Childhood memories call Runden back to Corydon
Linda Runden was, and is, a Keller. Keller Manufacturing was a considerable employer of thousands of families over its long run of history in Corydon. I suppose I could write a story about making wagons and high quality furniture, but I’m not. Instead, I want to write about love, war and little black photo albums.
Linda’s parents were Eloise Dreisbach and Bob Keller (his father and uncles had started Keller Manufacturing) who was destined to become the secretary-treasurer of Keller Manufacturing when he graduated from Indiana University in business. Eloise was a beautiful, stylish and statuesque model for Marshall Field in Chicago who also attended IU where she met Bob while he was a waiter in her sorority. Marriage was not in the picture for several years as they dated during the Depression when pressures to keep a factory going and lack of money were pervasive issues.
They did marry in 1939 and came to live in Corydon as a young married couple with prospects for children and a future. It would not go that way, however. Eloise was pregnant quickly, World War II set in, and their life became one lived on Army bases with a little Linda. Bob, in spite of having a wife and young child and in addition to contracting polio earlier in his life, was accepted into the military and sent to the South Pacific. He contracted Dengue fever and returned home. Then he was sent to France where one bullet killed him instantly.
Linda’s parents were married only for five years and spent only one year living on North Capitol Avenue in Corydon. However, while Eloise was trying, in what I can only imagine was a difficult effort to fit into the fixed society of a small Indiana town, she made a perfect little photo album of one day on North Capitol. Intending to send this album to Bob in the Pacific, her photos were posed shots of families, friends and relatives who lived along the street, looking out at the camera. It is a fascination to look at and study. It was just like Eloise herself: understated, perfectly crafted and stylishly classic. (In a personal note, my Aunt Jane who is pictured in one of the photos as a teenager always said, ‘Eloise had the look of a movie star.’)
Linda and her mother returned to Eloise’s hometown of Fort Wayne, where old friends and family helped the young widow and little girl get on through life. Linda says, ‘She married again many years later, but it wasn’t the same.’ Linda, like both her parents, attended IU and, like her mother, went on to Chicago to work.
I asked Linda how she met Ed, her husband.
‘I was protesting in a housing demonstration and Ed was doing his laundry. Being a journalist, he just had to come over and ask some questions.’
Eloise died earlier this year at the age of 92, and her ashes will be taken to France to be with Bob next year. Even though Linda’s first experience of Corydon was ephemeral, she still had such history and sense of family that she was compelled to return and make a life. She and Ed, both retired, worked as social worker and teacher, respectively, and reared three daughters. This Christmas all three, with grandchildren in tow, are expected to celebrate with Ed and Linda in Corydon. This is just the sort of ending needed for such a lovely and bittersweet romance.
Leah Porter is at the Harrison County Public Library in Corydon on the first and third Saturdays of the month from 1 to 3 p.m.