From the Telegram, May 13, 1998
“Those were the days, my friend”
By Stan Oliver
Special to the Telegram
Three former Mechanicsburg men now call Hearth and Home in Urbana their home.
Jack Ayars, Bob Robbins and Charlie Hatfield sometimes reminisce about their days in Mechanicsburg area.
John “Jack” Ayars was born in Kansas in 1902. His father was a farmer with 1,800 acres of land.
Ayars graduated from Kansas State University, then got a job with the United States Department of Agriculture. He traveled all over the United States by train and car.
“The government provided me with a car or I would of never had one back then,” he said.
While he traveled he met up with a college friend, Gladys, who worked for the Ball Brothers Canning Company and also traveled.
The two married and out of all the country, they chose to buy land outside of Mechanicsburg.
“I’d seen land all over, but this land was among the best for farming; the soil was very fertile,” he said.
That was the reason they named this area “Land of the Living Farm.”
They soon built a house. This farm has grown since then. It now stretches into both Champaign and Madison counties.
Near their farm on Rosedale Road also is the farm where Joe Wing researched alfalfa, making this area an important area for local agriculture.
The Ayars’ had three children, Bill, John and Bonnie. They now have eight grandchildren.
A photograph of the farm was used by the World Book Encyclopedia at one time. It has raised many champion animals and won awards for milk production.
Gladys served as a school teacher in Mechanicsburg for 15 years. She was a 4-H adviser for many years. She died a few years ago. Their grandson Bill recently opened a veterinary office on the family farm.
Ayars is 95 but not the oldest at Hearth and Home. Ella Crouse is 100. She is a Springfield native.
Another local man there, Bob Robbins, was born in Mechanicsburg in 1905. He helped his father, Faye, farm for many years. He also had a brother, Everett, who died young.
Bob worked for a John Deere implement company by the railroad in the village for 38 years. It was owned by Mark Francis. He also worked for Skillman Funeral Home for 14 years.
His wife, Mildred, is also deceased.
“I don’t have no living relative,” he said. But he calls Beverly Rodgers of Mechanicsburg a close friend.
Charlie Hatfield is 81 years old. He was born in Goshen Township and graduated from Mechanicsburg High School in 1936. He farmed land near Routes 4 and 161. He now has four grown daughters.
The three men and visitor Willie Anderson of Mechanicsburg, who will turn 90 in September, recently sat around talking about the old days.
Ayars recalls the time the government sent him on a special assignment to Germany. His job was to make sure a World War II cemetery with U. S. troops was being taken care of.
He laughs as he told the story of going to the Russian border and walking a few feet in, to be able to say he was in Russia.
Anderson then told about another local man, William Saxbe, going fishing to a lake in Russia recently. He was the first person from the United States to fish in that lake.
The men then remembered some of the people from Mechanicsburg years ago like Clyde Frost, Joe Steward, Paul Jones, Leon Boutwell, and Sam Cunningham.
The men all asked if barber Don Moore has any new historic photos up. Then laugh as they call him “Don the Butcher.”
Robbins talked on how a highway by-pass was once planned for Mechanicsburg.
“With all the trucks, they need one,” Hatfield added.
All the men are in favor of the new tri-county jail that will be built in town, but Anderson stated he thought the village was giving more than it was getting in the deal.
“It will take a new water tower and will add more traffic problems,” he said.
The men started talking about the former businesses in town such as The Farmers’ Bank, Buckwalter and Adams Grocery, Moore’s Dry Goods, and the A and P Store.
They then discussed the historic Second Baptist Church.
“Is it still open?” Ayars said.
Anderson said, “Yes, but crowded by a car dealer.”
“It’s a shame,” Ayars stated.
The three residents of Hearth and Home all said they like living there.
Ayars said, “They cook, clean, and are good to us.”
The center on Route 29 offers supported living, which is in between a nursing home an living at home.
They invited Anderson to come back often and keep them up on the village news and joked to him that he will be living there soon.