Vintage Carolina: The Cat’s Meow!

Flapper Days!

Ron_Jan_vintage_2015A wonderful evening at the Community Foundations’ Vintage Carolina celebration. The Baker Barber photos I have been working on this past year were the theme. The images dated from the 1880s thru the 1960s.

Some guests dressed in period costumes. Jan is wearing a dress my mother bought in the 1950s at a rummage sale for 25¢. It is an original flapper dress, at least 90 years old. Covered with lovely beads, making it a bit heavy. It didn’t slow down our dancing though.

She was indeed the “cats meow!



Jan, Charley, & Pam strut their stuff!


I don’t think that is the Charleston!


RonClogging.2015The dance started with Rocky Top. Obviously, Ron couldn’t resist. A fun evening!















Leading the Baby Boomer Parade

In late December 1945, Troy Lee Partin, from the remote and rugged mountains of troymariesoutheastern Kentucky, returned from Europe, where he had served as a U.S. Army medic. He immediately caught a train to Carthage Texas, where he married Marie Westbrook on January 2, 1946. They had met and fell in love while he was stationed in Texas for basic training. They were soon on a train to Lima, Ohio, where Troy’s mother, Ida and his step-father, Glen Extine, had moved during the war to work in the defense plants. They had decided to stay in Lima, and Troy soon found work at the Lima Locomotive Plant.

At 2:44 pm, Thursday, November 14th, at St. Rita’s Hospital, their first son, Ronald Lee Partin, arrived, weighing in at 7 pounds, 10 ounces. The new family resided at 1012  S. Central Avenue. I spent my first four years in that apartment building.

My Uncle Bob Mason had also migrated to Ohio and had announced to his sister Ida Bell (my grandma) that he was now a converted Republican and would never vote for Truman. Upon hearing that I had been born, grandma immediately called her brother and announced, “I just had me another Democrat!” and slammed down the phone.

Ron 1.0My very first memory was sitting on a chair at the kitchen table in a pair of shorts, looking out at our small back yard. There is a pile of sliced baloney wrapped in butcher paper on the table. I am in shorts and it is a warm day. I also remember being mesmerized by the old steam locomotives passing by our house. I recall a spanking for riding my tricycle down to the railroad tracks.  I remember returning home after a snowstorm and seeing a huge snow bunny in our  front yard. A family behind us, the Georges, ran a small grocery out the bottom floor of their house. A few years later their son was killed in Korea.

On June 27th, 1948, a second boy, Donald Lynn Partin, arrived at the house. More about him later.

Sometime while we lived on Central, I sent my mom to the hospital. Supposedly, I had turned on the gas knob on our kitchen stove. It was before pilot lights, so when mom struck a match and opened the oven door it flared. They rushed her to the hospital, and she came home with her arms bandaged. Fortunately, she sustained no permanent damage. Of course, I don’t remember any of this, but the adults all pinned it on me. So, I assume it is accurate.

In 1951, Mom & Dad bought a small trailer, and we moved to a trailer park near Grandma’s house. I do mean “trailer,” not “mobile home.” It was only 28 feet, with a small bedroom in the back, for Mom & Dad and a bigger room in the front, with a tiny kitchen, a table that folded down, and a fold-out couch that served an the kids’ bedroom. No bathroom.

I remember the trailer park washroom, reeking with an awful disinfectant aroma. We played in Hoover Park behind the trailer park, frequently with  our nearby cousins, Jerry & Wayne Extine. I recall we had  a dog, whose name is lost to me. Keeping him in a dog house next to the small trailer didn’t work out too well. Dad drove him out to some farm in the country to give him away. Everyone was surprised to see him waiting at our door the next morning.

I recall my dad coming home after drinking with some friends one night. Mom was pretty upset with him. [Her father was an alcoholic and left the family when she was two. Understandably, she had a zero tolerance for alcohol. More about that later.] I found his cap on the ground and threw it into the dog house. Don’t remember why. I don’t know if he ever found it, and I never shared this story with anyone!


Building a Real House

In June of 1953, Troy and Marie purchased a small lot at 1330 Hazel Avenue, Lima, Ohio.  They towed our small trailer from the trailer park, and erected an outhouse. Troy and Marie built our house on this property, almost totally by hand! His step-father, Glenn Extine, helped lay the foundation and taught Dad how to  lay cement blocks.  The house was 26 feet by 28 feet: 728 square feet. Many garages today are larger than that!

Only when they were completing the trim and cabinets did Troy finally buy a power table saw, which his grandson Matt now owns. It took about 18 months to complete the house. Lima Locomotive had become Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton (BLH), and his job continued there.  After each payday, he would stop on the way home at the lumber yard, buy whatever materials they could afford, and he and Mom would spend the weekend and most evenings doing whatever work they could with the materials at hand. I remember seeing Mom on the roof laying shingles. Not a common site in those days. She wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty.

Later Troy built a workshop in the back yard and a small shed, which originally held the wringer washing machine.  Later, he converted it into our playhouse, with built-in bunk beds for Don and I. The lot was covered with six beautiful huge elm trees, each sadly succumbing to the Dutch Elm Disease while we lived there.

Handy Man & Woman

At the time my parents were building our house — doing almost all the work by themselves — it didn’t seem particularly unusual. Rarely did they pay anyone to do any of the work, out of necessity. They were both remarkable do-it-yourselfers, throughout their entire lives. Plumbing, electrical work, roofing, engine repair, sewing, cooking. There were few projects the two were reluctant to tackle.

This “self-reliance,” drive to do-it-yourself, and audacity to think one can learn new things were passed on to Don and I. Both parents were continually sharing their talents with other folks, family, friends, or strangers. I believe Mom had a strong need to be needed, and shunned no opportunity to jump in to help — sometimes to a fault. At all hours, she freely volunteered Dad or Don to repair someone’s car, replace a door, or help someone move. (By feigning total mechanical incompetence, I evaded most of those assignments.)

One peculiar instance of Dad’s determination to do-it-yourself, happened the winter his car died. The solution was to rebuild the engine, which he apart piece by piece and brought in into our tiny trailer. It seemed like a logical solution to him. He cleaned, repaired and rebuilt the engine in his spare time for a week or so. When it was all re-assembled and ready to be put back into the engine, he drafted a friend to help move it out of the trailer.

They wrapped a chain securely around the engine and across the middle of a long pipe. The bent their knees, gave a strong upward heave  – immediate bending the pipe in half and puncturing the trailer’s interior ceiling with two perfectly symmetrical holes. They retrieved a strong pipe and shortly had it out and into the car, which now drove like new. Loved to have had a video of that project!

First Friends

The first day we moved our trailer to Hazel Avenue, I remember watching my Dad shake hands with, Ed Cottrell, our next door neighbor. His son, Barry or “Bud,” and I shook hands, initiating a friendship that continued until we moved. The Cottrells had a bunch of girls and Barry, the only boy. Soon afterwards, I met Mike Moore, a other good pal through the rest of my Lima years. He sang on the Authur Godfrey TV Show when he was only 5-years old. This made him quite a local celebrity for a while. Mike, Bud, and I attended the same neighborhood church, Calvary United Church of Christ.

A group of neighborhood guys gathered to watch the Long Ranger and Howdy Doody on black & white televisions,  though few had them before the late 50s, and the screens were small. I recall being astounded by the first color TV show I ever saw: Bonanza. Color television still amazes me. I am still amazed by the miraculous technology that beamed color videos instantaneously across the world.

We spent much of our time in trees. The empty lot across the street had four huge old oak tress. We claimed one for our tree fort. Watching us scramble around in the tall oak tree particularly made my dad nervous. He’d never say anything to us, but sometimes would call mom and tell her to order us down from the tree. We never stayed down for long though.

I did have one near-death tree experience. Hundreds of acres of woods sat between our neighborhood and the railroad. We roamed it for hours, playing cowboys and Indians, or just exploring. One day we climbed a couple tall flexible trees. I don’t know the variety, but it was very springy and we could sway way back and spring forward like a pole-vaulter. I was enjoyed on that must have been about 30 feet tall, when it snapped dropping me strait on my back. The air was totally pushed form my lungs, and I laid on the ground gasping for air. After a few minutes my friends helped me to me feet and escorted me home. I was gasping all the way, thinking this was the big one. I don’t think I was ever so scared. Luckily, nothing was broken, and by the time I reached home, I could again breath normally. Never tried that again!

A Broken Collarbone

When I was five, I fell off our picnic table and broke my collar bone. Dad drove us downtown to the doctor’s office. He put my shoulder in some kind of wrap, so that I couldn’t lower my arm. It stuck straight up in the air.

Mom & I had to take a bus home. I remember sitting on the bus, crying. As we passed the Montgomery Ward store, mom pointed out at a swing in their display window, I shook my head and sobbed, “I never be able to swing again!”