Sunday, September 27, 2015

Elyria Pattern Co.

During our summer road trip, we saw more interesting sights that I could squeeze into my real-time posts. Now that I'm back home and have fished all 548 photos off my devices, I have a few more road trip stories to share. 

To catch up on the rest of the trip, start here.

* * * * *

Somber was the mood in the car as we drove out of town, passing by the familiar streets and well-known family landmarks of my husband's Ohio hometown. Now that both of my in-laws have passed on, who knows when - or if - we will next have occasion to come around for a visit. 

The people who made us feel at home here are gone now and nothing is left but a place.


We took the usual tour, slowly cruising past the three homes where my husband grew up, our sense of satisfaction that all were in good repair seesawing with that uneasy queasiness one feels when facing with the fact that strangers are now living in your childhood home. 

Then my husband suggested that we drive by the shop.

^ My father-in-law, son of a dairy farmer, broke out of the cow business as soon as he came of age. He chose instead to learn the trade of a pattern maker, and set up shop with his colleague and friend,  Leonard. Over the decades, through much hard work, they built themselves a fine business where my husband was offered the opportunity to sweep floors on Saturdays. 

For his part, my husband eventually followed the family tradition of finding one's own path and chose to become... a dairy farmer.

Just kidding. That would have been deliciously ironic, but he studied chemical engineering and then became an accountant. No floor-sweeping required.

Anyway, when the time came for Dad to retire, he sold the shop to a young man of promise named Jim.

So as we pulled into the drive of the Elyria Pattern Co. and I predictably hopped out of the car to snap a few photos, it was Jim's sixty-something cousin, Marlene, who saw me climbing through the bushes and stuck her head out the door to ask if there was something she might do to help me. 

^ Two minutes later, my husband was striding across the workshop floor to shake hands with Young Jim - Jim's son - who now runs the place. They began talking over the business like they were the ones who'd been partners for forty years, which left me with my first-ever opportunity to explore this place of myth and legend.

^ The various presses, saws, and other intimidating machines are the old originals, dating back to the 1940s, I suppose. Though the staff was mostly working in the back room of the now-expanded workspace, the air thrummed with industry, and my father-in-law's hearing aids suddenly made a lot of sense.

^ I didn't need anyone to tell me who built the worktables that lined the walls. An identical twin to this model used to stand in my father-in-law's basement and now lives in my garage. Handmade, sturdy enough to survive the zombie apocalypse, full of secret compartments and hidden drawers, this is a workbench for the ages and I'm glad a half-dozen or so versions exist.

^ More overpowering that the sights and sounds of the shop, it was the delicious fragrance of wood that fulfilled my fantasies of what the shop would be like. Sweet and spicy, filling the air with delicate dusty variations, these lumber piles drew me like nectar to a bee. We brought home a few small samples in a feeble attempt to capture and preserve that incredible aroma, but they are a pale comparison to the real thing. 

^ I got a little emotional about these floors. Honestly, I craved nothing more than to sand them down to pure perfection, stain them with loving care, and then buff them to the beauty they so richly deserve. I wanted to rip them up and carry them across the country to my house on my back.

We visited for only ten minutes or so when I heard my husband say to Jim, "Well, I'll let you get back at it." Dang. I wasn't ready to go.

But on our way out the door, as I stopped to give a big thank you to Marlene for her quick-thinking hospitality, I noticed a photograph. Handsomely matted and framed, hanging in a place of honor in the center of the office wall was a shot taken way back in the day, of my father-in-law (left) and Leonard mulling over one of their masterpieces.

I have to say, that really touched my heart. 

And suddenly, the old hometown didn't seem so empty after all. 

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