Early memories of Waterford

“Imagine over one hundred sheep at a time running down Main Street,” Jerry Drake recently recalled when interviewed about his memories of Waterford during the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. Each farmer painted a different colored mark on their sheep, which was the way they showed ownership. Jerry recalled traveling up or down Main Street and being forced to yield the right of way to the sheep. “They would run astray into the yards, twist and turn, and then run in another direction,” he recalled. Since there was no bypass back then, the farmers would drive their sheep down Main Street, under the trestle, and at the Beverly-Waterford bridge turn up the street to a holding pen near Waterford Cemetery. The pen was directly across the road from the old Elston Lumber Company (now Randy and Mabel Townsend’s Air Heater Seal Company). The loading chutes butted up against the railroad track, which was the means of transporting sheep, cattle and pigs to market so the farmers got money for them. This writer has heard this enterprise called a stockyard, but Jerry laughed at this. “It was a small holding pen with a loading chute,” he explained. If anyone has a picture of this pen, the Oliver Tucker Museum in Beverly would like to have a copy.

Gerald “Jerry” Drake was born at Beckett in 1924, son of Chester Drake and Ida Roberts Drake (Davis). They moved to Waterford about 1929 and lived in a house on Salem Road (now Waterford Road or County Road 4). Jerry called it “living on the square.”

Jerry remembered all the businesses in downtown Waterford during the late 1930’s. He named, starting from the river on the east side of Main Street, Ray Leget’s Barber Shop, Florence “Ma” Pattin’s Restaurant (“beer joint”), Clarence Palmer’s Dry Goods and George and Ethel Quimby’s Restaurant (both in the Keith Building), Mason’s Hardware, Leroy Crook’s Barber Shop, The Waterford Commercial and Savings Bank, Post Office, Roy Sprague’s Groceries (later Cody Dixon’s) and Dillehay’s Hardware. The Keith Building (now Jukebox Pizza) was owned by Katie Keith, who lived upstairs. Near the bridge on the other side of the street was a blacksmith’s shop (now apartments) and Ozzie Vaughn’s (later Stout’s) Store. Jerry said, “When the blacksmith had a contrary horse, he put a belt around the belly and hoisted it up. It made it easier because the horse couldn’t get any traction.” Later, probably when Cody Dixon bought out the Fred Ullman heirs, Charles Leroy Sprague moved his store to the old blacksmith shop.

Jerry said Leroy Crooks cut his hair for twenty-five cents. “Crooksie” cut this writer’s hair for fifty cents in the late 1960’s. Apparently he hummed while he cut hair throughout his career. Jerry smiled as he said, “He rigged up this stool that fastened to the barber chair. He could sit in it and rotate around as he cut the hair.” That stool was still going in the 1970’s.

After leaving downtown Waterford, there was Styer’s Filling Station. Henry Styer was the father, but sons Harold “Robin” and Norm were usually present. Gasoline was nineteen cents a gallon! “They even sold cars,” Jerry remembered. At first they sold Durant cars, but later they had the Dodge-Plymouth agency. The station was on a hill at the end of a turn and the pumps were very close to Main Street. There wasn’t much excitement in Waterford until someone drove over the gas pumps. After the bypass around Waterford was completed in 1963, the filling station soon closed. Today Rodney Huck operates his construction business from the buildings that were once the filling station.

From age five or six, Jerry had a paper route during the 1930’s and early 40’s. He delivered The Columbus Dispatch. The daily paper was two cents and the Sunday edition was ten cents. He always delivered on foot, covering all parts of Waterford and as far out Watertown Road as Walter Bingham’s across from what is now Turner’s One Stop. He picked the papers up in Beverly at O. C. Henry’s Restaurant or Parker’s Drug Store. During the 1938 flood the ramp to the Beverly-Waterford bridge at the end of Ferry Street was flooded. Once he crossed the bridge from Waterford and in the return trip with his papers, someone in a small john boat hauled him across the flooded area. Saturday was always collection day. “I knew just about everybody in town,” he recalled.

The Beverly-Waterford bridge was an essential part of his life. He remembers walking with Leo Vonderau, the pharmacist at Parker’s Drug Store. “He walked the bridge morning, noon and night for many years. No one could have possibly walked the bridge more times than Leo did,” Jerry said. The bridge tender was Jacob F. Malone. “There wasn’t much river traffic by this time; maybe an occasional gravel boat,” he said.

Both Waterford and Beverly were Saturday night towns. Things were business as usual most of the time, but on Saturday night the streets were full of people. In Beverly the big draw was Dixon’s Theater. On Saturday you could see a double feature for twenty-five cents.

When Jerry visits Waterford now (over seventy-five years later), he quickly notices that all the beautiful maple trees along Main Street are gone.

Phillip L. Crane, a Waterford resident and Marietta history teacher for 32 years, will share stories of historical events in the Lower Muskingum Valley.