The Way It Was


Editor’s note: This is another column in Bill Boyd’s new series, “The Way It Was,” about growing up in Marysville. Bill continues to work with the Union County Historical Society to obtain information for his stories. With Marysville and Union County celebrating Bicentennial anniversaries in 2019 and 2020, respectively, these articles help depict what life was like in those early years.


Lights out

During the mid 1940s, when I was about 12 years old, I spent a lot of time at Elwood Sawyer’s house at the corner of Fourth and Cedar Streets. His son, Bert, was several years older than me, but we were good friends.

I wasn’t the only boy who spent a lot of time there. In fact, there were almost always kids somewhere around that house. It drew them like a magnet draws iron filings. There was always something to do there.

First, there was the tennis court in the backyard, and the basketball hoop at one end of that court. Then there was the two-story tree house. It was the greatest tree house I ever saw, complete with electric lighting and a direct telephone line to Richard Liggett’s house on South Maple Street.

And if it started to rain, then the kids headed for the basement where Elwood had installed a pool table. The room wasn’t quite big enough for one, but it worked out pretty well. There wasn’t room enough on one side to use a regular pool cue, so Elwood sawed off a couple feet from one cue, so it could be used on the south side of the table.

But it wasn’t just all those neat things to do that attracted kids to the Sawyer house. It was Elwood himself. He was always making up new games to play that got youngsters involved. And he participated in a lot of those things himself. It was just fun to be around him.

With that many kids around his house, there had to be times that tried his patience. Some kid might accidentally break a window or spill ice cream on his carpet. But I never heard Elwood chew out a youngster for anything. Let me give you an example that involved me personally.

One of my best friends, a boy named Fi McAllister, and I were playing basketball after dinner one night. We were the only ones there, and Elwood and his family were not at home. It was starting to get dark, so Fi and I decided to call it a day. We passed the basketball back-and-forth as we walked along the driveway.

When we got to Elwood’s unattached garage, I decided to bounce the ball off the garage wall. But I stumbled and the ball flew up in the air. It made a direct hit on the garage light above the door. It was one of those old-fashioned outdoor lights with a heavy metal reflector above the light bulb. The bulb itself was unprotected, and the basketball smashed it. Fortunately, the light was not turned on.

Oh man, it was getting dark fast, and we needed to get the broken glass cleaned up and put in a replacement bulb before Elwood got home. We found a broom in the garage to sweep up the broken glass, and Fi found a stepladder, so we could put in a new light bulb.

Fi climbed the ladder, but it was so dark he was having trouble removing what was left of the broken bulb. So I ran home and got my dad’s flashlight. I gave it to Fi, but he was still having trouble removing the broken bulb from the socket. He said we needed a pair of pliers, maybe long-nose pliers, to grasp the base of the bulb and unscrew it. So I ran home again, and I brought him my dad’s long nose pliers.

He still had trouble, so I asked him to let me try it. I climbed the ladder with the flashlight in one hand and the pliers in the other. Aha … I got a good grip on the threaded metal base of the bulb and started to twist it. It seemed to be a very tight fit, so I gave it a good hard jerk and twisted at the same time.

Finally it came loose. But it wasn’t the bulb that came loose. It was the socket itself. Oh man, I had just torn the socket right out of Elwood’s garage light. I felt awful about that. Maybe I should leave before I do any more damage.

I ran home once more and came back with a pad of paper and a pencil. Fi held the flashlight, while I wrote a note to Elwood. I told him what happened, and how sorry I was. I told him that I would pay for a new socket. Then I left the note attached to his screen door.

I went back the next day after school, and I talked with Elwood. I gave him $2 from my paper route money to buy a new socket. He wouldn’t take the money. He had already replaced the socket, and added, “Accidents happen.” Then he thanked me for leaving the note.

I think that’s the real reason there were always so many of us boys hanging around the Sawyer house. It wasn’t the tennis court, the basketball hoop, the tree house or the pool table that drew us there. It was Elwood himself. He was one of my very favorite adults.

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