I’ve been a resident of Harbor Country for almost forty years and during that time, many changes have taken place. A couple of the things I remember were the opening of Oinks, and Redamak’s being a small, one-room restaurant. People hadn’t even started calling the area Harbor Country yet. The 1980’s were a time of significant change, and in 1989, 27 years ago, a young man started hanging out on the corner of Red Arrow Hwy. and Whittaker street. This gentleman, George N. Smith, would set up his lawn chair and enjoy Cub games on his transistor radio. George continues to sit on the same corner, 27 years later, and enjoy two of his favorite things, the city of New Buffalo and the Chicago Cubs.
Last week I sat down with George for a few wonderful minutes and asked him a few questions. I found George to be truly fascinating, and I’m honored to share a small part of our conversation with you. George has been a Cub fan for 66 years, since he was five years old. He grew up in Union Pier and moved to New Buffalo when he was 45. His mom was more of a baseball fan than his dad, but what really got him hooked on the Cubs as a boy was WGN and day baseball. Back in the day, his favorite Cubs were Ernie Banks, Ronnie Santo, Billy Williams, and Jim Hickman. George informed me that Jim Hickman’s mother once owned Little Bohemia restaurant, which later became Hannah’s, and Jim still lives in New Buffalo (Mr. Hickman, if you happen to read this, I would love to talk with you). As time passed, Andre Dawson and Ryne Sandberg were a couple of George’s favorites and this year he really likes Rizzo and Bryant. These days, George enjoys watching games with a couple of his friends, Teri Lynn Shinn and Janet Lindsey, both big Cub fans.
While we were talking, many people drove by and honked or said hi to George. One friend even drove by and gave him a new shirt. This reminded George of the time a car full of eight girls stopped their car and got out to sing the seventh inning stretch with him. His favorite version is Ernie Banks’s version. George told me how happy it would make him if he could sing the national anthem and seventh inning stretch at Wrigley Field. He is a celebrity in Harbor Country and was recently interviewed on WNIT, the public television station from South Bend. If anyone knows anyone that could help George’s wishes come true, please contact me at email@example.com.
George is very knowledgeable about Cub history. He told me that “town is going to go nuts” when the Cubs finally win, which could be this year. I wholeheartedly agree. The next time you see George, give him a honk or a wave or better yet, stop and chat. Bring him one of his favorite beverages, Diet Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, or root beer and spend a few minutes with this icon. Even White Sox fans would enjoy talking to this fine gentleman.
Gary Shandling said, “Nice guys finish first. If you don’t know that, then you don’t know where the finish line is.” Talk to you next week. Peace, love, and happiness.