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Holidays and a trip back in time

With the holidays sneaking up on me, as they seem to do every year now, I suddenly realized this also meant 2017 was drawing to a close and my annual two-day vacation hadn’t occurred!

Offered my son the chance to go with me to one of several interesting places, and he chose Lincoln’s Museum and Library in Springfield, Illinois. Good choice! We quickly gathered overnight gear, left the dog at Wag-N-Tails and, at 5:30 that afternoon (we made late decision to leave) crossed into the Land of Lincoln.

Signs along the way reminded us that we were traveling along the route of the famous old Route 66! We were already following present roads back into time. My favorite way to go – while finding many possibilities for future sites to visit. Illinois is amazingly flat after the hills and hollows of Missouri. Highway 55 is straight and well-maintained and, that late in the evening, traffic was light, so we arrived about 8:30 that night.

Our visit officially started the next morning with the first stop on my son’s list of must-see places: the Lincoln Home National Historic Site where two-blocks of homes have been restored to their 1860s appearance and maintained by the Illinois Parks Department. The home where the Lincolns lived from 1842 until he took office as President in 1861 is the main feature and open to tours.

As soon as you enter the street you expect to see horse drawn carriages pulling up before the inviting old family homes with children playing in the yards and, possibly, the family’s wash hanging on a line in the backyard. It’s completely authentic to the wooden plank sidewalks, graveled street, restored homes painted in a variety of colors that boast cedar shingles on the roof. The Lincoln home even has a three-hole privy in the backyard.

Christmas decorations are also in keeping with the time: outside swags of greenery and door wreathes welcome visitors (such a relief—no flashing light displays or trees that spin, sparkle and sing!) and trees in the parlor decorated with family treasures collected through the years. (All similar, in some ways, to the Christmases of my childhood when the specter of the limitations of the Great Depression and World War II still hovered.)

The sharp transition from the quiet and sedate past back into the more jarring times of today is eased somewhat by leading directly into the still historic part of Springfield with the original building where Lincoln had his law offices and the old Capitol building where he served eight years in the House of Representatives. A drive down 6th Street to Jefferson Street leads you directly to the Lincoln Museum and Library.

What a magnificent place this is to learn about Lincoln’s past, his presidency, the decisions that were argued and made to end slavery, the Civil War and, finally, his assassination – without the warts, wrinkles, good and bad of his life and the times being romanticized or glossed over. It shows his strong character and steadfast belief in the right of the causes he promoted, as well as his personal life-long bouts of depression, his great and quick wit, and his love of family. It also clearly shows the opposition he faced and the unimaginable horrors of the Civil War. One of the theaters in the museum forcibly brings the cost of the war into reality: it shows the location of each battle fought (including the one at Pilot Knob), along with the number of fatalities sustained at each and a running total of all the battles.

The museum is a stand-alone for well-thought out and executed visuals, historic and life-like displays, holographic and special effects theaters. There is even a charming and adult supervised special room where children can relax, touch, let off built up energy, play with replicas of period toys and clothing, and enjoy crafts and story time to make it a personal experience for them also.

The next morning we made a visit to the very unique and lavish two-story, 35-room Dana-Thomas House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright: the largest home he ever designed. It was built in his early-Prairie period for the Springfield million-heiress, Sarah Lawrence Dana and contains furniture, stained glass windows, lamps and light fixtures also designed and place by Wright. It is a marvel of timeless design.

The trip was a short, but a most enjoyable one. For anyone who is a history or Civil War buff, it is a must see. For those who just enjoy visiting places of interest with lots to do, it’s also a great choice. It’s not that far – about a three hour drive and 220 miles from here on all interstate highway. Put it on your list of must-do short-trips soon.

Although Springfield and that area abound in really good restaurants, we found two places for eating I’d heartily recommend; the Chesapeake Seafood House on Clear Lake Avenue in Springfield where we had dinner. It’s located in a large and historic home with a quiet ambiance, good menu selection, great food, and excellent, courteous service. As the name implies it’s noted for the seafood dishes, including oysters on the half-shell in season (which I have never managed any season, but my son loves them—go figure!), but also their steaks. Can’t go wrong here for an enjoyable dinner at a moderate price.

For lunch on the way home, we stopped at the Ariston Café in Litchfield, just a few blocks off Highway 55. It’s been in operation for the past 95 years owned and operated by the same family; now under the supervision of the grandson of the original owners and his wife. Before the construction of the new highway it was located on Route 66. All delicious, homemade meals, soups and sandwiches with a comfortable, but quality décor (white tablecloths and linen napkins!) and well-trained and friendly staff. A reminder of some of the former diners in Farmington from the 40s, 50s and 60s…a lot of nostalgia also found there.

Sorry I don’t have slides to show, but it was a very nice get-away for two days, at little cost. Best of all, a family Christmas gift I didn’t have to shop for or wrap!

Congratulations to two well-know Farmington couples… Dr. Jerry and Linda Roberts celebrated their Golden Anniversary on Dec. 2 at the Twin Oaks Vineyard and Winery with family members and friends. The evening consisted of dinner, dancing, and a number of toasts to the couple for many more happy years together. Dr. Roberts is a retired physician who was in private practice here for many years and on the staff of the former Mineral Area Hospital.

Albert and Karen Cleve were married 48 years ago on Nov. 29, 1969. Both are Farmington natives who continue to make their home in Farmington. They are both graduates of FHS where they were the classic high school sweethearts with Karen being a cheerleader and Albert a standout on the basketball team. The Cleve’s celebrated their anniversary a week early at the beautiful Dogwood Canyon in the Ozarks.

Coming Up:

Now Open….Winter Wonderland is open for the holiday season! Santa & Mrs. Claus are on hand for visits and you can also see the largest G-scale train display in southeast Missouri! Take the kiddies (of all ages) and enjoy the beauty and wonder of the holidays at Winter Wonderland, located downtown at Long Memorial Hall on Columbia Street. Winter Wonderland is open weekday evenings 6 to 8 p.m. until Dec. 22.

Dec. 9 and 16…At Winter Wonderland adults and children can enjoy a light breakfast with Santa at Long Hall. Winter Wonderland is open exclusively at that time to those who have registered and tickets are available at the Farmington Civic Center for $5 per person, or online at

Dec. 8 and 9…A Merry Christmas Show, presented by The Young People’s Performing Arts Theatre at the Centene Center and includes many area residents also performing. Tickets are on sale now at $13 each. All seats are reserved seating. You can purchase tickets at the Farmington Civic Center.

Dec. 14….Ladies of the Parkland are invited to the Women’s Connection’s Brunch to enjoy the “Greatest Gift of All” – a sharing of Christmas Music and Memories. The event will be held at the First Baptist Church, 210 North A Street from 9:15 to 11 a.m. The Christmas Music will feature well-known Farmington vocalist, Gordon Epps, who has performed solos in a variety of church musicals and choirs. Reservations/cancellations are required for the $10 Brunch by calling Joan at 756-7226 or Lucy at 573-562-7492.

There’s lots to do right here in Farmington this holiday season. Shopping, good restaurants, many seasonal activities at churches, downtown businesses, and the Centene Center. Check the Farmington Regional Chamber of Commerce events calendar for full details! And don’t forget to take a drive through downtown and many of the local neighborhoods and subdivisions to enjoy the holiday lights on display! It’s a magical time of the year.

Janet Douglas

Janet Douglas

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