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Johnny Glauber was born June 3, 1938, on Main Street in La Grange above his family’s store – Glauber’s Five and Ten Cent Store.
“My dad’s name was John William Glauber and my mother was Opal Stapp Glauber. My dad was from Harrodsburg and my mom was from Russell Springs. They were married in Campbellsville in 1932.
“My dad was working in Campbellsville at the time in one of the groceries and he found out there was a business for sale in La Grange in 1933. He came up here and liked what he saw and Mom and Dad moved in above the store in the apartment. ... We lived there until I was 2 and then moved on Ky. 146 across from the parsonage of DeHaven Memorial Baptist Church.
“While we lived there, Mom and Dad built their home on Fourth Street, where my sister still lives. My sister is 10 years younger than me.
“The Five and Ten Cent Store was right in the middle of the block – on one side was Barr’s Grocery and the other was Mary D’s Sweet Shoppe. I remember, especially on Friday and Saturday nights, people gathering in the back of the store, by the pot belly stove. There would be 12 or 15 people just sitting around the stove, talking and enjoying each other’s company. Every evening, my job was to go to the back door to the coal shed and bring in the coal for the stove.
“Back then there were steam engine trains that came through town and all the ash from the smoke would settle on the sidewalks.
“Another job I had was to sweep the sidewalks every morning. When I got older I helped Dad wash the windows and decorate the store windows.”
Glauber remembers the Pan American passenger train coming through from Chicago.
“People would wave and I would sit out on the curb.
“I really enjoyed the Derby trains. They would hook on these elaborate cars on the back of the regular passenger trains with people going to the Derby.
“You would see them going back from the Derby on Mondays!”
Glauber remembers a lively, bustling La Grange.
“They didn’t close the stores until 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. On those nights you could hardly walk on the Main Street because of the crowds of people. It was so crowded! Cars would be parked up on Jefferson Street and between Third and Fourth Street, it was busy.”
The Glaubers’ dry goods store sold everything from hair barrettes, toys, a small selection of hardware and a shoe department housed in the balcony.
“Christmas time was very good for me. My dad and mom gave me a lot of toys. They were metal toys – airplanes, fire trucks, the old Mattel toys.”
Glauber’s dad sold great toys in the store.
“For Easter he had stuffed bunny rabbits, egg dyes, things like that. We had a really good candy part, too – Mom ran that – it was on the right aisle under the stairway.
“It was 15-feet long. They had bulk candy, chocolate drops, hard candies. And the other part they had candy bars.
“I remember one time my Dad ran low on candy – he got his candy from Axton Candy Company. Dad got hold of Mr. Abbott of Abbott Transfer Company and Mr. Abbott went down to Louisville and got it for him – the candy came in 10- and 15-pound bags!
“In the spring and summer through late fall my Grandfather Stapp would come here. He was a master carpenter.
“Dad had a popcorn machine and Grandpa would pop corn out on the street on weekends and would sell 20 or 30 pounds of popcorn a weekend. Grandpa loaned me money to start my first paper route in La Grange, I bought it from Bobby Offutt. They would drop off the Sunday papers by train around 3 a.m. and you would put all the sections together.
“During the week the papers came by the Kentucky Busline, where Kinser & Kinser is now. I think the Kentucky Bus Line went to Louisville twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon.”
Glauber remembers all of his teachers. He went to La Grange for first through eighth grade and was part of the first freshman class at Oldham County High School.
He had Mrs. Hahn for first grade, and “her husband was a welder and she had a daughter named Joyce,” Glauber said. Second grade was Mrs. Russell, third-grade was Mrs. Zaring and fourth grade was Mrs. Jesse Leet. The Smith sisters taught Glauber in fifth and sixth grade, Mrs. McMakin taught seventh and Mrs. Paul taught eighth.
“The old gym at La Grange was all wood construction and four rows of bleachers on the side and heated by a big coal furnace.
“The furnace was down in the basement and the vents were right at the score table. The basement was just big enough for the furnace to sit down in there. They had a regular basketball season there and then in the summer time La Grange started a recreation program for kids.
“They would have basketball and table tennis and at night they used it for a roller rink. Mr. John Oechsner took care of that and he was the basketball coach.
“They had a huge New Year’s dance there every year. The night it burned down was before a New Year’s Eve dance. There was a default in the furnace. The Kentucky State Reformatory orchestra played at the New Year’s Eve dance. They were called The Stardusters. It was composed of 15 or 20 inmates. Sponsors would decorate the gym up real good.
“They used to have donkey basketball games in the basketball courts! And then one of the tallest men I ever saw came to town as a part of a traveling team, like the Globetrotters, but it wasn’t as well known. He could almost actually reach up and grab the goal. They billed him as one of the tallest men in the world in the 1970s!
“Our fire department sponsored a couple of circuses that came to town.”
Glauber remembers playing baseball off Fifth Street where Immaculate Conception Catholic Church is today. Kids played pickup games all afternoon until dark. In the fall, they’d play football.
“It was time to go home when you heard your parents yelling or whistling for you to come home.”
Adult teams played on Tuesday and Fridays.
“My dad at the time (I was about 4 or 5) was fire chief of the town. The afternoon before the game he would take the fire truck on Spring Street and lay a hose from the hydrant at Fourth and Spring and cut the dust off the field.
“In La Grange to eat, you went to Mary D’s Sweet Shoppe for sandwiches. Up on the next block was Mundloch’s (Rosalee Pearce) and up the street from that was Townsends. My parents used to hang out with the Pearces and their daughter, Jean Rose, used to babysit.
“When La Grange became dry, my dad bought the last bottle of beer in town at the Mundlochs – I think it was Oertel’s 92.
Glauber’s family also ran a restaurant in La Grange.
“We had breakfast, lunch and dinner at our restaurant. The dinner consisted of meat and two sides. It was just regular short order sandwiches for lunch and typical breakfast. Ada Lee (Mr. Tommy Lee’s wife) and her sister were the cooks. The waitresses were Mrs. Montgomery, Mrs. Button, Mrs. Ballard and Mrs. Horine and of course, Mom. They also served the Rotary Club each week.
“Mrs. Lee would be back there cooking in the summer and there was no air conditioner, just exhaust fans.
“She would just be singing and she wore a bandanna on her head. She would catch me sneakin’ a taste of potato salad – she would chase me out the back door and tell me she would tell my daddy.
“Dad was called Big John and I was always called Little Johnny. There are still people around that call me Little Johnny.
“On a Friday night Mom would fix fried shrimp and frog leg dinners. One night she had homemade chop suey and everyone just ate it up!
“Dad would close up at 7 p.m. on a Friday night for a basketball game and then he would re-open after the game. We would have to run back to the store and cook up hamburgers on the grill for the crowd.
“I would be cooking hamburgers on the grill – I was around 14 or 15 – I loved it! To this day I wish I had kept cooking. I love to cook.
“Mr. Rainey’s Pool Hall was where Karen’s Bookstore is now and down the street, where the commonwealth’s attorney office is, Mr. Chester Stamper had his pool hall.
“In the 1950s Mr. Pete Abney opened Pete’s Pool Hall, where 119 West Main is located today. There was a small restaurant in front of the pool hall at Pete’s and ladies could come in there for food. ...
“Dad was the fire chief from about 1939-43. I kept my pedal power fire truck at the firehouse when I was a little boy. They bought a new fire truck when Dad was chief. We still have that truck at Station 3. I can close my eyes right now and remember the fire truck – a 1940 Chevrolet open cab built by Howe up at Anderson, Ind.
“When I was 17 and I went into the Ky. Air National Guard at Standiford field into armor section and they changed the mission after about six months into two divisions, from a fighter squadron to a photo recon squadron and cut the armament section in half. You could go into the fire department or air police. So I chose the fire department and got my basic training in air crash rescue and spent six years there.”
Then-fire chief Ted Roberts asked Glauber to join the La Grange Fire Department.
“The gym at La Grange burned and the D. W. Griffith Theatre burned at that time. Those were two big fires.
“I resigned from the fire department in 1962 when I started driving with Allied Van Lines with a tractor trailer. I didn’t get back on the fire department in La Grange until 1969.
“At the time the D. W. Griffith fire happened on Main Street and I went around the corner on Main Street, flames were coming out of the marquee and going up the second floor. That fire was set.
“South Oldham, Middletown, Ballardsville and a crew from Lyndon were all called in to the fire. I met a chief from Lyndon, Buz Pearce, who later became my mentor. La Grange buildings are structured where the rafters go through the walls into other buildings. ...
“The Lyndon crew went into the jewelry store and began pulling the ceilings and opened it up. When the theatre blew up, it blew the roof off Gatewood Drug Store, a few stores down, which set back down about a foot off!
“Back then the La Grange Fire & Rescue was all volunteers. Today it is part-time paid and volunteers. It has grown from a one station department and two trucks to three stations.
“Right now we are building the new firehouse there off Ky. 53. We get 800 calls a year. At one time I was an emergency med tech and La Grange and South Oldham were the first two fire departments with ambulances in the county with emergency medical services.
“Oldham County was one of the first counties to have emergency medical technicians. Mallory Taylor Hospital was still open back then but often we had to make runs into Louisville.
“One run might take two or two-and-a-half hours back then. Then they made fire districts and began using tax money to help pay for the fire departments.
“I became fire chief from 1980-82. ... “Firefighting changed because of the research from the NASA program. The space program took a special emphasis on fire safety. Better equipment and protective gear was designed by NASA. The technology has changed tremendously.
“In early years hoses were 2.5 inches – today it’s 5 inches. Use to be we could pump 750 gallons per minute now it’s 1,500 gallons per minute. Everything has doubled.
“Probably one of the biggest fires I have been involved in was a warehouse fire in Shelbyville- they called us in for back-up.
“After working for Allied I began working as the assistant manager for Bob and Lee’s Truck stop which included managing a restaurant on U.S. 42.
“After that I got married to Sherry Holloway from Anchorage in 1965. We moved to La Grange on Fourth and Madison and then moved to where we are now.”
Glauber once worked at the Brown Hotel as a bellman.
“J. Graham Brown owned the hotel. I met Betty Grable when she was doing the stage play ‘Hello Dolly’ at the Memorial Auditorium. I roomed Helen Hayes, George Goebel, Ray Stevens and, I never met him, but saw Liberace. It was against hotel rules to get their autograph or picture with them.
“Mr. Brown had a little French poodle named ‘Wooz ‘um’ and she always had to be walked. You had to take her out around the library, across Broadway, up Fourth, etc. ... The collar she wore was a real diamond collar!
“I also worked at the Holiday Inn and the mall and then I worked 22-and-a-half years at the Ky. State Reformatory and retired. I started flying radio controlled airplanes and worked at a couple of hobby shops, full-scale hobby shops.
“I became production manager of a radio controlled airplane manufacturer in Louisville. We built radio-controlled full jets that were sometimes went up to $15,000. ...
“I am a member of the River City Radio Controllers and we fly over at Tom Sawyer Control. I haven’t done any since I injured my back on some black ice.
“I still have all my planes. You could fly a two-cycle engine not more that 250 yards – but it all depends on the size of the plane, receiver and so on. Some of the big jets you can go a half mile.
“I also like airplane history. In 1928 there was almost an airport up by the old Anaconda plant outside La Grange and during World War II there was an emergency landing strip and it had a beacon.
“Before radios and everything that is how airplanes navigated at night from beacon to beacon to beacon.”
Another time, Glauber remembers when an Army observation plane landed behind the church on Fifth Street while waiting for fuel from Ft. Knox.
“Well, myself and Bart Brown, Terry Ashbrook, and a bunch of kids all got to sit in the plane.
“I was in the pilot seat when all of the sudden I felt the tail lift. It scared me to death. I got out of that plane!
“It was just the pilots lifting the tail to give me a scare!
“I am now on the board of directors for the fire department. La Grange population has outgrown the old firehouse and so we started making plans for the new firehouse and we built it to last at least 60 years. We hope it opens in late March.
“There is room for people to stay through shifts, a kitchen and lounge. We also have a tornado/storm shelter in the basement that local residents can use. It can probably hold at least 100 people and that is really good because there are several trailer parks close by. ...
“I feel blessed to have had such a great mother and father. They treated us good and they were good Christian people. I am blessed with my wonderful wife, Sherry and sister, Mary Lillian.
“On Sept. 11, 1968, my father passed away and that was one of the saddest days of my life. My mother passed away two years ago and that was hard, too. I have lived a good life and have tried to serve the people of this city through community activities like the fire department and Boy Scouts. We have an Explorers Post. I am a supporter of Crusade for Children and I serve as secretary on the La Grange Utilities Commission.”
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