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Jeff Manes: ‘North Light’ a beacon of art in Wheatfield

Doris B. Myers is pictured with one her paintings “Lilacs Lace.”   |   Phoprovided

Doris B. Myers is pictured with one of her paintings, “Lilacs and Lace.” | Photo provided

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IF YOU GO

What: North Light Studio

Where: 759 W. Indiana 10, Wheatfield

More information: Call 956- 3707.

Updated: April 26, 2012 8:02AM



“Endangered wetland glowing pink, welcoming a new day

Reflecting the color not unlike a maiden’s blush —

We know your purpose but have watched men rape your sisters

Only to leave behind concrete and glass ... .”

— Doris B. Myers,
from her poem
“Endangered Wetlands”

Doris Myers is a painter, sculptor and poet from Wheatfield who was born north of Shelby on Thanksgiving Day, 1921.

That makes her 90; she looks 60.

Myers was married to Richard for 66 years before his passing; they raised four adult children.

Myers attended Crown Point and DeMotte high schools. She’s a retired teacher who earned a master’s degree in art at Ball State University in Muncie. She didn’t go to college until she had all four of her children, finishing at Valparaiso University the year she turned 40.

A tremendous artist, Myers’ home also is her place of business — North Light Studio.

***

“My dad was a contractor-carpenter; those were hard times,” Myers began. “We moved around a lot. I went to nine schools in 11 years.”

Memories of the Great Depression?

“Oh, my gosh, I could talk for hours. There are certain things that the kids today could not relate to at all. For instance, my senior wardrobe in high school consisted of a suit, jacket and a skirt, one dress, two blouses, two pairs of silk hose and one pair of shoes.

“I think that’s why my closet is filled with shoes now, because I was deprived of shoes during the Depression. We went barefooted in the summer to save our shoes.”

Those sand burs hurt; I know.

“Living out in the country was a wonderful experience; I wouldn’t trade it for today’s high-tech. I think growing up during the Great Depression made us tougher, more durable.”

At least you had food, living on a small farm part of the time.

“We always had a big garden. I wrote a story about the Great Depression for the DeMotte Historical Society. We’d dig apples up from the frost-free ground in the winter. We’d also pop our own popcorn and sort navy beans. Dad grew navy beans and would air-dry them. He’d sell them at the (tuberculosis) sanitarium north of Crown Point; 50-pound bags went for $1. We did a lot of canning.

“I think we’re going back to that. People are becoming aware of chemicals and things. We started a community garden last year here in Wheatfield.”

How do you lean politically?

“Oh, I’m a good Democrat.”

You grew up during the Franklin D. Roosevelt era.

“I sure did. He made some mistakes, but he did a lot of good. Dad worked on the (Works Project Administration). We hated to do it, but I remember us accepting a mattress and cheese and things like that; it was a necessity. At that time, we lived in Leroy.”

Members of my family were involved in the Civilian Conservation Corps.

“The CCC was a wonderful movement, and I think it would help today — except, today, we have big machinery to do the work of 15 men.”

Doris, I think I would’ve liked President Harry S. Truman.

“Nobody told Harry what to do. He rode the train back to Missouri at the end of his term, no fanfare. He served his people, then went home.”

Who have been some of your favorite presidents since the Great Depression?

“Well, (John F.) Kennedy of course. But the more you hear about that rascal, I don’t know how he had time to be a president.”

When Geraldine Ferraro was running for vice president, I heard a comedian say he didn’t see what the big deal was about having a woman in the White House. He added, when Jack Kennedy was president, there were dozens of them.

“Do you ever watch David Letterman?”

Once in a while.

“He’s really on (Republican Mitt) Romney; it’s just funny as the Dickens. Some of the stuff is a little trashy; I wouldn’t even repeat it.

“I really liked (President Bill) Clinton; he left us in the black. He also made a few social mistakes. Bill kissed me on the cheek; I was at a rally in Crown Point for Hillary. He put his arm around me and said, ‘God bless you.’ I didn’t wash my face for the longest time.”

President Barack Obama?

“I think he’ll get back in; look how (Newt) Gingrich has dropped in the polls.”

Let’s talk about your art. Did you enjoy painting as a little girl?

“Oh, yeah. In fact, my mother didn’t think I’d be a very good mama because I’d rather draw things than play with dolls. I remember when I was 4, we lived near Shelby. Mother would burn a farmer’s match and give it to me to draw with.”

Like charcoal.

“Yes, I’d draw on an old paper bag.”

Do you have any idea how many acrylic, oil and watercolor paintings you’ve created?

“I’ve kept a record since the ’70s; it’s in the thousands. I belong to five art associations.”

Pottery?

“I really fell in love with it. I would enroll in every ceramic class I could at VU. I still demonstrate in public occasionally; last year, we had the Sandhill Crane Festival. I took my wheel and sold pottery.”

As I got out my car, I noticed several sandhill cranes in the cornfield next to your house.

“In the municipal building in Wheatfield is an 8-foot mural that I did of the cranes coming in at night from the swampland.”

You taught at Wheatfield until it consolidated with DeMotte High School to become Kankakee Valley High School; then, you taught at KV.

“Yes, there was a parade when all that occurred. Some of the kids from the shop class at Wheatfield converted an old Nash into a convertible, and one of the boys dressed up as a very homely DeMotte homecoming queen. He was holding asparagus and egg crates because that’s what they sell in DeMotte.

“I wanted that float to be paraded around the football field at halftime, but the coach wouldn’t let me. He said, ‘They’ll kill us!’ ”

You’re killin’ me. At age 90, you started writing.

“I’ve always wanted to write, and I have written, but when I realized there was a writing group I could join, I thought maybe they could help me.”

Where does the group meet?

“In Rensselaer; it’s called the Prairie Writers Guild. They put out a collection of stories every year. The theme for 2011 was trees.”

Doris, I have a copy of it. By the way, I took the photo that graces the cover of the book. That’s a buddy of mine standing in front of that American Chestnut tree in Roselawn; he discovered it.

“I like O. Henry and his surprise endings.”

My favorite is “The Last Leaf.”

“Mine is ‘The Gift of the Magi.’ ”

Are you working on anything now?

“Yes, a short story entitled ‘When Ida Came to Visit.’ It’s a true story about a black-sheep part of my family; they moved to Cleveland to get away from the rest of the family.

“Years later, my cousin, Ida, came back to this area driving a ’39 Ford coupe. She was the most beautifully dressed woman I ever saw. We really bonded. The last day of her visit — she was one her way to Arkansas to make a ‘delivery’ — she took me into Rensselaer to get gifts for everybody. I was much younger than Ida and I didn’t understand the word counterfeit.”

Counterfeit?

“You see, when Ida left town, they found counterfeit money in several of the stores where we shopped. She kept her suitcase locked under the bed while she stayed with us.”

***

What a gem living in the middle of a cornfield in Wheatfield.

I could talk to Doris Myers all day.



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