About five miles from the farm was a very small village called Wayland. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, Wayland was a thriving community sporting a creamery, a basket factory, a general store, post office and train depot. Wayland also had two churches, a Welsh Congregational and a Baptist Church, later joining together into one community church. It also had a town hall and a fire station. Amazing this little country village had all the makings of a growing and thriving metropolis. Then came the depression followed by World War II, and things began to change. Wayland remained small. The creamery shut down. The basket factory closed. The rail depot disappeared. But vestiges of the past still remained.
My buddy Sonny and I used to play “Combat” by running around Wayland when I came over to see him. We would spend the night before planning our battles and getting our equipment ready. We both had some Army surplus gear. That coupled with plastic Army helmets and those old Daisey air rifles that you could stick in the mud, cock and fire, shooting the mud out about 10 feet, we were ready to fight off the German invaders of Wayland. Usually our adventure started out at the abandoned creamery, just a shell of its former grandeur, we would sneak around its various platforms and ruins stalking an invisible enemy, sometimes exchanging fire and throwing rocks as make-believe hand grenades.
We would sneak in the ditches, trenches dug by the enemy, and try to infiltrate their positions. Rarely would a car go by on a Saturday morning, but if one did pass, we would duck deep into the ditch, even if it was wet, to avoid being seen. One time, a many went by and his car threw up a rock. He stopped and was very angry saying that we were shooting his car with a BB gun. He threatened to call the Sheriff, but he came to his senses when we showed him that our rifles had bars across the inside of the barrels and they were not BB guns. Sometimes our adventure would take us down by the old iron bridge over the Mahoning River where we would “patrol” down the path on the bank. You never know what you will find there—snakes, frogs, tadpoles, salamanders—which would deter us from our mission considerably.
We might stop in at Griff’s store—a very small dry goods store that was part of Wayland since the 1800s. Creaky old wood floors. Tight rows between shelves of groceries. An area for hardware. Past the store’s counter was the post office. It had rows and rows of decorated brass PO Boxes, each with their little combinations, and a set of bars separating the postmaster, Griff, who took his job very seriously switching between store-keep and postmaster. Sonny reminded me that for a quarter, he could get two Almond Joy bars (10 cents each) and a nickel change. The nickel was for the Coke machine out front.
Sitting on the front porch at Griff’s, with our legs dangling over the worn porch boards, chomping on a ten-cent candy bar and sipping a nickel Coke. Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 3:13, “Every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labor, it is the gift of God.” Indeed, we had defeated the enemy, saved Wayland from the Nazis, and were taking a well-deserved break. Another Saturday morning adventure inspired by our imaginations and encouraged by the values we learned from our parents and their friends. And without the memory of it all, we would never really know how blessed we were back then and what a gift of God we were experiencing.