There is a crashing sadness in all of this. Bix Beiderbecke’s prep school dormitory — where he is claimed to have written his most famous song, “In a Mist” — at Lake Forest College near Chicago may be wrecked next month.
This is the loss of a jazz landmark. But so few will care.
The walls, like the notes from the cornet of Davenport’s young man with a horn, are all but certain to come tumbling down, pending city council approval.
Bix flunked out of the hallowed halls of Davenport (Central) High School because of his erratic classroom performance. His distraught parents had high hopes for Bixie, so they enrolled their wayward son at Lake Forest, which was then a strict prep school academy. That choice, rather than improving his grades, was a launching pad into the life they hoped to shelter him from. Lake Forest was near Chicago, and Chicago was jazz in 1921.
Young Bix was a kid in a blue sweater back then, making funny piano chords that supposedly turned into “In a Mist.” He was noodling around on a piano in the student lounge at the time.
Bix’s old 60-bed digs is to be replaced by a 235-bed modern dormitory. Let’s hope it has a piano. The Lake Forest Review Board should decree that one be placed prominently in the lobby, with a brass plaque for Bix.
But most of the students would wonder, “Bix, who?” They would probably think it was a new kind of breakfast cereal.
Where are they now?
As a toddler, Michelle Holdorf of Donahue won hearts with her resolve to march through childhood on little prosthetic duck-like feet. Born with no lower limbs, her story was national news. Now 42-year-old Michelle Laughlin, she earned a master’s degree from Drake University in Des Moines, where she works with students with disabilities. These days, she cruises around campus in a power wheelchair.
VINCE LINDSTROM, jovial director of the Quad-Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau in the boisterous spring of 1991 when gambling arrived on the Davenport and Bettendorf riverfronts, is now retired in Joplin, Mo. Vince was once so excited about gaming’s future that he envisioned rickshaws on our streets to transport gamblers. I never could understand where they were going.
LONG LIVE THE QUEEN: It’s lamentable that she’ll never again be in our waters, but the Delta Queen steamboat is alive and well. Once, she was headed for the boneyard. Now she’s an overnight boutique motel in Chattanooga, Tenn.
In death, not forgotten
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I CAN envision Tom Preacher reading a book. Tom, 61, was one of the most avid readers to turn a page in the Quad-Cities. His personal library bulged with 4,000 books.
There was one that Tom, a Scott County District Court associate judge, had never read. In the final days of his long battle with cancer, he began reading the classic, “Don Quixote.” He didn’t finish it. He died May 1.
Buried with Tom, who wore his judicial robe, was his unfinished copy of “Don Quixote.”
FEW WILL DOUBT that the greatest chef to ever serve a fluffy souffle in the Quad-Cities was a pudgy fellow named Tony Kowalczyk. He was wooed, about 1980, to leave the noted Bakery in Chicago at a dizzying (but worthy) salary to become chef at the premiere Davenport Club where he mentored some of the great young Quad-City chefs.
Tony, 80, has died in retirement in Mesa, Ariz. It’s said that he had just finished a meal of great richness, took a deep breath, and dropped over dead. That would have been his choice.
Contact Bill Wundram at 563-383-2249 or firstname.lastname@example.org.