Eighty-three-year-old Dave Milem lives in the home he built 50 years ago in Lawrence County, Ohio. The home contains more than 200 antique stoneware jars, a 100-year-old hand-cranked glass jar coffee grinder used daily, antique furniture and the original seat from the outhouse of his old church.
Milem was born in 1937 at Ironton’s old General Hospital. Until he entered the service, he lived with his parents, sister and two brothers on 48 acres along Big Solida Road in Lawrence County.
“Dad bought the farm with mustering out pay and money saved from the Army,” Milem said. “He worked construction when not working the farm. I disliked milking cows because I always smelled like cow manure and dried milk at school. When dad bought a Farmall Tractor, everyone’s life became easier, including our two horses. Electricity was finally installed in 1943. During summer, we dammed up Big Solida Creek for swimming.”
Milem said Halloween pranks became more devious with age. Thanksgiving and Christmas were family gatherings at Grandmother’s. His best Christmas gift was a coveted Red Ryder lever action BB gun with built-in compass that he’d love to have back.
“We always had a freshly cut tree for Christmas,” Milem said. “Mom loved the smell and loved decorating it. Sleigh riding was best on the big hill at nearby Brubaker’s Farm. When it snowed, anyone with a sled was there.”
Grades one to seven were taught at Solida Grade School that was a one-mile walk. His teacher was Irene Stewart, who was “excellent.”
“School began with the Pledge of Allegiance to our flag,” Milem said. “This was followed with the Lord’s Prayer, and every grade in that one-room school was involved. Ms. Stewart maintained total control, and anyone who acted up was sent home. There was a tin cup hanging by the water pump in front of the school. Everyone drank from that cup, and no one got sick because of it.”
Milem told a story about taking two small pigs to the old city market in Huntington to sell. After they sold, he noticed a Cushman motor scooter for sale across the street at Ingles Gulf Station. When he inquired about price, the man asked him how much he had. Milem told the man he had just sold two pigs for $35, and the man answered, “That’s exactly what I’m asking, and I’ll fill the tank up.” Riding his Cushman home, Milem wondered if he could have bought it for $25.
“South Point High School was a 30-minute ride until I graduated in 1955,” Milem said. “I got involved with football, track, basketball and 4H. I loved history probable because of the teacher Don Braymer, who made it interesting. I did ride my Cushman to school — until I was turned in for racing the school bus. After that, I rode the bus.”
When Milem entered the Army, he rode his bicycle to Ashland for his induction physical. When he arrived, he was told the basement where exams were given was flooded. They were told to get on the bus because they were going to Fort Knox, Kentucky, for boot camp; he never saw his bicycle again. After anti-aircraft training, he was shipped to Germany, where he mostly guarded borders until shipped to Fort Sheridan, Illinois, for an honorable discharge in 1958.”
Milem’s first car was a 1941 Packard that he bought for $300 worth of labor at a nearby farm in 1952. He drove it until he left for the Army. While he was away, the Packard disappeared one night — he never saw that car again, either.
After his discharge, Milem worked construction for American Bridge and the University of Virginia constructing a nuclear reactor building. He’s worked at Armco Steel, Allied Chemical in South Point and three years with his brother Arthur in the plumbing business. During the next 30-odd years Milem started two businesses in the construction trades that were sold when he finally retired last July. Marsha, his beloved wife of 47 years, passed away in February 2006.
“Over the years I’ve owned 35 to 40 antique vehicles,” Milem said. “In July 2006, I became part of a cross-country road tour from Philadelphia to San Francisco involving 100 vintage cars. I was among the 71 that finished the drive in a 1928 A Model Ford. I have a Model A Ford sedan, a 1955 Chevrolet convertible, a 1962 Volkswagen Beetle and a couple of Cushman Scooters. I also enjoy antique furniture and old stoneware jars because they represent a part of history. I refinished the seat from my childhood church because after the fire, all that was left was the outhouse.”