My Town: Crawfordsville

by Gary James '10

July 10, 2008

Some Wabash students move to Crawfordsville and never travel more than a few blocks away from campus. It’s understandable. Most of them are not from here. They have their own hometowns. Many of them come from other states or even other countries. They are here primarily to get an education.

So am I.

I grew up in York, Alabama, a small town of 3,000. But during the past two years, my time in Crawfordsville has become much more than just a way station to a future career. I’ve worked here every summer. I give directions to out-of-towners. The post office is my second home. And I participate in local politics.

I care what happens here.

I’ve spent the past three weekends canvassing the town for Senator Barack Obama. As my canvassing partners and I trekked up and down Main Street, Wabash Avenue, Pike Street, Market Street, Washington, and all the streets in between, a certain familiarity dawned on me. I had gone door-to-door months earlier for Independent Mayoral Candidate Jacob Hurt. I had visited the same neighborhoods, knocked on the same doors, and met some of the same people earlier.

One gentleman I met on Main Street is the epitome of a community man. He helps businesses find affordable health insurance for its employees. I was not supposed to spend much time at any one house, but he and I talked for nearly 20 minutes about the meaning of community and the need for people to be more active about improving their own neighborhoods. We talked about cracked sidewalks, dirty light posts, and potholes—how those things may seem like small things to others but are significant because they are the literal foundations of communities. They are things we see everyday.

Ours was a simple but powerful conversation about our individual role in making our communities better and keeping our local leaders accountable. I ceased to be only a campaign volunteer canvassing for his candidate. We were two community members—neighbors—brainstorming ideas to improve our place in the world.

That’s when I realized I had integrated into this community. In addition to door knocking and making connections with local citizens, I put up signs for a block party in the Plaza across from Little Mexico that some friends and I were planning in order to encourage people to vote early. We distributed flyers to businesses around town. I started with the Moon Dance Caf™ at the corner of Washington and Main. I have frequented Moon Dance since I was a freshman, back when it was called Campbell’s. I had seen the place change owners, and I know the manager, main cook, and cashiers by name.

Moon Dance is similar to another place where I’ve established a strong connection—Elaine’s on Main Street. I have spent many hours with Elaine and her daughter, Heather, drinking iced coffee, hot tea, and talking about upcoming local and national elections.

Moon Dance and Elaine’s are also great places to get a sandwich and a cup of coffee. I often stop in on my way to, more often from, the Crawfordsville Post Office. I sell on Amazon.com, I have to mail the merchandise promptly, and there have been times when I was at the Post Office three times in one week. Donna—one of the clerks—and I have become friendly acquaintances. I always go to her window.

Just like my work with political campaigns, my stops at the Moon Dance Caf™, and my trips to and from the Post Office, my work with the Carnegie Museum, the Crawfordsville District Public Library, and the Montgomery County Historical Society has tethered me to the community. I helped furnish the Carnegie and sent out invitations to its opening last year. I met board members, local politicians, and members of the Montgomery County art and business communities. I also learned a lot about the history of the County—about Henry Lane and Lew Wallace, of course, but also Superintendent Anna Wilson—and even developed pride for the area and its contributions to history beyond Montgomery County.

All of these connections, over time and with the subtly of spring, have made Crawfordsville more than just the town where my college sits. Crawfordsville has become "my town."

"Something that matters"

When Steve Golliher ’67 retired from RCA after a career that included two decades traveling the Pacific Rim from his headquarters in Taiwan, he wasn’t ready to cash it all in and play golf.

"I’m not a very good retiree. I watched too many of my colleagues retire, not have enough to do, and then not do very well in retirement."

So, in a move that’s proven providential both personally and financially, Steve and Cindy Golliher returned to Crawfordsville —Cindy’s hometown and the place the couple first met—to re-open Davis House Bed and Breakfast.

"When you run a bed and breakfast, you have a reason to get up in the morning," Steve says. "I’m not busy all the time, but I have something to do, something that matters."

Travel during his "working" years left Steve little time for community involvement, and he’s finding his nascent efforts on two local boards promoting tourism and economic development both interesting and challenging.

"We need to be more focused, but everyone agrees we have a lot going for us here. The challenge is how to coordinate all that we already have, and to take it from a 5 on a scale of 1 to 10 to the 8 or 9 we could be." Cindy says the word she hears over and over to describe Crawfordsville is "potential."

"Our guests are surprised with what we have in this area," Steve adds. Take the members of The Roving Roadsters car club, who spent a week traveling back roads in the area around Shades, Turkey Run, Sugar Creek, and Parke County, topped off with a visit to the Indianapolis Speedway—all places within one hour of Crawfordsville.

"They called it one of the best trips they’ve ever had and promised to be back with a bigger group next year,"
says Steve. He and Cindy joined the group in their own roadster during the tour.

"What I’d like to see are about 10 or 15 Wabash alumni retire here," Steve says. He hosted many of his Wabash classmates at the Davis House last June during their 40th Reunion. "Some of the hottest retirement spots in the country are around colleges, where they have programs for retirees. They could lend their skill sets to those we already have in town—and keep me company."

See Davis House at www.thedavishouse.net

Photo: Gary James ’10 talks with Moon Dance Cafe owner Joyce Meyer—photo by Kim Johnson

 


Wabash College • P.O. Box 352 • Crawfordsville, IN 47933 • 765.361.6100