Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Muncie Boyhood-The Introduction

Me and my sister on my mom & dad's porch on south Hackley Street in Muncie

Being born and raised in the medium-sized Indiana city of Muncie provided me with a number of unique experiences. Some are funny. Some are serious. All of them have influenced me in some distinct way. That being the case, and since I tend to be a bit of a sentimental, nostalgic sort of fellow, I’ve decided to start a new series to share what it was like to grow up in Model-town, America.

Model-town? You might wonder where I got that. It was on a sign that I used to pass quite often at the intersection of south Walnut Street and south Madison Street on Muncie’s south end. I think it referred to Muncie’s status for a number of researchers as the model city to observe typical middle-American life. That status flowed from a research study done by a pair of married sociologists, Robert and Helen Lynd in the 1920s and 1930s. I’ve never read their study, but it got Muncie some extra press at the time, and there are still researchers that come to town once in a while to follow up. This tidbit really isn’t pertinent to my series, I just thought I’d throw it out there for free.

The Muncie of my youth really had two quite different personalities. On the one hand, there was the educational influence of Ball State University with its influx of young students and intellectual professors, and on the other hand, you had the blue collar workforce that spent their laboring hours at places like Warner Gear, Chevrolet, Delco Remy, or Indiana Steel & Wire and their recreational hours having a brew at The Island or swimming at Prairie Creek Reservoir. It really was two very different cultures.

Being a hometown boy, I grew up under the blue collar influence.

Besides the two cultures I’ve mentioned already, there were other cultural divides. One was centered around the high schools. You had the long-term favorite of the city, the Muncie Central Bearcats, you had the upstarts from the south side, the Muncie Southside Rebels, and finally, there were those schools that many of us on the southern end considered a little snooty, the Muncie Northside Titans and the Burris Owls. Outside of volleyball, Burris was rarely a sports threat, but the other three were constant rivals in all things athletic. It rarely turned violent, but I did witness a full blown brawl at a South/Central football game once.

Another cultural divide of my youth in Muncie was based on race. This point would be embarrassing for me to discuss if it were not such a prevalent problem in so many other places during the same time period. I remember hearing about riots in the high schools while I was still a student at Roosevelt Elementary. I remember our car being stoned as we passed through an intersection one night. I even remember a black family being firebombed out of their home in the snow-white “Shedtown” neighborhood when I was in high school. It all seems so crazy to me. It did then, and it does now.

Really, when I talk about Muncie with friends and other family members from Muncie, “crazy” is a good, descriptive word. From time to time, I will post a new story in the series in order to paint the picture in words of what that time was like. Hopefully, you’ll find the writings interesting reading.

1 comment:

  1. Love what you've done with the Intro. It really draws me in and makes me look forward to all your stories. I can tell there will be a balance and not all fluffy, happily ever after tales that everyone knows aren't based in reality. Bravo! Now I must go back and read the ones I somehow missed or you changed their titles. Can't wait!