In the 1930s, my grandfather lived down the street from a beer garden. He wasn’t a teetotaler and didn’t mind if others had a good time, but grew tired of the disruption of hooting and hollering drunks and the debris they left behind. One summer night, a car full of women pulled up in front of his house. He sat on his porch smoking a cigarette and heard their drunken conversation as they got out. He was hidden in darkness, and the women had no idea they had an audience. One lifted her skirt, squatted down and left a deposit on the lawn. They laughed as they tottered away to top off their evening at the beer garden. Grandpa fetched a shovel from his garage after they had gone, scooped up the pile and deposited it on the back seat of the ladies’ sedan. A few hours later he heard a car door slam followed by screeching, cursing and crying.
Grandpa and Grandma rented for many years before Grandpa’s business began to generate a comfortable income. Grandpa liked to fix things and to garden, and he left every house in better shape than he found it. One time he put new tile down in the kitchen. The landlord came by for the rent, saw the improvement, complimented Grandpa and thanked him. A month later he evicted them. My grandfather figured out that the landlord wanted to use the gleaming kitchen floor as an enticement to lure renters willing to pay more. Grandpa moved his family out to a new location, but before turning in the keys he tore up the tiles and left the broken bits for the landlord to clean up.
Grandpa eventually bought a house on Pritz Avenue. Ten years later, the city of Dayton put an east/west highway through the town, and bought out the place through eminent domain. Grandpa got less than the worth of the house, but made do with a story-and-a-half he purchased a mile away in Belmont. The new house sat on a corner, and Grandpa found tire tracks running across his lawn on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Some motorists liked to cut the corner. Punks in a hot rod made a point of churning deep ruts into his lawn one night. Grandpa began to collect stones about the size of bowling balls. When he had ten or so, he placed them at intervals at the edge of his lawn along the corner where cars cut through. He painted them white to give the wayward drivers fair warning, but took some satisfaction when he heard tires blow and axles grind late at night. Word eventually spread, and Grandpa’s lawn went untouched.
My Grandpa’s shop sold and installed Venetian blinds, curtains and valances. One day during the beginning of a hectic holiday season, a woman wearing a fur coat and pearl earrings came up to the counter and gave Grandpa a list of demands. Her house had to be redecorated before Christmas, and Grandpa must put aside his other jobs and give her preferential treatment. She was an important person. Grandpa told her that she’d have to wait her turn, that he wouldn’t bump other orders. She exclaimed, “But my family is coming to town and I need this!” Grandpa put down his pen and pushed aside her order form, pointed to the displays in the showroom and said, “Lady, there isn’t a single thing in this store that you actually need.”