Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.

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A Lori Story

Today I’m borrowing a blog, WITH PERMISSION, from Lori Lucas at I Have a Big Story To Tell. Lori is a great blogger, writer, mother, Gigi AND story teller (and she grew up across the street) so I thought I’d leave it in her words. (Most of them, anyway.)
A different out-of-town friend told me she reads my blog every day. (I’m always surprised when someone tells me that.) “I really like the old stories about C-Town.”
I do, too. But the stories I’ve grown up with are about Old Ford, not C-Town.
A few days later, Lori posted this about Mrs. Johnson and the now defunct refinery I used to live next door to. (The same one Middle Son used to crawl under the fence so he could run free with the cows pastured there.)
Naturally, I contacted her and asked if I could rip her off. She kindly gave me her permission. (Thank you, Lori!)
The words and the pictures are all Lori’s. I hope you enjoy them.
From A Big Story:
An Accidental Arranged Marriage
Today’s post involves my hometown of Cleveland (as in Oklahoma, not Ohio).
For years there was an oil refinery just west of town.
It was owned by the Johnson family.
When I was in grade school we moved across town (you realize this is a small town, so moving “across town” is just another 5 minutes or so) and our new neighbor across the street was Mrs. Johnson
of the Johnson Oil Refinery. She was old. Somewhat frail. And very reclusive.
She hired my brother and I to mow her enormous yard (with out push mower). She spoke if we spoke to her.
There seemed to always be an air of mystery about her. She lived in her big old house alone.
Fast forward 15 or so years and my dad and I were out and about and we came upon a Johnson Gasolene
(yes, that is the correct spelling) sign and I knew I had to have it.
I had to have that sign despite it was orange in color. (NOT my favorite color!) It is a big porcelain sign.
Old school heavy.
For years I have carted this sign around to each of my houses. It has hung in three different states.
Notice I said ‘hung’. I always hung it somewhere in our previous homes.
In addition, I have moved this round table to each home I have lived in. The table, in its first life, was Early American maple (??). It was not my style, but I liked the lines, the top spins, (which makes it a great game table), and it had been my grandparents since I could remember.
Long ago I painted the table black and distressed it…. (much to my mother’s chagrin!!!!)
When we moved back to Oklahoma several years ago, my boys were unloading the U-Hauls ( yes, multiple).
The table was sitting out in the grass waiting for its new room assignment. One of the boys unloaded the sign and just randomly sat the sign on top of the table.
Oh my gosh.
Why had I never thought of that? The sign and the table have been married ever since.
I have since painted the table with Annie Sloan gray and distressed it again. I am not sure I will keep it that way. I might put Annie Sloan old white over it.
We’ll see.
In the meantime, the old Johnson Gasolene sign and my grandparent’s table continue to be happily married.
I mean they should….they fit perfectly together. (So does that make this an arranged marriage….or
a happy accident?)
Every day I see that table I am reminded of our neighbor, Mrs. Johnson, and the scary stories my brother and I were convinced went on in her house!
By the way, the sign is a double sided sign….(meaning it is exactly the same on the front as it is the back.)
BUT . . .  the Johnson family sold their refinery to Kerr-McGee Oil back in the 60’s.
So on the other side of the sign you can still see the Johnson Gasolene embossing, but the whole sign has been painted over in gray paint and it has Kerr McGee’s blue and yellow logo in the middle.
I guess if I ever hate the orange too much I can always turn it over and have the
gray side….
But then I wouldn’t think of
Mrs. Johnson and all those mysterious thoughts!
(Actually, there are enough stories about Mrs. Johnson and her family and Kerr McGee and their company to write a book…or make a movie! Wait. Both have been done!! I will have to tell you more about Mrs. Johnson and her family one day.)
Now that I think about it, maybe I should turn off all the lights and see if my sign “glows” in the dark from its Kerr McGee days!! Just kidding Kerr McGee…(and Mrs. Johnson)!