FILING FOLDERS FULL OF…FRIENDS! 

Seriously, where oh where are Ralph Bailey, Gordon and Brian Anspach, Evelyn Stemen, Phil Leininger, Nancy Schwartz, Mary Ann Poffenberger Briggs, Bob Kellogg, Dr. Jules Heritier, Steve Jones and Lucy Langohr Grant?   For a while they enjoyed spending some time paper-clipped together in a grouping which facilitated my awareness of their location.  Eventually these people dispersed and got filed into manila folders.  At that particular juncture, I lost track of each of them.

Ah, Mrs. Stemen (maiden name Leininger) reappeared with these penned thoughts via the neatest 2010 letter:  “Your last couple of columns have been a delight to read, making me appreciate my childhood, too.”  Evelyn mentions:  “yell leaders…friendly classmate Jack Cook…Leininger Grocery Store shopping on Saturday evenings…Shelly Stemen’s drugstore’s tin roof sundaes…the Klondike store…a favorite cream-colored skirt and aqua blouse purchased from Blumenthal’s…mysteries of Rhodes Tavern…playing cornet at the bandstand on the court house lawn!”    This sweet person I rediscovered under “S” in my filing cabinet — tucked away, with one of my scissored out newspaper columns entitled “Snow Globes, Grapevines, & Hockey Pucks”!  StemenSnow Globes?  Found under “S”!  Makes some kind of Sense?

Bob Kellogg’s many spirited messages certainly deserve to be collected under the letter “K” denoting  not only “kind” but “kinetic”.  Found him under “M” alphabetized and categorized in a folder tagged “Mad Men & Musicals — in the Good Old Summertime”!  (He’d once participated in a barbershop quartet featured in “The Music Man” and described that hilarious experience graphically!) Bob e-mails to me nostalgic accounts including such familiar local names as Peggy Morsches (offering hot chocolate to a frost-bitten Post & Mail carrier of age 10 named Bob Kellogg!), a Mr. Knowles inviting Bob to a father-son banquet at the Methodist Church, the Hancock family, Jim Adams, and working for Mary Hallowell delivering Journal Gazettes and News-Sentinels.  “Mary ran the Garden Gift Shop with her partner, Lana Gilchrist.  Mary was quite well known and respected in Columbia City, having been a School Principal with the Whitley County system.  Mary and Lana lived together on a farm on the left side of State Rd 109 a mile north of the current US 30 bypass.  I worked for them as a paper boy and also did some odd jobs for them on their farm.  They raised purebred Kerry Blue Terrier dogs and had a horse as well.”  

“Mr. Roy Duncan stepped out on his porch one Sunday morning as I delivered his paper and asked me if I had a summer job.  He suggested I stop by the Blue Bell plant and put in an application.  It felt good to know the community was so supportive and that people were concerned about me.”  Bob  currently  lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, retired now from a successful lifetime career as an executive with Blue Bell, Incorporated, yet writes, “Columbia City will always be ‘My Home Town’!”

During this manic pursuit of my scant, modest collection of fan mail, I eventually encountered a note from childhood pal Nancy Sevits Schwartz who offered this thought:  “I too have spent my entire life in Whitley County…my childhood on Chauncey Street.  Since I am from the same era, I can remember everything that you write about, and some of the things I had forgotten until I read your articles.  Thanks for letting me wander down memory lane, or should I say, ‘Silk Stocking Row’ ?”

Chief of Police Gordon Anspach — via his son Brian — speaks to me from 1968 in a hilarious contract, between Gordon and my dad, resembling a promissory note stating formally that IF the Chief gained enough weight to tip the scales at 187 rather than 157, his reward would be one dollar per each pound added to his slender frame.  A postscript reads: “For any of the Blue Bell officials, Chief will use the ‘1,2,3 system’ — in other words if we go thru a red light one time, that will be one time; if we go thru two times, that will be the second time; and the third time, he will collect for all three.” Exactly what type of clandestine activity transpired as a result of this document, I have not the slightest idea…but I have filed this transaction with my Blue Bell memorabilia for posterity’s sake.  My forays into the factory’s history prompted Brian to share this memento with me for my…files!

Regarding Ralph Bailey who merely suggested that I someday mention his name in my column?  I am happy to do so.  Actually, Ralph is also filed away since that afternoon in 1990 when he requested that high school junior Roy Sexton deliver an extremely lengthy letter my dad had once written to the superintendent, and the back and forth correspondence which had ensued between the two of them, to “Mom Susie”.   Gratified with the treasured clump of ephemera, I misplaced it immediately…probably for eternity.

Mary Ann Briggs and Lucy Grant praised my efforts once or twice…and I value their opinions as they are both homegrown, Columbia City educated, impressive geniuses whose judgment calls should never be challenged.  I only wish their complimentary remarks were written in stone!

This present discussion —  of my painstaking paper chase while rifling through every filing cabinet in my home (which is in and of itself nothing but…a filing cabinet) —  I attribute to a request from a gracious, witty, affable gentleman named Phil Leininger, son of druggist George Leininger, whom I referred to in a recent column as the proprietor of the Columbia Drug store.   Phil, a retired engineer with Shell Oil Company, writes to me often whether by snail mail from Illinois or e-mail and commenced doing so only recently, urging me to investigate which of his kin (Uncle John BTW and Aunt Mabel Waterfall Leininger) may have built my current house and then get back with him, post abstract search!

Thanks to an effusive, constant correspondence with Phil L. (who is probably related to Evelyn Stemen), my “Phil” folder is currently filled to overflowing with his cousin Jules Heritier, Uncle Steve Jones, Merle Anthes pictured in LIFE Magazine while resting on a cot waiting for Lloyd C. Douglas’ “White Banners” movie’s World Premiere at Columbia Theater, Columbia Drug store window decorator Ruth Wolford, his class-mates Evelyn Zumbrun and Gayle Brumbaugh Schinbeckler and Ruth Roberts Beers and Ruby Jagger Sherman, George’s partner Paul Pinckly, mention of Phil as drum major of the national award winning local high school band leading the parade to the RR station to see author Douglas off, and some super new pen pals — consisting of Leininger kin — via cyberspace.

Especially heart-warming are two testimonials on behalf of George Leininger. “I am happy that you and my dad Phil have connected!  I had encouraged him to either write to the newspaper or e-mail you.  I read your article and was happy to read about my grandfather George.  I’m so glad this has happened!” ~ Maury Reynolds (Phil’s daughter)  “Phil’s father…a dear, sweet, gentle, pleasant man…a favorite relative.” ~  Mary Shaull (Phil’s cousin) Now, all I need to do is locate a newspaper, featuring the local Blue Bell plant and its operations, that I supposedly borrowed from plant employee/ popular photographer Don York a mere…25 years ago?  Wish me luck!

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