It’s time to introduce you to the town of Dewers, my childhood home. The names of people and places have changed so you can’t fact check my memory. Frieda and Clara May are the matriarchs of Dewers and the self-anointed queens of gossip. Their stories are based in the tumultuous 60’s, which would be the last of the town square’s heyday. Indoor malls and Wal-Marts were replacing it. Gossip was taking place over coffee at McDonalds or milkshakes at the Dairy Queen.
You can call me Clara May. This year, 1969, my friend, Frieda, and I are 70. We both like living in a small farming community and Dewers fits the bill. It’s a small, rural town in Illinois, the land of Lincoln. Here people call me Clara May. My mother’s name was Clara June, and I had to use my middle name to avoid confusion. My family has lived in Dewers since obtaining a United States Military land warrant in 1850. So you see, I’m well qualified to tell you about the town.
Dewers is experiencing growing pains. It is hard for the city to move out of its complacent morality and into the new worldview that is being shaped now by the emerging war in Vietnam and the beginnings of a sexual revolution. Dewers does not yet understand sit-ins, flower children, love children, or war protests. And contrary to the opinion of Pastor Jenkins, the changes taking place will not cause the moral decay of Dewers.
The focus of activity in this community is the Square with its stores, restaurants, and banks. In the middle of the Square is our county courthouse. Saturdays are the busiest time, especially when it’s not planting or harvesting season. Everyone gathers on the Square to shop, to visit, and to catch up on gossip. Men frequent Marty’s hardware store, Jim’s barbershop, Squeaky’s Tavern, or for a seedier atmosphere, they go to the Washington Street Inn. They discuss weather, crops, cattle, market prices, and their sex lives. Town gossip seeps in but they’d never admit it.
Women are upfront. They gossip, or if you’re more refined, they catch up on the news. As for Frieda and I, we gossip. We catch a Coke or coffee at the counter in Rexall Drugs, and often have lunch or dinner at the Square Café. You may find us chatting over hats in Nellie’s hat store or among the dresses at Montgomery Ward. We are also more apt to find a friend sitting in his or her car and join them for a good chat. When Frieda and I are on the Square, our preference is to gossip while shopping. But we play bridge every Monday night and get some juicy tidbits from that group also. Little goes unnoticed in the town of Dewers.
The town is a place where neighbors help neighbors and where there are few secrets. Morality is a topic of daily discussion. The most common sin: not loving your neighbor as yourself, or doing unto others as you’d have them do unto you. We try to live in the presence of God, and as long as a person works toward that goal, regardless of their belief, they are attempting repentance; their sins are forgiven.