It’s 8 a.m. in Sharpsville and four school bus drivers are congregated at the local convenience store, getting snacks and fueling up one of the Tri-Central buses, having dropped their charges off.
Like in most small towns, the 24-hour gas station is at the center of things. The one in Sharpsville experimented with removing the booths a while back, but the owners decided to put them back in. The booths get their fair share of use.
“That’s the guy you should be talking to,” driver Tom Moulder says, pointing at a red Dodge Durango moving slowly down Meridian Street, toward the east end of town.
The man in question, Lester Rood, wasn’t difficult to find. After one lap around the northern Tipton County town, Lester’s Durango was spotted pulling into the gravel drive of the town’s water station.
Rood is the unofficial mayor of Sharpsville, having lived there since his freshman year in high school. He and his wife, Marcia, who does hair for the ladies of the town, married when they graduated from the old Sharpsville-Prairie High School and never left.
He’s served on the town council, almost as a favor (“politics aren’t my thing,” he says), but he’s most proud of 42 years spent on the town’s well-equipped volunteer fire department. Now 67, he’s a bit wistful when he relates how he hung it up with the department last year, taking himself out of active service. He’s around all the time and available for whatever the town needs.
“There comes a time when the older generation has to let go and let the younger people run things,” he said.
In Sharpsville, there’s a generational change going on, but there’s not much of a dividing line. Unlike a lot of small towns, the average age of the residents has remained remarkably stable. As older residents pass on, younger residents have been taking their place. Everyone knows everyone, and families stick around.