DAVE VORLAND: It Occurs To Me —Going Home Again

Here’s a final photograph, and some thoughts about it, from the recent trip Dorette and I made to attend the jazz festival in Chicago’s Millennium Park.

Marcel Proust, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe all said you can’t go home again. Wolfe even used the expression as the title of one of his novels.

But I keep trying.

For example, at least once a year, I revisit the North Dakota town where I was born and attended high school. It’s much changed. The last house of my dead parents is dilapidated and apparently abandoned, with no connection now to my inner life.

And then there’s this house at 810 Colfax Street in Evanston, Ill., photographed just the other day. It was my home in the mid-1960s while I studied at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

Like myself, it shows the effects of more than half a century of time.

Back then I had traveled by rail to Chicago, arriving at Union Station and connecting to another train to Evanston. After checking my baggage, I walked to Northwestern’s off Camus housing office, hoping to find inexpensive lodging.

I didn’t make it to the long lines of waiting students. A guy with a big grin spoke to me.

“Looking for a room?” he asked. I nodded. “Come with me,” he replied.

In his car, I learned his name was Lester Welty. We retrieved my stuff at the station and drove to Colfax Street.

The house looked great. For $50 a month, I rented one of two rooms he had available (the other was soon taken by a Medill classmate).

Lester’s wife had died recently, and I sensed he was providing sleeping quarters to students so as not to live alone.

Later that year, Lester mentioned he was a retired life insurance agent, although he said his first goal had been to become a Methodist minister.

He showed me several filing cabinets in the basement packed with the records of insurance policies he’d sold over the years. He asserted with pride that he’d done more good as a life insurance agent than he ever would have as a pastor.

And so last week, after tipping my hat to Lester Welty’s memory, I walked from 810 Colfax St. to the Northwestern campus, as I had every day when I was a student.

The distance seemed longer than I remembered, and at one point, I had to consult my iPhone’s mapping application.

So I guess it’s true: at my advanced age, you REALLY can’t go home again

DAVE VORLAND: Photo Gallery — Chicago, That Toddlin’ Town

Bloomington, Minn., photographer Dave Vorland and Dorette Kerian recently returned home after a trip to Chicago for the annual Chicago Jazz Fest. Dave was busy snapping photos while in the Windy City, and here are some of the images he’s sharing.

DAVE VORLAND: It Occurs To Me — The Adventure Begins

About this time in 1965, I arrived at the huge depot pictured above on my way to Northwestern University to begin a master’s degree in journalism. I was burdened down with heavy luggage, so the subway to Evanston wasn’t an option. I needed to transfer to yet another rail line.

According the diary I kept, I ran out of time that first day. An entry reads, “The rail station was all shut down, but there were 50 sailors from the Naval Training Station sleeping in the waiting room. I joined them.”

In the morning, I took an early commuter train to Evanston and stored my bags at the station. Among the stuff in my steamer trunk was an ancient Smith Corona typewriter. I liked to think it was like the one Ernest Hemingway used.

I was intercepted just outside the university’s housing office by a gregarious older guy who asked, “Need a room?” After a brief conversation, I was in his car headed to retrieve my luggage and drive to his house on Colfax Street not far from the campus.

The rent was $50 a month. My landlord was Lester Welty, a retired insurance agent whose wife I later learned had died not long before. He told me he had chosen to sell life insurance as a career instead of becoming a Methodist preacher.

It seemed a better way of helping people over the long run, he explained.

Les gave me lots of advice during my stay in his home, some of which I later regretted not taking.

Thus began the most formative adventure of my life.

Can it really be a half century since those days?

DAVE VORLAND: It Occurs To Me — Thought Of Wes Christenson

Today (Monday) Dorette and I returned from Chicago to attend the annual jazz festival, an event we’ve seldom missed in recent years.

I also marked the 50th anniversary of my graduation from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

How time flies.

On Thursday, we took a subway train to Evanston and wandered about the NU campus, including a stop at the journalism building, Fisk Hall. It was at this place and in Medill’s working laboratory — the city of Chicago — that I lived some of the most intense moments of my life.

While there this time, I even purchased a Northwestern-branded purple sweater that will annoy friends who are Gopher or Badger fans.

As I had planned to do if the building was open, we paused at the “Honor Wall” in Fisk that acknowledges the top ranked master’s degree graduate for each year. Probably for the last time, I scanned the burnished metal plates until I reached 1966.

The name inscribed there isn’t mine.

That distinction was awarded to my friend and University of North Dakota classmate, the late Wesley J. Christenson.

We had been small-town NoDak kids, I in Harvey, Wes in Hettinger. We both won substantial scholarships to Medill. Mine was better, I kidded Wes, because it was free and clear. Later, I wasn’t so sure. His scholarship required him to work part-time for a suburban weekly newspaper chain, experience that later looked great on his vita.

And, in fact, life after Medill was very good for Wes, who became nationally prominent in the field we both chose, higher education.

Among other positions, he was public relations director at Georgetown and Boston Universities.

But later in life, for reasons unclear to me, fortune turned on him. He spiraled downward mentally and physically, dying a solitary, way too early death.

At Fisk Hall, I tipped my hat to Wes and offered up a silent prayer in celebration of having known him when we were both young, and time seemed to stretch ahead without end.