Blah and dreary day here. We haven’t had but a light rain today, only shows as a small puddle in the rain gauge. Definitely not complaining, we have more than a little bit of mud around the place, we can handle the rain passing us by.
Lately I’ve been finding myself thinking about the small town I grew up in, the same small town my mom grew up in, and how it’s changed into a place that hardly looks anything like either of our times. I drive through the town almost daily and there’s almost always a twinge of sadness that hits. The one thing that does make me feel intense happiness is the feel of the town, the people who live in The Hill are proud of their little town.
I grew up on the farm about five miles from The Hill, mom and her siblings actually grew up IN the town. It’s just a little drive through town. My 7th grade english teacher joked once about the highlight for the kids on the weekends was sitting on the corner at the four way stop and watching cars drive past. Those are the only four stop signs in town, there are no actual streets in The Hill, just the two highways, one going east/west through the main and the north/south on the east side of town. That’s all she wrote boys! Population is pry around 100, give or take on the day and the way the wind blows.
When mom was a kid the school was it’s own district, kindergarten through 12th grade. Three churches (all still open and running), a butcher shop, think she said two grocery stores and two gas stations. Ruth’s Cafe, a bank, a bar (mom once said they weren’t allowed to walk in front of the bar, they would have to cross the street to walk past the bar) and a small dairy that supplied for the town. My grandfather had an electrics shop and Dekalb seed business.
By the time I was a kid there was the one small grocery store with gas pumps, Ruth’s Cafe, the bank, post office, Bernie’s Beauty Shop and the school. The school was still going but had joined districts with a town 10 miles north (the year before my mom’s senior year) and the fifth through eighth grades were the only ones down at The Hill.
The hours and hours I spent running around The Hill as a child. Ruth’s Cafe was where the local farmers came for coffee and to play 500 in the afternoons. I loved going with dad to town! I’d go down to our church (which at that time was still kept unlocked) and sit in the pews. I’d climb the fire escape at the school, climb onto the lunchroom roof and sit. I’d walk through the cemetery. Loved going to the post office to visit with Irene, a little old lady who had her rocking chair sitting by the wood burning stove, she lived upstairs.
The times spent sitting at the counter with Ray and Don (two older guys), drinking pop and eating M&M’s. They’d buy me the candy and show me their rotten teeth and tell me that if I kept eating candy my teeth would look like theirs someday. On the occasion we’d go into Ruth’s in the late morning, Ruthie would let me help back in the kitchen, she peeled potatoes everyday for fresh mashed potatoes…lumps and all! Sometimes she would let me run the cash register, it was an old one like you see in old shows.
The characters who will be forever ingrained in my mind. The Swankee Twins, two little old guys, couldn’t have been much over five feet tall, both wore overhauls and a seed corn cap. Oh, the stories they’d tell and laugh! Swede, who always called me Blondie and Trouble, he called my mom Blondie when she was growing up in The Hill as well! Ol’ Elza (my first boyfriend, his boys were both older than my folks), his baby blue and white Chevy pickup, always wearing his overhauls and ear flapper hat during the cold weather and weathered old white straw cowboy hat in the warm weather months. He had a pocket watch with a leather strap, he’d pull it out and have kids come and listen to it. The day he did that to my daughter, the tears that came to my eyes, he was well into his 80’s at that time. Ruthie, the little red headed spit fire who owned and ran the cafe, maybe five foot tall on a good day, she’d sit with the guys and play cards in the afternoons, smoking and cussing right along with them! Her daughter was one of my mom’s best friends all through school.
Our little town is barely a spot along the road anymore. No cafe, no store…the bank is only open a few days a week in the morning, the beauty shop is open two afternoons and one morning a week. The school is now our counties Emergency Services headquarters. My senior year was the first year in our new school 10 miles north, all grades in one building. We don’t even have a post office anymore.
I love that little town more than I can express. The pride in that town is undeniable. The townspeople have flags up during Memorial Day weekend, and any other holiday that calls for the flags. The cemetery is absolutely breathtaking during the holidays, flags lining the drive. My Grandfather would be proud, he was sexton of the cemetery for many years and was a stickler for how it was to be kept (definitely where I get it from). It hurts my heart to see the shell it has become. In my mind I can see it as it used to be and no matter how it appears now, my heart will never forget the wonderfulness of the old days!