Peabody Singing Tower

 NORTH MANCHESTER HISTORICAL SOCIETY
 North Manchester, Indiana

Recipient of Indiana Historical Society's Awards--"2013 Outstanding Project Award" &
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North Manchester





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Source: NMHS Newsletter Feb 2003

Growing Up in North Manchester

by Mary Coe

I was born to Robert M and Maude Miller on August 18, 1926. I was the third child and the long hoped for daughter, so I was named after my grandmothers, neither of whom I ever knew since they had died before I was born. They both knew of my coming, however, but could not know in those days if the expected one would be a boy or girl. My father was the pastor of the Manchester Church of the Brethren. He had returned from seven years in California where my oldest brother, Bob, was born in 1917. My second brother, Bud, was born in January of 1925 here in North Manchester. They went by the nicknames while here in school but became Robert and John after College

One of my earliest memories is being sent over to the church to get my dad for lunch. His "study" was on the third floor of the northeast

   
 

     

wing, up the flights of wooden stairs. I would go in and begin to call to him and he would answer me as we conversed and I went up the 'dark stairs'. Those are the same stairs which allowed the fire to get into the wooden framing structure above the sanctuary and cause the heavy damage to the west wall early in the morning of the recent fire.

In 1929, my father joined the faculty of Manchester College and we moved from the parsonage to 703 College Avenue. During those years we had a very large garden where East Hall is now. My father was the gardener and my mother was the preserver. She canned what he grew. Many times there were no pay checks from the Treasurer, or part ones only. Bud and I spent most summers on my Grandfather Reiff's farm. We thought it was for our fun, but as adults we could see that it was for economics mostly. When butchering or canning was done Mother came down and we went home with our share. The other thing that got us through those really lean years was the kindness of J. K. Lautzenhiser. He ran a grocery store on the south side of Main Street next to Louie's Candy Kitchen and carried a credit line for Dad that he kept paying on up until WWII.

I never knew hunger during that time. My husband could tell a different story. His father worked as a molder at the Foundry. I do remember Christmases with one gift at home on Christmas Eve, but we knew that the next day we would go to 'Grandpap's' and have a big time, ending with the passing out of silver dollars to all. I still have most of them. After the dollars, Grandpapa would bring out a bushel basket full of oranges, bananas, hard candy and apples! What a thing to look forward to. It almost made up for the collection of the Miller family dollars by my dad!

In order to help with the rent, the folks took in roomers. Most of the time there were eight college boys and my brothers upstairs. They had their own bathroom, but I was not allowed to go up there. The usual college pranks were played, blown fuses, loud scary noises, short sheeted beds for my brothers, etc.

I have been asked to compare my life with 'the other side of the tracks'. I think that one of the biggest differences was the place of books in our budget. We have my father's ledgers for those twenties and thirties and many months more was spent on books and educational journals than on food and clothing. I was really lucky being the

 
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only girl, so no hand me downs. Mary Neher, a local seamstress would spent several months living at our house and sewing for Mother and me. I thought she was a really neat lady. She lived in a wheel-chair and I could ride on the foot holder! I was in school before I had any store bought clothes. She even made coats.

The other adult, beside family, who became really important in our lives was Grace Miller. Her father owned the farm we know as Eleanor Miller's farm. Grace was our sitter whenever Mom and Dad had to be gone. Also, in the days before WW II no substitute teachers were supplied by the administration. Many times my mother took over giving exams or reading the lecture for Dad.

In 1935, through the support of Ad Urschel, president of the Indiana Lawrence Bank, Dad and Mom bought their house at 606 East Ninth Street. He began digging out the basement, bucket by bucket. When he got a section dug out for a wall he would pour the wall with an old cement mixer and a wheelbarrow. In 1939, the basement was finished and that spring they moved the family into the garage, a separate structure facing west. They constructed a screened in porch where my brother Bob slept unless it rained. Mon and Dad slept in a double bed on the south side with a single bunk built above them for Brother Bud. I have a camp cot on the north side with an aisle between wide enough to pull Bob's bed in if it rained. The east end had an old fashioned kitchen cabinet with clothes rods above it. A table and chairs and several drawer chests finished the furniture. We lived in there for six months while the contractor finished the remodeling of the upstairs. I can remember hearing the news boys calling out the extra edition of the News Journal announcing the invasion of Poland by German forces and being just into my new bedroom in the new house!!

I did not know that there could be less than sixteen years to my education. I knew from very early on that I was to go to Manchester College. There wasn't free tuition for faculty in those days. I don't know what kind of ministerial discount there may have been, but the school was very glad to have us in the forties. As soon as we were old enough to get a work permit, we went to work. Bob worked for the grocery store, Bud worked for Card's Greenhouse, where CVS is now on Market Street. I worked for L. J. Yoder Insurance as the clerk-receptionist until I got into college. Then I worked for the bookstore

 
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in the basement of the Ad building. We did not have to share for food, but we were expected to clothe ourselves and save some, THEN to run around money.

My parents instilled in us that we made our own judgments. They made it clear how they felt or believed, but we were encouraged to think it out for ourselves. I am certain that many times they were aghast and wished we had done differently. I cam remember Dad looking down the table and saying, "Maude, where did we go wrong?" One of the best examples for forgiveness that I have seen, was my Mother's dependency, in her later years, on my husband who had been a challenge for them to accept as a son in law at first. And then there was the time that my father told my mother that Mary's mince pie tasted better than hers and he knew it was the shot of Jack Daniels that got in from my kitchen. So life goes.

They gave us a deep sense of faith, family and fairness. We were taught that all people bleed red and tears are all salty. We were aware very early of the presence of God in our lives, and for two of us that has developed into the organized church. My brother Bud became a doctor and met God on his own level. Because both my husband and I were "natives" we felt a calling to expand our world through travel and cultural challenges. I have never regretted being a 'small town preacher's kid'.