The Farm Chronicles: The Gathering Place

There is a slice of American history that reveals the closeness of neighbors and friends. While our farm, established around 1818, was in a rural area, friends, relatives and neighbors all knew each other. Between the Wilson’s, Richards’ and Griffith’s, I was related to about 80% of Paris Township. My cousin, Betty Richards, was my second grade teacher. And even though my brothers were 14 and 9 years older than me, Betty also taught them. Virginia Cook, wife of pastor William Cook, was our first grade teacher. Sue McCarthy, one of my mom and dad’s best friends, filled in as a substitute. It was really difficult for me to call her “Mrs. McCarthy” because all my life she was like a second mother, Sue.

Life was a bit slower in 1960’s rural Ohio. It was real. The people were friendly. We interacted. People were generous. If you walked into Griff’s general store in Wayland, which was also the local post office, you could expect to be greeted by your first name, and generally, you couldn’t be in too much of a hurry as there had to be a conversation about something. I didn’t mind because Dad would usually fork out a nickel or a dime so I could get a candy bar and a Coke from the vending machine outside on the porch. He always made me feel like that was a lot of money, so I had better take my time and enjoy the purchases. I really don’t know how Griff stayed in business as there weren’t many customers. Probably the post office was the cash cow.

While life was not as fast moving as it is today, people worked hard. There was no end to the work. Many could not support themselves on the small farms, so they had second, even third jobs. Dad had the farm, a gas and oil delivery business, custom combining, and hauling things for people. Warren McCarthy, for example, had his small farm, worked at Packard Electric, and had a carpentry shop. The days were long and by the weekend, everybody knew how to celebrate as the wise Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 3:13, “And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labor, it is a gift of God.” And on Sunday, the Lord was praised and honored for those gifts by the community at church. After church, was a time of visiting and our farm was often the gathering place.

I was reminded of this by a Monday, October 31, 1960 letter from Mom to my brother Chuck, who was attending Ashland College. She wrote: “Went to church yesterday. Then the company started in the afternoon. Donald and Sadie Tomlinson came. We were real pleased and surprised. They stayed all afternoon and for supper, too. Left here about 7:30. While they were here Eddie Evans came. Then Helen and Eddie and then Betty and Gene. So we really had a house full. It never fails. Everyone comes at once. It was 11:00 o’clock by the time everyone left. So all in all, it was quite a day.” This was a typical weekend and because they did not forsake the gathering together of one another as advised in Hebrews 10, their friendships kept them strong and loyal in good times and bad. Our farm was the gathering place for many. No need to call ahead.

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Bill Wilson