What Illinois is This I Hear?

University of Chicago

John Bellairs lived, worked, and played in two diverse regions of Illinois. Chicago: large, loud, lavish, and where he could intermingle with the 1960's college subculture. A frequent visitor during his undergraduate years, Bellairs committed to the University of Chicago to further his education and quickly earned his masters degree in 1960, before beginning his dissent into drudging academia and attempting a dissertation.

Between classes and teaching, Bellairs examined the city with his friends and often entertained them with stories...among them one about an imaginary saint named Fidgeta.He remained enrolled in classes for the next three years before taking a two-year position in Minnesota.

During his stay in Minnesota, the Fitschens combined his written text about Fidgeta with Marilyn's illustrations and got the resulting article published, much to Bellairs's surprise. By the time John returned to the Chicago area in mid-1966, most likely to complete his thesis, there was already a burgeoning interest in a book and the following year he became a published author with Saint Fidgeta and Other Parodies.

Shimer College (Mount Carroll, Illinois)

After this year in Chicago, Bellairs accepted another teaching position in Mount Carroll: a quiet, quaint community in the northwestern corner of the state and the then home to Shimer College – a landscape vastly unlike Chicago and Winona. Whether this would have been his long-term academic home is impossible to say, for he arrived at a key crossroads in the college's history that came to a head during his brief tenure.

Either unhappy at the prospects of this environment or his own disinterest in perusing a Ph.D. in literature – or both – John Bellairs quickly resigned from Shimer College later that school year, with plans to depart for greener pastures the following spring.

When he left Illinois this time, he said good-bye to the Midwest for good, finding new successes in New England.