December 31, 2020 By Floyd Gripman


We had a “private line.” All of my friends had to wait till their neighbors finished talking to be able to make a phone call on their “party line.” We could pick up our phone at any time, call Mabel and ask her to “connect us” to Myrtle or John or even a long- distance call to the Montgomery Ward’s store in Coldwater six miles away.

Our neighbors across the Detroit to Chicago Highway were the first people we knew that had a television. We were in awe and my brother and I spent most of our Saturday mornings watching cartoons on the 12-inch screen.

My father was a truck driver for Commercial Carriers, which hauled Chevrolets in trailers, four at a time, from Detroit to dealerships in the Midwest. I remember how amazed he was when he saw a truck hauling five cars at once and how he disliked having to join a union headed by a fellow named Jimmy Hoffa. My friend Jon worked at the Quincy Ice Company, which also sold beer and kerosene for heating and was a full-service gas station. Pretty much everyone within a 20-mile radius went there at least once a week. Jon knew everyone and was often the first to hear about “Hot Deals.” In our junior year, Jon was the first to hear that “Old Man Thompson” was selling his 1932 Chrysler Lightning 66. Jon seized the opportunity and worked on the car during slow times at the gas station for about a month to make it roadworthy again. He succeeded but it still had one small glitch. The ignition switch never worked. The only way to turn the engine off was to idle the car’s spring steel front bumper uphill to a solid oak tree and stall the engine. It had to be uphill so you could roll the car back away from the tree with enough space to crank it to get it started again.

I’m not sure why, but in high school I took a typing class. Remember typewriters? In December, the teacher put a poster with a Christmas tree on it on the bulletin board. Each week we took a typing speed test, and an ornament was taped to the tree based on speed. The person that typed the most words per minute got a ball at the top of the tree and slower typists were relegated to lower limbs. My ball was on the stump.

I transferred to Michigan State University for my junior year of college. I lived off campus and discovered a great place to eat where you could get  a “three-course meal” — a hamburger, French fries and a small Coke for 35 cents. The place was called McDonalds.


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