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Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2005 11:58 pm

The joys of community

Lola Lucas has been chronicling the ups and downs of Enos Park since the early '90s

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At Home in the Park: Loving a Neighborhood Back to Life By Lola L. Lucas, iUniverse Inc., 166 pages, 2005, $14.95
It took a broken leg to get Lola Lucas moving on her book A Home in the Park: Loving a Neighborhood Back to Life, a collection of columns originally published in the Banner, the newsletter of the Enos Park Neighborhood Improvement Association. “It was a lucky break,” Lucas quips. Holing up at her mother’s house for two weeks gave Lucas the time to sift through and organize more than 150 columns she’s written during the past 13 years. In late August, Lucas’ favorites were published by iUniverse, a print-on-demand publisher. Lucas says she moved to Enos Park because it was cheap: She and her husband, Kevin Brown, bought their home on Fourth Street for $38,000 in the early 1990s. “It was an incredibly beautiful house for an incredibly great price,” Lucas says. “It was in wonderful condition, so we thought, ‘We can live with this.’ ”
Lucas’ love for old homes and sense of community stretches back to her childhood in the Central West End of St. Louis and later purchase of one of the oldest homes in the St. Louis suburb of University City. “I like the idea of a wide variety of people living together in a community, helping each other, being there for each other — that, to me, is the ideal way to live,” she says. Lucas and Brown remained in Enos Park for three years, then traded in their Fourth Street digs for a larger home near Washington Park, on the west side of town. Although she moved away 11 years ago, Lucas has continued writing for the Banner. She addresses her continuing contribution to the newsletter in a chapter of the book titled “Selling the Wee Blue Hoose” (Lucas’ affectionate nickname for her home in Enos Park). The collection, which reads like a love letter to the community, features familiar activists such as Marilyn Piland, executive director of EPNIA, whom Lucas credits with much of the neighborhood’s success, and unfamiliar names, including Fiona and Finnegan, Lucas and Brown’s standard poodles. The collection of essays isn’t confined to the Springfield city limits; Lucas relates excursions as far off as London to her experiences on the north end of Springfield. While living in Enos Park, Lucas and Brown got involved with the neighborhood association; these days, they sell tickets for neighborhood tours and contribute baked goods to fundraising sales. She calls community building a “very happy form of contagion. “It’s the broken window in reverse,” Lucas says. “You drive down the street and see that a house has been redone, then you think, ‘That one next door, that’s cheap — I could buy it and redo it.’ Different thoughts come into your mind when you see that people are doing something active.”
As for her next book, Lucas is optimistic: “I made a list a few years ago of 25 book titles. There are lots more coming.”
Completing the next one, she adds, won’t require breaking her other leg.

Lola Lucas signs copies of A Home in the Park: Loving a Neighborhood Back to Life from 5-9 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 11, at the Springfield Art Association, 700 N. Fourth St., before and immediately after the monthly meeting of the Enos Park Neighborhood Improvement Association.
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