Growing up in New Milford, Ohio, a fixture of our lives was the gas station located down the road. Girton’s was owned and ran by Russ and Betty Girton. Russ was a mechanic, Betty ran the store operations and they usually employed one or two clerks. Anything a young woman or man could want, and most things many adults did, could be had from Girton’s.
Girton’s was a full service operation with garage. “Ding ding” as you pulled a car in, or your bike if you hit the rubber line just right. Gas, checked the oil and tires and cleaned the windshield, all with a smile.
Inside, coolers filled with beer, wine, dairy goods and deli meat and cheese, ice cream and ice cream novelties… Shelves for basic pantry items, snacks, smokes, and… A huge candy counter.
We all ended up at Girton’s pretty much daily as kids for a soda or candy, or for air in our bike tires. As we hit the age of driving, we stopped for our gas and oil. Sadly, small independent gas stations were driven out of being profitable by the larger stations and chains.
I don’t remember exactly when it closed. I feel sad that I don’t because it’s closing was a bellwether of the charges of our entire world, in which the warm and local was displaced by the cold and corporate for profit.
Growing up I can always remember my pap wore his hair high and tight. Not a military cut but a buzz cut and, occasionally, a flat top. Thinking about my dermatology issues with seborrheic dermatitis and his itchy scalp I figure he wore it close for the same reason I do… Less hair, less oil, less itch and sunlight kills it.
Haircuts were done 27 times a year, every other week and an extra before Christmas. Haircuts were done by Gary at Gary’s Barber Shop in East Springfield, Ohio. It was a small building next to his house on Ohio 43 and you parked along the street and walked down the hill to the shop. I mean, you could walk down the driveway and around the house, but no one ever did. If you think of James Dean as Floyd the Barber, you understand Gary. He was the only person growing up I ever knew who had tattoos, he was a volunteer fireman and active in his church. His shop was every small barber shop in America. An impressive bar of barber tools, powders, after shaves and combs in blue alcohol. Newspaper articles and photos on the walls, a nickel pop machine that sold little glass bottles of Mountain Dew, Pepsi and Dr. Pepper. (Leave the bottle, please.)
It wasn’t unusual to make the 45 minute drive to Gary’s only to find he wasn’t in. There was no phone in the shop and sometimes he had stuff to do or just went fishing and left a sign on the door. You waited or came back. No one minded. See, for more than a couple of generations of men, Gary was their first real haircut away from home, myself included. For many people he also gave them their final haircut. I distinctly remember that he made a trip to the funeral home to cut my grandfather’s hair one last time, and him being at the funeral. I’m sure that he did this for other’s, as well.
Gary is long dead, I’m sure. I haven’t been down by where his shop was in 20 years. I tried to find it on Google maps, but couldn’t. I honestly didn’t know him, and yet he was a friend of mine and anyone whose hair he cut… Strangers don’t come to your funeral.
I honestly can’t say if I only remember tidbits about my Junior and Senior years of high school and the time just after graduating from the later damage to my brain or because of drinking… A lot… Of wine coolers. For the younger folks, long before Budweiser made strawberry and other Rita’s in a can, we had wine coolers… Refreshing, sometimes fizzy mixed wine drinks that came in 12oz bottles… But a few geniuses at the companies making them decided to package them in 2l boxes and soda bottles. They went down smooth, were incredibly cheap and I drank so much of them that my friend John nicknamed me “Cherry Passion” and called me that for as long he was alive. Yeah, imagine being out with friend and a dude yells out of his car window “Yo! Cherry Passion! What’s up, son?!” God I miss John. It was a much simpler time of life… Get lit, go to bed, go to work, repeat. Did they give you a hangover? Oh sweet Jesus, yes they did.
My mother and father were neighborhood kids. My mother’s family lived about a mile down the hill on Rte 213 from my dad’s parents’ house. I didn’t spend nearly the time in my paternal grandparents home as the other, sometime around 1979 or 1980 they sold it and moved permanently to Texas. A couple of things that I remember about it are that it had the letter “H” molded into the chimney. I remember my grandpa had a leather Lazy Boy. I remember my grandmother making us breakfast of saltines with sugar and milk like cereal.
And I remember the wall at the foot of the stairs to the basement. The wall was murderous. It was textured in this brutally sharp texture that you couldn’t touch without getting cut and I remember it would keep you from running down those stairs for fear of touching it. The sample photo isn’t even remotely how sharp it was. That wall had the blood of every person who was ever in the house in it. I am fairly certain that grandma was a witch.
While it would probably have made sense to post this yesterday, on the anniversary of Charles Lindbergh crossing the Atlantic, I already had another post in mind for yesterday.
This photo, along with the newspaper article about the flight, was on my grandmother’s kitchen bulletin board. I have no idea why, to the best of my knowledge neither of my grandparents ever flew in an airplane, let alone had any interest in aviation history. I remember the article was titled “Lucky Lindy.”
My grandparents’ home was filled with small, but important, mementos… A little flower pot on the windowsill that said “Be happy, be gay for tomorrow’s another day,” a butter paddle that was used for spanking with a cartoon laminated to it, a collectable plate with a story about rooster not visiting a hen as often as as he used to… As well as photos of us all and of horses and of my aunt Nancy, who died before I was born.
As I write these little posts I can almost feel neurons shaking off mental dust and making old connections, even if poorly. Hopefully this endeavor will correct some of the losses from brain damage, aging, or both.
Both of my parents did the college thing, mom’s bachelor’s degree is from Bethany College, dad went to the Franciscan University of Steubenville, but didn’t finish. Mom got accepted to a Masters degree in Sociology program at Kent State University. There were not remote education Masters programs in the late 70’s. Around 1976 we moved from the trailer on Sixteen Ridge to the Allerton Student Housing at Kent State in building “H.” Later on in life I would date a woman who lived in the apartment almost directly above ours that my parents’ friends, the Kellems, lived in.
On the day we moved we drove past my grandparents house on Rte 213 in Taylortown but didn’t stop. I think I remember them being on the front porch waving at us but it’s probably childish imagination. I remember crying a lot because I wouldn’t see my pap and grandma nearly every day anymore. I did spend a lot of time going to the house for vacations growing up. My pap lived there until the day he died there, laying down in front of his basement work bench. My grandmother lived there until she was no longer safe to live alone. The house was bought by a childhood friend, Robbie Angus.
A lot of other postcards exist from this house but so much more is lost.
There were huge walnut and pine trees in front of it when my grandparents owned it. It’s a Sears or Montgomery Ward catalog house.
I have recently come to the realization that I do not have the huge network of connected memories that most people seem to. Different events and experiences in my life have resulted in my memories being fragmented, short and almost like, well, postcards. I know there was much more to my life, #pcoml will be an attempt to document the memories I have left, even if only briefly.
One of my earliest memories is from around 1975-1976. My family lived in a house trailer that was a caretakers home at a park and baseball field on Sixteen Ridge in Richmond, Ohio. I do not remember specifics like what was being cooked, time of the year, or honestly, even if it was my mom or father I was helping. I just remembered standing on a chair helping cook in the kitchen. I have very few even of my “postcards” from life in the trailer in Richmond.