Shortly after I began the seventh grade school year at Ney Junior High School — the same school my dad graduated from in 1954 — we suddenly moved thirty-four miles south to Deshler. I was angry with Dad — yet another move to a new school; yet another year of being the “new kid.” But I knew that my thoughts and feelings didn’t matter, so I said nothing. I had started playing football at Ney Junior High, and I continued my football career at Deshler. I was a short, lightweight boy, ill-suited physically for football, but I wanted to give it a try. I played very little, and once the season concluded I decided to focus on baseball and basketball instead.
By the time we moved to Deshler, my parents pretty much stopped being my parents. Mom was in and out of manic states, and Dad busied himself working as a district manager for Combined Insurance and selling firearms at weekend gun shows. I pretty much had the run of the town. Mom would ask what I was up to and where I was headed, but never said no. Dad? I don’t remember him being much involved in my day-to-day life. Well, except for the pool hall incident, that is.
Growing up as the son of Bob Gerencser, I learned at an early age that if I wanted anything that cost money, I either had to steal it or earn the money to pay for it. While living in Deshler, I began delivering morning newspapers for the Findlay Republican Courier. Seven mornings a week, I would get up early and deliver my route. I also was responsible for collecting subscription payments from my customers. Dad helped me open a checking account at the Corn City Bank. My collections were supposed to go into this account, and then once a month I would write a check to the Courier to pay for my papers. Whatever was left was my profit.
Unfortunately, my parents gave me no instructions as to how to manage money. In my immature mind, the money I collected was mine — all of it. I started hanging out at the pool hall, playing pinball for hours on end. When I needed money for the machines, I would write a check to the pool hall. After a month or so, the Courier contacted Dad and inquired as to why I hadn’t paid my paper bill. Dad quickly found out that I had spent all the paper money. I was a pinball addict. Well that, and pop and candy bars. The Courier fired me as a delivery boy, even though Dad paid my past due bill. Dad somehow knew that children my age were not permitted to be in pool halls, so he threatened the pool hall owner, telling him that if he didn’t return all the money I had spent at the hall, he was going to report him to the state. The pool hall owner quickly coughed up the money and banned me from entering his establishment.
During the ten months I lived in Deshler, my parents, siblings, and I attended Westhhope Bible Church — a rural Evangelical congregation north of Deshler. Tom Vanarsdall was the pastor. The one thing I remember about him is that he had an attractive daughter whom he kept an eye on lest she get too close to a boy. The other memory I have of this church is the black choir that came to the church to sing one Sunday night. I could count on one hand the blacks I had seen up to that point, and here was a stage full of people who looked very different from me. While the choir’s music was typical of what I had heard for years, their body movements were different from anything I had seen in the Baptist church. The choir “felt” the music, unlike the staid northern Baptist Christians of my tribe who thought such feelings were Satanic.
In May, 1970, Dad packed up his family again and moved 23 miles southeast to Findlay. I will pick up my story here in the next installment of The Fundy World Tales.
About Bruce Gerencser
Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.
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