Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

October 25, 2013

For the love of a small-town story

Kokomo Tribune

---- — Three years ago I drove through Kokomo, knowing only two things about it. 1. The town was a lot like my hometown of Anderson, except it stayed afloat when the automotive industry drowned. 2. The Beach Boys maybe or maybe didn’t sing about it.

As my friend and I passed through Kokomo on U.S. 31 for the first time a few years ago I kept repeating, “Wow, Kokomo is built up.” I couldn’t believe that in between the flicker of factory lights something else stood: a community.

A few years later, I became part of that community as Kokomo Tribune’s Lifestyle Editor and fell in love with Kokomo through the stories I wrote.

This community has been one I’ve sincerely loved sinking my mind into; it’s a community that’s inspired my pen to move with creative ease on my notebook. I jotted down quotes from a sincere soul with a story that they gave me the honor of telling or observations of people captured in moments they’re passionate about.

I’ve lived each writing moment fully while writing about The City of Firsts and I tried to live it like those who live it every day. That has taken me to some of the most sentimentally surprising places, whether it was skating with the City of Fists derby gals, sitting in on music lessons with Gary Rhum, blowing glass at Kokomo Opalescent Glass or finding a summer home on Sunday nights at Kokomo Speedway.

One of the first stories I loved at Kokomo Tribune was that of the Seiberling Mansion, this magnificent home that has stood for so long on its foundation (since 1891.) It seems like it almost developed its own soul in all its years. Standing at five stories tall with a grand ballroom upstairs, its massiveness is what first strikes you. But, its detail is what makes you grow to love its spirit and what it means to the community where it stands.

The stained glass windows — some still original — are handmade from Kokomo Opalescent Glass (opened in 1888), the parquet floors with with their tiny checker boards tucked into the corners in the dining room, the one room in the basement with a dirt floor where produce was kept, all the little details that give deeper meaning to the moments experienced there.

I toured the Seiberling Mansion yesterday for the third or so time. As old as the building is, the experience of hearing your heels click on its hardwoods and seeing its architecture proudly stand the test of 122 years does not get old.

As tour guide John Wilkinson told me the stories of the Seiberling and the many feet that also clicked their heels on the hardwoods — Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, to name a few — it became clear the mansion was also more than old bones crafted into a home for Wilkinson.

He pointed at a picture. “That’s a picture of my grandma and her sister,” Wilkinson said as he endearingly glanced at the women who helped grow the roots of his family tree.

“I’ve learned a lot about my history by learning about the Seiberling’s history,” Wilkinson added.

With each turn of a creaking doorknob, a different room with a different story was to be told, something new to learn about your community. And, for Wilkinson, something to learn about his family and himself. That learning of something more, learning of something about yourself in the process of learning about a community or a community’s places, connected with me.

Kokomo, like the Seiberling, has some of the greatest details, little tie-ins to build a bigger picture that helps one see things in a way they hadn’t before, to help one understand things deeper than the surface.

Like the Seiberling, Kokomo survived wars, fluctuating economies and time, and came out standing with a story I absolutely love to tell.

— Lindsay Eckert

[friday] editor/ Small town storyteller