Two Braidwoods a world apart

Paul Cockram arrives in Braidwood Illinois last month
Paul Cockram arrives in Braidwood Illinois last month

Paul Cockram and Alison Alder recently travelled to the USA where, en route to New York City, they took a detour through regional Illinois to visit Braidwood.

The relationship between Braidwood NSW and Braidwood Illinois goes back to 1981 when then Braidwood (NSW) chemist, Ron Boon, visited Braidwood (Il) as part of a Lions Club arrangement. Some years later, Wayne T.Saltzman from Braidwood (Il) visited Braidwood (NSW) and the relationship between the two towns started to grow.

Earlier this year, a group of locals visited the US to travel by motorcycle the legendary Route 66, the road between Chicago and Los Angeles, made famous by the beat generation poets. Braidwood (Il) is on Route 66.

Paul Cockram said that his Braidwood (Il) hosts were charming and when they found out he was a former councillor, he was almost treated to a civic reception. He met the Mayor, the Chief of Police and the Fire Chief and was able to present them with various items from the Braidwood (NSW) visitors’ centre, including Dr Braidwood Wilson’s book, a coffee mug and some other items featuring local icons.

In return, the Braidwood (Il) hosts gave Cockram various items to bring back to Braidwood (NSW), including a book, The Braidwood Story, a copy of their local newspaper (not called the Braidwood Times), a sign proclaiming Braidwood on Route 66 and other small items. He presented these to the Braidwood and the Villages Tourism Association at their AGM last week and they are now in the Braidwood (NSW) Visitors’ Information Centre.

The respective histories of the two towns are not dissimilar, both having been founded as centres for mining communities. Braidwood (Il) was founded in 1865. The mineral in question, however, was not gold but coal. When the coal ran out the town simply remained as a regional service town. The town suffered a major tragedy in the 1880s when a mine collapse left over 70 miners dead.

Braidwood (Il) is named after James Braidwood, an early member of the community who was a leader in the coal mining industry that built the town.

Cockram said that unlike Braidwood (NSW), there is no real main street like ours. “We drove around for ages looking for the main street”, he said, “over the level crossing in the middle of town and back again.

“Even though the main street is called Main Street, it’s not a central street lined with shops like Wallace Street”.

They may not have a Wallace Street, but they do, Cockram added wryly, “have a nuclear reactor”.

We look forward to the next installment of the Braidwood-Braidwood story.

Paul Cockram presents the President of Braidwood and the Villages Tourism, Sandra Hand, with the Braidwood Illinois "Route 66" sign

Paul Cockram presents the President of Braidwood and the Villages Tourism, Sandra Hand, with the Braidwood Illinois "Route 66" sign