Roald Tweet

Writer and Narrator of 'Rock Island Lines'

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.

It was from Rock Island’s rich heritage that Dr. Tweet spun his histories, biographies and "stretchers." Among his favorite topics were railroads and riverboats, which he combined on a CD in celebration of the Grand Excursion in 2004. "Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet" received awards from the Illinois Historical Society as well as the Towner Award from the Illinois Humanities Council.

Dr. Tweet was professor emeritus, retired from the Augustana College English department, where he was professor and Conrad Bergendoff Chair in the Humanities. A writer and radio personality, Dr. Tweet was also an accomplished woodcarver and whittler.

Dr. Tweet left us in November of 2020, but his legacy lives on. You can hear many of his Rock Island Lines in podcast form here and also in a forthcoming book from WVIK and East Hall Press.

Working River

3 hours ago

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

I see that the starving artists are back at the Holiday Inn again for their annual sale, room 211. What would those artists do without rivers? Any painting over $19.95 is bound to have a stream or a rivulet winding through it, perhaps even the sweet Afton flowing gently.


Jan 19, 2021

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

The communities clustered along the Mississippi around Rock Island have contributed their share of sports heroes to American folklore. There's Roger Craig in football, Gene Oliver in baseball, and Jack Fleck, the golfer who beat Ben Hogan in the U. S. Open.

Ed Lamp

Jan 18, 2021

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

Ed Lamp is 97 years old. He still lives by himself in one of a cluster of small homes and cottages along the Rock River, a mile or so from where the Rock empties into the Mississippi. The homes are hidden from busy Black Hawk Road by a row of industries. The only access is a nearly invisible gravel road. The owners prefer it that way.

A through K

Jan 15, 2021

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

We Rock Island Lutherans don’t take much stock in the doctrine of predestination—except when it comes to church potlucks. Somewhere in the fine print of the Augsburg Confession, the early church fathers determined that Lutherans whose last names begin with A through K must always bring salads to church suppers.

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

The first few minutes of a war are exciting. Some madness seems to make men eager to leave home and family to hunt each other down.

Button, Button

Jan 14, 2021

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

If you come for a visit to our Mississippi Valley and want to bring a souvenir back to the relatives in Potosi, Wisconsin, here's some advice. Avoid those cute ashtrays made in Taiwan that say, "Greetings from the Quad Cities," or the bumper stickers that say, "Support mental health or I'll kill you." Instead, take a walk along some of the more out-of-the-way stretches of our Mississippi River, where the current has deposited a stash of old clam shells. With any luck, you'll soon find one that resembles a Swiss cheese—with half-inch holes over the whole shell.

John Buford

Jan 13, 2021

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

If you have ever visited the Battlefield of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania, you may have seen the statue of John Buford at the northwest entrance. An inscription reads: In memory of Major General John Buford, commanding the First Division Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac, who with the first inspiration of a cavalry officer selected this battlefield July 1, 1863.

War Eagle vs. Itasca

Jan 12, 2021

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

The most famous steamboat race ever chronicled on the Upper Mississippi River was between a tortoise and a hare in 1856. And as you learned in the pages of your third-grade reader, such a race is not always a foregone conclusion.

Brooms and Antlers

Jan 11, 2021

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

Even the Mississippi River seems to know when it has crossed the Mason-Dixon line. The Upper Mississippi is a Yankee protestant-work-ethic river, always busy. The lower Mississippi below Cairo, Illinois, where the Ohio comes in, is a grander, more leisurely affair—a world of colonels and judges and mint juleps. No wonder that Currier and Ives chose to immortalize the steamboat race between the Natchez and the Robert E. Lee rather than between the small, plain packet boats north of St. Louis.