My posts today and tomorrow will be a little different. An old childhood friend (and fairly new Facebook friend) has read some of my blogs and recently told me I should stop writing so many negative political posts and write something positive and happy. I tried to explain to her that writing negative political blogs makes ME happy but she didn’t want to hear it. I did have an idea that came to me the other day that I wanted to put down in writing. It’s about memories from 36 years ago…
As I wrote this it grew longer and longer. I have more memories from that short period of my life than I thought. So this is Part 1 of my story about my experience with small town life in the mid 70s. It's dedicated to my buddies from those days... Jeff Sycks, Jon Kissner and Bumble Jacobs. I hope you all enjoy my tale but at the least - I hope my old buddies enjoy the trip down memory lane.
Cruising Main Street....
In 1976, when I was 19, my parents moved from Struthers, Ohio, a suburb of Youngstown, to Coshocton, Ohio, a small town in farm country in Central Ohio. Being 18 and having a job that didn’t support me living on my own at the time, I went along with them. Besides - a new town would be a challenge.
Coshocton was a nice little town but I didn’t have much to do and didn’t have a job for the first six months I was there. I did, however, have a friend that came about through our church. His name is Jeff Sycks and he lived one street over from us on the opposite corner. He was two years younger than me but we hit it off anyway. We got to know each other at the church but we started hanging out in the evenings and on weekends and played tennis at the high school courts, which were about two blocks from my house. I beat him most of the time because I had been playing longer than he. But it was fun.
In October of ’76 I developed appendicitis and ended up in the hospital for a week. Jeff came to visit me and brought a couple of his friends along (who I had never met.) Allow me to introduce you to Jon and Bumble….
Jon Kissner was a friend of Jeff’s from high school who turned out to be a great friend to me as well. He drove a little Honda Civic at the time – you know – the ones that you could practically pick up and move on your own. It suited him well. He played the guitar (as did I) and loved music and we used to listen to various albums (Doobie Brothers, Wild Cherry, Peter Frampton, Kansas and Heart, to name a few) at his house, in the car, wherever we could. There was also the extremely vulgar (and very popular) Richard Pryor as well as George Carlin and Cheech and Chong. Good comedy tapes were always a plus and we had them all memorized.
Bumble Jacobs (his first name was really Lynn), was another friend of Jeff and Jon. He was a year younger than me, graduated in 76, and after we met he and I hung out together more than any of the others because they were still in school. He worked at the local GE plant but we did a lot of things together on his days off and after he got off work. One of his special talents was chugging a large mug of A&W root beer in one large gulp. Anytime we went to A&W to eat we’d be sure and buy him a large mug so he could do it again. None of the rest of us could ever do it.
There were a couple of others. Andy Brown – another classmate of Jeff’s who also attended our church, and John Wilt, a year younger than Jeff but he had his own car and he was pretty cool to hang out with.
Coshocton, Ohio, as I said, was/is a small town. The people are friendly but even in 2010 only 11,000 people lived there. There wasn’t a lot to do as far as entertainment. But we always found something fun. When we weren’t hanging out at someone’s house we were on the road, mostly. Columbus was about 90 minutes West, Newark was in between Coshocton and Columbus, and Canton was about 90 minutes Northeast. Columbus and Canton had malls. Columbus also had Ohio State University located (very appropriately in our way of thinking) on High Street. We laughed about that every time we drove over there.
Both Canton and Columbus also had Peaches Records and Tapes, a large store chain that sold every album you could want in record, cassette and 8 track tape form. Yes, we are that old. And we hit those stores about once a month, constantly searching for the perfect album.
Canton mall was a good place to go as well. We would make a day of it since at least three hours was needed for the drive. We’d find someplace to eat, either on the way up or back, (often it was the Pizza Hut in New Philadelphia, about half way) and it really didn’t matter if we bought anything while we were shopping. It was an adventure!
In January of ’77 I got a job driving a delivery truck for a small, family owned bakery that was located in the tiny town of Dresden, about 17 miles Southwest of Coshocton. It took me about 30 minutes to get there because of the country roads. I’d get my truck, turn around and head back into Coshocton for my route. It wasn’t a bad job – but the hours sucked. I had to be at the bakery by 4am so I got up at 3:30, got dressed and headed out. I’d check my truck, (it was already loaded for me) and head back the same way, making a stop at a grade school in one little town on the way. I’d hit all the schools in town that had a contract with us, stop at the county jail, then go to a small restaurant/bar around 6am to make a delivery and have breakfast. The lady who ran that place early in the mornings made the best sausage and eggs. And she had great coffee. And every morning there was one gentleman sitting at the bar having a beer before he went to start his day on the farm. Actually it was usually two or three. I kid you not.
My work day normally went from 4am until around 4pm. I was off on Wednesday and Sunday. On Saturdays I got a little reprieve – I didn’t have to start until 5 (since the schools were closed) and some of my other stops were only during the week. So I was normally home by around 4pm. Not a huge difference but it enabled me to get home and take a nap before going out with the guys on Saturday night.
The title says “Cruising Main Street” because that was one of the major things we did, particularly on Saturday nights. Similar to “American Graffiti”, all the kids in town with cars would cruise up and down Main Street, music blaring, windows down in the warmer weather, and spend time just looking to see who else was cruising. Of course, none of us had the car that Harrison Ford or Paul Le Mat had in the movie. Bumble did have a 72 Olds Cutlass for a while, which he traded for a 76 Trans Am. But there were no 32 Ford Coupes or 55 Chevys in our group.
We’d cruise Main Street several times to see what was going on. We’d make a U-turn at the end of the street and head back in case we missed something. More often than not we’d encounter a train at least once an evening and have to sit and wait for it to pass through. The train went through the center of town on a north/south track. On Saturday nights it backed traffic up all the way through town. Of course, once it was gone we’d have to take a few more trips up and back to see if anything had changed…
Occasionally, if we weren’t all together, we’d see one of the other guys in his car and make plans to meet somewhere. Often that was either the bowling alley or Wayne’s Freeze – one of the local ice cream/burger joints where a few of our favorite Coshocton girls worked. We’d go to Wayne’s just about every day at one point or another. Wayne was a good guy - a small business owner who gave many of the high school girls their first jobs. His burgers were good and the ice cream and milk shakes were great in the summer! I delivered burger and hot dog buns to them. In fact, that’s where I met Tom Cannon, one of the owners of the bakery and the man who gave me my job.
On Wednesdays we’d all meet at the bowling alley. It was open bowling, no leagues, and we’d spend a couple of hours there just having fun. Of course, after that we’d head back to Main Street to see who was around.
My bakery delivery job had some great perks as well as drawbacks. The hours were long but I knew most of the grocery store and restaurant managers in town. That had its advantages. For one thing, I could buy alcohol in any of the little family owned stores that I delivered to because they all knew me. And even though I wasn’t 21, they thought I was. I never told them otherwise. So when we needed beer or wine for a party I could get it. Of course, my parents never knew about it. I wasn’t stupid.