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Springfield boy

To earn his readers’ indulgence, a writer must take care that articles about himself be of exceptional literary quality or recount exceptional experiences, preferably experiences that impart wisdom that can be shared or—better, in my opinion—anecdotes that can be appropriated as one’s own.


These sort-of reminiscences about my life in Springfield satisfy none of those criteria. Those expecting confessionals also will be disappointed; my personal column-writing maxim was to never write about anything I did not find interesting, and never, ever write about anything that really means something to me.


Piling them all up for the first time I was surprised at how many times I resorted to my Springfield youth as a topic—four dozen. Trust me, it was that interesting. But while there were always more important things for me to write about as column deadline drew nigh, I wasn't always ready to write about important things. I post them without shame because 1) they less than one half of one percent of my column out put and 2) my youth in Springfield, while anything but unusual, recommends itself as a subject because anyone who grew up in the 1950s in that town or any town like it will find things about my experience of the place that recall theirs.  

See also The author for more about my working life.

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Stone Magic 

A trek across a cornfield and hundreds of years  "Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times November 13, 2014  

In the Place of the Dead

A young author, Dickson Mounds, and the past

Focus  March 11, 1971

Good Neighbors

Life with Illinois governors around the corner

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  July 11, 1980

Dripping Wet

Amtrak tests my maturity and I fail

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  November 6, 1986

Immigrants Behaving Badly

The Krohes play Johnny Appleseed and get it wrong

"Dyspepsiana,"  Illinois Times,  July 24, 2014

A House in a Day

A 1950s box to put our life in

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times November 23, 2011

Warrior Days

My career as a hardwood hero

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  December 2, 2010

The Cantaloupe and I

How a skeptic became a melon head

"Dyspepsiana,"  Illinois Times  June 27, 2013

My Life of Service

I go to a Rotary convention

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  May 15, 2014

Book Hungry

I try to be sophisticated. In Atlantic City. 

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  November 10, 1983

Cherished Conceits

Gardening lifts up the author, then lets him down

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  August 25, 1983

Hektor at the Supermarket

The author ponders the problem of home

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  July 23, 1987

A Memorable and Happy Occasion

I pass up a chance to be 17 again

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  May 23, 1991

Memories of a Jungle Gym

My Matheny, 'tis of thee

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  October 21, 1977

Mozart in the Cornfields

Traveling without leaving home

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  June 16, 1981


I grow up godless, learn that God doesn't mind

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  March 5, 1984


On putting your money where your mouth is

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  June 12, 1986


Race and friendship in 1960s Springfield

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  August 26, 1977


What do we leave behind when we go ahead?

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  November 18, 1977

A Place to Stay

The Hickox: City life in a country capital

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  June 2, 1978


My career on the bench

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  March 11, 1977

A Talent for Mischief

A Springfield alderman slanders us eastside boys

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  July 7, 1988

Valuable Things

I look back at public school and see myself

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  March 5, 1987

“Who Went to Church?”

Growing up among the believers

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  August 24, 1979

Our Gift from St. Nicholas

Memories of a grand Springfield hotel

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times December 3, 2015

The Hog and I

Staying touch with my inner pig farmer

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times April 20, 2017

How I Became an Historian

Springfield as history class  

Unpublished  2014

What About the Banjo?

Toothache in his heel? Really?

"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times February 25, 2010

How’ve You Been?

An aging high schooler looks back

"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times September 15, 2016

The Burdens of Office

Doing good by doing nothing

"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times July 21, 2016​

Tuning In

Making a small world bigger and the big one smaller

"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times July 30, 2015

Home and Away

Leaving home does not always mean losing it

"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times March 20, 2014

Comic Timing
As a drummer, I prove to be a very good writer

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  December 19, 2013

My Life as a Guide at the Lincoln Law Offices

I become part barker, part sheep dog, and part player piano
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  November 5, 2009

Unicorns on the Sangamon
The scarcity of Harvard grads in Springfield
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  December 23, 2009

Age-inappropriate Literature
The rewards of reading books before you are ready
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  January 14, 2010

Big Deals About Little Games

Looking back on high school sports rivalries

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  March 31, 2011


Ethnic ghosts in the closet

Illinois Times  August 28, 1986


A writer becomes a homeowner, in a small way

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  January 13, 1983

Pilgrim’s Progress

Dave Brubeck made jazz cool

“Dyspepsiana”  Illinois Times  December 27, 2012

Beware of Your Schools
The best education equips a child to resist schooling.

Reader April 24, 1987


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John Hallwas

Essential for anyone interested in Illinois history and literature. Hallwas deservedly won the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Illinois State Historical Society.

Lee Sandlin Author

One of Illinois’s best, and least-known, writers of his generation. Take note in particular of The Distancers and Road to Nowhere.

Chicago Architecture Center

See Home Page/Learn/

Resources for a marvelous building database, architecture dictionary, even a city planning graphic novel. Handsome, useful—every Illinois culture website should be so good.

The Encyclopedia of Chicago


The online version of The Encyclopedia of Chicago. Crammed with thousands of topic entries, biographical sketches, maps and images, it is a reference work unmatched in Illinois.

Illinois Great Places

The Illinois chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 2018 selected 200 Great Places in Illinois that illustrate our  shared architectural culture across the entire period of human settlement in Illinois.

McLean County Museum

of History

A nationally accredited, award-winning project of the McLean County Historical Society whose holdings include more than 20,000 objects, more than 15,000 books on local history and genealogy, and boxes and boxes of historical papers and images.

Mr. Lincoln, Route 66, and Other Highlights of Lincoln, Illinois


Every Illinois town ought to have a chronicler like D. Leigh Henson, Ph.D. Not only Lincoln and the Mother road—the author’s curiosity ranges from cattle baron John Dean Gillett to novelist William Maxwell. An Illinois State Historical Society "Best Web Site of the Year."

Illinois Digital Archives


Created in 2000, the IDA is a repository for the digital collections of the Illinois State Library and other Illinois libraries and cultural institutions. The holdings include photographs, slides, and glass negatives, oral histories, newspapers, maps, and documents from manuscripts and letters to postcards,  posters, and videos.

The Illinois State Museum


The people's museum is a treasure house of science and the arts. A research institution of national reputation, the museum maintains four facilities across the state. Their collections in anthropology, fine and decorative arts, botany, zoology, geology, and  history are described here. A few museum publications can be obtained here.

Chronicling Illinois

“Chronicling Illinois” showcases some of the collections—mostly some 6,000 photographs—from the Illinois history holdings of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library.


I will leave it to the authors of this interesting site to describe it. "Chicagology is a study of Chicago history with a focus on the period prior to the Second World War. The purpose of the site is to document common and not so common stories about the City of Chicago as they are discovered." 

Illinois Labor History Society

The Illinois Labor History Society seeks to encourage the preservation and study of labor history materials of the Illinois region, and to arouse public interest in the profound significance of the past to the present. Offers books reviews, podcasts, research guides, and the like. 

Illinois Migration History 1850-2017

The University of Washington’s America’s Great Migrations Project has compiled migration histories  (mostly from the published and unpublished work by UW Professor of History James Gregory) for several states, including Illinois. The site also includes maps and charts and essays about the Great Migration of African Americans to the north, in which Illinois figured importantly. 

History on the Fox

An interesting resource about the history of one of Illinois’s more interesting places, the Fox Valley of Kendall County. History on the Fox is the work of Roger Matile, an amateur historian of the best sort. Matile’s site is a couple of cuts above the typical buff’s blog. (An entry on the French attempt to cash in on the trade in bison pelts runs more than

2,000 words.)




Southern Illinois University Press 2017

A work of solid history, entertainingly told.

Michael Burlingame,

author of Abraham 

Lincoln: A Life 

One of the ten best books on Illinois history I have read in a decade.

Superior Achievement Award citation, ISHS Awards, 2018

A lively and engaging study . . .  an enthralling narrative.

James Edstrom

The Annals of Iowa

A book that merits the attention of all Illinois historians

as well as local historians generally.

John Hoffman

Journal of Illinois HIstory

A model for the kind of detailed and honest history other states and regions could use.

Harold Henderson 

Midwestern Microhistory

A fine example of a resurgence of Midwest historical scholarship.

Greg Hall

Journal of the Illinois

State Historical Society

Click  here 

to read about

the book 

Click  here 

to buy the book 


Southern Illinois University Press

SIU Press is one of the four major university publishing houses in Illinois. Its catalog offers much of local interest, including biographies of Illinois political figures, the history (human and natural) and folklore of southern Illinois, the Civil War and Lincoln, and quality reprints in the Shawnee Classics series.

University of

Illinois Press

The U of I Press was founded in 1918. A search of the online catalog  (Books/Browse by subject/Illinois) will reveal more than 150 Illinois titles, books on history mostly but also butteflies, nature , painting, poetry and fiction, and more.  Of particular note are its Prairie State Books,  quality new paperback editions of worthy titles about all parts of Illinois, augmented with scholarly introductions.

University of

Chicago Press

The U of C publishing operation is the oldest (1891) and largest university press in Illinois. Its reach is international, but it has not neglected its own neighborhood. Any good Illinois library will include dozens of titles about Chicago and Illinois from Fort Dearborn to

Vivian Maier.

Northern Illinois University Press

The newest (1965) and the smallest of the university presses with an interest in Illinois, Northern Illinois University Press gave us important titles such as the standard one-volume history of the state (Biles' Illinois:
A History of the Land and Its People) and contributions to the history of Chicago, Illinois transportation, and the Civil War. Now an imprint of Cornell University Press.


Reviews and significant mentions by James Krohe Jr. of more than 50 Illinois books, arranged in alphabetical order

by book title. 


Illinois Center for the Book

Run by the Illinois State Library, The Center promotes reading, writing and author programs meant to honor the state's rich literary heritage. An affiliate of the Library of Congress’s Center for the Book, the site offers award competitions, a directory of Illinois authors, literary landmarks, and reading programs.

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