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Poetically Yours - Where they found work

Provided by Quentin Johnson.

Welcome to WNIJ's Poetically Yours. Poetically Yours showcases poems written by northern Illinois poets. This week features Quentin Johnson.

Johnson was born in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea to missionary parents. He grew up in the Midwest, living in Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Michigan. He has lived most of his life in Illinois, having resided in Metropolis, Ashkum, Oak Park and Aurora.

Johnson graduated from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa with degrees in Scandinavian studies and African and African American studies. He also lived and studied in Norway, receiving a certificate in sociology, while also studying Norwegian history and literature, psychology and international intelligence agencies.

Johnson says he is a word nerd and loves language. He has studied French, Spanish, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish and Ancient Greek. His choral career included additional work in Latin, Italian and German. When working with non-native English speakers, Johnson breaks the ice by asking people to teach him words in their mother tongues, like Persian, Russian, Polish, Gujarati, Korean and Mandarin.

Johnson works as an Animal Control Officer for the City of Aurora. He’s held this position for over 25 years. He is also a Deputy Poet Laureate for the City of Aurora. Johnson seeks to celebrate the cultural uniqueness of all people and their contributions to the great American melting pot. In his free time, he enjoys being with his wife and kids. You may also find him knitting on occasion.

Here's his poem “Roundhouse and Q Shops: Aurora’s Iron Horse Heritage.”

The forge and the fire,
The sledge and the steel,
Coal dust in the air,
Grease on the wheel.

Workers file in,
From Broadway and Lincoln,
Blacksmiths and mechanics,
Building steam engines!

50 car wheels,
2 freight cars per day,
2000 people,
Here earned their pay!

Carpenters and tinsmiths,
Upholsterers too,
Pullman Palace cars,
Were built at the “Q”.

Through the smoke and the steam,
Grit and determination,
Hardworking men from many a nation:
Luxembourgers, Swedes, and African Americans,
Irish, German and French Canadians,
Mexicans, and Romanians knew,
You could get a good job at the C. B. & Q!

  • Yvonne Boose is a current corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at wnij.org.
Yvonne covers artistic, cultural, and spiritual expressions in the COVID-19 era. This could include how members of community cultural groups are finding creative and innovative ways to enrich their personal lives through these expressions individually and within the context of their larger communities. Boose is a recent graduate of the Illinois Media School and returns to journalism after a career in the corporate world.