By Don Rush

I was pondering a thought the other day, and like most days when I ponder thoughts I got distracted. Like the famed dog who is calm and all lovey-dovey until a squirrel is seen out the window, when I am in deep, intellectual thought, introspection or reflection, something will zip across my thought-scape and everything is lost.
Life changing ideas vanished into the ether of my brain. Which leads me to think, I might just be a shallow individual. So, the other day I was thinking about all the “old-timers” I’ve known throughout my life. I really didn’t know my grandfathers as both died before I was 10 years old and my own father never made it to “old” man status, having given up the ghost a few months after his 60th birthday. So, maybe that’s why I’ve always gravitated to older folks. And, I learned a lot of history along the way.
When I was a kid, I had a paper route on the mean streets of Clarkston (also known as the ghettos, also known as Independence Township). In our ‘hood, we all had smaller homes lived on gravel roads and dirt-smudged faces.
On the first half of my paper route were a number of old-timers. Mr. Arnold, Mr. Basset and Mr. VanHorn come to mind. The papers would be dropped off in bundles on the corner of Greenview and Clarkston Road every afternoon by 4. When I’d get home from school, I’d deliver them. Mr. and Mrs. Arnold were first on the route.
He would wait on his front porch for me to arrive. And, when I did, Mrs. Arnold would bring out a piece of pie. He’d then tell me all about Clarkston Road before it was paved and where he found sassafras around Walter’s Lake, to make root beer.
Mr. Basset was about 15 or 20 housed down the street. And, he was ancient. He was always out raking leaves, or doing something in the yard. Which meant I would put my sack of papers on my bike and take over whatever task he was doing — even changing the antifreeze in his old car.
Next to Mr. Basset, were the VanHorns. They were probably only in their 60s, but they seemed to always need me to move piles of sand from one part of their yard to another.
By the time the last few people on my route of 45 homes received their paper, it was usually around 8 p.m.
* * *
Straight outta’ college I started working at The Oxford Leader and I since have met many people from Oxford, Orion, Clarkston, Goodrich and Ortonville. I remember the old-timers more. I’d visit Stub Robinson the barber in Oxford once or twice a week — never for a haircut, no. I’d visit him to learn Oxford’s history as it was all in his head and a journal he kept by the cash register. In the journal were notes kept from his grandfather, forward. I remember the story of Stub swimming naked in the new baptismal pool at the “Methodist” church and getting caught.
Glenn Dill was another old-timer in Oxford who attended Oxford Village meetings. Every month he’d stand up, give his name and address then he’d say, “Old Mrs Dill didn’t raise the brightest son, but she didn’t raise no dummy. . .” Then he’d ask questions of the council.
Of course, Mr. Sherman, who hired me, I learned a ton of stuff from. Most of the stuff is good and wholesome and can be put in print. The other stuff, not so good for a family newspaper.
In Goodrich, I met Oscar Cantley and learned a lot of Goodrich history and tips on fixing any engine. He was a smart dude.
There have been others, too, however space is short.
So, my original thought w-a-a-a-y back at the beginning of this column when was, “Don, you have been blessed by the folks you have met.” That is when my thoughts went sideways and I started remembering the folks I just mentioned. To the world: Thank you to all I have met, even if you don’t like me. I am fortunate to have made your acquaintance, and even if it was a negative experience, I know I had to have learned something from you and for that I am grateful!
* * *
Old-timer from Lake Orion, Duane Decker, 90, stopped by our office the other day. He wanted to give me a tidbit of information on Lee “Indian Joe” Clasman, that he bet I didn’t know. And, he was correct. Mr. Decker grew up in Lake Orion around the same time Clasman did. “He was five or six years older,” said he. “His nick name back when we were kids was ‘Stony.’”
Yup. I didn’t know that! Thanks, Mr. Decker.
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