By Rick Houser –
A tradition that has not only been kept but continues to grow is the morning coffee klatch. If by chance or design you are out early in the morning, look into the stop and goes or the local McDonalds and there you will see a small group, mostly men, gathered around a couple of tables or booths with a cup of coffee in hand. These small social gatherings where conversation is exchanged is by definition the coffee “klatch”.
Growing up a farm boy, I seldom saw farmers in attendance at these such gatherings. At our home the coffee pot went on the stove before daylight and we all gathered around the table to start our day. Little more than a grunt was expressed until some consumption of the coffee’s caffeine took hold before we began our conversation if we had any. I know my sister Peg wasn’t to be approached until she had consumed a cup and a half of coffee first.
As I got older and after I graduated from high school, I learned that if a fellow got up early and went to town he could find a group either at Armacost’s Restaurant or Swopes Drug Store. Arma cost’s drew the business crowd of cattle traders, truck drivers, auctioneers, and retirees. In the restaurant there was a counter with stools to sit at if you were only staying for a brief time or tables if you planned to stay for the entire morning crowd. This group was of great interest to me as I would hear about topics in agriculture, business transactions, and whatever the news (gossip) that was being told and rehashed.
I found this could be a great time to be a listener. Those who talked were often talked about after they left the restaurant. That was the price paid to be in this klatch. There were two men that had retired and had dedicated their lives to being the first ones there in the morning. Mr. Armacost opened the place at 6 a.m. and they would be sitting outside the door waiting on him. Of course upon his arrival they would rib him as hard as they felt they could.
One day he went to the mall and bought a coffee maker with a timer on it. He set it up and set the time for 5:45 a.m. The next morning as he arrived and they began to rib him, he opened the door and pointed to the pot of already-made coffee and told them he had come up earlier and made it. The next morning they arrived at 5:30 a.m. and when he arrived and opened the door he again pointed to the pot of coffee and told them he had come up 15 minutes earlier. This went on for several days until it got to where the men were arriving about 4:30 a.m. and looking very tired, blurry-eyed, and grumpy. That is when he pointed out the timer. After this I think the race to be first in the morning was over with Rollin Armacost declared the victor.
Up the street from there was Swopes Drug Store and they served only cups of coffee. Howard Swope was a school bus driver and after the morning bus run the drivers would stop by for a ten-cent cup of coffee and a summary of what they had learned over the last 24 hours since they had last shared a cup. This crowd had a mix of male and female bus drivers and a couple of retired gentlemen and if I was able, I too was in attendance.
Since this klatch began a little later, it lasted a little later and again I learned listening was a good thing to have as the same rule was in place there also. Those who spoke and left were talked about when they were gone. Since at this time I was farming and single and still living down on Fruit Ridge Road, I really didn’t have much to report and I am sure that was a good thing for me.
The way business operates these days, folks still rise early to go to work. They want a cup of coffee and some conversation to go with it. What has changed the most is that the little mom and pop groceries where there was always a place for conversation and coffee have in large part vanished from our landscapes. Now look for the convenient stores where usually there are a couple of booths and some chairs and the restaurants that even though they are corporate chain businesses they still open early to greet this particular group. There actually might be more places to gather and trade conversations.
In looking up the definition of the coffee klatch. I also looked up the definition of a coffee “clutch”. It said they were a group that gathered to just tell lies and spread unproven gossip. That is what the definition said. Now if these groups just take a good look in the mirror, I’m certain they would all agree that they’d much rather be the definition of the klatch where they gather to converse lightly and enjoy each other’s company, instead of spreading lies and talking just to hear their own voices.
I don’t think this country could exist if this kind of forum couldn’t be carried out. To get to express some of what you really feel inside isn’t all that bad and when you are in a group of this size with mutual backgrounds, it becomes a sounding board and allows a person to see if his thoughts are right or maybe needs some work. Take the time to watch and listen. You will see that the coffee is just a secondary part of the gathering, but it does make for a great excuse for the morning coffee klatch. But if I’m there, put cream and sweetener in my coffee please.
Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. If you like he may be able to speak to your groups. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.