Janet Hommel Mangas: ‘You’ve got a runner’

My brother Kevin was going through old papers a few weeks ago and found a 30-year old letter addressed to our mom from the then-mayor of Greenwood. No need to worry that our mother was a secret ne’er-do-well, or an incognito spray-paint graffiti artist that colorized passing Greenwood trains — nope, not our mom.

The letter dated July 20, 1993 from Mayor Margaret McGovern stated:

“Dear Betty:

Thank you for attending the neighborhood meeting last Wednesday. I thought the meeting was very productive and I applaud your interest and efforts in keeping Greenwood Manor a safe and attractive neighborhood …”

The letter listed the 24 neighbors in attendance at the July 14, 1993 meeting, the summary of discussion and areas that had been discussed with proper city departments. I thought it interesting that a few “areas of concern that need further attention” included:

  • Children unsupervised in the neighborhood
  • Speeding problems, particularly along Florence Drive (7 a.m.-4 p.m.)
  • Sidewalks
  • Trash cans left on porches

When mom attended this 1993 neighborhood meeting at Greenwood City Hall, she and dad had already resided and raised seven children in the neighborhood for nearly 37 years. Mom and the neighbors (many whose children I played with) continued to do their civic duty. I wondered how life changed in the decades they raised their families.

I remember playing kickball “unsupervised’ for hours in front of our house on Rose Lane. We’d have so many neighborhood kids gather to play, we’d have to sub in and out. “Unsupervised” we’d have bike races around the Manor over Memorial Day — just like we were Indy 500 racers. “Unsupervised” we yelled “CAR” when a vehicle turned down Rose Lane and we respectfully grabbed the kickball and stood off the street until the car safely crept by nearly 20 kids — then we jumped back into our game when the “coast was clear.” “Unsupervised” we were back in our own yards when the street lights came on.

I always thought we were “unsupervised” but if a kid was acting up or not where they were supposed to be — the neighborhood moms were phoning each other or walking out to the middle of the yard or street to supervise.

One of my favorite Greenwood Manor stories was when my younger brother (nine years younger) was supposed to be taking a “resting nap” when he was 5. Quite energetic, David figured out how to take out the window screen and had set-up his Sting-Ray bike propped up outside the window, so he could climb out and go riding — unsupervised.

Our next-door neighbor, Mrs. Mandabach happened to look out her kitchen window and saw what was happening. She quickly called mom on the phone and reported:

“Betty, you’ve got a runner!”

I’m grateful for growing up in a neighborhood “unsupervised” and under the watch of my parents and neighbors who took it as a civic duty to make sure the youngsters were acting right.

Janet Hommel Mangas grew up on the east side of Greenwood. The Center Grove area resident and her husband are the parents of three daughters. Send comments to [email protected].