Traveling with Jack and Theresa

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After Thoughts 2005

Probing America: High Tech on Back Roads

Day Nine Iowa City, Iowa, to Chenoa and Pontiac, Illinois

Today we enter Ripley Country and we thought a little orientation would be helpful. Theresa's parents and brother, Ray, were born, raised, lived, died, and are buried here. They were tenant farmers, raising corn and soybeans in combined acreage of around 360 acres. We come to remember the way they lived and to visit the people they left. Ray had three children. Jerry, the oldest, is almost 35 and works in a grain elevator (a hot, dirty, and physically demanding job) and is a gentle giant at 6' 6" with a good facility for words both in written and spoken form. He has two children, Erin, age 7, and Kyle, 17 months. His wife, Beth, a real true arrow shooter, works in the hospital delivering babies. She has to work the entire Fourth of July weekend so we hope to see her on Friday. David, the second son, who is a diminutive 6' 5", lives in suburban Chicago, and has taught high school English for 10 years. Ann, the youngest at 28, works in an auto parts place in Pontiac, doing everything from washing cars, to clerical work, to delivering people back and forth to their cars. Janice, Ray's widow, married Ray's lifetime friend, Jerry, a couple of years ago. Ray would probably be pleased.

Chenoa High School

In addition to seeing Ripleys we are also attending Theresa's 30th high school reunion from Chenoa High School in 1962. There were 36 in her graduating class if you count the exchange student from Switzerland in her senior year. Most of these people were classmates from first grade (they had no kindergarten) to 12th grade. This is the first high school reunion attended by Ripley, but she has kept in touch with many of her high school classmates, and five of them are recipients of the Circle of Friends newsletter.

And if this isn't enough excitement, Chenoa's Fourth of July is the best it ever gets for this type of celebration. This is the real thing or as close to the real thing as there is. Jack is skeptical of this event (little does he know that it is events), and he will be sharing his reactions to mid-America as the days in Chenoa unfold. Chenoa, as a community, had great promise. In fact, its slogan in the 50's was "Crossroads of Opportunities." And, theoretically, it was. The legendary Route 66 crossed the heavily traveled Route 24 and two railroads also intersected at Chenoa. The opportunity has dissipated, and what is left is a Midwest town with a population of about 1000 serving the area farmers.

From: Sally in Eugene
To: Meg
Date: July 3, 1992

It is Friday morning (I know, a holiday), but I have to come in to feed my I wanted to write you an e-mail. I took time out for myself last night, sat down and read all of you e-mails­what can I say but fascinating! When reading your messages, it’s the ‘next best thing’ to being there.

Anticipation runs high for the next few day's events. We know we will be having different perceptions of what we observe and will be giving you two perspectives of what we experience. Stay tuned for the best little Fourth of July this side of the Mississippi! Have a good Fourth of July yourselves.

original material © 2005