Lincoln (and a drag show)

LincolnI promised this blog would never be serious, so I have to say right off I’m not in any way making fun of Abraham Lincoln. He is my hero, at least as far as history is concerned. I begin my first-year writing classes each semester with a study of the Gettysburg Address.

And I have hanging in my office at the university a 19th-century print of the portrait here. At least I’ve been told it’s that old. Of course the appraisal came from someone not famous enough to be on Antiques Roadshow, so who knows if it’s accurate.

I come by my fascination honestly. I’m one communication link (or is it two – there’s one person between us) away from Mr. President Lincoln.

I’ve told this story before in my other blog, but it bears repeating. When I was five years old I sat on the lap of an old man who had sat on Abraham Lincoln’s lap when he was five years old. It was 1950, and Mr. Johnson was about 87 years old.

Mr. Johnson was a retired railroad conductor, and because I was in my kindergarten production of “The Little Engine that Could” (singing “Little Red Caboose”), he gave me his conductor’s coat and hat. It was, of course, about twenty sizes too big. I could sort of wear the hat, but not the coat.

But I grew into it, and I began to use it for play-acting of many kinds. By the time I was in junior high school, it was well-worn, and the hat had gone the way of all flesh. Somewhere there’s a family picture of me and a girl whose parents were friends of my parents, and I’m wearing the coat.

She is wearing a long green formal. And there’s the story.

Need I say More?

Need I say More?

When my father finished his graduate degree, my parents went to the seminary in Kansas City for the graduation ceremonies. My mother had to have a formal for the occasion. Someone gave her two or three formals, but they were too old fashioned, and she ended up making her own—a black silky dress that I thought was both scary and superb!

But she had these two formals hanging around, stored in a barrel in our basement. I found them. It was about the time Mr. Johnson’s conductor/President Lincoln coat began to fit me.

The picture of me with our family friend used to bother me. The problem was that I wanted to be wearing the formal. It had replaced the coat as my favorite play wear. The coat fit me, and so did the dresses.

As far as I know there are no family pictures of me wearing the formal. My God! What would the good people of the First Baptist Church of Scottsbluff, Nebraska, have thought? I’m not sure if my parents ever knew I wore the dress. My sister does, I think.

This isn’t very good story-telling because I’ve already given away the punch line. But Daniel Day Lewis is my favorite actor these days. You see, Abraham Lincoln was responsible for my first drag show appearance in the basement of a tiny house in far western Nebraska. Only my hairdresser knows for sure the extent of my drag clairolcareer. And he’s dead!

About Harold Knight
Retired English prof, SMU. Old man. Musician. Passionate about justice, equality, freedom. Therefore, I am a fervent supporter of and advocate for the Palestinian People as they struggle to survive genocide. That also means, of course, I have no use for US 45.

One Response to Lincoln (and a drag show)

  1. Pingback: You, too, can shock an SMU student « Me, senescent

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