Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

August 31, 2013

RAY DAY: Many cleared a trail

The Herald Bulletin

---- — It seems to me the older I get, the more things I learn from life. As I drift off into my bank of memories, I stop at the ones that are most important and relive those days of good happenings.

I remember when the Carver Community Center first opened. The director was a man by the name of Mr. Bud Bowman.

Here was a man who was selected because of his love for the outcomes of those who would one day rise to the stature of importance to their community. And there were many like him who only wanted the best out of each child. Frank Bellamy, Joel Tinder, Homer Linch, George Fort, Doug Hogan and others did their part in establishing a place for the youngsters of that neighborhood to meet and learn how to be better, not only in sports, but also in the life they would have later on. Hogan later was city councilman from that area.

Carver Center opened its doors to kids like me, who needed to spread their wings and have fun under the supervision of others like Mr. Bowman.

As I grew older, I met Wesley Byers, better known as “Circus John”. Here was a man who not only demanded the best of each youngster in that neighborhood, but also all those kids who wanted to learn how to be better baseball players. Circus John had a wagon pulled by horses, and he was known by all as a man who cared.

What do we have in the future, if not for those who step up to the plate and take that first step so that the ball game of life continues in a future of greatness and in a city that is known for getting the job done? Circus John helped the younger kids in how to present themselves in life and get the most out of it so they could be a role model for the ones coming up.

Now Circus John had a little habit of using some pretty rough words when he talked, but he sure would not allow you to say those words in front of him. His thought was that even though you hear curse words, that did not mean that you could use them. He told us the life we would enter later should be one that was clean and free of all the things that are wrong. He had the backing of several important people in this city, who donated money so that he could continue producing those who might be our leaders someday.

There were many more from that end of town who were responsible people and wanted to help the young people, like Henry Wagoner and Florian Nickalas, who were police officers. They maintained a safe neighborhood so that we children could play outside without worrying about the ones who might want to harm us.

Henry retired and went to Three Rivers, Mich., to spend his last years on earth, but kids like me remember how good he was and that Kokomo was lucky to have a person like him around.

I could go all day with names of good, solid people who helped make this city one of the best there was. Mayor Raymond Gilbert, Councilman Willowby, Principal Lee Walters, Coach Joe Platt and others were important developers of young men and women who would one day be those who would lead us through some hard times.

Kokomo is a city that has a great history, like the first American car, and inventions that are used every day all over the USA. There are times when I wonder what it would have been without those I mentioned, and I will tell you they and many others who worked with them helped us gain that reputation of one of the best places to live and to work.

Good people get things going in the proper way, and those I mentioned and others cleared a trail for all of us to follow.

Ray “Uncle Ray” Day is a weekly contributor to the Kokomo Tribune. Contact him at uncleray@earthlink.net.