Springfield, IL, Mini-Reunion
October 13-16, 2011
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From Thursday, October 13, through Sunday, October 16, 43 classmates and companions participated in the fifth Class of 1969 mini-reunion, held in Springfield, Illinois, focusing on the life and times of Abraham Lincoln. We have enjoyed a string of smash hits in these adventures together. But never has the Class been taken in like old friends as we were by what seemed to be the entire historic preservation community of Springfield.
THURSDAY, October 13
We descended on Springfield from two launching sites. Some gathered with Rosemary and ALAN MEYERS in St. Louis, where they were treated to a fascinating walking tour of the historic Old Courthouse area of St. Louis led by our enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide, Maureen Kavanaugh. Others rendezvoused with Deborah Solomon and BRUCE ROSENBERG in Chicago for the famous Architectural boat tour aboard the Chicago First Lady, after which Alice and CARY HAYWOOD hosted an elegant reception at their condo between the tour and dinner. The view almost equaled the food and wine served. Both groups enjoyed dinner at local hot spots: in St. Louis, it was at Gio's, the eatery favored by World Champion Cardinals' manager Tony La Russa after home games; in Chicago, one of the iconic Italian restaurants, Gene & Georgetti's.
FRIDAY, October 14
On Friday, the groups convened in Springfield for the main event. Friday afternoon, we traveled by bus to New Salem, the site of Lincoln's early career. The afternoon began with the most elegant boxed lunch any of us had ever seen.
Then, guided by Dick Hart, former President of the Abraham Lincoln Association, with enthralling narrative provided by Prof. Michael Burlingame '64, we saw and heard about life in that small town and the early influences on Lincoln's life. The almost magical tranquility of New Salem on a glorious fall afternoon provided one of the many surprises of the trip. Our next stop was Lincoln's tomb, where the mood turned somber as we recalled the impact of Lincoln's life and death.
Friday ended with a candlelight reception and buffet dinner at the Old State Capitol where we were greeted by the 114th Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry, Reactivated. The magnificent restoration was populated by a score of docents in period costumes and a choir serenading us from the top of the grand stairway. It was like stepping through a time portal. The program following dinner took place in Representatives Hall (site of much of the struggle between Lincoln and Douglas leading up to the Civil War, where Lincoln made his "House Divided” speech and where he lay in state), with a special welcome to Springfield by Cullom Davis ’57. In addition to his many contributions in oral history, Cullom led the team that scoured the circuit to collect, edit and publish Lincoln’s legal papers.
SATURDAY, October 15
Saturday morning, we walked from our extremely conveniently located hotel to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, to which we returned later in the day for our closing dinner. The museum itself was worth the trip, featuring 3-D movies, hands-on exhibits, a mock newscast, and statues everywhere. Lunch was across the street in the Lincoln Presidential Library, with remarks by James Cornelius, Curator of the Museum and Library and Katherine Harris, Librarian. One highlighted artifact was Lincoln's actual stove-pipe hat!
After lunch, the group visited the Lincoln house and the Lincoln-Herndon law offices. In both places, we were again led by friendly informed guides eager to share their knowledge and enthusiasm. We finished the afternoon with a tour of the Elijah Iles House, the oldest house in Springfield and one its finest restorations. Lincoln played cards here. On display is a magnificent collection of watches manufactured at the Springfield Watch Company.
Saturday's dinner was a real treat. The Museum re-opened just for us, allowing for private touring during the cocktail hour. The dinner itself was held in the magnificent atrium. Our honored guest was renowned Lincoln scholar Michael Burlingame ’64, author of Abraham Lincoln: A Life, published in 2008 and considered by many historians to be the definitive Lincoln biography of our generation. Michael had spent most of the trip with us, providing informal narrative. His formal address focused on the subject of What New Can Be Said About Abraham Lincoln, in which he shared how he does original research and can still, after all this time, find fresh information or new interpretations of previously-found information.
SUNDAY, October 16
On Sunday, the Chicago and St. Louis groups returned to their launch sites. The Chicago group took a side trip to the University of Chicago, and the St. Louis group stopped at the famous Cahokia Mounds, a large Native-American encampment just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis.
This visit to defining venues in the life of Abraham Lincoln could not have been more fascinating. Grateful thanks, in addition to those extended to our organizers PAUL SITTENFELD, Rosemary and ALAN MEYERS, BRUCE ROSENBERG and Debbie Solomon, and BILL CHARRIER, go to Bob Lanphier (Yale ’55), who opened the community of Springfield and made all kinds of remarkable opportunities available to us, and to our two distinguished Lincoln scholars, Michael Burlingame ’64 and Cullom Davis ’57.
Participating in the trip were Nell and BOB ANDRE,Christie Wise and BOB AXELROD, Ann Brophy and JIM BROWN, Anne and BILL CHARRIER, BRUCE DEBOLT, Judy and CHUCK FREYER, Jane and JIM GREGOIRE, Marie and BILL HARDY, Leigh and DAN HARMAN, Alice and CARY HAYWOOD, Lindsay andERIC JOHNSON, Patty and JEFF KAPLAN, CURT KEHR, Pinky and CLAY MCELDOWNEY, KEN MERTZ, Rosemary and ALAN MEYERS, Ronnie Liebowitz and BOB RAYMAR, Debbie Solomon and BRUCE ROSENBERG, M.C. and DEREK SAVAGE, Michelle and BOB SHEIPE, Betsy and PAUL SITTENFELD, and Joan and TOM WEIDNER.