I've been writing "The Way I See It" for a couple of years now and it's been a lot of fun. Because of it, I have met many of you through phone calls, emails and even regular letters. I have reconnected with old friends, classmates and also have met new friends. Emails from Colorado, Virginia, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and others have come from faithful Tama News-Herald readers from time to time. Heck, there's even a lady from Honolulu, Hawaii that reads my column. Hi Aunt Vangie. Aunt Vangie is my last living relative in my dad's generation.
Last week, I received a call from a gentleman from Toledo who used to drive the school bus when I started high school. We had a great time reminiscing and agreeing that the world back then, (hmmm, was it 45 years ago?), was much better. Or at least less stressful. I really enjoyed our conversation and reconnecting with him. And I do remember him. He was strict on the bus, yet always fair.
After hanging up the phone, I started thinking about again about growing up in a much easier era--the era of the 50s and 60s. Back in those days, I didn't know much about Tama, Toledo, Montour, Clutier, etc, but I sure knew about Chelsea. I'm sure it wasn't much different than these other home towns of that era.
Everything and everyone was equal in Chelsea. There was no "snob hill" or bad part of town either. We were all in it together. My folks, owned the Sheda Grocery Store and we took care of the "Catholic-ers" as Dad called us and Harold Jack had Jack's Grocery Store, which took care of the "Public-ers." As a kid, we had two schools, the Catholic school and the Public School. Since I went to the Catholic school, I was a "Catholic-er", so anyone going to the Public school was naturally a "Public-er." Makes perfect sense to a nine year old.
Both of these grocery stores were on the south side of Chelsea, and on the north side of the tracks was Con Shilhanek's grocery store. He catered to both the Catholics and Protestants. But the big store in Chelsea at this time was Swalm's Drug Store. Swalms was owned by two brothers, Charlie and, ah, Charlie's brother!!! It was quite a store. They had two black crows that flew around in the store and they could do some tricks, which always amazed us kids. One of the crows constantly repeated, "What for." I know it doesn't sound like much today, but remember this was Chelsea in the late fifties. Everything amazed us!!
Inside the store, on the east wall, was the comic book section. And the penny weigh-scale. About five or six of us would grab a comic book and sit on the scale, the floor or whatever and read comic books. Charlie and his brother didn't mind much but every now and then would mention that we should buy the comic bookseverynowand then. Finally we would get kicked out and then we took off across the street to Sheda's Restaurant, (owned by my Uncle Ludy for a while and then my brother Tone). We loved the pin ball machines. One play for a nickle and if you wanted to play next, you placed your nickle on the glass on top of the machine.
We all were pinball wizards. We just didn't know it. Sometimes we would bring in some baseball cards or something to put under the two front legs of the pinball machine in order to keep that little silver ball from moving downward too fast. This was a tricky proposition because if we raised it too high, it was too easy to "tilt" the game. It was a delicate matter of true finesse and cheating combined. From here we would take off for a game of bicycle tag or perhaps even a pick up baseball game.
Growing up in Chelsea was a blast. Everyone knew everyone and a kid couldn't get away with anything. But we all felt so safe. Everyone got along and there were always great conversations going on in downtown and even uptown Chelsea. Thanks to Bob for the phone call. It once again brought back great memories.
Speaking of memories, one of the Chelsea kids, (although a little older), that was a part of the Chelsea gang was Ronnie Hrabak. Ron died last week at age 64 and my thoughts and prayers go out to the family. I remember playing tag, baseball and reading those comic books with Ronnie. He was quite a guy.
That's The Way I See It.
Let me know what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 319-334-4117.