On this first official day of fall, I thought I’d take a look back and allow a few of those who took the time to read my recent scribbles and e-mail me to fill this week’s slot. After all, I think most folks like a little hometown newspaper acknowledgment as long as it’s not in the court news or in the obits.
In May, I wrote a piece about my business travels, one specifically that took me back to my old college town of Oxford in the southwest part of the state. It was a trip where an anticipated early evening walk took me both into uptown Oxford and onto my former campus of Miami. I knew it would be a rather misty-eyed trek filled with memories of youthful foolishness. And, interspersed among my cataloguing of all the changes both the uptown area and the campus has undergone over time was what I hoped readers would glean as the pervasive theme, that it is indeed difficult to return to a place that once felt like home.
What proved that to me were the quizzical looks of the current occupants of my town and campus, those who had returned from their spring-break meanderings with bronzed legs and faces, those whose faces spoke what I thought were unuttered questions, primary among them was, “What are YOU doing here?”
Of course, I got reactions from many Miami grads who spoke of their own fast times in Oxford. One reader, Barb Schwinnen, told me how the column resonated with her son Rob, who graduated from Miami long after I did in 2007. Even in the relatively short time since he departed Oxford, one of his visits back revealed so very many changes. Nice to know, I thought, that I do have some readers who aren’t filling out Medicare claim forms!
Sometimes what I hear back from readers can be discomforting. You may recall I did a column on Bruce Jenner’s morphing to Caitlyn and her receiving ESPN’s Arthur Ashe’s Courage Award at this summer’s ESPYS. I thought and still do that the award should have gone posthumously to Lauren Hill, the Mount St. Joe’s basketball player who succumbed at 19 to cancer. Despite an inoperable brain tumor, she continued to play and raise money for cancer research till her very end. However, a heartfelt e-mail I received from a local transgender who detected a note of dismissiveness in my tone on the whole Jenner story provided me with enough food for thought to fill a buffet table.
I received a lot of reaction from a column I did on the dearth of sandlot baseball on the diamonds of Faurot Park from the likes of former LCC baseball coach Tim Clark and also from a local administrator in the Bath School system, Brad Clark, and from Cleveland native and retired dentist Howard Koch, 90 years old and still rooting for his Indians, who also told me of his own experiences in sandlot baseball in the 1930s. His weighing in led to an idea for a story on longtime Indian fans and a delightful interview with the good doctor.
Of course, when someone of import passes in Lima, I’ll often eulogize. I felt compelled to do that when I learned of the passing of Donnie Hullinger, once upon a 1950s time, one of our town’s best pugilists. Many emailed me about this gentlest of men when he wasn’t in the ring. Reader Joan Ruen remembered Donnie more in a Santa suit. What I didn’t have the space to tell you was that for decades Donnie spent large portions of each December letting all the Joeys and Sallys climb up onto his lap and tell him what they wanted for Christmas.
Of course, the column I wrote on Pete Rose and his never-ending tale involving all that gambling and lying and banishing generated more mail than anything else I penned. Phil Sellati minced few words when he wrote, “Rose should never be forgiven for the damage he’s done to baseball.” Larry Oatman echoed Sellati’s words by invoking a higher power, as in, “Thank God there is only one [Rose]. Today’s sportswriters will never vote in a felon, a liar and a cheat.”
And, then there were also Rose defenders, such as Dave Hites, who said about baseball’s overseers, “They overlook those who used illegal steroids while crucifying a man who never cheated the game.” It seems with Rose the debate will never dissipate.
Oh, and before I go, thanks to Colin Watkins, who read my column on my Uncle Bob’s lit cigarette-diving board trick from my youth, one where he would dive into that chilly Wisconsin lake with a lit cigarette and emerge from the water still puffing. Colin recalled seeing the same trick of inverting a lit heater with teeth and flipping it back out still lit in the 1954 John Wayne flick “The High and the Mighty.” Colin, I think you may have given me a little Ancestry.com moment by providing some possible insight into where my fav uncle honed that one.
Those are just a few reactions. Thanks to all who read and react. Drop me a line anytime!
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News and Our Generation’s Magazine, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at email@example.com.