History Came Alive

“History is a pattern of life…something that happened then and is continuing now or has an effect on what’s happening now.”

Produced by Rich Elliott.

Transcript for History Came Alive

You know I hated history when I was a kid, just hated, I hated government, I hated history. I don’t know when I began to love it. I think maybe the best, probably the most recognizable time was when I lived right next door, and an old man lived here in this house, and he was full of stories, pretty much like I am now. He would talk and talk and talk, and he would come up with some of the most interesting tales. He knew who married who and who their children were and what those children did and who they married and how they were all related to this person over here and how that over there came to be and why that house is painted red.

And he told me things that I never knew. Stories about my family that I never knew. My family never said anything, and I never asked anything, and I wish I had, but I didn’t have to because Old John gave me the whole shootin’ kaboodle. He got me to the point where I said, “There’s some interesting stuff in all of this.” So I went out, and I read old newspapers, and the more I read old newspapers, the more history came alive, and I said, “I know those people.” So, this is what they were like when they were younger, my age, and then I knew them as old people. And I began to see consequences, and I think this is when it occurs to you that history is a pattern of life. That it wasn’t something discreet that happened 20, 50, a hundred years ago. It was something that happened then and is continuing now or has an effect on what’s happening now.

The other fellow that was important to me was an old bookseller that lived in Chesterton. His story was that he was a monk from a monastery in Wisconsin, gave it up, hopped on a freight train and was going through the town of Chesterton, and it stopped for some reason, and he looked around and he said, “This looks nice,” and he got off. And he took his little whole-sack or whatever he carried his clothes in—he didn’t have anything—he had an education. He found a place to live, a little room. He worked for the newspaper as a reporter. Then he was interested in old books, so he opened up an old used bookstore. And I was a kid on a bicycle, 12, 13, 14 years old. I would ride my bicycle in the town and go in that bookstore, and I’d just look through the books, and I still have a lot of those books on my shelves. I really owe it to Louis Menke for turning me onto certain aspects of life and philosophy that I never would have enjoyed had it not been for him. He died a pauper. But he died a man rich in knowledge and history.

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