Introducing our newest writer, Molly Crusen Bishop

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I grew up on Barker Avenue on the West Bluff, in the house my great grandparents built in the 1880s.  I am the youngest of nine children and have five children of my own, plus one granddaughter. 

My husband Douglas and I both attended St. Mark’s grade school and then Spalding High School, until it became Peoria Notre Dame. I took swim lessons at one of the most beautiful homes on Moss Avenue, where the McCombs lived. I climbed and played in the Magnolia trees that are still standing in the front yard. I would jump from the branches onto the carpet of newly fallen magnolia petals. I still remember the scent of the blooms in the air and the way the satin petals felt on my bare feet.

The McCombs would let the neighborhood children do chores to earn swimming time in their kidney shaped pool after lessons; which we did happily.

My mother was a member of the Moss Bradley Neighborhood Association and as a child I delivered the “West Bluff Word” (the monthly newsletter) to each house around the neighborhood. The owners of Szold’s Department Store lived diagonally across the street from me on Barker with the front of their home facing Moss. Samantha Stalling lived on the right side of the Szolds and we would play with their grandsons every summer during their stay. 

My Aunt Mary Houston’s beautiful Victorian home at 1301 W. Moss was the meeting place for the July 4th parade and all the kids would tape little flags onto our bicycle handles and run streamers through the spokes of our tires. I have memories of listening to the symphony playing patriotic songs as I lay on a blanket next to my mom on the grand lawn of the Pettingill-Morron House.

My sidewalk in the 1300 block of Barker was brick and I knew every single dip and hill like the back of my hand.

There is something special about the home I grew up in. My great grandparents, Patrick Needham and his wife Ellen McGowan Needham, were humble Irish immigrants from County Leitrim, Ireland. They travelled to Liverpool and Brooklyn and then lived for a few years in St. Louis before finally settling in the River City, Peoria, Illinois. 

Ellen helped raise the money to build the historic St. Mark’s Church on Bradley Avenue and Patrick was once the president of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. There are many souls and stories that began in that humble little house on Barker Avenue.

Patrick and Ellen’s son Charlie, my grandpa, was a writer, as well. He chronicled the West Bluff and early Peoria, as well as being a paid political speech writer for decades. I share his love for the River City and will take the torch as a fellow story-keeper for Peoria.

About the Author
Molly is a life-long Peorian and an author, speaker, and storyteller. She is married to Doug Bishop and has five children and one grandchild. Molly loves history and Peoria and loves to share her passions with anyone she can get to listen to her. She loves to research, interview, and write or speak about history. The youngest and ninth child of Don and Joani Crusen, she grew up on the West Bluff in the house her great grandparents built in the 1880s. She writes a historical column in Woman’s View magazine, and will be writing a column called The Peorian Perspective in The Peorian.