A Big Thank You for Big Rock

Guest article by Theresa Kallay McHugh, RHS Class of '71

and Thomas Kallay, RHS Class of '65,

with input from Karen Kallay, RHS Class of '70


This is a story about a local businessman…a real humanitarian…and a local family. I hope I have piqued your interest because what follows is a human- interest story that I think you will enjoy.

Theresa Kallay McHugh, RHS Class of 1971

My name is Theresa McHugh, and I have worked in the credit department at R.W. Sidley, Inc., for 18 years. When I was growing up among six older brothers and one older sister, we spent most of our playtime in the tree and shrub nursery behind our house. Do you remember Kallay Bros. Nursery? It thrived in Painesville, Ohio, from 1906 until 1971.

When my dad operated the nursery, the property lines backed up to our house on Madison Avenue. We played in the nursery all day. After breakfast, out we’d go. When it was time for lunch, my mom would give her “special holler,” and we’d come running. It was better than a dinner bell.

Since we were in the nursery so much, we had special names for all the places our bikes and hikes took us. Most of the names were associated with the landscape: Crossroads (of course, where two dirt roads crossed each other); Witches’ Hollow (a spooky, dark area in the wooded section of the nursery); Blacky (an old shanty where the horses stayed at night); Lost Dog’s Hole (an obvious lost dog story), and the list goes on. But more importantly, we had a special place that we called “Big Rock.”

Many stories were attached to Big Rock. Keep in mind I was too young to know of it first- hand. I was only 2 years old when my brothers first gave personalities to these areas. But even today, I never get tired of them telling their childhood stories.

While we waited for each other to finish eating or complete a game in the nursery, we would all meet at Big Rock, our special place. We would sometimes just relax back against the rock and identify shapes in the clouds. You get the picture—those good old lazy-days-of-kids’ summers.

Tom Kallay, RHS Class of 1965

One summer day in ‘93, my brother Tom and I were reminiscing about our childhood days. We had this ridiculous, undoable (so I thought) idea of looking for Big Rock. To make it even crazier, we thought it would be cool if we could get the rock near our family home again.

A plan was born. The following Thanksgiving, when our family was all together, a few of us decided to brave the cold and head for the old nursery area to search for Big Rock. As times change and as fate would have it, the nursery had been bought by R.W. Sidley, Inc. We hadn’t been in it for 40+ years. With camcorder in tow, off we ventured with an indescribable feeling flowing within us.

The first attempt to move Big Rock on a homemade sled.

After a few hours and just before frozen toes, we found Big Rock. Although it certainly looked smaller than it was when Tom was 8 years old, some 44 years earlier (sorry, Tom), we were surprised at how heavy it was when we tried to move it. It must have weighed close to a ton.

We could hardly budge it from where it had been for centuries, yet we were intending to drag it on a homemade sled. Yeah, right! Give us some credit, though; we were still using our imaginations as we did when we were kids. There was no better place to have a family meeting on how to accomplish this feat than at Big Rock.

Without even a flip of a coin, Tom volunteered (whew!) to ask Bob and Polly Sidley if we could return to the old nursery with a tractor to do the retrieval. Tom told them of our dilemma and our eagerness to bring it “home” and preserve a family symbol.

We also knew that Bob was developing the former nursery with new homes and was getting close to the rock’s location. He and Polly were so impressed (“amused” may be a better word) with our story, and they offered their assistance to retrieve it. We were extremely grateful, and that’s putting it mildly. That was one heavy rock!

The new location of "Big Rock."

I can gladly report that Big Rock has been moved to an undisclosed location where it is strategically placed in a safe northerly position like it was in the nursery, which is very important to us.

But wait, the story gets even better! Unbeknown to us, the Sidleys told our story to the new development’s housing committee and proposed that a street in the vicinity of “our rock” be named “Big Rock Drive.”

I was overwhelmed when I heard this and couldn’t wait to tell my family. Realistically though, the final development of the area was a few years off; and I figured everyone would forget about it by then, so I tried to not set myself up for a big disappointment.

However, one day my mom and I were driving down Bowhall Road and saw that new roads were already paved, and the area was ready for home construction.

The Big Rock street sign photo was taken amongst the clouds to symbolize our parents and two brothers who are now in Heaven.

Curiosity pulled me into the new development. As I got close to the street sign, tears came into my eyes. There, right in front of us, was a sign that read “Big Rock Drive.” Mom was also crying. I cannot adequately describe the feeling. Bob and Polly had kept their word once again, and I could not wait to tell everyone.

Imagine a man of Bob Sidley’s stature in the community taking time out of his busy life to do something like this for us – an effort that may have seemed insignificant to him but meant the world to us. He probably wanted to keep this story low key, but my brothers, sister, and I wanted to yell it from the top of “See-All Tree.”

On behalf of all of us siblings – Chuck (Ski), Johnny, Tommy, Ronny, Timmy, Danny, Karen, me (Theresa) and of course, our parents, we wanted to make clear our appreciation to the Sidleys, who understood the value of family heritage. Thanks to them, Big Rock will stay near our family home for generations to come, and our childhoods will live forever.

Eventually Big Rock Drive will be for most residents just another street name, but for us, it will FOREVER take us back to our wonderful childhood years when we all said, “Hey, meet you at Big Rock.”

Epilogue, December 2006

My brother Tom and I wondered if the new residents of Big Rock Drive would like to know how their street got its name. Big Rock sat on one of the empty lots many years ago. So, we decided it would be fun to involve the whole neighborhood. We would tell them the story of Big Rock and on a special day, we would reveal where Big Rock sat when we were just kids playing outside.

It was during the Christmas holiday season of 2006. We put our story in envelopes and tied them up with red ribbon and tiny jingle bells which resembled Christmas presents. As we walked up and rang doorbells, we had to talk fast and let them know we were not from a religious group nor were we selling anything. We handed them the envelope and told them to read the story about Big Rock. We would return to the street at noon on New Year's Eve to announce which house had been the home of Big Rock. All the residents that answered the door seemed curious enough to take the envelope.

Karen Kallay, RHS Class of 1970

It was a chilly but beautiful New Year's Eve day, which is my sister Karen’s birthday. At high noon we returned and parked our car at the beginning of the street. We slowly strolled all the way down the street and all the way back to the street’s entrance. We didn't want to just walk up to the winning house; we hoped to build up the suspense if they were looking out at us through their windows.

They couldn't possibly mistake who we were because we had a huge bundle of helium balloons, a bottle of wine and a bag of colorful "rock" candy. I found the rock candy at the vintage candy store, The Red Berry, in Madison, Ohio. My sister Karen walked backward filming Tom and me on her camcorder as we were talking about the winning family.  Remember this was before cellphones were attached to our hips. We looked like the Publisher's Clearing House crew. The three of us were having a ball, especially when Tom would kiddingly start up a driveway, then turn around and come back down to the street with a devilish look on his face.

As we walked up the drive to the winning house, the family (consisting of Mom, Dad and kids), threw open the door yelling, "Did we win? Was Big Rock on our lot"? They were so excited. We went in smiling, handed them their prizes, and took a bunch of photos. Then we all went out to the backyard and showed them where Big Rock sat all those years ago.

This was the perfect ending to our story of Big Rock that began way back in the 1950s. I hope they continue to share the story of how their street got its name, Big Rock Drive.


ON A PERSONAL NOTE: I am glad that I worked at R. W. Sidley, Inc. for 20 years. As you can see the Sidleys are great people; and this family-owned company is a great place to work. A lot of employees, who aren’t even related to the family, tend to remain at the company for many years. I have friends there that started right out of high school and are now approaching retirement age.

Loyalty goes both ways.

Bob and Polly Sidley have been very generous in their contributions to the community and to RHS specifically. Their generosity went on even as their health started to decline.

In closing, you may not know that Bob and Polly Sidley were married for 64 years. Their story is a classic example of a couple’s abiding love for each other that extended to a huge impact on others.

On Thanksgiving Day, 2022, as they lay side by side in the hospital, they passed away within minutes of each other, holding hands. In my opinion only, I feel their souls ascended to Heaven as one, as their work here on earth was finished; and to me, that is the way a love story should always end.

Theresa Kallay McHugh

Robert Sidley obituary

Paulann "Polly" Fisk Sidley obituary

Related posts

Leave a Comment