When my husband asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I told him I wanted to go up to Galion, Ohio, to see the house I had lived in before my family moved to Delaware, back in 1944. I knew the address and have always wondered if the memories I have had in my brain, for the past 75 years, are anything like what I would find there today. And, of course, to do that, we would have to be lucky enough to see the inside of the house.
So, on the morning of Christmas Eve day, in very heavy fog, we drove up to Galion. Finding the house at 225 Grove Ave. was not as easy as I thought it would be. But eventually, with directions from a mailman, we got there. First, we saw where the store had been on the corner, so knew we were close. That was the store I had gone to for sugar and other foods that were rationed back in 1944. Because WWll was going on, I remember mom giving me money, along with the necessary ration stamps, to purchase said foods that we needed.
Knowing that I had lived on that street, we parked the car and walked on the ice and snow to find the house with the address I have always remembered. When we got to the house and saw the numbers 225 beside the door, it didn’t seem real. I was there, right where I had always wanted to go back to some day!
As soon as George knocked on the door, a young man opened it, while still talking on his cell phone, and paused long enough to ask if he could help us. Wasting no time, I said, “I used to live here when I was in the first and second grades, and, I would love to see inside again!” He told the person on the phone that he would call them back later and invited us to come inside. Wow, two steps up and there I was stepping back into my past. I was in the same room I had walked out of 75 years ago when we left there and moved to Delaware. It was the door to their kitchen that we had always used as our kitchen, too.
As I looked around at everything, I remembered the day the ambulance workers carried mom inside that doorway on a stretcher. She was just coming home from the hospital after giving birth to our new baby sister. And, as we were all trying to get a look at her, our dad told us her name was going to be “Jean Louise.”
The owner told us that we could look in the “great” room. (To me it was known as our living room.) I just wanted a peek, so as to see where I remembered our first lighted Christmas tree being. Another memory that I told the owner about was that most of us had Scarlet Fever while living there and were quarantined inside. And, I told him about the big “quarantine” sign that was posted on the house to keep people out, so as not to catch the dreaded sickness from us.
Since our oldest sister and our dad had been out of the house when the sign was put up, they had to stay out of the house, while the rest of us had to stay in the house for what seemed like an eternity. Our food was brought to the house and put on the front porch, so we would have meals during the long days we suffered from having that “acute contagious disease.”
I also told him about the “blackouts” we had. Because World War ll was going on, the blackouts meant we had to keep all our lights off in the evenings, so as to keep the enemy planes from being able to see that there was a city down below. It was only a test, but I didn’t know that. I thought it was for real and was very scared that we were going to be bombed. I was especially afraid because the people directly across the street never did turn their lights off.
We moved from that house on the day before school started in Delaware. Eight of us got into our car, with mom holding the new baby, our Dad driving, and one of us sitting between them. And then the other four of us all managed to sit in the back seat together. How we ever pulled off that much work and confusion in one day and then found the schools and got in each of our classrooms the very next morning, I cannot imagine.
Not wanting to wear out our welcome, we thanked the owner and walked back out of that kitchen, just as we had done in 1944. Although the front porch is gone now, the flooring is different and the walls re-done, I definitely felt I was back in that same house I had remembered so well.
This past Christmas Eve day was one that I will never forget, thanks to the owner of the house at 225 Grove Ave. for having the faith it took to open his door to us and tell us both to “come on in.”
Kay E. Conklin is a retired Delaware County (Ohio) recorder who served four terms. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a degree in sociology and anthropology. This column shared through the AIM Media Midwest group of newspapers.