Last Monday, I joined the Social Security class. Turned 62. Hard to believe I'm still quite immature. How's that old saying go; growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional. My option is to not grow up!! I've been writing this column for several years now and I've learned a thing or two, (not much more). First, I've found out that hardly anyone under the age of forty reads newspapers. Younger than 40-ers seem to be more attached to technology than we older than 40-ers. Second thing I've noticed is that most readers really enjoy when we head back in time to a quieter and gentler time. We love our nostalgia. So with no further ado....we zoom back to the 60's.
Growing up in Chelsea was pretty much the same as growing up in your town. Tama, Toledo, Montour, Clutier...we're all in the same boat, right? We all knew our neighbors and our neighbor's neighbors and practically everyone in town. Everyone was a neighbor. We knew when strangers entered town; we knew when they left and we knew every place they stopped in. We weren't exactly afraid of strangers, we just we're aware of their whereabouts.
Chelsea was divided in several ways; this side of the railroad tracks and the other side, (no reason for the divide except for the tracks). Mom would use the railroad tracks as one dimension of my boundaries. "Johnny, now you stay on this side of the tracks, so I know where you're at,"she would often holler out the door as I took off to play. Her voice carried well but only on this side of the tracks, I guess. Chelsea was also divided between the town kids, (of which I was a proud member) and the country kids. When the country kids would get into town for a few hours, it was an adventure for them. For us town kids, bein' in town certainly wasn't anything special. We were always here!! Band concert nights in the summer always brought us together and just seeing different faces was often a welcome change.
Another division in Chelsea was religion. There were the Catholics and the Protestants. As I've often stated here, my folks owned Sheda's Grocery Store and we catered primarily to the Catholics. Now, mind you, every now and then, a Protestant would wander in, and we treated them the same (ha ha), but our business was mostly with the Catholic side of Chelsea. Jacks Grocery Store was the store for the Protestants. Now by Protestants, I mean mostly Methodists. There were a few others but mostly Chelsea was a "two-religion" town. But surprisingly in the late 50's, there was a third grocery store called Con's Grocery Store, I think! Now, Con's was on the other side of the tracks as Jacks and our store, so he got most of the business from the north side of the railroad tracks. Yepper, for a while, Chelsea had three grocery stores.
We also had St. Joseph's Catholic School and the Chelsea Public School. I remember after the consolidation of our town's school with Tama, that something really weird happened. Weird, at least to a young kind of eleven or twelve. This is how the consolidation worked back then, (and you tell me if it wasn't crazy?); The Chelsea High School kids, (Montour kids too, I think), got on a bus and either headed to the Tama or the Toledo school. The 7th & 8th graders from Tama & Toledo, got on a bus and either headed to Chelsea or Montour for their junior high education.
I don't know how Montour handled the "city" kids of Tama/Toledo, but the entourage of these 14 and 15 year olds was really something for Chelsea. Do you remember at the beginning of this column about strangers coming into town? Well, it seemed now that every day, 50 strangers invaded Chelsea. Everything went well, and Chucks Dairy Queen & Restaurant really did well, as these kids would swarm in on Chucks during lunch hour, (actually about 28 minutes), to get a quick burger or ice cream cone. And the Chelsea kids that originally attended the Chelsea Public school quickly became friends with the new Tama/Toledo kids. Good for them. But us "Catholic-ers" kinda became the outside group.
I'm not sure how many of The Tama News-Herald readers remember attending Chelsea. Or Montour for that matter.
Let me know what you thought of our small towns, some of your memories and anything else you'd like to share at firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a call at 319-327-4640. Love to hear from ya.