In today's dispatch: some follow-up notes to Samantha Stanton and the Mysterious Library—Chapter Three:The Creature in Center Court.
Chapter Three begins with Lizzie and Althea entering Valleybrook Mall, which is just a thinly-disguised version of Fort Wayne's Glenbrook Square, or at least the indoor shopping center as it was before its first major expansion in 1976.
|Glenbrook's original layout when it opened in 1966 (click to enlarge).|
In the Glenbrook diagram above, center court was the open area between Walgreens, Regal Shoes, Howards Gifts, and Azars Restaurant. The space played host to a variety of events when I was a kid, although for the record, I never saw Santa Claus there, as visiting with St. Nick at Wolf & Dessauer in downtown Fort Wayne was still the thing when I was little.
Nevertheless, on separate occasions I did see actors dressed up as Batman, Robin, and Spider-Man in Glenbrook's Center Court, and yes, even a freezer containing what was advertised as the dead body of a Bigfoot (see Dispatch #5). While standing in line that day, I remember thinking it odd that Bigfoot's frozen corpse was so close to the Hickory Farms store.
|The stage where I viewed the Minnesota Ice-Man.|
The emotions Lizzie experiences in the story while onstage with The Midwest Ice-Man nearly duplicate my own while peering down at the infamous Minnesota Ice-Man back in the early 1970s. Other fictionalized elements—such as Jason's feigned illness and Althea's joking reference to the NBC TV show Emergency! during the planning stages of that ruse—were added for entertainment purposes.
For my part, I distinctly remember leaving the stage that day convinced that I had seen, if not Bigfoot, then the body of a remarkably preserved prehistoric man. Hey, don't be too hard on me—like Lizzie, I was eager to embrace the existence of the strange and mysterious as a kid (see Dispatch #4).
In the story, I mention some of the shops inside Valleybrook Mall, giving a shout-out to the now defunct bookstore chain B. Dalton Bookseller. In my younger days, I worked at the B.D.B locations in both Glenbrook and Southtown Mall in Fort Wayne. The chain was eventually acquired by Barnes & Noble, a company I later worked for in NYC (see Dispatch #74).
And yes, at one time there really was a bronze Boy on a Dolphin statue at Glenbrook (in the story, Lizzie and her friends use one just like it as a rendezvous point). The sculpture disappeared sometime after one of the mall's numerous expansions, and Fort Wayne legend says it turned up on the lawn of a Summit City resident briefly before vanishing once again. I wonder where it is now?
Aside from the spectacle surrounding the Midwest Ice-Man, Chapter Three also introduces readers to the third member of my youthful Aldeburgh trio: Jason Novak. He's revealed as Lizzie's oldest friend, one she's known since kindergarten. As a wrote back in Dispatch #20, Jason is loosely based on a childhood friend from Riverside Elementary, but I gave him my affinity for collecting film scores.
Althea's habit of sprinkling her conversation with occasional bits of Yiddish appears for the first time in this chapter. I mention that she picked up the habit thanks to the games of chess she played with her elderly neighbor back in New Jersey, Dr. Morris Feigenbaum. The good doctor gets his last name from my co-worker & friend at Barnes & Noble, Joel Feigenbaum (who, while neither elderly or a doctor, is a mensch).
Finally, I point out that after Lizzie drops her completed roll of film off at the drugstore, it will take about a week before she could see her photos of the Midwest Iceman. It makes for an interesting contrast to today, when one can see any pictures taken with a smartphone instantly.
At the end of the chapter, Lizzie, Althea, and Jason head to their secret tree house headquarters to discuss what they've seen. Their impressions can be found in Samantha Stanton and the Mysterious Library—Chapter Four: At The Treehouse.
There's more to come in the next dispatch.
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