Bicycle Bill

In the 1970’s when my legislative office was across from the train station in Mike Janek’s old automobile dealership (at the corner of Woodstock and Brink Streets), a man rode up on a balloon tire bicycle.

He parked his bike on the sidewalk and came in.

He spoke rapidly, as if he had to get his words out in a hurry. I later concluded that he though he had to talk fast because most people wouldn’t listen to him. After a very short time, I surmised, they would start to ignore him.

His name was Bill Spencer.

These were the days when few people rode bicycles in Crystal Lake. In fact, I only remember Bill.

He was known as the

“Mayor of Virginia Street”

I think I read in the Northwest Herald.

His father had been the janitor at the old city hall.

People thought he was retarded.

Bill would stop in and talk to my legislative assistant, Marge Jones, and me.

He got placed at the Pioneer Center Workshop.

After a while he came in and said, “They lock me in a closet.”

He said it real fast, as usual.

That got those of us who cared about Bill pretty upset, as you can imagine. I can’t remember what we did about it, but I’ll lay odds the practice stopped.

Julie Covert, from a subdivision between East Main Street in Cary and the Fox River, had had a long interest in mental health.

A former union organizer, she and attorney Janice Johnston were involved with representing those being mistreated by the mental health system.

They arranged for Bill to be tested at the University of Chicago and, guess what?

Bill wasn’t retarded.

People had just treated him that way.

Bill went to live in a nursing home somewhere southwest of Rockford. Every once in a while he would write a letter.

Then, in the late 1980’s oe early 1990’s a class action court decision came down and I got a phone call from Bill. He was one of the winners in the court suit. He talked about being able to buy a condo in Crystal Lake because of what was called the Bogard decision. I told him about the new condos next to the roller skating rink on Virginia Street Road.

He decided not to move to Crystal Lake and the last I heard from him was after I re-entered the Illinois House of Representatives in 1993.

His handwriting was a bit shaky and his syntax not quite correct, but it brought back such great memories.

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