Sunday, April 30, 2006

Living in Victory, Chapter 2

Copyright 2006 Terry F. Phillips Sr.
(812) 201-3456
frank.phillips@gmail.com


Living in Victory
By
Terry Franklin Phillips Sr.

Chapter 2 – Summer 1955
Frank Zellers straightened his back, easing the tension that caused his back to ache and spasm.
Frank was familiar with manual labor. He had farmed, he had run a business for other people and then he moved his family to the little town of Victory.
“I like that name,” he told his wife. “’Victory.’ It has a nice ring to it.”
Ever the optimist and dreamer they bought and moved into the town’s general store.
Six months later, his family was dead and buried in the cemetery that lay on the town’s east side.
The sickness had taken the community by storm. Many had become ill and died quickly.
As he watched the sickness hit his friends and neighbors, Frank had entertained the idea his family was the lucky ones who would be passed over, like the death angel had passed over the firstborn of the children of Israel in Egypt. But the “luck” was not to continue. The illness hit his family and he was left alone. Lucky, but alone. He did not get sick.
But life finds a way to go on. Many people had lost their spouses, as attested to by the large expansion of the town’s cemetery. He was not alone in his trouble.
Frank went to bed every night, said his prayers and read the Bible his wife kept in the night stand on her side of the bed.
Now, Frank slept on either her side of the bed or in the middle. He could not bear to think of her side of the bed being empty and cold, reminding him of her absence.
She had been the Bible student in this house. She had insisted her family get involved in the little white frame church on the corner. She could see the church from the couple’s bedroom window on the store’s second floor.
Seth, the youngest of their three children, liked to look at the church on Sunday mornings. He would get excited and jump up and down on the bed even before he could speak clearly.
Frank thought about Seth and the rest of the family. Instead of making him sad, his memories made him smile, even as he missed them.
He had been sweeping dried mud off the wooden porch of the general store. It seemed like he had been sweeping all morning, though it was probably only and hour or two at most. He pulled a pocket watch from his pocket and checked the time.
Victory wasn’t on a main thoroughfare. It wasn’t even on a state highway – Indiana 25 ended at the intersection with Indiana 32, some two miles north of the village. Indiana 234 was some miles south.
The Shades State Park drew visitors from several surrounding states, from Chicago and Indianapolis, but those campers and canoeists wouldn’t think twice about Victory. They would drive into Waveland, located on a real state highway, Indiana 47 that ran southwest from Crawfordsville to U.S. 41.
Those customers would shop in Waveland for their beer and gas and groceries. But there would be no reason to stop at Frank’s store. They might, if he advertised on the county road that connected th end of Indiana 25 to Indiana 234, but he didn’t do that.
Years later, Interstate 74 would be built north of Waynetown and connect Indianapolis with points east and west – making it the Circle City – to truckers on CB radios, which in 1955 was just a band of frequencies that were a nuisance to Ham radio operators. The 11-meter band which would one day be used by Cbers was known in 1955 for its ability to pick up all sorts of electrical interference, making long-range communication practically impossible.
Frank served the local clientele. He didn’t carry booze and his predecessor hadn’t the foresight to put in gas pumps, so a service station across the street sold gas and worked on cars and trucks and the occasional tractor.
Many of the people who lived in Victory either worked for the Victory elementary and high school or drove to nearly Crawfordsville or even Lafayette or Indianapolis for employment.
It would have been easier to live elsewhere. The people of Victory lived there because they chose to, for the most part. They felt there was something special about the town of Victory, its size notwithstanding. Living elsewhere just wouldn’t be the same.
The people were tight-knit and, more often than not, were related through family ties to neighbors.
“Be careful who you talk about,” people often said. “You’re probably talking to one of their relatives.”
There was a sense of community in Victory that just wasn’t true in larger Indiana cities, though Victory folks wore the name, “Hoosier,” proudly.
Hoosier. That was a name with an unknown origin.
Some said it was derived from the early practice of Hoosiers who would greet visitors with the question, “Who’s yere?” That was likely more fancy than truth, most people thought.
Citizens of Ohio could call themselves Buckeyes and Illinois residents could call themselves Illini, but Hoosiers would likewise be proud of their nickname. What was a buckeye, anyway? A chestnut with a big eye on it.
It was time for Frank to get back to work.
“I need to clean the apartment,” he said aloud, though no one was nearby to hear.
But he knew it wouldn’t get done. The dust would have to fly until it choked him before he would start cleaning the place where he lived.
Now the store was another matter. He took great pride in keeping the merchandise and the shelves on which it set neat and tidy.
He remembered how his own dear Emmy was and thought the other women in the town and on nearby farms might not return to shop in his store if they disapproved of his shop keeping.
But, Frank doubted he would lose business as long as his tore was open. Deep down inside he realized people shopped his store to support a local enterprise.
It wasn’t because his prices were lower than the stores in Crawfordsville – his prices were higher. It wasn’t because his meat was fresher, either. Many times the local cats and dogs had received a special treat because his meat cooler needed a fresh supply.
People in Victory took care of their own and they often made sure there was enough left over to send to others in need outside their community.
Frank pulled a cheap pocket watch from his tan slacks held in place by a pair of suspenders.
The watch had no cover and it was tethered to a belt loop by a shoelace.
It said “Big Ben” on the face and cost $3 new in his store. He got the watches for about half that price. Good thing, for the watches broke about once a year when wound too tightly or when the crystal that covered the face bounced a little too sharply against a hard surface.