As a freelance writer, I have found there are always times when some research is required before a piece can come together.
Even personal pieces that I do call for a certain degree of introspective research, times I need to go somewhere quiet and, with pen and paper, conjure some memories and jot them down to create a rudimentary outline upon which to organize what I wish to say and to, hopefully, connect with you and your own experiences.
After all, establishing empathy is vital when writing autobiographically.
While I try to remain versatile enough as a writer to compete for opportunities that require more traditional factual research to provide the foundation for, say, a chapter in a manuscript or a magazine piece I want to write, the fact is, I see myself as a storyteller at heart and would rather deal in that genre than do hard research.
But, when the latter is needed, writers of this generation have such advantages over their predecessors. No doubt, the great writers of earlier times would have looked at today‚??s writer with blank stares had it been suggested they Google something as a means to get information.
Because I like to write about our hometown often, not only for the newspaper but also for a sports-nostalgia column I do for Our Generation‚??s Magazine, my research often leads me not to the Internet but to a much more powerful tool, the microfilm file of this very newspaper, kept at our library.
When there, despite the fact that rarely is there ever a computer station open, and there are several rows of them, I have never had to wait to use one of the two microfilm machines.
Even though, no doubt, microfilm is considered by all those in the Roadrunner crowd an anachronism, I‚??m comfortable using it. After all, this dinosaur still has a record player, a manual typewriter and an eight-track cassette player at home! To me, obsolescence is merely a rumor.
Each trip to the microfilm I, of course, have a purpose, to analyze game accounts of a team or look for feature articles on an individual who made his mark in our town, but every time I turn the knob and advance the filmed pages, my eye catches something else in a headline or a picture totally unrelated to my research but so very much related to my life.
Now that I‚??m in my AARP years, I‚??ve fallen prey to the notion that things were so very much better 40 or 50 years ago.
But, as I examine the headlines and see the stories roll by me, the pragmatist in me emerges, and I often slowly realize that many of the same human weaknesses routinely exposed today in the media were certainly around in, say, the 1960s as well, during a decade that took me from collecting baseball cards to collecting my Selective Service card and worrying about a war in Southeast Asia I certainly didn‚??t want to see up close.
But, mixed in with stories of mankind‚??s foibles and tragedies, there are also local pictures and ads that elicit so many warm, distant memories. Often, it‚??s a wedding picture, showing a youthful version of people I‚??ve come to know in my life‚??s journey or a business that is no longer open, say Eldora, where I once ate the finest of hand-dipped ice cream.
The business was located at the intersection of North Cable and Allentown roads. Diagonally across that intersection sat the McKenzie estate.
Peering behind the property‚??s wrought-iron fence, real estate now dominated by a Speedway and Kewpee, my pals and I would spy the house and wonder what rich people ate for dinner as we walked by with our cones and our packs of baseball cards that we‚??d purchased at Grant‚??s Drug Store at Lima‚??s first strip mall, Westgate, a strip still there but so very much different.
The ads I see on the microfilm always amaze me. On a recent trip to gather facts for a piece I want to write about the Packers-Lions Thanksgiving Day games of the early 1960s, I came across a couple of them I‚??ll share, ones that seem quite amazing to me now.
Did you know in 1962 that The Huddle Restaurant featured a jumbo 15-piece bucket of chicken for $2.50? Or, imagine offering a seafood platter, as The Holiday Inn on Findlay Road offered the same year, that included a crabmeat cake, two fish fillets, oysters, scallops, shrimp, fries, coleslaw, rolls, and butter and coffee ‚?Ľ for 97 cents!
Despite the fact that I often get mad at myself for spending way too much time getting my intended research done at the expense of others things I should be doing, I just can‚??t help myself. And, each time I tarry too long, I forgive myself because time is never wasted when we slow down enough to remember the events, the people and even the prices that comprise our life‚??s journeys.
Having said that, I hope I don‚??t have to fight you for those two machines now!
John Grindrod: A time for hope and prayers in this small town