Insights of Retirement Living

Growing Up Small Town

March 10th, 2014 | Posted by David Brenneman in All Posts | Just for Fun | Local History

Living the first ten years of my life on a farm at the edge of a small town in Ohio, gave the best of two worlds, neighbors just across the street, next door, down the street, etc., school to where I could walk with the other neighborhood kids, roller skate in nice weather, plus living on a farm with chickens, pigs, and a dairy. There was a big lawn with lots of gardens and fruit trees.

Some of the best memories are those of the senior citizens who were a part of my life at an early age. (My extended family of relatives all lived in Pennsylvania.) Mrs. Schoffter* lived outside of town but just a short distance down the gravel road, easily walked. Her son was an engineer of a train that regularly puffed through the edge of our town. Evidently Mrs. Schoffter knew his schedule. If I was there at the right time, we would go outside and wave. Her son would wave and blow the whistle.

Mrs. Keiffer* lived across the street, catty-cornered. The earliest memory of being in her home was when my brother was born. I was taken there to stay overnight for that process. I remember lying on a cot upstairs, sobbing, not a happy time for either of us. There were other times. Memories include Mrs. Keiffer telling me of the son who died young after having some surgery. He was ready to die, planning the songs he wished used for his funeral. I would go over there just to amuse myself. I remember playing paper dolls on the floor in her home. She was a seamstress and every fall and spring she would make a dress for me for the season and church dresses. At that time patterns were shown in the newspapers. I would choose one, take the picture to Mrs. Keiffer; she would make the dress just by looking at the picture.

After we moved to a farm in the country, our family went back to visit Mrs. Keiffer. One time I went alone, just me. The neighbor boy, Edgar, and I had fun sitting in the empty fish pool, burning holes in a piece of paper with a magnifying glass. Mrs. Keiffer must have had to keep us busy doing something.

Mrs. Sowner* lived next door. She did not sew; she played the piano and taught me how to play the piano. Mrs. Sowner was diabetic. I watched her give herself shots of insulin in her hip. Later she died. That might have been the first time I had the experience of seeing someone in a casket. The casket was in their living room with a lacy net over the open casket. I can see it yet in my mind. The Sowner’s had an open lot/lawn on the other side of the house surrounded by maple trees. That was a great place to play with the leaves on the ground in the fall.

Mr. and Mrs. Lissey* lived next to the Sowner’s. Mr. Lissey had a large garden that extended to our pasture that was behind the houses on our side of the street. He grew little yellow pear tomatoes. As a child, I thought they were the best things. I think I spent a good bit of time there, also. I was a gadabout as a child to the exasperation of my mother. Mrs. Lissey gave me scraps of fabric to make clothes for my doll. I enjoyed that, my introduction to sewing.

Beside the older residents of the town, there were other children. Donna and Mary Ellen and I sometimes got together for dress up. Donna had an older sister who had wonderful grown up dresses, high heeled shoes, plus make-up. Playing dress-up with my mom’s clothes was definitely dull compared to the times we had dressing up at Donna’s house. The down side was getting rid of the make-up before I went home.

Edgar had a wonderful electric train that was set up every Christmas. It was a treat to spend time at his house to see that. Edgar also had two marvelous story books. I coveted those books. When I had children I bought those books and enjoyed reading the wonderful stories to them.

There were several other boys close by. We played soft ball in an open lot across the street from our house. Seems there was always something going on in a small town. If I managed to get a penny in some way, I could walk uptown to the grocery store for a small bag of assorted candies. What fun that was. Those were the days.

– Ruth Martin

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