Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Family Farm Pets - Dave’s Midwestern Ohio Memories

A Series of Guest Blogs by an out-of-state Fish Report reader originally from this area about fond memories of growing up in Midwestern Ohio during the 50’s & 60’s.

Family Farm Pets

While growing up on the farm, our family always had a dog as a pet, along with some un-named stray cats that dad like to keep around to control the rodents. Plus occasionally a farm animal was adopted, usually a baby chick or a new-born calf that my sisters would name but never seemed to care for; that was my job!. But for me, the family dogs were special. They were typically mutts and only once do I recall having talked my parents into getting a pure bred, a collie, which of course we named Lassie. The day or so after we picked her up at the dog pound in Sidney, she nipped at my sister so was immediately returned (the dog, not the sister!). Lassie could fetch a ball or a stick, could do tricks and respond to verbal commands, unlike my sister. So I was really peeved to say the least.

In addition to Lassie, we had dogs named Brownie (that’s me petting him in the above 1958 photo with my siblings), Skippy, Cookie, Spot, Ginger, etc. The family dogs freely roamed the farm and sometime just disappeared for days and a couple just disappeared, period. We were heartbroken for a while until the next mutt was picked up from the pound or a litter from a neighbors dog. We smothered the new arrival with unconditional love and soon forget all about the “dog gone”. For some reason they all seemed to enjoy chasing any car coming down our long gravel lane, which usually meant their eventual demise and another replacement would be needed soon enough. One situation I’ll never forget happened as I was riding my bike along a country road with our dog Cookie running ahead. There was a curve in the road before it intersected with a state highway. While riding around the curve, I heard the roar of a speeding car, then a bone-chilling thump, followed by some screeching tires. When I got to the intersection, there was the driver, a high school hot rodder from town, throwing Cookie’s body into the culvert, then taking off in his car. I was in too much shock to say anything, but never forgave the guy.

I recall several songs during that era about dogs such as Hound Dog by Elvis or How Much is the Doggie in the Window sung by Patti Page. Speaking of hound dogs, my uncle, who lived on the farm next door, was an avid coon hunter, so he always had hound dogs around his place that we’d love to tease cause they were chained up and couldn’t chase us down. And at night, before falling asleep, I could hear his hound dogs howling at the moon or at a newly treed coon in the woods nearby. My uncle loved coon hunting and would have hundreds of coonskins in his shed that he’d sell each spring. Once he made me a coon skin cap, so I loved being Davy Crocket when we played cowboys and Indians; that is until the coonskin cap started to stink, at which time mom asked me to bury it in the corn field!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

My In-Laws - Dave’s Midwestern Ohio Memories

A Series of Guest Blogs by an out-of-state Fish Report reader originally from this area about fond memories of growing up in Midwestern Ohio during the 50’s & 60’s.

My In-Laws

Previous blogs have shared memories of my family and friends so the focus of this blog will be about my in-laws, shown in this 1953 photo holding their first child, my wife-to-be some 19 years prior to our marriage. Both in-laws grew up during the Great Depression and World War II, with my mother-in-law unfortunately losing both her parents as a young child. An aunt cared for her and her 7 siblings on their family farm which happened to be next door to my grandparent’s farm. So my dad and my future mother-in-law knew each other at a very early age. That connection no doubt helped diminish any initial negative impressions my in-laws-to-be had of me after I rolled in on a motorcycle, with long hair, tie-dyed tee shirt and bell bottoms the first time I met the family! In fact, my mother-in-law-to-be once asked if that was the only outfit I ever wore! Needless to say, I went out and bought something new for the next visit.

My in-laws had 6 kids, and as a young family during the 50’s, they quickly outgrew their first home, an old farmhouse in the country. They decided to build near town and while saving for the new house, my father-in-law-to-be, a Korean War vet, held down two jobs as the local rural delivery postman and also as a worker at his dad’s small business in Piqua manufacturing doors and windows. My wife recalls the scrimping and saving during that period by her parents to have enough money for the new home. To save money, my mother-in-law, who was a great seamstress and gardener, would sew the kids clothes and meticulously tend to an extensive vegetable and flower garden. As the home construction was underway, my father-in-law was challenged with the home building expenses, so my wife as a young child had all her younger siblings gather the money from their piggy banks. When she presented the coins and a few dollars to her dad for help with the construction bills, in his frustration, he exclaimed “that won’t even pay for a doorknob!” In later years, my father-in-law always declared he would never have said such a thing, but in the heat of the moment and stress of building a new home, he can be forgiven for probably the only disparaging words he ever spoke in his entire life, for he was the most gentle man I’ve ever met. He, along with his sister and her husband, went on to successfully run the family business that now is being operated by the third generation. Unfortunately my father-in-law passed away in 2009. January 4th would have been their 65th wedding anniversary. My mother-in-law continues to live in the family home that she and her loving husband saved for, built together and maintained over the years. She still enjoys gardening, as well as reading, meeting with friends at a local senior center and most of all, attending family get-togethers with her 40+ grandkids and great grandkids on a regular basis (the photo below shows what this original family of three has grown into!). I’ve been blessed to have the best and most caring in-laws one could ever hope for. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

From This to That! - Dave’s Midwestern Ohio Memories

A Series of Guest Blogs by an out-of-state Fish Report reader originally from this area about fond memories of growing up in Midwestern Ohio during the 50’s & 60’s

From This to That!

Recently this article about Canadian beach towns on the eastern shore of Lake Huron appeared in our local paper, and the article reminded me of a chain of events that impacted my life very positively. Let me connect the dots between the above photo and the one below. What got things started was a weekend trip to one of the beach towns described in the article near the end of my senior year in college with a bunch of fraternity brothers. We drove to Canada in a caravan of several cars and stayed in a cottage on the beach owned by the parents of another friend. In those days you could drive right on the beach like at Daytona. It was a fun weekend until we drove one of the cars too close to the lake's edge, causing water to be sucked into the engine. Since water does not compress like air or burn like gas, the engine locked up with a bent connecting rod. We left the car at the cottage, but went back the following weekend to tow it to the frat house. While returning with the car in tow during a rainstorm, we spun out on a curve and did a 180. What could have been a disaster resulted in the only damage (other than my underwear) being a slight dent in the tow bar. Both cars were ok. Finally making it back to the fraternity house, we proceeded to remove and tear down the engine and successfully replaced the bent connecting rod during finals week when I should have been studying.

Earlier that year, another fraternity brother was at Mardi Gras in New Orleans where he was hit by a motorcycle and broke his leg. Since he was out of commission, he lent me his motorcycle for the summer. But I had to get both my car and the motorcycle from the frat house in Michigan to Dayton where I would be working, so my buddy with the newly rebuilt engine said he would haul the cycle back in his trunk (it wouldn’t fit in mine). We disassembled the bike, squeezed it into the trunk with half of it hanging out the back and after following him all the way to Dayton, we re-assembled the motorcycle and it ran just fine. The photo above shows our group at the Port Huron cottage; note the bike, the car and the guy with the broken leg. Believe it or not, I set up blind dates with this motley crew and a bunch of my sister’s friends the year before, but I’ll leave that misadventure for a future blog!

The Friday after coming home from college, Tom, the neighborhood friend who lived on the farm next door whom I wrote about in last week’s blog, threw a party at his place in Dayton, so I decided to ride the motorcycle to the bash, where I connected up with a cute girl who, when I mentioned the bike, wanted to take a ride. So off we went after the party, riding all over the place through the night. Turns out that midnight ride started a relationship that would eventually lead to our marriage! Recall from an earlier blog that I had become aware of this young lady some 4 years earlier during a high school basketball game while on the bench with foul trouble checking out the Russia cheerleaders. In the photo above, I'm the dude in the Budweiser shirt. What she ever saw in me is anybody's guess; maybe it was the bike? But our motorcycle ventures were over at the end of that memorable summer when I returned the bike to my friend. We haven’t ridden since! And check out the photo below of my fraternity brothers with their mini-skirted girl friends (no blind dates this time) all decked out for our wedding. Incidentally, I just discovered last night from a friend who had attended our wedding that the Russia Mayor at the time had directed the town cop to not arrest anybody and to make sure everyone got out of town safely. My friend was stopped, but was told to let his girlfriend drive home. Not coincidentally, the Mayor was my wife's great uncle who was married to my aunt!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Friends for Life - Dave’s Midwestern Ohio Memories

A Series of Guest Blogs by an out-of-state Fish Report reader originally from this area about fond memories of growing up in Midwestern Ohio during the 50’s & 60’s.

Friends for Life

During WWII, my mother worked at a place called the Box Factory in Minster that provided corrugated containers for the war effort. During her stint there as a single girl working in her first job away from the farm, she befriended another farm girl who was a co-worker. After the war both my mother and her friend married guys who also knew each other, so that further set the stage for a lifelong friendship that would eventually bridge at least two future generations so far. In the early 50’s, a neighboring farm to my parents went up for auction. So they encouraged their close friends to consider buying the place. All day farm sales in that era culminated with a live auction of the farm itself in the late afternoon, following a full morning and early afternoon of bidding off the household items and farm tools, with food being served throughout the day. Auctions provided a genuine social event that attracted not just potential buyers but also many on-lookers, including kids like me and also Tom, the oldest son of our parents' friends. So all day long, with the staccato of the auctioneer’s voice in the background, Tom and I roamed the grounds, checking out all the items for sale, exploring the huge barn, large brick house and various surrounding sheds. It eventually came time for the main event, and my dad and his friend were side by side facing the auctioneer. As the bidding proceeded, my dad noticed that his friend never appeared to place a bid, so as the price rose with numerous bids by others, dad became fearful the farm would be bought by someone else. As the bidding came to a close, the auctioneer exclaimed “sold" and pointed to my dad’s friend. Unbeknownst to my dad, his friend had been bidding the whole time by winking an eye to the auctioneer. That evening, the new neighbors celebrated the farm purchase over a meal at Brucken’s Cafe along with for sure a few toasts to the occasion and long-lasting friendships!

That eventful day was the first escapade in the lifelong friendship between my new neighbor Tom and me. Stay tuned to future blogs for more tall tales about our adventures!

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