Half way through my fifth-grade school year, my dad informed us that we were moving from Harrod to Farmer — both in northwest Ohio. There’s a story to be told about why we had to move, but I will leave it for another day.
By the time I arrived at Farmer Elementary School in 1968, I had already attended five different schools. Dad “rented” an old farmhouse owned by his older sister Mary on State Route 249, one mile east of Farmer. I say “rented” because Dad had a penchant for not paying rent/loans — especially when it involved his gullible sisters. I have no doubt that Dad had a rent tab with Mary.
I finished the last half of fifth grade and all of sixth grade at Farmer, thinking, “wow, maybe we are going to live here for awhile.” I had made friends and played baseball for the Farmer Tigers. I even started paying attention to girls. In the mind of a then twelve-year-old country boy, my life revolved around friends, church, girls, and sports. Life was good, right (even though this was when my mom was raped while I was home sick from school)? Alas, as my dad often did, he would soon disrupt my life.
September 1969 found me attending Ney Junior High School — in the community I currently live in. I was excited about making it to the next level academically. I also discovered I could play sports other than baseball. I made the Ney seventh grade football team, and I planned to play basketball in the winter.
Two weeks into the school year, Dad came home and informed us that we were moving — immediately. No goodbyes to my friends, no promises of eternal love. The short, slight-of-weight redheaded boy who loved joking around was gone, never to be seen again in the halls of Ney Junior High.
Our new destination? Deshler, forty miles south and east of Ney. Dad rented a house on North Park Street. He was a district sales manager for Combined Insurance. I, once again, made new friends. We would live in Deshler all of nine months, moving twenty-six miles down the road to Findlay after school was out for the year.
While living in Deshler, I delivered newspapers for the Findlay Republican-Courier. The Republican-Courier was a morning newspaper, so I delivered my route each day before school. This was in the days before parents shuttled their children around for their paper routes. I got up early every morning, rolled my papers, put them in my bag, and rode my bike delivering the daily paper to my customers (back in a day when older customers were already up and waiting for their paper to arrive).
Neither of my parents provided me any guidance about the newspaper business. I opened a checking account at the Corn City Bank, which later proved to be a really bad idea. What could go wrong, right? No one, and I mean no one, questioned a twelve-year-old boy writing checks at local businesses. During Christmas that year, I went to the local drug store and bought myself a gift — a twenty-four bar box of Clark candy bars (still my favorite candy bar and impossible to find today).
I started hanging out at the local pool hall so I could play the hall’s pinball machines. I quickly became addicted to playing pinball. When I needed more cash to play the machines, I would write a check to the pool hall — say for $5. I soon had a cash flow problem, spending money that should have gone to pay my newspaper bill on flipping steel balls from bumper to bumper, hoping to rack up a big enough score to get a free game or three.
After a month or so of decadent, “sinful” behavior, the newspaper’s district manager contacted my dad about my unpaid bill (and the papers I stopped delivering). The newspaper took the route away from me, expecting dad to pay my bill. Instead, Dad went up to the pool hall and demanded the owner pay my debt. When the owner balked, Dad reminded him that it was illegal in the state of Ohio for minors to frequent pool halls. The owner quickly saw the light and gave my dad the money I had spent at the hall. Knowing my dad as I do, to this day I wonder if the money made it to the Republican-Courier. My gut tells me that my bill is still outstanding.
Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.
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