My brother and I spent the afternoon with my (maternal) grandfather the other day. We recently lost our grandmother, and wanted to get him away from the house for a bit to enjoy the pretty day, some good food, and a change of scenery.
My grandpa loves fish, and my favorite place for a great fish sandwich is TJ’s, a local Wooster restaurant. I told him where we were going when I picked him up.
“You mean Tom and Jack’s?” he said.
“I guess so,” I answered. “Is that what the initials stand for?”
He rolled his eyes. He can be sassy like that ;-).
“Jack was my best friend in the lumber yard,” Grandpa said.
I was surprised to hear this.
“The same Jack who opened this restaurant used to work with you?” I asked.
“I worked in a lumber mill in West Virginia when I was young. When I moved to Ohio, I started working for Wooster Lumber Company. That’s where I met Jack.
One afternoon, he asked me if I wanted to drive to Florida with him, so I said sure. We left that Thursday night in Jack’s brand new Chevy Impala. I had a five-seater Studebaker at the time.”
Grandpa paused in his story, before turning to look at me, shaking his head and saying, “I sure wish I still had that car.”
It took them 24 hours to reach Florida, after being stopped three times by the cops for speeding.
At this, Grandpa laughed as he recalled what one officer said: ‘If you don’t slow down you ain’t gonna make it!’
In Florida, Grandpa and Jack visited friends, and after the week was up they stopped at an orange grove and loaded up their car with fresh oranges and grapefruits.
Shortly after their big road trip, both Grandpa and Jack were drafted, which didn’t surprise Grandpa, as he recalled that almost every man he worked with at the lumber yard was drafted at some point during the war.
After the war, Grandpa returned to Wooster Lumber Company, but eventually moved on to Jone’s Lumber in Wooster, and Jack went into business for himself, starting TJ’s restaurant.
“Your Grandma and I would come see Jack at the restaurant from time to time,” he said. “I had one of the best steaks of my life at Tom and Jacks.”
Because of Grandpa’s experience with mills in West Virginia, he was asked to lay out a mill for Jone’s Lumber.
“If we didn’t have it, we made it,” he said. “And if we couldn’t make it, it couldn’t be made,” he finished with a wink. He told us of some of the projects he worked on while at Jone’s, which included making the benches at another local Wooster restaurant – Matsos. (Yes, the same ones still used today!)
Shortly after this story, our lunches came and the three of us enjoyed our Grouper sandwiches. Grandpa told us a few more stories. We eventually left the restaurant and browsed a local record store where Grandpa and Josh talked about some old songs they had listened to together recently. We walked next door and split a giant piece of cake and a French press of coffee.
It was a simple day, but it is often the simple times that you end up cherishing the most. The times with no agenda other than to be together, to share a few stories, a few laughs, and a piece of cake.