A Bombshell Dropped (In Bement) 60 Years Ago

Marilyn Monroe in Bement, 1955

Marilyn Monroe in Bement, 1955

(Illinois Historic Preservation Agency)

It takes a lot to upstage Abraham Lincoln.  But if anyone could, it might have been Marilyn Monroe.  The actress visited the small east central Illinois town of Bement, in Piatt County, 60 years ago this week. 

Bement is known for being the site where Lincoln and Stephen Douglas met to plan their famous debates.  But in 1955, it was Marilyn's town. 

And it will be this week as the anniversary of her visit is recalled.

The blonde sex symbol came to be with a friend, learn about Lincoln and be seen.   Thousands reportedly came out to see her and maybe shake her hand. Marilyn also went to a nursing home and judged a beard contest.  

Pat Tieman is a lifelong resident and owns the home where Marilyn stayed.  He was unaware of the big celebrity event until he bought the home where Marilyn stayed. 

"It was kind of funny, after I bought the house," he said.  "People would stop by and ask 'Can I look at the house?'

Later, through his own research and stories shared with him, he learned more about Marilyn Monroe.  He now has an extensive collection of memorabilia.  He'll put a lot of it on display this week and even let you tour the home.

Marilyn also played a role in helping him meet his wife, who happened to be the daughter of his realtor.    When she learned of the Hollywood tie, she came to see it.  

"We were married the following year in 1992.  But she was really more of a fan than I was," he said.

Tieman might have a personal story, but Marilyn's visit is shared among the community. 

'It was a great thing for Bement that a star of that magnitude would come out.  It drew, they said, about 28,000 people," he said.

A free photo exhibit will take place at the Bryant Cottage State Historic Site August 6-9. 

Tieman's home at 101 E. Wing Street will open for tours August 8 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Memorabilia will be displayed at Tieman's business, Salon 101, at 101 N. Macon St.

And with apologies to Honest Abe, a lot of towns in Illinois share a connection with him.  Not too many can boast about Marilyn Monroe.

Story source: Illinois Public Radio