My Hometown

16 05 2012

Friends and neighbors, I come before you today proclaiming the undeniable fact that I am privileged to hail from the most excellent, most preeminent community set forth on this continent and I am sure, without argument, the planet! What?!!  You don’t believe me?!  Okay, then I’ll just have to prove this fact so that we all might be unified in the truth of what I am stating!

Fremont, Ohiois my hometown and it is rich in its heritage and its place in American History.  One of the greatest battles of War of 1812 was fought there where a division of American soldiers stationed at Fort Stephenson fought off an assault of British soldiers and Indians whose numbers were overwhelming compared to the Americans troops, and did it using only one cannon.  A song was written about that battle and sang by one time “Superstar Performer” Burl Ives; how bout that?!!!  Okay, that’s just the tip of the iceberg, did you know that Fremontwas the home to Rutherford B. Hayes, 19th president of the United States and the 1st elected to the office of president after losing the popularity vote in the election, but capturing the majority of the electoral votes.  (And here I bet many of you thought that George Bush held that title!)  We have two men who were awarded the highest honor given in the U.S., the Medal of Honor.  One of them, Roger Young, even has a park (a place as a youth I spent many summers going to the swimming pool and dances in the parking lot) named after him there in Fremont.  Adding to the “Who’s Who” list of notables from Fair, Fabulous, Fremont there’s Walter Nickel, a pioneer in the field of dermatopathology (How’s that for an 8 cylinder word?!), Paul Dietzel, noted college coach during the 50s, 60s, and 70s, three notables played professional football, Rob Lytle, Bob Brudzinski and Charles Woodson, who also won the coveted Heisman Trophy during his college days.  I’m blowing you away with all this incredible info, right?  No?!  Then I’ll keep going.  How many own a Gazelle?  I’m not talking about the animal (which if you do have one that’s pretty cool!); I’m talking about the fitness machine developed and marketed my that blond haired, muscle bound overly loud and excitable Tony Little.  Guess what?   Another Fremont boy.  There’s a gal known to the world as Cindy Jackson who had a dream that took her to England where she sought a way to enhance and preserve beauty.  Today she is not only incredibly beautiful, she’s seen as one of the world leaders in the understanding and application of cosmetic surgery.  You got it, another Fremonter!  And where would the world be today in the arena of Ultimate Fighting if it wasn’t for the contribution of the very 1st world heavyweight champion, mixed martial artist Mark Coleman.  Let’s hear it for another one of Fremont’s Finest?!  There are still a good number of others who have experienced their “15 Minutes of Fame” as Andy Warhol referred to it, (I’d like to be counted in this group, but I still got 13 minutes and 45 seconds to go!) that I haven’t mentioned, but I think I’ve made my point that’s there’s no place above Fremont. “WHAT DA YA MEAN NO?!!!!”  Alright, stand back, I’m bringing out the heavy artillery! Did you know that in the spring you’ll find no better walleye and white bass fishing than right there inFremont on theSanduskyRiver, and if that’s not enough, you’re less than 10 miles fromLake Erie, theCaribbean of theGreat Lakes.  One of the best dirt race tracks inOhio is right there inFremont that attracts top names in “Outlaw” racing.  One of the finest county fairs is right there featuring top name performers in country or rock playing in the grandstands each year. If you’re one of those types that yearn for the feel of a large city occasionally, have no fear;Toledo,Cleveland andDetroit are within shouting distance.  For dining out, you’ll find no better selections of restaurants anywhere.  Why in their day, places like Behrens store, where you could get the best homemade ice-cream ever, or Rudy’s, known for its famous burgers were synonymous as great dining delicacies.  If you’re looking for some place warm and cozy, hey, gotta be Whitey’s!  Something to do all the time, incredible place, incredible people!  Now then, without any further ado, can we finally agree that I have made my case, solidly, that there is no better place to live or to be from thanFremont?  Wow, sure is quiet out there.  I’m sensing that there are ones that don’t share my belief in the #1 ranking I’ve given my hometown.  Could this be cynicism, possibly a rejection of all the facts presented; or is this just an overwhelming outpouring of common sense that can be summed up, “Miller, your home sounds nice and all, but get real; it’s no different than 10,000 other small towns across the country!”  Is that what you’re thinking? Well, Guess WHAT?!!! You’re right.  🙂   

When you finally go back to your hometown, you find it wasn’t the old home you missed, but your childhood.

The house I grew up in is now run down.  Behren’s Store and Rudy’s Restaurant have been gone for years, as well as many other establishments I remembered as a kid.  If I wanted to move back there, I wouldn’t know where to find a job. Like so many other towns,Fremonthas lost its share of industry and work.  My Lady and I have no family there anymore so whenever we visit we stay in a hotel.  With the exception of a few friends that still reside there; I actually have no attachment there at all.  So why bother going back there, or even talking about how special a place it is?  One reason; its home.

I wasn’t born in Fremont, but the majority of my early childhood memories encompass this, not so special place to most of the world.  Sure, the old town has changed, but I think change can be a matter of perspective or what you see. Whenever I go home I take time to just drive around, look, and listen.  I see the old neighborhood with all the kids that were my 1st friends.  I hear the laughter and yelling, sometimes in joy, sometimes not; but always back the next day to resume play.  I see the old East Side Fire Station and the playground next to it where a million hours were spent during my youth in revelry and fun.  I pass the parking lot where one boy is teaching another how to ride a bike because he never had anyone show him; and then a year later also teaches him to ride a unicycle (BTW, I was the student in both those episodes.)  I see Tony’s Bakery where my mom worked and she would come out on the loading docks on her break and I would ride my bike over to see her.  There’s Union Carbide; my Great-Aunt Pearl is leaning out an upstairs window to wave hello to me.  Why over there is the fairgrounds where we would go to dances held in one of the large buildings. When the fair came to town there was a place covered by weeds and trees that made it easy to climb the fence and sneak in (Ripped more that one pair of jeans doing that!).  I see a young junior-high couple and the place where a boy received his 1st kiss, and also the place where that same lad kissed his last girlfriend, for she would become Mrs. Miller.  Then there are the schools, where every emotion in the body would be tested to the fullest.  Fear, anxiety, confusion, anger, jealousy, a sense of loss; also, there was joy, comfort, happiness, a sense of accomplishment and belonging.  They all raised their head at one point or another for each and every one of us.  The drive-in, one of my 1st jobs, is gone now but there I am, making popcorn as fast as I can before intermission; afterwards its cleanup the snack bar and then out to hang with friends till dawn.  Of course, no memory is complete without all the garage bands I played in, each with a dream of stardom; and if not that, at least playing gigs playing at the Y or CYO to make a few bucks.  Listen carefully and you can hear the roar from the crowd at the football game, or the revving of high performance motors at the dirt track.  Driving east on State Street, we turn around at A&W Root Beer Stand, back across town, like the old cruising days, and passing where West End Root Beer Stand used to be; finally closing the book on this chapter of reliving “Memory Lane,” and heading to where now, home is.  Someone just said, “Yep, that’s oldFremont,” or maybe “Hey, that’s my hometown he’s talking about!”

When I leftFremontit was, truly, the best thing I could do.  I needed to make a fresh start, somewhere to grow mentally, emotionally, and in my case, spiritually away from the “MotherLand” so to speak.  July will mark 38 years since we left our past behind and ventured out to a new home, a new life, with no regrets for it was the best thing for us to do.  But in recent years I’ve given thought to my early days, how I looked at life then, how I see it now.  Matter of fact, I had lots of help with this story from other former Fremonters.  I posted on Facebook, on a blog reserved for people from the old hometown, posing several questions pertaining to matters of when someone might have leftFremont, did they stay gone or did they return, and was it a good move for them.  I was pleasantly surprised to see how many folks responded with most of the answers being quite diverse but enjoyable to read.  One of the most interesting facts that came out of this was not even posed as a question, it was a common thread the majority chose to attest to without any urging; “No matter where I am, no matter how long I’ve been gone, Fremont, will always be home.”  Each one of our hometowns is just that, home, base, that starting point that stays with us all our lives.  It helps define us, gives us a place to draw upon stories and experiences that often shaped some of the ways we approach situations in today’s world.  It’s where we first understood the meaning of friends, family, belonging; some of us having large quantities of people and memories to draw from, while others less, but still, each and everyone of us has something, somebody, from the old homestead that brings a smile to our face, perhaps even a tear as they drift back and ponder that precious moment, that precious person, from home.  That’s happening to me right now as I pound out these words.  To mom,Pearl, Dot, Billy, David, Lynn, Debbie,Lena, Pam, Gary, Karen, a whole host of others, and of course, the Chapel Gang!!!  My my, what special people you were, and are, to the Gray One!  🙂

This is your home, these are your memories; if there are some bad ones, take and use them as learning tools.  As for the good ones, cherish them deeply, I have no doubt someone is cherishing a memory of home, with you in the picture.

This is longer than I usually post so let me close with this thought.  It is this man’s opinion your home, your identity to a place, a people, is valued and important; but there will come a moment in time when a new home will be looming on the horizon, that home will be for eternity.  Please give thought to a place that is offered free to all who will enter.  Guarantee it will be the best Hometown ever!  John 14:1-3

I love where I’m from!  I love where I’m at!  I “LOVE” where I’m headed next!!! 🙂


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