Monday, July 4, 2011
FOX MEMORIAL DISCOVERED
Many people consider The Fox to be one of the first Real Life Superhero prototypes. He used a code name and sometimes used disguises (as described in his autobiography- Raising Kane: The Fox Chronicles) usually what I call the "Russian spy" disguise- trenchcoat, dark sunglasses, fedora or fur hat. The Fox passionately fought against polluters of the environment and the Fox River from 1969 until his death in 2001. He lived in Aurora, IL.
I became very interested in the story of The Fox and wrote an article about him for the Riverwest Currents about a year ago (see his profile HERE)
Another person very interested in the story of The Fox is Chicago documentary maker Matthew Pniewski, who is working on a doc about Midwest RLSHs titled More Than Just a Mask.
Pniewski, familiar with the Aurora area, did some research and found that a Fox memorial had been constructed in Oswego, IL. He also discovered a nearby museum, the Little White School Museum sold The Fox's autobiography, a documentary about his life, and had an archive of articles related to him. If we do indeed consider The Fox to be one of the first RLSHs, this discovery is significant for these reasons-
1. It is one of the first memorials built to commemorate a RLSH (there is also reportedly a statue built of Super Barrio in Mexico City).
2. The documentary is probably the first documentary on a RLSH.
3. The museum holds the first special collection relating to a RLSH.
I asked Matthew to give an account of this discovery for Heroes in the Night readers, and you can read this below. Thanks, Matthew, and good work!
The Fox and Me
By Matthew Pniewski
I've been working some time on "More than Just a Mask", the story of real life superheroes, fighting to make a difference in their communities. I admit, of course, I'm not really the "Hop to it" type of person. As it is, I've spent admittedly the lesser part of my free time filming interviews, going on patrols, and cutting the footage together. My first day on the job, which turned into the first few months, was all research. My research led me to an obituary for a man named Jim Phillips.
People knew him better as The Fox.
Phillips was a high school teacher, and to fit the cliche ever so perfectly, he was by all accounts mild mannered. One day he, almost out of the clear blue (though the mechanisms had allegedly been at work for a while) he decided to start a fight with the Dial Soap Company, which had been polluting his beloved Fox River. He plugged the industrial drain, posted various signs, left roadkill on CEO doorsteps. After a while, it wasn't just Dial Soap, but any company he felt was polluting the environment.
I decided he was certainly worth a mention.
More research lead me to an article about the dedication of a monument, which would be three plaques at an Oswego-Area park. Violet Patch Park, to be precise. I took a quick ride up there, took a few photos of a rock that bore his insignia as well as the three plagues (only one of which was dedicated specifically to him). I handed the photos off to a friend of mine, and I must confess, I still haven't looked at those photos.
Another search, this time looking for the publishers of his highly-recommended autobiography, brought me to the "Little White School Museum", also located in Oswego, Illinois. On their website, they offered not on his autobiography but a fifty-four minute documentary that chronicled his adventures. I decided it was worth another look. I ran out to the museum, with a couple of friends, and purchased the book and tape (it's not available on DVD) and engaged in a long discussion about Jim Phillips with the museum curator. She then went downstairs into the archives.
Five minutes later she came back with a folder labelled "The Fox", full of letters, newspaper clippings, political cartoons, all relating to the Fox. I had always been a fan of his, and a supporter of his, but to read these articles, some dated as early as 1969, I really began to feel a genuine connection to the man. Here was a man who wasn't just a colorful character. He had been compared favorably to Robin Hood, or Zorro. This isn't just PR. He was the classic example of the rogue. He was a man who stayed on the edge of the law, occasionally crossing over, but always remaining true to a strong moral code. He made Dial Soap back down, he took on US Steel, and he never harmed a soul.
I went back to the memorial, and took over sixty pictures this time, not stopping for a good five minutes, when I sat down to have a word with the man himself. Yes, I'm a praying man. Not much of one, but I do it from time to time. Maybe it's the fact that I had learned so much about him from these articles, or maybe it was simply that I had been working on this project for so long, but I honestly felt a sincere connection to the man.
My friends dropped me off around nine O'Clock at night. I sat myself down in front of the TV and watched the documentary. It wasn't for another hour that I looked at my phone. I got a text message from my friend "We saw a fox run across your front lawn-THEY KNOW!"