built in 1946 by architect Eugene F. Stoyke next to the original building, It became a full-service restaurant just in time for the post-World War II travel boom. Dell Rhea’s window bay of nine single-light-glass-and-wood-canted windows is original as is the neon-and-metal sign in the photograph (it was replaced by a replica sign in 2017). While a fireplace anchors the north wall, a cocktail lounge to the south was added in 1956. In 1962 a new expressway (I-55) took traffic away from Route 66. In 1963 the Chicken Basket was bought by Chicago businessman Dell Rhea who reinvigorated the eatery for the new era. The popular Chicken Basket is still owned and managed by the Rhea family where their fresh and tasty fried chicken is cooked to order and definitely one of the best.

INTRODUCTION.

These are some of my photographs featuring the people, places, and things I have met along today’s American Midwest roads.

I have a personal affection for the American Midwest. I grew up in Chicago and its suburbs, and went to grade school, high school and university here.

Growing up In the Midwest I had my family, friends, diverse outings, engaging jobs, and, later on, married here. I continue to enthusiastically explore this vast region that’s rightly called “The Heart of America.”

Memories of the Middle West — its sights, sounds, smells, and tastes — and mostly in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan — are the mother’s milk of my life. Through steamy summers, multi-colored autumns, ice-bitten winters, and flowering springs to traverse Midwest roads spell adventure — both then and now.

The American Midwest is filled with human stories and diverse and awesome natural beauty. There is timeless nostalgia, and, when those things don’t entice for the moment, unexpected curiosities.

For those who love it, the Midwestern terrain possesses what Edgar Lee Masters (1868-1950) spoke about in his last major book, The Sangamon, as “magic in that soil, in the plains, the borders of forest, the oak trees on the hills.” The poet was sure that “if you should drive through (this region)…strange dreams would come to you, and moreover those dreams would tally with mine.”

The region continues to offer the sightseer magical things including impressive remnants of an American Indian mound-building culture and encounters with animals and birds, wild and domestic. Edgar Lee Masters understood that it is the Midwestern people – individualistic, hospitable, industrious, good willed, courageous and independent – who bestow to the central part of the country its greatest distinction. It is this populace that, like the past, builds what is frequently photographed on Midwest roads and in its towns and cities: canals, roads, barns and farms, houses. In the 21st century new things of interest can be seen on a Midwest road trip– such as cellphone towers or wind turbines — while older things, like barns, disappear.

Many famous Americans and international figures have traversed the Midwest roads, some perhaps unknown or unexpected–James Monroe (in 1785), Charles Dickens (1842), John Muir (1849), Henry David Thoreau (1861),  Antonín Dvořák (1893), Winston Churchill (1946). Others were born or lived here, such as Carl Sandburg, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Edison, Edgar Lee Masters, Walt Disney, Mark Twain, Jane Addams, Harry S Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Barack and Michelle Obama,  Frank Lloyd Wright, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., John Wayne, Wyatt Earp, “Wild Bill” Hickok, Jesse James, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Dinah Washington (“Queen of the Blues”), and many more.

It is Abraham Lincoln whose memory is most famously linked to Midwest Roads. Riding his horse, “Old Bob,” Lincoln loved to travel the Eighth Judicial Circuit as a defense lawyer. It is to the sixteenth U.S. president and the Midwestern spirit he manifested that this photographic essay is dedicated.

Asian Garden (Man), July 2018

Man in his garden, DuPage Co., Illinois, July 2018.

Woman in her garden, DuPage Co., Illinois, July 2018.

Illinois Farm (Bureau County IL) June 5, 2017.

Bureau Co., Illinois, June 5, 2017.

Crucifix and wind turbine (Bureau County IL), June 5, 2017.

Bureau Co., Illinois, 2017.

Wedding party, Waukesha Co., Wisconsin, 2017.

working farm 5.31.17 jpw

Walworth Co., WI, 2017.

Tuesday Taco jpwalsh

Kirkland (DeKalb Co.), Illinois, 2017.

red barns jpwalsh

Northern Illinois, 2017.

Honor Guard, Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home, Dixon (Lee Co.), Illinois, June 5, 2017.

Walworth Co., Wisconsin, 2017.

Midwest roads.

DeKalb Co., Illinois, October 9, 2016.  

Midwest Roads.

Grundy Co., Illinois, 2016.

Midwest Roads.

Kendall Co., Illinois, 2016.

Midwest roads.

Grundy Co., Illinois, 2016. 

Midwest Roads.

LaSalle Co., Illinois, 2016.  

Tazewell Co., Illinois, 2016. 

Midwest Roads.

LaSalle Co., Illinois, 2016. 

LaSalle Co., Illinois, 2016.

Midwest roads.

Grundy Co., Illinois, 2016. 

Midwest roads.

Grundy Co., 2016. 

Midwest roads.

Detail, Downtown Mural, LaSalle Co. (Ottawa), Illinois, 2016.

Midwest Roads.

Northern Illinois, August 29, 2016. 

Midwest roads.

Kendall Co. (Oswego), IL, April 2, 2016.

Law offices, 2017.

Midwest roads.

Cook/DuPage Cos. (Schaumburg), Illinois, March 29, 2016.

LaSalle/Grundy Cos. (Seneca), Illinois, 2016.

Leaf blowers, 2018.

DuPage Co. (Downers Grove), Illinois, 2018.

DuPage Co. (Wheaton), Illinois, 2018.

Lake Geneva (Walworth Co.), Wisconsin, 2017.

Elevation, Des Plaines, Illinois, 2018.

Grotto shrine, Des Plaines, Illinois, 2018.

Winnebago Co. (Rockford), Illinois, 2017.

The Worker, Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), Camp Chicago-Lemont, Company 612, Willow Springs, Illinois. Established June 4, 1933.

The CCC was a major part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. The Federal program provided manual labor jobs related to conservation and the development of natural resources on mostly rural lands owned by government entities. The CCC was specifically designed to give jobs to young men so to relieve their families who had difficulty finding jobs during the Great Depression. The CCC was active from April 1933 to July 1942. In those nine years and 3 months the program employed approximately 3 million young men who, with food, clothing and shelter included, earned $30 a month, of which $25 had to be sent home to their families.

NOTES:

for photograph 1-Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket. http://www.chickenbasket.com/; https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/route66/dell_rheas_chicken_basket_hinsdale.html .

INTRODUCTION – Masters quotes from The Sangamon by Edgar Lee Masters with Introduction by Charles E. Burgess, University of Illinois Press, Urbana & Chicago, 1988 (first published 1942), p.6.