This, That and Other Stuff

Bob Neuman

The mind is an awesome and complicated body part. It has banked memories since our birth and flips them into our consciousness often when something triggers it.

A certain scent, the slant of the sun, the thought of a location or seeing a friend from the past can transport one to a former time and place. This phenomenon can be pleasant or distasteful.

For example, one whiff of a gardenia and I am back in the Paul Cross Gymnasium in 1949. It is prom night and many of my classmates, all young and dressed for the occasion, are present. The lights have dimmed and I can almost hear the band.

Memories of living on Florida’s Panama City Beach for a time in the mid-1950s returned once later in Alabama when I picked up the unpleasant stench of a paper factory. The terrible odor would drift daily along the nearby Gulf Coast in the early morning haze and past our cottage.

I am in my home town, Shelbyville, Indiana, where just walking around causes a flood of pleasant feelings and emotions to jump from areas and places I stroll through. I am filled with nostalgia. Nostalgia is defined as a mixed feeling of happiness, sadness and longing when recalling a person, place or event from the past. Yes, this is definitely what grabs us and we tend to revel in the nice recollections.

The Shelby County Fair reminds me of a pleasant part of my life. I can see the entry to the grounds with its worn stone arch. I visualize the race track as it was then. I see the river through the trees and bushes in the southeast portion of the grounds.

My father loved fair week. He went each day to wander by the rides, food booths and see the races. Hokey pokey was his favorite treat while there.

Once more my friends and I are tramping through Walkerville. We amble down the fairground west fence for a free crawl in and head for the racetrack to lean over the rail and watch Pearl Hungerford, owner of some of the best horses. The trotters and pacers are roaring around that track. Now we are strolling down the midway. We are conscious of the cacophony, the aroma of the various foods and sauntering crowd. We walk to Grandpa’s crackerjack and taffy shop and pause for a pungent purchase. I can still taste the sweet flavor.

We take our turn shooting a basketball in hopes of taking home a stuffed cat or some other do-binny. Why our shots rarely go through the hoop we cannot understand. After all, don’t we hit them back in the St. Joseph gym pretty easily? Nah, their game can’t be fixed.

Each of you could write a nostalgia summary such as this.

Indiana’s summer with its high temperatures, stifling humidity and inconsistent downpours are all part of my fair days. But who cares? Damn the torpedoes; full speed ahead. Bring on the hokey pokey and crackerjack and slather on the nostalgia.