By Craig Hastings
One of the things I have enjoyed most about living here in a small community my entire life is that I have gotten to know a little bit about most everyone and their families. I was born and raised here in Tuscola and never left and have no regrets. Even when the wind would gust and try to blow me in another direction in life, I stayed. My family was and is also still here. Well, except for sister Tracy, and we haven’t given up on her return some day. I believe I’ve lived about two thirds of the life of this body God gifted me nearly 60 years ago. Because of my years living here in Tuscola I have indeed gotten to know many of the other lifetime or nearly lifetime residents here. I obviously grew up with my own parents’ generation of tried and true Tuscolians and know and knew many of them very well.
My parents’ generation is shrinking. I lost my own father in 1996 at the early age of 70 years. As time moves on I believe more than ever that growing up and living life in their generation was by far the best time to be alive in America. Social communication was done face to face, deals were struck face to face with a handshake, supper was eaten at home, harmless but useful innovation was happening at a rapid pace, and most importantly people kept their personal lives to themselves. Social events took place by gathering at one of your favorite clubs or churches you belonged to. No Facetime or video texting existed nor was it needed. I remember the ABC, Rotary, Elks, VFW, Moose, JCs (Junior Chamber of Commerce), Masonic Lodge, the bowling alley, Strand Theatre downtown, and other such places like the downtown restaurants people would meet regularly. Speaking of downtown Tuscola; Friday night downtown was a big social event all its own. Every Friday night the twenty plus retail stores stayed open until 9 p.m. and everyone showed up even if they had nothing to buy!
Today, this morning, I was notified of the passing of a man I considered a very good friend of mine and my family’s. Jack Allen passed away today at the age of 92 years. In 1973 Jack sold me my very first car. At that time, Jack was a partner in the East Tower Dodge/Plymouth dealership here in Tuscola. It was located in the 800 block of East Wilson Street just under what was then the east water tower, which is now the only water tower. I knew exactly what car I wanted which was partially determined by what payments I could afford when I was 16. Being a Plymouth model, East Tower Dodge/Plymouth was where I would go. In 1973 people bought, sold, and traded the things they needed in their hometown. I didn’t know Jack the day my dad took me to the dealership, but I would everyday after our visit. I wanted to order a Plymouth Road Runner, and I had my option list in hand that day. My dad wanted me to buy a 318 powered Dodge Charger that was sitting on their lot, but oh no, I knew what I wanted and was willing to wait the eight- to twelve-week build schedule it was going to take to get me a Road Runner. All went well; ac, power steering, power brakes, sure grip 3:55 rear axle, bucket seats, center console with “slap stick” shifter, blue paint, black interior, black stripes, F60X15 Goodyear Polyglass tires, am-fm radio, until Jack asked me which of the four engines I wanted in the car.
I already had a good idea my dad was not going to allow my first choice.
“I want the 440 with an automatic transmission,” I blurted out. Jack glanced at my dad but my dad was saying “No, we’re not doing that” before Jack even finished moving his eyes my dad’s direction! I was getting an automatic transmission anyway, but I thought maybe if I included it as part of my answer to the engine size my dad might not notice. I was wrong. That left a 318, 340, and 400 as my other choices. “What’s wrong with starting out with the 318,” my dad said? “How about the 340,” I replied? He said I could, and I silently proclaimed success! You see, my dad didn’t know the next largest engine the 400 was actually less powerful than the 340, and the 340 wasn’t far behind the 440 in 1973. Headers, intake manifold, and camshaft would have me going faster than any stock 1973, 440 car. Easy enough, Jack knew but never said a word!
About eight weeks later, I watched my car go by my study hall enroute to East Tower Dodge. Lunch couldn’t get here fast enough! My mom picked me up and we went straight to the dealership. When we got there Jack was outside, in the cold, waxing my newly delivered car! What! What car dealership owner waxes a punk 16-year-old kid’s car?! Jack Allen did! Years later, the dealership sold out to Cross Road Motors and moved to Arcola. Jack successfully ran for Douglas County Clerk, and because I became the police chief in Tuscola in 1986, Jack and I had many opportunities to talk both professionally and until this day, today, as long-time friends.
My parents thought a lot of Jack and his wife Wilma. I think part of the friendship was also a Republican Party thing. The Republican Party was a really big deal back in the day. The republicans held several events in the election years in Douglas County, and I’d bet Jack and my Dad rarely missed a single one. A year or so ago I would see Jack four mornings a week most weeks on his way in or out of Flesor’s Candy Kitchen. I’ve told several people that if I am able to get around as well as Jack did at 91-92 years old; bring it on! Jack was an inspiration for me not to dread or be afraid of these next 20 years or so of my life. That hasn’t changed today either. I still say that should I live to be 92, and up until then I can live as strong as Jack has, I’ll take it! I will have lived a good and full life. And maybe someone 30 years behind me today, might notice me and say the same about me when I’m 92 years old. Jack was truly a pillar of our community and he will be missed by the entire Hastings family.