Hey Ma…what’s an Amish?

by POPSIE 1956

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been assuming the role of “Mentor.”

Trust me, it sounds much more impressive than it really is.

As I may have mentioned before, I am a graduate of the Class of 1978 at the former Ashland College, now Ashland University, in the Buckeye State of Ohio.

I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Broadcasting, and an Associate’s Degree in Theater Arts.

I always like to help students where I can, especially those who study for a career in my field.

Some time back I signed up for a Mentor Program at Ashland, and finally someone contacted me.  She’s a Junior in the Broadcasting Department…well it’s probably now known as Digital something or other, but she wants to get into News, so I’ve been offering whatever tips I can.

All this talk about my time in college got me thinking of when I started there in the Fall of 1974…and the culture shock I found myself in the middle of.

At 18, I was very naive in many ways.  I had also never REALLY been away from home before, and home was Upstate New York, just me and my Mom.

Long story short, I applied to and was accepted to Ashland.  I was to head to the Midwest in late August.

There was a girl I graduated from High School with, and she was also going to Ashland.  Her family was taking her there, and somehow (can’t remember how it worked out), I caught a ride.

Early that morning I say goodbye to my Mom…damn, this was really happening.

I don’t know who was more scared, but neither of us tried to show it to the other.

Off we go on the 8-10 hour, 500 mile plus journey, me and a car full of strangers.


By the end of the day we arrive in Ashland.  We stay at a local motel for the night, then move in on campus the next day.

That night, I felt very alone.  I called my Mom to tell her I made it there in one piece, and that I can’t wait to be the next BMOC (Big Man On Campus…old guy speak, sorry).

I was lying, naturally, but I have to leave the nest eventually so there you go.

I haven’t been back to Ashland in over 15 years, and from what I’ve been told, not a lot has changed…well they have a Wal Mart so that’s progress I guess.

In 1974, the City of Ashland, Ohio was a college town and a factory town, lots of bars, “unique” residents (i.e. “Townies”), bikers, assorted hillbillies, farmers, a large number of members of the Brethren Church (who founded Ashland College in 1878), and something called Amish.

I’m a sophisticated City Boy..who the Hell are these people?

Everyone wore beards, men and women alike..they all wore funny hats or bonnets, all dressed in very drab colors, and all rode around town on horse drawn buggies.

To an 18 year old (almost) college freshman, the letters WTF kept running through my mind.

Of course, back then we didn’t say WTF…we spelled it AND said it so that everyone knew what we meant.

Despite the fact that the Amish have (to us) strange ways and customs, they are a kind and friendly people, they did their thing, we did ours.

Another culture shock was in words and phrases they used in Ohio and much of the Midwest.

Like “Black Cow” for what we New Yorkers called a “Coke/Root Beer Float”.

In the East, we put groceries in a “bag”, there, it was a “sack”.

In the East, a “coffee regular” was one cream, one sugar, there, it was black.

In the East, we eat “Sub Sandwiches”, there, either a “Poor Boy,” or a “Grinder.”

Then there’s the great soft drink controversy.

To City Slickers, that carbonated drink was, and I think still is, a soda.

Out there…they called it….POP!

Perhaps I’m stubborn, but to this day I have NEVER said pop, and never WILL say pop…it’s SODA…dammit!

Sidetrack-late ’90’s and I’m working for a Country radio station in Columbus, Indiana.  The Air Staff would MC the various music acts that would play during the Summer.

One day I am introducing Country Star Marty Stuart, a Good Ole Boy from down South.

Marty was going to sign autographs between shows, and I was asked to tell the audience he will be in the lobby, next to the…soft drink machine (that’s not the exact words but it sets the tone).

I go on stage, greet the crowd, and pump them up (this show, to be specific, took place in Nashville, Indiana).

“Hey, a reminder, Marty and the band will be doing a meet and greet in the lobby right next to the soda machine…”



“Now, let’s welcome Marty Stuart…”

Marty and the boys come out and look at me like I was Grant taking Richmond.


Postscript, they put on a great show, and I barely got out of there alive.

Back to Ohio.

Last Culture Shock Wake Up Call…and no one told me about this before I left New York..was the drinking rule at the time.

In New York in 1974, everyone could drink anything come age 18.

In Bible Belt Ohio….um…no.

Between 18 and 21, at the time, you could have one of two forms of alcohol.

Something they called 3.2 beer, or with half the alcohol as the rest of America drinks.

You still got drunk, but it took you twice as long…God knows we tried enough times.

We also had a choice of something called 42 proof alcohol, again, half the strength of the usual hootch.

If 3.2 beer (aka near beer) was bad, 42 proof alcohol was the Bay Of Pigs of distilleries.

You could get it in a Quickee Mart, the “best” seller was branded as “Cherry Vodka.”

Oh yeah, THAT bad.

A smart underage college student didn’t have to wait till they turned 21, they could hook up with a Townie and buy some White Lightning.

On that note…..George Jones got it spot on in the song.

With all of this thrown on me, one would think I would never want to have anything to do with Ohio from the moment I graduated from Ashland.

Quite the opposite, I have made a lot of friendships with some fantastic people in the 12 years I lived there.

In 2018, for my 40th reunion from Ashland, I plan to return to see as many people, places, and things that I can throughout the state, call it a last blow out, if you will.

This time, though, I’m playing it safe and bringing my old friend Jim Beam with me on the plane.