Manes: Store owners looked out for those down on their luck
November 1, 2013 2:42PM
Christy Osburn Fisher
Updated: December 4, 2013 6:13AM
“Mama, take this badge off of me
I can’t use it anymore
It’s gettin’ dark, too dark to see
I feel I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door.”
— Bob Dylan
I knew her as the bubbly, blonde cheerleader Christy Osburn. Well, I didn’t really know her, she was three grades ahead of me in school.
Today, Christy Osburn-Fisher, 59, lives in Wheatfield with Molly and Paddlefoot, a pair of dachshunds. She and her late husband Rick Fisher raised two adult children who graduated from Kankakee Valley High School.
Rick and Christy operated a general store for years, but she sold it in January after her husband’s death. Christy is an avid reader who is currently working as an assistant sanitarian for Jasper County.
Our interview marked the first time I’d seen her in 40 years.
You grew up in Morocco, right?
“Enos,” she said.
I’m sure you don’t remember me in school.
“Of course I remember you.”
“The funny thing, we sold the Post-Tribune when we had our store and I had been reading your articles for years before I realized it was you. I never looked at the name below the photo.”
From what I’ve been told, the store sounds like it must’ve been the epitome of mom-and-pop shops.
“You didn’t get far from work because the house was attached. It really wasn’t a convenience store; it was more of a general store. We sold worms, freshly made ham, ham salad, pickle loaf and olive loaf sandwiches, beer, shotgun shells, rods and reels, masking tape, fuses for cars, we were a deer and wild turkey check-in station and had gasoline pumps out front. I mean, we turned a little bit of everything. You know? It was a neat place. We also had two six-feet long tables for the coffee guys. It was a bottomless cup — free refills.”
Homemade ham salad sandwiches, 20 cups of joe for a buck, nightcrawlers and beer. Dang. What more could a man ask for? “Eat at Fisher’s & Get Gas!”
“We opened at 6 a.m. Rick thought we should open at 5 a.m. because the farmers were all there waiting to come in.”
“If we open at 5 a.m. they’re still gonna be waiting to come in! They’re farmers; that’s what they do!’ We had one guy who was always sitting out in the lot about quarter after five. I said to him, ‘Manley, why do you do this?’ He said, ‘Why, if I was at home in a chair, I might fall asleep. I don’t want to miss anything, so I sleep in my truck until everybody gets here.”
Christy, you’re killin’ me.
“I guess we got known as an easy touch. You know how the hobos would mark houses to let other hobos know which people would give them a handout. We always made sure people down on their luck went away with something.”
Some people would consider you and Rick suckers. Some would consider you kind souls.
“I had one guy come up to counter and ask: ‘What can I get with this?’ He had some change. I made him a sandwich and gave him a cup of coffee. I told him to keep the change. One of our regular coffee customers threw some money down on the counter for the homeless man.”
What happened next?
“He said: ‘Sir, I’m gonna be honest with you, I’m a smoker. Do you mind if I buy a pack of cigarettes with this money?’ Our regular said: ‘I gave you that money, you do what you want with it.’
“Then all my coffee drinkers left. One of them called me on the phone asking if I was OK. I said, ‘Oh, I’m fine. That poor man is harmless.’ Well, he was worried for me so he called the police.
“The police came. I asked the cops, ‘What are you going to do with him?’ They said they would take him to the county line and tell him to keep on walking.”
Like dumping a dog.
“I told the cop, ‘You just wait a minute.’ I made up a big lunch and put all kinds of stuff in it and money in the bottom of the bag. The cop gave me a dirty look. He came back later and asked why I did what I did.”
“I told that officer, ‘Why wouldn’t I do that? Shame on you for not doing the same.’”
Christy, let’s switch gears. How long were you and Rick married?
How long has it been since he passed?
“It’ll be a year on Nov. 23. My father died one week before Rick.”
That had to be extremely hard on you. How old was Rick when he died?
“He was 59. Rick had a very bad heart. He lost a leg to diabetes on Nov. 5. The doctors said if they took his leg, they might be able to save his life.
“I think Rick knew he was going to die. We spent Thanksgiving with him. The kids and grandkids were all there. He kept telling the kids: ‘You gotta look after your mom now, I can’t do it anymore.’ When he said grace, he said: ‘Lord, you gotta watch out for my family, you know I can’t do it anymore.’ He died the next day.”
She says her husband had a bad heart. I beg to differ. Sounds to me like Rick and Christy Fisher had big hearts. I regret that I waited all these years to talk to her for the first time. What a good person she is. Losing her father and husband within a week, all the while keeping her faith. Feeding the poor... She told me that coast-to-coast bicyclers stopped by her and Rick’s store on more than one occasion. She would let these total strangers shower and sleep in their house. One word comes to mind when I think of her — Christlike.
All you have to do is take the “y” off the end of her name.