Jeffrey Miller

A Writer's Life

Category: Oglesby (page 1 of 2)

Leonard’s Bicycle Shop

c9-56  d22 Img25 Leonard's Mower & Bicycle Shop

 

 

Although I don’t directly mention Leonard’s Bicycle Shop directly in Ice Cream Headache, the bicycle shop plays an important role in the novella. Looking at this photo, it was probably taken right around the time that the story takes place.

Set in a small, industrial town in Illinois in 1968, the lives of five people intertwine on one fateful spring day. Under the low-lying dark cloud of the Vietnam war, these five people act out their personal dramas within a milieu of sadness, regret, guilt, envy, cowardice and bitterness: Ray Jackson, isolated and strong in the face of losing his business and wife; Johnny Fitzpatrick, who has decided to run off to Canada to avoid the draft; Jimmy Smith, who overcomes physical and mental limitations and willing to believe the best about people; Nancy Smith, who has devoted her entire life to raising her only child in the face of great odds; and Earl Jansen who carries the guilt of an accidental shooting two years earlier that forced him off the police force. However there is also in equal measure all-consuming love, courage, loyalty, kindness, mercy, gentleness and the enduring strength of the human spirit. Linked together in conflict, articulate friendship and understanding, their plight as human beings is one we all share.

Ice Cream Headache and Oglesby, Illinois

Downtown Oglesby 2

Although there might be some truth to the claim that you can’t go home again, I most certainly did when I wrote Ice Cream Headache. And it’s only fitting, given the number of years that I have lived overseas, that I “return” home  a lot in my stories, especially when I am waxing nostalgic about “back home.”

This photo alone, brings back many memories for me: walking home from Washington Grade School, stopping in at the Supreme Dairy Bar for a milkshake or a Green River, buying candy and comic books at Balconie’s, and going to the library. This was the center of my universe from 1966-1976.

What I tried to do most with Ice Cream Headache was to capture some of the small town flavor that is rapidly disappearing across the United States.

Where are you going to take us this time, Mr. Miller?

c9-26  d8 Img76 Lou's Supermarket

You know, I had such a wonderful time writing Ice Cream Headache that I thought I would head on back to the Oglesby in the 1960s and see what else was back there to write about. My book in progress was originally a flash fiction piece I wrote back in 2010 while I was writing War Remains. A week ago, I read it again and went, “Hmm….”

This story is very near and dear to me, much the same way that Ice Cream Headache was.

If you enjoyed Ice Cream Headache, you’re going to like this one. I promise.

Have I ever let you down before?

Lou’s Super Market — Oglesby, Illinois

c9-26  d8 Img76 Lou's Supermarket

I only mentioned it briefly in Ice Cream Headache, but Lou’s Super Market has a special place in the novella.

I understand that Oglesby has been without a supermarket for fifteen years and that it will soon have a new one, a County Market. That’s great for Oglesby but for all of us who grew up in Oglesby,  Lou’s Super Market will always have a special place in our hearts.

Life Before the Supreme Dairy Bar — An Ice Cream Headache Flashback

http://www.amazon.com/Ice-Cream-Headache-ebook/dp/B009QWF1WU/ref=tmm_kin_title_0Before it was the Supreme Dairy Bar it was Gambles.

In Ice Cream Headache though, there used to be a grocery store on the first floor before it became the dairy bar. Actually, there were a few shelves with some canned and dry goods which were located to the right when you walked in the main entrance. However, in Ice Cream Headache this is where the pool tables are located. In later years, the dairy bar would become a pool hall of sorts. In 1975, I went to Mac Pryde’s Photo Studio, a few shops west of the dairy bar for my senior photos. After I finished, (I was on my two-hour senior lunch) I stopped in this pool hall and played a couple games of pinball before I went back to LaSalle-Peru Township High School (L-P).

You can just imagine Ray Jackson walking up Church Street, rounding the corner and entering the dairy bar in the morning. Across the street, Johnny Fitzpatrick is lounging outside the Supreme Dairy, a cigarette dangling from his lips. Later, Billy Wilson will stop in the dairy bar on his way home from school.

Isn’t it time you journeyed back in time?

Isn’t it time you had your Ice Cream Headache flashback?

 

Paperback

 

Kindle

 

 

I Scream, You Scream

We all scream for Ice Cream Headache.

I love this book so much.

Okay, so that is what you would expect the writer to say but what I love about this book is the nostalgia that I serve up in the story about the lives of five people intertwining one day in 1968. I do that a lot in my fiction and I guess a lot has to do with living overseas for as long as I have and missing the States. For one year I immersed myself in this story. There many things which I drew upon when I was writing it but in the end it took on its own life.

Cover Design by Anna Takahashi

I was really lucky when I asked my friend Anna Takahashi if she would be interested in doing the book cover design for Ice Cream Headache. Her response: I really wanted to do a cover for you! I’m glad she did. Her design is amazing and really captures the feel of the novella.

Check out Anna’s other amazing creations here.

Soda Jerk

I don’t recall ever seeing a soda jerk in action, but I do remember as a young child going to a drugstore and having an ice cream soda at the store’s soda fountain. Years later, when I was in high school, I would often go to Ford Hopkin’s drugstore in downtown LaSalle, Illinois which had a luncheonette in the back.

In Ice Cream Headache, one of the characters, Ray, remembers when he was a kid and his father took him to the soda fountain. It’s a nice, nostalgic aside in the story. Readers are going to find a lot of these in this novella.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soda_jerk

Synopsis: Ice Cream Headache

Set in a small town in Illinois in 1968, the novella centers on the lives of a community of people whose lives intertwine on one fateful day in May of that year, including: Ray Jackson, isolated and strong in the face of losing his business and wife; Johnny Fitzpatrick, who has decided to run off to Canada to avoid the draft; Jimmy Smith, who overcomes physical and mental limitations and willing to believe the best about people; Nancy Smith, who has devoted her life to raising her only child against great odds; and Earl Jansen who carries the guilt of an accidental shooting two years earlier that forced him off the police force. These characters are linked together in conflict, and in articulate friendship and understanding. Their plight as human beings is one we all share.

Book Cover for Ice Cream Headache?

As the editing of my novella enters its second round, I have started to look for an appropriate cover idea for the book. Originally I wanted to have a photo of a milkshake or a malt in a glass, in the foreground with the background out of focus (I have a photographer back in the Illinois Valley working on that concept now) but then, while searching the Internet the other day, I came across this photo.

Although Oglesby’s City Clerk gave me permission to use this photo, I am worried about the resolution. But Damn! This is where everything happens in the book. You can see Balconie’s on the right as well as the Supreme Dairy. And right across the street, though not clear in this photo, the Supreme Dairy Bar. What a find!

What I’m thinking is that this could be back cover of the book. That would really work for it I think. I would of course crop the bottom.

While looking at this photo I was overcome with this immense wave of nostalgia. This is where it all happened. This was my life.

If anyone out there knows who might have the original or a photo similar to this one, please contact me.

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