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Tag: Bryan Ohio

Dear SONIC, You Asked for My Opinion, So Here It Is

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Dear SONIC,

You sent me an email today asking me to join your SONIC Insight Council. Here’s the email you sent me:

sonic

I thought, OK, I’d be glad to share my opinion with SONIC. So, I clicked the link and this is what I got:

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And this perfectly illustrates my opinion of the SONIC in Bryan, Ohio.

In 1994, my family and I moved to San Antonio, Texas. This was where we first ate at a SONIC. We quickly grew to love eating at SONIC and were thrilled when one was opened in Bryan, Ohio, five miles from our home. My sons can still remember how excited I was when I learned that a SONIC was coming to Podunk City, AKA Bryan, Ohio!

I still remember how crowded the Bryan store parking lot was as people tried SONIC food for the first time. Today, the store is pretty much a vacant parking lot. Part of the reason for this is your unwillingness to build dining rooms at stores in the north. We have winter here, and most of us are unwilling to sit in a parking lot with our car motor running so we can eat lunch. Add inside seating and I think it will improve customer numbers.

As customers and sales have dwindled, the store has developed some bad habits. For example, one night we wanted to get milkshakes, so we drove to Bryan only to find out that there were no milkshakes available at SONIC because the store ran out of milk. At the time, I said to my wife, are you fucking kidding me?  There’s a Walmart and a Chief grocery store a few thousand feet away. Can’t they go buy milk? Evidently not. We bought nothing and went to Dairy Queen.

I love SONIC onion rings. At first, the onion rings were deliciously awesome, but over time, as the store settled into lower volume sales, they tried to improve their food cost by not changing the fry oil at the proper time. Because of this, the onion rings had an off taste, ruining the once awesome flavor of the best onion rings in town. Having managed restaurants for several fast food chains, I can taste (and smell) old fry oil from a mile away.

Over the years, we’ve had smashed hamburgers, milk shakes not completely mixed, no whipped cream, no maraschino cherry, no straws or napkins, and credit card fraud. Yes, credit card fraud; a problem that necessitated me calling the SONIC corporate office so I could get the problem resolved. And twice we’ve been given food that belonged to someone else, only discovering this once we arrived home.

There was a day when the Gerencser family loved eating at SONIC. Not anymore. The management and staff at the Bryan SONIC are polite and helpful people. Generally, we are served promptly and every time I’ve called the manager they have taken care of us. However, after a while I got tired of calling and we stopped eating at the local SONIC.

I am a registered SONIC customer. I even get text messages from SONIC urging me to eat or drink this or that food. But, SONIC never comes to mind these days when I ask, where do you want to eat?  So let me leave you with this graphic:

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Maybe we’ll be back if you give us a reason to do so. We remember the days when SONIC was the first name on our lips when I asked, where do you want to eat tonight?

We are not hard to please. Good customer service and properly prepared food  will win us over. The ball is in your court, SONIC. If you want us back, you know where we live.

The Gerencser family

PS. If you are going to send me email with a link in it that you want me to click, it’d be nice if clicking the link didn’t return a 404 response, page not found. Everyone makes mistakes, but this is one mistake that should NEVER be made. Click the link to make sure it works before you send it  out via an email broadcast to thousands of customers.  Two seconds…and no unhappy customers.

The Bryan Times Shuts Down Printing Operation

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According to the WBNO website, the 65-year-old Bryan Times will no longer be printing the newspaper in-house. This end 150 years of a local newspaper being printed in Bryan, Ohio.

This comes as no surprise as small-town newspapers such as The Bryan Times try to adapt to the changes in how local residents get their news. As with TV news, newspapers have an increasingly aging subscriber base. Younger adults no longer turn to the TV or newspaper to get the news.

The Bryan Times made a stab at having a website with blogs and other internet news, hoping to attract those who use the internet to get their news. I doubt anyone at the newspaper would consider the website initiative a rousing success. The Times, like the Defiance Crescent-News, hides most of its news behind a paywall.

While I understand the economics behind such a move, younger adults will just look for some other news site at which to get their news. Having grown up in an age where most everything on the internet is “free,” most younger adults are not willing to pay for online news. Young adults live in a world where they can stream unlimited movies with Netflix or stream unlimited music with Spotify for less than $10.00 a month. In their mind, paying $8.99 for a newspaper they can read in a few minutes is an unnecessary, frivolous cost. They might spend the equivalent amount of money buying ring tones for their smartphone, but young adults increasingly no longer see the value in a printed newspaper.

Even though I am an old man, I no longer subscribe to a printed newspaper. I read the Crescent-News online, and every day I read blogs, news websites, Facebook, and Twitter to get my news fix.  I wistfully lament the passing of printed newspapers, especially those that played such an influential part of my life. Over the years, I  faithfully read The Bryan TimesDefiance Crescent-NewsZanesville Times-Recorder,Newark AdvocateDetroit Free PressThe Columbus DispatchThe Toledo BladeThe Fort Wayne Journal Gazette Findlay Republican CourierYuma Sun TimesThe Arizona Republic, and the Perry County Tribune. And these are just the papers I read regularly when I was living in these communities.  I also read, from time to time, small, local weekly papers, along with the newspaper of whatever community Polly and I were vacationing in. Needless to say, my newspaper reading habits resulted in the death of a lot of trees.

As I looked up the links for the aforementioned newspapers, I noticed that many of the newspapers had been bought out by larger media companies. What were once local, independent newspapers are now owned by media giants such as Gannett.  I suspect the newspaper industry will continue to contract until almost every newspaper is a subsidiary of a Wall Street media giant.  Future historians will write of the days when America lost the voice of a free press.

The Bryan Times remains a family-owned independent newspaper. The Cullis family has owned the paper for many years. Christopher Cullis, the same age as I am, is currently the publisher. Years ago, when I first started writing Community Voice editorials for the Times, Cullis told me that my editorial could be any length, but if I wanted people to read it I should write 800-1,000 words. This proved to be good advice.

Several times, Cullis called me after I submitted an editorial to ask if I really meant to say _________________? In most cases the answer was “No,” and he would suggest a better wording. I appreciate his help in making me a better writer.

Sadly, with the Times moving its printing to Fort Wayne, 18 people will lose their jobs. I suspect some of these employees have worked for The Bryan Times many years. No doubt, their layoff was a difficult action for the Cullis family to take.

In 1946, Grant Brown opened Brownie’s Restaurant in Bryan, right next door to The Bryan Times. It  was Bryan’s first drive-in restaurant. As a teenager, I ate many a hamburger at Brownie’s. For a time, I even had a weekly tab that I paid each payday. Facing competition from the chain fast food restaurants that moved into Bryan in the 1970s, Grant Brown closed  Brownie’s in 1975. The Times bought the building and tore it down to make way for a building expansion.

Will The Bryan Times go the way of Brownie’s Restaurant? I hope not, but I wonder if there is a future for the printed newspaper? It is increasingly cost-prohibitive to print a newspaper, and being unable to significantly raise subscription prices, newspapers cut the one thing they can cut: their employees.

I wish the Cullis family nothing but the best. The Bryan Times is one of the best small town newspapers around. From my Mom’s letters to the editor in the 1960s to my own letters to the editor and Community Voice editorials, The Bryan Times has graciously allowed us to voice our take on the world. I wish them nothing but the best, even if I have my doubts that a prosperous future lies ahead.  Someday, we will realize what we’ve lost as a result of  the decline of American newspapers. For now – hey, did you see what J-Lo and Kim Kardashian did today? OMG!

Note

The Bryan Times was established in 1949. Before that, the local newspaper was called The Bryan Union Free Press, The Bryan Press, and The Bryan DemocratYou can read some of the old newspapers here.

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My Hungarian Grandparents, Paul and Mary Gerencser

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Paul and Mary Gerencser and Children, 1950s

The Gerencser Family, circa 1950s Front: Robert (my Dad) and Irene Middle: Grandpa Paul Rear: Paul (Paulie), Grandma Mary, Mary, and Helen

My grandparents immigrated from Hungary in the early part of the 20th century.  I don’t know much about them. I was six years old when they died in 1963. Paul was born in 1888 and died of a heart attack in February of 1963. Mary, six years younger than her husband, died of a heart attack six weeks later.

Paul and Mary Nemett Gerencser (grr IN’ sir or grinsir) immigrated through Ellis Island and settled in Ohio. (I don’t think Paul and Mary were their given names.) I think they originally settled in the Akron/Cleveland area and then moved to  northwest Ohio. Best I can tell from what few official records remain, Paul and Mary Gerencser owned a farm in Defiance County, lost it, and then bought a farm in Williams County on the northwest corner of Williams County Road 14 and Williams-Defiance County Line Road.

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Grandma Mary Gerencser, 1919

Paul and Mary Gerencser had six children: Irene, Paul Jr, Steven, Helen, Mary, and Robert. Steven died in a farming accident as a young boy. Irene died in 2009 at the age of 87. Paul (Paulie) died in 2012 at the age of 88. Robert, my father, died in 1987 at the age of 49. Mary and Helen, both in their 80s, are still living.

The Gerencser homestead was torn down decades ago. The new owners built a ranch home in its place. The old farmhouse was a white two-story structure.  I do remember a few things about the house. There was an enclosed back porch and Grandma kept big sacks of flour and sugar on the porch. I also remember the wood-fired stove. I think there was a water pump at the kitchen sink. The house did not have indoor plumbing. There was an outhouse for necessary daily functions.

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Mary, Paulie, Paul, Robert Gerencser, 1940s

I do have a vivid memory of the creek that ran a few hundred yards from the back of the house. One year, Beaver Creek overran its banks and flood waters turned a portion of the low-lying farm ground into a lake. To a little boy the flood water looked like a huge lake but I am sure it was probably much smaller.

I don’t remember anything about my grandparents’ demeanor. I do remember they spoke Hungarian to each other. I don’t know if they spoke English in the home. My father, aunts and uncle, were schooled at the nearby one room school-house that sat on the southeast corner of Williams County Road 14 and  US Highway 6. The one room school-house was torn down many years ago. My dad also went to school at Farmer, Ney, and Bryan. I do not know where any of my aunts or uncle attended school.

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Mary and Robert Gerencser, 1930s

Paul and Mary Gerencser settled in northwest Ohio, Williams County, because a number of Hungarian immigrants already lived here. Derek Harvey, a Toledo, Ohio man, wrote an interesting article about the Hungarians who settled in NW Ohio:

An important immigrant group to Toledo and Northwest Ohio were the people that came from the area in Central Europe known as the Magyars. This area stretched from Poland to the North to Belgrade in the southern region. The area would also encompass the large area known as Transylvania. (No Dracula jokes) With the redrawing of borders after the first World War much would have been considered Hungary would have changed. Many large populations after this time would live in Romania, Slovakia and northern Yugoslavia. Some groups prior to World War 1 would be misidentified as Hungarians.

The largest group of this ethnic group 1.7 million came to the United States starting in 1880. Many would locate in the Birmingham neighborhood in Toledo. In 1900 there were almost 17,000 people living in Ohio that claimed this nationality. By 1920 the number would increase to 73,181. The primary group of immigration was males under the age of 30. Almost 90% of them were literate, but would take dangerous jobs that involved using their hands. This job areas in Toledo included automotive, glass and railroad industries. They tended to only come to the United States temporarily and over 50% would return to their homeland. Many would come back or just stay.

The religion of the Hungarians in Toledo was Catholic. Their home church in town St Stephen’s Catholic Church. The early population of this church was almost all Hungarian. This is a valuable place to check for church records for people of this nationality. The church was the center of their socialization activities. It would later become the center of their fraternal organizations. In Toledo a popular event was the Grape Harvest Festival and the Easter egg sprinkling. These groups and events played a important part of the assimilation of Hungarians into the fabric of Toledo. Family units in Hungarian early life extended beyond the immediate family. It was referred to as the “sib” and included aunts, uncles, cousins and godparents who might not be relatives.

A common practice after 1910 was for Hungarian families to take in recent immigrants primarily males. The husband and the boarders would work outside the home while the women would take care of the chores necessary for maintaining a household. The diet would lean towards meat and very few dairy, fruit or vegetables. Wonderful opportunities exist for more understanding of Hungarians genealogy. Great strides have taken place in many parts of the United States to get a better understanding of this group. There heritages are being preserved and new resources are being discovered daily.

From time to time I will run into local Hungarians who remember my dad or my aunts and uncle. Mary and Helen sang on the radio in the 1940s and every so often someone will ask me if I am related to them. When someone notices my last name and asks me, are you related to ____________, the answer is always yes. All the Gerencsers in northwest Ohio are related to one another. I have second and third cousins in the Chicago, Benton Harbor Michigan, and Akron/Cleveland area whom I have never met. Locally, I have a few first and second cousins.

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Grandma Mary Gerencser with the Family Cat, Pickles.

When my aunt with Alzheimer’s was over at our house last year, she didn’t know who the woman in the picture was but she with delight said, oh there’s my cat Pickles.

I am not certain what my grandparent’s religion was, but I suspect they were Catholics.

I regret not taking time to know my family history while those who could tell it to me were still alive. My dad died 25 years ago and my grandparents died over 50 years ago. Such is the lament of a man growing old. As death comes nearer and nearer to my door, I think more and more about the past. I wonder…what was it like for my dad to grow up on a farm? I will never be able to ask questions like this. Sometimes, when we drive down US 15/127 to Bryan, I gaze off to the left as we pass the Williams-Defiance County Line. I try to picture my grandparents, my dad, and my aunts and uncle, working the ground and taking care of the farm. I wonder about their hardships, about the hard work it took to eek out a living from the flat land of Williams County Ohio

I have lots of questions…

*dates and ages are approximate. My recollections are not what they once were. One reason for writing this post is to have a written record of these things before I some day can no longer remember them.

Bruce Gerencser