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This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

Have you ever amazed your children by telling them that there was a life before television? That there were picnics and plays and concerts and hayrides? Why, sometimes people even made up their own entertainment, as in this slice of Rock Island life a hundred and twenty-five years ago. It's a bit of improvisational theater which the Rock Island Argus entitled "The Devil Let Loose."

It was a warm July evening. Twilight lingered until well after supper. A quiet, restful evening, with people sitting on porches or out for a stroll. Suddenly, a domestic argument erupted at a house on the corner of Orleans and Beaver Streets. The loud vulgar words soon attracted a large crowd of men, women, and children on the sidewalk and street.

Here was the plot: the husband had apparently saved up about $125, and had left it in charge of his wife, who had spent it all. The husband was even more bothered by the fact that his wife was intoxicated, but the crowd loved it. The husband ordered his wife out of the house.

The wife responded with melodramatic lines. "Give me (hic) deal little Sammy (hic) and a (hic) razor, and I'll cut my blankety-blank (hic) throat.

The husband told her she could not have the children, made a disparaging remark about her virtue, and again ordered her out of the house.

She replied that she knew she was not the most virtuous woman in Rock Island, but if he would give her a dress, she would go and earn an honest living. "I will give you nothing," he said.  She exited stage right.

The free show over, the crowd dispersed.

The following day, the Argus reported the show in detail and gave it three stars out of a possible four. But the editor apologized for not giving the names of the actor and actress in this improvisation. "The names are being withheld on account of the children and the husband," the Argus explained. "The latter is said to be a hardworking man, endeavoring to do what is right."

Few modern television news reporters would be as considerate—just one indication of television's harmful effect on us all.

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.