Bedford says ‘goodbye’ to Ruth Crouch

-A A +A
By John Barnhart

    Bedford said “goodbye” to another of its best citizens this week. Ruth Crouch, the “Pie Lady,” died Monday morning. She was 75.

    Crouch, was born in Pulaski and came to Bedford when she was in third grade when her father, Oakey Foutz, returned to his home town. When she was in high school, she had an after-school job with Updike & Stevens, a grocery store. Later, she worked locally for for the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company until it transferred the operations of its Bedford office to Roanoke.
    She spent her entire working life in Bedford’s Centertown. Her first job was at Johnson’s Department Store, located on Washington Street where Billy Moore later had his pharmacy. The Christmas Station was the building’s most recent occupant. When Crouch was 14, she got a job over Christmas working in Johnson’s household goods department. That was in 1951.
    In 1956, Crouch began working at Updike and Stevens Grocery, located where the Bedford Social Club is today. This was  an after-school job when she was in high school. The store owner had developed a device that allowed them to make hamburger patties. They would take an ice cream scoop of hamburger, put it in the simple device and squeeze. The result were patties that were of a uniform size and weight. When the store closed, she was given the device and kept it.
    Later, she got a job as a telephone operator, working in an office in the  top floor  of the Citizens Bank Building. That’s the building on Main Street with the white pillars. Crouch worked at a switchboard and cords were manually plugged in to make connections. The switchboard was on the upper floor of the building, The lower floor was a bank back then, half a century ago. When the facility closed, she was given some pieces of equipment as a souvenir.
    Finally, in the early 1960s, she went to work at D. Reynolds and stayed there until it closed, nearly 50 years later.
    Back when Crouch started at D. Reynolds, South Bridge Street was part of a vibrant downtown business district. There were three grocery stores: Carter’s Food, Smith’s Market and Updike and Stevens. There were also three hardware stores: Bedford Hardware, Saunders Hardware and Latimer’s Hardware. Overstreet and Smith Lumber Company was also located on South Bridge Street. The lumber was stored where the parking lot behind the County Administration Building is now located. Johnson’s Hardware and Furniture was in the building at the corner of South Bridge and Washington Street, across from Bedford Hardware. There was also a pool hall and a duck pins bowling alley on that part of Bridge Street.
    While men shopped at D. Reynolds, ladies could go to Mary Lee’s Dress Shop across the street. You could also get your shoes repaired at Griffin’s Shoe Hospital or check out Bedford Radio Sales and Service.
    Now, almost all of this is gone.
    Along with managing D. Reynolds, Crouch did sewing. She did all of D. Reynolds’ alterations and did custom sewing of her own.  One of her clients was the Bedford Police Department and one of her last projects for them was sewing new patches on their uniforms in preparation for reversion. The new patches identify their jurisdiction as just “Bedford.”
    She donated her sewing services to the Bedford Volunteer Fire Department, just as the firefighters donate their services.
    Crouch was also locally famous for baking pies, hence her nickname “The Pie Lady.”. She baked more than 200 pies to order every year. Like her sewing skills, Crouch also put her baking skills to work, donating many of her homemade pies to various charity fundraisers.