'Tavistock-Small Town Saturday Night'
THE HOUSE IN TAVISTOCK WHERE I LIVED DURING THE ‘SMALL TOWN SATURDAY NIGHTS’ ERAIt was back in the late 50's & very early 60's that I was living in the little farming community village of Tavistock Ontario Canada & times were a whole lot different from the way they are now. Especially on Saturday nights because that's when the farm guys rolled into town. Kind of like the old west when the cattlemen would ride into town on a Saturday night, hit the saloons & shoot up the bars.
Tavistock at the time had a population of around 1200 people with 3 grocery stores, a drug store where the Greyhound bus even stopped at, 4 gas stations, couple hardware stores, a bank, 2 butcher shops, 2 bakeshops, a clothing store, a local newspaper, plus an assortment of other little shops & businesses. The local restaurant & hang out was called Joe's Place & the 2 big booming hotels were called the Arlington & the Oxford. It was the Arlington & the Oxford hotels that mainly contributed to the exciting & wild side of Tavy Town’s Saturday nights.
It was a different world then with different ideals, ideas, morals, & ways of doing things. By late Saturday afternoon the local farmers, having finished up in the fields & barns climbed into the tub for the Saturday night special, shined up their best boots, & slipped into their best Wrangler jeans. With a clean shirt & some extra bucks in their pockets, they loaded up the wife & kids in the car & headed into town for groceries, a stop at the hardware store, ice cream at Joes & a few beers at the Oxford.
Saturday nights were alive with people on the streets. Cars lined the curbs on both sides. Groups of people standing on sidewalks talking & laughing. Like I said, it was a different world. Joe's Place was the hub for everyone from kids to grandparents. A large squared-off horseshoe lunch counter with about 20 stools made for standing room only. Two bowling alleys in the back were action-packed with thundering bowling balls & flying pins. Four pool tables in an adjoining room were never vacant with all available chairs on the sideline filled. Hank Williams, Hank Snow, & Eddie Arnold boomed out of the old jukebox at Papa Joe's. Tavistock on a Saturday night was alive……..and then came the entertainment.
It was the young farm guys with their Dad's car or their own jazzed-up set of wheels that really livened things up. Early to mid-1950 Fords & Chevys were popular with the guys. These were hard-working kids who had spent the week out on the land in the hot sun, planting, plowing, digging & tending cattle. They were up at the crack of dawn doing chores & just getting themselves wound up tighter than hot snare drum at a Gene Kruppa concert. By the time Saturday night rolled around these guys were headed for town......... & boy were they ever!!
It was usually the shrill sound of squealing car tires that first brought heads around to the fact that another action-packed Saturday night was underway. Late 40's & early 50's flat head Fords were popular as were the Chevy's & Dodges. Fender skirts, moons, wheel spinners, dice on the mirrors, whatever these farm kids could fancy up their cars with they did. Patsy Cline, Johnny Horton & Marty Robbins boomed out of their big single bass dash speaker car radios. The beer was in the trunk, the girls were in the passenger seats, & the cars were layin rubber up & down the main street. Like so many other small towns on a Saturday night in those days…….Tavistock was alive!!
I was too young for a driver's license then & alcohol was hardly even a thought in my mind yet as I watched all the shenanigans from the sidelines. Four main roads & a street all converged in the center of town so all the cars racing around had to pass through that single Octopus-like intersection over & over. On the south side of the street on one corner was an old store called Pepplars that had long since gone out of business. This was a favorite spot for my young friends & myself to sit & watch the goings on. From here we could keep an eye on both hotels & instantly spot the fights as they broke out later in the evening. Occasionally one of us would walk up the street to Joe's Place to bring some pop back for everybody but I hated doing that because of the farm guys hanging around the doorway at Papa Joe's.
I was afraid of these guys because some of them were always spoiling for a fight. They were bigger, stronger, & older. With a few beers or a quick coke under their belts, they were looking to make a name for themselves by pounding out some of Tavy’s town kids. I got pushed around a few times & knocked to the sidewalk once so I had a dislike for some of these farm guys & their dorky hayseed country music but I sure envied them roaring around town in their souped-up cars. With big rumbling dual exhausts, windshield visors, wide whitewall tires, sexy looking girls, cigarettes in their mouths, sunglasses & long red scarves on the mirrors, these guys were cool. And seemingly no fear of authority whatsoever. They were the Blums, the Zehrs, Ramsyers, Rubys, the Benders, Baechlers, the Schmidts, & many more. They were our farming community. They were our young Saturday night half-bad buckaroos.
The only authority in town at the time was an aging retired Ontario Provincial Police officer with a black 1960 Dodge car & flashing red light. His name was Peter Grant but we all called him Peter Gunn. He was a good man & did his best to rein in the young bucks but there were just too many for him. By the time he got to where the squealing tires were another fight had broken out in one of the hotels & by the time he got that under control in one hotel parking lot there were squealing tires & dust flying back over at the other hotel. Yep, it was Saturday night in a small Ontario town about 50 years ago & I was there as Jim Reeves, Frankie Laine, & Johnny Cash laid down the treasury of memories that I would learn to love so much many, many, years later:))
Tom is applying for a job as a signalman for the local railroad and is told to meet the inspector at the signal box. The inspector decides to give Tom a pop quiz, asking: "What would you do if you realized that two trains were heading towards each other on the same track?" Tom says: "I would switch one train to another track.""What if the lever broke?" asks the inspector.
"Then I'd run down to the tracks and use the manual lever down there," answers Tom.
"What if that had been struck by lightning?" challenges the inspector.
"Then," Tom continued, "I'd run back up here and use the phone to call the next signal box."
"What if the phone was busy?"
"In that case," Tom argued, "I'd run to the street level and use the public phone near the station."
"What if that had been vandalized?"
"Oh well," said Tom, "in that case I would run into town and get my Uncle Leo.
This puzzled the inspector, so he asked "Why would you do that?"
"Because he's never seen a train wreck."
The pastor was greeting folks at the door after the service. A woman said, “Father, that was a good sermon.”The priest replied, “Oh, I have to give the credit to the Holy Spirit.”
“It wasn’t THAT good!” she said.