For the past 51 years, Blondina Morgan has thought of Herron-Morton Place as her home. She's witnessed firsthand some incredible changes in the neighborhood since 1966, when she moved there as a toddler with her mother, Lula Mae Journey, and five older siblings. Their Victorian-era home on New Jersey Street had been converted into a duplex, but after Ms. Journey bought it in 1971, she turned it back into a single-family home for herself and her six children. Lula Journey was a city councilwoman for twenty years, as well as a board member of King Park Development Corporation and the Marion County Health and Hospital Corporation. She also worked for the Center Township Trustee's office, which provides emergency and short-term assistance to the needy. Everyone in Herron-Morton knew her mom, Blondina said, and their house became a gathering place for neighbors, because Lula Journey was always willing to offer food or help to those in need. "Our community was a close-knit family," she said. When asked about her memories of growing up in Herron-Morton, Blondina replied, "It has always been a safe neighborhood. Back then, crime was very low, as long as you didn't go north of 22nd Street where the gangs were ("Dodge City"). We kids were not allowed to cross 22nd Street... it was like night and day (the difference between Herron-Morton and what is now Fall Creek Place)." She added, "Everyone watched out for each other and each other's children... it was the definition of a true neighborhood. All the neighborhood kids played in the streets, and we knew we had to be home when the streetlights came on, when it was getting dark." She also remembers being able to get everything their family needed from within the neighborhood; on Central Avenue at 21st Street, there was a grocery store, laundromat, Hook's drugstore, and a fish market. There was also a bank on 16th Street. Blondina has been glad to see some of those amenities returning to the neighborhood over the past decade; there are now several restaurants, coffee shops, boutiques, doctor's offices, a nail salon and a grocery store within a 6-block radius of her home.
Blondina's positive memories of her childhood include the Boys & Girls Club, formerly located at 23rd and Guilford Avenue, which she and her friends attended after school (at IPS 27). The Club taught them how to knit, crochet, and dance, and it was there she first learned how to sew--something that profoundly influenced the direction of her life. (Boys & Girls Clubs still exist in various locations around the city, but they no longer teach these types of skills, focusing instead on academic tutoring and sports.) Blondina went on to excel in sewing and tailoring classes at Arsenal Tech High School, and she graduated from Indiana State University with a degree in textile manufacture and marketing. After college, she worked for custom clothing designer/master tailor Don Day, who had a studio in the Propylaeum Carriage House, on Delaware Street in the Old Northside. Today Blondina works as a financial field specialist for the U.S. Postal Service, but she hasn't given up sewing: she owns 10 sewing machines, and at least three rooms of her house are dedicated to her beloved hobby. She makes and sells fashion pillows in her spare time.
About 11 years ago, Blondina bought her childhood home from her mother, when the house felt too big for her mom to take care of anymore. Before deciding to buy her mom's house in 2006, she had built a new house in a subdivision near Eagle Creek Park, but didn't end up staying long; she felt the pull of city life and moved back home to Herron-Morton with her own two children, who were then in high school at North Central HS. She welcomed the challenge of fixing it up, and has remodeled it gradually over the past decade. She is now engaged to be married, and busy with the work of combining households, but she's not moving; she loves her home and is proud of her neighborhood, and her mother's contribution to it. "I tell everyone about it... our neighborhood is still very diverse, and everybody is welcome." She enjoys volunteering at the Talbott Street Art Fair every summer and also serves as a precinct committeeperson for the area. "I know my neighbors, and they know me." The connectedness of neighbors on New Jersey Street is something you don't often find in the suburbs, said Blondina. From block parties on the esplanade in the center of the street, to the annual neighborhood progressive dinner, there's something very special--and irreplaceable--about this community she's been part of for most of her life.