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Column: Modern American progress ever-changing

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Bartholomew County is home to a plethora of lakes. Some can be found in its eastern portion, but most are nestled in the front range of the southern Indiana hills that arise just beyond the western edge of Columbus.

The largest, Grandview Lake, was one of the projects of visionary businessman and civic leader Q.G. Noblitt. Lakes were kind of his thing. He also was the catalyst for Harrison Lake a couple of miles to the north, as well as The Lagoons in town.

The actual original developer of Grandview was Phil Long. Via a Harry McCawley column in this paper last year, I came upon the noteworthy factoid that his daughter, Columbus High School Class of 1958, is high-powered Washington, D.C., attorney Victoria Toensing.

The lake’s evolution serves as a microcosm for the twists and turns through which America has gone since the middle of the 20th century. It began as a mere pond in the middle of a farm valley in 1953.

Families the fathers of which had served in World War II decided to risk a bit of capital on lots accessible by roads whose surfaces were originally dust — when they weren’t mud.

Initially, these families were far from affluent, and lake culture came to be characterized by an unpretentiousness that manifested itself in a preponderance of A-frames, prefab cottages and secondhand motorboats, pontoons and sailboats.

By 1960, the lake had sufficiently filled to accommodate a plenitude of sailboats, and my father founded the Grandview Yacht Club. It’s my understanding that it still exists. The club held weekly Sunday races, as well as regattas with special courses on the three warm-weather holidays. For those, various families would host breakfasts that were combination social events and skippers meetings.

The waves within the baby boom were well-represented at Grandview. My sister and her contemporaries passed through high school as the lake approached its full volume.

This was the generation for which music was the backdrop to pretty much all of life, and the strains of Motown, the British Invasion and folk rock were ubiquitous, streaming from transistors centrally positioned in boats, on patios, and around fire pits and grills.

Then that wave went off to college, bringing back esoteric new records that fired the imaginations of those of us in the second wave of the baby boom. There was a new sensibility in the air.

There was a sizable Latvian population at Grandview at that point. The Latvian father of two of my friends a few lots up the road would occasionally wander by our house as we were concluding supper. My dad would beckon him to pull a chair up to the table and say, “Big John, tell my son about what happened to your country, what it’s like to get the midnight knock on your door from agents of the state.”

The landscape had much to do with the lore that developed around the lake. A network of trails along the ridges towering over it spawned many a legend and served as the scene of memorable adventures of all kinds.

The communal feel of the lake in those days made for some fun rituals. One neighbor kept a wooden alligator on his fireplace mantel for years, facing toward the road, and in 1967, when the lake filled completely, he hosted a turning-of-the-alligator party.

Then my wave went off to college. Homes got bigger. Original homesteaders moved elsewhere and downsized. The funky little general stores and drive-ins that served us are gone now.

Such is modern American progress, I suppose.

Barney Quick is one of The Republic’s community columnists. All opinions expressed are those of the writer. He may be reached at

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