By Rick Palsgrove, Groveport Editor
While recently walking down Groveport’s Main Street, I began thinking about how many times I’ve strolled up and down these sidewalks in my lifetime and how much the streetscape has changed, yet has retained much familiarity, over the years.
My first memorable Main Street walks came when I was five years old and would take the route to Groveport Elementary on my way to kindergarten. In those days my family lived on Clark Court and there once was a narrow gravel path right-of-way through an open field connecting Clark Court to Main Street. (A grand house was built in this field many years later.) Sixty years ago the walking areas along Main Street consisted of connecting dirt paths and concrete sidewalks. The dirt paths contained exposed roots from the large trees that once formed a leafy canopy over Main Street.
My family later moved to a house on Main Street near West Street and through my elementary school years I either walked or rode my bicycle to Groveport Elementary along Main Street. On my travels to school in the 1960s I passed familiar houses and churches as well as businesses that included gas stations, the Huntington Bank (once known as the People’s Bank), an Allis-Chalmers tractor dealer, Painter’s Motor Sales, Taylor’s Restaurant, the Lunch Box, Cruiser Inn, Bierberg Furniture (with its knick-knacks on its window sills), Birch Bar Tavern, Ackerman Drugs, Smith’s Market, and others.
I often lingered at the tractor dealership to admire the bright orange Allis-Chalmers tractors. Even though my Palsgrove farm relatives used red Farm-all tractors, which I also loved, I was still attracted to these big wheeled orange Allis-Chalmers beauties.
Also as I walked I would measure myself against a large hedge (which is still here) that grew in front of a stately home near Groveport Town Hall.
Myself and other kids in the 1960s often peered through the screen door and into the murky darkness of a bar, once located at Crooked Alley and Main Street, in efforts to gaze upon the mysterious world of adults who hung out in there. That old tavern on the outside looked like a saloon from the TV westerns we kids used to watch back then. It was a great old 19th century building that burned down in 1986. The tavern later moved next door to what was the old IGA grocery building and the modern version of the Birch Tavern is still there today.
Some long gone east Main Street sights were: an enclosed telephone booth that stood at Main Street and Crooked Alley (the concrete pad for it is still there); the traditional blue post office mail drop boxes that stood on many corners; the short, dirt side paths that kids on bicycles wore into the grass to avoid the bump of the sidewalk curbs; and the massive trees that used to line Main Street.
To the west, the concrete sidewalks more or less ended near Mohr Avenue so pedestrians walked on either a dirt path on the south side of the street or on the berm on the north side. Sights along west Main Street in the 1960s included Glenn Riggin’s roofing and spouting business, Dutch Excavating, Norm’s Market, the Groveport Cocktail Lounge, and every kid’s favorite – the Eskimo Creme.
The street was narrower in those days and car traffic relatively light as befit a small town.
When I entered junior high and high school I would head down Main Street frequently to play basketball on the outdoor courts behind Groveport Elementary.
As an adult, many of my walks along Main Street are less purposeful as far as a destination and more for exercise or for taking time to stroll and think.
Main Street’s streetscape has changed a lot from my youth. A couple of houses are gone. There’s a lovely Veterans Park. Businesses have come and gone. But the street is there following the same route it has since it was first cut through town as a tree-stumped filled dirt road in the early 1800s.
In a way the street is a mirror. Like us, there is much about its and our personalities that sticks with us, but relentless change enables it and us to grow along side each other while still retaining familiarity.
Main Street beckons us to explore where it leads, but it also always reminds us that it leads us home, too.