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Hannibal & Marceline

sunny 90 °F

(Friday & Saturday) Being an early riser I first make some coffee and sit in the quiet of the early morning watching the sun rise. It is so peaceful and I use this time to formulate my day's plans. One thing I find amusing is observing pet owners shuffle out of their RV's in their nightshirts with dog on leash to take their pet for their 'daily constitutional'. There they stand half-awake waiting while the dog sniffs for the right spot. Then, after the business is complete the owner shuffles back to his RV and probably goes back to bed. Since probably 95% of RVers have pets (from Great Danes to mini-'ankle-biters') the scene is ongoing for an hour or so. I came across a new one recently. Posted in the campground office was a sign requiring pet owners to submit a saliva swab which is filed in the office ($5.00 fee) and if a 'dropping' is found in the park a DNA test will be done to trace it to the proper owner with a $75. fine. Pretty clever way to generate a little extra money for the RV park! Ah, the things that entertain me.
Having left "Lincoln Land" behind I headed west to Missouri. In looking over my planned route to Kansas City I noticed a couple of towns along the way that drew my interest. One was Hannibal, MO just over the IL state line, located on the Mississippi River. It was formerly the hometown of famed author, Samuel Clemens. His pseudonym, of course, was "Mark Twain".
The origin of the name, Mark Twain, follows; In the 1850's river pilots did not have modern navigational aids. When entering shallow water, a man was sent to the front (bow) of the boat with a lead weight tied to a rope (line). He tossed the weight out in front and let it sink to measure how deep the water was. A series of knots were tied in the line at measured distances. A mark is the same as a fathom on the ocean, six feet. Twain means two. The knot at "mark twain" thus meant twelve feet. For the river boats, twelve feet was safe water. Years after leaving the river Samuel Clemens remembered this river term which could be interpreted as 'safe water ahead' and adopted the name "Mark Twain".
The characters in his books, Tom Sawyer, Huckle Berry Finn, etc. were himself and his boyhood friends in Hannibal. A mischievous group of boys who lived along the river provided much material for Clemens to write about. His humorous writing style and 'unconventional' observations on politicians and people in power amused the populous and with it came fame and fortune. Leaving Hannibal for up-scale Buffalo, NY and later, even more prosperous Hartford, CT (I visited his palatial home there) to advance his career & he always drew on his boyhood experiences in Hannibal for his writings. Today, the Hannibal Chamber of Commerce has done a wonderful job promoting the legacy of hometown boy, Samuel Clemens known throughout the world as Mark Twain. One can; tour a half dozen buildings where Clemens once lived or 'hung-out' with his young friends, take a paddle-wheel tour on the "Mark Twain" river boat, visit the Mark Twain Museum with artifacts and see a special Norman Rockwell exhibit. Rockwell's paintings depicted Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn's tales featured in national magazines, even on a US Postage Stamp. All about town motels, restaurants, gift shops have the Mark Twain label.
Another local celebrity, Ms. Margaret Tobin was a friend of Clemens. He encouraged her to move west to tap the wealth in the Rocky Mountains. After marrying she became adored by Denver society. Later, she was later dubbed 'The Unsinkable Molly Brown' after rowing passengers to safety from the sinking TITANIC. Actress Debbie Reynolds played Ms. Tobin in the film THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN, a Hollywood version of her life. Tourism is the small town's life-blood.
In all it was an interesting stop. In the afternoon I continued on to Macon, MO where I spent the night in a lovely State Park.

The discovery of Hannibal and Marceline was made while reading my AAA Missouri travel book. Both small communities were on my way to Kansas City so I decided to stop to see what they were about. I covered Hannibal above.

Marceline is a small railroad town founded by the Atchison, Topeka, and Sante Fe Railway in 1887/88. It was one of many towns established along the rail line at regular intervals for purposes of refueling, crew changes, and water. The Elias Disney family moved there in 1906 from Chicago. Walt Disney was 5 yrs. old, his older brother Roy was 12, and their younger sister Ruth, was 4. The Disney farm was 40 acres in size with a milk cow, pig, chickens and the family struggled there for 5 years before moving on the Kansas City. Being a young boy Walt was oblivious to the struggles and he loved to roam the property where he sketched the wildlife; birds, squirrels, field mice, deer (fawns), horses, cows, etc. One day the local doctor asked Walt to sketch his horse. The Dr. was so impressed that he gave Walt a quarter for his sketch, more money than Walt had ever held in his hand. Another thing that Walt loved was going into town to watch the train come & go, and to admire the stores, the shops and the local people.
Digressing abit. I think as we grow older, particularly those of us who grew up in a small town, we tend to idealize things in our childhood. I know that happens with me, and as I observed the lives of Samuel Clemens and Walt Disney that is what they did. Clemens in his tales of Mark Twain's escapades in Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, and Walt Disney in his animated animal characters. Both were geniuses in their own disciplines, and both achieved fame and fortune.
The docent who took us on the Disney Museum tour was a friend of the Disney's. She is the widow of the former Superintendant of Schools and they hosted the Disneys in their home during their visits. She said the Disneys were humble, down to earth men. Walt & Roy returned to Marceline a number of times from their busy lives. Walt the artist and Roy the banker and business manager of Walt Disney Companies were together as partners from the beginning. Roy continued after Walt's death to complete the Walt Disney World project in Orlando. They never, however, forgot the folks back in Marceline. The community named their new swimming pool after Walt and he came back from Hollywood to dedicate it. On another occasion a new school was named the Walt Disney Elementary School and he returned with his top artist to paint Disney characters on the walls of the auditorium. He also donated playground equipment.
Walt's recollection of childhood memories of Marceline's Main Street was Walt's inspiration for both Disneyland's & Walt Disney World's Main Street USA. The Disney railroad at both parks were inspired by the Marceline railroad station. The steam engines at the Disney parks are called the 'E.P. Ripley' after the first president of the Sante Fe Railroad. After Walt's death in 1977 his sister Ruth donated many family things to the museum for the public to enjoy.
Today, although the trains don't stop in Marceline any more they do pass by. In fact, the Burlington Northern & Sante Fe (BNFE) trains pass every 20 minutes or 70 trains a day on their way to/from Chicago, Kansas City or the West Coast. The Walt Disney Hometown Museum is located on the two floors of the original brick train depot.
Both visits were a treasure trove of memories for me. I am so glad they were discovered in my reading.

Now on to Kansas City.............

Posted by dixter 15:33 Archived in USA Tagged & disney clemens

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