As humans, we live on memories. It is our most treasured keepsake: for it is our memories that define, connect, and nourish us. We use these recollections to reinforce linkage to ourselves. They become a major portion of our identity, value and definition of our humanness. Our experiences bond us in friendship, solidify relationships and fuse the mosaic we display each and every day of our life, providing us with courage and confidence to trust, risk, and love.
From our earliest days through adulthood, we learn to depend on our experiences—they literally become matters of life and death. The people, places, things, and events we integrate within ourselves during our lifetime serve as our physical, social, and moral compass. Each item in our cognitive file carries useful information: guidance, safety, lessons, goodness, sorrow, success, failure, happiness, advice…the list is quite extensive. Each in their own way prepares us to confront challenges and changes presented daily in our lives.
One may wonder how places and things—inanimate objects—could have such effect on one’s life? They do because they serve as the arena and props for the interactions that occurred within their boundaries, and the happenings generated by people sharing that space at that time. As children we are acutely aware of surroundings, soaking up impressions of where, what, why, and how. Often, these childhood inputs of life stay dormant until appropriate processing organizes and catalogs them into usable, viable data. Some are so subtle they take years before the impact is fully savored and understood. Others are so overpowering we store them in places far within us until there is sufficient courage to confront, conquer, and understand their importance.
Early in life, the people, places and things we confront are not of choice. So much of one’s early impressions are due to the choices of others. As we mature, we learn about power, control, and choice. Most importantly, we learn about sovereignty—to be in command of ourselves and to understand the power of individuality. What follows is a small sample from the wonder years of this writer, from the neatest little home town ever—Whiting, Indiana!
In February of 1949, when I was 8 years-old, our family moved from grandma’s house on Oliver Street to Cleveland Avenue . Strategically located in the 1800 block, it was gateway to 119th Street ’s business district. Because our family never owned a car, the main mode of transportation was walking, and later, a Spartan accessorized bicycle. Both methods for getting from here to there turned out to be a Godsend.
It is difficult to name all the “favorite” places in my Industrial Mayberry, but the ones listed here have stood the test of time. Each time I go by one of these locations or recall events from my life, the “movie” that plays in my mind always touches my heart in magical wonderful ways. Granted, many of these places are coated with the idealism of youth, preserved in idyllic childhood and adolescent remembrances, and viewed as hallowed locations brimming with fond memories--so be it. This is my movie and watching it through ancient rose-colored glasses suits me just fine. Get the popcorn!
--Whiting High School This was my dream factory. Within the confines of this educational palace I met classmates who became lifelong friends; teachers who believed in me and changed my life, and where I learn the Power of Possibility.
--Whiting Public Library From first grade on, this wonderful castle-like structure became my Adventure Land . Within these walls the magic of words fired imagination and adventure, opened new horizons, and filled my mind with knowledge, understanding, diversity of thought and human expression.
--Whiting Community Center The Mecca of Industrial Mayberry: a place where kids were not only welcomed, but appreciated. Sport activities, recreation, field trips, social gatherings, theatrical plays, municipal exhibitions, corporate presentations, and a myriad of community functions, was headquartered in this marvelous architectural structure. I literally grew up in this building. As a teenager, I worked as pin boy in the bowling alley. The Community Center is a museum for the mind.
--Neal Price’s Firestone Store The variety of goods made music for the senses.
--Dave’s Drug Store What a menu: root beer floats, potato chips, and Dave’s wisdom.
--Whiting Park Truly a place for all seasons: baseball, ice skating, playground, picnics and the beach. The little stone houses always had their “Welcome Mats” out for visitors.
--Sacred Heart Church and School Lessons for Heaven and Earth. No Free Passes!
--Whiting Post Office 46394: Is there a better Zip Code for cards and letters?
--Nick’s Pool Room An adolescent male oasis featuring snooker, pinball, and verbal expression.
-- Hot Dog Louie’s Gourmet dining at its best! Germs never stood a chance!
--White Castle Hamburger Hall of Fame! Nourish your body; cleanse your pipes, and so much more! I just love ‘em!