Saturday, March 04, 2006

Come on down. Bring lots of money.

The little town of French Lick, just to the south of us, was recently purchased by the mob a major casino, and is in the process of being razed to the ground rennovated to befit the taste of the rich and the hoping-to-become-rich. French Lick has an incredibly interesting history, and I sincerely hope that these new owners, in wiping the old ways off the face of the earth and replacing them with their version of new ways, see fit to remember the past, at least a little bit. Sometimes it's hard to hear the whispers of those who went before us, when the clatter and jingle of cold hard cash becomes not only an obsession and a goal, but a way of life.

Most of the residents of French Lick can not afford to pay their taxes, newly raised to the zenith to help finance the new persona, and the majority of private homes are for sale now. Soon the only people living there will be new people, richer people, people who can afford the nouveau riche lifestyles that are now encouraged there.

This is not exactly a new concept to this small town. Back in the day, French Lick was where it was at, baby. Casinos. Gambling. Renewed health. French Lick had all that and more.

Famous people used to flock to French Lick. They were lured by the Pluto Water, smelly sulphur springs bubbling up out of the ground that promised renewed health. FDR used to come to French Lick. Dillinger was a regular. Famous people of all kinds came to French Lick, on their private railroad cars and in their limousines, and before that, in their fancy carriages.

Joe Louis used to fight, for big crowds and big money, at French Lick. Of course, he couldn't STAY in the big hotel; he had to sleep in the servants' quarters a mile down the road. But he sure drew a big crowd when he was escorted into the Hotel for his big matches. Such were the times. Think of Marian Anderson and the DAR. Sigh. Shameful.

My husband's step-grandmother, the fantastic Margaret Crowder, worked in the big Hotel when she was a young woman. She hob-nobbed with presidents, and celebrities, and notorious characters. She's in the process of writing a book about it, and it should be fabulous. Dillinger once tried to carjack her. Suave actors hit on her.

As I write, my husband has taken his mother down to French Lick for a last look-around before most of the homes are demolished. My sweet MIL grew up in French Lick, and it's very precious to her. It's going to be a sad and nostalgic glimpse, and possibly the last one. Already the bulldozers are manned and revved up, ready to start removing the landscapes and ways of life from this little section of the planet, and replacing them with the glitter and flash of casinos and neon lights.

I like casinos. But I also like nostalgia. Can the two co-exist? Sometimes.

But not in French Lick, Indiana.

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Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 3:46 PM | |


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