Over the past several weeks a number of “You might be from _______ if you…” have taken over Facebook. I read a few posts, and did not wish to join.
However, Sam Fisher added me.
I guess I should thank Sam for adding me as I have been reminded of the wonderful blessings I had growing up in Elwood, Indiana, the land of the Panthers, and the home of Wendell L. Willkie, 1940 presidential candidate opposing President Franklin Roosevelt. It truly was a great place in which to grow up.
Once upon a time, Elwood, first known as Quincy, was a Boom Town, and thrived for many years on the numerous industries, chiefly The Tin Plate. There was a magnificence to The Tin Plate, and the stories passed down through the years have been equally magnificent.
The stories told to me by my grandparents, great-grandparents, and their siblings, are still with me, and I treasure them not only as family heritage, but my hometown’s heritage, as well. Most vividly are my grandfather’s stories during The Great Depression. By the time they were repeated to me the stories were cherished, humorous anecdotes of the Barmes family who lived in the Northeast quadrant of Elwood. Now they are historical notes of survival, determination, working together, and spirit! There was no welfare to assist the millions who were out of work, trying desperately to feed families. There was, however, a grit that fostered the incredible spirit of that generation that also went on to endure WWII, The Korean War, and for many, even The Vietnam War.
When I was a little peep, Elwood was your typical Middletown, USA. It could have even been a Mayfield from LEAVE IT TO BEAVER. There was such an ease in the atmosphere, and an incredible amount of pride. In fact, it seemed as though there was quite the element of “class” which was abundant in that era. There was always a certain way of doing things, and it had to be done with not only completeness, but class.
My neighbors – the Myricks (Luther & Ida), the Herndons (Dick & Betsy), the Fortners (Don & Susan) – were probably like many neighbors throughout the Midwest, but these six adults, and their children, were MY neighbors. Therefore, they were exceptionally special – and they still are. For a while, our immediate neighbors at 9th & South A were Nick & Kathy Wolff who moved to the opposite corner. Beyond the corner of Main & 9th where I grew up were other many wonderful families with last names of: Mangas (yes, the cafeteria), Skalkostas, Poynter, LaPierre, Welcher, Savage, VanNess, Wolff, Noble, Parker, Kieffer, Aaron, Copus, Updyke, Davis (Zip the Barber), Hofer, Bunch, Hennegan, and so many, many more. When I return home and see many of these familiar faces of my childhood and youth, it is just like seeing members of my own family. In those years, your neighbors were much like family – and they still are.
The past several days I have struggled to keep up with the Facebook page that has kept over 800 people engaged in memories of our beloved hometown. I am grateful for those who are sharing their memories, but more importantly, I am grateful for the spirit that is uniting over 800 of us with pride for our wonderful hometown. It’s not necessarily Panther Pride – it’s a pride that goes much deeper than a mascot. It is the pride that flowed through, and from so many of our family members who settled in Elwood during The Gas Boom, and even in the years before. A pride that cannot be entirely described, but most definitely, a pride that can be felt. There are people I’ve never met who are sharing their hometown memories, and I feel a connection to each poster. A connection that is fostered by our mutual pride.
Sadly, the community of Elwood has glided into harder times, not unlike countless other small towns across the country. The luster of its once neat, tidy appearance has dulled as citizens move closer to jobs in larger communities, and as so many struggle with the current economy. Despite these physical set-backs, there is still a pulse – a pulse that goes beyond the crossroads of several major highways that dubbed Elwood with the title, “The Heart Of Hoosierland.”
As one classmate wrote tonight, “Elwood is still home to me.” I echo Frank’s sentiments. I moved to Ball State University in 1983, and on to Ohio in 1990. Ohio has been my residence for 21 years. However, Elwood will always be “home.”
You got it right, Dorothy… “there’s no place like home.”