In the late summer of 1992, my father, Howard Joseph Saalman decided to do a little
exploring of his father's birthplace, the flyspeck hamlet of Birdseye, Indiana, a two and a half hour
drive east on Interstate Highway 64 from
Flora, Illinois, population
5,000, a rural town to which dad had retired, in part, to be close to his sisters
Helen and Wilma and their husbands, who had all preceded him from the Chicago area.
Town names in these parts reflect the melange of European culture brought in by
the German, French and English settlers of the previous century and a half, names
like Germantown, Darmstadt and Petersburg; Gentryville, Bellmont, Belle Rive and
Survant; the classical Troy, Xenia and Odin; the Anglo-Saxon Burnt Prarie, Bone
Gap, and New Harmony; and the iconoclastic: Mudcenter, Rapture, Elbow, Scuffletown and Solitude. Just
up the road from Birdseye, Indiana, is French Lick, hometown of basketball legend
Arrived in Birdseye, Howard parks, wanders, experimentally thumbs through a local
phone book looking for the name 'Saalman'. To his surprise, a dozen or more Saalmans
are listed, none of whom he knows.
(A few years later, however, Dad recounted to me that sometime in his teenage years,
more than fifty years earlier, his father Benjamin had taken him to southern Indiana
to visit relatives he'd never before met. These phonebook people could be some of
the same folks or at least their kin. But who were they and how were they related
Dad drove to one of the Birdseye addresses from the phone book and met a young man
there who said that it was Uncle Marion Saalman who kept track of these things,
and that it was he to whom Dad should speak.