Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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February 8, 2009

HOMETOWN HOT SPOT: Clifford’s Kokomo roots run deep

Walking along Jefferson Street more than seven decades ago, a young Norman Bridwell used to create characters to entertain himself. One of the characters born in his imagination developed later into the beloved book series featuring Clifford the Big Red Dog.

Bridwell’s creation first appeared in 1962. Since that time, it has enchanted millions of children around the globe.

In honor of Bridwell’s 81st birthday, the Kokomo-Howard County Public Library will throw a party from 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday that will include the reading of Clifford books by 20 local people.

The permanent exhibit is called “Never Give Up On Your Dreams.”

“When I was there, it was a smaller, quieter town,” Bridwell said of Kokomo during a telephone interview from his home on Martha’s Vineyard. “You thought nothing of going around town. It felt safe.

“We lived in a pleasant, nice neighborhood,” he said. “I can remember walking on [trails] along the creek in Highland Park. It seemed like a big adventure.”

As he walked back and forth from school, Bridwell said he would think up a character and imagine it in an adventure.

“I was entertaining myself. When I got home, I would draw pictures.”

While growing up in Kokomo, Bridwell said he had no idea that he would become the author of children’s books.

“I thought I wanted to be an artist,” he said. “There was an art test at Kokomo High School and students were asked to submit a portfolio to the John Herron Art Institute [in Indianapolis]. My teacher asked why I didn’t submit a portfolio. I told her I didn’t think I had a chance.”

Bridwell said he keeps in touch with many of his friends still living in Kokomo.

He recalled a story surrounding Estelle Lucas, with whom he worked on the high school yearbook.

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