By Dr. Joseph J Kozma
Before arriving in Waverly in October 1955, the word ‘bench’ had mostly one meaning to me, a piece of furniture, inside or outside to sit on, either alone or with others, long enough to sleep on if needed, well accommodating my height. This kind of ‘bench’ is the feature of this writing.
When you arrive in a place where you will take up permanent residence, it seems natural to learn about it. You want to know about the demographics, activities, people, services, developments, building projects and etc. Of course, if you move to Manhattan or to Chicago or to any large city, you probably will be satisfied with the most elementary information first such as grocery stores, recreational facilities, crimes, clubs and etc.
Because of its size waverly was not difficult to “size up.” I learned that it had a library, therefore classified as a city regardless of its size. Around 1400 residents in those days, it was enough to get acquainted with everybody in no time: fine school, fluorination of the teeth of students, several churches, three or four grocery stores, three car dealers, three gas stations, hardware store, clothing store, bank, yearly picnic, several clubs, two dentists and two doctors, if I included myself.
How about the growth of the city, new construction, public services? I asked that question from Floyd Deatherage, a dentist, who with his wife Bunny, a nurse, hosted me for a while until I could acquire some sort of residential property by rent or purchase.
I was impressed by Bunny’s kitchen. She collected antique kitchenware and displayed old pots and pans on the wall. I think that it was then in 1955 that I saw functioning rivets for the first time. It was a pot that had a hole in the bottom expertly repaired.
I hardly needed a room, just a bed. I was busy in the office all day and all evening and was up almost every night making house calls. I occupied the room of David, who was away to school in Wyoming. After having seen most of the city of Waverly and part of Modesto, Franklin and Palmyra, and saw no building activity in any place, I formed the timid question mentioned above. We were just sitting around one evening talking mostly about our practices. Floyd responded readily. I thought he anticipated the question and was ready with the answer: “We just put a bench in the park.” I learned that he was on the plan commission, so the information was authentic and meaningful.
His statement widened my horizon. Yes, a bench was a bench. Long piece of furniture, usually with four to six legs, made of wood or steel or concrete, even plastic. In the open it was usually durable, taken to the city garage for the winter, placed out again in early summer to let it warm up and be accommodating. There was more, suddenly I remembered words I haven’t read or seen for years: Judge on the bench, benchmark, bench trial, bench warrant, bench press, bench warmer and more. So the bench got around well then as it is now. It can add meaning to other words that would otherwise be just a part of the crowd.
In Waverly in 1955 BENCH had a proud, extended meaning, a sign of progress and pride.