The Anderson Book Nook

"When the frost is on the punkin..."

This time of year, I recall the words of Indiana’s most famous poet, “When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.” Children are taught these words in school along with the tale of Little Orphan Annie. I was fortunate to learn about James Whitcomb Riley in fourth grade, and when the trees turn their glorious red and orange colors, I look for the frost on the “punkin”. That is how I know it’s fall in Indiana.

James Whitcomb Riley is known worldwide for his poetry, but most do not know his literacy connection to Anderson. Before James Whitcomb Riley was a celebrated poet, he wrote for a newspaper called The Anderson Democrat. While working in Anderson, he stayed in a boarding house on 8th Street.

Ironically, his former home is now the location of The Literacy Center. The yellow building at 501 W. 8th Street is the site of Madison County’s only adult literacy program and carries the hoosier poet’s name-Riley Place.

Riley Place is a perfect fit for our literacy program. There is even a plaque on the building to commemorate the poet. The plaque describes Riley’s return to Anderson after achieving national success. Upon his return, a parade was thrown in his honor. Children threw rose petals, and people celebrated in the streets. Now, our staff of volunteer tutors instruct and inspire where Riley once lived. It is a literacy legacy we do not take for granted.

Written by: Brett Wiley