Anyone who loves books will tell you that books are treasures.
Nowhere is this any truer than in the small Spiceland Town-Township Public Library on Main Street in southern Henry County, Indiana. This is likely the only library you’ll ever see that contains its own walk-in bank vault. It’s not that they’re locking up the books. It’s that before this was a library, it was a bank, starting in 1920 for over half a century.
Kathy has run the show for seven years with the official title of interim librarian. But it’s a safe bet no one here is looking for a replacement, and Kathy doesn’t much care about titles, unless they are book titles.
What Kathy cares about are people.
That’s evident in the personal attention she gives a little girl who drops by as soon as the library opened Saturday to tell Kathy how much she looked forward to the school carnival later that day.
It’s obvious in the conversation she has with a patron who dashes in for an armload of books before she meets her daughter to go Christmas shopping.
This isn’t the interim librarian’s first career but she says it will be her last. For 31 years she was a home economics teacher at Tri Junior-Senior High School. Still, don’t count her out when it comes to future careers. Every time she retires, a job finds her, as this one did, and as did a job working in a town flower shop. Oh, but this isn’t a retirement story.
What you should know about Spiceland is that it is a tight-knit town, situated to the right as you head south on State Road 3 between New Castle and U.S. 40. Honestly, if you didn’t know it was there, you wouldn’t know it was there.
It’s been home a good deal longer than 100 years to Draper, Inc., still owned by the same family, and that employs many area folks. There’s a Draper branch in California, (but Spiceland, Indiana is world headquarters, mind you) and sales are worldwide. That’s world and wide, don’t forget. It all started with good old-fashioned American entrepreneurism when the first Mr. Draper saw a need in supplying window shades to schools. And boy did it go from there.
I’ve done many stories in this town in addition to telling the Draper, Inc., story. There was the unforgettable late Cordelia Wright, a proud Birthright-Quaker who was a fine artist and just as fine a cook as she entered our newspaper’s recipe contests well into her 80s. But here’s my favorite Cordelia story. At 80, she started raising llamas. Llamas! As in a pasture full of them. If you ever think you are out of time to live your special dream, think about being 80 and becoming a llama mama. You’ve got time!
A few more stories: Pat Bogue, besides being one of the sweetest ladies ever, has three specialties: her caramels (scary good), her handmade, hand-sewn vintage-styled Santas, and her Bogie Bags. She makes them in every fabric you can imagine (I should know: I have a newspaper-print Bogie Bag)!
The Quaker ladies have a heritage of making beautiful quilts every fall for fundraisers. The Methodist ladies have been making mincemeat every fall for approaching a century. One of the nation’s top leaders in a popular brand of skin-care products lives here. And this town was a stop on the Underground Railroad.
On Saturday, I got to be on the agenda, if only for an hour, in the downtown library. But I had to compete with an auction across the street and a Christmas-shopping excursion by an avid reader, and a school carnival. Yes, a lot was happening, small-town stuff, life and people stuff. I thank those who came by for my presentation and in particular, thanks for picking up copies of That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland.
I may be thinking of Liberty, Indiana, as my designated sweet place. But I know of another, and it’s called Spiceland, Indiana.
By day, Donna Cronk is a community journalist with the New Castle, Indiana Courier-Times. By night and weekends, she’s writing programs that encourage women. She is author of two novels, Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast, and That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.