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Part 2 - My Fourth of July Vacation: A ride through the Midwest during that patriotic time of year. (Jerome A. Holst © 2005)

In Part 1 of my "Fourth of July Vacation" story, I had traveled to the town of Metropolis, Illinois to see the Hometown of Superman, a.k.a. "The Man of Steel" from the DC comic book tales. My next stop were the cornfields of Illinois. However, after miles and miles of cornfields, I decided not to travel to Riverside, Iowa, the future home of Captain James T. Kirk from the Star Trek series and instead headed south to Interstate Route 50 and Vincennes, Indiana, the birthplace of comedian Red Skelton.

Red Skelton Bridge
Red Skelton Bridge on Highway 50

As I neared the town of Vincennes, Indiana I crossed over a bridge dedicated to the late comedian. Called the "Red Skelton Bridge" it traversed the watery Wabash River which ran through the town of Vincennes and divided the states of Illinois and Indiana.

The Fourth of July is, of course, an appropriate time to visit Red's hometown because Red was famous for his patriotic recitation of "The Pledge of Allegiance" in which he explained the meaning of each word.

I pledge allegiance to the Flag
Of the United States of America,
And to the Republic for which it stands:
One Nation under God, indivisible,
With Liberty and Justice for all.

Other Red Skelton landmarks in the area are the "Freddie the Freeloader” bench at the Vincennes-Sun Commercial that was dedicated on July 18, 1981 by Vincennes Mayor William Rose; Red's Eisenhower military jacket from World War II that rests on permanent display at the Indiana Military Museum in Vincennes, and the Museum and Performing Arts Center created to honor Red's memory.

Richard "Red" Skelton was born in Vincennes at 111 Lyndale Avenue on July 18, 1913. At age 10, Red joined up with a traveling medicine show and eventually climbed up the ladder of the entertainment industry by performing in minstrel and tent shows, circuses, burlesques, Mississippi show boats, vaudeville, radio, motion pictures and television. Red is best remembered for his twenty year run on the CBS program THE RED SKELTON SHOW from 1951-1971. He received a Life Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild in 1988.

Red Skelton died of pneumonia on September 17, 1997 at 7:48 AM at his home in Rancho Mirage, California and was buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California.

Taking a Taco Bell break, I pulled off the Highway 50, ordered my meal of a Chalupa (can you say "Chalupa?") and a diet cola drink at the drive-thru window. As I sat in my car chewing on my Chalupa, I spied an amusing billboard that proclaimed "It's Hip to Snip." The ad advocated spaying of dogs, and the dog in the billboard was just a little too happy about the whole thing, if you ask me.

My stomach filled with food, I took a quick nap, making sure to roll the windows down. The weather had been in the 90 degree range the whole trip and I didn't want to wake up and find that I had baked myself like a burrito in the interim.

I awoke from my nap feeling refreshed and head to downtown Vincennes to see the monument to George Rogers Clark. Constructed in 1932, the massive granite structure pays homage to the Conquest of the West.

Georege Rogers Clark Monument

The monument is part of the National Park that sits smack in the middle of downtown. A museum is dedicated to the history of the region and displays photographs of the military fort built by the British and captured by George Rogers Clark and his band of freedom fighters in the late 1700s.

Inside the museum, you can see artifacts like muskets, bayonets, cannonballs and mannequins depicting revolutionary soldiers and the local red-skins (Oops, I mean Native Americans). However, the Indian, I saw did have his face painted with bright red markings.

Back in Metropolis, Illinois, another monument to the heroism of George Rogers Clark at the Fort Massac State Park relived the tales of Colonel George Rogers Clark who led his "Long Knives" regiment in 1778 in to Illinois at Massac Creek and captured Kaskasia, 100 miles to the north, allegedly without firing a shot. He and his men went on to take the entire Illinois Territory.

Taking a few moments to wander through the Vincennes park, I walked under the large bridge that crossed the Wabash. Under the bridge, hundreds of mud swallows constructed their nests and hurriedly retreated from the area when I approached. Hey, couldn't they tell I didn't have wings. There's no way, I'd catch any of them. My main concern at the moment was doing any possible dropping hat might generously fall from the sky in the frenzy. Luckily, I was unscathed.

Along the riverbank, I came upon a plaque. It stated that, here, sometime in the past, a young Abraham Lincoln crossed over this river and made his way into Illinois. I stopped to contemplate the event in my mind's eye. For a moment I stood humbled in the light of such a simple and yet profound historical event. I thought of how he grew to manhood, managed the strife between the North and the South during Civil War and eventually gave his life for his country at the hands of an assassin.

It was time to move on. I bid good bye and God bless (as Red Skelton was fond if saying) to Vincennes.

Bridge in Downtown Vincennes, Indiana
Boat with local fishers floats beneath the Vincennes Bridge

Continued >


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