MASON — The little town of Mason has changed a lot since Jerry Eident was a little boy in the late 1950s.
It's changed even more since Hubert Irey Gibson was growing up 100 years ago. Eident, writing as J.D. Eident, used an essay by "Grandpa Gibson" to lead into a series of short essays about Mason history that he has written and compiled into "Grandpa Gibson's Letter & Early Historical Notes of Mason, Illinois."
Gibson (1906-96) had a long and successful career with the Firestone Rubber Company after leaving Mason shortly after his father's tragic drowning death in 1924. But the "letter," written in 1978, shows that the old man never forgot where he came from.
Eident, a retired railroad man with a flair for poetry, said he began working on his 597-page opus after finding a copy of Gibson's essay among olds newspapers stored at the Mason Civic Center.
"I thought this manuscript would be a good springboard for what I wanted to do," Eident said. "I contacted the Gibson family and they were extremely gracious about sharing information on Mr. Gibson."
Eident said Gibson's essay is a treasure trove of information about early 20th century Mason, a community that had a thriving business community in the days before automobiles were a way of life for the general population.
"It's an incredible thing he did to leave this history, not only for his family, but for the town of Mason," Eident said.
The rest of the book outlines various aspects of Mason history, including how the area was originally settled, how business developed, and the role the Illinois Central railroad played in the town's growth.
"What I wanted to do is preserve the history of Mason's past," Eident said. "You go through Mason today, and you don't realize the incredible past of this town. It's kind of a glimpse into what life was like before electricity and modern technology."