The tragic Main Street fire last weekend in Garrettsville, just took a big chunk of my childhood away. I guess you don’t really know the good foundations of life you’ve had, until they are suddenly taken away. Seeing the photos of the blaze brought back a flood of old memories, from a childhood gone by. Buildings can be replaced, but not necessarily the happy times generated, from growing up in an American town, where everybody knew your parents and family, by first name. I feel privileged to have walked Main Street in its hey-day, during the 60’s and 70’s. It wasn’t the buildings, it was the stalwart proprietors, that made those establishments so memorable!
“The Root Store”: Ray “Jim” Oswald was the manager of The Root Store, and also the Scoutmaster of Troop 62. Mr. Oswald was like a second Dad to me, as a kid whose father worked swing shift, at the Chrysler Plant in Twinsburg. I remember the first merit badge I earned, was under the tutelage of Mr. Oswald. He even held the class in the summer, up in the second floor storage area, of the store! He would hold class for an hour, then go downstairs, to check on store happenings. Troop 62 also stood watch, outside the Roots Store, when then President Richard Nixon made his ride down Main Street. I remember watching in rapt fascination, as Secret Service Agents, and Special Operations Troopers, in olive coveralls, jumped out of silver colored Huey helicopters. They took up firing positions with sniper rifles and M-16s, jumping back into the helicopters, as the President left Main Street. It was an exciting time as a kid, and in history, before the scandals of Watergate, and Vietnam’s ignominious end.
“Miller’s Shoe Store”: Those three words bring home a strong memory of cramped spaces, and the smell of shoe leather! I looked eagerly, to a summer trip to Miller’s, knowing I was getting a new pair of shoes, or loafers, for the fall! Mr. Miller always gave us a shoehorn, a can of Kiwi polish, and a brush, so that our shoes made it, to the end of the school year. Mr. Miller also managed to hand us out some sort of boyhood gadget, like a magnifying glass, or whistles, to be used in our local “adventures” around the neighborhood. Mr. Miller always promising us boys, to show us the “best fishing hole on Silver Creek”, but he was always tied down with his non-stop shoe work, God bless him!
“Irwin’s Hardware”: My Dad sent me down to Irwin’s, whenever he ran out of nails on a home project. My Dad sending me down with two dimes, to pick up a handful, or dozen, of “six penny” nails. Me, thinking that it was a great deal, to get a dozen six cent nails, for 20 cents!
“The Five and Dime” Store”: I can’t remember the original store name, but have fond memories of the magic within! “Dick Tracy” cap guns, bags and bags of marbles, and the first plastic model kits that I assembled. Most everything that I liked, was less than a dollar, so even my allowance money stretched, so that I could buy a nickel or dime’s worth of penny candy, at the cashier’s counter. The cashier lady was always friendly to us, and would even throw in a little military history, to go along with our purchases. “The USS Nautilus was the world’s first atomic powered submarine, and sailed under the North Pole, just before you were born, Tommy.” Where could you get a nugget of information from a clerk like that, nowadays, except from the internet?
It’s okay to cry a little, Garrettsville…You will rebuild and make a new Main Street, again. But don’t be ashamed to pause and reflect, on those halcyon days from your past. Always remember the good, and try to forget the bad, and move on. There’s always a “Main Street” in your heart!
- Thomas Dyer | Amarillo, Texas