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unfinished memories



the last evenings of summer and

just sitting on the back porch at 432 center

with a sticky collar and faded sunburn like

paint on the shed

the sky humid and hazy pink and purple and

cicadas trumpeting the end of the day

i hear them in the growing shadows

as the street lights flicker and

slowly wake up from the days sleep

thoughts of school twinkle in the sky

a screen door slams a dogs bark

a porchlight pops on across the way

and i hear my parents talking inside

sitting at the kitchen table with coffee

about bills and grownup things

i'll know nothing about for years to come

in these last evenings of summer

from the back porch at 432 center

 

there was a small milkbox

galvanized and bright in the sunshine

it spent most of its life empty

it looked forward to Mondays and Thursdays

and company for a few hours

 

the maple tree at the side yard grew fast

it anticipated the feel of tennis shoes and

grasping hands climbing as far as hands could reach

i can't imagine its pain when they paved the yard

the big black slab of tombstone umarked

 

thirty seven point four years ago, a meteor storm

decimated the ringer washers

any that remain today

can be found in ringerwasher museums

sometimes their fossils turn up

people often wonder at what they were

 

the first bike I ever rode

a red schwinn with white trim and

whitewall tires with the fix-a-flat kit rusted

inside the basket

the streamers streaming from the handlebars

it was a one speed and

went as fast as ten year old feet could pedal

 

the first climb up the tetherball pole

on the playground at state street elementary

to hook the rope and ball and

the slide back down on summer days

when school was on vacation

 

Random Memories Of Growing Up In Columbus

Sometimes I think my thoughts are better off left inside. I try to turn around and put those same ideas on paper, and something happens. They just don't sound the same. They don't have, or hold, that same feeling as they did when swimming around inside my head. Why? Because the heart has better control over them when they are alive  inside the mind. Trying to put them on paper brings on the analytical part of the brain. Correct syntax, proper sentence structure. But the heart knows nothing of these things....

8/10/02--Making homemade ice cream. This was always a treat, and I can't think of any kid in the neighborhood (or in the US of A) that didn't enjoy that frozen home made delicacy. These days, if you want to buy a bag of ice, you drive to the grocery store or just about any gas station. Back in the 1960's however, making home made ice cream always called for a trip to the Ice Plant on the corner of Lafayette and Third. The Ice Plant had the coolest shade in all of Columbus. Clumps of ice were scattered here and there on the loading dock, and to stand on that dock on a hot and humid July or August Saturday afternoon was always refreshing. Ice was packed in paper bags back in those days. If I remember correctly, they also sold rock salt in smaller paper bags. The ice cream maker was a wooden bucket with a galvanized container, wooden paddles and a crank. The ice cream was mixed up, poured into the container, paddles inserted, top placed on, crank attached to the container and locked on the bucket, and taken outside. Ice was packed inside the wooden bucket around the container with handfuls of salt thrown in. Then, it was up to the magic of science and hands turning the crank. Every now and then, I reached into the bucket and pulled out a chunk of salty ice and popped it in my mouth. Once the mixture was firm, the salt water and ice were drained out, and fresh ice packed inside the bucket. Towels were put on top, and the bucket sat in the shade until after dinner. This dessert was anticipated the remainder of the day, and once dinner was finished, it was dipped into bowls and eaten s l o w l y. Eating it too fast would cause brain freeze. It's funny how something so simple could mean so much, and bring so much pleasure. Sometimes the simple things in life are the ones best remembered...I still make homemade ice cream to this day. I hope my kids grow up with same fond memories as I still hold. I have used many types of ice cream makers. The plastic ones aren't as good as the wooden ones, and doesn't make the ice cream as fast. The whole secret to making ice cream is rock salt. If you don't add enough, you'll be cranking too long.  I would recommend a cup of salt to every 8 cups of ice. And, for those of you who would like to know my recipe, here it is: 6 eggs, 2 1/4 cups of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1 quart of half and half, and whole milk. Oh, and vanilla. 6 teaspoons of vanilla. I mix the eggs, salt, and vanilla in with an electric mixer, add part of the half and half, and add the sugar slowly. Once it's mixed up really good, I add the rest of the half and half, and continue mixing. When it has a soupy consistency, I pour it into the container and add approximately a quart of whole milk (you can adjust this according to your own taste). If you have a really good ice cream maker (a wooden one), it should only take about 15 minutes of cranking before it gets firm. Drain out the salt water and ice and repack it with just plain old ice. Cover the top with a couple of towels and let it sit...I hope your kids enjoy as much as I did (and still do)...

8/8/02--There was an outhouse behind my Grandma's house at 1019 Parkway Drive. It was a two-seater and, even as a kid, I always found this strange. I could never imagine grownups "sharing" such private moments with one another. I've since come to the conclusion that the two-seater probably came in pretty handy if moms and dads had lots of kids, which wasn't unusual throughout the first half of the 1900's. I even wonder these days if the outhouse may have been a status symbol in days past. I can just hear a dad commenting to his wife while driving by a home in the early 1900's and seeing a three or four-seater sitting in the back of the house about how nice it would be to own one. I can even imagine it painted white and trimmed in red. The one behind Grandma's house looked like the last coat of paint had been applied around 1889. It was still functional (how could it not be?), and us kids used it on occasion, although Grandma did have restroom facilities inside the house. Outhouses were a common site, even back in the early 1960's. I know some of the houses on Center Street still had them sitting in back with milkweed and ragweed gardens along the sides, but none of them were white trimmed in red...

The first day I walked to school in the fall of 1958. When I close my eyes, I can see my mom standing at the gate in front of the house at 432 Center, watching me walk down Center Street. She stood there and watched me as I occasionally looked back over my shoulder at her. Occasionally, she'd wave and I would wave back. She stood there until I rounded the corner of Center & Southeastern...

The Fruit Market on State Street, and all the pop bottles I sold there. The Fruit Market sat where the Irwin Union Bank is today. Gross Hardware, with its sign of a big hammer, was next to the Fruit Market. I remember the building of the new Jay C and Hook's Drugs across the street, but I don't remember what was across the street before they started construction.

The Dari-King, which was where the donut place is today. The old Jay-C which is where the Salvation Army is today. Franke's Dairy on the corner of Cherry and State.

Coffman's Drugs and Carson's Flower Shop were located on the corner of State and Hege. There was a shoe store in that strip of stores across from Coffman's but I can't remember the name of it.

There was nothing but cornfields on the other side of the railroad tracks at the end of Center Street. On hot summer days, we'd ride our bikes along the tracks over to Gladstone, and ride out to the covered bridge and play in the water. We'd stop in the shade of the graveyard that sits at the intersection of the railroad tracks and Gladstone and talk about it being haunted.

We'd pack a lunch in our green army backpacks and fill our canteens with Kool Aid and follow the railroad tracks to the iron bridge (behind where Kirby Risk sits today) and play Combat! It was a very popular show at that time. Sometimes mom wouldn't let me watch it because she felt it was too violent.

We'd drive around downtown before Christmas and look at all the decorations. The ones that stick out the most are those Santa faces that hung on each side of the street from the street lights. Sears Toyland, in the building where Brad's is today, was my favorite place to look at toys. That's where I first fell in love with Lionel trains. They always had a nice display board with trains passing through tunnels and passing train stations with beacons and flashing railroad warning lights and I always dreamed of waking up Christmas morning and seeing it sitting under the tree.

The rage of chocolate covered ants, and the candy counter inside G C Murphy's. And the smell of hot roasted nuts. The toy department downstairs. I bought my first Monopoly game there, on layaway. I must have all of 10 years old.

The first time I learned how to ride a bike. They were repaving Center Street, and the smell of hot asphalt permeated the air. A friend of mine had a 26" Schwinn, which was just a tad too big for me. But, if I got a running start and jumped on, I could bring it under control (or so I thought). I did exactly this, and got off to a wobbly start. A lady was walking along the side of the street towards me, and I ran right into her. I guess I hadn't fully learned how to turn. I fell off the bike, scraped my arms and legs all up, and was cussed up one side and down the other by her, while the guys doing the street work laughed so hard they couldn't do anything else and me, sheepishly hobbling my way towards the house...

Waking up on snowy mornings, turning on WCSI and waiting impatiently for them to announce school closings, and the roar of happiness when State Street Elementary was announced.

I remember digging a big hole in the backyard one summer, looking for buried treasure. Playing "Danger Is Our Business" behind the old shed that sat in back of the house.

Russell's Grocery was next door to our house. It's a parking lot today. One day my mom sent me over to buy some hose for her. I can't remember GW's wife's name, but when I told her I needed some hose, she grabbed a garden hose from under the counter. When I told her I wanted hose for my mom, she got a big kick out of this. I could still hear her lauging after I'd slammed the screen door and stepped off the porch...

Bonomo Turkish Taffy and Lik-M-Aid, Sugar Babies, and that big sheet of taffy you could buy for a nickel. Candy buttons and Bazooka Bubblegum. Val-O-Milks and Dreamsicles...

Getting my haircut at Bill's Barbershop on 4th Street. Horn's Fish Shop was next door, and after the haircut, it was time for a fish sandwich and orange pop in a 12 ounce bottle. Most trips to Bill's and Horn's was followed by a trip to Cummins Bookstore to check out the latest monster mags, and Ray Bradbury paperbacks...

Walking up the steps of Central Junior High School, stepping through the doors in the spring of 1968, and hearing the Hollies' Bus Stop playing somewhere inside one of the classrooms. It echoed through the entire building, and I stood there and listened to the entire song. That song has never sounded as good ever...

The Olympia Dairy was the hangout while attending Central. French fries and mayonnaise was the craze back in 1967/68 school year. As well as the Monkees. You weren't anyone if you didn't watch the Monkees. Was there a jukebox inside Olympia Dairy? Something tells me there was.

We moved from 432 Center Street to Rosstown in the latter half of my 6th grade year. Mom and dad bought 20 acres of land, with a nice house, right next to the Wesleyan Methodist Church. I fished in Buttercup's pond and picked strawberries for Greathouse. Greathouse paid us kids 10 cents for each quart we picked. I baled hay for Charlie McKinney and picked blackberries and rode the bus to Wayne Township School. Dallas was our bus driver. I played baseball for the Airport Jets at the old Walesboro Airport close to Bethel Village. One summer, I picked beans for Randy Thompson's dad at that big farmhouse on 31A, across from Wayne Township School. He paid $1.25 a bushel. He hired migrant farm workers and they lived in those trailers you could see going around the "S" turn on 31A. They worked circles around me.

Schiff Shoes, which was in the block where the Commons is. The parrot they had in the store, and the Poll Parrot clicker they gave all kids when buying a new pair of shoes...

Riding my bike to State Street Elementary in the summer, and partaking of the summer activities. Four square, tetherball (the game with wooden paddles), knock-hockey, and that game with the marbles. If I had any money in my pocket, stopping by the Fruit Market on the way home and grabbing a bottle of Coke...

Russell's Grocery had a big Coke machine that sat across from the counter. It was oblong and red and had lids on top. The cokes were kept inside in icy cold water. On hot and humid July days, sometimes it was worth the price just to stick my hand in to that icy cold water, grab whatever drink suited my fancy, and wipe my face with that cold water...

The black and white tv set and the four channels we got. Channels 4, sometimes 6, 8, and 13. Bob Catterson Buick ads ("Nobody, but NOBODY...") on tv late at night. The same guy that did the Bob Catterson ads, did the same ads for another car dealer before Bob Catterson. I want to say it was Wiese Buick, but I not sure about this. Richard Bennett Furniture ads with the closing line: "Put the coffee pot on mom. I'm coming home..." The family gathering around the tv in January of each year to watch The Wizard Of Oz. Watching the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. Seeing Lee Harvey Oswald shot on live tv...

Playing at the Boy's Club on Cherry Street in East Columbus. Walking the midway at county fairs at the old fairgrounds on 25th Street. Hearing the roar of the stock cars as they raced around the oval...

Most schools had summer activities for kids, as I previously mentioned regarding State Street Elementary. Donner Park also had activities for kids. Just south of the shelter was a building where you could buy cokes and such things. Two tetherball poles sat just off to the side in front of the building.

Attending all the dances at Donner Park during my high school years. The old Becker A&W Root Beer Stand. The Red Barn across the street. Tom Pickett's Music Center on 25th next to the high school. Going downtown to visit Alan Everroad at Everroad's Garage on the corner of 5th and Jackson, walking down the alley, ringing the bell in back of Columbus Bar and getting those great tenderloin sandwiches to go. If you never experienced the old Columbus Bar tenderloin sandwiches, I just don't know what to say...

There was a severely handicapped man who lived on Center Street. We called him JC. JC always wore bib overalls. He'd "walk" from his house on Center Street to Russell's Grocery and if I was playing in the front yard, he'd stop and talk to me. He didn't speak very clearly and was very hard to understand. JC always had a smile on his face. Most of the time when he'd stop and talk to me, I'd bob my head up and down, catching a recognized word here and there. Occasionally, JC crosses my thoughts, even to this day...

Cakewalks and fish fries were a big item when I was young, although I never won a cake in a cakewalk...

The first time I discovered Cummins Bookstore. It was a Saturday morning in May in a time when everyone shopped downtown. The city blocks seemed longer then and the buildings looked much taller than they do now. I opened the screen door and the smell of books and magazines was sweet and reminded me of the library. I took to the place right away. Magazines were to the right and science fiction paperbacks were displayed directly across from the magazines. In the back were the comic books. I picked up a couple of issues of Fantastic Four (9 & 10) and a Superman 80 Page Giant. This memory must come in around 1960 or 1961 (and I wish I still had those comics!). 1964 was the peak year for the monster madness that swept the entire country. This was due to two things: Universal releasing their "Shock" package, a collection of horror movies from the 1930's and 40's, to tv stations, and the showing of King Kong on tv. Horror hosts permeated the airwaves across the country from 1958 through the 1960's. Local hosts were, at various times, Selwin, Wilhelmina, and Sammy Terry. There were monster toys, monster models, monster tv shows, monster cartoon shows on Saturday mornings, and monster magazines. The monster magazines were what kept me coming back to Cummins Bookstore on a monthly basis until I became more interested in music and started spending my money on records at G C Murphy. All my memories of Cummins Bookstore come flashing through me every day now. My brother runs a bookstore out of Cummins, and I have set up shop in the back to work on this website. I know it probably sounds crazy to you, dear reader, but I unlock the door to the place at 6:00 am six days a week, walk in through the doorway, and a feeling comes over me that I cannot describe. I feel it an honor and privilege to be associated with this wonderful historical landmark. Cummins Bookstore is the oldest continuously operated bookstore in the state of Indiana. My brother has decided to keep as much of the original decor as possible, so if you walk in and ask for the section where the kids books are and he says "it's below the "Office Supplies" sign, well...I think you get the point. It would be great to be able to restore the old Cummins Bookstore sign outside. The neon tubing still remains on one side of the sign, but has been removed entirely from the other side. To see that sign lit up at night in it's glowing neon would be such a thrill and add to the downtown community.

David Sechrest, 2002