Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Sauk Centre

We have driven further up into Minnesota,  about 40 miles north of St.Cloud. The town of Sauk Centre is described as a "place where prairie and farm land meet the woods of the north country" (quotation taken from a film we viewed today at the Visitor's Center). The town has a city campground near Sauk Lake. We are parked in a lovely wooded area overlooking the lake. The lake came into existence when  a dam was built in the town on the Sauk River.  The town was named after the Sauk Indians who once lived here. The city fathers also thought that the direction of the Sauk River would cause roads to center here- hence the name Sauk Centre. In 1883 a doctor and his family settled here who would forever influence the destiny of this town. He was Dr.E.J. Lewis. He was the father of Sinclair Lewis, America's first winner of the Nobel Prize. The family home is pictured below.
Dr. Lewis and his family lived here until his death in1926. Sinclair Lewis lived in the house from age four until he left for college in 1902. He continued to return to the town and Minnesota  at various times over the ensuing years. We toured the house today, it is furnished partly by items belonging to the Lewis family. Below is a picture of Red's childhood bed  ( Sinclair was better known as Harry or Red for his red hair).  He shared the room with two older brothers.
 When we toured the town yesterday we noticed that one street had the name of "Original Main Street". The first of Harry's novels had the title of Main Street. That novel was developed from the author's recollections of his hometown of Sauk Centre. However, in the book the town had the name of Gopher Prairie. Townspeople quickly recognized their town in the novel and initially were not too happy with Harry. The characters of the book were described in terms of  being smug, dull and provincial. I think Lewis redeemed himself a bit in the passing years by winning the Nobel Prize, and he must have not thought all to badly of this town as he had his ashes buried here when he died in 1951. Two years after writing the novel the townspeople welcomed him back as the town's own native son.  Pearl Buck visited his childhood home and made this comment of Harry: " what accidental combination of elements produced him? I could only see him bursting out of these walls, and out of the town it stood for, loving it so much that he hated for it not being all that he wanted it to be and knew it could be". That was the way he loved the whole country, and I can understand that."  The Sinclair Lewis Interpretive Center was where we stopped next and learned more about this famous author and the other 22 novels which he had written. We also learned that he had a stern undemonstrative father, few friends, and the red-headed boy was more likely to be taking solitary walks or reading books than interacting with people. He started writing at the age of 15. Eleven of his books were adapted to film. After touring the museum I got the feeling that he was a much misunderstood and very complicated man. He loved his midwest roots and the average citizen of the United States.

No comments:

Post a Comment