Who can forget George Swank?
How I first met him and…
by Jordan H. Murray
It must have been when I was in third grade at Lincoln school in Galva, Illinois. That was about 1955. My friend and I would go to his mother’s work after school to catch a ride home. George had a little office in the same building as my friend’s mother; in fact, he was her neighbor.
As a red-blooded boy, I was naturally curious about George and we gradually became good friends. George was in his mid forties then, a history buff and would point out historic features of the town and surrounding area to me. This was my introduction to the importance of history and “how things came to be”. This knowledge would serve me well all through life; in fact, later in life I would return to my hometown to look into recent updates and questions I had.
George worked for the Galva News, at that time and, years before, was assigned the task of gathering historic information for the Galva 1954 Centennial. These facts enthralled George enough to haphazardly start an independent newspaper. This 8-1/2”x11” paper reported on the local people, facts, buildings and events. He called the paper Galvaland, knowing full well that his reporting would be historic and beneficial to the town and... Every month and sometimes every other month, this little paper would be published and distributed either locally or sent by mail to subscribers around the world.
In 1995, I returned to the Galva area. Along with me I brought the knowledge and skills that I acquired through life’s experiences. Taking from George’s lead in historic documentation, I examined his life’s work through “My Eyes”. Because I was a former art teacher, technical illustrator and designer, I was able to easily update George’s work, especially since we now have the computer and internet. Tools that George did not have but perhaps would have had.. (Actually, the dedicated issue of the Galvaland was on George’s death was designed and produced on the computer)
George was everybody’s friend, was the man about town and we will miss him. He was my hero but he passed away in 1996, a few months before the King and Queen of Sweden came. George’s dream was to be there to meet them and report on their visit. I was very lucky to come back to the Galva area just before George’s death and visit with him once again. His burial site is on the web at: http://illinoisancestors.org/knox/Cemeteries/galva_cem_files/galva_cem.html
A 16" maquette
Author’s/artist’s note: George’s life’s work, the Galvaland Magazine, was painstakingly indexed* by the local sorority, Beta Sigma Phi in Galva starting in October of 1982. The Galva Wiley House Museum and the Galva Library have these historic writings in a 15 volume bound reference set that contains 326 issues. This set starts in December 1958 and ends in December 1995. (The final dedicated Galvaland issue on George’s death came out in January/February, 1996.) Photocopies can be made personally at both the museum and library but the volumes can not be checked out or purchased.
George seemed to always have a camera strapped around his neck in case a news-breaking story should arise or be referenced. Since Mr. and Mrs. Swank had no children they, most likely, considered Galva as their family.
* The Galva Historical Society has now made available a CD on the index of the Galvaland Magazines. This CD includes the index of the people and subject only and does not include the magazines. The magazine(s) can be obtained by either picking them up at the museum or by mail. Please write for details/updates on costs, shipping and handling, availability, payment etc, to: The Galva Historical Society, 906 W. Division St, Galva, IL61434 or go to: http://www.galva.org/UltraApps/historicalsociety.php
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