Before there was a Frankville Fire Station, voting took place in a tiny wood building that was only used for voting. My Pawpaw called it “the voting house” and every single time it was opened, we went. Probably one of the most interesting things about this is that my grandfather could not read, yet he never missed exercising his right to vote. Granted, he enjoyed going to “the voting house” and seeing neighbors that he had not seen in a while, but he was also educated on who was running, especially in the local races.
Pawpaw loved watching television and listening to the radio, so he got the information. He also listened to various opinions at “Geigy” where he worked for nearly four decades. My grandmother also had to read any political fliers that came in the mail. If they were lengthy or from a candidate that she didn’t deem worthy, the fliers usually got trashed before he arrived home. That’s how marriage works sometimes. Despite his illiteracy, he had a deep interest in his community and his country and was far from ignorant. As the oldest son and because he was strong and healthy, he stayed home and worked in the fields and in the log woods. School was not a priority for his family, but he learned the importance of education and stressed it often to his children and grandchildren.
I can recall standing in “the voting house” and listening as my grandmother whispered the ballot to Pawpaw. I can recall his reactions to various candidates’ names. She may have read them quietly, but “Rooster” as my grandpa was called, didn’t do anything quietly. “Nope. Not that one. No. That one’s a crook. What’s the other one’s name?” I really wish I could remember who the poll workers were in those days! I am quite sure they remember my grandparents well. I remember watching the process, being told how important that it was. After Pawpaw voted, we stood to the side and watched as Mawmaw quietly read and marked her ballot. I remember asking Pawpaw if I could read the names to him the next time we came to the “voting house.” He told me if I worked hard in school that I could. That became my goal and eventually I was allowed to read his ballot to him. I was able to do this for several elections and I will never forget it.
I really hope that readers aren’t shocked by this. It was a different time and it was an extremely rural situation. Now, there are trained individuals who are paid to read to illiterate voters. If the same was true in the 1980s, I am thankful that they allowed my grandmother and later, me to read for him. It gave me a greater appreciation for both education and democracy. Because of my experiences in “the voting house,” I am extremely thankful for my education, for the right to choose the candidates that I feel inclined to choose and for the fact that there are choices in both democracy and in education.
The fact that someone who could not read the ballot was not intimidated by the voting process is commendable. The idea that he cared enough to listen to and participate in discussions related to politics fascinates me. However, he never was shy about anything, especially his opinion.
It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I hold each of my grandparents in high esteem. Each of them has a unique story that is a part of who I am. At every election though, as I pull into the fire station parking lot, I think of Pawpaw, the “voting house” and the fact that I first “voted” in the 1984 Presidential Election because that’s the first ballot I was ever allowed to read.
God bless America!
Weekly columnist. Feature Writer.