I was in Central Florida recently and someone suggested I take a couple of minutes and drive through the town of Celebration.
It is a planned community that was developed by the Disney organization. It has pretty houses neatly arranged on manicured streets. I would guess that every house sits the exact same distance from the sidewalk.
You could imagine that Ward and June Cleaver would live on one of the tree-lined streets. The trees all appear to be the same age.
It was nice, but it wasn’t for me.
There is no perfect community, no matter how much you plan. Every place I’ve ever lived had a few warts and blemishes. They had some fine and intelligent citizens and a few who were colorful and added to the spice of life.
I’ve only been through Reynolds a time or two. I don’t think I stopped there, unless it was for a traffic light. A friend of mine, Bruce Goddard, grew up in Reynolds. His daddy owned a funeral home and a grocery store.
Bruce entered the family business and became an undertaker.
He is not the creepy, macabre type that might be cast in a Hollywood movie. He is a wisecracking, fun-loving guy who is one of the funniest after-dinner speakers around. He wrote a book a few years ago called “View From a Hearse.” It was a laugh-out-loud kind of book.
Recently, he has released a second book that is a slice of life from the streets of Reynolds to all the places his career has taken him.
The book is called “The Legacy of Eulan Brown.” I don’t know if they have one in the near-perfect community of Celebration, but every town should have a Eulan Brown.
Eulan was a man with challenges. He earned money by selling Grit, once a national weekly newspaper that was sold by independent vendors, usually young boys, who earned a little profit from each sale.
According to the book, Eulan had a muscular disease that made it difficult for him to ride a bicycle, his only mode of transportation. Bruce said he often saw Eulan in a ditch where the bicycle had landed.
Bruce writes that as a boy, he thought Eulan was strange and was afraid of him. But at a chance meeting at a local lunch spot, they talked and a lifelong friendship was forged. Bruce never saw Eulan in the ditch with his scattered papers that he didn’t stop and help him.
We had a Eulan Brown in Social Circle, where I grew up. His name was Donald. I don’t think Donald ever missed a Sunday at First Baptist Church and he knew the words to every song in the 1956 Baptist hymnal, a pretty good accomplishment for someone who could not read. He was just a good fellow that was a part of the fabric of our community.
I’m glad there are people like Bruce Goddard, who notice the Eulan Browns of this world. He reminds us that communities are not perfect places but are melting pots filled with people who shape your life.
Harris Blackwood is a columnist for The Times. His column appears every week in Sunday Life.