Old-road travels prompt fond memories of Ramsay


To the Editor:

The old road weaves its bittersweet way between the towns that watch from the hills. Narrow and cracked, the old road keeps itself under a canopy of branches, holding memories to the side locked in old brick, broken windows and paint-flecked walls. It is not the shortest distance between two points, but a straight way to the soul. In the end, the old road will make you smile.

The best way to re-enter the town of Ramsay, both in space and time, is up and over the ridge through the secluded “location” settlements, then down and around the “switchback” from Anvil to uptown.

Ramsay reminds one of a small mountain hamlet straddling a river (minus the mountains). Due to mining and lumbering, the town was once booming, in particular during World War II. It had stores of all variety, full-service gas pumps, a couple of movie theaters, school, churches, boarding houses, and, of course, bars and taverns.

My more recent memories include Fourth of July parades, swimming at the park, playing tennis on that weed-choked court and visiting the old Italian with his gardens and his homemade wine and cellar-aged grappa. And way back when, I recall a young girl vacationing here from Sweden, with her long, lithe, sun-tanned legs.

Across the river, and a bit farther up, is my grandfather’s former home. It is amazing how grandparents and their houses loom much larger when we are kids. Grandpa, who knew Paul Bunyan and had ridden the blue ox, who could tell time by the sun and served in the Royal Guard of the King of Sweden.

A widower, he insisted that Grandma was related to the movie star Greta Garbo. The ancestry search gets lost somewhere between Grebbestad and Stockholm.

When reading to grandchildren, Grandpa would lapse into Swedish when they nodded off, to regain their attention. A frugal, practical man, he used the hot water left from his boiled egg to lather his shaving brush. A retired carpenter, he admonished us to “take it easy, make it nice” when using saw and hammer, then winked that it also applied to relations with the ladies.

Finally, considering some urgency, real or imagined, I take the state highway home. I realize that almost all of my journeys are on “old roads” now. The sun is setting, and I am smiling.

Thomas Ylsabeck



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