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Family Background and the Gray Period - Part 1

Family Background and the Gray Period

When disability comes into the life of an individual and his or her family, it does not make its imprint on a blank slate or on some abstract, unblemished reality. It impacts particular individuals with all the strengths, failings, character traits, and idiosyncrasies they already have, and in the locale, circumstances, and living conditions in which they find themselves. I’ve mentioned some family background in prior sections, but this sections provides a more in-depth account of my roots and upbringing.


My childhood took place in Evansville, Indiana, a middle-sized city located on a horseshoe bend of the Ohio River (one of the city’s nicknames is “River City”) in the southwestern corner of Indiana. While it is not clear exactly what the phrase “Middle America” includes, Evansville certainly falls within it. During my tender years, as now, Evansville was neither what most people would consider a big city nor a small town (on its website, the University of Evansville touts the city as “having the best of a big city mixed with a small town”). In the last century or so, Evansville’s population has been of middling size – considerably below the largest urban areas, and yet well above the average populations of the tens of thousands of smaller towns.

Not only is Evansville located in the Midwest heartland of the U.S., and has a middle-sized population (117,429 in the 2010 Census), it is located smack in the center of the population of the country. In fact, the Census Bureau’s plotting of the “median center of population” of the U.S. based on census figures shows that since 1950 the median center has moved in a southwesterly direction from the Indiana/Ohio border in an almost straight line directly toward Evansville. After the 2010 census, the median population center was calculated to be located in a cornfield near Petersburg, Indiana, about 36 miles from Evansville. Lest this cornfield reference raise the popular image of Indiana as entirely flat and covered with corn, I hasten to add that most of Evansville is located in a shallow valley, surrounded by the rolling hills, and some more rugged hills, of southern Indiana; and close to caves, coal mining areas, limestone quarries, and forests, including the 200,000 plus acres of the Hoosier National Forest. From its roots as a river, canal, and railroad transportation hub, Evansville’s economy grew to encompass a wide array of commercial undertakings, including milling, mining, and a variety of manufacturing enterprises that earned it recognition as part of the “Factory Belt” or “Rust Belt” – the highly-manufacturing-focused areas of the Midwest, Northeastern, and Mid-Atlantic regions of the U.S.

Continue to Part 2: Aspects of Poverty