1983: Smelly Carpet, Sprite, Psycho Bruce, and a Christmas Tree

christmas tree new lexington 1985

Christmas tree at another New Lexington house, 1984

In July 1983, I planted a new church in Somerset Ohio. I would, for the next 11 years, pastor Somerset Baptist Church, starting in a storefront and later holding services in a 150-year-old brick church building purchased from the Methodist Conference. I would learn a lot about myself during the time I spent pastoring this church For a few years, the church experienced rapid numerical growth, leading to scores of professions of faith. And then, just as quickly, the church numerically receded, returning to a typical country church of 50 or so people. I could spend months writing about my experiences as pastor of this church, but for now I want to focus on a house we lived in on Water Street in New Lexington, Ohio.

When I started the church, we lived in Buckeye Lake, 25 miles north and west of Somerset. Wanting to live in the area where I would be ministering, we sought out housing in Somerset. Unable to find housing, we rented a house in New Lexington — a community built on a hill nine miles south of Somerset. After moving into the home, we noticed the carpets had a smell. The longer we lived there the worse the smells became. I mentioned this to the owner. He said the previous tenants had animals and that’s why the carpet smelled. Determining that we were likely going to move if he didn’t do something about the smell, the owner had the carpets replaced in the living room and main bedroom. Despite the fact that the owner replaced the carpet, the house still had a faint smell of animal urine. I suspect the urine and had soaked into the wood floors underneath the carpet, and as anyone who has ever had to deal with such a problem knows, once this happens either the floors must be sanded and refinished or shellacked to seal in the odor. Six weeks later, we would move to a ramshackle farmhouse northeast of Somerset, near Glenford, Ohio.

There are several stories I would like to share from the few months we spent living on Water Street. I have always been a pop (soda) drinker. My drink of choice was/is Pepsi, but I would, from time to time, drink other brands such as Coke and Sprite. These were the days when pop came packaged as eight returnable 16 ounce glass  bottles. Many of my fellow baby boomers have memories, I’m sure, of collecting pop bottles or using pop bottles for ashtrays or emergency urinals The returnable bottles were sent by grocery stores to bottlers who would sanitize the bottles and refill them with the proper soft drink. One day, I decided to drink a bottle of Sprite. I grabbed the bottle opener, popped the cap off the bottle, put it to my lips, and tipped the bottle so the sugary drink would flow. Suddenly, I felt something hit my teeth. I quickly stop drinking, and upon investigating I found a barrette with hair still attached in the bottle. Gagging, I quickly put the bottle down. To this day, I find it hard to drink Sprite. Irrational as it might be, all I can think of when I think about drinking a Sprite is that barrette with hair attached hitting me in the teeth.

As a young adult, I did a good bit of walking and talking in my sleep. My brother and sister have all sorts of stories about my sleepwalking escapades, including walking through the living room brushing my teeth. A short time after Polly and I were married, she awoke to find me standing in the corner of the bedroom urinating. Sound asleep, I thought I was in the bathroom. The sleepwalking continued into my later life. One night, while living in New Lexington, we had gone to bed, and as had been the custom for the past 38 years, Polly quickly fell asleep and I fitfully tossed and turned before finally drifting off into that night’s dream world. Several hours into the night, Polly awoke to find me crouched over her — eyes wide open. I was sound asleep, but Polly thought I was a psychopath fixing to kill her. After a few moments, I rolled over, while Polly was left shaking, fearing for her life. Both of us wondered if I would someday do something hurtful and not know that I did it. Fortunately, Polly and our six children survived. These days, the only sleepwalking I do is the wide-awake kind as I make one of my nightly trips to the bathroom or the kitchen. I still talk in my sleep from time to time. Polly no longer fears becoming the next day’s headline, though she does enjoy retelling what I said to her in one of my sleep talking moments. I can, in her words, still be quite entertaining.

A few days after Thanksgiving,we decided to move from Water Street  to our newly-rented house in Glenford. We had very few possessions, so we were able to do all the moving with a pickup truck. Having just put up our Christmas tree several days before, we decided to leave all the decorations on the tree as we moved it to its new location. I still remember how hilarious it was to see that Christmas tree sitting in the back of the pickup truck, fully decorated. As you might imagine, by the time we got to our new house, all the tinsel had blown off the tree , as had some of the glass bulbs. I know– the stupid stuff kids do, right? We put the tree back together, in preparation for what we still call to this day the Christmas from Hell. But that’s a story for another day.

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4 Comments

  1. Geoff

    Your experience with the Sprite drink and the unpleasant additional content reminds me of a very famous UK legal case. Someone drank a bottle of ginger beer that contained a snail, causing them to become very ill. They attempted to sue the manufacturer for negligence but, at the time, there wasn’t a general ‘duty of care’. In other words, manufacturers and suppliers of retail products couldn’t be held liable for negligence unless they had personally sold you the defective product and, of course, manufacturers never sold directly to the public. The case went as far as the House of Lords, who decided that actually manufacturers did owe a duty of care to everyone who might buy their product, and so the universal law of negligence came into being.

    Which also led to firms of lawyers becoming ‘ambulance chasers’. What’s that about unintended consequences!

    Reply
  2. Suzanne

    I can just see that Christmas tree in the back of the truck blowing in the wind! LOL the things we do when we’re young.

    On a serious note, have you ever found yourself in some odd place upon waking, like in the yard during a rain storm in the middle of the night? I sometimes sleepwalk and have had the disconcerting experience of waking up mid walk in some rather odd places…

    Reply
    1. Geoff

      Oh yes! I regularly find myself stripping the bed during the night to put it in the washing machine. As my wife is usually asleep during this I’m not overly popular!

      Reply
  3. Oldbroad1

    HA! I used to work for a small town Coca-Cola Bottler. The bottling line ran in front of windows that looked out on Main Street so that passers by could watch the bottles getting filled. We had a sensor that detected objects in the bottles that the sanitizing didn’t get out, but anything transparent (like the cellophane wrapping on cigarette boxes) always got thru.

    The funniest thing tho was that we had this older gent whose job was to remove the bottles the sensors beeped at before they got filled. He sat on a bench by the window. He always fell asleep about an hour into the shift, with he face plastered against the window. It was the town’s kids favorite past time to pound on the window and watch him jump up. Poor guy.

    Reply

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