By guest blogger Alyson Madsen
Excerpts from David Taylor’s Memoir
As told to Alyson Madsen, August 17, 2020
To discover Taylor’s backstory, it is helpful to venture 25 miles out of town to Tipton County, where Dave spent the first 12 years of his life.
Taylor’s parents, Edward Taylor and Norma Strangeway Taylor, both born in Elwood, married soon after high school graduation. Norma had son David at 17.
“We were poor,” stated Taylor matter-of-factly, whose father worked at Continental Canning Company just down the street.
“We had a coal stove, and fuel was very expensive for a family such as ours,” recalled Taylor. “Mom would tell me to go in and ask for a sample basket for free, ‘just to see how it burns.’”
While raising two children-—Taylor has a younger sister Karen-—Norma returned to school to earn her elementary teaching degree.
Taylor’s dad passed in 2004 at age 88; his mother several years later at age 93. Norma was determined to stay in the family home until Taylor and his sister relocated her to a quiet street in Frankton. The ever dutiful son, Taylor visited her often, occasionally spending the night after an evening of dinner and lively discussion.
“I had a great upbringing with wonderful parents,” beamed Taylor. “They taught my sister [who followed her mother’s footsteps into teaching] and me the value of hard work and commitment.”
“I want you to meet some people who mean a lot to me,” insisted Taylor as we pulled up to a ranch-style home adjacent to the school in Frankton, Indiana, where Taylor attended high school. Mulford Davis, affectionately known as “Muff,” appeared at the side door. A former basketball coach at Frankton High School, he and Taylor have stayed connected all these many years. One of Muff’s claims to fame was his tenure at the University of Kentucky under Adolph Rupp, where he also later refereed.
“Dave was a good student, athlete, and friend,” reminisced Muff as we talked in his driveway.
“He’s kept up with me,” he added, appreciatively.
Down the street lives another longtime friend of Taylor’s, Joyce Legg Kennedy, who was a cheerleader at Frankton Junior/Senior High. She remembers Taylor fondly.
“Dave was just a very nice classmate and an all-around good guy,” quipped Kennedy. “He was polite, respectful—and no trouble,” she added.
“Is Dave any different from what you remember?” I asked.
“He didn’t have a beard then,” Kennedy joked.
We couldn’t leave town without one more stop to see brothers Bill and Ben Redwine, who own and farm substantial acreage in the area. They have been farmers their entire lives, as have so many who live here.
Taylor and the Redwines have both been faithful stewards of their old stomping ground, each in his own inimitable way. None has forgotten the importance of where they came.
All of Taylor’s family is now gone from Elwood. But the rich and sometimes painful town history remains. Congressman Phil Sharp hails from Elwood, and the Birch Bayh Community Center honors our state’s former governor. Nowadays Taylor doesn’t return to the area as often as he would like, unless passing though en route to Cicero to see his son Chris and family
Now home to the Red Gold Manufacturing Company headquarters, Elwood was the birthplace of Wendel Willke, the Republican nominee for President of the United States, running against Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1940.
As we drove through Elwood’s Calaway Park, where Willke came to proffer his acceptance speech, Taylor marveled at the nearly 300,000 people who converged at the park that day. And wouldn’t you know Taylor’s father was front and center, directing traffic.
Twenty years later Joyce Kennedy and Taylor were lucky enough to meet John F. Kennedy their senior year of high school when the young and impressive senator ran for 35th President of the United States.
“They actually let us out of school so we could travel to Alexandria’s Beulah Park to see him,” remarked Joyce.
“And the fact there was no security to speak of would be unheard of today,” added Taylor.
“There was just an indescribable aura about him,” said Taylor of the president-elect.
As we come to the end of our tour of Taylor’s childhood homes and landmarks, he remarked wrily,
“You know, when I got out of politics, I decided to take piano lessons and write a book. It turns out I wasn’t very good at piano,” he smiled.
Rest in Heaven, David Taylor, one of Muncie’s favorite sons!
~Alyson Madsen, January 10, 2021