Saturday, January 31, 2009

el elefante es grande

Selsa Couch was born and raised in Taos, New Mexico. She came from a rather large family - at least four brothers and three sisters that I can remember. I only saw the whole crew together once but at different times, her mother, Margaret Anaya, and some of her sisters or brothers, would visit the Couch family in Fort Wayne.

That entire Anaya family was an animated bunch. When with each other, they would speak their native language (Spanish) and their hands would be doin' almost as much work as their lips. Please do not think that I am making fun of them - I'm certainly not. If anything, it made me aware very early in life how powerful non-verbal queues were to communicating with someone else.

Selsa's family had very deep roots in a world that frankly, I knew nothing about. The language, the traditions, the foods - they were all new to me. I was a good sport though - I kept my mouth shut and tried to blend in as well as I could.

One of the things that was extremely important to Selsa was that both of her children had a solid understanding of their roots. The playing out of these expectations came in the form of a strict, Catholic-church upbringing, a rigorous educational curriculum, and hands-on experience with traditions that Selsa herself experienced as a child.

I've already written about our CCD Classes, Confession, and Communion.

Another area that she was insistent that Ericka learn was the Spanish language. When the Couch's moved to Hadley Road, we jumped full-force into learning how to speak Spanish. Me and Ericka would sit in the nook area (between the kitchen and the family room), with our books (which Selsa purchased for us), and we would review our Spanish lessons with her.

This was independent from our school stuff - this was afterschool lessons and how I got mixed up into it - I'm not sure. It was probably a lot like all of the other things that my mom and Selsa conspired on (i.e. if it was good for one daughter - it would be good for the other daughter too).

Nouns and verbs.
Male and female versions of words.

It was a lot to learn.

Selsa used to drill us on the fundamental proununciations of the words. The phrase which I cannot get out of my head, "el elefante es grande".

Looks (and probably sounds) simple enough, right? Absolutely not. You needed to put emphasis in the right areas and your tone needed to reflect the statement that it was.

It was during this period of time in our friendship that I first noticed how tough Selsa was on Ericka.

Selsa was an elementary school teacher. She taught at Hoagland and then at Ward. Her teaching (and parenting) methodology reminded me a lot of my third grade teacher, Miss (Sandra) McDougall. She was tough, had high expectations, did not take any b.s., and did not allow for any excuses. Neither she nor Miss McDougall were mean - they were just very set in how they thought things should happen. It's a series of good qualities to have in a school teacher. In a parent? I have mixed emotions.

My mom wasn't anything like this (not to say she was a "better" parent or anything like that). Their styles were just totally different from one another. My mom was more laid back and casual about parenting and I think that I had higher expectations of myself than I think she had of me - or at least that she ever verbalized to me. She was basically a kid herself and although she was smart, she dropped out her junior year to have me. I think she was just pleased that I was a good kid who liked school, did well, and didn't cause issues for anyone (except my bratty sister PJ).

Sitting at the table, one Wednesday afternoon, practicing our Spanish - I saw it.

I saw the almost unbearably high standards for everything and anything.

I saw the cracks in my friend. She never broke down or fell apart. It was her demeanor, the sad, defeated look in her dark eyes. I didn't know how to fix it. My first reaction was to grab her hand and run out the back door and into the big, back yard.

But I didn't. I sat there with her and we continued through the lesson.

Afterwards, while waiting for my mom to pick me up, we went outside and spun ourselves around in circles until we got dizzy and fell to the ground laughing.

That's how me and Ericka used to deal with things in our lives. Distractions. Goofin' off. We never poured our hearts out to each other and we never had deep, insightful discussions. We were there for each other in a very silent way and for many years, it's probably what kept us both sane.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Life on Hadley Road

We helped the Couch family moved into their new house on Hadley Road. There were a lot of "firsts" involved in this move (for me). For example...

1) It was the first time I saw a moving truck that big. When we moved from our apartment to a house, there were pick-up trucks and cars involved - no moving truck :).

2) I had never seen a house that big.

Some perspective for you. The house that they lived in on Kyle Road (I believe it was rented from the Toor's), was approximately 800 square feet.

Kyle Road

This is an aerial view of the house they moved into on Hadley Road.

Hadley Road

I would guess the house is at least 2500 sq ft. - maybe more. The driveway - which pretty much looks the same, was black tar-like material that sloped downward. In the winter time, it made it tricky to get vehicles in and out but during the mid to late 70's, Hadley Road was more of a side road. It didn't have the traffic that I'm sure it has today.

Other things I remember about the house...

No one ever used the front door - it was much easier to drive down the driveway and enter the house through the garage (which sat under the house).

The first floor, which had the living room, family room, dining room, 1/2 bath, and kitchen - was sparsely furnished in the beginning. In fact, the official "living room" and "dining room" had nothing in them and we would often use that area to goof off....Ericka would show off with her fancy gymnastics moves and I would twirl around and tap like I was Fred Astaire...

All of the bedrooms were located upstairs. Ericka kept her room kind of plain - it had her white, four poster canopy bed in it along with her dresser and night stand in it. Her younger brother (Aaron) though, wanted his room painted dark blue and I think he even had bunk beds.

For the first couple of months, things were different - obviously - because I just couldn't walk over to Ericka's house on my own (nor her to mine), however, we settled into a comfortable routine whereby I was able to spend the night with her often. Kind of like our own slumber party.

On one particular Friday, Ericka introduced me to a record - and an artist that I had never heard of - Elton John. Music was always in the background of my life but it wasn't until that very moment, that I honed in on my first artist and my first set of "serious grown-up albums".

In the front room area, we had our bowl of Jiffy Pop, our pitcher of grape koolaid and we put on the toons and sang and danced. Stand out tracks included: Island Girl, Crocodile Rock, Bennie and the Jets, and Honkey Cat.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Finger Lickin' Good

KFC, Hobby House, Pancake House

Alright. Here's a new postcard for you. On the back it says, "5 Locations, Fort Wayne, Indiana. Specializing in Col. Sander's Kentucky Fried Chicken - Mac's Famous Barbecue and Original Pancakes.

Color photo is by Virgil V. Marquart (my Fort Wayne, pop-culture historian, RIP)

It was mailed to someone on May 31, 1965.

SO - where were these restaurants located at?

You can click on the picture - which will take you to flickr and you can look at the postcard in even more detailed (about 4 times the size you see here).

Is that center picture the KFC that was on Bluffton Road???

And whatever happened to the Hobby House?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Postcard of Aerial View of Downtown Fort Wayne, Ind.

As many of you know, I've been collecting postcards of Fort Wayne for quite some time.

Some of my very favorite postcards are those that are "aerial" in nature. I think it's interesting to see how much Fort Wayne has changed over time.

This particular postcard that I've posted today, is a very vibrant, non-photograph aerial view of Fort Wayne.

If you're up to the challenge - I'd like you to go out to flickr (where I scanned in the original) and tag with notes - what each one of these buildings are or were. You can just click through to flickr from the picture.

So for instance - I put a note on the Lincoln National Bank building and one on the Allen County Court House. (Add a note is near the top of the screen in flickr).

You'll need to register (at flickr) in order to contribute - registration is free.

And thanks for helping me to figure out what all of these buildings are / were!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Mayor Tom Henry and His Wife Met at Scott's Decatur Road

Interior of Eavey's Market - 1957Here's yet another photo from LIFE MAGAZINE's story on the famous Eavey's Market.

As you all know, Don Scott recently passed away. I had left a message on his guestbook and Cheryl Scott (his daughter), replied to me this weekend, thanking me for my kind words.

She told me that she had heard that Decatur Road was closing and that it was good that her dad had died not knowing about it. I'm sure those of you that know the history of Scott's understand how much that particular location meant to Mr. Scott.

I haven't connected all of the dots together, but I do know that at some point, Mr. Eavey was ready to get out of the business (I assume retiring???) and someone else took over the Decatur Road location. Articles I have read said that Don Scott came in later and took it off the hands of whomever had it because it was "fledgling" and because he saw opportunity written all over the location.

Now, I'm a bit younger than some of my readers here :) so I don't remember the things like the coffee grinder or the swimming pool. But I'll tell you what I do remember.

As a little girl, I remember walking under the grand arches of the store, feeling like I was walking in to an adventure! I remember the smells - I remember the enormous amounts of fresh produce (I even told my grandma one day that Scott's must have the largest garden ever!)

I remember the big red slide that was adjacent to the property. We used to take our burlap sacks and ride down that slide - faster than cars on I27 - I was sure of it!

One of the comments left on my blog talked about the potential for a "missed" opportunity. Read it here.

"Back in those days, Fort Wayne could do big things because there were individuals who had vision who didn't think about limitations. Back then, people honestly believed that Fort Wayne could be a world class city, no matter what side of town you were talking about."

Let me tell you - that captures a huge slice of why I have such great love for Fort Wayne. I cannot even tell you the number of folks who were always confused when I told them that Fort Wayne wasn't about the big chains (grocery or restaurants). People would look at me - confused. And it's the second biggest city in the State? Yep, isn't that neat (I would say).

Unfortunately, I can't get one designated leader (elected or otherwise), to give me the time of day. Maybe they're afraid of offending Kroger's because Kroger is keeping folks employed in this horrible economy....

Who knows the reason why. I guess I need to go to Plan B.

Incidentally, that nugget about Mayor Tom Henry - that came from Cheryl Scott in her latest email to me today. I'm sure that there's more behind the story - oh Mr. Mayor - where are you???

P.S. Did you know that the Decatur Road location is already pulling things out even though the closing isn't for another three weeks? Read about it here

Friday, January 23, 2009

No Response Yet From Fort Wayne Leaders - Re: Scott's Decatur Road

Photo Courtesy of Clay Blackburn

(I like this particular view of the cornucopia because it shows the "bones" of the structure. Although the external appearance has been changed, the bones of the structure are from the original store built in 1956.)

Just wanted to let folks know that I wrote to Councilman Glynn Hines, Southeast neighborhood association leader Bill Crowley, and the City of Fort Wayne's Southeast Area Advocate - Chreise Dixie. No response back yet from any of them.

Maybe today!

In case you missed it, the News-Sentinel wrote up a nice blurb on our concerns.

Also, SuperValu purchased Scott's (originally - before Kroger's) and they were the ones responsible for altering the original sign. If anyone has any contacts at SuperValu they can forward to me so that I can talk to them - that would be awesome. Or - I think Rick Bender? used to be the store manager there for several years....his contact info would be great also!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Update On The Cornucopia (New Information - 4:30 est)

Wanted to add another shot of Eavey's from the Life Magazine Image Collection.

Also, I spoke with John Elliott - the media spokesperson from Kroger. If any of you would like to contact him, he is open to it - his email address is and the number he can be reached is 317-538-1495.

This appeared in today's Journal Gazette:

Scott’s cornucopia unlikely to be saved

"A local landmark is expected to be lost when the Scott’s Food & Pharmacy at 5300 Decatur Road closes Feb. 14.

The large cornucopia adorning the front of the building is anchored with steel that extends from the top of the horn into the foundation, Kroger Co. spokesman John Elliott said.

Elliott didn’t know of any plans to preserve the sign. And he expressed doubts it could be saved without destroying part of the building."

So here's the good news. The Journal Gazette took some liberties with its reporting and certainly, with its headline.

I spoke to John Elliott for approximately 15 minutes. He was very open, polite, and gracious. The question he was asked by the Journal Gazette was - would Kroger pay to move the cornucopia to another place.

Kind of a different question than what I was asking.

I asked him - is there any possible way - we can save the cornucopia? I explained to John (me - a complete stranger) that this cornucopia was an iconic symbol to the citizens of Fort Wayne. I probably blathered on for a good 5 minutes, explaining the emotional attachment to it and my gosh - the man listened to me.

He not only listened - he gave me feedback that he - and Kroger - were certainly open to a dialog with us (us being those emotionally attached to our cornucopia).

He did go into some explanation regarding why they were closing the Decatur Road store versus the Kroger located across the way.

A couple of items (and I am paraphrasing)

1) That area of the city has not been generally supportive of the store. Sales are very poor.

2) The Kroger across the way is located in a shopping center which gives the place more foot traffic.

3) The closest Kroger had been recently remodeled and one of the deciding factors in closing Decatur Road, was a combination of its declining sales and the price to have to remodel.

John said he was going to check in to see what the status was of the real estate situation. He was optimistic and said someone from Fort Wayne could always come along and purchase the place. And you know - he's completely right. He also said that a new owner wouldn't necessarily NOT preserve it. I wanted to bring up Southtown Mall to him but then I didn't want to burden him with Fort Wayne's issues.

SO - I'm passing this all off to my buddy Stephen Parker - and between the two of us - and anyone that is willing to jump in and help - we want to figure out how to save a piece of Fort Wayne history. By the way, ARCH remains silent and passive on the situation which pisses me off. Send them some of your love, k?

The elected representative for the district where the Decatur Road Scott's is located is Councilman Glynn A. Hines. He can be reached here - 260-447-7144 or


Update (4:31 p.m. est)

I would like to formally apologize to Angie Quinn from ARCH. After I emailed her my blog posting, she responded very quickly. She indicated that Stephen Parker and I were the only ones to reach out to ARCH - there was no contact from the local, traditional media outlets.

Here's her response.

Here is ARCH's response:

Since the Eavey's grocery store opening on July, 31, 1956, the Eavey/Scotts Cornucopia sign has been a beloved and familiar landmark on Fort Wayne's south side. Although it is not the original sign—the sign and lighting were completely replaced in 1992, but the support structure is original—the sign is a significant local landmark. As one of the last of the grand "spectacular" signs of the 1950s, the cornucopia stands 70 feet tall, and formerly was made of porcelain coated steel, with neon lights outlining each fruit and vegetable. In 1992, the sign was replaced with a new metal sign, which did not include new neon outlining the produce. As a community landmark, however, the changes are almost imperceptible, and the sign is every bit as loved now as it was loved in 1992.

However, the removal of the original materials may make preservation efforts difficult. Most funding sources for historic preservation projects require that the building/site/structure be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. We're in the process now of getting a determination of whether the sign is eligible, since the sign materials are not original, and are not yet 50 years old—the usual criteria for inclusion on the register.

We've also begun investigating whether the sign could be protected through the Fort Wayne Local Historic Preservation Ordinance, which allows property owners to have a special designation—much like a special zoning—that will require that the city's Historic Preservation Commission review all visible changes to the exterior of a protected resource. As a sign, all of the cornucopia would be subject to review. The main problems with this avenue are that, 1) the owner needs to initiate the designation; and 2) the ordinance marks a specific piece of real estate, and not the historic resource itself. So, in this case, it would involve making the entire Scotts parcel a local historic district. Unfortunately, the store itself has been remodeled so many times it is not architecturally significant at all.

IF the owner would donate the sign, and IF a location for the sign were located, and IF funds were found to pay for its removal and replacement, then it is possible to have the sign protected. As a piece of public art [which it most definitely is] it might then be eligible for Local Historic District protection. Otherwise, we will need to hope that the next owner of the store chooses to keep the sign, as Eavey's, Scotts, Super Value, and Kroger did while running their grocery store operations in the building.

One other option to consider, should the above fail, is donating the sign to one of the national sign museums (there's one in Cincinnati) or to a local entity like NATMUS in Auburn, which has collected other local retail signs of the 1950s (though I do not think they have the space).

The ARCH Preservation Committee will discuss the sign, and may propose further action at its meeting later this month. I'll be happy to keep you up to date, and I would be happy to speak to a group of concerned citizens about the sign, if there is interest.

I'll also upload this to our blog:, to see if other interested folks contact ARCH about the sign.

On a personal note: as a child of the south side, myself, the cornucopia has been a most important landmark my entire life. I was in the marching band at Bishop Luers (when they still had one) from 1978-1982, and every practice was timed to the big neon clock on the west side of the store, easily seen from Luer's football field across the highway. The clock is gone now, too.


YES! A South Sider! Yay for us. Please - everyone - pass the word - tell your friends - your relatives - have them make noise - have them contact ARCH, Glynn Hines, and the local media. We actually have a chance here to make a difference!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

End of an Era - Scott's on Decatur Road

Eavey Market - 1957

Dear Kroger,

I had several folks email me today to tell me about your decision to close the Decatur Road Scott's Grocery Store. I was stunned. Speechless. I was so distraught about it, that I actually called my husband up and ranted at him on the phone.

Although he has absolutely no attachment to the South Side of Fort Wayne (like I do – he’s a North Side’r), he understands why I’m upset about this decision.

You see....back in 1956, a man named Henry J. Eavey had a dream. He wanted to build the country's largest single-room grocery store and he wanted to do it in Fort Wayne. On a location just across from U.S. Highway 27, an 80,760 square foot supermarket was erected.

How cool was that?

But it got even cooler than that.

He wanted his store to be seen from miles away and what better way to do that than with an iconic symbol - a food-filled cornucopia.

And when Don Scott bought Eavey's in the late 60's, he understood that this iconic symbol was a part of the attraction of what made the Decatur Road location, a neat place to shop. He had it cleaned up a bit, switching the names out (of course).

As a little girl who grew up on the South Side of Fort Wayne, driving by the Decatur Road Scott's was fascinating. For the longest time, I thought the cornucopia was a dragon (you know - like Puff the Magic Dragon). It would be many years before my grandma would break it to me - Krissie, they call that a know - like a horn of plenty?

Yea - okay - I guess so. If I turned my head a certain way , I could see that BUT I still thought that Puff the Magic Dragon was a much neater explanation.

Kroger - did you know that about a decade later - that cornucopia was battered by storms (and possibly a tornado?) that made its way through Fort Wayne? Yep. And you know, Don Scott, he could have said to himself - heck - that thing is just a nuisance. It's comin' down permanently. But you see, he didn't. Why? I'm assuming it's because he knew that that darn cornucopia is a big darn deal to us Fort Wayne folks.


It's like - you don't mess with Coney Island - you don't jack with Powers - and you certainly don't screw with the cornucopia.

So now, you're closing Decatur Road Scott's and I'm sitting here in my little ole house in Fishers, Indiana, fretting about the future of the cornucopia. I kid you not. If you destroy one of the most iconic symbol's of Fort Wayne, I don't think that I will ever forgive you.

If you allow a place like The Dollar General Store to move into that building and bastardize my cornucopia, you will break my heart into a trillion pieces.


If you destroy the cornucopia because you lack an understanding of its importance to us, you will break my heart into a trillion pieces.


So please respond and let me know what your plan is for our beloved Fort Wayne piece of history. If I have to go out and raise funds to save it - I will. If I have to stage a roof sit-in - I will.

Please do not take away/destroy another piece of my childhood.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Confessing My Sins

At some point in time (1974?), my mother enrolled me and my sister PJ in CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) classes at St. Therese. They were held every Wednesday evening and at one point in time, they almost cut into my favorite new show – Happy Days.

Selsa Couch also enrolled Ericka in CCD and between the two of them, they coordinated the pick up and drop off of the three of us to the classes.

During second grade, Ericka and I went through some special preparation which led up to two events – First Communion (and more on this later) and The Sacrament of Penance. I was puzzled by the latter. The idea was to confess our sins and to be freed from them while at the same time, seeking mercy and forgiveness from God. There were categories of sins and ways in which people showed that they were sorry for them.

My very first time was a bit scary and intimidating. In the multi-purpose room (in the St. Therese school/church building), they set up the confessional – um – I guess box? It was dark brown – one side was where the priest sat – cloaked in privacy and the other side was where the confessor sat. In between us was a wooden, sliding window. It was to be pulled open when the confessor was ready to begin.

I thought long and hard about what to confess and amazingly – I had to really stretch the “bad” things because I truly was a good kid. Seriously!

I remember telling Father Frank that I had been mean to my sister Patty (I left out the part that she provoked me – the little brat that she was), I thought mean things about my mom and dad, and I had told 2 lies to friends (okay – those were white lies because Colleen Wooden had asked me if I liked the way she cut her Barbie’s hair and I said sure – I didn’t want to hurt her feelings).

Ericka went right before me so when I was finished, I joined her in the church, with my rosary to say the prayers assigned to me (10 Our Fathers and 3 Hail Mary’s). Although we were being watched closely by our CCD teachers, we compared our punishment through a pre-designated sign language system. Fancy that we both received the same number of prayers!

After it was all over, and we were waiting for Selsa to pick us up, Ericka dropped the bombshell on me that she would probably be moving at the end of the school year. It seems that her dad Larry was moving up in the world so they were going to move into a big ole house far away from me.

I was stunned and said nothing.

As we were running down the sidewalk to meet her mom’s car, I tripped and fell, cutting up my calf and knee pretty badly. I accused Ericka of tripping me and truth be told – I’m not sure if she did (accidentally) or if my clumsy self with my big feet, tripped over something like an indentation in the pavement. We were horsing around as we were running so either could have been the case. I sobbed – almost hysterically. Sure, there was lots of blood and crappy gravel-ish stuff in my knee but looking back, I think the tears were really about me losing my best friend. She had been my “constant” for three years. I felt like the rug was pulled out from under me. But I never told anybody that (until now).

The next day, Ericka came over to my house and delivered to me a "get well" plant along with a handwritten note about how sorry she was for tripping me. I couldn’t even look at her. While looking at the ground, I accepted her gift and then went back to the dinner table to eat.

My mom was impressed with Ericka’s gesture. I kept silent during the entire meal. Everything tasted like paper but I knew that if I didn’t eat, it would draw attention to myself and I would be subjected to questioning. I ate. Kept quiet and took the pain to bed with me.

Me and Ericka never talked about the accidental tripping situation again nor did we have any discussions about the move. When we were together, we just didn’t talk about that. Selsa would give my mom details and my mom would mention things to me. But me and Ericka – nope – we never talked about her moving.

And it happened. She moved to a big ole fancy house on Hadley Road. And another chapter in our relationship began.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

More Southside Pictures - Blast from the Past

Lots of awesome responses yesterday! I found some more gems from the south side of Fort Wayne - enjoy!

Burger Chef with KMart's auto center peeking out...

Burger Chef

Fabric World with KMart's main store to the right...

Fabric World

I THINK - Ponderosa


Friday, January 2, 2009

AYR-WAY'S South Location

AYR-WAY'S South Location
Originally uploaded by kristinafh
John Good has been posting pictures from this side of town (ala now and then) which made me nostalgic and thus, led me to the CONTENTdm ACPL database. I was in search of my south side of Fort Wayne - the one I used to know.

I found this picture and at first - I was like neat! Ayr-Way's! But then, I started zooming in on the different areas of the picture and that's when I saw all of the other gems.

Starting from left to right.

1) Kmart (probably their garden shop)


2) This looks like a Ponderosa!


3) A church? A cemetery? I don't remember this at all.

Church and Cemetery

4) Burger Chef (I miss the works bar!)

Burger Chef

So then, I had to go out to Microsoft Maps and see what the area looks like today.

1) Empty Building - what used to be Ayr-Way's. Sadness. Church and cemetery seems to still be intact.

7601 South Anthony

2) Not Burger Chef. Sadness. Ponderosa? Not sure. Doesn't look like it. Not sure what that other building is. That's what I think had the KMART sign on it in the 1970's picture.

Former Location of Burger Chef

It's just really sad to me that first, downtown was shred to bits and then the south side of town followed suit.