Every year at this time I like to visit my memories of a small Ohio town where I lived in the early to mid-1960s. West Liberty is a small town of about 1,800 on U. S. Highway 68 between Urbana and Bellefontaine.

I remember going to school at West Liberty-Salem and friendships that developed there, many of which remain to this day. Oh, for sure, life and its episodes have taken all of us to various parts of the world, and many live in other parts of the country, but some still live in that quaint, peaceful village to this day.

You may remember me writing about the star that is displayed on top of the grain elevator every year during this time and how a lady was driving home one night in near blizzard conditions and concerned she wouldn’t make it home in time to give birth to her new baby that was due at any time, she continued driving, ever so carefully, and then there it was; the snow cleared just enough that she could see the star on top of the elevator! She was relieved because she knew where she was and that it wouldn’t be long until she was safely home.

The baby was born without incident and all went well.

In my research for this column today, I discovered some more memories of West Liberty. Stephanie told me about Willie Yoder, who is said to have a distinct voice, one that is recognizable. He owned a local business but also had called the games for the West Liberty Tigers and the teams that played at Lions Park.

At Christmastime he also played Santa for the downtown drawing of Christmas gifts for the kids. Nevora told me about her son who was disappointed that his name wasn’t drawn and acted up. His mom tried to deal with him about this matter, but he also recognized Willie’s voice and then and there stated that this was not the real Santa. He wasn’t as concerned about not getting his name chosen as he was about Willy not being the real thing.

Another memory that goes back several years is that of a person sledding down the hill from Adriel School through the intersection at Baird Street and right under a streetcar. Everyone was OK, but that is a memory I will never forget.

The hill from Adriel was cool in the wintertime when the snow arrived; it made for some great sledding. They would often set up barricades at the three intersections so the kids could safely sled down the hill.

Another lady tells me that when she was little her family had recently moved into a new house. One day a phone call was answered and the caller asked for this little girl and called her by name, Joyce. It was Santa! Later she thought about it and determined it was her Uncle Bob, but everyone insisted it was not him and they had no idea who it was. Joyce, there is a Santa!

I, personally, remember James Hostetler’s garage and hobby shop. His son, Nick, and I, were good friends and remain so to this day. I was at the shop a few nights before Christmas looking at the model cars, planes, and whatever else was on display, admiring all that I saw. Earlier that evening, I had been invited to go to their church and help with decorating.

Oh, the wonderful memories that seem so distant yet so near in our memories. I truly believe the Lord allows us to have these wonderful memories to help us reflect on the joy, peace and love of another era in our lives.

Granted, we all have lived through some trying times, some more traumatic than others, but we soften those difficult times with the joyful times from our memory banks.

I have enjoyed sharing these memories and I hope the people of West Liberty never lose touch with those times past as they carve out the current and future times in that peaceful little village. If you ever get a chance to go there please do so. After all, they also have a couple of castles and the Ohio Caverns to visit.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all so long!

Most Rev. Michael Layne is Archbishop of Mid America Archdiocese and serves as pastor of FaithPoints Church, 408 W. Mill St., Greensburg, Indiana and can be reached at 812-614-2160 or, www.faithpoints.org.

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