10/06/05 — 50 years ... and counting

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50 years ... and counting

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on October 6, 2005 1:52 PM

An empty Coca-Cola bottle used to get you spending money when John Crawford and his brother, Bobby, were children.

So, after the Wayne County fairgrounds were quiet, the boys would hunt through trash barrels looking for a treasure or two.

"People would leave bottles all over the place," John Crawford said. "And we'd pick them up and trade 'em in for 2 cents apiece."

Crawford, now 56, began working at the Grantham Grange and Fire Department food stand when he was a young boy.

"I've worked at this stand every year since I was old enough to walk," he said.

The stand opened for business at the first Wayne County Regional Fair and familiar faces have greeted hungry customers ever since.

"It's been managed by my family every year," Crawford said. "My parents ran it, and now my brother, Bobby, and I help manage it."

Thurman Crawford and his wife, Mildred, opened the Grange stand in 1954. They wanted to do something special for schoolchildren and decided to open a stand that sold a hot dog and a drink for a quarter.

There is a photo of Thurman Crawford in the Wayne County Hall of Fame section of the county museum. He is remembered not just for his fair hot dogs, but for his service to the community in other ways.

His sons remember that original booth. A pole stood strong in soft soil covered in sawdust, holding up the original roof. Not the best conditions when the counter was busy.

"Well, it used to be a dirt floor with a pole sticking out of the ground," John Crawford recalled. "We'd just work around the pole."

Eventually, John and Bobby helped build a new stand in place of the original.

The Crawfords serve many of the same customers each year. Some come for the food, others for the memories.

Crawford remembers a time when all but one of the stands that lined the dirt path were operated by the Grange, a family organization that strives toward improvement of community, education, religion and public service.

Crawford, currently the vice president of the Wayne County Grange, is glad to see a few still standing. Long before firefighters and church groups, these simple people chilled their cola in ice buckets and served hot treats with a smile, he said.

"It's fun to see the people," Mr. Crawford said. "Most of them you don't see but once a year."

It's nice to make some new friends, too.

Tom Williams, 17, finished his hot dog in two bites. After wiping some ketchup off his lips with a rolled-up shirt sleeve, he took a deep breath.

"That was a good dog," he said.

The Crawfords hope to see Williams and others for years to come.

No end to this family tradition is in sight. They say that is how their parents would have wanted it.