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People have changed but small town atmosphere remains

I pass through the small town of New Middletown on my way to and from work every day. It’s interesting how things have changed there through the years. Not just the town itself, but the people who live there. And it’s hard, when I pull up to the stop sign, not to think back to ‘the good old days.’
But those days are gone, and so are some of the people who used to make New Middletown the town it was.
I’ve lived south of the town for more than 25 years but never really spent much time there. It was just a place I’d pass through on my way to Corydon, or I’d occasionally go there for gas for my tractor or mower, or to pick up a gallon of milk or a loaf of bread. For several years, there were two stores there. Paul and Linda Kiger owned one of them, and Charles Harpool and his wife, who I just knew by Mrs. Harpool, owned the other one across the street. Kiger’s Store was a place that was run pretty much by family members. Paul would open early in the morning and, a couple of hours later, would leave to tend to his roofing business. That’s when Linda would take over for the day at the store. Their daughter, Paula, worked there in the afternoons and their other children would help out some also. The Harpools ran their store themselves, and I don’t remember anyone else ever working there.
Across from the elementary school, on the corner of Main Street and Peyton Road, an older lady lived in a house with a large front and side porch. Almost every time I’d drive by during good weather, she’d be on the porch, taking care of her flowers and plants, of which there must have been hundreds. There were so many plants hanging from the porch ceilings and sitting on the coping that it looked like she had her own little nursery surrounding her house.
And just down the street from her was where the weatherman lived. I never knew his name, but he’d walk down to the post office every morning to get his mail. He walked, stooped over a little, with his hands clasped behind his back, and had kind of pointed features ‘ a long, narrow nose and chin. He always stopped and talked to everyone he met along the way, or anyone coming in or out of the store, which was next to the post office.
‘Gonna be a hot one,’ he’d say. Or, ‘Feels like a little rain might blow in directly.’ The only thing I ever heard him talk about was the weather, so I just called him the ‘weatherman.’
But New Middletown is a different place now. Kiger’s Store closed a few years ago, and the building has been used as a restaurant a couple of times. It re-opened recently as a coffee shop/caf’. The Harpools sold their store and retired. The little school, which was close to being shut down at one time, has been renovated and is, once again, the anchor of the community. The town has invested money in new sidewalks and has planted new trees along Main Street. The fire department has been improved and has good equipment. And it’s one of the few communities in the area where you still see kids outdoors ‘ playing, running around town, riding their bikes and playing ball behind the school.
The older lady on the corner is gone now, and a younger couple has moved into the house with the porches. They’ve done a wonderful job of fixing up the place, but I miss seeing all the flowers and the little old lady. And just recently, they auctioned off the weatherman’s house. I don’t know what happened to him. He could be in a nursing home or living with family. Or he could have passed away. I guess I could ask someone about him, but for some reason, I don’t want to know. I guess I still like to come out of the post office and look around, expecting to hear him say ‘ Good morning; wasn’t that some shower we had last night.’
A couple of days ago, I stopped at the store for gas and two young boys came out of the store, jumped on their bikes and one of them said to the other, ‘We better hurry; it’s going to rain.’
I just had to grin as I hung up the gas hose. The little guy had kind of pointed features and reminded me of someone else who used to talk about the weather in New Middletown.

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