When I was pre-school age, my family would occasionally take the long drive to visit my grandparents in Lakewood, Ohio. Usually it was for Thanksgiving. There were no interstates back then, and thus driving from Columbus to Lakewood took several hours. I sat in the back seat of my dad’s Pontiac with my sister, who was four years older.


My dad hated to make bathroom stops on the trip, and there were not as many opportunities as there are today. Since I was rather young (pre kindergarten) and barely out of my bedwetting years (yes, it took me a while), he made other arrangements for me. I had an emergency can… literally. I can’t remember what kind of can it was, but if I had to go, I was to go in the can. My sister was less than amused. I don’t actually recall any specific episodes of my having to use the can, but it was my pee can.


If you are from the East Coast, particularly in New England, you have acquired the habit of pronouncing pecan as PEE-can. I’ve always found this rather disgusting, thanks to my father, and to this day I won’t eat pecan pie.


On one trip to Lakewood, we had to stop in Medina, Ohio for gas. Back in the good ol’ days, gas station attendants checked your oil and washed your windshield while pumping your gas, which cost about 20 cents per gallon. In rural farm communities, it wasn’t unusual for gas station attendants to use corncobs to scrub the bugs off your windshield. On this particular stop, a woman was pumping our gas and scrubbing our windshield with a corncob. The corncob was reddish brown, as most were, and she asked my father if she should finish with the white one. My father was cracking up.


He explained to us that many rural farms did not have running water or toilets, and had outhouses. My father was raised on such a farm, and I had second cousins who also did at that time. Some of the less affluent farmers did not even have toilet paper, and instead they used corncobs. Most farm corncobs were reddish brown, and the white corncobs were less common. These were saved for the final wipe to make sure you were clean.


The event made me think of my cousins, Marlene and Sandy, who I visited a few times. They lived on a farm that had no running water, so they had a well pump in the kitchen and an outhouse. They did have toilet paper, so I never had to use corncobs. But it was a step back in time to be there and see how life was for my dad and his mom when they lived as tenant farmers back in the early 1900’s. Sandy was about my age, and the last time I stayed there we were both in junior high school. I recall the two of us running through a cow pasture when Sandy tripped and fell face first in a fresh cow pie. She had cow manure all over her face and dripping off of her chin. And she was laughing about it! I miss those days.


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