Remembrances > Just Ruth - (My Father's Business - Part 3)
Just Ruth - (My Father's Business - Part 3)
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Riverdale Ghost
416 posts
Dec 08, 2013
7:00 AM
“When I add up a column of numbers, I start at the bottom and go up, then I go over it the other way, I start at the top and go down. If the total is the same both ways, it’s probably right. The numbers aren’t the same (in the same sequence) both ways.” …Said Ruth.

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While it’s a good bet that’s not an exact quote — Ruth said it about sixty years ago — it is close and it is what she meant. The statement was delivered in her usual certain but somewhat reluctant way of saying anything. After all, she was just a housewife, in a housedress … overweight … very close to old and trying to look as nice (and youngish) as possible … no kids, just well cared for pet cats…. Well, the method does work wonderfully, better than with a calculator unless you poke in the numbers twice (once each way). It was not a method taught by any mathematics teacher in supposedly “good schools,” although there is something fundamentally substantial to life in being sure numbers (such as in a check book) are right.

Continued below.
Riverdale Ghost
432 posts
Dec 08, 2013
8:35 AM
How Ruth became a regular customer is an unknown. The best guess is that at some point it was noted in passing that the store had changed hands (to us), and husband Mac had stopped in to explore the matter. Great Depression era people often had a “you don’t need that” outlook, and they didn’t own a car. Transportation was bus and taxi. Well, both the bus and the store were on North Main street. And, logically, at least some times if not all of the time Mac took the bus to work. His job was downtown; he got from home to desk in about twenty minutes and had no parking concerns. It would have been nothing much to go an extra stop or two to explore something he thought would be of value to them. So, thereupon there was the matter of the arithmetic … and Jane Eyre (maybe for another time) … and the pigeon ….

In the early 1950s Ruth already had difficulty in walking. She wanted choice meats and name brands, but she wanted delivery service as well. Delivery service was never intended to be an integral part of the business. Any appreciable amount of it takes time and most likely gasoline even if the customer isn’t the least bit picky. Given a location on a main drag, transient trade makes up for anything lost by not having an established, regular delivery service amid which policy there should always be room for exceptions. If a regular customer from the immediate neighborhood wasn’t well, yes, given some arrangements, a load of groceries (not stuff like cigarettes or even soft drinks) could be hauled within a couple of blocks’ radius.

Continued below.
Riverdale Ghost
433 posts
Dec 08, 2013
8:41 AM
Every once in a while there was a delivery needed up the street, down the street or maybe around the corner. It was usually short lived and often memorable, like the lady who was to the point of using a water distiller. That was deliveries of only a couple of times and then she didn’t call any more, and one day her house was gone and a newly built little commercial building was in it’s place. Selling that house for living space would have been difficult as not only was it old, but over the years traffic (noise) had increased considerably and North Main street itself was zoned business. It was a sad thing, but pretty much something that could be expected. Ruth and Mac lived on Riverside drive and neither was that sick.

Ruth was a customer for many years. On an average of twice a week an order made it’s way to the store one way or another. It was always written out on the two sides of a 3 x 5 card, and it might arrive via anything from Mac stopping to pay the bill to a neighborhood kid earning a quarter by running an errand. Ruth had ways and means down to an art. It seems like she said at one time that her father had been a dentist. If so, she had inherited such precision thinking, but she came from a time when women were expected to marry and run a house. She did. Several products were regular items and were stocked especially for her. The orders were always enough to fill a grocery cart. And, whoever delivered, which wasn’t anyone in particular, could pick up some of her practical knowledge.

Continued below.
Riverdale Ghost
435 posts
Dec 08, 2013
8:46 AM
The house suited Ruth and Mac. They could see fireworks at Island park with no trouble. And, at any time they had a view of the Stillwater river as well as the parkland to the east. The house was probably paid for many years. As they were graying already in the 1950s, they were probably near to turn of the century born, with one of them at least possibly from the East End as Ruth once mentioned something about the Steele-Stivers competition. It wasn’t polite to ask a bunch of personal questions, so none were usually asked. Information was volunteered in friendly conversation. They could probably have easily lived somewhere else. Mac had a responsible job.

The Pigeon

It was with a certain amount of clumsiness that my father, the head of the house, made his way in through the kitchen door, to the point where the lady of the house at the stove did more than simply glance back at the noise. After a good look she asked, “What’s that?”

“A pigeon. It’s got a broken wing or something.”

“What are you going to do with it?”

“Put it in a box.”

Continued below.
Riverdale Ghost
436 posts
Dec 08, 2013
8:49 AM
“Then what? You can’t keep it here.” Short pause for thoughts. It wasn’t that mother did not have a liking for animals, especially birds. It was the realization that they took care even if not injured, and there wasn’t much opportunity for such care if essentials like running the store were in the picture. Distasteful as the idea was, since the pigeon was a wild animal the code of the wild could prevail. Even if it could be caught, the thing to have done would have been to leave it where it fell. She didn’t really like the idea, but one has to be realistic about priorities and what all one can do with some degree of effectiveness.

Well, pigeons, for some reason (maybe racing since there’s not much there to eat), were a part of my father’s childhood. The family had pigeons. Indeed, in his fond memories, although the great 1913 flood visited the house and the people escaped, they couldn’t take the pigeons which survived anyway because they were housed high enough to escape the floodwaters. This was a matter beyond his fundamental inclination to help anything (or anyone) immediately around that needed help. He not only liked animals, it was a little living thing he was taught to care for as a child. My father was generally agreeable to anything someone wanted as long as it was of itself a good thing, but at times he would have things his way.

Continued below.
Riverdale Ghost
438 posts
Dec 08, 2013
8:59 AM
“…Take it to Ruth,” he said perhaps a bit defiantly to his beloved wife of more than a quarter of a century.

“Ruth?! She’s got three cats!” (Sometimes it was four cats.)

“She’ll figure out something.” Next step, the pigeon went to Ruth’s, most likely with some bird seed.

Time passed. Mac came by to pay the bill. The bird was okay, and they figured out to keep it in their bedroom. More time passed. Little mother one day absently wondered some more about the bird. It had been a while and Ruth still sometimes ordered suet as well as bird seed. It would have been a good idea to send some free bird seed.

“Well, the next time I go down there I’ll ask if they still have it.”

Continued below.
Riverdale Ghost
439 posts
Dec 08, 2013
9:02 AM
“The pigeon?” Ruth asked in surprise. “We set it loose. It was able to fly.” She paused rather happily as well satisfied thought crossed her mind…. “When you dad brought it, he brought it in a box. We put it in the bathroom until we could do something else. That has a door. We took it to the vet and he said the wing wasn’t broken. It looked like it had been shot with a BB or something. He fixed it up some and gave us some stuff for it. We brought it back and decided to keep it in the bedroom until the wing healed. We put up a screen door to the bedroom. That kept the cats out. The wing healed, but it still couldn’t fly, so we taught it to fly again by tossing it to each other over the bed. That way if it fell it didn’t get hurt. When it seemed like it could fly, like fly around the room, we turned it loose. It’s outside somewhere, maybe close. I put out bird seed and suet for all the birds. You really aren’t supposed to keep wild creatures.”

“I’ll tell her.”

Continued below.
Riverdale Ghost
440 posts
Dec 08, 2013
9:06 AM
And, as for a young hood with the BB gun, well, he was on top of the hill a half of a mile away.

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“Do you deliver?”

No.

The last store had one regular delivery, that’s all, just one, Ruth. At one time or another it led to the unusual. To this day yours truly adds up a column of numbers twice, once starting from the bottom and once starting from the top. if the total is the same, it’s probably correct.

End of tale.
Riverdale Ghost
544 posts
May 17, 2015
4:48 AM
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"My Father's Business" has also been posted in a WordPress Blog under that title. Given a chance, more will be published there.


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