10-03-2019 Tri-City History Page

Phil’s Famous Baked Ham… first neon sign in Coloma by Hicks Signs. If you have a favorite memory of Phil’s, please contact North Berrien Historical Museum at 269-468-3330, office@northberrienhistory.org, or stop by Tues.-Friday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. they would love to hear your stories. From the photo collection at the North Berrien Historical Museum 300 Coloma Avenue, Coloma

The Paw Paw River Journal

Nerdiness is not forever…

Necessarily. But sometimes it seems that way! I should know something about it because I was a nerd back there in middle school. Yup, I’ll admit it… two left feet and just all around awkward when girls were present. Us guys were trying so desperately to be cool. I didn’t know until I grew out of that stage that you can’t “be cool.” Either you are or you aren’t! Later on I tried to explain that to my students. One time I was teaching a class of juniors in American literature. We were having a discussion about that very thing… how we go through stages. One girl complained, “Why is it when boys get to be a certain age they have to act so awful?” All the other girls in class voiced their agreement to that! Most of the guys squirmed a little bit and just looked uncomfortable. I tried to put a good face on it and maybe make the boys feel not quite so bad. I said, “Well, it was just a little while ago most of you went through that time. There is a period in there when girls develop faster than you guys and just sort of leave you behind until you can catch up.” There’s an old saying which I just amended a little… in the spring a young man’s fancy turns to… what the girls have been thinking about all winter! I noticed after I said that most of the girls were nodding their heads and giving me that Mona Lisa smile! And it’s true! Along about middle school boys just get awful! I know. I was there once! They feel so uncomfortable… too old to cry and too young to swear. Hah! Not anymore. I have heard the language they use now. And it has been thus for some years. One of the benchmark novels for telling it like it is with teenagers is “The Catcher in the Rye,” by J.D. Salinger. When it came out, I believe in the late 1950s, it was a runaway bestseller. The first time I read it, I laughed right out loud! It was about (you guessed it) a nerdy teenager named Holden Caulfield. Told by him, he uses all the bad words teenagers use, but no one talks about! Holden is honest, sensitive, and just trying to become an adult. He knows he is a nerd! And he has a younger sister, Phoebe. He is trying to protect her and keep her in innocent childhood as long as he can. He has this dream… all the little kids are playing in a field of rye. He is standing next to a cliff at the edge of the field trying to keep them from falling off! And in telling his story he is so horribly funny that the reader can’t help but laugh, and the same time feel his sensitivity keenly. The book had mixed reviews. Do teenagers really talk like that? Yes, of course they do! Parents were horrified. It became an instant hit with teenagers who were all reading it. I’ve read quite a few books on the rites of passage from childhood to adulthood. Not one has made an impression on me as that one did! I think many parents would secretly agree with me that if they could find a finishing school for young men… say somewhere on an island (with all the amenities, of course). And they be kept there until they pass through that horrible nerdiness… I think there would be plenty of subscriptions. In addition, let’s admit it… we now live in a world where temptations are multiplied many times from what times were like when I was a kid. I’m amazed at how many ways kids now can find to get into trouble! There are so many pitfalls. In addition we live in a society that says, Do it all. Do it no. Don’t wait!! Whatever happened to “negative capability?” That’s the ability to wait for something, to put off gratification! It is the keystone to ultimate success. We must be able to make long-range plans. I know a girl who organized her life in five-year segments. She had a plan for what she wanted to accomplish in each one. And then she went on to the next one. Did it work? You bet! Now, as to my own nerdiness… how did I get through it? Blind, sheer luck – and some understanding parents! I think way back when I was small, they planted in me something called a conscience. This is a little voice in the back of our head that says, “Don’t do that!” I’m not sure it was conscious on their part, perhaps they did it by example. But it was there. On personal matters, they were scrupulously honest. In their personal lives, they always considered the other person first. And they planted it in me. Not perfect… it didn’t keep me from taking chances, sorry to say. But I always knew when I approached the edge of the cliff, that voice said, “Don’t jump!” There were two of my friends I would not ride with in a car. I just knew they would get into trouble some day… they were both extremely fast and reckless drivers. One made it through adolescence without wrecking the folk’s car. Just lucky! The other one, not so. One night he rolled his dad’s Oldsmobile over and over out into the swamp that was right across from where the casino now stands west of Hartford. He had a car full of kids and just lucky no one was killed. Glad I wasn’t with him! I think all of us old guys who made it through the nerdiness of youth are lucky. Now here we are still weaving golden threads into The Great Tapestry of Life in these storybook towns along the Paw Paw River.

Coloma Library News

NOTE: Saturday closure

The Coloma Public Library will be closed all day on Saturday, Oct. 1