Growing up, I always had a bike. Even as the “fat kid,” in retrospect, I was in amazingly good shape. I would ride for miles on beater bikes and I guess my dad decided I needed a nice one when he did a job wiring a commercial building in Ravenna that a bike shop was moving into. (It has since been a gym, grocery store, thrift shop and I believe it is a martial arts studio now. It’s in Blackhorse, near the buy here car lot.) as part of the payment for the job he got me a brand new bike. I had never had a really nice bike, let alone a brand new one, and the Huffy BMX Pro Thunder he got me was the most amazing bike to me. Bright yellow, blue tires (!!!) with proper pads in the proper places. It was this:
Many of the better off financially kids were quick to point out that it wasn’t a “proper” bmx bike like their Mongoose’s and other models, it had a coaster brake and no front brake and was too heavy for proper bmx riding. Did I mention that I was the fat kid? I had little interest in bmx, but absolutely loved the mobility and freedom my bikes afforded me. I would ride 5 miles around town or to Ravenna, or anywhere I wanted, often leaving in the morning and not returning until late in the day. No cell phone, no beeper, just told my parents where I was going, grabbed a couple of bucks for lunch and drinks and was on my way. Did you know that in the 80’s almost everywhere had a water fountain? That deputy sheriff’s would stop for a second to say hi and make sure your folks knew you were 10 miles from home and take your word that you were good on all counts? The freedom of the bicycle, and to be a free kid, was amazing. I never gave much thought to what that bike cost… In my 40’s now, I appreciate the cost of it to my father in having worked to get it… And though he’s gone some 7 years now, I hope he realized that he got his full value out of it as well as a huge return on his investment.
My father was a lifetime learner with many skills, a practical and intuitive engineer, he was also a competent electrician, mechanic, fabricator, as well as able to do basic carpentry. Over the course of his lifetime he wore many hats and designed many things from the small to the incredibly large. Be it a belt buckle or an overhead crane capable of lifting 100 tons, he could design and build it. The skill he enjoyed most, though, was blacksmithing.
Dad made many cool things as a blacksmith, from hand-made chains that were used in a movie to a candelabra that sat on a friend’s wedding altar, from belt buckles to broadaxes. He did his smithing to make money but it was also his therapy, hobby and fun. He would spend a couple of weeks every summer living in a tent and smithing at the Great Pennsic War, both as a crafter and a merchant. He loved beating Iron and creating with it.
As I sit in the house he and mom lived in I can almost hear the ringing of the hammer and anvil in his shop out back… Sadly, they are phantom and a memory of when the toughest guy I ever learned to love still walked the Earth.
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.
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.
I have Fibromyalgia. Among the many issues I deal with are chronic pain, irritable bowel, muscle rigidity and cramping, intolerance to temperature, and the worst one…
Chronic fatigue. Pain and I are old friends. I can deal with pain, usually I can even ignore it. Which I had better do since I am allergic to opiates and sodium naproxen. I’m left with some other NSAIDs and some experimental treatments. But let me tell you, sucking down 2 or 3 energy shots a day, taking b-vitamin supplements, ginsing and caffeine just sucks. So I spend a lot of time napping. Which is what I am going to go do now.