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House Names

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

In almost any city near Rock Island, residents can walk you through their neighborhoods and name the houses: there's the Potter House, the Mitchell house, the Cable home, the Looney mansion, and so on.

But the strange thing is, the Potters, Mitchells, Cables, and Looneys are not living there. Should you ask about the family who does lives there, your guide would say "I don't know their names. Some family with a lot of cats, or three kids, or a Ford car."

In Rock Island, house names are like mineral rights out west, they don't necessarily go with the land.

That is why people are more often than not living in someone else's house.

When my family and I came to Rock Island we moved into the E. W. Olson house. We bought it from the Leonards, who owned it, but they had only lived there seven years, so they didn't count. For years after we moved in, we answered the doorbell to find strangers who just wanted to meet the folks who lived in the E. W. Olson house. They had played there as kids or were good friends of the Olsons, or they knew someone who was.

This is how we found out about the fire in 1941, and the new front porch. Strangers took us on tours through our house, showing us how E. W. cut the wall out between the living room and the parlor or why the fireplace stood where it did. We found out all about the hundreds of grape vines in the back yard.

We fell into the same mindset. "We live in the E. W. Olson house," we said when people asked. We got so used to it that when it became the Tweet house after twenty years or so, we hardly noticed the change.

Now, it's the Tweet house for a few years at least. Someday, when the forty-two steps up to the front door get to be too much to shovel or even climb, and we leave our Tweet house, a new family will move in and begin to make it theirs.

Whoever and wherever you are now, family who will move in, may you have as much fun, inch by inch and room by room making the house yours as we have had.

Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet is underwritten by Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois.

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.