Monday, June 27, 2016

Touring Illinois- Again

We again drove over to the Joliet area this past weekend.  I had a Walther Memorial School of Nursing reunion to attend in Plainfield, which is outside of Joliet.  But before I write on that, I want to share with you more news about Lenny.  Our lizard stayed with us last week after we had taken our home in for a variety of routine maintenance issues.  That evening, after we had returned, Lenny again popped his head out of the exhaust pipe as if to reassure us that he was still around.  And he greeted me again this morning, in the same spot.  It intrigues me that, out of the many motor homes surrounding ours, he still stays with us!
On our drive north through Illinois last Friday John and I saw signs directing us to the Mother Jones Monument.  We have seen that sign so often on our trips through Illinois, and never fail to ask each other: "who is Mother Jones?".   Friday we decided to find out, driving off the highway into the town of Mount Olive.   If we had not been so determined to find her we may have given up!  Once we drove off the highway there were very few signs directing us to the national monument.  GPS helped us, of course.  We soon found ourselves outside of a Union Miners Cemetery, and inside that area a large monument.
The monument is for the "Martrys of the Progressive Miners of American".  On one of the markers below the monument there is a mention of a massacre which happened in Verdin, Illinois in 1898.  We deduced that there must of been some coal mine strike back then, but what did it all have to do with Mary "Mother" Jones?  More research was needed once we got back home.  What we then discovered later was that a riot did happen in 1898, when 7 striking coal miners, 4 security guards and more than 30 strikers were wounded.  The Chicago Verdin Coal Company had brought in African-American strike breakers, and when they arrived in town a riot ensued.  Many of the strikebreakers were also wounded, some never even getting off the train they had arrived on.  Mother Jones helped coordinate many other strikes and worked for "clean unionism" in America.
John elected not to join us at the reunion on Saturday, and instead opted to do some sight seeing in Joliet.  He had read about the Old Joliet Prison from some tourist brochures.  On Sunday, after the reunion, he drove me around Joliet to show the sights that he had found which included the prison.

 As you can see from the picture above, the prison is quite an imposing medieval structure.  On the fence is a double row of concertina wires ( razor wire formed in large coils).  To also prevent prisoners from escaping there is a 25 foot limestone wall surrounding the prison on three sides, as well as turret-style guardhouses.  It was built in the 1840s, and by 1850 a Joliet resident initiated improvements on the building because of over-crowding and other horribly poor conditions.  In the 1940s and 50s it was further modernized with plumbing and larger windows.  Over the years, and into the 20th century, this prison saw riots and burning of some of the buildings, wonderful 4th of July celebrations, as well as tragedy with the murder of  a warden's wife by her trusty.  In 1990 the prison was closed but the building remained open for other purposes by the Illinois Department of Corrections.  Permanently closed in 2002.  I hope it will be eventually opened for tours!  It has been used for about 7 movies, and is featured in the opening scenes of the 1980 classic movie The Blues Brothers.
On our return home we drove on the Illinois and Michigan Channel passage road, more on that in the next posting.  Pictured below is Lock Number One of that channel in Joliet.


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