Monday, January 21, 2008

"Two Men Look Out A Window...One Sees Mud, One Sees Stars," --- Oscar Wilde

Walb Memorial Student Union
Photo Credit: IPFW Web Site

October 15, 1991 - Should have been a regular fall day but it was not. We were all busy that day preparing the Walb Memorial Union Ballroom for the mayoral debate between current Mayor Paul Helmke and his democratic challenger, Charlie Belch.

While my friends Janet Ausbury (IPSGA right hand woman) and Mike Wills (IPSGA Senator extraordinaire) were ensuring that the meat of the questions were coming together, I was in my office (Walb 224?) juggling the phone calls of local reporters.

The people who served (whether they liked it or not) as my surrogate parents -

Marian Adair Zimmerman, Dean of Students and Bill Frederick, Presiding Officer for the IPFW Faculty Senate and the two men who kept the campus on its toes - Steve Hollander (Prof - English) and

Mike Downs (Chair - Political Science) checked in on me to make sure that everything was going smoothly.

As the evening grew near, everything seemed to be under control. I thought that my biggest issue was about which dress I was going to wear to the event (p.s. - the more "grown-up" version won - it was red/white/blue - I kid you not).

I had responsibility to greet the candidates, introduce them to the audience, ensure that the place didn't get out of control during the formal debate, and then, wrap it up at the end.

A girl had to look good. And yes Virginia - everything had shoulder pads.

The moderator, Victor Locke, arrived.

You're going to laugh. I was a bit star-struck by Victor because I literally grew up listening to him on WOWO and then I watched him daily on WPTA 21Alive. He spent time with the appropriate individuals getting to know the logistics. Always the one who has the appearance of being under control, I was in admiration mode when I met him.

Mr. Belch and his entourage were the first to arrive. I walked with them to their official green room, making small talk along the way.

Mayor Helmke arrived soon thereafter and while he was polite and cordial, his handlers were keeping his busy so the small talk? Not so much.

Although I have extremely strong opinions about issues which are bantered about by the politician of the week, my head wasn't in that space that night. As the hostess with the most-ess, I was all about the guests - the logistics - and keeping to the time schedule.

With only a short time before kick-off, I stopped by Mr. Belch's room to ensure that he had what he needed before going on. Some question was asked by one of his campaign DUDES - something about the questions that were being asked and the order in which they would be asked. That was too detailed for me. There were two students that were appointed by the Student Senate from two separate Student Organizations and they were tasked with working with a group of individuals to come up with the questions. Beyond that - I didn't know if they were being asked in random order or if they were being grouped together by a theme...

As I started to open my mouth to say someone's name (who would obviously know more details than me), Senator X (who still to this day - wishes to remain nameless) - came rushing in to tell me that Paul was here and it was urgent that he speak to me.

This was most excellent news. With about fifteen minutes to spare, my friend Paul had manage to pick up my shoes from Glenbrook - the pair I had ordered - and they went perfectly with the dress I was wearing. This was a huge load off of my mind. I was concerned that I would have to wear these shoes with these tremendous high heels that didn't have any traction on the bottom of them. I surely didn't want to be poked fun at in The Communicator next week!

I smiled and said to Senator 'X', can you please ask Paul to meet me up in my office? I'll be there in just a few minutes.

When I turned back to talk to Mr. Belch and his entourage, I was met with the following:


Huh? I just looked at him. Stunned and confused look on my face. I didn't know what to say. I had never been yelled at by a mayoral candidate.

No sir I said.

And then I pretended that he had random Tourette's Syndrome and I pulled Mike W. over to answer Mr. Belch's logistical questions.

With eight minutes left to spare, I high-tailed it upstairs to my office and thankfully, Paul and my shoes were waiting for me. I swapped out bad heels with good heels and ran back down to start the show.

It wasn't until I was getting ready to wrap up the event (debate) that it finally hit me - Charlie Belch thought that I was meeting PAUL HELMKE up in my office. I started giggling uncontrollably and I came thisclose to being unable to perform my closing remarks duties.

After it was over, Senator 'X' and I laughed until we nearly pee'd our pants.

So you know the rest of the story - Helmke went on to win.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Blast From The Past: Authority figures missing from local newscasts

I just love coming across old articles from the Fort Wayne Newspapers. They make me chuckle :).

Published Date: October 16, 1984
Paper: The News Sentinel

Where are all the authority figures on local television news, the anchormen and women who look like they've been around Fort Wayne a while and know what they're talking about?

You'll have a hard time finding them here.

When WKJG News Director Dick Florea, 47, gave up his anchorman post on Channel 33 Friday, that left us with the under-40 crowd.

At WPTA Channel 21, co-anchors Keith Edwards and Susan Alderman are barely in their 30s.

At WKJG, Jim Brook is in his mid-30s and co-anchor Marilyn Lis is just finishing her 20s.

The co-anchors at WANE are even younger; Liz Berry's in her mid-20s and her new partner, Ken Owen, is a mere 23.

Judging by the relative youth of Fort Wayne's news anchors, you'd swear 39 must be the mandatory retirement age.

And that's a mistake.

Filling a program with nothing but young faces may be acceptable in programs clearly intended for young viewers, but the news is a different case. Young people don't watch the news; adults do. You can gauge that by the commercials that air during the news. Advertisers know which shows are watched by which age groups, and they place their commercials accordingly.

During a local newscast, you won't see commercials for youth-oriented products like cereal, chewing gum, soft drinks or blue jeans. You'll see ads for farm pesticides, carcar products, grocery stores, home-improvement products - things adults use.

That's because adults watch the news, not kids. And many adults like getting their news from people who look like they've been around a while - not from newscasters who look like they're fresh out of college.

That's what made Walter Cronkite so popular, so trusted. That's why people look to David Brinkley, Charles Kuralt and Eric Sevareid for commentaries.

The networks understand the public's need for seasoned news veterans, and they staff their newscasts accordingly. But locally, 40-year-old faces have disappeared from TV news. There is, of course, a reason for that.

Fort Wayne is not a large city; it hovers around the 100th position for American TV markets.

When you're that size, you don't attract seasoned veterans for TV news jobs. Instead, you get young adults with a bit of experience who stop off here for a year or two before heading to a more lucrative TV job in a larger city.

The only time you get seasoned veterans like Florea to stick around is when they have strong ties to the community and are happy to settle down here. But most have their sights set on larger cities, making it hard to find news anchors who look like they've been around long enough to have a sense of perspective about this city and its people.

And that's a shame.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Fort Wayne's Santa Claus

I swear. Every single one of you better go dig up your own version of this photo. I know you have at least one. Send 'em over. We'll post them.

This is me - Kristina Michele Frazier and my best friend Babette. Now, I don't remember Babette's last name and honestly, I haven't seen her since 1971. I met her when we were living in an apartment building (managed by my grandparents) on
Clay Street. I *think* I've marked the right location (or close enough). It was demolished many years ago.

If you lived in or near FW during this time period, you could count on a couple of traditions.

  • Your mom, dragging you downtown for a picture with Santa.
  • Standing in line to get that picture of Santa.
  • Getting tired of standing in that line for that picture with Santa.

I don't know what anyone elses experience was but it's not like Santa and I carried on these deep, meaningful conversations. Everything was about "the picture". You weren't there to discuss a list or to ask how Rudolph was doing. The Christmas machine at Ayres (I think that's what it was by then) was all about moving you through that line.

Your picture would come in a bi-fold, Christmas-card like holder. When you opened it up, your picture was framed by paper and you could lift up the flap to pull your picture out. If you did that though, you found out that you were 'just' a number. gasp!

To his credit, Santa always tried to be pleasant about the thirty million pictures he had to sit for every holiday season. He would always greet you with a hello there. Although we didn't discuss my angst over toys or world hunger, I was always in awe of him. He was tall and very knowing-looking. *****************************************************

You probably, that the man behind the suit was Fort Wayne's own Phil Steigerwald. It wasn't until years later, that I found out that my Santa was an important man (beyond the obvious!) in our community.

Oh yeah! Mr. Steigerwald was a talented vocalist (even singing the national anthem at the annual Fourth of July fireworks display when it was held at McMillen Park). He also owned his own reality gig (Fairfield Realtors), represented the 5th District on City Council in the 1960s and 1970s, and served as the treasurer of the Allen County Republican Party.

Did you know that he first started his Santa role in 1942? Mr. Steigerwald was just a sophomore at South Side High School when he was first asked to dress up as the jolly guy.

And my perception of his awe-inspiring presence? Wasn't just my imagination. He stood at 6 feet, 2 inches tall.

If you remember the Sears Department Store on Rudisill - that's where he began enchanting the children of Fort Wayne. He eventually moved to the Wolf & Dessauer Department Store (downtown) and when L.S. Ayres purchased W & D, our Santa stayed put. So what if the store had a different name. Santa was a steady presence for the young and old.

Sadly, our Santa died in January 2004 at the age of 76 from complications due to diabetes. I have to wonder - will any other Santa be able to emerge and capture the hearts of the Fort Wayne community? Those big, coal-black colored boots will be pretty hard to fill.

Distracted (But Amused and Fascinated)

My obsession with Fort Wayne continues.

I apologize. I've been on the road this week and that's partially why I haven't posted anything. I have about a dozen started - the deal is - as I'm writing about stuff, I do a web search, and then it's 9 hours later.


In other words, I'm a chick who probably needs to have a Ritalin drip hooked into her :).

And one would think that sooner or later, I'd stop finding things that distract me from completing my memory of the moment. But yep...not yet.

In addition, I've purchased a photo scanner so I am scanning in tons of photos.

As I said...I'm distracted.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

St. Mary's Catholic Church

St. Mary's Catholic Church

1101 Lafayette Street
Fort Wayne, IN 46803
(260) 424-8231

Photo Credits: Argil Shock

I'm having a difficult time writing this today.

When I went searching for some photographs to use for this entry, I came across many that were related to 1993 fire. silence

You know how sometimes, you intellectually know things but emotionally, you push it back so far in your mind, that you can sometimes fool yourself into thinking that some tragic event really didn't happen?

I think I did that with the fire.

That day - along with events like The Challenger Explosion, 9/11, and the death of my grandfather - are forever etched in the core of my soul. They were pivotal events that changed me - just like earlier generations were affected by the depression or the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

So this memory today - gosh - it'll be all over the map. It's difficult for me to look at any picture of St. Mary's now, and not have a wave of emotions that range from complete happiness and joy (one moment) and then sadness (boy - those tears came FAST) and anger (why did this have to happen?!).

Like many of you FW'ers, I was born and raised Catholic. I have a ton of Catholic-related memories. I was baptised and married at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. I attended CCD classes and then eventually attended full time school at St. Therese.

My mother's side of the family lived and breathed the Catholic ways in downtown Fort Wayne during the 60's, 70's and 80's.

My grandfather and great-grandmother (even though they were members of Cathedral) enjoyed attending all of the downtown churches, so if I happened to be spending time with them on one of those days where they had the inclination to attend mass (and as you know - that was not just isolated to Sunday's), I usually went along with them.

Of course as a wee youngster, I didn't really understand church much. I was pretty irritated by having to sit still, and, I didn't understand why I couldn't read the funny words in the book or why I wasn't allowed to get up and parade around the church like all of the other people.

I was an obedient child and didn't ask - I just did. I learned the rituals of standing and sitting, and in a very short period of time, I knew exactly when the kneeler was supposed to go down and when the adults would start roaming around. I also knew when I could let myself be distracted by the intricate detailing of the church. I would stare at a window or a ledge and I would wonder things like:

  • how big were the arrowheads that were used to do all the cutting and dicing of this stuff?

  • how many people had to stand on top of each other in order to get that piece of glass up there?

I blame the arrowhead thoughts on my visit to a museum and my human pyramid scenario on the circus :).

I don't remember the first exact time that my grandpa took me to St. Mary's. Often, I would get Cathedral and Mary mixed up. They were in close proximity to each other and they were both grand, sweeping, architectural landmarks.

Where I could distinguish the two was within the interior of the church. St. Mary's was huge - gi-normous (and yes - Cathedral was too - but in a different way). Naturally, its architecture fascinated me. But in particular, it was the dark - gothic nature of the wood and the shape of the windows that held my attention - especially when I had to wait for grandpa or great-grandma to get back to the pew (you know - they were parading around - communion as I later learned it to be) . I was never scared by its grandeur or darkness. Its oldness and formality automatically made me feel right at home. And that smell. How do you describe that smell? It was old but endearing. Comforting and familiar...but special.

St. Mary's was just one place of many in Fort Wayne, where everybody seemed to know everybody. And you know what? That never struck me as strange. And I guess the reason I bring this up is that one of the charms of Fort Wayne for me - even from the very youngest age - was that the city seemed big in space, but small and homey when it came to relationships.

You can say Father O'Connor and immediately - everybody knew who you were talking about. You can mention the Soup Kitchen and automatically, people are reminded of the fact that in Fort Wayne, being down on your luck didn't mean you had to go hungry. You can mention the fire, and people will tell you where they were when it happened and how shocked and saddened they were.

Since the (physical) church I knew, no longer exists, I can't bring myself to go near the area. I know that the new church was built with a lot of love and that Father Tom used its re-building as a time of healing for the community. When all of that was going on, I had already moved to Indianapolis and that principle of out of site...out of mind... is probably why I'm still not over things.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Holiday Movie Theaters - I & II

Holiday Theaters I & II
949 Northcrest Shopping Center
Fort Wayne, Indiana 46805-1225
(219) 484-2223

Photo Credit: Adam Martin

Here it is, the last day off before I have to return to work and you would think that I would have spent the day relaxing, napping - and you know - just taking it easy.

But no. Instead, I got myself all riled up about the Holiday Theaters (and when I say Holiday Theaters - I don't acknowledge those piddly-ass 6 tiny ones off to the side - which should have never been built to begin with.)

I found pictures today. Not many, but some. And as I looked at them, I became angrier and angrier. My husband Mike walks in and wants to know why I'm pouting.

Look at this! I point to my laptop screen.


Look at this! I point with MORE emphasis.

What am I looking at?


Mike's been married to me for over 17 years now so he knows not to take the bait. This is what I was showing him.

This first picture is an aerial map of the area, dated 2002. You'll notice a building there. The second picture is an aerial map of the area, dated 2005. Huh! Now it ain't there

Yes friends, that's called the unnecessary demolishment of two of the best movie theaters that have ever existed in the state of Indiana.

Sigh. But I'm supposed to be writing about my memories - not gripin' about the people that destroyed a piece of my heart :(.

Moving On...

I grew up on the southwest side of Fort Wayne but by the time I was a teen, I had migrated to downtown and then eventually, the north side area. Naturally, I didn't go back to Waynedale for entertainment. I enjoyed the fruits of the north side.

One of the neatest things on the north side of Fort Wayne was a pair of theaters - or "The Holiday" as some of us called it.

Both theaters were huge. The screens were wide and rounded. The sound was better than having headphones on :). And to boot - the best movies in town played at Holiday. If you wanted to attend a date-night showing, you had to plan on getting there early.

The lobby was just massive. Space out the yin-yang. It was decorated (thinks) in kitschy mod-european. Large crowds of people gathered in the lobby. They either stood around or hung out around the fireplace area. It was a great time to catch up with friends. Glare at your enemies. Hide from those who stalked you. Remember, this was a time when you didn't have the safety of your cell phone to hide behind.

There was the concession area - it had all sorts of wonderful things. I'll pull out my "I was a poor girl card" and admit to you that I usually snuck a pop in shhhhh and when I was older (but still underaged), I brought in the occasional bottle of - well - stuff.

When the usher dude took the red rope down, you knew it was time to move forward toward your theater. Politely too. People were always anxious to get to their seats but you didn't see any idiotic behavior happening.

The seats...the seats weren't like the seats of today. Bub, if you were late for the movie, you had to step on people to get through and people frowned on that, so you minded your p's and q's and you got in there asap. Before the light's went down was best. Watch out for the nasty glares otherwise...

Maybe my memory is fading, but as crowded as those movies were, I just don't remember people being as irritating as they are today. I don't remember obnoxiously loud crunching or people talking. There was this self-imposed peer pressure. We were all there for a good time that was only going to last (in most cases) less than two hours.

SO - the big memory attached to this is....In 1986, I had my first, unofficial date with my husband at The Holiday. We were still in the, "you irritate me, I have no clue how we could possibly have mutual friends" phase. One day, we were bickering (our friend Daron calls this foreplay) about movies, and the next thing you know, we're both showing up - on purpose - to see Top Gun. I had already seen it but whoaaaaaaaaaaaaaa Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer, and Anthony Edwards got my heart a-poundin'. And who cares if Kelly McGillis could have never been a rocket-scientist. It was the Berlin song that counted.

Soon after that first momentus event, we ended up officially dating. And look. Our marriage has lasted longer than Tom and Mimi's, Tom and Nicole's, and (so far) Tom and Katie's.

The Holiday Movie Theaters were awe-inspiring. As you probably know, there was one and then eventually, a second one was added on (early 70's) in such a way that you didn't really know that they weren't built at the same time.

Here's a drawing of what I and II would look like once II would be built. There was such an emphasis on the the theaters looking like one entity. I think that they did a great job!


There are some other photos you can enjoy which I found on a wonderful site - Cinema Tour.

Holiday Theater Sign (attached to the side of the building)
Interior Fireplace
Part of the Fireplace? Maybe where the sculpture was?