As I grew up in Chillicothe, I made friends with guys that were picked on by others. I'm not sure exactly why; it may have been because I could feel their pain. We were either not good at sports, too fat, too dumb (others thought), or just too poor and not popular. Anyway, we supported one another.
One such example was Stanley Cook. Stanley was a great pal. Some would say he was overweight, but he was fun to be around. Stanley’s dad ran the gas station at the northwest corner of Washington and Calhoun. Stanley and I became very close; we did everything in town together.
Pinball machines were our thing in those days. Wherever there was a pinball machine, we found it. The pool hall and the bus stop were our favorite places to hang out. Marion or Fats (as we called him) would let us play pool together because we were too young to play with the adults.
We rode our bikes all over Chillicothe in those days. We didn’t miss a single street. We would even go out to the State Home on Third Street and taunt the girls until the officials ran us off. Yes, we were at the age of noticing girls. I remember we would go to his Dad’s station where Stanley had stashed a girly magazine; we would look and laugh. His dad found it one day and that was the end of that. Boys will be boys, and we were real boys. We had so much fun growing up together in Chillicothe.
Until the one day, he asked me to spend the night at his house. At this time in my life I still had the fear of wetting the bed, but I said I would. The reason for the overnight stay was because Stanley’s cousin had a Saint Joseph newspaper route that took him out Hwy 170 (called Hwy 190 now) to other towns and we were going to go with him. His route started very early in the morning so it was easier to spend the night. It was around midnight before we finally got to sleep. I remember it well because his mom yelled at us and told us how late it was. She said, “Get to sleep you two, before I have to come up there.”
It was about three o'clock in the morning that I woke up with a great sense of fear. All I could think about was going home. I got dressed and started down the stairs, it was pitched dark. I kept running into things and woke Mrs. Cook up. She came out of her room and hit the lights.
By this time I was almost in tears; I had to get home. She tried to get me to stay, but to no avail. My mind was made up. I did not want to go on the paper route that morning at five o'clock. She offered to take me home, but I said I could walk. It was about one mile through town so I walked south on Walnut Street until I came to the tracks. Crossing them, I was home. I made my way to my bed and went back to sleep.
Later that morning my mom woke me up. It was almost noon. She sat on my bed and told me that something had happened to Stanley. She told me that he and his cousin were in an accident on Hwy 170; they had collided with a beer truck. Responders had to cut them out of their Volkswagen that was pinned under the truck. Both were killed. I never got out of bed that day.
My mind had a hard time putting things together. It was my first death of a close friend. I was one of his pallbearers. To this day, I can still hear him say “Come on, I got some money. I'll beat you at the pinball game.”