Eric Walts Interview

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Oral History of Eric Walts From: Eric Walts (ew) Medium: Flip camera Date: Monday, May 9, 2011 Place: Home of Eric Walts. 2509 N. River Rd. Marion, IN. 46952. Collected by: Audrey Walts (aw)

Aw: I am Audrey Walts here with Eric Walts, and do I have your permission to use this interview for the Community History Project?

Ew: Yes

Aw: Okay. So first, what years did you attend MHS?

EW: I attended from 1981 to 1984.

Aw: Okay, what activities, in school, were you involved in?

Ew: At the highschool the major activity I was involved with was the 26th street singers. As well as Nation Honorary Society. I did uh speech team, and I did the uh MHS uh fan block that we had back at the basketball games, and I did chess club.

Aw: Okay, uh what other out of school activities were you involved in?

Ew: Out of school activities were the uh Westminster Presbyterian Church. I was a member of the youth group there. I also had a couple of uh summer jobs uh during highschool – the old Atz’s Ice Cream Shop, which uh no longer exists. And then I also worked in our family’s business as well.

Aw: Okay. What important events happened while you were in highschool?

Ew: Uhh. Important Event. Okay, let’s see. As I recall when you’re in highschool you’re not really aware of a lot of outside events. But uh Ronald Regan was elected president. I do remember that. Um we had the invasion of Grenada occur in the early 1980s. Uh the Faulkner Islands was also a big event that occurred internationally uh back then between Argentina and Britain. And uh those seem to be the major ones. Uh Marion Highschool uh had a very very good basketball ball programs uh back in the 1980s. And uh we had a major battle between two basketball stars. Our own James Blackman and Steve Alford uh provides lots of local uh discussion.

Aw: Okay. So you said you were involve in 26th Street Singers, tell me how you got in the group.

Ew: Well the 26th Street Singers was the Marion Highschool show choir group lead by Richie Walton. And it was uh a group of uh 20 performers and then they also had a band, a live band, and Mr. Walton had done a really good job of positioning that group as the uh swing choir group that everyone wanted to belong to. At that time there were actually two swing choir groups uh in Marion Highschool. There was the 26th Street Singer group, and there was also another group called the Choral Company uh which was uh a little bit larger group as well. Uh but the 26th Street Singers group was kinda the uh most impressive group at that time. And uh I can recall when I was in elementary school, he brought the group to the elementary school. And uh I thought it was uh really a great thing watching the kids sing and dance. They tap danced and they sang, and I just thought it was really uh a neat thing that those kids were doing. So when I had the opportunity I tried out and I made the group.

Aw: So you could you tell me a little bit about the auditioning process.

Ew: Well uh back when I was in highschool there was only three grades. There was tenth grade, eleventh grade, and twelfth grade. And the uh ninth grade was still at the middle school level. And we auditioned as 9th graders at Justice Junior Highschool. And uh I can still recall the time uh when uh Mrs. Moritz, my choral teacher, pulled me out of class and uh another student and I were jumping for joy when we heard that we had made the team, or uh the group. And it was just uh a really big thing back then.

Aw: What were rehearsals like?

Ew: Well, we actually started before school started in the summer time. And one of the requirements was tap dancing. So for about three weeks prior to school starting, we had uh a tap dancing clinic that uh took those that never tap danced before. And so we actually uh before school started had to learn how to tap dance. Once school started then rehearsals were uh actually during 6th period class, but also after school. For about four days a week um every evening Monday through Thursday, and then we had Saturday rehearsals aswell. And uh they went anywhere from about 6 to 10 PM every day.

AW: So did you compete in the group?

Ew: We did not compete the three years that I was in the group and that was because Mr. Walton had a negative experience up at the Bishop Looher Showchoir. And that was because the group had actually won that event several times but it kinda became like a legend that uh he was mistreated one time, and after that we did not go back to compete. But we did lots of road shows. Um he actually had an agent that uh he hired and uh back in the day we were doing uh regional and corporal events. Uh from Chicago, Indianapolis, Muncie, Fort Wayne, we would travel and do these shows. Usually on the weekend and perform for various functions and do uh we did about a 45 minute show. And we would have to load up all the costumes and all the staging and rent a big truck and then we’d take the bus to the performance and do that performance and then we’d have to break everything down and bring it back to the highschool and we’d have to unload it and then we got home. So we had a lot of late nights.

Aw: Um how many shows do you think you did, or what kind of shows did you do?

Ew: Well, the first show of the year was Opening Night, uh which the highschool still does. That’s the first show, in October. And that’s – that’s the first show that we did. And so uh that show was about an hour long. Usually the uh Coral Company had the first act, and the second act was the Singer’s group. And after that, we would take parts of that show on the road to do all those road shows. And then we’d have a big Christmas Extravaganza show uh at Christmas time. And that was with the band, and orchestra, and the concert choir, and both choral groups. And that should (laugh) seemed to me to last about two and half to about three hours, uh because everyone was involved. And then in January, we always had a January show where we brought in another group such as the Purdue Glee Club, we brought in the Indiana University show choir group, um and we had another show in January. Then normally in the spring time there was often a musical that was put on. And then we had our Singing on the Green show in May. So we had a full series all throughout the year

Aw: Did you ever participate in any of the musicals?

Ew: I did. I did um two musicals while I was at Marion Highschool. We did “South Pacific” my sophomore year, and then we did “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” my senior year.

Aw: What type of roles did you have?

Ew: In the “South Pacific” uh musical I had the role of Stew Pod, which is kinda a minor character in the uh male chorus. Uh and then in “How to Succeed” show I had the show, or uh the position of Mr. Bigly, which was the supporting lead role.

Aw: Okay. So do have any particular stories that you remember about being in show choir?

Ew: One of the unique things that we did is that we went to Disney Land. Uh and that was right after Disney Land er Epcot opened. And that was in 1980… I think it was either 83 or 84, uh and that was a lot of fun. We actually got to perform on the tomorrow land stage. We had to transport all of our equipment, all of our, our costumes from Marion to Florida. Our parents drove a big truck down there. Uh and we flew as I recall and uh we stayed in Orlando. Some of the kids from Marion hadn’t even left Indiana at that point, and so it was a really big opportunity for them to travel and to see Disney World. And that was a lot of fun.

Aw: Okay, good. So since you were involved in show choir and so many different activities, how did you balance that with your academic life?

Ew: Well, it was a challenge. Uh when I was in highschool I didn’t have the AP classes that are currently offered for college credit. But uh there was definitely a more of an academic track um advanced chemistry, physics, um the advanced math classes like trigonometry and calculus and things like that, which I all took. Um so I actually think it’s more difficult now when you’re taking classes for college credit. And uh it was always a challenge to get your homework done and still be able to attend all of the rehearsals.

Aw: Mhmm. Um What was your family life like back in highschool.

Ew: Well I had my parents were both working at the time at our family business. And I had an older sister who graduated in 1983, and I had a younger sister who was 3 years – er 4 years behind me. Uh so we had a busy family life. Uh we were involved in our church aswell, and uh so we had lots of typical family events and functions that we still participate in. And um we still tried to have dinner every day, um every evening we tried to have dinner together as a family. And that kinda seemed to connect us.

Aw: Now what was your life like after highschool?

Ew: After highschool I attended Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana, and I graduated from Wabash in 1988 with a bachelor’s degree specializing I economics and a double major in French. And then uh I came back to Marion and worked at our family business. And then I attended Indiana University where is now known as the Kelley School of Business and I received my master’s in business administration. Um and then I came back and formed my own company and ran a family business. And we have started two new businesses that we continue to operate here in Grant County.

Aw: Now do you continue to use the singing and music that you used in highschool, now?

EW: Uh occasionally from time to time I sing as the song leader at our church and then uh I have the opportunities to sing in the men’s chorus here in town, the men’s barber shop group. And then I have participated in some of the theater productions with the Marion Civic Theater and the Community School of the Arts as well.

Aw: Very good. Well, thank you very much for this interview and I think that’s it. Thank you.

Ew: You’re very welcome.