Posted by: Jim E | January 19, 2010

Time to Think…or a Dairy Queen…

I don’t remember if it was a summer vacation…or just a short two day road trip…our family was very young…I really don’t remember the year…probably in the 1970’s…we went to Duluth, MN…Split Rock Light House, Gooseberry Falls, etc…we had a great time…then we went across the state to Many Point Scout Camp, near Detroit Lakes…just to see it again…(not a very important stop for our boys, but)…then we came back on Interstate 94…going toward Minneapolis…

Along the route…I must have noticed a sign…Sinclair Lewis Interpretive Center…(to my boys, as exciting as the world’s largest ball of twine)…at the exit to Sauk Centre, MN…now to most of you this would not strike you as a place to stop…well, it was free, and that struck ol’Jim right were it matters…and I thought, as Dad’s do, this would be a good learning experience for the boys…well, me too…(you could ask my boys and see if they remember this stop…probably not high in their memory bank)…

Sauk Centre and Sinclair Lewis (for all the backward and uneducated masses)…are two important names in American literature…Sinclair Lewis, for being an important writer and Sauk Centre, for being “Gopher Prairie”, the town in “Main Street”…the book was satire of small town life in the early 1900’s…it was a best seller of its time…

Okay…enough of that…so being free and ol’Jim being a bit strapped for and close with his money…we stopped…it was great (ask the boys)…the interpretive center on the interstate was so good, I thought it would be good to go into Sauk Centre and see the Sinclair Lewis home…it is now a museum…I can’t remember for sure but I think the boys were thrilled with this choice…

We took Main Street into town…they renamed the main street, “Main Street”, in honor of the Sinclair Lewis…the nickname of the high school team is “Mainstreeters”…for the same reason…the whole town uses the theme…though they resented Sinclair Lewis and the book when it first came out…because the book attacked small town life and many of the townspeople could easily be seen in the thinly-veiled characters in the book…

As you can imagine “all of us” were interested in this…(the oldest of the four boys was around 11 or 12)…so in we went into the house…I really don’t remember much about the house…8 rooms…his father was a doctor…and his practice was out of his house as was common at that time…out back was a carriage house…and above the carriage storage there was a room…Sinclair Lewis used it to read and write…

At the turn of the century, when Lewis grew up…there was no electricity (thus no lights), radio, phonograph, TV, video games and the myriad of other activities that keep our kids occupied…no microwave, no electric or gas stove, no refrigeration, etc…so one of the jobs young Sinclair had was chopping wood…for cooking, heating, etc…

But what struck me about his world…his father was wealthy enough that Lewis had free time…and his free time could not be used on anything but books (there wasn’t much else)…most kids of his age were working full time…on farms, etc…most had no free time…but he could dream, create, read…unusual for his day…

It made me wonder, how many creative and brilliant young minds never are able to be what they could be…because they have never taken the time to think, create, become…and this age we live in hinders that from happening…

Well, I pointed that out to the boys as we looked at the carriage house…but I think by that time a Dairy Queen sounded better than any more of my philosophizing or moralizing…(but you still got a little of it, so I feel kinda good)…

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