Wednesday, October 9, 2013

It Started In The Tire Store: How A Smell Brought Back A Flood Of Memories

I don't know how YOU are spending a sunny, gorgeous, October afternoon, but I'm spending it sitting in the waiting room of the tire store, waiting for two new tires to be installed on my car. BEAT THAT!

Fox News is playing on the television in the corner, with no remote in sight. My ears are beginning to bleed.

The smell of the inside of the tire store reminds me of my dad's farm supply store, which he closed two years ago (sniff sniff). When I was a little girl, and the store belonged to my grandpa, he sold tires. And we're talking farm tires, here. Tractor tires. Truck tires. And they were stored against a wall in the back of the store, lined up into a tunnel. See where I'm going here? A TUNNEL. Perfect for crawling through, completely black inside. And when you came out of the other end of the tunnel, your hands and knees and pretty much every other part of your clothing and exposed skin were black as well. Good times! My mom LOVED it when we visited the store.

Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle David, ca. 1972

We (my brother, my adopted uncle who was [well, still is] the same age as me, sometimes my cousins Greg and Cynthia) also used to take turns pushing each other on two-wheelers (or dollies, or handtrucks, or whatever you choose to call them in your neck of the woods) up and down the aisles at break-neck speeds.

Think heavier and more

Did I mention that we did all these shenanigans on a Sunday afternoon when the store was closed? No customers were ever at risk. But every time we went to visit my grandparents (it was about a two-hour drive from our home and always on a Sunday, since that was the only day of the week my grandparents weren't working), we insisted on a trip to "the store." 

This is Snoopy. I love him still.
Besides farm supplies and hardware, my grandpa had a smattering of toys for sale, mostly around Christmas. One year, after opening gifts at their house, my grandpa took us to the store and told us we could each pick out a toy. My cousin Cynthia picked out a stuffed dog that had long, luxurious fur and came with a little brush for grooming. It was DARLING, and I wanted one just like it. Alas, it was the only one, and I was inconsolable. There was another stuffed dog there, a basset hound-ish dog with sad eyes, that my dad tried to convince me was JUST AS GOOD as the one Cynthia snatched from my hands beat me to fair and square, but I wasn't having it. After what I'm SURE was not any kind of over-reaction on my part, I sullenly took the stupid stuffed hound dog.  On our way home that evening, the ugly dog was on the car seat between me and my brother. It looked at me with its sad, hound dog eyes. I ignored it. My mother told me to quit pouting or she'd give me something to pout about. My brother said, "If she doesn't want it, can I have it?" That was it. I pulled the dog onto my lap. He was squeezably soft. If I picked him up and hugged him, his chin went over my shoulder and his legs hugged me back. And his name is Snoopy and he's in my cedar chest right now and he lived on my bed for many, many years, even accompanying me to get my tonsils out (read about that fiasco here) and I-told-you-so's are NOT NECESSARY.

Baby Small Talk
Had. To. Have. Her.
The next Christmas, we again got to pick out a toy at "the store," only I specifically remember being given the parameter that it was $5 or less (hey, it was 1968, and that was a LOT of money, you young whippersnappers reading this). I wanted a Mattel Baby Small Talk that was on the shelf, but it was more than $5. I was (believe it or not) devastated. But my Grandpa, who was not your stereotypical grandfather but was, nonetheless, generous, told me that if I would pick up the dried corn that someone had spilled onto the doormat in front of the doorway, it would earn me the doll. I don't think there was more than 50 pieces of corn on that mat, but I picked them all up and got the doll. A happy girl was I!

Grandpa also had a rack with snacks on it. We always got to pick something, and I chose the individual sized bag of pink wintergreen candies. They were sugary and melted in your mouth. I buy them now occasionally and expect the same from them and am always disappointed. There was always a big urn of coffee on a table at the front of the store, along with a container of non-dairy creamer and a box of sugar cubes. Guess who ate the sugar cubes? They're very crunchy. When my dad took over the store in 1979, he eventually phased out the coffee (and the doughnuts that were brought in every morning) because of the mess (and the fact that the employees ended up consuming most of the doughnuts). But before he did away with the coffee, my dad, the non-coffee drinker, once put milk replacer in the non-dairy creamer container and quite enjoyed himself watching customers stir it into their coffee, wondering why the coffee wasn't changing color the way it usually did with the creamer. My dad, always the practical joker.

And while this has NOTHING to do with the store, my grandparents lived on farmland 5 miles north of town. While they didn't farm any of it, it still had a barn, a chicken house, a few other outbuildings, a pond, and an apple orchard.  My grandma had the use of an old apple press, and every fall she would make the most delicious apple juice ever. It was somewhat viscous, had a full-bodied apple flavor, and if you drank too much at one time, it worked as a laxative with rather immediate results. My grandma saved plastic milk jugs all year, then filled them with the juice and put them in her deep freeze (which, incidentally, was big enough to hold a body, not that anyone tried that I know of) to enjoy all year. She usually did this by herself, but one year, my mom and my Aunt Mary Anne got roped into helping her. The cider press was by the edge of the orchard, and after the apples were gathered, the pressing began. My mom and aunt, armed with kitchen knives, began carefully cutting out worms, rotten spots, seeds and stems before tossing the apple pieces into the press. But when my grandma saw what they were doing, she said, "Don't bother with that! Just throw them in, like this." And she chucked apples, worms, seeds, brown rot, and all, into the hopper and pressed the juice out. And maybe this explains the viscosity. And the laxative effect. And the deliciousness.

Car's done. Time to go kiss $300 away. Taking one more deep breath of tire smell, the smell that immediately carries me back to a little farm supply store that is no more.

Your Best Buys in Farm Supplies.


  1. Beautiful, beautiful childhood memories Dyanne. Glad you still have your Snoopy dog, and that you shared all this here. Hope the car's all better now with its new tyres :)

    1. I love my Snoopy dog (original name, I know). Car is running like a dream (a bad dream, maybe, but at least not a nightmare).

  2. That is a wonderful story, Dyanne. You may have been a little dramatic brat, but your grandparents sound awesome. :) Funny how smells can trigger such vivid memories from so long ago.

    1. Well, now you sound just like my brother! CYNTHIA TOOK THE FLUFFY ONE WITH THE BRUUUUUUSH!

  3. Those are beautiful memories! I love how smells and sounds can trigger these happy brain moments!

    1. I know, right? And I wasn't even planning on writing about any of it; it just hit me as I was growing ever more annoyed listening to Fox News.

  4. Oh wow, Dyanne, I loved every word of this. What great memories. :)