Memories of a Lifetime

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

In which I bond with my sister over candy - and see the hand of God

As mentioned before, our summer vacations consisted of going to Aunt Virginia's (that's what we always called it, probably because that's what Mom called it. Never, "going to [their town], or "going to [their state], just going to Aunt Virginia's. Because for Mom, that's where she was going, she was visiting her sister and the rest just didn't matter.)

Anyway, these trips always came spur of the moment. I had friends who in High School would take planned spring break trips to Florida or the Caribbean (pronounced ca-RIB-ee-an, not CAR-ib-ee-an, as we who were the great unwashed would pronounce it). We always just went to Aunt Virginia's and we always knew we were going to have a great time, eat great meals and maybe come home with new clothes. What more could you ask for?

One summer morning my sister, Leah, said to me: "We need to walk to San Rae this morning and get candy and stuff. I heard Daddy tell Mom last night we're going to see Aunt Virginia and we're going to need stuff for the car ride."

Immediately, I was excited. I asked when we were going and she said she didn't know, but we needed to be ready and have stuff to do in the car so we DIDN'T BOTHER DADDY. (Anyone who took a road trip with their parents in the 60's knows why I capitalized that. The jokes about Dads saying 'Don't you make me come back there!' and 'Don't you make me pull over!' were especially true in our family. Children were seen and not heard.)

Leah informed me that I was to take coloring books and crayons, books to read and we were going to go to San Rae and get candy and other stuff to fill old cigar boxes. She had already worked it out with Mom and gotten us some money to spend. We were going to fill our cigar boxes with whatever we could get to keep us quiet. I realize now that my big sister was looking out for me, because I was the impetuous child who couldn't keep her mouth shut when it was best for her (still have the same problem, in fact, part of the reason why I am now unemployed!).

A word about San Rae. San Rae was the name of the street. And at the end of the street was a little strip of businesses. San Rae Bakery and Market was one of the businesses. It was in a neighborhood of WWII era housing, the Dayton Victory Apartments and other apartment houses of the same vintage. These were 4 unit buildings, I think you know the type. Row after row of square Lego-esque blocks with 2 apartments up and 2 down.

San Rae was also adjacent to a little business called Dayton Reliable Tool. Dayton Reliable Tool was lucky enough to have invented the pop top for beer and pop cans. They now take up the real estate where San Rae Market used to be. More's the pity, in my opinion.

San Rae was one of the places we could go pretty much without permission. If we had money. If we didn't we had to ask for money and permission, both were usually granted. We'd get a quarter. Doesn't sound like much, but I could buy 2 comic books and 2 pieces of two-for-a-penny candy with that. Or a nickel Hershey bar, a comic and one of those candy necklaces that left your neck all sticky. You could also, if you were so inclined, get baked goods. The cupcakes were divine and the glazed donuts were the best. The candy buttons on paper were on a big roll behind the counter and when you asked for a penny's worth the clerk would roll off a strip that seemed like it was about 6 feet long and hand it to you. No plastic wrap, no latex gloves.

You could stand behind the glass case where the candy was and ask the clerk, "how much is this?" "What can I get with a nickel?" and they never seemed to mind. Maybe they did, but they sure didn't act like it.

The floors were wooden. The clerks were nice. They knew us. Matter of fact, we could walk in with money and a note from our mother that she needed a pack of cigarettes and they would sell them to us and put them down in the bag with our candy. Sometimes, Mom would realize she was out of something she needed for supper and she'd send us up there to get a can of green beans or corn. We could spend the change on whatever we wanted.

When I was a teenager and needed to make urgent calls to boys that I didn't want my mother to know about I would walk up there and squeeze into the old-fashioned wooden phone booth and drop a dime. Sit in there and talk for an hour. Then come out and buy some candy or gum because I felt guilty for using their phone for so long.

This particular day, we walked up to San Rae and filled our cigar boxes. The only thing I remember buying was pixy stix (LOVED 'EM) and one of those candy necklaces. I'm sure I had other stuff, but I don't really remember.

Then we went home and packed what we needed for the 12 hour car ride. And we waited. Mom was in a flurry of doing laundry and cleaning the house. My older brother wasn't going with us because he had a summer job and she had to keep giving him orders (no parties, no loud music, cut the grass, etc) (all of which I'm quite sure he dutifully ignored).

Finally the big day came. (It was probably the next day or the day after, these things never had a long lead time.) We sat in the back seat all set to go with our stuff. I colored and ate candy. I read for a while and ate candy. Pretty soon we had to go to the bathroom, so we stopped to stretch our legs. (Daddy was good about stopping when we needed to, I'll give him that. I once worked with a man who made his young daughters straddle an old coffee can in the back of his Suburban when on road trips. Child abuse, in my opinion, but I digress.)

Back on the road, I read some more and ate more candy. By now we were in Springfield, Ohio, (I'm kidding, we were probably closer to Cleveland, still not very far into the trip). But it seemed like it was time to start asking if we were there yet. Of course, we couldn't ask, but it sure seemed like it was time to! Leah, Mom and I played the license plate game, and there was the inevitable mooing at cows and neighing at horses out in the fields as we drove past.

In the afternoon, the sun was warm and all were sleepy. Mom had found some music on the radio and we were just riding along in silence. I was leaning my head against the rear passenger side car window, watching the scenery go by and looking at the fields and the clouds. The sun was out and the sky was full of those big fluffy cumulus clouds that change shape as you watch them. One cloud looked like an elephant and then morphed into a whale. You know.

All of a sudden as we went around a bend in the road, I saw a giant cloud that was in the shape of an immense hand with the index finger pointing down to the earth. I shit you not. I was about 10, and going through my religious phase (read: Before I discovered boys) and I was absolutely positive we were going to die. I think I said something out loud, and was probably told not to be silly ("That child has an overactive imagination" - heard that a lot when I was growing up.) This cloud scared me to death. I spent the rest of the road trip in mortal fear. I spent the first couple of days of vacation in mortal fear. Then I got over it. But I never forgot it.

I am still convinced it was the hand of God. But I don't think He was pointing at me.


Blogger Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

Probably pointing at Waverly in general.

You know, we always called it "Going to Aunt Joan's". Not, "going to Dayton", or (worse, always intoned like Bill Buckley), "Going to see our Johnston relations." Nope - just "Aunt Joan's house."

My favorite cross-country car trip of all time was when we took Gabe out the summer after she graduated HS. For some reason she convinced M&D to let her take her bike. Our old station wagon (a Chevy?) was filled in back, but they had made a little crawly hole underneath all that stuff. Of course, the whole car was absolutely JAMMED - all five kids, the 'rents. Me, I had the back to myself. Now, obviously, you couldn't do that sort of thing.

Also, my Mom would put Hi-C in an old bread bag, sealed tight, with a straw through it. She invented the juice box/bag, if only she had patented it.

Good memories.

April 1, 2009 1:10 PM  
Blogger gabriella said...

God I couldnt stop laughing. The hand of Maybe it was just pointing at Cleveland.And I remember San Rae too. Good thing I brought my bike when I came out that summer becasue we rode our asses off..and yet in spite of all the walking and bike riding we did,we were never skinny. Now that was a bad thing God did.

April 1, 2009 1:26 PM  
Blogger Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

See, I missed out on all the good stuff. Gabriella, you even remember the little store at the train station in Lockwood! Our cousin (on the other side) Peggy once got all sentimental because Mom has some little plaster bird things hanging in the kitchen that used to be at Grandma's house. She asked me about it, and I had to remind her that my memories were a bit different from hers because she's 18 years older than I am.

April 1, 2009 2:14 PM  
Blogger gabriella said...

SO who do you think it was pointing at?

April 1, 2009 2:40 PM  
Blogger Claudia said...


April 2, 2009 8:25 AM  
Blogger Claudia said...

Geoff, love that your mom invented the juice box. My mom invented the wet swiffer mopper. She swore she did, b/c she used to put wet paper towels on the floor and mop her kitchen floor by stepping on the towels and moving them around! LOL

April 2, 2009 8:27 AM  
Blogger gabriella said...

Ah...perhaps you are right...Why dont Moms ever think to patent their good idea....

April 2, 2009 1:03 PM  
Blogger Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

On mops and swiffers . . .

My mother-in-law moved in to a condo in '96, and we visited her not long after the move. We were helping her get it clean and I told her I would mop the kitchen. She said she didn't own a mop, so Lisa and I went to Farm & Fleet (do they have those in Ohio?), which Lisa calls Fart & Flame, and bought a mop and bucket. That mop got used once, by me. Sharon did floors on her hands and knees ("I've always done it that way!") until she had knee-replacement surgery; now, her husband does it, the same way. I should tell her about the homemade swiffer idea, she might actually try it.

April 2, 2009 1:10 PM  

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