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Bob Anderson Remembers Leo Edwards
By Bob Anderson
Well, I finally got the cork out of the bottle, so here comes the letter that has been aging and mellowing inside for over a year. I'm afraid this won't be short, but I hope it is going to be of great interest to you.
I am Bob Anderson, formerly of Rockford IL and now for the last almost 16 years living and teaching in China. Actually, I haven't taught actively for about 7 years, but my wife still does some volunteer teaching (of English). You might call me her assistant in charge of audio-video media.
I started very early—maybe 8 years old—reading Jerry Todd books borrowed from an older neighbor boy. In 1937 I had a health crisis that kept me out of school for one semester. During this time, I devoured every Leo Edwards book I could get my hands on. I re-borrowed all the Leo Edwards books this neighbor had plus my mother bought me several, and I had a couple of my own. I have read them over many times through the years, and through the years kept searching for those I didn't have. By sometime in the 1970's I finally had them all (except the Andy Blake edition published by Appleton).
We visited Gunnar & Jennie Olson who were church friends of our family from Rockford at their cottage next door to Hi-Lee cottage many times. We stayed a week or two with them at least 2 years that I remember, in 1931 and 1933. In 1933 I was going on 12 years old and still have the very special, happy memory of lying in a hammock on a summer afternoon with Leo Edwards reading to me from one of his books (Tuffy Bean, but don't know which). Cock-eyed Ghost had just been published and Leo autographed a copy "To my boy pal, Bobby Anderson". I can still see him coming out of the screen door of his little "Storyland" and handing me the book. I was thrilled. (He did charge me 50 cents, which was the going price of his books.) The last book I bought new in a bookstore was "Poppy Ott - Detective" in 1940. . . for 50 cents!
I remember the gang of boys running around through the neighborhood at Lake Ripley. One boy was Beanie and he was "Jerry Todd", and then there were "Scoop", "Peg", and "Red". I thought they were the real thing! I remember going to one of the Boy Scout plays in Cambridge where they enacted a scene that is out of a Trigger Berg book where the boys are hiding in barrels in a slaughter house and the snippy girls come in and invent a game where they pitch old bones into the barrels—hilarious. In another part of the performance the boys (or boy) were in slickers and umbrellas singing "Singin' In The Rain". This makes me think this was in 1931 as that would be about right for that song.
Another interesting thing about the lake Ripley gang was that Bob Beale, who was "Taillight" in the Trigger Berg series was a Rockford boy and a school classmate of mine. He was always kind of a tall kid, and I remember thinking that he did not fit the picture I had in mind for "Taillight".
Well, I'm going on here and I still haven't got to the main story I want to tell you about a beautiful July afternoon years back when I drove my MG TD up to Ripley and had a good visit with Beanie. I am not sure what year it was, but if I knew when Beanie retired from The Beloit Corporation and what year Wayne Ring of Rockford bought Hi-Lee cottage, it would help me pinpoint the year. (Something in my memory says it was 1970, but it could have been mid-sixties.)
Stay tuned for Chapter 2.