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Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A lot of good came from all of that noise at home

During the 1970s, my abode on top of the hill in Willoughby looked not so much like a home as it did a sorority house. It was populated not only by my own two daughters, but by a lot of other people’s daughters as well.

They were beautiful young ladies, smart and well-behaved. They didn’t cause problems. (Well, except for the time Betsy’s car ripped a Volkswagen-shaped hole through the stockade fence.) It’s just that they were always there.

If I put my mind to it, I can recall many of them. In addition to my own Diane and Kim, there were Sheila Branscome, Donna Cirelli, Trixie Simon, Monica Woodman, Betsy Parrino, Melanie Noonan, Ruthie Gauntner, and others. A lot of others.

But today I want to direct your attention to Sheila. She made a recent visit back here from her adopted home in Minneapolis, where she and her husband, Jim Sunderland, live with their six sons, ages 29-19. Jim is a successful businessman. He was one of the first to discover the magic (read: profit) in burying utilities, including broadband and fiber optics. He and his two brothers have more than100 employees doing the digging and bookkeeping.

Sheila, Kim, my brother Dave and I had breakfast at the late, lamented Helen’s Sunrise Cafe the other day, during which we discussed the girls’ affection for music and Sheila’s burgeoning career as a freelance writer on the subject.

Even her email address is on point: Junkie4music.

Most of the girls’ musical escapades in the ’70s were conducted en masse. Whenever a celebrity was staying at the late Hospitality Inn, they would roam the hallways in search of a look or a touch. Or they would hang around the swimming pool, thanks to Trixie’s pass, in hopes of a glimpse of a star.

Since most of the stars at the former Front Row Theater stayed there, chance meetings were frequent.

One of their monstrous adventures was a journey to the World Series of Rock Concert at the old Municipal Stadium, where for eight hours they listened to the likes of Pink Floyd, Lynyrd Skynynd and many others with whom I am not familiar.

Sheila was now hooked. She became a true music junkie. She reports she has gone swimming with the Jackson 5, held hands with Bo Diddley and hung out with members of Aerosmith, The Who, Blondie, Blackfoot, Marshall Tucker, Mark McGrath and many of their contemporaries.

She has been kissed by Bono (U2) and Roger Daltry (The Who) and been wished a “happy birthday” by all the members of KISS. I believe there are four of them.

Meanwhile, she continues to be published far and wide, including in Cleveland and in her new hometown Minneapolis Star Tribune. She even works at a major metropolis sports arena that is on every touring artist’s itinerary.

Sheila, bless her heart, gives me far too much credit for her success. I blush to quote her from a recent email, but I will do it anyway.

“You’ve certainly been influential in my life, both personally and professionally,” she said. “As a freelance writer, I often read your columns past and present for inspiration. Your keen sense of humor coupled with pithy one-liners (now I’m really blushing) are as much your hallmark as your digressions.”

She recalled highlights of columns from the past which I have long since forgotten. One thing which she thought I was kidding about, however, was serious. She thought my comment about the fans of Pink Floyd destroying the playing field for an upcoming Indians game was “feigned indignation, eloquently chronicled with wit.”

Nothing feigned about that, Sheila. I meant it. I am a devout Indians fan, win or lose (mostly lose) and I don’t even know who Pink Floyd is, or if that is his real name.

I hope her husband, Jim, likes music. I didn’t ask. But I presume Toby, Preston, Jeremy, Ryan, Kegan and Coleton, their six sons, were brought up on music and were never weaned from it.

Someday I expect Sheila to hit the big time with her finely nuanced writings on music, particularly on rock and roll. When she does, I hope she remembers where she got her start — at the sorority house where I tried to maintain order on top of the hill but where there was seldom a moment of peace and quiet.

I’m not complaining. I’m just saying.


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