A Walk Around the Square

Life on the Courthouse Square here in our county seat is acquiring a liveliness that has been absent for several decades. I’ve heard the tales of the vibrant streets filled with local residents visiting shops and each other. Friday nights with all the parking spots full and people crowding the sidewalks. We could have been excused if we thought that small town lifestyle was gone forever, lost as it was washed away by the changing times.

But the buzz about the new businesses has been pretty steady over the last few years. Restored apartments have brought residents back – kids, and folks walking their dogs are a common sight. Things look pretty lively of late.

As I have adapted to our new Owen County Community Foundation office on the Square, I’ve also been getting to know our new surroundings. I have especially enjoyed the easy walks the Square offers. These quick jaunts serve as short breaks from too much sitting and looking at the computer.

Getting some sun is always nice and our Square now offers so much more than fresh air. First, one can barely make a circuit without running into a friend and enjoying a quick chat. Tireless walker Joe Drescher is often the first person I see.

Our restored Liar’s Bench now gives me the chance to sit and talk about the 72 pounds of morels I found the other night out at the farm.

I love passing by the War Memorial and giving a nod to the blocks that name my brother and dad as Owen County veterans. But the highlight for me is to see Tom Hamilton’s name proudly memorialized in honor of the years of dedication he showed our country and our veterans with his daily walks around the Square. Carrying his walking stick adorned with the U.S., Indiana, and Owen County flags, Tom walked this route tens of thousands of times. I wish he could see the 2019 version. (We’ve added Tom Hamilton’s walking stick to the historic items we display in the OCCF office.)

The bravery of our vets comes to mind as I pass Viquesney’s “Spirit of the American Doughboy.” And our veterans organizations are here with the VFW and American Legion continuing their service.

Our community resources are on hand including the Chamber of Commerce, Sweet Owen Tourism, the Owen County Heritage & Culture Museum, and yours truly – the OCCF. The Spencer Lions Club building is here, too, providing the hub for all of the great service the Lions provide.

Most significantly though, all around the Square you see commerce. There is business going on. You can get a great meal at the old stalwart, Chambers Smorgasbord, or the newly opened Civilian Brewing Corps (quickly becoming just ‘CBC’), or Jit’s Thai Bistro. Our welcoming coffee stops of Main Street Coffee and Spencer Coffee House offer their coffee concoctions and tasty menu offerings. Chicago Pizza and Subway are only a quick walk away. And you can finish up your culinary exploits with a sweet treat at Diamond K Sweets.

I have been completely spoiled by the great service and friendliness of these eateries. Many an early morning writing session here in the office has been sustained by a “Munchies on the Move”® breakfast sandwich delivery from Main Street. And a recent Friday afternoon was brightened up by a visit from Jit’s Thai and a special delivery of a couple of orders of shrimp cigars to signal the popular restaurant’s upcoming return from their winter sabbatical.

Hair salons and a barber shop are at the ready. Get help on your taxes, check with your Our Community Bank representative, visit your realtor – at least three are close by, and you can still see your lawyer or conduct your county business all right here.

Now you can shop. I’ve been bragging that I’ve made it through two years of buying my wife birthday, Valentine’s Day, and Christmas gifts right here on our Courthouse Square. The Dragon Fly Gallery, Juniper Gallery, Playhouse Toys & Games, and the Unity Store are all part of our new life on the Square.

I think activity in downtown Spencer is getting contagious. Talking with folks at the Library’s Block Party last week, I heard about groups organizing bike rides (search for “Spencer Rides” group on Facebook) and new walks from town to the MYPath Riverfront Trail. There’s just a lot to do.

The recent progress here has been inspirational. It really began with the Cook family’s gift of the restoration of the Historic Tivoli Theater. The Tivoli grand opening gala was held this week six years ago. What an exciting time since.

The Tivoli has served as a catalyst for this growth and many fun activities but this week the old theater will be a reminder that with vibrant life around the Square, so, too, come sad times. Many of us will gather at the Tivoli this week to honor someone special to us, Misty Sublette the beloved theater manager taken from her loving family and the community all too soon. Those of us in Misty’s extended Tivoli family will feel this tragic loss but it won’t end the progress. Like Patsy Powell who did so much for the Tivoli, Misty’s memory will enrich local life with yet more stories of the special souls like her who make life around the Square fuller for all of us.

Enjoy a walk around the Square. Enjoy the sun and fresh air and your visits with Tom Hamilton, Patsy Powell, Misty Sublette, and the veterans memorialized here. Thank them for this wonderful place so full of life.

If you would like to know more about how you can work with this local charity to improve our Owen County communities, give me a call at 812-829-1725, email me at mark@owencountycf.org, visit us online at www.owencountycf.org, or stop by and visit us at our office on the south side of the Courthouse Square. Your OCCF is committed to helping our communities become better places to live, grow, and work. We value community involvement and charitable spirit.