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K. G.

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

Rock Island's old Midway Cafe sat along Sixth Avenue directly across the street from the Rock Island Railroad Depot. No one remembers quite why it was called the Midway. Perhaps it was midway on the Rock Island Lines between Chicago and Des Moines, or midway between Moline and Rock Island, or even, some say, midway between two infamous taverns.

The Midway Cafe was open 24 hours a day, serving hamburgers, hot beef sandwiches, pancakes and other home cooking to a mix of railroad workers and passengers, shopees from local factories, and late-night students from nearby Augustana College.

What few people know is that for two winters in the early 1950s, the Midway Cafe also became a betting parlor. The bets involved a bachelor professor, K. G. Larson, one of the most absent of absent-minded professors at Augustana. K. G. taught biology, and more often at not, lost in his laboratory apparatus. would not remember dinner until after midnight. K. G. would end up then at the Midway, so bundled up with scarves and coats and hats that there was more clothes than K. G.

It was the signal for Augustana students to pay down bets. Would absent-minded K. G. leave and walk out into the snow and cold without his coat and hat, or would he remember. Those who knew K. G. always bet that he would forget, and the bets generally paid off. K. G. would walk out of the Midway, and return in three minutes or so, snowy and shivering, to retrieve his wraps.

The betting might have gone on until K. G. Larson retired in the late 1950s, had he not met Olga, and had Olga not been twice widowed. The eighty-year-old bachelor fell hard, and proposed marriage. Olga accepted on condition that K. G. pass a physical examination. She wasn't about to be widowed a third time.

K. G. passed the physical, and the happy couple set up housekeeping together. K. G. remained as absent-minded as ever in the laboratory, but at home, well, Olga was not a person one forgot. The midnight forays to the Midway Cafe came to an end, and with it, the wagers over K. G. and his coat.

Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet is underwritten by the Scott County Regional Authority, with additional funding from the Illinois Arts Council and Augustana College, Rock Island.

Beginning 1995, historian and folklorist Dr. Roald Tweet spun his stories of the Mississippi Valley to a devoted audience on WVIK. Dr. Tweet published three books as well as numerous literary articles and recorded segments of "Rock Island Lines." His inspiration was that "kidney-shaped limestone island plunked down in the middle of the Mississippi River," a logical site for a storyteller like Dr. Tweet.