In the town in which I grew up, the railroad tracks divided Columbus into two areas — the north side of the tracks and the south side of the tracks. It wasn’t any kind of a formal division. Streets didn’t become avenues; street names didn’t change from North Whatever to South Whatever; there was no West Side Story or Hatfields and McCoys. The railroad tracks simply went all the way through the town, and trains passed through Columbus, dividing the town into two, about every 10 or 15 minutes, or at least that’s how it seemed. There was only one viaduct, so residents either drove out of their way to cross the tracks on the lone viaduct west of downtown or waited for the long train to makes its way past your street.
The Miceks — my family — lived on the south side of the tracks. And many proudly lived – at least for a period of a few years back in the post-WWII days when Baby Boomers were just out of diapers – within spitting distance of one another.
I learned about what I – and I, alone – call Micekville at the family reunion. Oh, I vaguely recalled that my mom and dad rented a house across from Grandpa Micek when Bec was a toddler and before I was born. By the time I came along, Dad and Mom had built their own home a full 10 blocks or so away, across the tracks. And I, of course, was also aware that my mom’s brothers Elmer and Leonard (along with their families) still lived near each other in the area just south of the railroad tracks even when Mom and Dad sold their business and their house and dropped anchor in Leadville, Colorado.
But I never knew that there was a point in time when my Grandpa Micek, then a widower, took in my mom’s sister Anne who had recently been widowed herself after a bolt of lightning killed her farmer husband, leaving her to raise five children on her own. Along with Anne and her children, my mom’s bachelor brother Ray moved into that same house across the street from where my folks lived. Just down the street, Leonard and Elmer had their homes, as did my mother’s brothers Bob and Ted and their families.
See what I mean? Micekville.
And just for good measure, my dad’s parents had a home just a stone’s throw from there. It was a village.
Eventually, two of my uncles moved their families not just out of Micekville, but out of Columbus altogether. Anne’s kids grew up and she and Ray moved near our home, as did my aunt and uncle, always called Cork and Jeep. It might have been on the north side, but the reality is that it was only a short bike ride away.
Columbus’ original downtown was on 11th street, just south of the railroad tracks. At some point the downtown moved two blocks north to 13th street, which is where my folks had their bakery. After that change, 11th Street consisted mostly of bars or somewhat lonely businesses. But one of the businesses that wasn’t lonely was Glur’s Tavern. (Interesting article here.) Supposedly the oldest continuously-running tavern east of the Mississippi, it was just a hop and a skip from Micekville. Stop in any afternoon or evening, and you wouldn’t be surprised to see one Micek or another at the bar sipping a beer or a pop. Bec recalls the Micek clan gathering some evenings in Glur’s beer garden where she and her cousins would run and play, drink root beer and eat popcorn while the parents yakked. By time I came along, the beer garden wasn’t part of my parents’ leisure activities because they had a business to run. But I have vivid memories of walking hand-in-hand with my grandmother (who by that time lived in an apartment above the bakery) to Glur’s Tavern to get a strawberry ice cream cone. Always strawberry. And we inevitably had to wait for a train before we could cross the tracks to get to Glur’s. That was okay because we got to wave goodbye to the cabooseman. He always waved back.
The day after the reunion, Bill, Bec, Jen and I decided we wanted to stop at Glur’s Tavern to see if it had changed (it hadn’t, not even the towel in the bathroom) and to maybe have a burger and a pop. We walked into the door, and Glur’s was nearly empty except for one large group sitting in the middle of the room where several tables had been pushed together.
Guess who it was? Miceks. Billions and billions of Miceks. (Well, not really, but it almost seems like, doesn’t it?…..)
Sometimes, things don’t change as much as you think.