Saalman Family Website by todd saalman

Howard Joseph Saalman - family and friends


1992 - 1994

Howard and Marion Meet

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 Larry Bird.

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 to us?)

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.

Tell City

Given directions to an address in the nearby town of Tell City, Dad made the hour's drive south on Indiana state highway 145, a brief jog east on Interstate 64, then south on Indiana Highway 37, past the village of Branchville, to Tell City, right on the northeast banks of the Ohio River, a long stone's throw from Kentucky.

After finding a small house and parking the car, dad knocks on the door and introduces himself to the husky, farmer-tanned man who appears.

"Hello. My name is Howard Saalman. I'm looking for a Marion Saalman."

The man replies, "Well, I'm Marion Saalman. I guess you got my letter!"

Dad scratches his head, "What?"

The explanation was intricate and unlikely. A few weeks earlier at a gas station in Albion, Illinois, Dad uses his credit card to make a fuel purchase. The transaction details go to a regional credit card processing center where a woman working there sees the record and thinks that it's odd she doesn't know a Howard Saalman, since she has the same, rather uncommon surname.

The young lady decides to provide Dad's name and address to her Uncle Marion Saalman, the defacto family historian who lives in Tell City, Indiana. Marion composes a letter to the unknown Saalman from Flora, Illinois, and sends it on its way.

Amazingly, Marion's letter of introduction was en route to dad's mailbox at the very moment dad's knuckles rapped on Marion's front door.

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