Officer Smokey

23 08 2020

Back in the 1960s if you lived in Fremont Ohio and didn’t know anyone on the police Phil Smokeyforce except one, it would the same officer; everyone knew Phill Huss. Phil was not only a police officer; he was the city detective and juvenile delinquent officer. And if for some reason you didn’t know Officer Phil, anyone in the whole city from ages 3 to 93 knew Smokey the Clown. This was Phil’s alter ego. Dressed in hobo rags, a well-worn derby, large red nose, and over exaggerated makeup, Smokey would be seen at many city functions especially parades where he would tool up and down the street on his minibike stopping occasionally to put a small child on the back and  give them ride with him. Yeah Phil was a great guy known to all and liked by most. I met him when he stopped by our house on Howland there in Fremont shortly after we moved in and started remodeling. He liked my Great Aunt Pearl and Price and often you’d find him sitting on the front porch spending a little time talking. He knew Ma and me also, and he knew she was a single parent trying to do the best she could raising me. He promised he would look out for me. I guess I thought that was nice, that is until I came to realize what he meant by watching out for me.

I don’t know how he did it and truthfully I didn’t like it, but it seemed like if I got into any bit of trouble old Phil would be there like he was watching from around the corner or behind a house! And if I did get away with something, he’d be at the house the next day or so talking to me about whatever I got into. Phil would give me a very harsh talking to, mostly to scare me, which he did; but then he would do something nice like take me to lunch or get me into the fair or races for free. I appreciated all he was doing, but being young only meant I’d get into some mischief again. One late night I got into a situation that was more than mischief, it was criminal.

It’s not worth going into what I did, but I can still remember the police cars and their flashing lights all around me and the others with me. I remember how cold the handcuffs felt against my wrists and being put in the back of a squad car. And I’ll never forget being taken to the station where they put us in a jailcell that smelled terrible and closed that heavy door behind us. If ever there was a time I wished I was dead, it was then. I didn’t want to face Ma and Pearl; I know how brokenhearted they would be over my stupid stunt. But worse than that I knew there was another person I was going to have to stand in front and give an explanation, and it wasn’t going to be pretty. Phil!

I was released the next morning to Ma, but not before Phil talked to me and he made it clear I better tell him the truth; I was too afraid not to. This time I knew I had blown it big time and I could be looking at some time in a juvenile delinquent center. For the next week, very little was said on the topic. I was to go to school and then straight home and nowhere else. Ma was on the phone several times, but she wouldn’t tell me what it was about. I had a bad feeling I knew what it was about anyway. The next week Phil showed up at school to talk to me in a private office. He was right to the point. “You come to my office every Monday after school and tell me about what you have been doing. You are not to go anywhere unless you talk to me first and you better be where you say you’re at.” I asked “How long do I have to do this?” “As long as I tell you to do it!” He bellowed. Works for me!

I didn’t know it then, but later found out Phil pulled a lot of strings to keep me from having a record and being sent off. I’m sure he did it mostly for Ma knowing how hard it would be on her. So, for a good time after that we’d have a sit down at his office. I thought I was there to tell him what I was doing each week, but the time was spent mostly with him lecturing me on life and growing up right. I’m sure I found most of it boring, but his words on our last day together still ring in my ears. “Johnny, you have the chance to grow into a good man. Don’t disappoint me.” I was going to do everything I could to heed those words, but I was angry when I left his office. Who did he think he was telling me how to live my life? I didn’t have to listen to him, after all he wasn’t my dad and I didn’t even see him as a friend. He was just a cop!

What started me thinking and then writing about Phil is when I came across this quote, “Some people appear in your life when you need them most. They love you & lift you up, reminding you of the best, even when you’re going through the worst. These people are not just friends, they are Earth angels.” That got me thinking on all the times he seemed to show out of nowhere to keep me from trouble. And the one time I did get into a bad fix, Old Officer Smokey to the rescue. God had a plan for me and He sent Phil to help me over a few rough places. The anger I once felt was replaced with adoration and respect for what this man did for me. I wished I had told him that, but the years had rolled on and I was now living in Indiana so I figured I would never get the chance to thank Phil. But you know God has a way of making good things happen.

I’m not sure the date, somewhere around the late 80s/early 90s. I was back in Fremont for a short visit and downtown with my three kids who were young at that time. I happened to notice this old parking meter officer sitting in a Cushman writing something. I stared at him until he looked my way. “Phil?” He got out and walked over to us with a bit of confusion written across his face. “I’m Johnny Miller; do you remember me?” Now he was smiling. “Johnny my goodness it’s been a lot of years. how are you?” I didn’t answer his question, I had something else in mind. Looking down at my children, I said to them, “I want you all to give this man a big hug; for if it hadn’t been for him your dad wouldn’t be the man he is today.” There were tears in old Phil’s eyes as each took their turn giving him a big. “Johnny, you just made my day. Thank you.” I responded “Phil, you helped make my life. Thank you!”

God knew I was going to need a lot of help in “Traveling the Rock Road.” Some like my Lady were meant to be there for the long haul. But ones like my dear friend I lovingly call “Officer Smokey” were sent to help me in the places were the road was rough and they lent a hand, or in Phil’s case, a boot to get me in the direction I needed to go. He could have just done his job as a police officer and nothing more, but he acted as a friend and even a mentor. I’m reminded of the scripture from Philippians 2:4, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  I found another saying that expresses how I feel about this man.

“God doesn’t want us to be alone in our journey. He sends us the right people at exactly the time we need them most and uses them to carry out His purpose in our lives.”

Thank you, Lord, for sending Officer Smokey at the times you knew I needed him in my life.

Fremont, you are truly blessed to have had this Man of Honor as part as of your community and legacy.

R.I.P. Phil

See ya next time.


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12 responses

24 08 2020
zelmare

Oh wow, lucky you! Fabulous to have had someone like that look out for you, and the best is that you realized it. Lovely story. 🙂

24 08 2020
rockroad

Thank you for your kind words.
Blessings to you and your loved ones.
John

24 08 2020
Kimberly S Holman

Good memories!

24 08 2020
rockroad

Thank you Lady K.
Hope you and Steve are having an awesome day.

24 08 2020
rockroad

Thank you Lady K!
Hope you and Steve are having an awesome day.
John

24 08 2020
Beverly Crane

My heart goes out to people that never have a Phil in their lives. You are blessed John.

24 08 2020
rockroad

So true. Again thank you for your kind words.
John

24 08 2020
larry & Linda Smith

We butted heads a couple of times. All cop; all man.

26 08 2020
rockroad

Yeah, I imagine there were quite a few us that did that with old Phil.
Blessings to you and your loved ones.

John

24 08 2020
Larry Smith

we butted heads a few times. All cop;all man.

25 08 2020
Awilda Robles

What an awesome story. Fremont was a great town to be raised in. We were blessed to live there. I left in 1959, and have visited on several occasions.

26 08 2020
rockroad

Good Morning Awilda,
Several from the Robles family were dear childhood friends of mine when I came to Fremont in 1960, Particularly Damaris and Dinah. I then left in 1974, but still have precious memories of our beloved Fremont.
Blessings to you and your loved ones.

John

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