A Depression-era small town in southern Illinois serves as the backdrop for A Long Way from Chicago. The effects of the Depression are clearly evidenced in the frugal ways of the townspeople and in Peck's depiction of a line at the store waiting for the day-old bread to go on sale at half price. At one point the town refuses to allow men looking for work to linger in town. Chicagobred Joey and Mary Alice make the train trip to this small town each summer in August for a week's visit with Grandma Dowdel. Joey and Mary Alice leave modern conveniences behind when they go to Grandma's. Her house is the last at the edge of town, just across the line into the county, with the Wabash Railroads' tracks running at the back of her property. There is a path to the privy and nearby is the cobhouse, "a tumbledown shed full of stuff left there in Grandpa Dowdel's time. A big old snaggle-toothed tomcat lived in the cobhouse, and as quick as you'd come out of the privy, he'd jump at you. Mary Alice hated that." A pump in the kitchen draws water from the well, milk is delivered by the Cowgill boys driving a horse and delivery wagon, a tug on a chain turns on the ceiling light in the kitchen, food cooks or bakes on a corncob fed stove, and screens on doors and windows provide air conditioning. Grandma wears aprons over her wash dresses and only wears men's pants under her skirts for tasks like hiking and fishing.
Grandma Dowdel's town is small—a bank, an insurance...
(The entire section is 333 words.)