United States of America 3 - Witt a little town in Illinois /Be careful where you take photos - a cautionary tale /apple pie and a museum

Published: January 8th 2012
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Witt Witt Witt

Fire Engine
We left Springfield in bright sunshine and headed for Witt a tiny village/hamlet/settlement near to Nokomis and Litchfield. We had yet another date with family who ran a farm in the area. Yet another example of the better life our family found when they paid their third class steerage and sailed to New York from Liverpool.

Witt was most definately off the beaten track - population 1200 or thereabouts. It must have been bustling in the early part of the 20th century with local mines employing the menfolk of the town however times had moved on and it now felt and looked like a ghost town. Tumbleweed being blown down the street making it look like a film set for a spaghetti western. There was a cafe on one side of the only street and a post office on the other side. We entered the post office and asked for cards to send home only to be told that they didnt have any as they got no visitors to this part of the world. "What brought you here friends?" We explained that our relatives had settled her and we were probed for more details . It turned out that they
Witt Witt Witt

The offending photograph
had information and offered to open up the tiny museum we had failed to see on the other side of the street next to the cafe. This was a mine of information - quite unexpected with photographs on the wall of long dead relatives. We spent what seemed like an eternity viewing newspaper cuttings and old school photographs. When we left we were told to go to the cafe for dinner and something would be waiting for us.

As it was too early for dinner we walked to the cemetery to look for graves of family and then at the local fire station. The resident fireman keen to show us his gleaming red, rather old fashioned fire engine. So proud of it was he that he was delighted to show us round it and allow us to take photos of it.

Upon entering the cafe we felt transported back to the 50's. Gingham tableclothed tables, hostesses in gingham printed aprons, apple pie and cream and a juke box playing 1950's hits. Lunch was that apple pie and cream. Over the counter was a piece of paper with the name and address of yet another relative but this time living in Austin, Texas.

On leaving we decided to stop on the side of the road and take one last photo of the sign for Witt. Whilst sitting in the car I got the distinct feeling we were being watched. Nothing new really as with such a small car we felt like and looked like visitors from a strange land. Everyone had been so friendly that it felt odd to feel the hairs on the back of my neck standing on edge. I explained my feelings when Glenn got back in the car and he dismissed them as being in my imagination. We drove out of town heading for our overnight motel in Litchfield along a typically lonely American highway with rail track running alongside. We noticed a black SU behind us and it overtook us and then sat just in front of us slowing us down. In the mirror we saw another blocking us in. A hand beckoned out of the window asking us to pull over. With very little choice we pulled on to the hard shoulder and wound the window down. Four burly Americans bundled out .................... thoughts of what they might want went through our minds and what one earth could we do in such a lonely place. They asked us what we were doing photographing their premises. As we hadnt we said so and explained we were visiting relatives and taking pictures as we went along. Were they going to kill us? Those are the thoughts that go through your mind at times like these. They tried again ................why are you here? We then name dropped our relatives who were long dead and then mentioned the family we were visiting the next day. Immediately their demeanour changed , they went to school with the daughter and with that they drove off leaving us feeling very silly.

The next day we met our relatives at a McDonalds for breakfast and the first thing they spoke about was our encounter the previous day. It appeared that the guy who had stopped us was the owner of a local business and he was going through his 4th divorce. He had thought that we were lawyers working for his ex wife taking photos of his business for her divorce settlement.

The moral of the story watch where you take photos and click your camera.


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