An Expressive Life
An Autobiography by Lonn Pressnall
I was born a bit prematurely January 3rd, 1943 during a snowstorm in Beatrice, Nebraska and named Lonnie Allen after the well-known country singer, Lonnie Glosson: a famed harmonica player and radio personality. My father, William Milton Pressnall's father Leonidas H. "Lon" Pressnall used the name before me.
After five days hatching in an incubator and apparently very healthy, the hospital staff released me to the outer world. I had two bothers: Leslie LeRoy White, Wayne Milton Pressnall and two sisters: Lucille Pressnall and Merna Lee Pressnall to welcome me home and to become my new mentors and I their mascot. I lived the next three and a half years near the Big Blue River and have some memories of catfish, crayfish, minnows, and the grand Chautauqua Park across from the "cabin camps" on H.W. 77.
Soon, I along with my new Dad, Barney (Raymond Albert John Bernadt), my mom (Greta Rose Crandall) and siblings and after a 14 mile train ride escort with Merna holding my hand, I arrived at a box frame rundown house with weeds taller than I at the railroad town of Wymore, Nebraska. I spent the next thirteen years living a "Dandelion Wine", mostly happy childhood, enjoying playing, fishing, running free, climbing trees; and spending time in school or church and participating in sports.
The twins: John Ray Bernadt and Greta Lynn Bernadt arrived in 1946 and I lost my mascot status and evolved into the role of middle child with occasional childcare duties as the years rolled on. The addition of two more added to the pool of game players. We played cards, school, charades, checkers, chess, danced to old LP's, out-of-doors hide n' seek, listened to Wayne's ghost stories when the lights were out after the many rain storms. I very early developed interest in all things Native American and the great out-of-doors.
Mother had been a Southern Baptist and Barney, my step-father, a Roman Catholic...she a Republican and he a Democrat. Free thinking and dialectics were always a part of our upbringing. Neither parent attended church. Shortly after the giving birth to the twins, Mother had a very serious accident which I witnessed at the kitchen stove as she was boiling water at the gas stove in the tiny kitchen and caught her house dress with an elastic waistband on fire. Mother was in a great deal of pain and bedridden for several weeks during which our water pump was frozen, Barney had a period of being laid off from the factory, we were still using the outside facility out by the alley and the twins were only a few weeks old. During these very tough times, the Methodist Church ladies brought covered dishes and other food to our house as relief. After that rough patch, we children became Methodists. I began my run of seven years of perfect attendance to Sunday School, held the "T" in Christmas as the big Christmas show in front of the church. Mother and others drilled me to memorize my recitation; and even with puking in the church school restroom, I nailed it and received the obligatory praise and was forever hooked on performing in public. Even with all this time spent in church and Sunday School, Education became the godhead in our family and the best path to greater things.
Fast-forward to 2014 and I am a retired Speech and Drama Professor Emeritus living in Forsyth, Illinois with my wonderful wife, Mary McCoy Pressnall nee Ellis. I have two grown sons: Lonn Anthony and Christopher Rene and two grown daughters: Brenda Jane and Brownie Elizabeth ( Libby.) Five grandsons: Nathan and Benjamin of Lonn and Cindy issue; and Grant, Ian and Callen of Christopher and Megan issue.
I have been a father since 1961; thus, I have been trying to be somewhat responsible for the last 54 years. Besides teaching at the community college level for 27 years, I taught high school/middle school one year, pre-school for two years, university instructor for five years, adjunct university instructor for two years and instructor of creative drama in all levels of elementary school with grants on many occasions. So, all totaled between being a student and teaching, I have been on one side of the desk or the other for approximately 54 years out of 71 years of my life. Playing school has been very, very good to me.
In addition to fatherhood, school, and theatre activities I have managed to enjoy fishing, collecting Native artifacts, gardening, hiking, travelling , writing poetry, storytelling, Senior Olympics, Texas Hold'em, sculpting and playing games.
The last ten years, I've done a lot of impersonating Abraham Lincoln and have travelledthroughout Illinois and other states presenting in first person. lincolnpresenter.com
Over the years I have worked as a director, actor and playwright in the theatre world and encountered many delightful people and made many acquaintances and friendships along the way.
Neil Young is one of my favorite singers. Both he and John Prine have provided me with lyrics to enjoy and ponder: " I am a Child.... I last a while You can't conceive of the pleasure of my smile. " Prine's: ( too many to list) but: " Turn off your T.V, throw away your newspaper, eat a lot of peaches, and try to find Jesus on your own." will suffice.
Favorites: books: Viktor E. Frankl's Man Search for Meaning; Nabokov's Transparent Things. Favorite color: turquoise (and yellow a close second). Favorite foods include seafood dishes. Favorite board game: Beyond Balderdash. I would have to put love of trees and flowers at the top of the list, and lest we forget: sex. Having been born a War Baby, I abhor war and seem to have been under its ever-present shadow. War and racism make life very ugly at times. Art and nature are needed to restore the inherent beauty.
Quote: A. Lincoln, of course: "Die when I may, I want it said by those who know me best, that I always plucked a thistle and planted a flower when I thought a flower would grow."
My philosophy of life is centers around the mystery. I abandoned religion at an early age and adopted a more transcendental viewpoint. I think that the Lakota acceptance of the Mystery of the Great Spirit makes a lot more sense than any creed that claims to know "the answer." I am content to wonder at nature's beauty and glory, and find solace in the Deistic Super Cloud which reflects an unknowable god and grand design. Certainly not an atheist in the conventional sense and certainly not a Christian in the traditional sense either, I believe as Abraham Lincoln once stated: " When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad. I'd rather feel good." I think art trumps religion, politics and is the great last hope for humanity. My mantra is Save the Children. Life is fundamentally theatrical and we all play roles from infancy until death as so beautifully expressed in Jacques's lines from As You Like It with the "All's the World's a Stage" Speech. Onward, I go toward oblivion.