In the summer of 1961, the Partin family moved to a farm on Route 694, located three miles north of the village of Kalida in Putnam County Ohio. The farm of 40 acres included about seven acres of woods and a winding creek. Kalida is a small farm community of about 1.000 in northwest Ohio. It had few stores, a bank, post office, two grain mills, a school, and a beautiful Catholic Church with a massive spire that could be seen from miles. Dad’s half sister Lorene (Extine) Bishop lived a mile to the north on the Blanchard River. When we lived in Lima, Don & I, along with Mike, Bud, and other friends, would camp next to the River on the Bishops small farm. We would cut striplings, strip bark and lash them to tress, making a frame to hold our large tarp. We had a cooler for food. We’d spend the days wading in the river – it usually wasn’t deep enough for swimming.
The idea of moving to a farm was intriguing. It was an adventure, at just the right time. The family raised hogs, chickens and a few steers and had the crops planted and harvested by a neighbor who split the profits. Dad kept working at what had become Clark Equipment in Lima. The farm was a great experience, though it never turned much of a profit. Seems like we always bought pigs at the top of the market and sold them at bottom.
We ordered chickens through mail order, and several dozen tiny chicks arrived in cardboard boxes, delivered by the postman. We had Chester White pigs. They are pretty smart animals. If they escaped, we would just yell and they’d wander back. Cows were not nearly as cooperative. It was work getting them back in the pen.
One cold winter night, after I returned from a basketball game, Mom told me to check on a pregnant sow before going to bed. I did and found pigs were already coming. I ran to the house and my parents bundled up and start tending the sow.
It set a record cold of -17 degrees. By morning 16 little pigs had been born. As they came out my parents put them into a barge barrel, with lamps keeping them warm. One small runt was pretty frail and appeared not likely to make it. It was quite a surprise to walk into the kitchen the next morning to see that runt wrapped in a blanket in the middle or warm kitchen oven. No fancy incubators on our farm. As usual my parents were resourceful and came up with another creative solution. The runt survived and we made it our pet pig.
We lived in an old farm house, that was poorly insulated, minimally heated, and chilly in the winter. Don and I had separate bedrooms upstairs. That was a luxury after years of sharing one room in bunk beds. Only the downstairs had any heat at all. Some winter days, I would easily see every breath roll up to the ceiling. Fortunately, the chimney from the space heater downstairs ran through the wall. I drove a nail in that wall, and put my clothes, including socks, on a hanger in front of the chimney. I had nice toasty warm clothes awaiting me in the morning. I could dress in less than five seconds. Understandably, Don felt cheated, as there was no chimney in his room. But often he did have the sense to just sleep downstairs on the couch, in a totally warm room!
Kalida High School: A Life-changing Experience
At the 50th reunion of the Kalida High School Class reunion, I told my classmates who had all grown up in the area, “Kalida shaped your lives; it changed my life.” The unexpected summer move was not a traumatic event at all for me. It was a blessing, a re-orientation, and probably one of the best things that ever happened in my formative years.
I went from being a small fish in a big pond to a big fish in a small pond. After several dates with my wife-to-be, Jan, in her freshman year at BGSU, I showed her my high school annual. She read that I was on the varsity basketball and baseball teams, was senior class president, president of the student council, had lead roles in two plays . . . . Wow! She was impressed. Then she counted. “There were only thirty-two in your class!”
It’s true it was a very small school, with many fewer options than I would have had in Lima. All the classes were small, many with fewer than 15 students. I pretty well knew everyone in the high school. I felt my teachers genuinely cared for me, and I don’t think any were armed with paddles.
From the very first day my classmates welcomed me. I think they saw me as the “big city kid.” I actually only lived in the Kalida community for three years before leaving for college, but they were the most formative ones of my youth. The supportive environment of teachers, peers, friends, and family allowed me to blossom, take risks, develop some social skills, and feel accepted.
The first day I tried to register for nine classes, though we only had an eight-period schedule (Two were semester classes). Wisely the principal wouldn’t let me. I really loved going to school every day.