Down memory lane - A visit to Milton Center
Tuesday, April 24, 2001
Rochefort home on left.. Store on right                                               A front view of the store
(Note the empty lot in between)
       Henry Notestine home on Sugar St.                                        Henry Notestine home front view.
         View from rear.  Note the barn.                                                now owned by Dolly Wolf
For George Gustaf Gibat and Norman Edward Gibat
Kathleen Howard and myself (Norman Gibat)  left Fostoria late on Tuesday morning with a bundle of Memorials for Joan Rochefort Gibat.  It was a sentimental journey back to Milton Center, Ohio where, between the summer of 1946 and the autumn of 1953, I spent a good many days, nights, weekends and holidays.  To put things in perspective, Kathleen Howard was born  in Norman, Oklahoma within a few months of the time when I first dated Joan Rochefort.
We first stopped at the Nutter residence which sits at the Southeast corner of the first N-S road intersecting the Mermill Road just before it enters Milton.  There was nobody home but a big German Shepherd that was tied up behind the house.  He was only vaguely interested in us.  Their home had been greatly enlarged since the last time I visited but then that was a LONG time ago.  We left a Memorial on two separate doors and drove on in to Milton.   The old store had a dirty OPEN sign in the window but everything else was curtained off.  I went in the door on the extreme right side and discovered that it was converted to a residence and was a REAL MESS.  I closed the door and went to the left front side of the building.  That door was open but it was an equal mess there too.  You can see from the picture that the door is still open.  It has IOOF (International Order of Odd Fellows) on the upper part of the building.  Joan recalled when they used the upstairs for their meetings and it was large enough for a small dance hall.  The IOOF building was where they first had the store and they lived in the rear.  After George came they moved the store over to the larger building on the right and moved upstairs. This is where it was when I first came to town and inside that door was where I first met Joan.
There was another building in the empty space between the present buildings and the house on the left.  The house shown on the left, of course, is right next to the store buildings and you can see the same car parked in front in both  photos.  I don't believe that building was in good enough shape to be used for anything.  It was a little lawn mower factory when I first saw it.  After World War II was formed which used that building to manufacture a revolutionary type of lawn mower which had a gasoline motor on top and a single swirling blade underneath.  I remember my grandfather Notestine pointing these out to me and saying that it was a grand idea and that they would soon be vastly successful and wealthy.  They never were, of course.  They struglled on for awhile and then quietly faded into the sunset.   When I returned to Milton a few years later they were gone and forgotten by most.   Unknown to my grandfather (your great-grandfather) there were probably another thousand such little shops dotted all over America and Canada with much the same idea and having much the same results.  It was an idea whose time was come, yet every innovator was just certain he or she was the only one to see the postential.  The Auto industry, the Electronics industry, the Computer industry etc. etc. all over again.
Iola was born while they lived above the store and Emma was born after they moved to the house on the left.  I think Iola was born at home and probably so was Emma.  But I can't be certain about that.  In any event this is where they spent their very earliest childhood years.  As I've told you many times before, when I returned  from the Marines in 1950 I parked
and stopped the car just in time to see Joan coming out of the door of  her home carrying Emma.  That is the house and  I was parked directly in front of that empty space which then had an old building on it.  The building was gone within another year.  When George and Myrtle left Milton they sold the home to an Hispanic couple.  They didn't own the store buildings.
To return to our journey, Kathleen and I next went to the Post Office which was just to the right of the storefronts above.  We discovered the Post office was closed for noon so we headed toward Custar which is only a mile away.   But first we stopped at the Rood's residence and found that there were two living next door to each other.  The only one we found home was a husband who hadn't lived in Milton all that long.  So we left a Memorial at each house and drove on to Custar.
Custar, by the way, is where Holly and Ed called Kathleen and me to pick them up when they were bicycling many years back.  They were exhuausted.  We picked them up at the RED-EYE Saloon, or some such name.  It 's closed and boarded up now. 
At Custar we thought we located the church where Joan and I were married.  There appeared to be a trailer house parked there now.  Nobody was home so we left a Memorial on the door.  Then as we were driving back we noticed a few haway another home just a short distance away that looked like a converted church.  I was sure this must be the church but nobody was home.  I left a Memorial on the door.  Next we went to the bank and another bar that was open (just across the stree from the Red Eye).  In the bar were 2 ladies behind the bar and one patron.  One of the older ladies could recall the grocery store at Milton and the name Rochefort.  They also told me that the Trailer House was where the old church stood and that they MOVED that old brick church on logs.   It wasn't torn down.  Some unkind souls many years back had suggested that after I was married there it would be struck by lightning and destroyed.  So there.
We went to the bank which was surprisingly modern and clean--considering the rest of the town was mostly boarded up.  The lady at the desk had to take a Memorial to the president of the bank  for approval.  After briefly reading it he said "sure, just put them on the table in front of the teller's cage".  Which I did.  Then we left to go back to Milton to see if the Post Office was open yet.
It was.  The Postmaster was a middle aged lady.  After I reminded her I had talked with her on the phone about Milton and Joan she warmed up and it was never possible to get her stopped talking again.  She told us that there was a history of Milton and I told her I'd like to get a copy of it.  I left our name, address and EMAIL and she said she'd give it to the lady who wrote it.  There was also a poem of Milton which she said was extremely well done.  She shuffled through her papers and couldn't find it but promised to send a copy.  I'd particularly like to know where and when George and Myrtle moved the store around and the sequence.  When I returned after a long absence it would be moved or enlarged and I lost track of the exact chronology.  I think I have it approximately right but wish I had Myrtle here to correct me.  And she would!!
The lower house and barn is where your great-grandfather Notestine lived for two or three years.  It wasn't a long time but it was a tragic time.  He bought the house from Dolly Wolf.  Your great-uncle, Whitney Notestine, shot himself to death just inside the main door of that barn.  Henry Notestine discovered the body and it was quite a shock to the old man.  He had tried hard to help Whitney during those last years but it was far too late--and there may never have been a time it was possible!  After Whitney's death, Henry asked Dolly Wolf to buy it back again, which she did.  He then moved to West Unity OH, where he lived until his death.
From there we went on to Toledo for some shopping and then returned home.
The next day I received a call from Thelma Nutter who was extremely sorry she had missed our visit.  She said she took her copy over to Ruth Norton and to Dolly Wolf and they all read it together.  She said they were all most grateful to get copies and enjoyed it immensely.  She said it helped them to share memories of  Joan together.   Shortly afterwards she said that a friend of theirs  from Custar came over to Milton and was showing his copies to friends in the area.  She said it caused a big flurry of  activity in Milton and Custar everybody was most grateful for the Memorial.  She also passed on some town gossip that I thought was amusing and revealing but this is NOT the time or place for gossip.  Now she would like for us to come and visit with them and Dolly Wolf and Ruth Norton and some of the other "old-timers" in the area.  I told her we'd do so sometime in the future.  It might be a good place to get together with Iola, Bob and Emma if it becomes possible.  It certainly would be an appropriate place--it's where they all began, even if they don't all recall it!
Kathleen said it was a shame that Joan, herself, hadn't returned and renewed acquaintances with so many of her old friends who, obviously, would have been delighted to see her.  It was a shame.
That's all for now.
Norman Gibat