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.
When I was a kid, my dad told me that the most important thing about my paper route was that it taught me to be responsible. He said that paper routes make youngsters realize that there are people who depend on them, and that they shouldn’t let them down.
He may have been right, but that was not easy for a 12-year-old to understand. Besides, I’m not sure I would agree with him today. I think the most important thing about my paper route was that it gave me an opportunity to meet a wide variety of adults. This was especially true on Saturdays, when I collected for the papers, and I got a chance to talk with my customers.
They were all different. There was one man who sometimes would go several weeks without paying me. Then, when he did pay, I think he felt guilty, so he gave me a really big tip. I liked the guy, but I always thought he needed to work on his money-management skills. Those tips were making his newspapers pretty expensive.
One of my favorite customers was an elderly lady named Mrs. Hudson. She lived directly across the street from the post office, where the Journal- Tribune building stands today. There was a small gas station on the corner of Fourth and Main Streets, and she lived in a rooming house next-door. It was a yellow frame building that was right on the sidewalk.
She only took the Sunday Dispatch, not the daily paper. So every Sunday morning, I carried her paper up the inside stairway and placed it on a small rug in front of her door, at the southeast corner of the building. It was just a single room. I think all the roomers on that floor shared a bathroom. I saw no trace of a kitchen, so I have no idea where or how she took her meals.
Every Saturday morning, when I collected for the paper, the procedure was the same. I knocked on her door, and she invited me to come in. I always wiped my shoes on that little rug in front of her door, and then she showed me to one of two easy chairs.
It was a Spartan room, maybe 20 feet square. The furnishings were
modest – a brass bed, a tall chest of drawers, a small dresser with a mirror on top, two easy chairs, an oriental rug, and a couple of lamps. All the furnishings were old, but that lady kept everything in the room immaculate and neat as a pin.
The bed was always perfectly made, without a single wrinkle in the bedspread or the quilt at its foot. Nothing ever seemed out of place or un- dusted. And the two chest tops were covered with doilies that Mrs. Hudson had crocheted herself.
She was a slight woman, maybe 100 pounds. She was always as tidy as the room itself. She spoke softly and always had a warm smile. I think she looked forward to my collecting, because it gave her a young person to talk with, and I think she enjoyed that.
After she seated me in the easy chair, she would go to the tall chest of drawers and take out a coin purse. She would open it, pull out a dime and hand it to me. It was never two nickels or any other coin combination. It was always one dime.
That is exactly what the Sunday Dispatch cost in 1944 … 10 cents. (The daily Dispatch was 3 cents per day.) I think she was on a pretty strict budget, but once when I told her I had just had a birthday, she got the coin purse out again and gave me another dime. She was really a nice lady.
Every time I think of that lady’s room, I think about how nice it always smelled. One day, as I sat in the easy chair, I asked her what that wonderful smell was. She went to the tall chest of drawers and picked up a fancy porcelain dish from its top. It had an odd shaped hole in its lid, and she said it was originally a “hair receiver.” Then she handed it to me.
She said she kept crushed, dried flower petals in that little dish, and that is what made the room smell so nice. She said she normally used a mixture of flowers, but at that time she was using a single flower called lavender. She said it not only had a nice smell, but it also helped her get a good night’s sleep.
I certainly had to agree about the nice smell, but I was skeptical about the connection with her sleep. I mean, how could some flower petals sitting on the dresser help her sleep? But then, it was hard for a 12-year-old boy to imagine anyone having trouble sleeping.
Today I am probably about the same age that Mrs. Hudson was, and I can better understand her sleep problem. In fact, I sometimes deal with that myself. I suppose I could try her “lavender” remedy, but I am still a little leery of that. So I just use a CPAP machine. It doesn’t smell as nice as the flower petals, but it works just fine.
Those wishing to contact Bill Boyd can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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