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Baby Handed Off Into Next Apartment, Scores Touchdown, Becomes President

July 17, 2013

As I mentioned in a prior post, I’ve been doing work for The Rumpus, which features essays on a wide range of subjects.

My first assignment was Beyond Americana, an essay about Tampico, Illinois, USA, birthplace of Ronald Reagan, who served two terms (1981-89) as the 40th President
of the United States.

Reagan’s nickname was “The Gipper.” Reagan was a former Hollywood actor who played the role of football hero George “The Gipper” Gipp in the 1940 movie, Knute Rockne, All American. “Win one for The Gipper” is a popular American catch-phrase from the movie. Reporters began referring to Reagan as “The Gipper” during his presidential campaign.

I envisioned a 4th of July parade marching out of an old football helmet.

illustration for essay on Americana and Ronald Reagan showing marching band in swirl of confetti coming out of old-fashioned football helmet with name Gipper stenciled on it

The Rumpus essay recounts that on November 3, 1980, it rained in Tampico. Then a rainbow appeared. It arced down onto the walkup apartment where Reagan was born in 1911. Lloyd McElhiney, the manager of the local grain elevator, ran home, got his camera, and captured the image.

The next day, Reagan won the presidential election in a landslide. Here’s the photo.

grainy old Polaroid photo showing rainbow arching onto walkup apartment in Tampico, Illinois where Ronald Reagan was born, taken by Lloyd McElhiney on November 3, 1980, day before Reagan was elected president

Tampico is a small rural town– less than 800 people. Ronald Reagan is their claim to fame. The building where he was born is now a museum. Visitors get free jelly beans, which were Reagan’s favorite snack.

I asked myself how I could work a rainbow into the mix, and came up with this:

illustration for essay on Americana and Ronald Reagan showing crow sitting on Welcome To Tampico Illinois sign with rainbow falling on kettle full of red white blue jelly beans with American flag painted on it

The bedroom where Reagan was born had an interior window which opened into the adjacent apartment. Reagan’s parents were friends with the couple next door, and they would babysit each other’s children. Rather than climb up and down the apartment’s narrow staircase, the two couples would “hand off Baby Ronald like a football back and forth through the window”– which conjures up a very funny image.

Reagan visited Tampico three times as an adult. I envisioned him crying red, white, and blue jelly bean tears, as he thought back on his many happy trips thru the window. Naturally, the beans assembled themselves into an American flag…

illustration for essay on Americana and Ronald Reagan showing Reagan as baby being passed thru apartment window and caricature of adult Reagan crying nostalgic jelly bean tears with beans falling into shape of American flag

Here’s a close-up detail. For me, the most satisfying aspect of the illustration is how the two ugly wallpapers gently fade into each other.

Reagan had a very distinctive, “peakish” hairstyle. I tried to give Baby Reagan a similar look, only in reverse.

detail from illustration for essay on Americana and Ronald Reagan showing Reagan as baby being passed thru apartment window and caricature of adult Reagan crying nostalgic jelly bean tears with beans falling into shape of American flag

What do you think– was that rainbow an omen?

There must be millions of tiny local museums– ever been to one that stands out in your memory?

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23 Comments leave one →
  1. July 17, 2013 12:22 PM

    Brilliant, Mark! 🙂

    Like

    • July 20, 2013 1:11 PM

      Thank you, my dear Marina! That means a lot coming from an artist whose colors put rainbows to shame!! : )

      Like

      • July 20, 2013 1:15 PM

        You’ve just sent me flying!!! That would be nice indeed!
        Thank you, my friend! 🙂
        Have a wonderful weekend!

        Like

  2. SingingTuna permalink
    July 17, 2013 12:25 PM

    There must’ve been a cavalcade of rainbows over your house because you’re an art and illustration GENIUS!
    GENIUS!!!!!!!!!!
    These are funny, clever, sweet, poignant…and GENIUS!!!!!!!!!
    (OK, I’ll stop screaming that now)

    The jelly bean tears are my favorite part; everything is splendid.

    There was a window in the house? Wow. Very cool.

    Tiny museums? Hmmm. The one I used to love is closed now. It was part of the Franklin Mint in Wawa, PA. Wonderful stuff. Sparkly.
    😀

    Like

    • July 20, 2013 1:42 PM

      Ow, ow, ow!! My ears are simply ringing with the word GENIUS!! This is definitely the best earache I ever had!! Thank you, dear Tuna!! : )

      Yes, there’s something about jelly bean tears. I love j-beans myself, and it would be great if I could cry myself a pound or two whenever the craving strikes… : P

      Must admit, I’m intrigued by the idea of an interior window which gave access to the apartment next store. Who was that architect, and what kinda cornsilk was he smokin’??

      A Franklin Mint Museum, and it was tiny? Zounds! You’d think they’d have enough stuff for a big museum!

      My best-remembered tiny museum is also long-gone. I grew up in Cooperstown, NY, famous for the National Baseball Hall Of Fame & Museum. It also has the Farmers Museum (a recreation of early colonial life), and the Fenimore House (colonial era art). But when I was a kid, there was also the Indian Museum, a “one-roomer” run by a couple out of their own home. It was mostly framed arrowheads and tomahawks, but there was also an “Indian skeleton” in a glass case, lit by a spectral blue light. I remember standing in front of it and saying “Gosh!” for about an hour. Probably ordered from some novelty shop, but I remember it fondly… : )

      Thank you, Tuna Who Sings!! (I’m taking the liberty of using your Indian name here.)

      Like

  3. July 17, 2013 12:41 PM

    Definitely an omen.

    Like

    • July 20, 2013 1:48 PM

      Well, that settles the matter then, since I realize, sir, that you are the acknowledged expert in the interpretation of natural phenomena in the forest. And I think that would extend to small towns as well, since they’re just forests with fewer trees, really… : )

      Always good to see you, Tim– many thanks!

      Like

  4. July 17, 2013 4:37 PM

    LUV your take on Reagan — the colours of the jelly beans & the rainbow are gorgeous. I never knew about the rainbow before his election — I’m sure the town thought it was an omen. And what a cute story about the apartment window — you capture it perfectly. Thanks for more great humour. 😉

    Like

    • July 20, 2013 2:06 PM

      What a kind comment– thank you, Vanessa!

      I’d never heard the story of the pre-election rainbow either. Kinda like Babe Ruth pointing to deep center field just before he blasted a homer to the same location, and having it forever known as The Called Shot. About all you can do is slap your head and say, “Whoa!” : )

      The idea of an interior window certainly catches one’s imagination. My folks used to throw me out the window and into the sandbox, but that’s a completely different thing… : ) (yes, I’m kidding)

      Thanks as always for your kind support!

      Like

  5. July 17, 2013 8:53 PM

    I like the idea of jelly beans at the end of the rainbow.

    Like

    • July 20, 2013 2:09 PM

      I’m with you all the way, Jak. And I think Dorothy and Toto and Aunty Em would agree. : )

      Always good to see you, thanks so much for your support!

      Like

  6. July 17, 2013 9:28 PM

    Look very closely at the rainbow picture. There’s a faint second rainbow above it. Definitely a good omen!

    Like

    • July 20, 2013 2:15 PM

      You’re absolutely right! I guess that must have been an exceptionally strong rainbow if it had an echo… : )

      How lovely to have a Blue Dragon stop by my blog– it is very sincerely appreciated. Hope to see you again, and thank you for your cheerful comment! : )

      Like

  7. July 18, 2013 3:38 PM

    These are wonderful Mark! I apologise in the delay in looking through your posts, but I can finally read them and comment! The story about the rainbow and it possibly leading to Reagan’s victory is very interesting, it’s like the end to the rainbow landed on that building leading to the “pot of gold” or victory of the election.

    The first one with the parade marching from the helmet, I love that you still portrayed the aspect of the rainbow with the confetti. And the baby throwing! I’d be scared to even put a baby near a window! Very brave both for Reagan’s parents and himself, though he probably wouldn’t have even remembered it!

    A wonderful insight into the presidential history of a previous President in your country.

    Like

    • July 25, 2013 8:29 AM

      My dear Sabine, you are always right on time with your lovely comments– thank you! I know how busy you’ve been, how you manage to get it all done must remain one of life’s great mysteries… : )

      I sat up and cried, “O my gosh!!” (yes, I use strong language sometimes) when I read how you were giving me credit for using the confetti as a continuation of the “rainbow motif” in the parade illustration. I blush to say that never occurred to me! I can see where the colors of both coincide– could my mind have been working on a subconscious level?? I sometimes have trouble getting it to work on any level!! : P

      Yes, that “baby hand-off” really appealed to my imagination. In American football, there’s a thing called a lateral pass, where the ball is flipped to a teammate. I was thinking of that when I drew the “baby toss,” so I guess I can claim that I used a “football motif” in two of the illustrations. Is that significant at all? No!! : )

      Many thanks for your lovely comment and all your support!!

      Like

  8. July 18, 2013 7:07 PM

    I love the one of Reagan crying red, white and blue jelly beans into the shape of an American flag … and of him reminiscing about being tossed out the window when he was a baby. The Gipper would approve, Mark. Heartwarming!

    Like

    • July 25, 2013 8:55 AM

      Isn’t art wonderful? So much nicer to cry jelly beans instead of tears. Think of all the kleenex we’d save! : )

      And I’m sure in real life, Baby Ron was carefully handed thru the window– but in an illustration, he can be blithely tossed thru like a football, and thoroughly enjoy the experience. Yes, life could learn a lot from art… : )

      Thanks, Judy– I sincerely appreciate your posting that kind comment for, er, The Marker! : )

      Like

  9. July 19, 2013 5:46 PM

    There pictures are really good! I personally used to do animation for Disney, and I’m always inspired when I see amazing drawings like these! Keep up the good work!!

    Like

    • July 25, 2013 9:00 AM

      Thank you very much indeed! Coming from an accomplished professional like yourself, your comment really means a lot to me. Thanks so much for stopping by and giving me a tremendous morale boost! : )

      Like

  10. July 20, 2013 10:10 PM

    Very clever illustrations Mark and you can never have too many rainbows in your life.

    Like

    • July 23, 2013 8:42 AM

      Thanks, Jen! And you’re absolutely right: you can never have too many rainbows in your life– which is why I treasure our friendship, you cheery, colorful person, you!! : )

      Like

  11. July 23, 2013 8:44 AM

    A chance to be associated with the brilliant Judy Berman?? I jump at it– no, I leap like a stag!! It’s a honor, my dear Judy. : )

    Like

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