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August 10, 2004

Reflections on a shared heritage

The old Masonic building at the northwest corner of the square and I share a common anniversary this month. Both of us are turning 80, and I guess that is something of a milestone. I have written about some of my personal recollections of the eras served by that grand old building. My own mental snapshots are just as vivid but probably not as interesting to the general populace. Nevertheless, let's plow ahead with a few sentimental thoughts stirred by this occasion.

In the sweltering August heat of 1924, my mother awaited my arrival in her bedroom at 501 Eighth street, diagonally across from the Presbyterian church. The church and our house are long gone, but not the corners where they were located. Our family doctor, Dr. D.F. Coldiron, was summoned when my birth seemed imminent, and he hustled to our place from his home on Fir Avenue, between Ninth and Tenth streets. I was the first to arrive, and wound up in a slop jar until Dr. Coldiron scrutinized the scene and ordered a bath for the baby immediately. Thank goodness.

Many of the intervening years are shrouded in a foggy bank of data, but mostly they were happy years. The lone exception, a big one, was the death of my father, Fred W. Beers, when I was six years old. I have only a few memories of him, and I miss him still today.

My two sisters, Jeanice and Gloria, helped raise me and now they are gone, as is my mother. It was almost a totally female household, including our dog, Lady, and assorted cats who adopted us from time to time. The high school building was just across the alley from our house, and in 1941 I walked across the stage of the auditorium to receive my PHS diploma. W.K. Leatherock hired me that summer as a reporter and ad salesman, and that's been my principal occupation ever since. I recently concluded that a very large mistake was made early in my life. I was supposed to be Nelson Eddy, but that's another story.

Intervening, of course, was World War II and my three years in the Army, plus a return after peace was achieved, and eventually a 20-year, very happy career at the Charles Machine Works, Inc. In 1954 Miss Laura Thomas became my bride and life has never been better. Now, like the old Masonic building, I'm retired and looking for new ways to serve a public of old-timers like myself, and to admire our two daughters and four grandchildren.

None of us know exactly what comes next until it happens, but it would be hard to top my life so far. Maybe, if fate is kind, we may even have another female puppy or kitten to share the coming years. I think we are just about ready for whatever comes along. I thank God and my beloved family for all that has served as prologue.