Thursday, February 5, 2009

Who Says You Can't Go Home...........

I debated posting this one as it's more personal than some but probably only in a way that will mean something to me so I decided to go ahead.

Over the Christmas holiday my family was able to head to my hometown. We had an extra day so we decided to head down to Columbus (IN). We have not been back to Columbus for at least 14 years and possibly up to 17 (we never did agree which it was, I can only say it's hell getting old and trying to remember things like that).

It was really weird as we headed south out of Indy on good ole I-65, I felt like I was really heading home. There were a few new buildings along the route but it all seemed real familiar.

We decided to head to Lutheran Lake first which is about 18 miles southwest of Columbus in the southwestern corner of Bartholomew county and within a stones throw of Brown County. So, we went by the Columbus exits and got off at the Ogilville/Walesboro exit and onto State Highway 58. It was great to be on the highway to the lake again and as we went through Ogilville I started to reminisce and tell my daughters about what they were seeing (I am sure they were thrilled). The old store in downtown Ogilville was closed up, I remember like yesterday when I was probably 10-12 years old stopping at this store with my Grandfather, the smell of cigars in his car, the AM radio with the Cincinnati Reds on, getting gas to cut the lawn and for the boat to go water skiing. We headed on past the 2nd Ogilville store, it was still open but I decided to not stop (I wish now that I had, these old stores are neat and do bring back the memories) as I wanted to get to Waymansville and see if "Plummers Market" was still open. Turns it was except it's now called Radtke's Market. We stopped and took a quick look around. The store looked pretty much the same except they seemed to not have a lot on the shelves. My wife and one daughter got a water and my other daughter and I got Big Red. The best cream soda in the world or at least it was when I was younger. Still tasted good. I told them about Choc-ola, you know the best tasting chocolate drink in the world. I think up here they have something like it called Yoo-Hoo.

On to the Lutheran Lake road (today it's just called "Lake Road", I would have sworn growing up it was called "Lutheran Lake Road"), my wife cautioned me to drive slowly as she remembered how I used to drive this road. Suffice to say, I went a lot slower otherwise I may have figured out how to roll a CRV. In high school my buddies and I used to see who could set the Columbus to Lutheran Lake land speed record. It was 18.6 miles and a good time was 25 minutes and the record if memory serves was 18 minutes. If you could ever drive those roads you would be impressed. We would fly over the bridges and I do mean fly. If you didn't brace for the little bridges your head would hit the roof of the car with some force. A lot or curves and hills is the best way to visualize the drive.

We pulled into the west lake entrance and onto Persimmon Drive. We stopped at the bottom of the hill and there it was our old cabin. Not really ours anymore but it looked like I remember with a few additions (bigger deck, expanded room over the patio and then they screened in the patio), additions my Mom and Dad had talked about before they died, so it was kind of nice to see that someone else had made the changes they were considering. My Grandfather, Uncle, Father and I am sure others had built the cabin in the late 50's/60's and I spent most of my younger days at the cabin.

I will always remember the Lake, I wish my girls had had a chance to experience it. It was here that I learned to water ski, fish, drink, play wiffleball, ring toss, horseshoes, jarts, experienced the joy of listening to the Indy 500 and Reds baseball games and many other things. I remember hooking Nathan in the head, catching frogs, snakes, turtles, drinking a few beers with Greg, Randy, Chopper, Al, Flippo and Hayworth and a whole lot of other folks.

We walked down along the canal, I told the story about my Uncle killing a water moccasin by the woods, I remembered the day I stepped on a baby snake that had an odd diamond pattern across it's back as I walked through the woods, barefoot of course. You see we had three poisonous snakes, timber rattlesnakes, water moccasins and copperheads. We were always told that we didn't have water moccasins or copperheads as it was too cold for them but every year some got killed. Oh the fun stuff of childhood and young adulthood. We told the Al Taylor story, did you know it was possible to drive a 67 Shelby Cobra Mustang through the woods without hitting a tree? Well Al did that and to this day, no one can believe he did it. We also heard him shifting the Cobra for a long time which turned out to not be so good as he eventually fried his engine. I learned that day that operating an engine at red line for a continued time period is not a good thing and should have learned that driving after drinking wasn't too smart either. Thankfully, I learned that later without having any issues.

We drove over to Jean and Joe's cabin, they are my godparents and we used to go over there once in awhile. Their cabin is still there with their name on it, sweet. We then drove around the lake, a lot more memories came back but onto Columbus.

We drove into Columbus and I got to see for the first time the new bridge. Columbus is very big into architecture so it's fitting that they have a funny looking bridge. (the pictures below I got from the Columbus web page I think)

Through the bridge you can see the courthouse. My dad was in charge of the refurbishment of the courthouse when he was County Auditor. If memory serves me right it was done in 1971. I used to climb up the old stairs that led to to the top of the courthouse, you can see the black grills on the towers, they were added to the courthouse as part of bringing the courthouse back to it's original look. I used to go up there and look out over the town and dream about growing up. There are three towers and they all were quite interesting to climb up. At the time I was pretty sure they weren't very safe but since I never asked, I am sure they were ok but they did sway as you climbed the stairs. The large bell in the clock tower was cool but you definitely didn't want to be next to it when it would chime as it was loud. It was interesting to be a floor above or below when it banged away except the whole tower seemed to shake from the vibrations.

I still remember seeing Bobby Kennedy when he gave a speech on the steps of the courthouse back in 68 , a few weeks later he was assassinated. As an 11 year old, he was mesmerizing to me and to the audience. Every generation witnesses things and people both good and bad that they will remember forever and his speech is still something that I remember and I am pretty sure I always will.

We then headed over to visit my childhood homes, first we stopped by Crystal Flash, still there, then we went by St. Peters Lutheran Church, where I had attended grade school, been confirmed and to a large part can thank for meeting my wife and my most things in my life. Why do I thank St. Pete's, well I received a grant to attend Valparaiso University which paid half of my tuition and room and board all because of St. Petes. You see to qualify for the grant you needed to have been confirmed at St. Pete's and you had to live in Bartholomew County. Without the grant I would have gone to Purdue, probably flunked out as I didn't really want to go there as I doubted my self and flat didn't like Purdue. Which would have meant that I never would have met my wife and probably never would have made it to Minnesota, become an engineer, run a marathon, had two beautiful daughters, and hundreds of other life events. I still look back on that life decision when Uncle Pat convinced my that I should visit Valpo as my George Bailey life event, without it I would never had evolved into who I am. I would probably be still in Columbus and ......., needless to say, that grant along with Uncle Pat's prompt, helped me in more ways than I can count.

St. Pete's had changed for sure, I knew they had built a new church and had added onto the school. What really caught my attention was the building next to it, I had no idea what it was, turned out it was my old Junior High, Central, or should I say the new Central Middle school as my old one was gone. That one hurt, Central was old but I didn't expect it to be gone. Other than that, it all looked the same, we went by my old homes and they were still there and even looked pretty much the same. Then we drove by the library so I could show my family the Henry Moore sculpture (I always called it the hipbone of a dinosaur).

From there I wanted to go down Washington street and show them Zaharkos, Lucas Brothers, Cummins Bookstore, Columbus Bar, Murphy 5 & 10, Commons and a whole lot more. Many of the old places were there and few more that I remembered and Washington had changed from a one way to a two way street again. We drove down into Mill Race Park, it's along side of White river and we used to ride bikes from Noblitt Falls along the river all the way over to Mill Race Park. It seemed like a long way but was probably all of a mile or two.

Another thing that doesn't remain is the Commons Mall. I wanted to show my daughters Chaos. They have torn down the portion of the mall where Chaos was but the roof and steel pillars were still up and Chaos was encapsulated in insulation. I checked into it and there are plans to build a new community building around it. Below is a picture of Chaos. It is a really cool sculpture, we always thought it reminded us of the game "mousetrap" as it has metal balls about the size of basketballs that move throughout it.

We did find out that Lucas brothers was still open but at a different location. We used to think that they were the best hamburgers in the world. They smash onions into the hamburger, cook the bun on the burger, add pickles and you have a great hamburger. Ok, looking back they are more like a Whitecastle burger but these really are a lot better. I do think they would taste real good after a 50k.

There were many places we also visited like my old high school, Columbus North, Lincoln park, where I played baseball and softball and we had our ice rink. You see in Columbus there are no outdoor ice rinks as the water doesn't usually freeze. We went by the old camera shop where my mom had worked, it was gone, we checked out Hawcreek and Clifty Creek which had major flooding last summer. I still can't believe they flooded into the hospital and many other parts of the town. One place I forgot about until we left town was Saps Donuts. I know they are long gone but they had the best yeast donut in the world. Ok, maybe a personal bias again.

Wow, who says you can't go home (sorry but they disabled the song for embedding in a post).

Bon Jovi & Jennifer Nettles - Who says you can't go home

What's this song got to with heading home, not a thing but the truth is I just like this song as it always make me think about heading back to Columbus, where I grew up and lived the first 21 years of my life and made the majority of the decisions that ultimately have determined the direction of my life. It also means I have been in Minnesota for 30 years, now that hurts a bit.

1 comment:

SteveQ said...

Great post! I've driven through a few of the towns you mentioned when I was a student at Purdue (yeah, I didn't like Purdue either, but they paid my way). People coming back to my neighborhood look at my house and marvel how it's the one thing that hasn't changed - including the asbestos shingles, unfortunately.

Never got into Big Red, but IBC root beer is the best (but don't tell my friends at 1919 Root Beer!)


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