Viewland Court's community ties grow from kickball games in Westerville

MARLA K. KUHLMAN
mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com
Participants in a pickup game of kickball at Westerville's Viewland Court on Aug. 21 included (front row, from left) Maci Minister; her father, Aaron Minister; and sister, Sophie Minister; (back row) Kris Dickson and her sons, Adam and Matt Sokoloff, and her father, Scott Dickson. The kickball pitching mound has the initials DSBP, for Dickson Sokoloff Ball Park.

Small things can have a lasting effect in bringing people together, something the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated.

One example can be found in a Westerville's Viewland Court neighborhood.

Viewland Court has been a playground for the families who have lived there for about half a century.

Scott Dickson said he moved to the court in 1975, when his daughter, Kris, was 2 and son, Brett, was 1.

"There were five other kids between age 2 and 6 and three or four teenagers," he said. "There was lots of playing various games in the court and trikes, Big Wheels, bikes and scooter riding."

Dickson, who grew up in a town of 400 people in Wisconsin, said he has always made a point to welcome new neighbors.

"The court was basically our playground since there was almost no outside traffic," he said. "Parents often sat outside on porches to watch and provide some supervision, and we were all pretty friendly."

Dickson, however, was never one to sit on the sidelines.

"I was always fairly active in playing with the kids, and after a few years, as the kids got older, maybe ages 6 to 10, I started to organize 'pickup' kickball games, which were played several times a week," he said.

In addition to providing some discipline to keep the game going, Dickson, 74, played -- and still plays -- the game with the kids.

"I often picked the teams and made the rules and decisions to keep the games going," he said. "Some kids from outside the court would also play sometimes. My wife and I would often laugh when a small kid would come to our door and ask if I could come out and play."

He retired from a career in computers at Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. in 1999.

Dickson recently welcomed a visit from his 47-year-old daughter, Kris Dickson, who lives in Boston with her sons, Matt Sokoloff, 11, and Adam Sokoloff, 9.

"There were small kids in every house when I lived here," Kris Dickson said. "Finally, kids got out of high school, and there was turnover in the court."

The 1991 Westerville South High School graduate works as a science writer in addition to being a stay-at-home mother.

She said her nephews, who live in Cincinnati, are still a little young to play games in the court.

But when they were trying to learn during a visit last year, one of boys was coached to run home, and he headed straight to his grandfather's house instead of home plate.

Dickson said he initially used articles of clothing or bricks for bases -- things that didn't work well and were dangerous.

So he painted the bases on the court, which lasted for years.

Since the court recently was torn up and resurfaced, he and his grandchildren had to remake the bases.

He said they watched the movie "Field of Dreams," which inspired them to use its theme.

"Recall the 1919 Black Sox baseball team was accused of taking bribes to purposely lose the World Series," Dickson said. "Shoeless Joe Jackson was the most famous and best player on the team. (Actor) Kevin Costner hears voices that if he builds a ballfield in the middle of nowhere in Iowa farmland, the baseball players will come."

"If you build it, he will come" is a familiar quote from the movie.

"Then Shoeless Joe and others come out of a nearby cornfield as sort of ghosts who are reincarnated and start to play baseball," Dickson said. "Other people can't see them initially. At one point Shoeless Joe asks, 'Is this heaven?' and Kevin (Costner) says, 'It's Iowa.' "

Dickson and his grandsons created a ghost figure coming out of a bush in front of his house, as there is no cornfield nearby.

With chalk, the children wrote on the court, "Is this heaven? No, this is Westerville."

"They later added the chalk baseball admission price and food menu," Dickson said. "It was a fun thing for me and the grandkids to do -- a few less hours on their devices."

Although all the original children are grown and gone from Viewland now, there is a new generation of youth.

Maci Minister, 10, a Blendon Middle School fifth-grader, and her sister, Sophie Minister, 14, a Westerville North High School freshman, are regular players. Their father, Aaron Minister, 38, said they have lived in the court about 10 years and they play about every day.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla