05-03-03

100 years after last visit, Mark Twain returns

By BEV DARR
Of the Courier-Post

A new Mark Twain arrived in Hannibal in June 2002, almost exactly 100 years after the original Twain's final visit. During the past year Hannibalians and their guests from around the world have been catching frequent glimpses of a man with a striking resemblance to Hannibal's favorite son. Now he is preparing to move to town.

This Mark Twain, AKA George Scott of Waukegan, Ill., was shaking hands with the crowd watching the Fourth of July parade last summer. A month later he launched the Knights of Columbus Golf Tournament at Norwoods Golf Course.

In September Twain/Scott participated in the Harley Owners Group (HOG) rally in Hannibal, and on Nov. 30 he was back again, telling stories at "his" 167th birthday party.

Last weekend he was in the March of Dimes Walkathon, where he enjoyed meeting the guests of honor. His own son was premature and is now a healthy 22-year-old, but the experience left him with a respect for this organization and a desire to help others.

During the past week he has met people from France, England, Germany and "all over the world," he said. "I get goose bumps just thinking about it. It is remarkable."

Scott, who calls himself the "spirit of Mark Twain," said "all of this came about when I discovered I looked like Mark Twain" as he watched Ken Burns' television special in January 2002. A week later Scott was attending a breakfast in Waukegan and sat next to a woman with Hannibal relatives.

He is still a little surprised about his Twain resemblance, declaring, "it's remarkable, in this stage of my life."

After letting his mustache grow longer, Scott arrived in Hannibal with bushy, naturally curly hair, talking in a southern accent and carrying a pipe. He wore a band jacket and bought a bow tie at a local store. He recalls that as soon as he came out of the store wearing the tie, he began hearing requests to pose for photographs.

Now 63-year-old Scott is enjoying being Mark Twain so much that he is moving to Hannibal. He and his wife, Karen, are in the process of buying a home, one they found on the Courier-Post's Web site, hannibal.net. Their household includes a poodle, Benji, (renamed Huckleberry) with curly fur that nearly matches Scott's hair.

"It's been a dream to come here," he said.

His wife also is enthused about moving to Hannibal. "I love it here," she said. "Last year I was recouping from something and said, 'Why don't we go somewhere?'"

She has portrayed Olivia Clemens and looks forward to finding more vintage clothes so she can join him as Sam Clemens. "I feel like I'm from the past," she said.

A native of Wisconsin, Scott has been a machinist, tool designer and music store owner who later returned to the engineering field. His southern accent was acquired when he was transferred to Mississippi.

As a Hannibal resident, he plans to be on hand when the Hannibal Community Theater opens its plays.

In the future he would like to teach shop classes to middle school students, because he was inspired by one of his teachers and "had a class that bought out my creativity."

At National Tom Sawyer Days this summer, he hopes to have a location near Murphy Motors on North Main Street and perhaps also ride the trolley.

Meanwhile he will be preparing for a traveling show, using a trailer with two backdrops. One would be the front of Twain's boyhood home in Hannibal, and one would resemble the gazebo at Quarry Farm at Elmira, N.Y. where Twain wrote some of his most popular books.

Scott writes some of the material he uses in Twain programs, using historical facts from Clemens' life. One he enjoys sharing is: "I had to go on a speaking tour in England to try to get some of my money back. I lost money investing in a typesetting machine. I did have the first private telephone, and it is still on my desk in Hartford. I didn't invest in that, because I couldn't see how I could make any money just talking to one person at a time. What a fool I was."

Scott noted that he and the original Sam Clemens had some things in common, such as their fathers' deaths. His father died when he was 12, and Clemens' died when he was 13. "We were both raised by our mothers, and neither one of us let schooling interfere with our education.

"Both of us believed heredity plays a big part in one's life. And both of us were short-ears people," Scott added, explaining that most people are long-eared.

"I'm not a Mark Twain scholar, but I'm studying to learn more every day," Scott said. "I'm only one guy trying to take on the world. But it's amazing the recognition I get."








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