Category Archives: Anecdotes of Ron’s Youth

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!

Ron_Don_Partin_ca1950

Building a Real House

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

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 dirty.

Later Troy built a workshop in the back yard and a playhouse with built-in bunk beds for Don and I. The lot was covered with six beautiful huge elm trees, each succumbing to the Dutch Elm Disease while we lived there.

Later Troy built a workshop in the back yard and a playhouse with built-in bunk beds for the boys. The lot was covered with six beautiful huge elm trees, each succumbing to the Dutch Elm Disease while we lived there.Troy_building_1953

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!”

Early School Days

In 1951, I entered Horace Mann Elementary School. Kids had to be five by December 1st to enter first grade, and just made it by two weeks. As a result I was always one of the youngest kids in my class.

A group of us walked the six blocks to school almost everyday, until we were old enough to ride our bikes. Rarely did we get to ride to school in a car.

My earliest memory of school was winning the prize for best costume in the first grade. My mother was a very skilled seamstress, and loved to make clothes. She made me a very cute outfit and sent me to school as Little Bo Peep! . I vividly recall sitting on the gym floor and the principal announcing, “You won, little girl. Come on up and get your prize.” I just sat there, until my teacher whispered to the principal, “It’s a boy.”Ron Bo Peep
I loved school and reading. Our small school library had a pretty good collection of biographies of famous people. They all had orange covers. Pretty certain I had devoured the whole collection by the time I had left sixth grade.

In the third grade, I recall having a spelling test. One of the words was “fruit.” I was unsure of the correct spelling – until I saw a box on the shelf about the teachers desk labels “Fruit Co.” in bold letters. I got it right.

Timeout

Mrs. Corbett was my fourth grade teacher. By that time, several of my teachers had written on my report card, “Ronnie has a voice that carries.” Everyone could be talking, but they always seemed to hear me. So, I occasionally got scolded.

One day she just sent me out of the room to stand alone outside the door. I did as told, but after five minutes I heard an adult climbing the creaky old stairway. In those days, all student knew that if the principal found anyone standing in the hallway for misbehavior, they would immediately get paddled. I had never witnessed such consequences, but didn’t want to test it.

It had rained that day, and all the students had left their umbrellas open, lying along the wall. I instinctively hunkered down under one of those umbrellas, holding my breath. I closed my eyes as the steps grew louder. I never found out who had walked by, but I resolved to try harder not to talk too much again.

I tried, but it in the spring, Mrs. Corbett just lost it one afternoon, as she exclaimed, “Just get out of here! Go up to the teachers’ work room, and don’t come out until I tell you!” I did as told and left the classroom, climbing a few steps up to a small room with a wooden desk, a couple chairs and a window overlooking the playgroup.

I sat and pouted. Then I got bored. “Please, let me come back. I’ll be quiet,” I promised silently. I sat and stared out the window.

Then I saw all the kids go home. And I sat. Then I saw all the teachers go home . . . . Now, I don’t plead innocence. I knew exactly what was happening. Let’s see – you said, “Don’t come out until I tell you.” Hmmm! Okay.

Well, about 15 or 20 minutes later, the school matriarch opened the door and exclaimed, “What are you doing in here?”

I immediately explained, with tears welling up in my eyes. She replied, “It’s okay. Go on home.” Of course, my mother was furious.

The next day I innocently returned to school. I am not sure exactly what had transpired in the interval, but all my teacher softly said was, “Now, Ronnie you know you could have when the other kids did, don’t you?” I just innocently looked back and shrugged.

So in later years, when I taught teachers about classroom management, timeout, I always shared that story and warned, “If you use timeout, don’t forget where you put the kid!”

Sequel

There is more to the story. Many years later, in my university career, I offered many workshops for teachers. Mrs. Corbett enrolled in one of my workshops – ironically, on classroom management. She remembered me, but said, “It was along time ago, but there was one thing that I remember well. I won’t mention it, unless you know what I it was.” I smiled warmly, and replied, “ I think I know what you mean.”

I next encountered Mrs. Corbett about 20 years later, after she retired. She was in the same nursing home as my parents. We had a nice a discussion but never mentioned “the incident.”

First Attempt at Painting

When I was about six years old my best friend was Barry Cottrell who lived next door. We shared a lot of adventures together. My first attempt at creativity was a team effort with Barry.

His father was painting their house — a very bright green. After his dad was done painting one day, he left the paint in a five gallon bucket in the middle of their garage. He didn’t put a lid on it — just a board. Barry and I were examining the bucket of paint when younger brother Don appeared.

I’m not sure who came up with the idea first. But our creative juices just clicked — and grabbing two large paint brushes, Barry and I proceeded to paint my brother green. Don just stood there calmly — seeming to enjoy being a part of something new and special.

Needless to say, my mother did not show much appreciation for our brand of creative expression. Mind you, this was not wimpy, water-based stuff paint! This was serious oil-based paint — meant to last. Kind of a lime green. No soap and water clean up! Mom recalled long afterwards how hard it was to get all that paint out of his hair.

I guess we were just ahead of our time. A decade later body painting was all the rage. And now people pay good money to cover their bodies in tattoos.

Kids — please don’t try this at home. It’s okay to imagine what your brother or sister would look like if they were green or purple — but just don’t paint them.