Well I have been under the weather this week...really. Thanks to some good people I have warm wood and have decided to rest.... So thought I would post this as my blog for the week. It was on another blog spot that I started and stopped and so a few of you have seen it..but still if you need a smile perhaps this will give it to you...its about my good friend Bernie. (A Remembrance)
Bernie was born and raised in Eaton and moved back to Eaton after his mother’s death. Bernie became an experience and a friend and a person you could tell a hundred stories about. As a matter of fact there are so many stories about Bernie and when he grew up in Eaton that they could fill a book on their own. Bernie had a metal plate in his head and had an arm that had been deformed because of an injury. These injuries were caused by one of Bernie’s wild escapades as a boy. But his disabilities never held him down...in his day he soldered intricate silver scrolling on Oneida Silversmith pieces.
In the days of Bernie’s youth, Walt, his father, and many of the men in town worked for the Milk Plant up on one of the hills overlooking the village. The hill, even to this day, is one of the steepest hills, with an unbelievably steep drop into town. The Eaton Train Station was located on it, and when the first trains came to Eaton Village, it was said that they had made the longest steepest sustained grade ever built east of the Rocky Mountains. The town’s parents forbade the children to ride their bikes down the hill, but, of course, that would not stop Bernie.
On this particular morning the boys set out with the lunch pails for the milk station as usual, but after delivering their cargo Bernie decided to take the breath-taking daredevil ride to town. The boys gasped as they watch Bernie go swooshing down the hill. Just then a car crossed the intersection at the foot of the hill, and Bernie slammed into it. The terror that gripped the boys made them slip off and watch the goings on from the safety of some bushes. The tears flowed and their little bodies shook as after a while, Bernie’s motionless body was put into a hearse that sped away.
I met one of the boys, now an elderly man, one day when I was working in town, and he said he had run home and hid in his bedroom. He was terrified that his mother would find out he was with Bernie, and he knew for sure it would get him into trouble. He thought that the overwhelming sadness and shock of losing his good friend was too much for his young heart to take.
The story behind the story was that the town’s undertaker was playing cards in the gas station, once a pleasant pastime in that era. The gas station was at the foot of the hill where the accident took place, and the men, seeing the horrible accident, removed a body from the hearse which the undertaker had parked to play cards, locked the body in the gas station bay, put Bernie into the hearse and beat a fast track to the Utica Hospital, a ride that saved Bernie’s life.
Another time Bernie and one of his friends crawled through the window of the old furniture shop on River Road that made coffins for the Madison County Poor House, which was located a short distance away. They stole one of the coffin bottoms and took it for a ride on the old pond out behind the buildings, enjoying a sail and playing pirates!
The stories go on forever, and one I can contribute myself. When Bernie became ill and couldn’t drive, I would volunteer to take him to the doctor in Oneida. Nick-named “Back Roads Bernie” for a reason, he would make me take this road or that so he could show me this person’s farm, or where he did this or that, basically filling me in with history tidbits, I guess. On the way back, he would ask me to stop at the Munnsville Legion. Since his appointments were early in the morning, our stop at the Legion would be at about 9:30 am. This tradition of course was not unusual for a farm area, but was for most people like myself. He would say, “This is Back Street Mary, the writer”, everyone would nod and tell me some history tidbit, I would have a beer on Bernie, and then everyone would buy me a beer, which I didn’t drink, so I was given wooden beer chips to use in the future.
One time I could not take Bernie to Oneida and asked my housemate Chris to do it. She agreed to do it and asked Bernie what time she should pick him up. Chris didn’t know better and so took him straight to Oneida. He looked at her and said, “how come we’re so early; my appointment isn’t for another 45 minutes?”
Later that night I saw Chris. She told me what happened and asked if he had ever asked me to stop for a beer at 9 in the morning. I replied “yes”. I opened the drawer under the kitchen counter revealing a large number of wooden beer chips and said, “Where do you think all of these came from?”
Bernie was loved by all and regardless of what was wrong...he made me laugh!