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July 09, 2014

In A Circle Around My House

By Susie Duncan Sexton
 
As I gleefully recall, I honestly believe that Walt Disney's Cinderella provided my maiden voyage into the wonders of cinema. That event occurred so very many yesterdays ago when American animation would never be surpassed--a uniquely authentic and creative time arguably lost to us in our 21st century.

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To this moment, whenever our courthouse clock issues forth its 12th chime--midnight-- I fear that I might misplace a glass slipper. Unless some handsome prince seeks out barefoot me to return my (size 10) party pump, I'll continue until the end of time sweeping floors for my spiteful step-sisters while confiding in woodland animals and blue birds -- my only friends. Likewise, the spooky, haunting, mournful yet promising sounds of train whistles moaning and massive steel wheels grinding and clickity clacking all along the rails, south of this tiny town, transport me to the early 50s. Stirred up are reminiscences of our parked ruby-colored Ford loaded with neighbor kids anticipating our collective mesmerized observation of another locomotive whizzing by, its passengers or cargo bound westward for near-by Chicago perhaps. We eagerly waved our little hands to connect with travelers who might smile back at us.

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Thus, how fun it has been to re-establish contact with formerly local chums via Facebook--Tamara Estlick, Anne Giles, Jane Geiger, Cindy Ramsey, Judy Manago, Trish Walter, Jo Biddle, Susan Hood, Bonnie Miller! Those "girls" even ordered my books which are full to the brim with nostalgia --while adding their own memories of chalking up the sidewalks for hop-scotching, Vacation Bible School with Kool-Aid and cookies, engaging in endless rounds of sunny backyard Canasta tournaments upon spread out checkered table-cloths confiscated from our mamas' kitchens, attending double-features--during dreary rainy afternoons-- at the Columbia Theater within walking distance, catching THEN releasing lightning bugs, and giddy, precarious roller-skating (employing a single skate, in my case--to coast along effortlessly while the alternative earthbound foot provided welcome security!)

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Although all of us eventually ventured varying distances from Columbia City, we still ought to be considered appropriately "local"--our memory "bank" remains intact while continually located within the same small, cozy spot with all avenues connecting each of us aforementioned "ladies". We're open for business all hours of the day and night. Although trends come and go, one inclination seems to be heading toward a comeback. Younger folks in record numbers have begun to scout about enthusiastically for one-of-a kind older homes with plenty of character as well as easy access to original, preserved landmarks located near the hearts of old timey towns. Glory be! Our beloved mid-20th-century lifestyle is enjoying a resurgence…popcorn, pretzels, lemonade, conversation, croquet with sticky wickets, street fairs, lawn chair lounging, jump ropes, shuffle-boarding, kiddie pools, sand-boxes, bikes, snow-angels and sledding (weather appropriate!), trikes, neighborliness, while combined with freedoms (that welcome and encourage individuality) once offered to all of us kids during our growing up days.

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[Caption: Roy Duncan, plant manager of Blue Bell, Incorporated - "manufacturer of the world's Wrangler Jeans" - with factories located in Columbia City, Nappanee, Warsaw, and North Webster -- ready for some softball activity, standing directly behind Don & Marjorie Souder's "Mom & Pop" grocery store circa 1952.]
 

Long-ago-adults who resided in those memorable homes around my particular block -- and who caught fleeting glimpses of us youngsters skating, skipping or scootering by -- maintain their lofty status to this very day in my recollections. They laughed with us and not at us. They provided Band-Aids. They shared iced tea and lemonade. They inquired after our parents. Quite a listing of notables, happy and content right where they landed for years and years! One home for one lifetime it seemed for: Edith McNear--former secretary to Thomas Riley Marshall who himself eventually rose to Indiana governorship and vice-presidency of the United States; teachers Julia Snodgrass, Joe and Irene Shull, Mary Hill, Barbara Cotterly, Olive Sheehan, Hazel Munns, and "Maggie" Stultz; dentist Dr. Ralph Minear; druggist Walt Meyers; mortician Stuart Smith and wife Ada; "Dr. John" and Margo Langohr; tractor Salesman Gene More and wife Marge; lumberman Paul Morsches and wife Peggy; World War II pilot Bill Langohr and creative wife "Kit"; librarians at Peabody Free Library; department store owners Ben and Bea Blumenthal; hoteliers Dave, Rosemary, and Minnie Clugston; John and Virginia Lillich; Jim and Ora Elliott (with two "l's" and two "t's"); John Wilson with his parents--his dad a teacher (who once spanked my red-headed brother-in-law in high school, I think) and his pianist mom; attorney Jim Biddle and his wife Jeannette; optometrist Lon Sorey who walked his Dalmatian George twice daily -- his wife Beverly fed all of the neighborhood cats; Grandmother Whiteleather and her widowed daughter Velma; Marie Bloom whose husband (B.J.) served as mayor…and "mom & pop" grocery store owners Don and Marjorie Souder whose bustling, thriving business attracted all of these folks all day long every day! We teeter-tottering, swinging neighborhood kids viewed every one of their customers across the alley from the Duncan backyard. I should have sold tickets, maybe? (Oh, and never let us forget those revered Old World style, brick, spiry church buildings on every corner!)

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Dr. Kenner and his wife, who looked as if she might have spent her youth as one of novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald's marcel-waved heroines, actually drove a vintage Model-T. Newspaper publishers John Q. and Hester Adams resided just up the alley and amazingly issued two editions per day, one for the town's Republicans and the other for a sprinkling of Democrats--back when the TWO-party system seemed alive and well in small Mid-western burgs. Fellow Lutheran Ona Eberhard, she of the ever-present and always elegant oversized gossip-columnist-Hedda-Hopper-inspired chapeaus propped atop a silvering French twisted hair-do…whoa, she lived on another block somewhat removed from my jurisdiction. She was so much fun that I thought she SHOULD have lived right next door! 

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One of my favorite musicians is a fellow named David Byrne, Scottish-born, who characterizes himself as legitimately suffering from borderline Asperger's and who shares my birthday. He provided the score for choreographer Twyla Tharp's ballet The Catherine Wheel which I still enjoy some 30 plus years after its debut. Byrne is left-handed but plays guitar right-handed. Byrne is his own person. He does not own a car and is obsessed with cycling, pedaling his bike all around New York City. He authored a 2009 book entitled Bicycle Diaries… he must be my brother from another mother. I quote here a smattering of some of his quirkiest lyrics which provided my title for today's column, highlighting a "chip off the old BLOCK", fondly cataloguing those who once surrounded me in my own house which I occasionally exited once in a while to mingle with people next door and up and down the street…loving every second spent prowling about that old neighborhood! How about LINE STREET/CHAUNCEY STREET/ MAIN STREET REDUX …consult a dictionary! We're never too old to learn…see you next month!

"…They're goin' out. They're comin' in…inside a circle around their house. These shoes don't fit. This tie don't match. I'm gonna throw it away… when I get home. I'm turned around. I'm doin' my best. I'm gonna wait… until the light comes on…" ~ David Byrne (www.susieduncansexton.com)

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Secrets of an Old Typewriter  Stories from a Smart and Sassy Small Town Girl by Susie Duncan Sexton

More Secrets of an Old Typewriter  Misunderstood Gargoyles and Overrated Angels by Susie Duncan Sexton

Read about movies and nostalgia, animal issues and sociopolitical concerns all discussed in my book Secrets of an Old Typewriter and its follow-up Misunderstood Gargoyles and Overrated Angels - print and ebook versions of both are available on Amazon (click the title). The books are also carried by these fine retailers: Ann Arbor's Bookbound and Common Language; Columbia City's Memory Lane, North Side Grille and Whitley County Historical Museum; and Fort Wayne's The Bookmark. And you can download from iTunes. Meet other like-minded souls at my facebook fan page. Visit my author website at www.susieduncansexton.com. Join a great group of animal advocates Squawk Back: Helping animals when others can't ... Or Won't
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