Asa Rouse Reminiscences
BOB, that picture and the narrative with it is one of the most moving things I’ve read or seen in... well... a long time. Maybe I wouldn’t have been so touched if I’d read and seen it when I was, say, 40 years old. But being now an 85 year old grandfather of six who remembers vividly and loved dearly my 2 granddads, Oz Rouse of Walton and Merit Jack of Beaver Lick, I am deeply touched and moved. All old guys need those feelings and so do our long deceased grandfathers, though they will never know that this now old grandson ever had those feelings or thought about them so tenderly. Popaw Rouse was a sheet metal worker in my Dad’s sign manufacturing business. He worked well up into his upper seventies before his final illness disabled him. Popaw Jack in his Beaver Lick general store was Beaver’s equivalent of a post master. His main love and passion, however, was living on and making sufficiently productive his 40 acre hard scrabble farm. Mom and Popaw Jack’s house was an 1825+- year old log cabin which had been built onto and on which there was weatherboarding and a nice country-large front porch, complete with gingerbread-topped décor. It had no telephone and no electricity until the REA came along during FDR’s administration. It’s water supply was a cistern and its pump. It was heated by a Warm Morning stove and a living room fireplace. The kitchen cook stove was as big as a small car and used kindling wood and small logs for the heat-up-the-stove fire. However, there were always a milk cow or two, hogs in the hog lot, chickens in the chicken pen and a scrumptious country food garden that seemingly had everything in it, even strawberries. And from the upper beams of the smoke house there always hung half a dozen or more hams. Down the path next to the root cellar was the outhouse, complete with an outdated Sears & Roebuck catalog for... well, you know what for. Dad had been an acclaimed builder of expensive dream homes in northern Kentucky and eastern Cincinnati. The way my Dad, Wendell Rouse, set up his lavish income from all these homes was via having second mortgages on them. When my brother, Jack, was born on May 12, 1929, my parents were living the good life. They had a new Essex car and a fine home on Walton’s North Main Street. Then in the autumn of 1929 came the Crash of ’29. Buyers by the dozens of Rouse-Built homes couldn’t pay the first mortgage, much less the second. Foreclosure enveloped like an Arizona dust storm. By the time I was born on July 11, 1930, the Great Depression was having its awful effect. My parents had no house, no car and no income. Having no place to live, our family moved into “the big bedroom” of Popaw and Mom’s ancient Beaver Lick farm house. I was a few... not many, but a few... years older before we moved back to a rentable house in Walton. During those Beaver years, I was lovingly spoiled by my great grandmother, Jennie Ossmon, my grandparents, my parents and everyone else. Jennie Ossmon was Jennie Adams. She was born in 1858 and remarkably had a lot of Civil War memories, especially remembering the Federal Horse Procurers who, over owners’ strenuous protests, took every horse they could find. Popaw Jack let me help him with the milking, feeding the chickens and sloping the hogs. So, Bob, bottom line after way too many other lines, you now understand why this picture and narrative really got to me. Thanks ol’ friend... Thanks very much, ASA
Grandpa was telling his grandson what life was like when he was a boy.
“In the winter we’d ice skate on our pond.
In the summer we could swim in the pond & pick berries in the woods.
We’d swing on an old tire my dad hung from a tree on a rope.”
Amazed the little boy sat quietly for a minute,
Then looked up at him and said,
“Granddad, I wish I’d gotten to know you a lot sooner!”
An Updated Version of my “Later years” Essay.
In 1947, Popaw Jack suddenly became quite ill. His doctors finally got him able to do things like work in an old fashion grocery (like Lusby’s for example) or keep books for a small business. Popaw Jack’s store in Beaver Lick was destroyed by fire in the 1920s and farming, which was always a significant part of his life, became his sole occupation. Otis Readnour owned the “Walton & Readnour Coal and Feed” business on the west side of our town’s Main Street, south of the Model Food Store and the elder Dr. Maddox’s office. Popaw Jack and Mom Jack were, of course, forced to sell the old place and move to a rented house where the present Walton Post Office sits. Otis heard of Popaw Jack’s old time and sensible book-keeping talents and hired him. Later, Otis told me that Popaw Jack’s hiring was one of the luckiest thing he ever did. Otis said Popaw organized the business in such a way that it didn’t at all interfere with the way the business was physically handled (delivering coal, selling sacks of farm grain, etc.) but it made the whole small town operation easier and, more importantly, better. Of course, I knew nothing about my tough, savvy old dirt farmer granddad having those skills or even dressing nicely with a properly knotted attractive tie. Way to go, Popaw Jack!
Well, in about April of 1948 his health issues came bearing down hard on him and he died during Christmas season in 1948 when I was 18 years old. My brother Jack and I knew that my Mother’s brother, Scott Jack, was sorta friends with the purchaser of the old Beaver Lick farm. We also heard that the guy was going to tear down the old house and burn it up in a big fiery pile. Uncle Scott said he’d talk to the guy about Jack and I buying the old logs, rescuing and “numbering” them. Uncle Scott acted fairly quickly, or at least started to act quickly, when, alas, he learned it was too late and the big burn had already taken place. Now, to explain to you where the ancient house, barn etc., were, here’s the info. At the intersection of old Beaver Road and US42 there is now a restaurant and big blacktop parking lot. But , alas, the old Beaver Lick home, where my Mother, her brothers and sisters were raised, is no more. You can only partially see where it used to be by standing in the restaurant’s parking lot and looking east (just slightly north-east). You’ll see a big, thousand, + -, yard long hillside stretching on up the hill and along US42. All that land within that long triangular shaped tract between old Beaver Road and on up US42 was where 60% of the Jack farm lay. The other 40% lay on the opposite (western) side of US42. Now there are, amazingly, fine homes literally all over Popaw and Mom Jack’s old 40 acre place.
Driving on US42 toward Warsaw a driver gets to a fairly long downhill stretch of US42. At the bottom of said hill is an intersection. The road going off on the right goes to Big Bone and beyond. The road going off to the left is the old Beaver to Walton road, part of which is the historic “Beaver Road,” the “real” Beaver Road. Before the driver actually gets to the intersection, he will see on US42 to his left is the rather large and fairly busy restaurant with its blacktop parking area. If you turn on the road to the left just beyond the restaurant, and, just for the heck of it, drive through what’s left of “downtown” Beaver, you will see no trace of how that little village was when I and my family lived on Popaw’s farm at the harsh beginning of the Great Depression. The late Raymond Roter’s garage, now neglected and rundown, is on the right, in the middle of town. Mr. Roter took the picture of my grandfather which I have placed at the bottom of this email. Popaw was working the voting polls in the late 1930s or early 1940s when the pic was taken. Directly across the road from Roter’s always meticulously maintained garage was a blacksmith shop with the usual clutter, banging, heat and noise. Proceeding on and looking to your left you will see what was an old country Baptist Church. All the members of Jack family were members of that once beautiful country church. Before you get to the side road (Hartman Road) to your right you’ll see an ancient pine tree. It stood between the grocery-post office store of Merit Jack and the road. I have an old family album picture somewhere of my Mother, Louise Jack Rouse, as a 6+- year old girl, standing next to that knarled old tree in front of Popaw’s store. Mother would be 104 years old if she were alive today. That’s the store that was destroyed by fire in the 1920s, before I was born on July 11, 1930. Past the Hartman side road, the building on the right, the one with the once nice front porch, was Jim Sleet’s grocery. It was a busy place when I was a little boy. And as you would guess, the usual covey of loafers gathered on that front porch. The extended road goes on from there and ends in Walton. However, that road to Walton is not the real Beaver Road. Instead of going on to Walton, the real Beaver Road goes on up the hill and again joins US42. Now, as that real road has just made its turn to the left to go on up the hill and join US42, there was a small building across from Sleet’s Grocery. It sat on the real road’s right and it was the millinery shop of my great-grandmother, Jennie Adams Ossmon. A very, very interesting fact... now get this!... is that the real Beaver Road, the old road in front of Roter’s Garage, etc., originally and historically was the Covington-Louisville Turnpike! Yes, that old turnpike is still all over the rural landscape if you know where to look for it.