July started off with a bang! Just like many families around the nation, we went to a local park to watch the fireworks display on the Fourth of July. We are also fortunate to live amidst cornfields and rural areas and can shoot off our own sparklers, firecrackers, bottle rockets, and other types of fireworks. For me the holiday was full of mixed emotions since I knew that just two days later, I would be on my way to Ohio to have my dad’s ashes interred – and – I would see cousins and begin the genealogy adventure that I’ve been waiting to do.
July 6 – Started very early in the morning as my fifteen year old grandson and I finished loading up the car to begin our trip eastward. As we neared the Mississippi River to cross in to Illinois, the sky was full of gray clouds. We drove through Springfield in the rain which turned to sprinkles close to Decatur. By the time we arrived in Brownsburg, Indiana, the sun was out, and it was time for lunch. We arrived at my cousin’s home located south of Dayton before 4:30 p.m.
Our first evening together since the summer of 2010 was full of laughter and catching up. Her two boys are a year older and a year younger than my grandson so the boys disappeared to play video games in the basement. We had a great dinner and then in the late evening, she told me that we needed to go to Bill’s Donuts. Wait a minute – a donut shop – at night? Let me just say that every town across the United States needs one of these places that are open 24 hours! It appeared to be the local hangout for not only teens but families. Picture the very best ice cream shop you’ve visited – but instead of ice cream, it’s donuts! We left there with a baker’s dozen of a variety of sweet treats for breakfast (some of them were still left at breakfast the next morning too!). On second thought, it’s probably not a good idea for one of those to be close to where I live!
July 7 – I used the Keurig coffee maker for the very first time and then headed to the cemetery in order to sign all the necessary documents pertaining to my father’s ashes and the interment. With some heartache, I left the ashes with the cemetery office in order for them to have everything ready for the next morning. After having them in my possession for six months, it felt odd that he wasn’t coming back to the house with me.
For lunch, the boys thought my grandson and I needed to see what all the hype was over Rapid Fire Pizza – so off we went. I love pizza – and I especially love pizza that I can create just for me! Think Subway – but pizza! I absolutely loved this restaurant and this is another place I believe all towns should have (well, on second thought . . . – see my response about Bill’s Donuts in above paragraph!)
That evening was our cousin get-together at Marion’s Pizza (more pizza!!!). We were missing a few but did have a very enjoyable time. Luckily, even though some left after eating, I was able to spend some time chatting with my three first cousins (children of my mom’s sister). This time, I was the one who asked the questions. I wanted to know more about my aunt – as their mom – instead of my mom’s sister. They shared some stories that made me see Aunt Genevieve in a whole new light! I didn’t realize that she pulled pranks and had a wicked sense of humor!
My 3 first cousins and myself
My first cousin and 2 first cousins once removed
July 8 – cousins all met at the house where I was staying and followed each other to Royal Oak Memorial Gardens in Brookville, Ohio. When we arrived, I noticed that the gentleman who was handling the arrangements had set up a nice table to hold the container of ashes. They had even placed a flag next to my father’s headstone since he was a veteran. It was a wonderful gesture, and I was very touched. My dad didn’t want a memorial service so I knew that our time was going to be brief. A few of us recounted a couple of stories about my dad, I read the obituary I had written, and then we drank a toast. My dad’s drink of choice was vodka and lemon-lime so some of us (adults) either got a small amount of vodka or both vodka and sprite and the three boys got the soda. We raised our glasses (dixie cups!) and said good-bye. I think my dad would have approved.
When we left the cemetery, we headed back to the Dayton area to have lunch at Frisch’s (Big Boy). I can’t begin to tell you how much I was looking forward to this lunch because my favorite sandwich is the Swiss Miss – a hamburger pattie on a rye bun with swiss cheese and tartar sauce. Can not get this sandwich anyplace else except Frisch’s!
My cousins, grandson, and myself at Frisch’s Big Boy
After lunch, my grandson and I took off to drive by important places of my childhood. I had a list of addresses and with the help of a loaned GPS, I knew there wouldn’t be any problem finding them. We stopped by my childhood home in Beavercreek, the townhome where my mother spent the last 32 years of her life, two houses my maternal grandparents had lived, and my three schools.
My childhood home – left (1960s) and right (July 2016)
One of my grandparents’ homes in Dayton (left – 1950s & right – July 2016)
My mom’s former townhome
My grandparents’ house in Kettering, Ohio.
My elementary, junior high (now a middle school), and high school
When I pulled through the parking lot of my high school (which is now the “back” of the school even though it faces the road), I was pointing out windows of the classes I had been in and what the new parts of the school were when a man came to the car and asked if he could help with anything. As soon as I told him I was a graduate and showing my grandson where I went to school, he had me park so he could give us the nickel tour since so much of it has changed.
The picture above is of the auditorium from the stage. When I was in high school, we couldn’t perform any theatrical productions there because we did not have such a marvelous stage or auditorium. We had to travel down the road a bit to the elementary school. I’m a tad bit jealous that not only is the stage wonderful but the dressing rooms are pretty nice as well (sure beats getting in costume and make-up in the girls restroom!) Before we left, I had to take a picture of my grandson with our school’s mascot – Bucky Beaver.
From there we headed to our favorite frozen custard stand just down the road from my high school – Ritter’s Frozen Custard. When my mom was living, and we would visit her, this is where we all liked to come on warm summer evenings. We’d all order our frozen treats and sit on the stone benches at the tables. Good memories.
Next – the rest of our adventures in Dayton before heading to the second leg of our journey.
(All photos, digital scans are property of Wendy Littrell; address for private use.)