by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster
Joan, pronounced Joanne, Forinash, remembers the excitment of waiting at the Saybrook Train Depot in the 1950s. The train slowed at the direction of the Station Master, coming to a stop to pick them up for the ride into the busy town center of Ashtabula.
During the summer the windows of the train were often open and the sweet smells carried in on the wind were clean and fresh, though the coal-burning locomotive left a residue of soot on the seats, to be brushed off before you sat down.
The ride cost one dime, worth it for an afternoon of adventures.
The train stopped near the Ashtabula Hotel, a brick building graced with a green canopy over the front door. She remembers being escorted into dining room, to sit at one of the many tables covered with gleaming white linen and set with perky white cloth napkins and fresh flowers. This was a destination reserved for special occasions and the memories still bring a smile to her voice.
It was exciting, she said, to window shop along Main Street. Sidewalks were often crowded and shops busy. You met people you knew, seeing many you had yet to meet, especially on Friday night. They were well dressed, too, ladies in suits, skirts, and heels, their hair carefully coiffed, men wore jackets. Joan recounted eagerly awaiting the time she would first wear heels to dinner in Ashtabula.
There were so many memories. A day in Ashtabula could include a trip to Shea's Theater for the newest movie and the indulgence of a hot fudge sundae afterward at Candy Land, a mecca she and her mother both cherished. Passing by the soda counter in the narrow shop they would seat themselves at one of the tables in the back and settle in, waiting to order.
Joan and her husband, Alan, were both raised on family farms near the Saybrook Train Depot, which after being retired, continued its usefulness as a shop where their family sold craft items. The business of life put the shop on hold for a number of years.
Now the family is renovating the Old Depot, where they will again sell craft items, including antique Christmas ornaments from the 50's, 60's, and 70's, made by Mr. Bill Hixson, whose ornaments grace the Nation's Christmas Tree.
Ornaments can be fragile, but memories withstand the tests of time, helping us endure.