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TGR, Gutenberg, Rubric

March 2015



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TGR, Gutenberg, Rubric

Hoosier Daddy?

I had a great experience this week. I took my 17-yo daughter to Indiana for three days. It was not punishment--for either of us. For some reason, she has taken to the idea of possibly attending my alma mater, University of Indianapolis, and wanted to visit the campus. While we were in Indiana, we took a two-day loop through Northern Indiana to visit the sites I remember as a child and teen growing up in the Hoosier State.

I'll start with the campus. I hadn't been back since my 30th class reunion in 2002. At that time I was impressed with how much the campus had grown, but in most areas I could still see the old campus that I remembered. This time, though, the campus was almost unrecognizable as the school I graduated from in 1972. The old dormitories were gone by the time of my last visit, but the campus grounds remake had not been completed. Wilmore, Daley, Fridley, and Buxton Halls have been replaced with new dormitories on the north side of campus. Schwitzer Studen Center is more than double the size it was when I was there, as is Esch Hall and Lily Science Center. What used to be the parking lot is now a truly beautiful central grass park with a block-long reflecting pool between the buildings. Of course, Hanna Avenue was completely torn up because the city is in the midst of a beautification and traffic control project that by fall should have the once-busy street looking great with a bit less--or at least slower--traffic trying to mow down students crossing it. In all, we visited the campus three times during our few days in Indiana and I was impressed with how vigorous the school has become. I am somewhat saddened by the fact that it looks new. Areas that were beautiful parklands when I was there are now parking lots and dormitories. The old red brick buildings are all gone except for Good Hall, the original campus in a building. It was a sweet trip down memory lane. I met with theatre director Jim Ream and he showed me all that had happened to that department in the years I've been gone.

Our tour through the northlands included a pass through the incredibly beautiful Notre Dame campus in South Bend. That was just a few miles from where I grew up, and I really wanted to drive through Mishawaka and show the DD my old stomping grounds. How embarrassing is it that I drove right past my road without realizing it? The old Dog & Suds root beer stand is still there, though called the Dog & Mug now. Once I found my way around the new freeway (Capitol Avenue) that cuts through the heart of places that there wasn't anything in my memory. Once I turned onto Elder Road, things hadn't changed much. About 15 years ago I'd been back for my Uncle's 100th birthday, so I knew that the two big trees in the front of the property had been cut down to make room for power lines. Our 10-acre farmette had been sold in a couple of pieces years ago(click on the birdseye aerial view). 9 acres went to a lawyer who had big plans for a housing development, and the acre where the house had been was sold to the blueberry farm next door. When I lived there, the front two-thirds of the property was clear and farmable. We plowed every year and usually planted some kind of grass crop, but never tried to harvest more than our little garden. To my surprise, the entire property except the one-acre plot in front is now densely wooded. Big trees. Hardwoods. One row of the apple trees was still there with no sign that they ever bore fruit. The whole rest of the property was wooded! I'm still having trouble thinking of that property so densely wooded with such big trees. Then I realized that we left that house 45 years ago! There's nothing like seeing mature trees towering over you that were bare land in your childhood to make you feel--well, let's just say that time has passed. Lots of time.

DD wanted to see the schools I went to, the church that she has dreamed about even though she'd never been there, and to drive through the countryside. I want to tell you that this is the truly beautiful part of Indiana with gently rolling hills as you move from the St. Joseph River Valley to the Eel River to the Wabash River. West of there it is pretty much flat all the way to the Rocky Mountains. East it moves rapidly toward the Appalacians.

The next day we drove back toward the south, spending time driving through Liberty Mills, North Manchester, and Laketon/Ijamsville where I lived and on which a part of my stories of Willow Mills, IN were based. DD liked the campus of Manchester College, and tried to get me to buy the old Louie's Ice Cream Parlor on Main Street that just happens to be for sale. It is a beautiful old town, and I could probably be happy there the rest of my life and earn a reputation for being as much a character as Louie did years ago. When we headed out and went through Laketon, I decided to pull into the Fire Department, betting to myself that my old friend Kent would still be the fire chief. Sure enough, he was standing in the doorway when we got there and his wife Arvada joined us a few minutes later after he called and told her to come to the office. It was great to catch up with the two and link up on Facebook. My how our families have changed over the years! We drove out along the Eel River to the site of my fictional Indiana town of Willow Mills and then on to Roann where DD got to go across her first covered bridge. We concluded our journey with a stop at Prospect Church and Cemetery near Ossian, and visited my parents' gravesite. Then we headed back to Indianapolis and came home the next morning.

I think DD's favorite part of Indiana was Steak & Shake, but we had a great time talking and touring the area. It was a trip down memory lane for me and getting to share it with my daughter was probably the coolest thing I could imagine doing.


Yay for Steak & Shake! :D I love their melts.

That's really awesome that you guys did this trip. It took me 26 years before I saw where my dad grew up (and I haven't seen my mom's old haunts yet). It was cool imagining my dad as a kid as we walked by the shop where he'd get popsicles all the time or the park where my great-grandfather drank tea every morning. It sounds like your daughter's experience was similarly special, a memory to treasure forever.