On a late summer afternoon more than half a century ago, Chris and Monty Field, teenage brothers, found a spot on the courthouse square in Harrisburg, Illinois, to watch a Shriners parade. By some accounts, 12,000 people had gathered for the festivities, even though the population of this farm town was only about 9,000. As 40 marching units, some in their characteristic fezzes, came down the street, Chris and Monty engaged in conversation with a striking blonde in her early 30s who spoke with an English accent. Her name, she said, was Louise. She was there with her children and two brothers. Louise did most of the talking, but the younger of the two brothers, whose name was George, made an impression all the same. “He had a funny haircut, kind of long and stringy,” Monty recalls. “Most of the boys at that time had flattops.” George was wearing jeans, he noticed, with a hole at the knee.
They had been camping the night before, Louise said, at Garden of the Gods, about 22 miles southeast of Harrisburg. The campground was part of the Shawnee National Forest in southernmost Illinois, bordered by the Ohio River to the east and the Mississippi to the west. Its vistas were unlike any George would have seen in England: sandstone bluffs rising incongruously above almost endless stretches of flat farmland.
“Chris and I figured that George ripped his jeans on that camping trip,” Monty Field says. “That was the most generous explanation we could come up with, though with that hair, you kind of wanted to give him some money to see a barber.”
“If you didn’t go the barbershop once or twice a month,” Chris adds, “you were a poor person.”
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He performed at a VFW hall also. Rocked the joint.