Growing up in the 1950's had a lot of perks for a child. Mostly simple things compared to what children today experience. But those simple things were monumental in the memory of a child, primarily because they didn't happen every day.
Staying with my grandparents, Homer and Pearle (BRAMON) FOLAND on their farm northeast of Grand River, offered many simple but monumental experiences for a child. There were kittens to be found in the hay mow, ears of corn to be fed into the corn sheller, baby chicks to hold up against your cheek, raspberries to be eaten on the sly, and the consequential lecture about what bugs left behind on unwashed fruit.
Night time during the winter was special, feeling safe and sound after being tucked under a hand-made quilt. The pot-belly stove had been stoked and was radiating out warmth and the smell of wood burning. And, before retiring for the night, my Grandfather opened the etched glass door on the clock to wind it up, signaling that another day had passed. Before long he would be snoring, a sound which I found comforting during the dark and long night ahead of us. My sister and me, lying side by side under the quilt, waiting to fall asleep.
Staying at my grandparent's farm usually meant a trip to Grand River. He always had some reason to go to town when we were with him. My other grandfather, Dewey BECKER did the same thing when we stayed with them in Boone. Only Grandpa BECKER announced to everyone that we were his granddaughters, then stand there beaming and grinning from ear to ear. He was very proud of us. I don't think my Grandfather FOLAND did that because everyone in Grand River was related to us in one degree or another. Everyone in Grand River knew we were his granddaughters. And, like how relatives greet one another after a period of absence, everyone spoke to us like we were long-lost relatives. Which we were in most cases.
A trip to Grand River always meant a stop at Russell BOLES' feed store, located on the east side of Main Street. Feed stores then usually had a pot-bellied stove with a group of men sitting around it. Sometimes there would be a card game going on, but most of the time the men would be sitting around, talking about manly things, such as the weather, how well the corn and soy beans were doing, Soandso's new tractor, and their favorite subject - fishing. The feed store had a wonderful smell of sweet mash, warehoused in the back, which was mixed with cigar and cigarette smoke.
Once my Grandfather concluded his business at the feed store, my sister and I would take his work-calloused hand and walk across the street to the Post Office. I don't know why we were required to take his hand to cross the street. If one stood at the curb, traffic passed by at the rate of one vehicle every twenty or thirty minutes. But it was routine and kids didn't ask too many questions about things like that in the 1950's.
It if was summertime, we would end up at OVERHOLTZER'S Cafe near the post office. OVERHOLTZER'S Cafe had a big u-shaped counter in the center with stools positioned all around it. As I recall, it was quite a feat to climb up and perch yourself on one of those stools. Each stool had a metal footrest, but my legs were never long enough to reach it once I sat down. Mr. OVERHOLTZER asked us for our order, which for me was always the same thing. Grape Nehi soda pop. I had tried orange Nehi soda pop one time, but thought grape was the best flavor.
Mr. OVERHOLTZER reached into the cooler which was filled with ice-cold water, and got our orders. He wiped each bottle with a bar cloth and then popped the tops off of the bottles. Once he sat our bottles of soda pop in front of us, he inserted a drinking straw into each bottle. They were special drinking straws, ones that had an accordian neck and bent over so you didn't spill any soda pop on you.
It was a monumental moment for a child. The cold richness of grape Nehi soda pop against your thirsty tongue, the proper bend of the drinking straw, Mr. OVERHOLTZER talking to my Grandpa and winking at my sister and me from time to time, and the sensation of being perched high in the air on the bar stool. I felt as though I was a princess. And so I was for about ten or fifteen minutes until all I could extract was air from my bottle of grape Nehi soda pop.
Written by Sharon R. Becker, July of 2009