Growing up we spent every weekend and many weekdays at my grandparents’ house in Clyde. The big white farmhouse stood with a sort of authority, the same authority that rang through the air when Grandma called us for dinner. And across the drive from the farmhouse stood Gene’s Drive-Thru Carry-Out.
In between Clyde and Green Creek Township, people drove out of their way to go to Gene’s. Some say he had the coldest beer around, others came to sit at the counter on tattered stools and scratch lottery tickets and talk about the Cleveland Indians. Some came because Gene and his kids remembered their orders and had them waiting as soon as they pulled in.
After hours of playing in the yard and being turned away from the cookie jar at Grandma’s house, us kids would run barefoot across the scorching asphalt and open the metal door to the back of “the store.” Stepping in and cooling our feet on the smooth concrete floor, we sneaked through cardboard boxes and overstock Pepsi and Miller Lite cartons to the doorway that led to Grandpa. He always stood behind the counter with either my mother, my Aunt Karen or Aunt MaryLynn or Uncle Mike.
As soon as we appeared, all of the customers would ask which of Gene’s kids we belonged to, and what we were up to. We answered them, reaching into the cooler for a cold pop and then walking out from behind the counter to the wall of candy on the side wall. We took what we wanted, sometimes daring to go to the freezer for a frozen Snickers bar, and we left.
It’s a wonder we aren’t all kleptomaniacs. It is NOT a wonder that I was pretty chunky throughout my childhood.
I did a lot of growing up in that store. I learned to play the clarinet with my cousin Heather. I got locked in the cooler with a dead pig and my cousin Meghan. “Momma Cat” had a batch of kittens in a garbage bag back by the bathroom and then left them for dead. I scanned lottery tickets to my heart’s content.
I was heartbroken when Grandpa sold the store. He retired and began working at Wilson’s Clothing part time instead. They sold the store to a local couple, and during a chain of drive-thru robberies, Denise was shot:
“Less than 30 minutes after Hovis reported The Gables robbery to police, the body of 42-year-old Denise Clink was found at Gene’s Drive-Thru, just outside the city limits of Clyde, a small town in Sandusky County best known as the home of a Whirlpool factory. Robinson, police concluded, had shot Clink during a robbery of the drive-through that she and her husband owned.” -Brad Dicken, The Chronicle-Telegram
It was terrifying. Grandpa’s store became a place where a murder happened. It was a friend who was killed…and worse, it could have been our grandpa.
Gene’s Drive-Thru is still standing, although vacant. It’s mostly just memories now, memories that I hope someday we can revive. I don’t know how to run a business, but it’s always an option. It took Grandpa a lot of years to build up that clientele, and he was as loyal to them as they were to him.
I do miss that carry-out though.