I grew up in the small town of Medway, Ohio during the 1950s and 60s. Unlike so many stories of children feeling deprived of the civilities of city life and bolting as soon as they turned eighteen, I loved small-town life. Only for a short year just after college did I live anywhere except Medway. I loved knowing the neighbors and being able to smile and say hi to just about anyone walking down the street.
I loved living close to my maternal grandmother and paternal grandfather. Having grandparents who were known in the community gave me an in when it came to conversations. Yes, children growing up in a small community back then learned early on to have conversations with young and old.
We learned how to listen. We learned how to imitate those taking a lead, mastering a skill, and doing well in jobs and school. We were encouraged by family and the community as a whole to reject unsavory elements of society including drugs, immoral behavior, and rowdy actions that could bring negative results.
We could see where our food came from. Eggs from the Sheehan farm on Gerlaugh Road, asparagus from the Bezonas on East Main Street, fruit from the big walk-in cooler in the barn at Styers on the corner of Gerlaugh and Lake, black raspberries from wild vines picked by Mr. Grimm up on Route 40.
Riding our bikes everywhere, we spent lazy summer days fishing over at Crystal Lakes. We passed Notter’s Market on Lakeshore Road to pick chips and a pop. We used bread for bait. Small country bluegill love white bread squished up into little balls. I was the designated fish cleaner—a handy skill that most girls in big towns and cities never came close to mastering.
We knew the names of all the neighbors. We were never afraid to ask for help from them or deliver something Mom had baked to someone’s door. From the Cresses next door to us when we lived in the big double house on West Main, to the Brambles and Apels on either side of us at 106 East Main, to the Phillips, Styers, and Fogts, along with others back down West Main at 230; we knew our neighbors and everybody watched out for each other.
We could walk to Arnold’s Meat Market on the south side of Main and Spangler, or over to King’s Drug Store on the west corner. The post office was handy, as well as the dry cleaners.
Participating in the county fair was a special treat each summer. Swimming at the beach in Crystal Lakes and visiting the county library bookmobile that parked under the big shade tree once a week along the north side of Main were highlights as the summer months passed.
Even as life was centered in our home, our satellite office was Medway Elementary School back on Middle Street. We walked to school in our younger years, then walked there each school day to catch the buses to middle and high school.
Yes, I’m glad I grew up in Medway. Rather than being deprived of what city life might have dished out, Medway gave me everything I needed to be happy and safe, to have an interesting childhood. It's an ongoing education in life, in personal and community relationships, and encourages me to be the best I can be. It will always be my hometown.
Medway, Ohio celebrates its 200th anniversary this month.
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