October 30, 2011

During his final years at Big Lake, Monte signed a contract with art distributor Nature House out of Griggsville, IL.  The painting below of Canada geese in flight over water during the fall was an oil painting purchased by Nature House for reproduction and distribution.   Shortly after signing a very restrictive contract, the owner persuaded Monte for him to be successful in the art business it would require him to leave Big Lake and pursue his artwork full-time.  In hindsight, Monte later learned this was a big mistake and the pressure placed upon him to focus more time upon his artwork was most likely out of the concern of him meeting the out put requirements of his contract.

Below is a present day photograph of the main ditch which leads out to the lake at the Rice Lake State Conservation Area near Banner, IL.  At one time, many years ago, an old, towering tree did exist on the ridge of land along the south side of the ditch.  The tree has long since fallen and remnants of the tree no longer exist.  It cannot be recalled if this was a sycamore tree.  Note the similarity of the imagery in the painting and photograph.


Below is a photograph of a building which was once known as the Harper Restaurant and Mobile Service Station located outside of Banner, IL and across from the Rice Lake State Conservation Area.  The station and restaurant were owned and operated by Robert and Juanita Harper.  Robert passed away on February 27, 1988 and Juanita passed away on May 19, 1993. Her obituary states the two of them operated this business for forty-five years.

The below photograph depicts the station and restaurant, with the home of Robert and Juanita to the right of the business.

The photograph below depicts what was once the counter area of the restaurant.  Stools were located to the right of the counter.  The kitchen was off to the left.

The below photograph shows the kitchen area, located behind the cut out area of the paneled wall.  Additional sitting space is located to the left.

For a long period of time, Robert and Juanita’s service station and restaurant served a vital function to the Banner, Il area.  Local folks would congregate during the morning at the restaurant for coffee, company, news and gossip.  Workers in the area also frequently ate lunch at the restaurant.  Each day Juanita would have a “special” and while she was willing to make other items on the menu, it was let to be known, the courteous thing to do would be to order the “special” and be happy with it.

Often times, during periods when Monte and others would be working at Big Lake, they would find their way over to this restaurant for a midday bite to eat.

While taking the photographs of the restaurant and service station, one of Robert and Juanita’s sons stopped by.  He recalled a story once told by his father about a time when Robert stopped by Monte’s River Bank Gallery for a visit.  Monte was putting what Robert thought was the finishing touches on his latest painting.  He was quite surprised when Monte told him the painting was at least five to six weeks from being finished.



Below is an old photograph of the front room of Monte’s Riverside Gallery.  In this photograph is a P. D. Beckwith Round Oak Potbelly stove.  According to one website, stoves made by this company were of high quality and well sought after.  As of this time, it is unsure how Monte obtained this particular stove.  Monte used this stove to heat his gallery.

When the state of Illinois declined to allow cabin owners along the Banner Dike Road to renew leases on the land which their cabins were located, each cabin owner was responsible for destroying and removing the remains of their cabins.  Monte decided this stove was too valuable to leave behind.

The stove was carried over this walkway, which bounced under foot when walked upon, to another location.

Though the stove has not been fully restored, the below image is what one of these Round Oak P. D. Beckwith stoves originally looked like.


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