The books of L and K in my large World Book Encyclopedia set were the most oft used books since they contained the sections on Lincoln and Kennedy.
Classmates in kindergarten had little to no idea who Lincoln was.
It was frustrating because I’d been reading on Lincoln and Kennedy for over a year… and well, we weren’t taught reading until first grade. Mother insisted that like my deaf ear, I should probably keep quiet about my ability to read and write.
My desk in Mrs. Singleton’s first grade classroom in the southeastern corner of the 1894 grand, two story school building, was directly across from Fred Aaron. Monday morning, February 13, 1972, Fred and I engaged in a steady debate before school began and it continued throughout the day.
The previous Sunday evening, we had each watched a documentary on President Lincoln and it offered a re-enactment of the assassination. Fred insisted that Lincoln could have easily turned around to wrestle John Wilkes Booth. I’d previously read a book from the public library’s adult floor that explained how Booth had timed his entrance to the presidential box to the action on the stage below.
Thus began an even greater infatuation with President Abraham Lincoln.
1972 was an exciting year for me!
- I learned I was to become a big brother for the first time.
- I went on two summer vacations, one with my grandparents in July to Virginia and Washington DC and with my parents in August to Florida.
- I began second grade in the fall and was proud of all the reading I had completed on President Lincoln. I even wrote a letter to Mrs. Brugger, the 5th grade teacher and Lincoln devotee, explaining how excited I was to be in her class because I knew we’d have great discussions on President Lincoln.
- And, I followed my first presidential campaign, stunned seeing Gov. George Wallace gunned down the previous May 1972.
January 20, 1973, I watched my second presidential inauguration, live.
February 12, 1973, I awoke expecting my new sibling to arrive that day to share President Lincoln’s birthday. Mother promised she would let the school office know if she left for Muncie where Dr. Behnken would be waiting at Ball Memorial Hospital.
My second grade teacher, Mrs. Cassidy, humored me, allowing me to frequently make the long walk up the split marble staircase to ask the school secretary, Mrs. Dudley, if my mother had left a message. I still remember the sweetness of Mrs. Dudley smiling and leaning on her elbow to give me the sympathetic pout, always reassuring me she’d rush right down to my classroom with any message.
No sibling arrived that February 12th.
Two days later, my sister arrived on Valentine’s Day. However, my brother was born November 4, 1974, the 132nd wedding anniversary of Mary Todd and Abraham Lincoln. Mother’s apt delivery on a Lincoln-related date has placated me for nearly fifty years.
March 23, 1973, my grandparents, Mother, my one month old sister, and I piled into the car early and headed toward Indianapolis. I was told we were going to check out a new mall on the south side of Indianapolis.
Several hours later, my grandfather asked if I could help him watch for signs of the newly built wall. Naturally, I obliged.
I looked out the window just in time to see a state sign: Lincoln Boyhood Home.
I remember feeling that flutter and excitement but… maybe my family had actually planned to visit the mall and…
Grandpa turned the car into the entrance that was, at that time, between the memorial cabin and the pioneer graveyard that contained the remains of Nancy Hanks Lincoln.
I was practically dancing with joy but began learning a new brand of patience; my sister needed her diaper changed.
We explored all the sites that day, taking care to absorb all the Lincoln history.
My first Lincoln book was purchased that day. Mother carefully wrote my name and date on the inner cover.
I read through the book several times that night in the hotel. The following morning, we drove down to Lincoln’s birthplace and the Knob Creek Farm site.
Next February 2022 will mark fifty years since I remember an actual event that sparked intense interest in Lincoln.
My collection of Lincoln mementos has grown these past 49 years from my Lincoln bust, given to me by my uncle, Ron Barmes, in 1972, to books and items given to me by friends and students.
I’ve loved this particular journey, and have been blessed with an investment in the study of his wife, Mary Lincoln.
My Lincoln-life journey has been thrilling.