Years ago, the small town of Perrysville, located in southern Carroll County, Ohio, was a very busy place. The sign that sat along the road near it read “Lamartine”, as that was the name of the post office located in the local general store.
Years later, when the post office was closed, the sign was changed to read “Perrysville”. I have written about the Barnhouse General Store, where people in the community went to purchase groceries, various supplies and the children were delighted by the penny candy, however, there was a lot happening in this small town.
The Ray Umpleby farm was located at the edge of town and the milk from their cows was bottled and delivered daily to the residents in the town. Empty milk bottles with payment inside were left on porches or front steps to be exchanged for the fresh milk. No one worried about anyone collecting the money except the person delivering the milk.
There were two churches in town, the United Brethren and the United Methodist, and both had many in attendance every Sunday morning. They were the sites of many weddings and many funerals with most people from the area attending both.
Dr. Tope’s office and drug store was located there in a building that still stands today. In the early years, he traveled throughout the community delivering babies and attending to the needs of the people. His pay was often a sack of potatoes, some garden produce, eggs or whatever the patient could offer, as money was in short supply.
In front of the Barnhouse family home was the local well that supplied water to those who needed it. You often saw people there filling jugs or buckets. I never knew if the water in their own wells didn’t taste as good or whether their wells, which were probably “hand dug”, went dry at times.
The local Grange Hall was a busy place with numerous activities held there as well as local grange meetings. All the activities put on by the school were held there: plays, graduation ceremonies, holiday programs, etc. On Saturday nights, it was often square dances and cake walks or summer time festivals.
Entertainers often appeared there, including well-known country singers and their bands. When my dad went to high school, they played basketball games there, as the school had no gymnasium. I remember him telling that if you got knocked down during a game you tried to avoid landing on the registers that brought the heat up from the furnace, as you could get burned. He had the scars to prove it!
Perrysville High School was built there and featured grades one through 12 for many years. Many of the graduates went on to become very successful and accomplished many things. The high school was eventually closed, leaving only grades one through eight.
The majority of high school students went to Scio High School in Harrison County. I chose to attend Carrollton High School, which was much closer for me. The school was closed later with the elementary students sent to Carrollton Schools. Perrysville School has a yearly reunion and all students or anyone connected with the school is invited.
My dad bought his own school bus with only a quarter in his pocket. The Scio Bank Company was the only bank that would loan him the money and trust him to get it paid back. He was hired by Perrysville School Board to transport the students. I was still too young to go to school at that time, however, Dad would allow me to ride the bus with him when he picked up students after school.
He always liked to get to Perrysville a little early before school dismissed. He always stopped at the filling station owned by Charles Gotshall (some people called him Butch) and his son, Harvey. Their store sold gasoline and oil, numerous other automotive supplies and a few other things. In later years, Harvey also sold appliances and always had an interesting array of gift items available at Christmas time.
One of my first memories when Dad stopped there was of the red Coca Cola case filled with ice water and pop. My dad would buy me a bottle of orange soda pop. What a special treat!
Harvey Gotshall had a wooden leg and he drove a school bus. It was a standard bus with clutch, brake and gas feed on the floor and a regular gearshift. He drove for years, was considered one of the best bus drivers in the territory and never had an accident. He did occasionally encounter a problem that required special handling.
In those days, it didn’t matter what the roads were like or what the weather was, bus drivers had to try to get the kids to school. On a bad winter morning, with snow blowing and drifting, Harvey’s bus became stuck. He had already picked up several of the big, strong, farm boys from the Palermo area. He instructed the boys to get out and push as he tried to move the bus forward.
The boys were not anxious to get to school so they decided to pull back instead of pushing! It didn’t take long for Harvey to discover what the problem was and, after a few strong words, the momentum of the bus suddenly went forward and the trip to school continued.
The small towns have been a vital part in the growth of our country. They have always been important places filled with special people. Those of us who have grown up with them are grateful for the special times and special memories they have given us.
“There is a comfortable feeling in small towns. It is salubrious.” (Andie MacDowell)
Barb Lumley wrote this column to be published in The Circleville Herald. The views of this column may not necessarily reflect that of the newspaper.