Jim O'Leary

Waverly Star

By Jim O'Leary

An e-mail newsletter for and about Waverly people, used with permission in the HLW Herald and on this web site.

 Jan. 27, 2003

An Indian summer eve back home

Whatever there is in me of kindness and honesty, I can trace directly back to the men and women I knew while I was growing up in Waverly.

The best example I can think of offhand is Frank Kelly, who worked with Jim Hughes managing the McNellis corner grocery store in Waverly between about 1942 and 1946. It was in the building directly across the street due west of the drug store.

I worked for Frank in Waverly and got to see him on a daily basis before he moved to Montrose and opened his own business, Kelly's Market.

Mr. and Mrs. Kelly's two sons, Pat and Dave, are just like their parents, thank God. It was a great New Year's present for me to hear back from Dave, the younger son, who is now an attorney in Minnetonka.

I asked Dave if I could have his permission to use an essay he wrote about Montrose when he was a freshman at St. Thomas College.

The assignment was to write something which would include long, compound sentences as an exercise in learning how to use such sentences and still make sense. He wrote about what he knew, which was what goes on in a small town like Montrose.

So, Dave gave me permission to use it for The Waverly Star, but with this caution: "The only disclaimer I might make is that it is clearly the writing of a young man - at my age now the men and women I thought looked old would probably look pretty young - and I meant no disrespect to Charlie, whom I remember as a leader of the town and one whom everyone admired."

Here it is, then, just as the English professor who gave it an "A" saw it when first it appeared before him in the fall of 1965:

An Indian summer eve back home

Far to the west of Minneapolis, beyond Wayzata Boulevard and out into the open country, lies the tiny village of Montrose. Since it is the place where I grew up, Montrose will always have a special place in my heart.

Having walked through its streets on many warm Indian summer evenings, I can imagine how it must be tonight: the red light on the water tower looking ridiculous, because aircraft never pass that way, the neon sign of Leo and Clive's Bar shining in the crisp night air; the old creamery, abandoned since 1957, with its chimney cut short by a bolt of lightning I'll never forget; the old men and older looking women shooting the breeze in front of Hank's Tavern, which is overflowing with loud music, full of farmers whose voices get louder with each swallow of beer, and smelling like the barns Hank's patrons came from a few hours earlier; the dark streets lined with old homes occupied mostly by widows who had to move off their farms when their husbands died; a teen-aged couple in an old car rattling out of town, headed for the movie theater in Buffalo, because there's nowhere to go on a date in Montrose; my father's grocery store, which is open every night, resting down at the end of the street and looking quite dead compared to the beer joints; Minnesota Highway 12 stretching down a hill and out of sight, alive with people and merchandise rolling to and from distant Minneapolis.

Two 13 or 14-year-old girls walk down the street listening to a transistor radio. Stopping at a phone booth by the Standard station, they dial only four digits on the old fashioned telephone to place a call.

Gossip will now flow through the line for hours, tying up a party line which has a dozen or so telephones.

At last, my father closes his store, the lights on the Standard station go out, the girls conclude their telephone gossip, and the farmers leave the beer joints and head for home.

Now the village is left to restless cats, mongrel dogs, and Charlie, the town constable, who might make his rounds if he's not too tired.

Montrose becomes quiet and peaceful as if someone had thrown a switch that turned it off.

From between the houses, from the windows of abandoned buildings, and from the shadows of ancient trees, silence creeps out and covers the village like a blanket. Secure.

Protected by Charlie and the Montrose volunteer fire department, Montrose sleeps.

­ Dave Kelly

Written November, 1965.

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