Archive for Thursday, March 19, 2009

A curious kid

March 19, 2009

When I was about 10 years old I would walk over to downtown Lansing and wait for an old man that had been in the Civil War. This was in 1938, which had been over 70 years after the Civil War ended, and we enjoyed talking to each other. I don’t remember what we talked about, only that I enjoyed talking to him. I suppose he liked to talk to me too.

The things I knew about him was that he walked from Third and Kansas, where he lived, to downtown and back several times a week. He was somehow related to my brother Tom’s classmate, Betty Jean McMurtrey, but that is really all I knew about him. He was in his 90’s, well dressed and tall.

What would a 10-year-old and a man in his 90s have in common? I knew what days and time he would come, so I positioned myself on the concrete ledge between the drugstore and the café and waited for him. I was seated on the ledge that was about four feet high, and when he walked up to me we were eye to eye. I looked forward to our visits, also I was excited to know someone that old.

He was even older than my grandmother, who at that time was 85. He had known times before automobiles and radios. What was that like? I had a million questions about living before good roads and moving around the countryside, before streetcars or the interurban. Did he have questions of me about school, could I write, could he write, what did he do for a living or what was his career? I will never know the answers to all of these questions.

I guess I was interested in history even then without realizing it. Or was I just a curious kid?

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