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Old 06-07-04, 11:37 AM   #1
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Dial Up Warning: Photo Essay from Reagan's Hometown

Monday, June 7, I have the day off, but I'm up early with a plan. I want to get out and see what's going on in my hometown in the aftermath of the death of its favorite son. I saddle up the Bike with No Name, pull on my red, white and blue socks, swath my head in a star spangled do-wrap, drop the digital camera in a jersey pocket and go for a ride. The sky is the color of titanium. It is humid and the day warms rapidly.

This photo was taken a few blocks from my home. The man who lives here is a childhood friend of Ronald Reagan's. He kept in touch with the man he called "Dutch" through the years. Not only a friend, but a fan, he has made his home a virtual Reagan museum. The chainsaw sculpture represents Reagan as a young lifeguard at Lowell Park here in Dixon.

Among the older residents of our town, Reagan is well-remembered and remembered well. He was a popular young man and made many friends here.
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Old 06-07-04, 11:44 AM   #2
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I didn't vote for Reagan. I didn't agree with his politics. This is not a fawning tribute. I recognize that he was a charismatic and able leader. These pictures are meant to share with you happenings in Ronald Reagan's hometown on the occasion of his death.

After my stop to photograph the chainsaw carving, I rolled down the hill through the Old settler's Park. The city of Dixon has more designated parkland per acre than any other city in Illinois, perhaps the nation. Across Peoria Avenue, I stopped for this picture of Dixon High School. Yesterday commencment exercises were held for the class of '04.

This is the same building in which Ronald Reagan attended school. How would like to have gone to school in a castle?
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Old 06-07-04, 11:50 AM   #3
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South from the High School across the Peoria Avenue bridge, a local business offered this tribute. The speech this sign alludes to, given after the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster, was, in my opinoin, Reagan's greatest moment.
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Old 06-07-04, 11:55 AM   #4
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The Simon and Garfunkel song, "My Little Town" was playing on my mental jukebox as I rode around Dixon today--a cynical and somehow fitting soundtrack to my memorial ride.

There are signs like the one in this picture in numerous locations around Dixon. This one is directly in front of the Lee County Democratic Party Headquarters. Whether the sign was placed there with malice is open to surmise.
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Old 06-07-04, 11:57 AM   #5
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Dixon loves Ronald Reagan. This plaque is in the lobby of our public library.
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Old 06-07-04, 12:01 PM   #6
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First Christian Church, where Ronald Reagan was baptized in 1922, will be the site of a memorial service this Thursday. A video link has been made to the Methodist Church across the street to accomodate overflow. The service has been in planning for two or three years at least.

I stopped here for a brief chat with a caretaker who was planting flowers and prettying up the grounds.
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Old 06-07-04, 12:05 PM   #7
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After a stop at the Post Office, I rode down to the Reagan Home. Apparently Jack Reagan's family lived in several houses in Dixon. This was the first that came available when the Reagan Home Society was looking for a site. They have done a nice job with the place. They've also purchased the house next door, which they use as a reception center. It is, by far, the nicer house.
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Old 06-07-04, 12:10 PM   #8
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When Reagan visited the house, he stopped in the living room, bent down, and removed a loose tile from the floor by the fireplace. He said that when he lived here, he used to hide pennies under that tile. He took a few coins from his pocket and put them there.

Outside the house is a statue of Reagan sorting a few coins in his hand. Since Saturday the statue has become the focal point for tributes to our former president.
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Old 06-07-04, 12:13 PM   #9
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Among the tributes, beanie babies, flags, flowers, a cap...
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Old 06-07-04, 12:15 PM   #10
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...hand-written notes, Jelly Bellys, coins, photographs.
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Old 06-07-04, 12:19 PM   #11
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The news media are still on hand. Huge trucks with Satellite dish antennae block the streets in front of the Reagan house. This is a reporter from Fox News.
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Old 06-07-04, 12:30 PM   #12
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After the Reagan house, I rode up north of town to Lowell Park where Ronald Reagan worked as a lifeguard, allegedly saving 77 lives.

Lowell Park is a beautiful place on the Rock River. The entrance, on high ground, is surrounded by piney woods. A mile down a hairpin road, the river is surrounded by hardwood trees. There are hiking trails, picnic shelters and an old quarry. The river is high today. The swimming beach was closed years ago, but this old diving top stands by the former boat house.

A sign on the top reads: This diving top was used in the heyday of swimming in Lowell Park where Ronald Reagan was a lifeguard for seven seasons. The top was anchored to the river bottom and submerged in the water as swimmers teetered, spun and jumped off the top. Much fun was had by all.

I have never actually seen one of these things in use. I suspect that liability costs have brought about the demise of diving tops...

...and river swimming.

There used to be a sign in the men's room at Lowell Park that said "Please do not flush undergarments down the toilet." I was going to take a picture of it, but it's gone. I can't imagine why there would ever be a need for such a sign.
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Old 06-07-04, 12:34 PM   #13
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Finally, I rode back across the river to a little memorial park in town. Here there is a reproduction of a portion of the Berlin Wall. A bronze plaque in the middle of the wall quotes a speech that Ronald Reagan made at the real Berlin wall. "...Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall..."
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Old 06-07-04, 12:43 PM   #14
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The same park is home to this piece of public art. Titled, "The Wings of Peace and Freedom," it was a gift to the city by the artist. I'm generally in favor of public artworks, but I really hate this thing. It proves my thesis that there is no such thing as a free kitten. It was the inspiration for this bit of schoolyard doggerel:

"Men are from Mars.
Women are from Venus.
I live in a town
That put wings on a penis."

The sculpture stands beside the Baptist Church. I can't imagine that the Baptists are pleased. Still...

Back across the river and up the hill I rode to my home where I enjoy the gifts of peace and freedom that the sculpture is supposed to symbolize. The lawn needs mowed, and I have to do something about the ants in my kitchen, but this morning, I wanted to see, and share, the sights of my little town in the aftermath of the death of its favorite son.

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Old 06-07-04, 04:55 PM   #15
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Fascinating, RG! thanx.
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Old 06-07-04, 06:52 PM   #16
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Nicely done, Regularguy. Thank you!

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Old 06-07-04, 07:46 PM   #17
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Hey RG-
I have been through Dixon a dozen or so times - back when I used to climb at the Miss Pallisades. Thanks for sharing this slice of Dixon with us.
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