Jeff Manes: Librarian finds Lake Village a good fit
October 19, 2011 6:06PM
Updated: November 21, 2011 9:46AM
“They’re my people; I could never write down to them.”
— Raymond Carver
Ray Carver, dubbed the American Chekov, was referring to the laborers and service workers about whom he so often wrote.
If Carver had condescended to his characters, he would’ve condemned the first 40 years of his life. Carver grew up on a small river town of 700 souls.
Mary Kay Emmrich is the library director in Lake Village. She lives in Morocco with her husband, Roger; they’ve been married 12 years.
Emmrich, 56, is the daughter of the late Harold and Hallie Martin, the former owners of the Hilltop Tavern in Morocco.
Emmrich is a southpaw who has a razor-sharp sense of humor that I adore. Her niece, who has hazmat training, refers to Emmrich as “Auntthrax.”
Mary Kay Emmrich is not your mother’s librarian.
“My parents moved from Raub to Morocco when they bought the Hilltop in 1966,” Emmrich began.
“North Newton, class of ’73.”
Did you participate in extracurriculars at North Newton?
“I filled beer coolers. My parents were strict because their biggest fear was that people would say: ‘Yeah, Mary Kay is a wild thing, but what do you expect? Her parents own a bar.’ I was kept on a short chain. I rebelled later on, but we won’t go there.”
What did your dad like to call the Hilltop?
“The Bucket of Blood; it was a farmers’ bar. Papa always said if there was dirt under the bar stools, there was money in the register because the farmers had been in.”
I recall “Mustard” Hanger bringing some homemade head cheese to the bar; he bartered it for beer.
“You can see pieces of eyeballs and other body parts in that stuff.”
The Hilltop served nice meals.
“We always had sandwiches, but on Friday and Saturday nights, we served fish and a variety of steaks. I probably made more potato salad by the age of 21 than most women make in a lifetime.
“Jeff, everybody thinks the world is divided between Democrats and Republicans or men and women, but the division is between Miracle Whip and Hellman’s (mayonnaise).”
I know you’re a Democrat; do you prefer Miracle Whip?
“I’m a Hellman’s woman.”
We were raised on the cheap stuff — Miracle Whip, oleo, Karo corn syrup ... .
“Nothin’ better than French toast and Karo white syrup — holy moly!”
Your maiden name, Martin, is the most common surname in France.
“Yes, my father’s father came here from Quebec; Dad’s mother’s family came from Sweden.”
“I went to Indiana Central College, which is now the University of Indianapolis. Then, I came home and worked at People’s Drug Store in Morocco for about a year and a half, and then attended Ball State, where I earned my degree in English and minored in geography.
“I had a teaching license, so I taught for four years to pay for the first four years of college, so I could borrow for the next round.”
“I went back to Ball State for its American Library Association accredited MLS program; that’s where I got my master’s of library science degree. They don’t have that program anymore, so I’m one of about 40 people who graduated from Ball State with an ALA-MLS. We belong to a little group called Great Defunct Library School Graduates.
“I borrowed money from Kentland Bank to go to college. Remember, this was the ’70s; interest rates were outlandish — 15 percent. I’d mess with the banker, ‘What if I don’t pay?’ He’d say, ‘You can’t do that; we’ll put you in jail.’ I’d say, ‘OK, but there is no car or house you can repossess.’ He’d say, ‘Don’t talk like that.’ What was he gonna do, perform a frontal lobotomy on me?”
Mary Kay, when did you become library director here?
“In ’94, after Mary Rybarski passed.”
This little town had some great librarians when I was a kid, Mary: Rhoda Kuster, Dorothy Arbuckle ... .
“I’ve had job offers elsewhere, but it’s the patrons who keep me here. Lake Village is a comfortable fit. I love Lake Village.”
This new building is really nice. Do you know when the old library was built?
“In 1962; Angelus and Helen Kocoshis donated the land for the library.”
Good family. A lot of Lake Village boys worked in the cut-flower fields for Angelus. Didn’t he also donate the black granite stone that graced the front of the old library? The one that had “Lake Village Memorial Township Library” etched into it?
“Yes, the granite stone was moved to the lobby of this building; I’ll show it to you.”
Plans for retirement?
“When I do, I’m moving to ‘The Village.’ This northern portion of Newton County is more diverse. Once you get south of Indiana 114, it becomes Wonder Bread out there.”
A few of your favorite authors?
“Kurt Vonnegut, Tom Robbins, Raymond Carver ... .”
Kids from Lake Village and Sumava Resorts who are my age and older didn’t have kindergarten, but some of us did have story hour at the Lake Village Memorial Township Library. A lady named Mrs. Louden served as raconteur.
Mrs. Louden wasn’t a librarian; she was simply the old woman — in her 90s — who lived in a dilapidated chicken coop near the library. Mrs. Louden had been part of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show; I believe she was American Indian.
After our interview, Emmrich took me across the street so we could pay a visit to a woman I’ve known all my life. Doris Hendryx used to clean the library and was a good friend of my mother, who worked as an assistant librarian in Lake Village. It was nice to get a hug from Doris.
Worn memories of a wonderful library in a small river town.
And the new library in “The Village” is just as wondrous, thanks to Mary Kay Emmrich and her excellent staff.
Some things never change.