Friday, June 13, 2014

Touring: Boyhood Home Of Mark Twain (Road Trip Post #1)

My ex-neighbors and friends of over 20 years moved to Manhattan, KS, to be close to their daughter for reasons of age and health.  I jumped at the chance to visit them, and the trip turned out to be another fine river-oriented trek.  A bonus was spending a half day in Hannibal, MO, boyhood home of Mark Twain.

All the buildings pictured below are part of the self-guided tour, which begins in an excellent Interpretive Center.  The Center covers Twain's youth thoroughly, and plays well to both kinds of Twain fans: the sentimentalists who revere Twain's "Norman Rockwell" Tom Sawyer, and the cynics who revere his irony and sarcasm.

Hannibal, MO, seen from the Illinois side of the Mississippi.  You bet it's wide, and fast.  The main channel here is on
the Missouri side.  The backwaters in the foreground were roiling.

View south from the same location.  Shuck Island to the left.  Could Shuck Island have been the inspiration for the
location where Jim was hiding out in the opening chapters of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?

Sunrise on the Mississippi as seen from Hannibal.

Levee protecting Hannibal from floods.  I 72/US 36 bridge in background.  The railroad is a heavily used trunk line.

Boyhood home of Mark Twain.  The stone building to the left is unrelated (it's the administrative offices of the
Museum complex).  Twain's home feels even smaller inside than it looks here.  Most of us still live this way,
although with modern conveniences on a larger lot.  By comparison, the Lincoln home in Springfield is
a McMansion and Mt. Vernon and Monticello are palaces.

The "law office" of Mark Twain's father,  John Marshall Clemens, across the street from
the boyhood home.  Both spaces were rented.  John Clemens died when Sam was 12.
John was really a Justice of the Peace, an honorary office.  He had already failed in
land speculation, farming, and keeping store.  After his death, Jane Clemens kept
the family together with piece work.  But Sam was apprenticed to a printer at
an early age.  Sam's favorite job was river pilot on Mississippi steamboats.
That employment ceased with the Civil War.  But printer's apprentice led
to newspaper reporting and "the rest is history."

Grant's Drug Store at the corner of Main and Hill Streets.  John Clemens's office behind it, and Becky Thatcher's house
behind that.  The boyhood home is across Hill Street.  "Mark Twain bought his candy here."  The building's foundation
has been stabilized, but it is not structurally sound.  So it is closed to the public.  Restoration will proceed, I gather, as
funds permit.  Main Street in Hannibal is tourist-trappy, but engagingly so.

A 1950's Packard, parked in front of the restaurant where I had lunch.  Speaking of tourist-trappy nostalgia, I believe
the owners of the restaurant arranged to have it parked in front of the restaurant all day.  It was there for hours.  And
it worked, at least in my case.  The Packard caught my eye, I stopped to take a picture, and thought "Why not try
the restaurant?"   The pork barbecue was fine.  

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