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Sunday, 14 March 2004
Stop! Thief!
As recalled September 5, 2003:

Having spent many years avoiding it, I barely recognized the building that once housed the variety store on the west side of South 7th Street near Idaho Street. When I was a barefoot lad of 6 and Mickey and Chuck were big kids (about 10), I wanted to hang around them but they never let me. One day they were playing with model cars and cameras. I watched as they mashed the cars together, put a little airplane glue on them, lit a match to it and then photographed the fiery crash. These little disasters were more than real to me and I could have watched them all day and they didn't seem to mind but were running out of airplane glue. Would I go down to the Variety Store and get some?

If that's the price I had to pay.... They gave me a quarter and as I was almost out of earshot, Chuck yelled that I should get two. At the Variety Store on the east side of Seventh street, just south of Hulman, it was no problem finding the glue and I took it to the check out counter and laid it and the quarter out flat. I could hardly wait to get back to the tragic events the big guys were making to scale.

I was shocked when the bald-headed man at the counter said, "That will be 30 cents."

How could that be? They only gave me a quarter! The counter was armpit high on me and I stared at the quarter and the two tubes and decided. I beat feet for the door, scooping the tubes of glue in my hand as I went.

Coach Garmong, at Sarah Scott told me that I ran too long in the same place. He should have seen me that day. The baldheaded man in the shopkeeper's apron was no match for me. He was yelling and I could hear him chase me but I didn't look back.

I didn't go back either. I stayed clear of that store until after it closed sometime in the late 50s and although I returned to my 8th Street block in record time, Mickey and Chuck had lost interest in tragedy but they took the "discounted" airplane glue for future use.

These days when I go to the store I have at least twice what I intend to spend. I'm not as fast as I used to be.

Posted by blog/jmcfall at 10:52 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 17 March 2004 10:15 PM EST
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Marquee Wars of @1961
As recalled on September 7, 2003:

All I can do is tell a story the way I remember it. My recollection below is, perhaps, over-the-top but it is what I remember when I view the corner of Lafayette, 8th Street and 6th Avenue today. I think of @1961. I see that the church building seems derelict and the tavern has been razed and there's not much left to show that it was once a battleground of the Marquee Wars, where the ambitions of two groups clashed.

The church there (The Church) had had a bone to pick with neighboring night spots. After a Saturday night, the taverns' big night, there was often a mess left for the church people to clean up before Sunday, the church's big day. No one likes cleaning up after someone else's fun and complaints were filed but largely ignored. There was a culture clash, a lack of communication and bad blood between the devout and the debauched.

It came to pass in those days that many churches were replacing the traditional sign boards posting: time of the next service, pastor's name and subject of the next sermon with large electrically lighted marquee. On theirs, The Church advertised "GOD IS THE ANSWER".

One of the taverns, The Spot, with insufficient forethought, used its marquee to sign, "WHAT'S THE QUESTION?"

The devout seemed devoid of a sense of humor and responded with calls to the liquor board, the police, and city councilmen. They rose up in arms. Letters to the editor demanded removal of the impertinent question.

Feeling the pressure, The Spot cleared their marquee and the church folks crowed. Victory for the crusaders!

But victory was short lived. The Spot, having found that questions were objectionable, posted their own statement. "BOOZE IS THE ANSWER"

You think they were mad over there on the righteous side of the street before?! They were hopping at the sight of this heresy. Explosive sermons enlisted allies for this second skirmish of the marquee war. Extra exclamation points were added to The Church's marquee: GOD IS THE ANSWER!!! Letters to the editor were redoubled. "BOOZE IS THE ANSWER" would not stand!

Then, the Dunbar band began a long run at The Spot signaling a marquee change. Not fully realizing what was wrong with the original question, or why a legally licensed establishment could not advertise its wares, but wanting no more trouble, they took the easy way, climbed the ladder, turned the 4th letter of the sign on its side, climbed down, brushed off hands and admired the advertisement for the opening of a new and popular band led by Boone Dunbar. The sign read "BOONE IS THE ANSWER!"

It was allowed to stand that way for a short while and then replaced by something more traditional (Old Milwaukee $1.99). What seemed so important at the time is forgotten by almost everyone today. Maybe I should forget it too.

Posted by blog/jmcfall at 10:45 PM EST
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Waiting in Clinton, IN on September 8, 2003 for some warranty work to be done on the Pontiac. Being there without a car reminded me of a cold cold night in about 1958 when I had a date with a girl who lived in Clinton. We didn't get along too well on that night, had an argument that most of us have had, and I left her house on that sour note.

I was going down Main Street, almost at the center of town (as it was then) when the Oldsmobile sputtered and the engine stopped running. I coasted to the curb and it would not re-start. It was after midnight, no one on the streets, and about 20 below. There was a hotel downtown but it was dark. I pounded on the door so loud that I thought someone might call the police. I would have to be near frozen before I would ask for help from the non-girl friend I had spent the evening with...

I went to the jail and found a deputy awake. I told him about the hotel and I asked if he could put me up for a few hours until a service station with a mechanic opened up. He said I could have a cell but he would have to lock the door. I didn't even hesitate (I can hardly believe there was a time when I would be that trusting). I was asleep on a jail cot locked up in a cell and glad that I wasn't freezing to death on the street.

He sprung me at dawn and when I tried the Olds, it started as if it had been waiting on me.

Posted by blog/jmcfall at 10:39 PM EST
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Maiden Voyage
Thursday September 11, 2003

In addition to remembering the places I've been years ago, I'm also seeing places I've never been and making new memories.

Rob could not use his kayak for health reasons and, knowing that I’m shopping for one, let me use his for a trip with DEAN and Bryce. Friday’s fun, relaxation and excitement would not have been possible without Rob’s generous act. Describing the day’s events and showing the pictures will be my thanks to him. I hope we all float together soon.

A late bloomer at personal water sports, I trusted my friends to pick a float appropriate to my lack of experience on moving streams. They, the weather, Cagles Mill Dam outlet operator and the wildlife combined to make this a memorable day.

Entry onto Big Walnut Creek upstream from the covered bridge was a picturesque back drop for my maiden float. There's a shallow gravel bottom there and I quickly learned the importance of finding water (i.e. water deep enough to float you and your boat). If there are ripples on the water, chances are that is too shallow. Sometimes there are ripples bank to bank and you have to power paddle to try to get over the shallow spots and if that doesn’t work you’re walking in the water with your vessel on a rope like an amphibious pet.

We had barely enough water to float under the I-70 Bridge and then some deeper water allowed a breather and gave me time to consider the things that live in and on the streams, unnoticed from the roads and bridges.

The weatherman called Friday partly cloudy and that means partly sunny and the trees that line the creek bank make it partly shady as well.

One of the first things that I noticed on the still water was what looked like rain drops. I held my hand out palm up to check for sprinkles even though I knew there would be none. I thought I was seeing tiny flying insects land with invisible splashes causing tiny rings. (further research has not revealed the species but it is likely that these are floating to the surface, hatching and leaving rings on the surface.) These covered all the still water, but the kayak, only inches above the surface of the water, was bug free except for the occasional mated pair of dragon flies.

It would be like this all day. We soon were out of ear shot from the highways and we did not see another human outside our party from launch to take out. There would be quick water (I can’t call it rapids nor did I want to experience rapids on my first time out) and then peace. Float and then paddle hard and fast to maintain control.

The Eel River begins at the confluence of Big Walnut and Mill Creeks. Big Walnut runs free but Mill Creek is controlled. Water is let out from Cagles Mill Lake and Mill Creek and Eel River rise and fall accordingly. Large fallen trees are tangled in the trees that stand on the banks giving visual evidence of the power that can be unleashed down this waterway.

A half mile down the Eel, an Eagle flew in front of us and down stream. A Bald. I couldn’t believe my eyes. In fact I was doubtful because it was a little small but it had the white head and tail and was, in fact, a bald eagle. DEAN has been on this river on a regular basis since he was a small boy 50 years ago and had not seen an eagle here but it was unmistakable.

I saw a pair of Belted Kingfishers (at first I thought they were Blue Jays) fly upstream within spitting distance and I have never seen one in flight at such close range. The colors were brilliant. A pair of buzzards circled at one point in our trip, apparently on notice that there was a large 64-year-old first time kayaker on the stream.

Some of the early shedding trees dropped yellow leaves into the Eel River. We saw a muskrat and I thought that god could have done better. Who knows what the muskrat thought?

Later, we saw another, larger, bald eagle rise from a tree directly above Dean. I called for him to look up. He must have had a good view... I was 40 yards behind. This larger bald eagle was probably the female.

I was amazed that some of the trees could grow at almost 45 degrees without falling into the creek. But in time, they often do. Until then, they form a canopy and offer shade over their entire stretch of river.

Lunch was without ceremony everyone wanted to get back to the fun of the water.

As we got closer to the IN 42, the takeout place, and my unpracticed muscles began to ache from short bursts of fast paddling, the Eel became easier to navigate. There were fewer shallow shallows. It seemed to give me a break.

Still I was happy to see the bridge that marked the end of the day on the water. I had about all the fun I could stand.

The take out looked easy on the surface but under the thin sand veneer of the steep slope was river mud. It was going to be a hard, slippery climb. But I had a chance to rest up for it while DEAN and Bryce retrieved the truck. I took a couple of pictures and then tied the kayak to a stationary log and slept face up like a water lily on my borrowed pad.

The climb up the mud bank was not a pretty sight but Bryce and Dean helped get me and Rob’s kayak up to the truck. The mud washed off easily.

I awoke the next morning with sore muscles and joints but feel very happy to have had this experience.

There's a picture album that covers this trip:
Maiden Voyage.

Posted by blog/jmcfall at 8:26 PM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 16 March 2004 8:43 PM EST
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Sunday September 14, 2003
Friday's Kayak Trip

Lucky is the word that continued to come out in thoughts and conversation throughout this day. First of all - I'm lucky to be in circumstances that allow me this pleasure. This, kayaking, is not what I thought old men did after they retired. Lucky: that this activity is a possibility, the equipment exists, to have the necessary combination of curiosity and energy to try it, to be associated with like minded folks who will share their time and or equipment. I'm lucky to be in Indiana where the terrain is moderate. First time kayakers would be seriously killed in the mountains (or probably just not try it). What we had on Big Walnut Creek Friday was NOT hardcore whitewater kayaking but it had its moments.

While the challenge of the maiden voyage last month was to stay afloat and not run aground, today's challenge was to not let the current sweep you into the rocks or the uprooted trees. Sometimes it took paddling for all I was worth; sometimes that was not enough.

I did not walk down to the stream at the take-out near Reelsville with DEAN. Bryce and I waited at the car to meet Jeff who was delayed. We left Bryce's car there and went in two trucks along a series of roads that were never far from either Big Walnut or Little Walnut creeks. This is a very remote and isolated part of Indiana. I thought I saw a still.

Eventually, we decided upon a put-in place west of Greencastle on Walnut Street downstream from the bridge. I walked out on the bridge to get a look but my camera was packed away in the truck so I missed taking a picture of that place. We unloaded the trucks and got on the Big Walnut Creek there.

Some kayakers prefer a sit-in kayak; some a sit-on-top. The sit-on-top might be a little less comfortable because you can't lean your thighs against the sides and the back support achieved by straps is less rigid than leaning against the back of the cockpit. These are the considerations I'm measuring. I'll make my decision this winter and be ready for spring. I may need one of each.

I did not measure the amount of water taken in by the sit-in I was piloting Friday when the current brushed me close to a tree and a limb snagged my T-shirt and turned me sideways and tipped the kayak to fill it to the brim with cold creek water. Jeff was nearest and I could hear him holler out for me to "Hang on, John!" and he was trying to get to where he could help but the stream is narrow at that point and there was little anyone could have done. I had to figure out what was caught and pull it loose to release myself while letting go of the kayak. I could have measured the holding capacity of Rob's kayak at that point because it was completely full. Full of water, it was still easy to guide to the nearest sand bar where Jeff helped me empty it of water. I checked the water tightness of the supplies and was soon ready to head down stream again.

After that it was mostly a peaceful float where we could admire the nature and the bridges over it at times and at other times had to decide if the current was going to take us into troublesome rocks and trees and if you could get downstream by paddle or portage. Once we had to portage, once we had to help each other over a submerged tree in very tricky current but most of the trip we were lucky.

The take-out was harder than we expected and I was (again) lucky to have plenty of Deet to guard me while I guarded the kayaks until the trucks arrived.

Have you noticed that this first person journal slipped into first person plural (i.e. from I to we)? That is the effect of a day with comrades on flowing water.

There's a picture album that covers this trip:

Friday's Kayak Trip.

Posted by blog/jmcfall at 8:18 PM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 16 March 2004 8:47 PM EST
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A Visit to the Old Place on 41
Tuesday, September 16, 2003
Our trip to the old place

September 16, 2003
Terre Haute, IN

Joe Bill -

I hope everything is going ok with you in Missouri. It seemed like a short summer. Deer season will be here soon and, after that, Thanksgiving and then it's time for us to go to the desert for the winter. We had not planned to go to California at Thanksgiving time but the kids are trying to change our minds. We'll see.

When you and Brenda and Judy's Mom visited in June and drove out to the old place on North US41, I know you wanted to see more than you did. Judy and I caught the owners outside Sunday afternoon and we dared to say hello.

Your sister began to introduce herself by saying that she had lived at that place fifty years before and that her name was Judy....

And the owner, Margie, finished your sister's sentence ........... Hart. And told us that her mother bought the house, then got married to a Pennsy Railroad man who had known your dad. Margie was born there 48 years ago and has lived there since.

The house was in the shape of an H when you lived here. The open parts have since been filled in to make a large square. Some of the windows that were exterior in the H structure were moved to the outside of the square. Marge says one or more of the H walls were removed to make a large open concept area inside around what was once the crossbar of the H. She didn't invite us to see.

I took these pictures while your sister was talking to her.


Posted by blog/jmcfall at 7:10 PM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 16 March 2004 8:52 PM EST
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Thursday, 11 March 2004
A Different View
September 29, 2003

A college days chum told me that part of his youth was spent in an orphanage at the foot of this water tower while his parents sorted out “family” problems. He and his brother sometimes sat on the grass behind a fence and watched their father drive to and from work.

Mental illness and an early death were in his future but he didn’t seem any stranger than the other college kids at the time except that he often spoke of Martians as if they were an historical fact.

Today when I looked up at his water tower, I thought for a moment that I knew where he got that idea.

Posted by blog/jmcfall at 3:52 PM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 16 March 2004 8:59 PM EST
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Wednesday, 10 March 2004
The Wiley Annex
September 10, 2003

I’m recalling this story because my old buddy, Cooper, is going to visit me this week. We go way back to the time when we were in the same homeroom at the oldest high school, the downtown school. The school building was ancient 45 years ago and the top floor was condemned. Perhaps to regain classroom space, classes were taught at the other end of the block in the Annex where our homeroom teacher, the Art teacher Miss Anita B. Duenweg, held classes.

Teachers and students were less strictly supervised in The Annex. We felt lucky and somewhat special to be away from the main building avoiding the scrutiny of Principals and Deans, setting our own standards away from upper-classmen. Homeroom was a place to conduct general school business and gather yourself before the bell for 1st or 5th period began and she had to face her next class of budding artists and we had to rush over to the main building.

Though she appeared to be stern, with her fire plug stature and bulldog cheeks, Miss Duenweg was really a generous and loving teacher. And although our group had a reputation as mean pranksters, we were, at worse, high-spirited and energetic and we all loved our Miss Duenweg. Cooper even wrote a song for her, paraphrased it to the tune of "Mammy" and the boys sang: Dunny, How we love ya, how we love ya, Our dear ol' Dunny. This was choreographed with barbershop gestures and, at the end, a touch to one of her bulldog like jowls if one dared.

Sometimes, misunderstanding how we felt about her, she would threaten to send her serenaders to see Cy, the dean of boys, for discipline. Once she actually did send 4 of us but we returned after a few minutes of radio listening in the car. We told her Cy wasn't in and she had cooled off by then. She told us to behave ourselves from then on and it was soon time to make the long trip from the annex to the main school building in time to start another class.

Our homeroom was on the second floor and had large windows looking out on the street to the south and to the west out over the porch roof to the football practice field. When the windows were open, it was almost like sitting in one of the giant trees that shaded The Annex.

The art tables were large as was Miss Duenweg's desk and her desk was lined on three sides with tiny statues she loved, figurines, that stood 2 or 3 inches high and were precisely spaced at 6 inch intervals. One warm day, I saw Cooper come in late from an extended lunch at the pool hall and try to talk "Dunny" out of making him get a late pass. He pleaded with her with a praying hands gesture near her top left hand drawer. When he moved his hands apart, he toppled one of her prize figurines on its side on the desk. She immediately moved to right it and Cooper (He says he doesn't know what made him do it) immediately toppled the next one. Miss Duenweg sat that one upright and Cooper knocked the next one over. They went like this from left to right around her desk until each of her figurines had been toppled by him and set straight by her.

Someone gasped; we all stared. Now Cooper had worked himself away from the door, Miss Duenweg had blocked him. He was trapped. She was exasperated. Excited!

"Dick, I'm going to send you to see Mr. Forney!” she said. Sometimes when she became agitated, Miss Duenweg forgot that Mr. Forney had been replaced as principal by Mr. Rutherford. In fact, Mr. Forney had been dead for some time.

"Oh No!" was all Cooper said. And he turned and jumped out the window.

Miss Duenweg clasped her chest and raced to the window, genuinely concerned and at the same time the bells began to ring signaling the start of the next period.

Cooper rose up from his crouch on the porch roof, smiled and sang "Dunny, How we love ya', How we love ya'..." And yes, the touch to the jowl.

When your homeroom is in the Annex and your next period class in the main building, when the bell rings, you had better run like hell. We all did.

Posted by blog/jmcfall at 11:45 PM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 16 March 2004 9:03 PM EST
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Monday, 1 March 2004
Business 41 North
Before I ever met Jim Huntley, I had noticed the sign north of North Terre Haute that said Huntley's Cabins in front of the house that is pictured at top. Even then, in about 1954, Tourist's Cabins were out; Motel's were in. The Huntley family simply unplugged the electric sign and allowed the cabins to rot in place. What started as shade trees for the cabins has become a thick growth of trees. I don't know if the remnants of the Tourist Cabins have been cleared away but there is a chain link fence around the area where they once sat.
Jim was only about 3 years older than me but I thought of him as older. Everyone did. He wore a goatee, had a paunch and no hair on the top of his head. All this at age 22. I saw him socially (we would have laughed at that definition but I'm just saying we didn't work or study or do anything productive except to coexist as observers of the community) - saw him almost every day for about 10 years and enjoyed it. When I heard that he died, I had only seen him 3 or 4 times in 30 years but I felt like I lost a friend to a stupid accident with a broken microwave.
An activist, an artist, a folk singer, a handyman, a mechanic, a painter and a former Boy Scout, he held art department positions at the university and at the city's first TV station then exemplified free lance: - artist, sign painter, car mechanic. His life defied summarization. He left his artistic tracks all over the city; his name will come up again.

Posted by blog/jmcfall at 11:12 PM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 16 March 2004 9:31 PM EST
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Orange Dog on Harrison Ave.
From my childhood home at the southeast corner of 8th and Harrison, I could see the north side of Harrison Avenue. The Chesters family lived on the northwest corner and my view of their house always showed what I'm sure they called pride of ownership: manicured lawns, freshly painted house and garage. The Chesters themselves were always well dressed and the Chesters children were polite and friendly. I avoided the Chesters like the plague.
When I became old enough to cross 8th Street by myself, I used the other side of Harrison to get to 7th street and that always brought me within inches of the front porch of the house occupied by an unseen renter who occasionally chained a Chow to one of the porch columns. By occasionally, I mean that they would wait until I had completely forgotten the terror I experienced when it would run and lunge at me from the porch and I would hear a dragging chain, the sound of the still air being replaced by a snarling, slobbering, yipping Chow dog inches from my ear. I would jump up and to the side at the same time and my heart would pound and legs would shake for two or three blocks as I walked and thought about the relative strength of the dog, the collar, the chain and even the porch column. I hated that dog.
Sometimes I would remember to look ahead for the dreaded orange monster and he wouldn't be there and I would be full of hope that he had moved away and just about the time that I was sure he had, about the time I forgot about the hideous orange dog, about the time that I let down my guard and began to focus on important kid stuff, that's the time that he would ambush me again, the chain, the whoosh of air, the wet snarl, the yip, yip, yip and the embarrassment of falling for it again!
Finally the orange dog and his unseen owners did move away, I began to ride a bike and then a car and then grew up and moved out and now, in a strange way, I sort of miss the Chow dog. But not much.

Posted by blog/jmcfall at 10:57 PM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 16 March 2004 9:22 PM EST
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