Homecoming and True Community
By Mike Morgan, Fishers, Indiana
There’s no substitute for community, and Henderson is a sweet one to come home to.
My wife Stacy and I recently spent an especially sweet three-day weekend in Henderson to reconnect with old friends and familiar places. I was born here in 1960 and lived here until I left for college at Western Kentucky. My dad was a popular veterinarian here for decades—Dr. Morgan, on South Green Street and later on Old Corydon Road. I am proud to be known here mainly as the son of James and Clare, because they were so appreciated by this community. They both passed away years ago, and my brother Jim and sister Lyn live in North Carolina. With no more family to visit here, it had been more than a decade since I’d been home. So it was with fresh and grateful eyes that I was able to visit my hometown on Oct. 18-20 and take in both what Henderson was to me and what it has become.
Clean and Spacious
It was great to see that the town has been well maintained even through the economic downturn. The streets are clean and so very wide (you forget how special that is when you’re away). The buildings present politely, even the empty ones as they quietly wait for their next assignments.
Stacy and I both felt as though the town has turned a corner. Eleven years ago, what I noticed was pawn shops. Today, public works like the lovely Riverwalk, the tasteful Judicial Center, the massive expansion of the high school, and the Depot on Water Street (made me smile—old train station’s MiniMe!) prove that the town is not stuck in time. Selfishly, I wanted to find a little bit of stuck; I drove in wanting to lay eyes on places and buildings just as I remembered them when I tooled down Green Street in my ‘76 Maverick, feeling as if I owned the town. I did find plenty of scenes that had hardly changed at all; but between your progress and my imperfect memory, I found several nice surprises around the town.
We spent rich hours of conversation one-on-one with friends from the HCHS class of ’78—Doug Bobo, Kenny Perkins, Pastor Russell Wood–and with Glenda Guess, who has the distinction of being the only teacher who ever sat on my lap. (I was playing Santa Claus in a play at North Junior High. It was perfectly innocent.) We visited First Methodist Church Sunday morning and sat in the very same just-right-of-center pew where my family sat for decades. But perhaps the highlight was returning to the home and farm on Old Corydon Road to find it well cared for by a sweet couple who moved here from Fishers, the town where we now live near Indianapolis, and are nearing the end of a two-year remodeling project. The 1967 house that Jimmy Bethel designed for James and Clare has a new future, and the farm has become a busy equestrian center with plenty of riders and boarders. We couples chattered for nearly two hours about the history of the property and all the surprising things our families have in common, now including the old Hilltop Haven Farm.
Real and Virtual Communities
What has struck me about this weekend is that true community is something that evolves over time, requires early and patient investment, and as they say in prize drawings, you must be present to win. I could not have arranged this weekend without the internet and Facebook—it’s how I knew which of my high school friends are still in town, and it’s how we found Norris and Mary Elizabeth Priest’s lovely bed-and-breakfast. (How often is one served eggs, bacon, and slight-of-hand on the same menu?) But that virtual community is, at best, an enhancement to the real one. I hope we 21st-century people will all figure this out someday, but I saw it clearly this weekend: the people you befriend online can never become a substitute for a real community, like the one that Henderson was to me in my youth and that opened its arms to me again this Autumn.
The note I’ve taken: real community is the product of history, memory, friendship, and progress, and so I thank you for delivering so richly on all fronts so I could reconnect with Henderson in so sweet and poignant a way.