Rat Packs, Hoosier Lobbyists, & Blind Boys!

True, I seem to qualify as a participant in a “clique” of folks a bit more advanced in age, experience and hard-won wisdom…who also specialize in nostalgic FUN!  For instance, classmate Dr. Harry Staley notified me that he often accompanied his dad after sunset to assist in repairing the Blue Bell factory’s countless sewing machines.  Don York shared that Harry’s dad, Harry, Sr., at one time got pulled into one of those contraptions which began swallowing his necktie but stopped within inches of Mr. Staley’s nose.  Lucy Langohr (Grant), now of North Carolina, lamented that she never convinced her dad, “Dr. John”, to construct a playhouse precisely as wondrous as that miniature domicile of neighborhood playmate Linda Gates (Sabo).  Lucy’s sister Judy often borrowed the small horse next door (on Main Street!) to trot alongside pint-sized equestrienne Jo Ellen Adams (McConnell)throughout town!  Louise Easterday recalls riding into Columbia City with her parents to purchase the family’s weekly supply of milk from Holden’s Dairy Farm nestled adjacent to the former Jim Adams home, which now serves as the Whitley County Community Foundation headquarters.  Those were the days!


Quite recently, Don and I in our own unique manner revisited our past…those amazing sixties when a crew, whom Lauren Bacall dubbed “Rat Pack”, ruled.  Ring a ding ding!  Ft. Wayne’s Embassy Theater series featured impersonators of Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., comedian Joey Bishop, and a young fellow who resembled Dean Martin so closely that I wished to bring him home to live with us after the show.  Now, “ain’t that a kick in the head, pal-ly?”  Moreaccustomed to once lounging in the dark, ages ago,viewing  Atticus Finch relaxing on a Southern porch swing with Jem and Scout, or Dr. Zhivago admiring Lara as she irons shirts in revolutionary Russia, or a peroxided Peter O’Toole on camel-back prowling Arabian deserts, the witnessing of four live Rat-Packers swilling martinis, smoking cigarettes, guffawing at slightly racist misogynistic barroom jokes while enduring mercilessly scorching spot-lights seemed a bit jarring.  Still, those guys assuaged winter doldrums, perking up our psyches considerably.


Next, on brisk yet beautiful March 12th, Don and I participated in one of the most joyous times of our lives.  Hoosier Humane Lobby Day!  We journeyed to Indianapolis toward a sublime building housing the Eugene & Martha Glick Indiana History Center on West Ohio Street.  Inside we discovered Cole Porter, Abe Lincoln, and possibly might have encountered Theodore Dreiser, Paul Dresser, Ernie Pyle, Red Skelton, Carole Lombard, James Whitcomb Riley and the gang if we’d had more time at our disposal.  But we were on a mission.  Acknowledging  that petition signing and letter writing seldom sway politicians who wish to appease majorities of fickle voters and grease the squeakiest of wheels and raise obscene quantities of campaign funds, we joined like-minded advocates in standing up — in person — for Indiana wildlife, farm animals, domesticated pets, waterfowl, and incidental reptiles and amphibians.  “Oh, a lobbying we go! Armed with compassion, not dough!”  We enjoyed a terrifically organized pre-workshop, endured endless marble floors underfoot at the State House, and waited patiently in the hall outside the Senate and House chambers to speak FACE TO FACE AND SEVERALON ONE with our “representatives” concerning past, current and future legislation which should benefit rather than destroy sentient beings.  “Do unto others should not be limited to other humans.” (-Anthony Douglas Williams, “Inside the Divine Pattern”)  

Fellow Hoosiers encountered during that super Tuesday included: Sen. Jim Banks graciously promising to watch the films “Earthlings” and “Bold Native”; two “rescued-from-death-row-shelter-situations” service dogs — a tiny Chihuahua mix named “Tia” who detects impending diabetic seizures and a stunning Pit Bull mix called “Coal” who searches for cadavers and unearths weapons — advocating alongside the rest of us 60 earnest, determined individuals; an African-American veterinarian who once treated Lincoln Park Zoo’s “big cats” and who knows Tippi Hedren; a NoKill shelter board president; and Governor Mike Pence’s assistant listening to our concerns at the close of a hectic, meaningful day devoted to animal welfare, assuring their rights for peaceful lives.  Matthew 25:45 — “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not unto one of these least, ye did it not unto me.”

We returned home exhausted but elated to receive an e-mail message from our great college friend located in Muncie, Jim Davis, the creator of the “Garfield the Cat” comic strip! While posting photos of the day’s event on Facebook, phone to ear I chatted with impressive rheumatologist Dr. Harry Staley who offered to take a look at my arthritic dilemmas as well as my psoriasis.  Guess what?  He’s located in Indy. Informing him that we had JUST returned from windy Indy, he stated very doctor-like, “Well, I usually am too busy to admit walk-ins, but I would have loved to say ‘Hi!’” I replied, “Harry, after several hours of Indianapolis staircases, endless sidewalk pounding, advocating in a non-politicized manner for Hoosier animal causes, and five hours in a car, I am NO WALK-IN…more like a CRAWL-IN — on all fours which emphasizes my ability to relate to and empathize with my four-footed pals!”

Although March entered and exited like a lamb, we whirl winded continually from start to finish!  The Blind Boys of Alabama AND Don and Susie partied at the Grand Wayne Center following that award-winning gospel ensemble’s fabulous Embassy Theater performance of foot-stomping, hand-clapping, jubilant, jazzy spiritual tributes to heaven above and earth below.  “Since their formation over 70 years ago, The Blind Boys of Alabama’s self-proclaimed goal is to spiritually uplift audiences. The gospel group has also been a source of inspiration for those with disabilities. In the words of one of the group’s blind members, Ricky Mckinnie, ‘Our disability doesn’t have to be a handicap. It’s not about what you can’t do. It’s about what you do. And what we do is sing good gospel music.’” — (Wikipedia)  Earlier in the lobby, we purchased two CDs, one DVD and a pair of autographed drum-sticks which Don proceeded to lose when they rolled under the spike-heeled shoes of the lady seated next to him…our commotion in retrieving our treasure drew marked disdain from a WASP seated near us, but the trio of affable singers — including “Jimmy Carter”, an original participant since 1939 –only smiled our way!  Their next gig would include the Land Down Under, Australia!  Our bonus involved a reunion with Chuck and Linda Chapman, former Ft. Wayne neighbors of nearly 30 years past, who volunteered as ushers.  Chuck’s dad Reid (“Chuckles”) managed WANE-TV nearly from its inception and was a cousin to long-time local banker Don Alberty…small world! 

Since Easter week-end got squeezed, as often happens, into the final calendar days of March, we completed the month — when everybody and his brother “deserve” a Florida vacation — with another of our enviable (?) ritualistic movie marathons. Check out www.reelroyreviews.com for a “reel” good time to see what our family watched sprawled “inside a darkened living room” between “rounds of canasta, computer maintenance, and the finest dining small town Indiana can muster…” and linger awhile for online critiques that rival those of Gene Siskel & Roger Ebert combined.

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