As far back as the early 1960s, I heard about Amish barn raisings. Where an entire community of church members would come together to build or repair a member’s barn. The women would spend the morning preparing a large meal for the men and the men would divide into teams with each assigned a task to get done before sunset.
While I’ve seen many of the results it wasn’t until recently that I actually was able to witness the real deal. I was even invited to lunch but unfortunately, wasn’t able to match my schedule up with that.
If you were around in the 1980s you probably heard something about the Yugoslavian made car, the Yugo. It was a typical European hatchback, reminding me of the VW Rabbit I owned in the mid-1970s. A big difference being, the Rabbit is still manufactured, under the name Golf, and is considered one of the world’s great compact cars. On the other hand, the Yugo was and remains, the car with arguably the world’s worst reputation. It was reputed to be so bad, the saying went, that friends didn’t let friends drive Yugos.
If you’ve been around Greenfield for very long you’re sure to have heard that Greenfield is known as “Little Chicago”, a small town with a questionable reputation. All the years I grew up here I’d occasionally hear that claim. However, I must not have taken it seriously because I never felt insecure or scared while running the streets and allies as a young boy, which I did lots of.
As an adult, I’ve come to realize that there is nothing unique about Greenfield and its people. Like every other community, we have our problems and our problems are pretty much related, to the population size, educational level, and economic opportunity and income. Large cities with bad schools, high levels of ignorance, low incomes, and poor chances for advancement have the same difficulties as small rural communities. The difference is mainly the number of people. The more people the more problems. Even places that have none of these problems have problems.
The population of the US Territory of Puerto Rico is 3.195 million US citizens. In 2017 the island was struck by two major hurricanes that inflicted horrible and long-lasting damage. Congress authorized $20 billion in relief aid but so far only $1.5 billion has been released; the balance being held back by Trump’s Department of Housing and Urban Development headed up by the always insensitive and incompetent, Ben Carson.
Some years ago I had a ham radio acquaintance who lived in West Virginia and worked in a Radio Shack. Anytime someone asked him what he did he very proudly said, “I work in retail.”
I never really understood how someone who sold capacitors and 7-transistor portable radios could swell up with such pride as he displayed. Maybe jobs that didn’t require working underground and breathing bad air were just that rare in the Mountain State.
One of this morning’s lead news stories concerned the evangelical magazine, Christian Times (CT), calling for the removal from office of the now impeached Donald Trump.
CT is reported to be the leading journal in the evangelical community and was founded by possibly the best known of all evangelicals, Billy Graham. The majority of their reasons for Trump’s removal are centered around his lack of morality and the body of immoral behaviors he has amassed during his life.
It’s the season to be generous, but if you follow the news you are aware that Donald J. Trump just had to pay $2,000,000 to charities his charitable foundation had ripped off. Also, he had to admit his misdeeds in court and his foundation has had its doors slammed shut for the long term.
There’s nothing new about charities not being charitable. Years ago I stopped giving to the Red Cross after learning that a huge portion of its income went to pay for fundraising and administrative cost. There were some big paychecks being handed out at the top.
My old friend Bobby Everhart and I took a quick 4-day run to Emerald Isle, NC for some pier fishing. Early October, in a normal year, would have been a perfect time for catching coolers of spots and sea mullets, both great food fish.
However, these are not normal years and the air temps were in the high 80s and the water temps near summer norms. The result was, we went, we fished, we caught a few dinks, we ate good restaurant seafood, we did a little sightseeing, and we had a wonderful time retelling old stories and making a couple of new ones.
In case you’ve never heard of six degrees of separation here a working definition:
Six degrees of separation is the theory that any person on the planet can be connected to any other person on the planet through a chain of acquaintances that has no more than five intermediaries.
Over a recent weekend at a blues festival in Wheeling, WV I experienced a version of it on two occasions. When we first arrived my son, Mike, said to the couple in front of us, “Can we be your neighbors?” The man said certainly and introduced himself as Walt. I asked where he was from and the answer was Pittsburg. I told him I was from near Hillsboro and he immediately responded that he was very familiar with this area. Walt had been in the linoleum and flooring business and his customers included several Mennonite builders in this area. He rattled off a couple of names that I wasn’t familiar with and one of them had the surname of Weaver. I said I know a Weaver that owned a produce market and he said, “Oh yeah, Fred and Velma outside Rainsboro, I know them well.” Damn, how many degrees was that?
Sometime back in the ’70s or ’80s Dale Wilson and his son Kenny were building pickup trucks based on real-life semi-tractor trucks. I can’t recall now if they were full size of miniatures.
Anyway, in 2015 my grandson and I were in Clarksdale, MS at a blues festival and just happened across this full-sized monster that had been made into a pickup truck. Called the Blues Man it was driving around in a city appropriate for its name.
Hopefully, it will jog some memories and some of you may have some photos of Dale and Kenny’s creations to share with the group.
NOTE: I originally published this collection of memories on February 12, 2004. It mostly consists of input from people who knew or knew of Clyde Beatty.
NOTE X 2: I mentioned on Facebook that I’d recently observed a Clyde Beatty Exhibit or Museum in a Bainbridge storefront. A friend sent me this link to the exhibit and its hours of operation. ClickHERE.
Bainbridge’s Clyde Beatty
My wife is a black and white game show addict. During the night, when she can’t sleep, she often watches old reruns of What’s My Line, I’ve Got A Secret, etc. When she sees something that I may be interested in, she will frequently record it for me. Last night she was watching a rerun of What’s My Line and the featured “Mr. X” turned out to be Bainbridge’s own Clyde Beatty. If you’re too young to remember Clyde, he was a renowned animal trainer who appeared in several movies and with the Clyde Beatty-Cole Brothers Circus for many years. I did a little Internet snooping and came up with the following information:
When I was a kid and visiting my aunt and uncle in Columbia, SC during the summers many of the Lincoln Street guys carried folding carpet knives. They had lubricated the hinge and over many openings and closings, limbered it up. The trick was to grab the back of the blade’s edge and with a sharp wrist flip, open the knife for whatever action was intended. I thought it was cool and wanted one of those knives for myself. So, one day I journeyed to uptown Columbia and purchased a carpet knife from a long gone Army Navy store.
One of my Amish neighbors just opened a harness shop and I was offered a tour. Afterward, I thought he’d be interested in knowing the history of E.L. McClain and his invention of a hinged collar and the manufacturer of collars and horse pads. He said he’d heard that Greenfield’s high school had been built by a millionaire but wasn’t aware of the source of the wealth. We both learned a little something and he sincerely enjoyed the story about McClain’s collars.
When I left Ohio for California in 1964 the old slogan was California or Bust! Since the 1840s California had been considered the land of golden opportunity and that’s pretty close to what I found there. I found immediate employment and access to affordable education. I also found this and more at a price that was within my economic means.
I haven’t been in the Golden State since 1970 but I’ve kept tabs on what the years have brought. Mostly time has brought more people, more traffic, and the cost of living that is becoming increasingly less affordable for working class people. In 1968 a nice two-bedroom starter home could be had for around $40,000. Ten years later that same home was selling for over $100,000. A quick Google of current prices indicates it would take a half a million, or more. The same home in Greenfield, OH can be had for around $80,000.
Going into the service does lots of things for a young man from small-town America. One of the most important is introducing him to the great variety of humankind we share this nation with.
In boot camp, I met my first person from the state of Washington, learned some of the slang of Italian-Americans from the steel mill towns of Pennsylvania, and had to learn how to pronounce a Polish kid’s name containing almost no vowels.