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Way back when

Way back when

By Stephanie Dolan

For more than 20 years, Arcadia Publishing has been connecting people to the past through an historical books and series designed to shine a spotlight on hometown history along with everyday facets of American life.

Even more popular today than when the first book came off the presses, Arcadia Publishing still is churning out its own personal brand of historical scrapbook. Lately, a new book has become available: Images of America – Perry Township.

Compiled by Casey A. Smith along with the Perry Township/Southport Historical Society, Images of America – Perry Township is an in-depth look at the Southside’s near and distant past.

Casey Smith, along with the Perry Township/Southport Historical Society, compiled one of Arcadia Publishing’s newest book, Images of America: Perry Township. (Photo by Stephanie Dolan)

“We’re so thankful to be able to work with the many talented local historians, history enthusiasts, professional writers and journalists that make their way to us,” Katie Parry, of Arcadia, said. “The books that authors like Casey write are critical —-not only do they preserve a community’s history for generations to come, but they also encourage community spirit and collaboration. Our company wouldn’t be around without the authors who create these passion projects for the benefit of their communities.”

Smith, 22, is a Ball State graduate who just finished her first semester of graduate school at the University of California at Berkeley.

“I debated grad school up until the day that the application was due,” she said. “I applied and got in. I also got into Columbia, so I had a very hard decision to make. But I also had a really good internship over the summer, so I thought I’d just try to get into the job field right away. But I thought about it more and talked to my family and finally decided to go. I’m glad I chose Berkeley. It’s a super immersive program. The professors are amazing. The writing I’m doing is more than I was doing in my undergrad so I’m really glad to be there.”

This master’s candidate in journalism is no stranger to hard work, compiling the Arcadia book during a good portion of her undergraduate career.

taken around 1908, this view of the Southport business district was snapped looking down Union St. (Submitted photos)

Getting started

“I started writing in January of 2017,” Smith said. “There’s an introduction and then the book is basically a bunch of photographs with 100-300-word captions. The research going into the introduction was what I needed to do first. There are a lot of diverse voices in this community, and I wish all of them could be included. We needed to talk about the business district, the schools and who were prominent people here. Doing the introduction that was a good start for becoming familiar with that.”

The final draft was finished in July of 2018. A lot of that time was also spent looking for photographs.

“Several of us worked with Casey, providing pictures and information about Southside history,” said Diane Saari of the historical society. “Barry Browning, Fred Shock and I helped her along the way. Barry did some editing before the book went to print. It was a fun venture for all of us and exciting to see the completed book.”

“Meeting people was the best part,” Smith said. “We may not be of the same generation, but we come from the same place, and so sharing memories together and hearing what they remember and they know was invaluable to me. I don’t know how else I would’ve come across some of this information if I hadn’t met some of these people. Going into this, I didn’t fully expect how much information I’d be digesting. I loved learning some of the early history that people don’t have a living knowledge of.”

Smith, a Southport High School graduate, is a lifelong Southsider who was familiar with Arcadia books.

“I grew up reading the Arcadia books,” she said. “I was familiar with the style of the book and what they cover. I got into college and met a professor who has published several for the Muncie area. He encouraged me to look in my hometown to see if we have a historical society. He suggested that it might be something I could do for a senior project.”

Smith then reached out to the historical society, knowing there would have to be a lot of photographs for the project along with accompanying information.

The Southport Grain Elevator was decimated by a fire in 1955.

Learning local history

“To be honest, I didn’t really know the history of the area that well,” she said. “But the publisher was like ‘let’s do it.’ I went back to the historical society and I said, ‘I cannot do this by myself.’ We went at it and things really started to go full throttle in January of 2017. It took a while to get all those photos. The problem with some of the photos was there might not have been a lot of information with them. There was a lot of digging. But that’s what I love to do. As a journalist, I’m more on the research than I am on the writing side.”

Smith said that learning more about the early history of the township was her favorite part.

“I was very naïve about Perry Township history before this,” she said. “I may not have been the most qualified person to put this book together, but I think that just pushed me further to find as much information as possible. I read books I didn’t know existed. I read books. I read letters. I read diaries. People showed me their old journals and photo albums. But the early township history was so interesting – how things came to be here and how things have changed. The most drastic differences you see between then and how is in that section. Reading it is one thing but being able to see it is so cool.”

Along with Smith’s heavy schoolwork load, she is a freelance writer and an employee of the school’s investigating reporting program.

“So, I’m a research and reporting assistant,” she said. “I go through a lot of court documents. I’m just now starting to report a couple of my own leads. But I really enjoy being in that investigative office and doing whatever needs doing.”

Smith’s official course of study is narrative writing with a focus on science and environmental writing. And this semester she, along with 11 of her classmates, has been chosen to travel anywhere in the world of her choosing to report on an environmental issue.

An aerial view of Longacre swimming pool, which burned down in 1960.

Doing great things

“I may travel to China and report on how agriculture is affecting water quality in certain areas of the country. That’s one of the potential locations. But there’s also illegal logging that is taking place in Papua New Guinea. I could go there to report on how this is affecting the country’s workers.”

Smith says she feels more comfortable with the idea of going to China, so – naturally – she’d prefer going to Papua New Guinea.

Smith will continue to be proud of her first book, though.

“Barry Browning – him and Fred Shonk – were wanting to do something like this for a while,” Smith said. “I told them if this was something they were pursuing that I’d help them. They are encyclopedias of knowledge. They were gracious enough to allow me to take the lead.”

Smith says she can’t thank the people at the historical society enough.

“They’re so knowledgeable,” she said. “They meet every other month, and I can’t encourage young people enough to go to them. These are people who are part of the society. They’ve gone to Southport or Perry or Roncalli. They probably know your family and you don’t even know it. Their meetings are really great. Become a member. This book would not have been possible without them. I hope whatever proceeds come from this are of benefit to the historical society in as many ways as possible.”

5 Questions with Casey Smith:

What are you currently reading? Plundered Skulls and Stolen Spirits: Inside the Fight to Reclaim Native American’s Culture by Chip Colwell-Chanthaphonh. This book gives a really great in-depth look into how and why repatriation is important.

What’s your favorite book? Tuesdays with Morrie has always been a favorite of mine. It’s a very sweet book, and there’s a lot of life lessons to be learned from it. Anything by Ida B. Wells I’ve always also loved and could not recommend those works enough.

If you were going to write a memoir, what would the title be? It should probably be something along the lines of Writer’s Block: Just Trying to Listen. My whole life is me trying to listen to people. That’s what I genuinely want to do and do what’s right with that information.

If you weren’t a writer, what would you be? In addition to studying journalism, I also got a degree in anthropology. I’m passionate about archaeology. I hope to write more about it. But I could definitely see myself becoming an archaeologist with the right training. I would also love to be a detective.

What’s the best thing for you about writing? Journalistically, you have a great deal of power and responsibility that you have to do right with and do it well. That’s very important. If you don’t take it seriously, you shouldn’t be a journalist. I hope that I’m doing public good and a public service. I love to write. Being able to create what I hope is a public service with my passion for writing and research – that’s why I’m doing what I’m doing.

Where can I buy a book?

Copies of Images of America – Perry Township are being sold at Barnes & Noble, Costco, Adrian Orchard, Cardwell Do-It-Best Home Center, Kim’s Kakery and the Southport Antique Mall. They’re also available online through Arcadia at $23.99: arcadiapublishing.com/Products/9781467128087. For more information, please go to Casey Smith’s website at caseyannsmith.com.

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