Some days it doesn’t pay to get out of bed. Saturday was one of those days. Collections for my paper routes did not go well. Three customers didn’t pay again and I had to pay for them out of my own money. On top of that, I stepped in dog poop in the alley behind the Largent house. I was not in a good mood when I stormed in the side door of our house. I kicked off a smelly sneaker and threw the newspaper bag on the floor. I ran upstairs to my room and slammed the bedroom door. I laid face down on the bed thinking of how bad my day was. A soft knock on the door brought me back to reality. My eyes were still red but at least the tears had stopped. Slowly the door opened and a hand holding my bag reached into the room.
“You okay, honey?” Mom’s soothing voice brought a little calm. I knew she must be angry with me for throwing my bag on the dining room floor. She came in smiling and put her hand on my shoulder like she knew all about my problem. She had a cool damp washcloth in her right hand which she used to brush away the tears and redness. “Tell me about it.”
Those four words opened soreness inside that caused me to begin to shake and sob all over again. “Mom, why do people have to be so mean?”
“People aren’t really mean, dear. Sometimes they do things without realizing that it can hurt others. Did someone hurt you?”
I told her about the three customers that didn’t pay for their papers again. Not even Mrs. B. Then when I got back to the Herald, that seventy-five cents came out of my pocket. Two of them hid when they saw me coming. Everyone knows that Saturday is collection day. It just isn’t fair and they don’t even care.
“That does seem strange. I wonder why they would do something like that.” After a short pause she added, “It kind of reminds me of the times I had to hide from our insurance man, Mr. Morningred, when I didn’t have forty-five cents for the weekly premium.”
“That’s different! My customers know better.” Why did I say that?
“I guess you’re right! Still, there may be a good a reason. Why not talk to your dad about it when he gets home?”
That didn’t make me feel better. I knew what he would have to say. How hard it is to work everyday and that not all days are good ones but there will be more good than bad. How money isn’t everything and that most people will always pay what they owe to the best of their ability. Many times he got paid with a bushel of corn, a basket of eggs, or a peck of apples – the following week mom would hope Mr. Morningred wouldn’t walk up our street at least until after the next payday at the shops.
Later that afternoon dad came trudging up the cellar steps. He had just come home from the shops and checked in on the horses before going upstairs to wash and change clothes. I was on our front porch and a little surprised to have him stop to talk with me. “Your mom says you might have something to talk to me about.”
“Yeh, but I don’t want to talk out here.” I was afraid I’d break down again and the neighbors might see. With that we went inside. Dad poured himself a cup of bitter coffee and sat at the table. I sat on the kitchen steps with a cool glass of water in hand.
“Well, how was your day?” … a subtle way of allowing me tell as little or as much as I wanted. Never interrupting, he let me ramble, sipping his coffee, he stared at me, nodding occasionally. Then he spoke, “how many customers do you have?” “One hundred seven in both routes”, I said. “And you got stiffed by three?” Yep! “Does that mean one hundred four paid on time?” Yes but… I stopped and waited for him to expand his thought further but he didn’t. The pause seemed to last forever! Then he asked another question, “What do you want to do about it?”
“I want to quit my paper routes and get a different job!”
“Do what you feel you have to. Give it a day or so before you decide.” With that said he put his empty cup in the sink, stepped around me and headed upstairs.
On Sunday we all went to late
I guess Monday will have to be my decision day. If I do go looking for a different job, I could do it in the morning or early afternoon since the papers aren’t ready for pick up until three. Jobs for kids my age weren’t readily available. At least I was a mature, responsible teenager now having turned thirteen earlier in the year. If I were sixteen it would even be better!
I checked into most of the business establishments in the downtown area. None had signs in the window asking for help but that didn’t stop me from asking. I went to the Villa, Fellers Garage, Gardner’s, Forte Shoe Repair, Luggs, Blatchford, Rothert even the bank. Andy Hickes at the news stand was looking for a carrier for the Tribune and the Mirror but that’s what I was getting away from. I needed a change so I trudged on further and continued my inquisitive search. I didn’t know who was boss in each of these places but I greeted the first person in each place with the words, “Hey, Mister, need any help?” The A&P, Getz’s, Aults and Crain, the Acme, and Hickes: Dean Phipps, Sully’s, Wilson and El Patio theaters, Spriggs barber shop, McLanahans, Burleys, and even the railroad station were all greeted with my pathetic cry. Most smiled and just said no or not right now! It was nearing three so I gave up my search for the day and went over to pick up my papers. Midway through my first route, the sting I had felt from Saturday had begun to fade. I tuned the corner on Cottage and heard someone call to me. Mrs. B was in her backyard and she ran to the alley and reached over the hedge to hand me a small white bag. “I thought I’d missed you again,” she said. I looked inside and saw two ginger cookies – I was hoping for a quarter for the papers. I thanked her and continued up the alley.
Supper was on the table when I got home and everyone was just sitting down. “Long day?” and then, out of the blue, “how did the job search go today?”
“No one wants me. I even climbed the steps to the vets office to see if Dr. Babe needed someone.. Did you know he cuts the tails off puppies? It’s true, I saw a lady with three boxer pups and each one had a bandage on its tail.”
After knowing smiles and a few chuckles from around the table, I reached for the meat loaf. Betty stopped me. “I was downtown this afternoon and I saw the shoe maker putting a “Boy Wanted”’ sign in his window.” “I already checked and Mr. Forte said he doesn’t need anyone.” “I’m talking about Mr. Mangino, you know – next to Kienzel.”
I looked at the kitchen clock and saw it was just past . “Thanks! I’ll be right back.”
I ran out
the back door, through our yard, down the alley to
wasn’t a big fan of meat loaf, tonight’s was the best
ever. I wanted
to talk about my “possible” job.
I was going to shine shoes just like the kids do in
the movies at the high class hotels or the Bowery Boys on
the streets of
“Do your best, give it all you have and you’ll do all right. Just remember, you have more than one boss - the customer and John Mangino. On that interesting comment I grabbed a piece of watermelon from the bowl and went out on the back porch to ponder my future while spitting seeds.
evening I took a cool bath trying to escape a sultry hot
night. My dreams
of success made by shining shoes and learning a trade gave
way to a locomotive lullaby.
freight chugged out of the station yard on its way toward
Morning came and I dressed as quickly as possible and ran into the kitchen. “I’ll just have some toast and juice, mom. I don’t want to be late for work.” I sounded just like my old man. Mom didn’t insist on feeding me a full energy breakfast. This was to be my “day in the sun” - even though it was a dreary day and threatening rain. I gulped down the juice ate half a slice of toast and ran out the side door with the other half piece of toast hanging out of my mouth.
I arrived at the shoe shop before . I could see a light in the back of the shop but the front door was locked. Cupping my hands around my eyes I pressed my face against the against the glass door and peered inside. No one in sight! I stepped back to the sidewalk and looked up and down the avenue. Maybe he went to the drugstore for breakfast or maybe he was in the bakery getting Sticky buns to welcome me – maybe he died!
“You early – that’s good!” I jumped when the door opened and this thick Italian accent greeted me. No sticky buns and he wasn’t dead!
We went into the shop and he began to show me around. I had been in his shop many times but I was seeing it in a different light this time. The shoe shine stand was taller than I remembered and had room for two people – no waiting, I liked that! There was a glass case opposite the shine stand which displayed shoelaces of every color and size, Kiwi polish for “do-it-yourself” shiners, saddle soap, metal and rubber “taps’(we called them cleats), liquid leather dye, leather softener, and rawhide strips. On top of the case was a metal cash register. Its operation was a little complicated. After punching in the numbers you had to turn a crank on the side. The drawer opened, a bell rang, and the sale price appeared at the top. The machine didn’t add or subtract, and it didn’t put in decimal points or clear errors. Behind the cash register there were two shelves for shoes ready for “pick up”. Each pair had a manila tag with a red number attached.
On the far right rear of the shop was the heart of the work area. There was a series of six or seven wide leather pulleys driven by a motor which was barely visible. Each pulley was activated independently using a wooden lever system to engage the gear with the motor running. This all purpose contraption looked like something from the Wizard of Oz. He showed me the wheels and explained what each was capable of doing. An “industrial” grade sewing machine was sitting near a cobbler’s bench. The bench held two hammers, a leather knife, an awl, and pans of copper and blue steel tacks. All during his explanations I continued to look about the shop. I noticed there were no clocks, no radio, and no photographs. I did see a small American flag in the front window near the entrance and a small painting of the Sacred Heart of Jesus hanging above his work bench. Coffee breaks came in the form of a Thermos and maybe half a sandwich. It was a simple setting which reflected a man’s commitment to faith, country, and work.
After the tour he handed me a “wrap” – an apron-like piece of garb which tied on one side to keep shoe polish and dye off your clothes. Showing my eagerness, I grabbed a broom and began sweeping the shop. Midway through, Mr. Mangino tells me that I should polish the shoes that he has just finished sewing. No one was in the chair so that must mean that he wants me to use the machine.
In my mind I go through the steps. Hold the green button in until the motor starts; find the location of the polish wheel and pulley; move the wooden lever to the correct position; pull down the lever and hold it until the web engages. I had it all straight in my mind when he stepped in front of me to demonstrate. I had figured all the steps correctly but one thing that wasn’t evident was the noise. When he pulled the lever to engage the wheel the motor choked and the leather pulley snapped explosively. As it engaged, the polishing wheel let out a groan and a crunch that sounded like the back wall of the building had caved in. I felt the blood drain from my face and saw my life flash in front of me. “I’m too young to die.” Turning on a well worn heel I moved to the door, removed my “wrap” and said “Sorry.” My career in the shoe repair business was over.
That night I was feeling down. I had started the day with such high hopes ready to tackle the world then the roar of a simple machine scared the “bejeebers” out of me and I ran away. Maybe I should be thankful that I still had my paper routes and that I could continue to serve my customers to the best of my ability even if a few of them “stiffed” me from time to time.
Saturday came around and it was collection day again. When I got to Mrs. B’s she wasn’t home again but there was an envelope with my name on it under the mat. “Sorry I missed you last week. This is for two weeks – and a little something extra for you! You can catch up on the punch card next week.” She trusted me to remember and I guess that’s what it’s all about.
There was a fifty cent piece and a shiny dime enclosed. Not bad for a week’s work!
Great Trip Back In Time
You've read his stories, now, a chance to meet Gary Long, the Woodland Avenue Paperboy:
"There are things that stand out in each of our lives and for me become an integral part of a story - Marlin's kite, Mr. Walk's curve ball, Suzie Miller's swept sidewalk. Not big things but important nonetheless. "I try to make the stories reflective of the people that impacted me at an early age. For the most part, the stories are about people that many may have "forgotten". There are so many people that go through life not knowing they made an impact on others. They weren't prominent business owners, wealthy philanthropists, well known athletes and the like. If their picture was ever in the paper it was a group photo and only the edge of their head could be seen on the far right of row three behind the lady in the broad brimmed hat. "They went to church but didn't preach. They worked to help neighbors patch a roof but never charged. The tools they used, brooms, rakes, sweepers, and hammers, didn't have motors but they always worked. "Birthdays were celebrated only by immediate family members and were often postponed a day or two because of a work conflict. Christmas presents and Halloween treats were usually made by the lady of the house who didn't mind spending time in the kitchen. Recycling was a necessity not a choice and many toys, storage shelves, and lawn "ornaments" were made from orange crates and lard buckets. "Sundays meant a day on the porch, a walk downtown, or a visit with a neighbor. Widows, elderly and the sick were visited by them because they liked each other, not because it was "the right thing" to do. Not all of them went to church every Sunday but they all dressed up on that special day. No matter how poor, no matter how busy, Sunday afternoon was for a family meal that was called "dinner" - the other six days is would be supper. "Men rarely wore suits and ties in my world and the only Cadillac most would ever ride in would be a hearse. "They deserve to be remembered and thought of often. That's why I write about them. "While we live in a world of hyperbole and words like "hero" are often used but rarely understood, these people, these neighbors really cared and sacrificed to make my world better. Accidental heroes? I think so.
Now, read the latest wonderful story by Gary Long of Tyrone as he Remembers:
How Are You Feeling, Boy?
When I heard of Bon Secours closing for good it
brought back memories of my experience at Mercy Hospital
years ago. Anyway, here it is!
When I heard of Bon Secours closing for good it brought back memories of my experience at Mercy Hospital years ago. Anyway, here it is!
My mood was surly to say the least.
That’s assuming it’s possible for a five year old
to be surly. Another
damp spring day with a sore throat meant I was confined to
the house. Being
late April, the furnace season was over so the house
temperature was much like the chill of the outdoors.
One room did have a little comfort – the kitchen.
My confinement was further restricted to a spot on
the kitchen steps leading to the upstairs landing.
The spot had two benefits: first, it was out of the
way and second, it was near our warm kitchen stove.
Mom was busily preparing supper while listening to “Queen
for a Day”. During
the commercial breaks she’d whistle a few happy songs all
the while trying to ignore a surly brat in the corner.
A soft spice laden aroma made the kitchen more
bearable than my mood cared to acknowledge.
Since I was feeling crappy, she took it upon herself
to lift my spirits and alter my mood by making a special
desert just for me. Even
though I loved bread pudding, this offering wasn’t going
to work. My
throat was too sore and raspy to be soothed by cinnamon,
raisins, egg custard and brown sugar.
The afternoon dragged on like it would never end.
Occasionally mom would come over to the steps lean
down and ask how I felt, never expecting nor getting a civil
tried to check my temperature with her mother’s
her palm on my forehead she was greeted with unappreciative
recoils and a scowling “Let me alone!”
I wasn’t a very good patient!
Perhaps a rest was in order -
The dining room was just off
the kitchen. Against
the dividing wall to the left, we had a small daybed.
I never knew anyone to use it, but it was there: a
small maroon daybed with two overstuffed pillows for
the end of the daybed was a small blanket or “throw”.
Next to the doorway was a Philco console radio - the
kind with a decorative wooden grill and a brown cloth that
covered the speakers.
“It’s time you took a rest. No
radio for you, young man!”
Sitting on the edge of the daybed I sipped a cool
glass of ice tea hoping in vain for a reprieve from this
felt my shoes get tugged: first the right foot, then the
left. I put one
pillow near the top of the bed while the other slid to the
gently pulled the throw up to my chin, gave a slight kiss to
my cheek and returned to the kitchen.
I was determined not to sleep but my eyes got the
better of me. The
throw took away the chill and soon enough I was “out like
“I called Doctor Glasgow. His
office was full so he couldn’t come right away but we
could bring him in and he’d have a look.”
Mom was talking to dad in the kitchen explaining my surliness.
I must have really been tired because I never heard
mom call the doctor nor did I hear dad come in from work.
I sat up on the edge of the daybed when they came
back into the dining room from the kitchen.
“How are you feeling, boy?” No
answer. I just
sat and stared at him with my perfected surly look.
“He’s still a little tired, Deb.
He’ll feel better after he shakes out the
mom, I thought. I
just didn’t feel like talking.
The throat was still sore and raspy.
After a few more discussions about the day’s activities they decided
it was time to get me to the doctor’s office.
Mom looked at dad, walked to the kitchen to put
supper on the back burner, came back to the dining room and
picked me up in her left arm and the throw in her right and
headed toward the door.
As she headed out she yelled, “You take care of the
horses and get cleaned up.
We won’t be long.”
The examining room was sparse. A
table, a metal roll around cart, a glass door cabinet with
bottles and containers, a desk with a cup of wooden sticks
on it. He had a
mirror with a hole in it on his head which he adjusted so he
could look through the hole.
He took one of the wooden sticks from the cup, told
me to open my mouth and say “Ah”.
While I was saying “Ah”, he was going “um, hmm,
ah, ha”. He
took the stick, broke it and threw it in the waste can and
started to talk to mom.
He saw the forlorn look on my face as I stared into
the waste can. “Oh,
I’m sorry, did you want one of these?” handing me a
fresh stick. The
discussion with mom continued for a few minutes as I eyed
the other wooden sticks in the cup.
I wasn’t that surly anymore.
Mom let me walk home on my own, stick in hand.
She carried the throw as we headed back to our house
on the hill. When
we got in the house, dad was in the living room, smoking a
Lucky, reading the Herald and drinking a cup of this
morning’s coffee. He
tried again – “How are you feeling, boy?”
This time I held up my wooden stick and said, “A
little better.” The
cobwebs were gone.
The sore throat went away and within a few days I was back to normal.
I wasn’t aware of the conversations that went on
among mom, dad, and Dr. Glasgow.
This wasn’t my first sore throat and it wouldn’t
be my last. Tonsillitis
had reared its ugly head a half dozen times or more and the
doctor wanted us to see a specialist.
Within a week mom and I were on the bus to
Mom really kept a close eye on me over the next few weeks.
“Wear your hat…”; “Don’t go out without a
sweater…”; “Stay away from the neighbor’s house,
The phone call came and the message was short and to the point.
“Have him (that’s me) in the admissions office at
10AM next Tuesday.”
Phone calls went out to Aunt Gert, Uncle Paul, Uncle Hogan, Rose and
Joe, Uncle Ed, even Aunt Jewell in
Tuesday came and we headed out in Uncle Paul’s car – a 1937 black
limo-like Buick straight 8.
The car stopped at the entrance to the hospital and
we exited like royalty.
Up the steps, into the reception area, left to
lady behind the desk was all business.
She asked a lot of questions and checked mom’s
answers against the answers she already had.
She lifted her eyes to mom and said “Everything
seems to be in order.”
Then she saw me clutching mom’s coat and peering at
her from behind. The
stern look melted away replaced by a soft smile and a look
of calm as she told me, “I think you’re going to like it
here, even if it’s only for a day or two.”
Next we were directed down
the hall to the elevator.
We went up one or two floors turned to the right and
entered a small room. The
room had two beds, a couple of chairs and a window that
opened over the main entrance.
I ran to the window, looked out and saw Uncle Paul
leaning on his car, smoking a cigarette and talking with a
policeman. A man
entered the room with a nurse close behind.
The curtain was drawn as mom, the doctor and the nurse began their
review of my current health status.
I could hear muffled sounds from the other side of
the curtain but I was more interested in what I could see
and hear on my side. After
they finished with me everyone left except Patty and my
they were checking you out, they brought a boy in who was
hurt pretty bad. He
needs his rest so we’re going to keep the curtain
Tommy, the nine year old boy in the next bed, was from
The rest of the day passed
stopped in on his way home and brought me a glass locomotive
filled with colored candy beads.
Patty brought me crushed ice (no food or drink
tonight) while mom read to me.
Uncle Paul brought me a comic book but dad had to
leave for his second shift work at the shops.
Dr. Buzzard stopped in to see how I was doing and to
tell Patty and mom that all was set for tomorrow.
I would be transferred to a surgical ward after
surgery but I could stay in this room for tonight.
Morning came and I waved good bye to a sleeping Tommy whose legs were
covered under a white tent-like frame.
I was wheeled down the hall to the operating room
which was scary – a really big light, tubes, metal rods,
and tables covered with shiny tools.
People with no faces dressed all in white peered out
from over white masks. A
soothing voice tried to relax me while a soft reassuring tap
on my shoulder by a faceless nurse gave me courage.
Within seconds, a mask over my mouth and nose took me
to another place.
When I awakened, I didn’t feel any too good.
My stomach was upset and the sore throat was back.
Looking around I could only see my sister standing by
my bed. Mom was
sitting in a chair beside the bed but I couldn’t see her
until she stood up. No
words spoken, just a little more crushed ice.
Dr. Buzzard came in with a big smile.
“Everything went very well.
You may not believe me now but, your sore throats are
this morning, then ice cream later.
weak smile and a nod is all I could manage but it was
By the time dad dropped by before his next shift I was feeling much
are you feeling, boy?”
Hearty laughter, comments about the pony “Billie”
and the dog Penny missing me distracted me long enough for
him to deftly sample of my ice cream.
Now that I was really awake I looked around and for the first time I
realized I was in a different room.
It was much bigger and there were at least ten or
twelve beds separated only by the occasional drawn curtain.
Looking at mom I asked, “Where’s Tommy?”
Patty, mom and dad looked at each other in a somber
way that I had never seen before.
As Patty fluffed my pillow and prepared more ice and
Jell-o, mom and
dad were speaking to each other in whisper-like tones.
“He liked him and he really has a right to know.
It will be better if he hears it from us.”
As mom came to the side of my bed she had tears
trickling down her cheek.
Dad’s eyes were red as he told me, “Tommy
didn’t make it. He
died this morning. I
guess his injuries were just too severe.”
I blankly looked at them – first mom, then dad,
then Patty. They
all had the same look. I
felt a chill and sadness.
I just saw Tommy this morning – I waved good bye.
Tommy never spoke to me but I still missed him.
I was brought back to the present with a light
squeeze of my hand. “Honey,
are you okay? Anything
we can do?”
“Pray for Tommy.”
It was good to get home. Mom’s
friends gathered on the porch throughout the day.
Comments and well meaning refrains like “He’ll be
fine”, “No more sore throats”, “Can’t wait to see
him running around the street again”,
“I’ll bet you missed him” – they made her
Warmer weather gave me a little more freedom.
I was allowed to venture out onto the porch for the
first time in eons. I
heard a voice yell, “Hey,
“Feeling great, Pop!”
-- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Best Seat In The House
Even before television introduced us to such things
as reruns, summer replacements, and “second tier”
entertainers, summer entertainment over the airways
was limited, especially in the evenings.
While the post sundown reach of radio stations like
Radio comedy shows included the likes of Fibber
McGee and Molly, Baby Snooks, Burns and Allen,
Our Miss Brooks, Duffy's Tavern, the
Aldrich Family and others.
Musical offerings were from virtually all genres:
Kate Smith, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Harry James, Judy
Canova and Red Foley performed at our bequest bringing music
through the air with the mere twist of a dial.
Our appetites for intrigue and intense drama were
often satiated with mysteries featuring Sam
Spade, Lux Radio Theater, Boston Blackie, The Whistler,
Damon Runyon Theater, The Shadow, The FBI In Peace and War,
Dr. Kildare, and
a host of others.
We had it all – at least until the end of May!
Like magic, the end of the season brought the curtain
down. We began
our quest for alternative forms of entertainment.
A saving grace was longer days and warm weather,
which enabled us to stay out of doors well into the evening.
Still, the whippoorwill did eventually call and we
had to move inside each night.
Radio comedy shows included the likes of Fibber
McGee and Molly, Baby Snooks, Burns and Allen,
Our Miss Brooks, Duffy's Tavern, the
Aldrich Family and others.
Musical offerings were from virtually all genres:
Kate Smith, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Harry James, Judy
Canova and Red Foley performed at our bequest bringing music
through the air with the mere twist of a dial.
Our appetites for intrigue and intense drama were
often satiated with mysteries featuring Sam
Spade, Lux Radio Theater, Boston Blackie, The Whistler,
Damon Runyon Theater, The Shadow, The FBI In Peace and War,
Dr. Kildare, and
a host of others.
We had it all – at least until the end of May!
Like magic, the end of the season brought the curtain
down. We began
our quest for alternative forms of entertainment.
A saving grace was longer days and warm weather,
which enabled us to stay out of doors well into the evening.
Still, the whippoorwill did eventually call and we
had to move inside each night.
Sports programming, especially baseball, was actually
enhanced by summer schedules.
For me and many of us on “Buryhill”, the summer
baseball surge was a welcome respite.
Most of the Pirate games were broadcast through KDKA
and their affiliates. Rosy
Other than horse racing (what did you expect from a
blacksmith?) prizefighting (also known as boxing) was a
favorite sport among the males in our home.
Maybe a touch of Irish blood that coursed through our
veins tilted us that way.
On Tuesdays, either Jack Brickhouse or Chris Schenkel
handled the blow-by-blow description taking place from
venues like St. Nicholas Arena, the Keystone, or the Blue
were “man's Products” like White Owl Cigars and Pabst
The really big night was Friday.
The radio introduction usually started the same way:
While these two nights were special “fight
nights”, the radio wasn't always tuned to the fight.
If dad was working that shift and unable to be with
us, Ken and I would rarely listen to the fights.
Dad added a description of the people and events that
made us feel like we were there.
His “color commentary” between rounds made this
sport understandable and even enjoyable.
Strategy and tactics were explained in detail but not
ad nausea. Trick
work at the
On a warm Tuesday evening mom might spring for a
treat – seventy-five cents and Ken would sprint to Rea and
Derrick for a boat of chocolate ice cream.
On a Friday night the treat may be different – we
could all walk
The fights usually came on around 10 PM.
The main event bouts were generally 10 rounders
unless it was a championship fight which pushed the tally to
15. This was the
era of special nicknames.
Last names really were redundant and rarely used:
BoBo, Sugar Ray, Brown Bomber, Rocky, Two Ton Tony,
Slapsy Maxy, Gentleman Jim.
Okay, there were two
There was a clanging of the bell at ringside followed
by a subtle but firm “Shh!” from my father.
The ring announcer's voice boomed over a scratchy
loud speaker - “In
this corner, wearing black trunks with a white stripe and
weighing ….” Even
though the radio announcer would repeat the vital statistics
like height, weight, wins and losses, even trunk color,
actually being able to hear it first hand from a nameless
ring announcer over a scratchy loudspeaker with the din of
the stirring crowd added to the tension and excitement of
the moment. Slowly,
the referee made his way to the center of the ring motioning
for the combatants and their handlers to join him.
Once he gave the instructions and special rules that
might be in effect for this fight returned to their assigned
ten seconds after a warning buzzer the bell rang and it was
will be no talking during the rounds in our living room.
During the commercial breaks Ken and I would be
entertained by dad's stories of current and past fighters.
Once he told us of a 1941 championship fight between
Joe Louis and an Irish kid from
Normally, the between round banter would consist of
dad giving Ken
and me a synopsis of what we just heard and, based on his
familiarity with the fighters, and occasionally a
prediction of what was about to occur in future
boxers would meet in the middle of the ring at the start of
the final round, touch gloves then pull out all stops in
quest of a knockout. When
the final bell sounded, cheering was replaced with murmurs
as results of the fight were tabulated.
Ringside judges and the referee tallied their
respective score cards and handed them to that nameless
announcer who approached the scratchy loudspeaker.
On a warm Friday evening only a spoonful of cold Ray
& Derrick chocolate broke the tension of the wait.
“Pretty good ice cream isn't it boys?”
Highlights of a good fight would usually find their
way to the “big screen” at the
Neither Ken nor I ever got to see a professional
boxing match. Never
went to The Blue Horizon, the Keystone or Saint Nicholas
Thinking back, while we weren't present at the main
arena and while it might have been an old living room radio
that screeched and scratched to bring a professional
prizefight into our home, still it was our dad that made the
floor in front of that Philco
“..the best seat in the house.”
Some of the Best Things….
NOTE: We apologize to Gary for the delay
in posting this new story. The season came and went,
but the story is timeless, and soon it will be time again
for kids to look forward to spring. Here's the story:
NOTE: We apologize to Gary for the delay in posting this new story. The season came and went, but the story is timeless, and soon it will be time again for kids to look forward to spring. Here's the story:
looks forward to spring!
The cold weather begins to loosen its grip as the
last of the melted snow winds toward rising creeks.
A freshness fills the air as returning birds seek
mates and stake out trees and bushes for nest construction
in preparation for new offspring.
The promise of a newer and better year is all
around us in annual resurrection of God’s gift of life.
the street, Sullivan’s apple tree is filled with white
blossoms and a bountiful green apple harvest seemed just
around the corner. Welcoming
the new year at our house was a new litter of six healthy
puppies and the mother, Muffet, seemed to bask in the
spotlight while grooming them in her makeshift cardboard box
brother Ken and I started to practice our “...can’t we
keep just one, Mom, puhleeze?” routine a day after the
pups were born. We
could tell this was going to be a great year.
of the annual rebirth of spring is to clean the house,
inside and out. Oddly
enough Ken and I actually enjoyed some of it.
Area and throw rugs had to have the dust and dirt of
winter shaken or beaten from their very fibers.
There was no better way than to hoist each of them
above the ground and hang them on a heavy duty clothes line.
Once suspended, winter’s dirt could be forcibly
removed by belting the rugs with bats, wire rug beaters, or
tennis rackets. He
and I would engage in our spring training batting practice,
first from one side and then the other.
Like most homes, our remnants of winter’s heat were
piles of ashes at the end of the yard.
Each spring ashes were mixed with manure and the
mixture spaded into a small garden plot that was being
prepared for planting. Inside
the house spring cleaning had reached a fever pitch.
Kitchen cupboards were emptied and scoured.
The linoleum floor was scrubbed within an inch of its
life as the lady of the house, brush in hand, moved
methodically from one side of the room to the other pausing
occasionally to ask for help to move the table or lift the
stove so she could clean under each.
Part of the rite of spring was Mom’s decision on
what color paint or wallpaper for the living room.
Dad said the layers of paint and wallpaper reminded
him of the growth rings of a tree – one for every year!
spring readiness extended well beyond our house.
The blacksmith shop had to be straightened up and the
horse stalls cleaned out.
Dad always wanted to do that job with Ken and me
while Mom was busy cleaning the kitchen.
I always thought he had a fear that he wouldn’t be
able to find anything if mom decided to reorganize things in
the shop. One by
one each horse was removed from its stall, the manure piled
outside, the stall hosed down, allowed to dry and new
bedding (straw &/or sawdust) put down and the hose
brought back. Occasionally
a board or two had to be replaced or a new feed box
the weather cooperated, we could get the whole job done in
one weekend. With
horses and feed come rodents.
During the cleaning process it wasn’t uncommon to
damage assessment and repair of the “clay bank” on the
shores of the Bald Eagle Creek at the end of Skelton’s
alley was always the first order of business.
Gathering and placement of a few medium size stones
along the water’s edge provided the outline of the
restored shoreline which could be filled in later with dirt
and clay. The
next order of business was to get the ballpark (Walk’s
backyard) ready for the new season.
There were usually a few ruts that needed filled in
with furnace ashes. The
right field line – closest to Kerchner’s – was raked
as smooth as possible and the distance from home to first
was paced off by one of the older boys, usually Sam McKinney
or Dutch Walk. The
center field area, just beyond second base, was dominated by
an ash pile and a clump of peach trees.
Using shovels and rakes the height of the ash pile
was reduced but not eliminated – that hill was our Crosley
Field warning track. A
clump of roses stood at the shortstop position and Mrs. Walk
would always relent and allow it to be “pruned” each
and a few well placed shovels of manure provided a safer and
more attractive infield.
When the field appeared to be in “decent” shape,
the ground crew – Ken, Dutch, Sam, Billy - performed one
final treatment. Two
or three empty burlap feed bags were dragged across the
field in overlapping fashion to smooth the surface.
Smaller boys – Warren, Dick,
now, spring was in full swing.
The Pirates were on the radio nearly every day,
daylight extended past
, we were fishing above the paper mill, and we were ready
for summer – almost. With
spring came something else – oranges!
Trucks and trains from
Every year, perfectly good imagination crates were sent north by anonymous philanthropists and we relished their arrival. On the way home from school, the scent of citrus coming from the back of one of one of the targeted stores would prompt a closer look at the stacked containers set aside for removal. There, amidst the collapsed cardboard boxes there were two maybe three intact double sided orange crates. Our urgent requests to the store owners had been honored. The crates were still in good shape and only one had broken slats. Danny took one and I put my books in another and carried from the back of Hickes store to home. There are a lot of things you can do with an
Making something worthwhile from an orange crate
wasn’t all that easy.
A few items were engineering marvels that required a
lot of trial and error and a neighborhood that had a few
girls who roller skated or young parents who no longer
needed that baby carriage – or at least the wheels.
The best, and hardest, to build was a race car.
In addition to the crate you needed four good wheels,
a long piece of 10 inch wide lumber for the chassis frame,
2x4’s to attach the axels, a length of clothesline rope
for steering and a bolt plus washers for mounting the front
axel to the frame.
seat was optional and could be fabricated from scrap wood or
an old piece of furniture (if you were lucky).
“Headlights” were fashioned from a couple of soup
cans with the labels removed.
Locating all the parts was a chore and many times
these “cars” sat incomplete an entire year for the lack
of a bolt or a front axel.
Scooters were easier to build and required less
parts list consisted of one crate, one length of 2x4, one
metal clamp-on roller skate.
All we had to do is separate the front wheels from
the back wheels on the skate, attach to the 2x4 which is
then attached to the crate.
A length of broom handle nailed to the top of the
crate helped with balance and steering.
all the choices, furniture for the clay bank was probably
the easiest. Turn
the crate on end, paint it and it’s furniture fit for any
all was said and done, I couldn’t make a racecar – no
couldn’t build a scooter – no one would give up an old
skate. There was
enough “furniture” for the clay bank which meant I had
to look elsewhere. The
best place for me was my dog,
had everything I really needed – a red wagon, a dog named
“Muffet”, a nephew named Mike, and a pup that my mom
couldn’t refuse – Penny.
this and we won first place at the
Me at the “Y”
I come back to town and walk on Logan Avenue from 10th
to 11th Streets, it looks different. The Logan Hotel (a.k.a.
Arlington) is gone. Houses
across the alley (Herald Street) from the Delmar Apartments
are gone. The
Elks club no longer operates at the corner of the yellow
brick road (west Herald) and Logan.
And now I know the Y will be no more.
Physically the streetscape looks different but, if
you close your eyes, you can still feel how things used to
be. People are
coming out the rear exit from Lugg’s heading toward Logan
Paul just put his ’37 Buick away in the garage he rents on
Herald just up from Logan. The 4:40 from Pittsburgh must have arrived because there are
two or three people carrying suitcases coming down 10th
on their way to the hotel.
If it’s a week night there will be meetings or
other activities going on at the Elks.
If it’s a weekend, chances are something will be
going on at the Y. From
the day it opened, this place was the center of virtually
all indoor recreational activity.
Whether for a play, a music recital, a basketball
game, bowling, dancing, table tennis, or just plain hanging
out, the Y was the place to be.
I understand it, the first Y was part of the Pennsylvania
Railroad and it came to town way back in 1904 in a building
on west 14th Street near Logan Avenue.
The original location was a block and a half from the
PRR superintendent’s house (American Legion) and four
blocks or so from the railroad yards in east Tyrone.
In 1913 the PRR constructed a new YMCA building
closer to the town center and it became an instant hit.
Not known for doing anything halfway, the PRR
designed this structure with all the amenities necessary to
create a cultural and recreational center the envy of the
addition to boarding rooms, it was equipped with game rooms
on the main floor, a bowling alley, pool, and gymnasium on
the lower level, an auditorium with theatre seating, and a
public lending library with reading rooms.
Every afternoon the sixty-five member Tyrone PRR Shop
Band could be heard practicing in the YMCA auditorium in
preparation for an upcoming Saturday concert.
By 1934 the PRR withdrew support of the Y and turned
it over to the town at which time the name was changed to
the Tyrone YMCA. While
the PRR concert band moved out, new musicians and actors
moved in to fill the void.
Dance and music recitals, high school and community
plays, professional acts from out of town all shared the
stage in the famed auditorium.
never saw the old building nor did I ever hear anyone speak
of the first venue. I’m
certain it was a classic building well suited for the times
and many residents benefited from its many programs and
new building on Logan Avenue added grace and grandeur
heretofore unseen in the region and it was truly befitting
this rapidly growing community.
Those who had aspirations of becoming performers in
the arts of music, acting, dance, or comedy had a venue like
no other town could offer. Others
merely desiring to become patrons of the arts could do so. Townspeople were able to enjoy a variety of entertainment
unrivaled for miles around and at affordable prices. Children in this small Pennsylvania town became exposed to
plays and musicals in a setting previously reserved to
professional theater in much larger cities.
back on the Y, I remember a few of the things that made it
special to me. I
think I was about four years old the
first time I ever went there. My
mother took me to see a play put on by the Tyrone Players.
I don’t remember much about the play but I do
remember the vastness of the auditorium.
Even though we sat near the back, we could hear every
word and, since our seats were elevated, we could see all
the action. These seating arrangements were ideal on another occasion as
I sat in awe watching a traveling magician pour a quart of
milk into his hat and then proceed to saw his assistant in
half. Like most
small town productions, family members and friends of the
actors of the Tyrone Players raised the roof when their
“favorite” took center stage.
Jokes that might bring barely a smile or a snicker in
a different setting drew hearty responses and tears of
laughter from an appreciative audience at the Y. Reviews that were exchanged on the street or in the downtown
shops the following day were usually wordy and always
glowing in the description of the performances of song and
these reviewers were much less verbose and “close to the
vest” when describing the mystery drama of the previous
night so as to not reveal whodunit!
Shows usually ran about one and a half hours but
performances lasted a lifetime.
The Y had given birth to theater goers!
though I didn’t go to the Y that often it was still a
great place to go after school, especially when we only had
a half day. I didn’t have to pick up the papers at the Herald office
until 3 PM so I’d have several hours to wile away the
$7 a year, annual membership in the Y was a little more than
I could afford, still there were activities that didn’t
require membership. If
you and a friend each had a dime you could “rent” table
tennis paddles for an hour.
A quarter would give you free reign over the pool
table – and you didn’t need a challenger.
many saw and felt the influence of the Y on culture and the
arts there was much to be said of the things it brought to
Tyrone Y introduced me to a few things that I had never seen
before and I’ll admit made me scratch my head in wonder. On the right side there were several ping pong tables which
were in use most of the time.
To the left there were three large green felt covered
tables. Two were regular pool tables and often there were waiting
lists for players to get their chance to show off the
benefits of an “ill spent youth”.
The third table was different in a couple of ways.
First, it was larger; second, there were no pockets;
and third, the balls had no numbers.
This table fascinated me and I can remember watching
one afternoon as two older men finessed movement of the cue
ball off the rail to gently strike the target ball.
There were no hard shots taken, just a skilled
demonstration of placing the ball at select locations on the
about two hours I realized that I’d never understand this
game but “billiards” still fascinated me.
On the way home I stopped by AJB Sportland on Tenth
Street and, looking in from the doorway, verified all their
tables had pockets.
to the lower level exposed me to still another oddity.
There were bowling alleys and I knew a couple of kids
that would occasionally set pins in order to bowl free
frames. For the
most part the lanes were similar, if not identical, to those
I had seen on 10th Street.
The sound of rolling balls, crashing pins, and vocal
laments of frustrated bowlers in this confined space was all
too familiar. At
least it was until I showed up one Saturday morning.
Things were different!
noise from balls rolling down the lanes was less.
Pins didn’t crash, they “bounced” and
frustration was replaced with laughter.
On closer scrutiny I saw that the balls were smaller,
about the size of a softball, with no holes for fingers.
Pins were shorter, looked “fat”, and had a wide
black rubber band around the girth causing them to bounce
when struck by the ball.
I even saw a pin bounce up to a standing position
after being knocked down by a particularly fast ball.
I saw Billy Skelton working as a pin setter so walked
toward the pit and yelled to him asking what this game was
yelled back, “DUCK!” which I did.
After he stopped laughing he told me the game was
duck pin bowling.
all the “special” rooms in the Y, nearly everyone in
town had a fondness and memory of the gymnasium or, as we
called it, the court. You
entered the court from the main floor passing the desk or
counter at the end of the main room.
To get to the court you had to walk down the left
side of the suspended catwalk to the stairs at the far end
of the floor. There
were several wooden benches on the catwalk where a few
patrons could sit to observe the happenings on the floor
were dances there every Friday, youth and adult basketball
games during the season, gymnastic classes and tumbling on
Saturday mornings, and volleyball on occasion.
basketball court epitomized what was meant by the term
“home court advantage.”
Adult league teams from out of town had a lot of
difficulty adjusting to the nuances of this fabled court.
Suspended over a swimming pool, the floor had several
“soft spots” which were not visible to the naked eye.
A ball dribbled on one of these spots would only
bounce about half as high as normal. Ball handlers from our favorite home team knew the locations
of these spots and would weave their way up the court
through these invisible defenders.
At the east end of the court the ceiling was much
lower than the west end and the local boys knew to shoot
long range with little or no arc.
It was amusing to listen to the first long range set
shot from the visiting team as the ball caromed off the
ceiling girders. “BOINK!”
One also had to be careful on lay-ups at the east end
goal. More than
one guard from a visiting team found himself crashing
through the emergency exit door under the basket and into
the alley at that end of the court.
you remember a play or a special show, a song performed in a
Christmas pageant, a dance recital, or a magic trick by an
out of town professional, the auditorium was the place that
made these memories. For me, I’ll remember bouncing bowling pins, pool without
pockets and a court with a funny roof and a friendly floor. And, when I pass up Logan Avenue from 10th to 11th
you may see me smile. It’s
probably because I just remembered a friend saying “Meet
me at the Y.”
the last time you stooped over to pick up a penny on the
you’re under thirty, an answer of “never” wouldn’t
be surprising. By
the same token, an answer of “every time I see one”
might be the norm for those over sixty.
an acquaintance of mine, John, stooped over and picked up a
penny in the parking lot of a local coffee shop.
His friend, Art, began to give him a hard time about
his frugality. “Collecting
money for your next vacation?” John smiled and the banter between the two men continued
across the lot and into the shop.
Art put his hand on John’s shoulder and told him,
“You ought to leave that money for the younger kids”.
John is 84 while Art is one of the younger kids of
72. With a
twinkle in his eye John grinned at his friend and said,
“If the kids are anything like my grandson they won’t
stoop to pick up any money that isn’t made of paper.
Besides, this penny is going to help pay for my movie
ticket tonight.” Pennies
for movies – I remember them well.
remember anyone over on “buryhill” getting a weekly
allowance although we tried.
When I got old enough to debate the issue with my
parents, I remember using the rationale that they received a
tax benefit every year from my $600 exemption.
This came to about $12 per week but I calculated the
“real” tax break for their bracket at closer to $4 per
week and I’d be willing to settle for half that amount in
stared at me without any apparent reaction.
Then, without a word, they walked outside onto the
porch. From their reaction it was evident to me that I had won the
debate and we just had to settle on an amount.
Big mistake! At
supper time the following Friday my dad presented me with
two crisp one dollar bills.
I was elated! The logic of my argument was flawless and it was apparent
that they now saw things my way.
The smile on my face was short lived as mom then
presented me with an itemized bill detailing charges for
room, meals, laundry, clothing, and various sundries
totaling $47.85 for the week.
The eighty-five cents gave it a touch of reality.
As dad got up from the table he picked up the two
dollars, smiled, and said, “We’ll settle for half the
amount in cash.” The
topic of allowances never came up again nor did the issue of
room and board.
the other kids on the hill I finally came to realize that
our real needs were already being met.
Our parents took care of all of our needs and more to
the best of their respective abilities. Food, shelter, clothing were always available with generous
portions of love and discipline when appropriate. The occasional treat of an ice cream cone, a comic book, or a
bag of candy from Gardner’s was to be savored as something
“special” and not taken for granted.
Besides, we could always earn extra money on our own
if we wanted anything above and beyond those rewards.
Pennies were the prize – get seventeen and the
movie was mine to see.
money for a movie or some other luxury item was usually
easy. Before I
was old enough to have a paper route, I looked for odd jobs
that people in the neighborhood wanted done.
The number of jobs was limited so I had to be the
early bird to get one.
Cutting someone’s grass was a “regular” job not
usually available on a first come basis.
Pulling weeds in a garden or in a flower bed might
earn me a dime or so but I had to be tactful by saying
something like, “Your vegetables/flowers really look great
this year. I know from helping my mom that it’s a lot of work to keep
it weed-free. Let
me know if you ever need any help.”
Bang, there’s a dime from Mrs. Dixon.
The Wertz sisters were usually good for a nickel for
sweeping the sidewalk in front of their house but Billy
Skelton usually got that job.
Suzie Miller paid with a glass of lemonade and a
smile for sweeping her porch but that didn’t buy a movie
Harshbarger and his brother Charlie both had gardens that
needed to be kept weed free.
odd jobs was a good way to make money, these jobs weren’t
always available when I needed them.
Chances are the movie I wanted to see would be this
coming Saturday and I didn’t know what would be playing at
the El Patio until Tuesday or Wednesday.
I tried planning far in advance to accumulate money
“just in case” but most of the time it would be spent
before I knew what was playing. As my mom often said, “That money just burned a hole in
your pocket, didn’t it?”
Sometimes I could make a few pennies just by walking
down town. Straddling
the curb I kept one foot on the road and the other on the
curb. I kept my
head down looking into the gutter searching for brightly
colored copper circles.
On sunny days I would always walk on the right
(north) side toward downtown.
I would glance toward the gutter on the opposite
(south) side periodically where the bright sun might betray
the presence of a shiny coin.
A good trip could yield as much as three or four
cents but the results were inconsistent.
way to make money consistently was a junk trip to
tin cans and scrap iron were always in demand and most were
readily available. Paper
had to be loose, i.e. unbundled, when taken to the yard.
The price per pound varied but the most common price
was about a penny for every ten pounds.
They had to be loose because a few folks had been
known to soak the inside papers with water or even hide a
brick or stone inside to increase weight.
Tin cans had to be clean and couldn’t be crushed or
flattened for the same reason.
Tin brought about a penny a pound.
Scrap iron was around two cents a pound which is why
my dad lost many of his old horseshoes.
Once he gave me a lecture on the finer aspects of
economics after I had taken a five pound length of bar stock
to the yard. A
ten cent return on a $2.50 piece of iron wasn’t good
at the yard knew my dad, recognized the flaw in my plan, and
set the bar aside. After
sweating bullets and struggling to repay the value of the
bar dad informed me that he had the bar and returned the
money I had earned. Lesson
was a rare and precious metal in my neighborhood.
Even if it went for a nickel a pound I could never
find any and never took any to Sealfon.
Aluminum was kind of new and, to my knowledge, it
wasn’t a metal that could be sold at the junk yard.
Most people were more than happy to have us haul away
their paper and old soup and vegetable cans.
On the surface the price for paper was so low that it
didn’t seem worth the effort.
Fifty pounds of paper would generate one nickel and
fifty pounds was about the limit for my wagon.
Still, if they were available, I could easily do two
trips from 12th Street to the alley near the
Hookies to get to Sealfon.
Tin brought more money per pound but cleaning and
preparation of the cans took too much time when I was trying
to beat a Saturday morning deadline.
By 11:30 AM
it was decision time. Is
there enough time to go to a few more houses in the hope of
getting enough paper for another load or do I move on to the
next funding scheme? The
starting time for the Abbott and Costello Meet the
Invisible Man is scheduled for 12:45 PM.
Realistically, I know there will be previews of next
week’s movies, at least one cartoon, and maybe a newsreel
so the movie won’t start until after one.
On top of that the Saturday matinee is shown
continuously at least until six or so.
Still, I want to be there at the start!
the alleys I begin looking into neighbors’ yards.
I’m drawn to those that have burn barrels.
I walk up to one and peer in toward the bottom.
Using a stick I stir through the ashes but come up
houses in the area (White and Maninno) have burn cages that
were sold by Dean Phipps.
The sides are open wire which means I can see the
contents without stirring with my stick. After six or eight burn barrels I found what I wanted: pop
were three of them which meant I was six cents closer to my
goal but I was still six cents shy.
Now I have to beg!
One by one
I rap on the doors of people I know and who know me.
I went to ask Snyder, Kerchner, McKinney, Livingston,
Sullivan, McClellan, Wertz, Walk, and Harshberger the same
you have any bottles that you don’t need?” At house after house I came up short. My fortunes changed when Suzie Miller gave me a Waples’
bottle – that’s worth a nickel!
Then Mrs. Dixon gave me a Hagg’s bottle – another
nickel! I was
four cents over the goal and it wasn’t even noon.
On my way downtown to redeem my fortune Mrs. Fleming
came outside and added one more pop bottle to my collection.
wagon from store to store I cashed in the two milk bottles
and four pop bottles. I
couldn’t wait to get home to add this to the nickel I
already had from this morning’s paper run.
I got out paper and pencil and wrote down numbers.
Not only did I have enough for
today’s movie, I have six cents toward next week’s show
– if it doesn’t burn a hole in my pocket!
Pennies still count just a little when it comes to
financing a trip to the movies but they give us a little
exercise when we stoop over to pick one up.
Christmas was over; the New Year had been ushered in to blasts of fire whistles, horns, and the pop of an occasional firecracker. Now we waited it out through cold mornings and dreary days until the spring thaw.
Every cold January morning grudgingly gave way to the heat of a stoked fire and a fresh charge of black diamonds. As heat gathered in the belly of the furnace we would stake out positions near a grate or radiator. Sitting on chairs brought in from the kitchen, we warmed our hands and feet while socks, shoes and even corduroys and shirts were spread on the grating to capture heat. Warm clothes felt good on a cold morning and soon we forgot that frigid air that had greeted us just minutes earlier. Getting dressed would sometimes be punctuated with dancing, jumping or screaming as of overheated metal buttons or zippers came in contact with unsuspecting skin. Once dressed, all were welcomed into the kitchen for a hearty, stick to the ribs breakfast of oatmeal or cream of wheat. Then we’d bolt out the side door ready to take on the world.
After less than a half dozen steps down the street we were reminded just how cold a January morning could be. As smoke rose from the chimney of every house on the street we saw condensate from kitchens form frost on neighbors’ windows. By the time we reached Blair Avenue my hair was frozen. I reached into my coat pocket for my hat but changed my mind. It wouldn’t do any good now. By the time we were at Logan Avenue I felt as though I was frozen solid. I guess I should have kept my coat buttoned even after I was out of mom’s sight.
On cold days like this we normally arrived at school well before the bell. We’d go inside, hang our coats on the hooks in the hallway and head for our room. In the 40’s and 50’s, St. Matthew School had four classrooms all on the first floor. The second floor was a hall or auditorium with a stage used for special occasions like Christmas or Thanksgiving. Restrooms were in the basement with the girls’ room on the “convent side” and the boys’ room on the 12th Street side. Each classroom housed two grades – first and second together; third and fourth together; etc. The lower four grades were on one side of the hallway and the upper four grades were on the other. Anytime we had a chance (like when we got there early on a cold January morning) we’d venture across the hall to have a look into these “upper” classrooms.
They were much different than the one to which I was confined. The blackboards seemed larger and the alphabet above was in “cursive” not block letters. There were maps of the world at one end of a blackboard. And there was a world globe sitting on top of a bookcase which held a whole set of about 25 or 30 red books. I found out later that they comprised an Encyclopedia. Even the desks were different. They were larger, had fold down seats, were bolted to the floor, and had room under he desk top to hold books. In one corner of the room there was a fairly tall cabinet with doors. In the cabinet were books and science supplies for special activities. We could hardly wait until the day we moved across the hall. Heck, anybody could learn things in rooms that had all that stuff!
When the bell rang we settled down in our measly little desks and tackled our topics one by one while envying the “big kids” across the hall. Lunch time finally came and, except for a few kids who brought a sandwich, most of us headed back out into the January cold hoping for some hot soup and a grilled cheese at home. Even if it was too cold to play outside we usually were back at school by 12:30 or so. If we weren’t allowed in right away, we’d get together a fast moving game of tag which would warm us up. About five before one we’d hear the faint sound of a hand bell being rung by one of the sisters. Once, on a really cold day, Sister Theodore rang the bell but hardly anyone heard it. She was so cold that day she was wearing a heavy black woolen shawl over her habit and coat and the bell was somewhere muffled under the layers. The afternoon would usually move at a fairly rapid pace and before you knew it, 3:30 was here and we were on our way home.
If we were lucky, there would be snow on the ground and we could go sledding before supper. If not, we’d listen to the “Lone Ranger” or “Sky King” then homework and supper. January was like that – back to school after Christmas, cold and dreary days, not much happening around town and a long wait for the celebrations of February. February was coming but it seemed to take forever to get here. I really liked the second month for a few reasons: (1) we almost always had a lot of snow, (2) school was closed for either Washington’s or Lincoln’s birthday, (3) my birthday was during the third week and, (4) even if Lent came early and I missed out on birthday cake, we still had candy on St. Valentine’s Day. As the first day of February approached the countdown began. First I checked to see when Lent started, and then I’d look to see if I was going to have cake, candy or both this year.
As I remember it, February was a festive month in our classroom. Pictures of Lincoln and Washington were hung on the walls. Streamers of red, white, and blue connected the pictures along with evenly spaced American flags with 13 or 48 stars. Classroom and homework assignments were peppered with references to facts and folklore surrounding the first and sixteenth president. We read of the felled cherry tree and a boy who “could not tell a lie”. We also heard of the youngster in Springfield, Illinois who walked miles to return a penny to a store customer. We saw how one man helped forge a nation and how the other saved the union. Classes on our side of the hall made construction paper cutouts of these presidential icons and displayed them in the school windows for all on Cameron Avenue to see. We heard that on the other side of the hallway they were hard at work writing essays on the life and times of theses great men – maybe ours was the better side!
In addition to the presidential décor there was evidence of other festivities in the rooms. Red and white crepe streamers were hanging over the entrance and red chalk had been used to draw hearts in the corners of the blackboards. Red construction paper was distributed to each of us to “create” something special for our mothers. We were told to fold the paper in half lengthwise. Next we had to draw a tear drop shape on the outside half. Using sharp scissors, we then cut out the teardrop shape without unfolding the paper. We lined up near the back of the room waiting to get our hands on one of the three pairs of scissors we had in the room. Once cut out, we unfolded the paper and voila, it was a heart. Crayons and pencil were used to decorate the heart with our individual words of thanks and love for our moms. Some of the kids went so far as to decorate the edges of the heart by cutting up a lacy white paper doily and gluing it on the back. We learned that St. Valentine was martyred for his faith during the early days of the church. Over the years a celebration in his name evolved which centered on remembering those who were special to us. A special card for mom seemed only fitting!
Other people were also special and we often sent them cards. I remember sending one to Aunt Gert but I was too embarrassed to sign my name and I didn’t deliver it in person. It only cost two cents for the postage as long as I didn’t seal it. In our classroom we also exchanged cards. The 5 & 10 had packages of cards for twenty-nine cents. Most of the cards were funny, a few were “cute” but none were serious (how romantic could a ten year old be?). For a nickel you could buy a card that was bigger and had its own envelope – Aunt Gert got that one. On Tenth Street the left front window of Gardner’s candy store was filled with red, heart-shaped boxes adorned with bows and flowers and filled with chocolates. Scattered among the boxes were tiny multicolored candy hearts with little sayings like “oh you guy”, “sweet thing”, “bee mine”, and “hubba hubba”. Inside the store was more of the same including spicy cinnamon hearts, pink and white marshmallow hearts, chocolates shaped like hearts and, small boxes of candy hearts. Even the 5 & 10 had special candies for the coming occasion. This day was going to be alright!
Around the 10th of the month we were told it was time to get our “mailboxes” ready. We attached a brown paper poke (the kind used to carry lunch) to the side of our desk with scotch tape. With a little luck mine would be filled with cards from the 5 & 10 by Valentine’s Day. We weren’t allowed to take out any cards until the 14th but each day I looked down inside to see what I had. On the 11th it was empty – darn! The 12th came and still nothing. Everyone hated me, I just knew it! On the 13th I saw two cards lying on the bottom which made me feel a little better. Finally the 14th came and we were told to let the bags alone until after recess (that’s when we went into the main hall and lined up for the bathrooms). During this recess we’d sneak back into the room and subtly deliver cards to the proper “mailboxes”. Many of the cards weren’t signed but that really didn’t matter. It was just important that you got a lot! At about 11:00AM we were told we could retrieve our mail but….leave the “mailboxes” in place. Out came the cards and onto the desks. I got a couple of cards that were animated. There was a slit with a paper tab protruding and when you pulled the tab a cartoon figure tipped his hat or a dog sat up. These two weren’t the cheap 5 & 10 cards. A couple of the cards were signed as “your friend” or “from a pal” but most were plain. I spread them out and began to count: one, two, three….fifteen, sixteen. Wait a minute! There are eighteen kids in this classroom and no one’s out sick. Two people must hate me! I gave everyone a card and so did those around me. It had to be someone from the other grade. I really felt bad but my disappointment was quickly erased by the presence of pink frosted cupcakes and apple juice. Within seconds I was laughing again. Danny, Ray and I howled as we watched a cup of juice and a half eaten cupcake slide off the desk and onto the floor below. “You boys get some towels and clean that mess up.” We were back to normal.
When lunch time came, most of us bolted toward the door then out into the bitter cold. Even though today didn’t seem too cold, tomato soup and grilled cheese would still warm me up. When we got back from lunch the school doors were locked. That seemed strange but we could always amuse ourselves with a hearty game of tag. There weren’t as many people in the yard as there usually were. As a matter of fact, none of the big kids from across the hall were out here with us. As I ran by our classroom window I glanced up and saw a couple of them inside. While that was puzzling, it wasn’t enough to distract us from our outdoor activities. Hearing the faint sound of the summoning hand bell we charged toward the school door on the convent side. As the clamor settled to a din of foot shuffling and muffled laughter I reached to hang my coat on a hook. As I turned to enter my classroom, the coat fell to the floor. I glanced at the coat lying there and headed toward my room. Despite the sounds of giggling, laughing and talking in the hall I was able to distinguish the unmistakable sound of “fingers snapping”. Sister Verona pointed at me, then at the coat on the floor, then at me again and motioning toward the empty coat hook. “Yes, sister,” I said as I retraced my steps to retrieve the fallen garment.
Settling in at my desk I began to finger through the small pile of cards when we were told to put the cards back in our “mailboxes”. As I put mine away I noticed a small cardboard box of candy hearts on the bottom of the bag. I stopped putting my cards away and retrieved the little box. It was just like the ones they had at Gardner’s and everyone in our room had one. We looked at each other wondering how they got there. The mystery was solved when we were told why the doors were locked at lunchtime. Those big kids from across the hall made “special deliveries” to each of our mailboxes.
"USED TO BE"
standing in line at the Sheetz store in Greencastle, PA a
couple of weeks ago I overheard a conversation that gave me
a hometown “flashback”. A young man had asked an elderly lady for directions to the
town’s historical museum.
I couldn’t help but smile as I saw her first point
left, then right all the while giving critical landmarks
which were aimed at helping him in his quest.
Nearing the end of her instructions, she told him to
keep going down this street and to turn right “where the
dress shop used to be”.
Not being familiar with the area, his face developed
a quizzical look as he asked for further clarification of
the exact location of this dress shop.
“You know”, she said.
“It’s right next to where the model store used to
When I was growing up in Tyrone, I don’t remember
anyone giving directions much differently than this lady.
While route numbers and street names were rarely
used, landmarks, both past and present, stood out as beacons
to those in search of a store, a park, a church, or a lost
friend’s house. I
never knew route 220 by anything other than “the road to
Altoona”; 453 was the “Janesville pike”; while 350
(now 453) was the way to Water Street.
I also learned that Altoona was “up” beyond
Bellwood and that Penn State was “down the valley”.
When I gave directions of “up to Altoona” or
“down the valley to State College” I probably confused
many weary travelers. A
point of a finger in one direction or the other would still
send them on their way.
Those wanting to get to our Athletic Park were often
told to head out Columbia Avenue (northwest) through “East
watched as they drove about a half block and then pulled
over for a “second opinion” on how to get to the same
With time comes change and an even greater need for
clear and concise direction to help us get around.
Since I left town, a lot of changes have taken place
and getting around can be a bit of a challenge.
My mother, God rest her soul, was always willing to
help. She could
direct a misguided friend or out of town relative from our
hill to my Aunt Ag’s apartment on Pennsylvania Avenue,
then to Aunt Gert’s house on Bald Eagle Avenue and finally
to Uncle Paul’s place on 14th Street and the
path given would be a masterpiece for the ages.
Motioning with her arms, hands, and twisting or
nodding her head, she would laboriously detail every turn
and key landmark to the weary traveler while they nervously
glanced then stared over a shoulder with trepidation prior
to setting out on the journey.
If she gave directions today, they might go something
“Getting to Ag’s place is pretty easy.
She lives in an apartment right above Black’s
Garage - I think they sell Fords.
Anyway, you just go down this street past where the
laundry field and the laundry used to be. Cross over the bridge past where Cowher’s Beauty shop and
O’Rourke’s used to live – they were on the left. Catty corner from O’Rourke’s you’ll pass where Flemings
and Morningreds used to live.
When you get to the corner, turn right where
Freeman’s news used to be.
Freeman’s is where Deb always bought his “dime
novels” and the Police
can’t miss that corner because Hickes market (best pies in
town) used to be on one corner, Fresh’s music store and
Fuoss and Glass Funeral Home were on the other two. Harry Glass liked to go horseback riding with Deb and others
in the Tyrone Horsemen’s Association.
“After you turn right keep going down the street
and you’ll pass where Dr. Glasgow’s office and Shope’s
Garage were. We
bought our 1946 Dodge at Shopes – it was supposed to be
black but we settled for blue when we found out we’d have
to wait another 3 months to get the right color.
After Shopes you’ll come to where Wolf’s was then
an alley. Go
across the alley and you’ll pass where Kreiger’s Esso
station was. He
used to get into the biggest price wars with the station
across the street and I can remember seeing folks from over
Janesville pike coming to fill empty barrels. The Neptune Fire Department was next and on a hot day
there was always an on duty fireman sitting in uniform on a
chair in front of the station.
Just beyond the station is where Black’s garage was
and the door to Ag’s place is on the left. If you go too far, there was to be a row of houses near the
corner that had front porches.
Turn around and look for Ag’s door right before
’46 Dodge: Even though it was still new, the Dodge was unable to move the horses
from the garage and always had to be parked in the wrong
side of the street on the hill.
Note the flags waving from the homes in the
background on June 14, 1946.
to Gert’s house from Ag’s is easy.
You can either continue past the row of houses and
turn right at the corner or you can go back to the alley
between where Kreiger’s and Wolf’s were and turn left.
If you go down the alley, cross the street and pass
the Hookies Fire Department.
That will bring you out at the spot where the “dry
run” empties into the Bald Eagle creek.
Turn left you’ll pass where Sealfon’s used to be
and if you close your eyes and listen hard you can even hear
kids pulling their wagons loaded with tin, iron, or
newspapers going in to collect their “penny a pound”.
Burgess Hagerman used to live in a house across the
street from Sealfon’s.
Keep going down the street and cross the intersection
where Rossmans used to live on the right.
Next you’ll come to an alley and on the left side
is where Havens lived.
Cross the alley and on the other side of the street
is where Antikols lived. Gert’s
house is right next door to Antikols.
“Paul’s place is a little farther but, from
Gert’s is about a ten minute walk.
Continue down her street toward the mill past where
Haneys lived. A
little further down you’ll pass where Minemiers and Colts
lived. Next to
them was Gerty Reed’s place.
At the next corner, turn left and you’ll pass where
the Lynch family lived before they moved to Washington, PA.
Cross over the next street and keep going straight.
You’ll come to a major intersection where Rudy’s
was on one corner and Red’s Atlantic gas station used to
be across to the right.
Rudy’s had the best popcorn and his own made
“banjos” but his best candy was milk chocolate with
ground peanuts. I
think they still make it at Gardner’s.
Go across the main drag past the EUB Church and look
on the right for where the Logan School used to be just
beyond the alley. Paul’s
place is right across from the school next to the AME
Church. If you
go too far you’ll see Donoway’s store (good spot for a
cold bottle of pop) on the corner so turn around and it will
be on your right.
“Now we’re having a get together at Stephens Park
later this afternoon and you’re more than welcome to join
us. It’s on
the road out of town towards Janesville so to get there
you’ll have to head up………..”
You may have noticed that there is never the mention
of a street or avenue by name or route number.
The personality of the town was from its people and
in many cases weary travelers came to know many of the
people in town by name even if they never met them.
Times have changed.
Triple A gives out maps and “Triptiks”.
Garmen sells a computer assisted guide based on the
global positioning satellite that gives turn by turn
directions anywhere in the United States.
Directions are precise, accurate, and specific to
three feet or less. Today,
the directions always give route numbers, street and avenue
names, and precise distances but never landmarks that give a
feel for the personality of the area.
But then there was that Sheetz in Greencastle, PA……..
"Fun on Bury Hill" (Brewery Hill) is a picture of yours truly standing in front of Kerchner's hedge on 12th Street. The house on the left was across the alley and belonged to Suzy Miller. On the right is the double house (still standing" that John Kienzle and G. C. Wilson lived in at one time. Beside it is the "laundry field" before they built the 12th Street playground..
Sledding on Bury Hill is looking up toward Woodland Avenue. The sled passing down is Joe Turiano's short model and the house in the background belonged to the Wertz Sisters.
It finally came! This morning our streets and sidewalks are white as wind blown snow crystals danced and spun in search for the right place to land. While the intensity of the storm ebbed and flowed, excited school children laughed anticipating their activities at the end of the school day.
Until today, despite weeks of forecasters’ promises, there has been little reason to look forward to a day on a hill. Frequent prognostications of the storms of tomorrow raised the hearts and hopes of youngsters only to have them dashed with a thud at dawn’s early light. Sleds and snow saucers that were set out in anticipation of a day of winter fun had to be dragged back to the garage or put back into the basement. Today will be different! Today they will be in search of a hill, a mound, a rise, a mountain covered in white and the source of dreams and screams.
The excitement of the neighborhood kids as they prepared for day’s end took me back in time and brought a flood of memories. When winter came, we always looked forward to snow and the fun it brought. Forecasting snow was left to the experts but over time each kid in the neighborhood would learn how to read the “signs” of snow. At night there would usually be two or more sets of eyes looking skyward to see if snow was coming tomorrow - a “halo” around the moon was a sure sign. If my Aunt Gert’s (Ritz) right ankle was swollen change was coming. The slower than usual gait due to pain in Mr. McKinney’s back meant sidewalks would need shoveled tomorrow. Another predictor of snow was the aroma of cookies or cinnamon buns coming from the Largent home. Mrs. Largent was using the heat of the kitchen and kneading of warm dough to provide therapy for her aching hands.
Our “signs” never told us how much snow was coming but whether an inch or a foot, a dusting or a blizzard, sleet or freezing rain, they were always right. We all knew there was going to be a wintry mix on the hill tomorrow. The mix would include sleds of all sizes, skis, boxes, toboggans, and shovels.
Once the forecast was known, preparations were put in motion. Sleds were the preferred mode of transport down the hill so they were pulled from storage and readied for the first of many runs tomorrow. The runners were cleaned of last season’s rust using steel wool, sand paper or emery cloth. Next came a coating of wax. The method of application varied. The simplest way was to rub each runner with a square of Cut-Rite wax paper. Other sources of wax included old candles or Gulf canning wax. Heat generated by rubbing the runners rapidly or by lighting the candle helped the wax penetrate the pores of the metal runners. Once done, the runners glistened like silver and the sleds were set outside in the cold allowing the wax to harden in preparation for that first run.
While the sleds sat, other means of sliding were considered. A quick trip down to Getz’s, Aults & Crane, Hickes or even out to Heberlings just might turn up a flying carpet for the hill. Sometimes these markets received their meat products in special cardboard boxes which had a wax coating inside. By breaking down the sides of the box we were able to turn the box inside out exposing the wax interior. The wax treatment added speed while protecting the box from getting wet – at least for the day.
Billy Skelton had a pair of skis which he broke out at the first sign of snow. With one person riding on each ski, two could enjoy the run at the same time. Someone had a toboggan which was rarely used. It held about six people but it was hard to get started down the hill and it really didn’t go that fast. Barrel staves were tried but discarded as was a bicycle with one of Billy’s skis attached to each wheel. Joe Turiano had a sled that everyone wanted to ride. It was the smallest one on the hill (about 24 inches long) but it was the most maneuverable. When we made “trains” and “cracked the whip”, this sled was always put at the end. As the train zigged and zagged, the little sled flipped its rider from side to side finally discarding the snow encrusted intruder midway down the hill.
Of all the ways to slide down the hill there was one that everyone used at one time or another. It was the shovel! Not all shovels were created equally, however. The best shovel was a narrow bladed, long handled coal shovel. The grit from the coal kept the metal polished and smooth, the narrow blade was built for speed on snow or ice, and the long handle was great for grip, balance and steering. Those new to shovel riding were scoffed at for showing up with snow shovels. The wide blades made them cumbersome, slow, and difficult to maneuver. Despite all the advantages, there was one significant disadvantage to using a coal shovel. Since it was needed to fire the furnace, you’d better remember to bring it home at day’s end. There were more than a few evenings when three or four boys could be seen combing the side of the hill, flashlights in hand, in searching for this critical winter tool before night fall.
Some things have changed over the years. With most homes now heated with natural gas or oil, coal and coal shovels are things of the past. Wax lined cardboard is hard to find because neighborhood markets are gone. Toboggans, sleds, and skis are still with us and snow saucers can be found just about everywhere. Hills for sledding are a little harder to find. If you’re lucky there’s still a hill nearby even if you have to load everyone into the wagon or pickup and drive to it. In some ski resort areas they’ve added runs for toboggans, tubes, saucers and sleds. What goes around….
One thing that hasn’t changed for me is the meaning of wintry mix. While meteorologists may define it as a combination of rain, sleet, and snow, for me, “wintry mix” will always be sleds, skis, boxes and shovels sliding down “bury hill.”
SOMEONE’S IN THE KITCHEN WITH …
Captains of industry, politicians, jurists, educators, military leaders, and others in authoritative positions make critical decisions as part of their daily responsibilities. They conduct meetings in which alternatives can be discussed and challenged. It is in board rooms, chambers, and offices that decisions are made that affect our cities, our schools, the products we buy, and even the future of individuals. In many instances the meetings are held in specially designed board rooms, offices, or chambers. These rooms, while conducive to airing opposing views, are often designed to reflect the hierarchy of the organization while unmistakably recognizing the person in charge. The birth of a quality decision only come from the labor of critical discussion and challenge which emanates from the individuals assembled. In industry and government, today’s decision, good or bad, is often tomorrow’s news.
On the surface, family decisions are not as dramatic or far reaching. However, critical life-changing decisions have always been and continue to be part of the fabric of every family. Near the latter part of the 19th century each of my European ancestors had to make a decision on whether or not to immigrate to the new world. In the early part of the 20th century my father had to decide between college and staying home to work with his elderly father. In 1941 my brother Deb wrestled with joining the Army and going to war rather than complete his academic studies at California State Teachers College. Later in that same decade my sister Pat decided on a nursing career and left for the big city of Philadelphia.
In the fifties my brother Ken opted to enter the seminary rather than complete his high school years in his hometown. Later in the fifties I told my parents of my decision to enter the Air Force rather than attend Villanova. While each of these decisions was unique and individual, it affected other family members as well. While not as dramatic as those made in board rooms, these types of crucial life altering decisions are made by every family every day. In our family, my decision and many of those that preceded, were made or announced in our “boardroom” – the kitchen.
Many, but not all, homes have a “decision room”. Urgent as well as humorous topics are discussed, decisions made, punishments meted out, laughter shared, and forgiveness granted. The rooms aren’t “oval” nor are they “chambers”. The location and structure of each room varies. Formality is neither a necessity nor a hindrance. The most daunting problems can be handled in casual atmospheres while frivolous matters may be addressed in parlor elegance. The room is special to each member and is molded over time to reflect not the hierarchy but rather the personality and comfort of the family. The formula to creating this special room isn’t magic but once you have one it’s really magic.
In some homes this room was where the family sat around listening to the radio, reading the paper, or watching television. People with an ear for fine music and who owned a piano would argue that the room from which the music came was most special. For others it could be the basement since this was home to hobbies, fun, collections or the Lionel train platform “put away” until next Christmas. The formal dining room was often held in highest honor because that’s where the family gathered for their daily bread while holding discussions of the day’s events as well as planning for the future. In the summer, one could make a case that the front porch was the place to be and, therefore the most special “room” in the house. Each family member could have their own room or space within a room that was special. Grandpap Soulerin liked the corner of our living room because he could sit there on the daybed for hours on end watching the happenings on 12th Street. At day’s end he would regale us with his observations of the days’ happenings as seen from his special spot.
Every Tuesday evening he would set me down and describe the days’ events in detail. With a slight French accent his strong, measured voice described each of the people who ventured onto our hill in their automobiles to take the road test for their driver’s license. He chuckled in disbelief as he described those poor souls who approached the hill from Woodland Avenue. “If they used the brains God gave them, they would come up the hill from Bald Eagle Avenue”, he’d say. Then he wagged his finger and said, “When you come up the hill, as soon as the K turn was done you’re finished. No need to pull away from a dead stop facing uphill – remember that.” It was a small detail that I remembered long after his death. I “used the brain God gave me” when I picked up the trooper across from Rupert’s on 10th Street and headed toward Bald Eagle Avenue to come up the hill on 12th.
At our house on 12th Street our “decision room” was small, clean, aromatic, bright, and usually busy. Without fear of contradiction I’ll bet over half of our waking hours were spent in this room. In the morning it was one of the first to be lit as dad prepared to leave for work and in the evening it was the last on the first floor to be darkened. Lights in the living and dining rooms may be extinguished by 8 P.M. If neighbors noticed lights were out in our “special” room they knew something was wrong. Like cafes and roadhouses along busy arteries, our kitchen was always open.
There was nothing unique or outstanding about our kitchen. By most standards it was rather small, although large enough to accommodate a metal framed table that could seat six. The colorful linoleum floor reflected the bright and cheery mood of the room and was subject to change no less than four times in twelve years. Neither moss nor linoleum grew under our feet. The curtains and painted walls were changed with greater frequency but the colors and designs were always coordinated with that spotless floor. Around the room there was white plastic “tile-like” paneling with black trim at the top which was the only constant in this room.
Against one wall was a Frigidaire refrigerator with a small freezer section that barely held two trays for ice. Leftover ice cream boats from Rea & Derrick would be jammed as close to the ice trays as possible to keep it frozen as long as possible. Dad always finished the boat before he went to bed because he “didn’t want mom to have a mess in the morning when it melted”. The gas stove was on the wall between the cellar door and the steps to the upstairs. The stove had legs and it was beneath the stove that my brother, Deb, placed his homemade electric mouse trap. Regrettably, his invention worked and the stench of an electrocuted mouse greeted us early the next morning. This wasn’t the best day for a hearty breakfast!
The steps to the upstairs were different, or at least I thought so. There were two steps that went from the kitchen, through a door to a small landing.. On the other side there were two steps but no door from the living room to that same landing. The two steps in the kitchen served as extra seating during family discussions or just a place to sit and listen to the adults. Under the landing and the steps was open space. The tread on the bottom step was loose and provided access to a place to put things for safe storage (like someone was going to burglarize our house). My brother and I kept all sorts of things in there: our ball gloves, comic books, a cigar box full of marbles, baseball cards wrapped by gum bands, and part of a deck of cards which were wedged into the bicycle spokes to make motor noises. Once I placed a brand new baseball under the step then listened in horror as it rolled under the landing and came to rest under the steps on the living room side. Try as I might, I was never able to retrieve that ball. If I had left it in the original box it never would have rolled over to the other side. Over the years there were quite a few treasures that rolled to the “other side”. Oh to be there when the house was razed.
Up until the early ‘50’s, mom always did the laundry in the basement using the Speed Queen wringer washer. Then she would hang it out to dry on two lines that stretched from the house to the garage. Then it happened! While feeding wet clothes through the wringer her right arm was pulled into the mechanism up to her shoulder. She could reach neither the controls nor the electric cord so it kept turning with her arm trapped. Her screams for help were heard by our neighbor, Sam McKinney, who rushed over and stopped the machine by pulling the plug. He couldn’t pull her arm out but, with the help of another neighbor they were able to disassemble the wringer mechanism enough to remove her arm. She was at Dr. Glasgow’s office on Pennsylvania Avenue when dad got home from work. Mrs. Walk and Mrs. McKinney intercepted him at the bridge and told him what happened. As he turned toward Doc Glasgow’s office, he saw mom walking, arm in sling, with Aunt Gert. Bruised but not broken, she related the details of the accident to dad. After listening, he gave her a peck on the forehead, walked down to the basement, and glared at the washer. Had it been a horse, he would have shot it! “We’ve got to get rid of that ___ ____ thing”. Within ten days we had a brand new Frigidaire automatic washing machine sitting in the far corner of the kitchen.
This new washing machine didn’t have a dangerous wringer. Water was removed from the clothes during the spin cycle. The demonstration of the spin cycle at Reinschmidt’s house is what sold my folks on the Frigidaire. It was so smooth that a nickel standing on its edge would not fall over. Since it was “automatic”, mom loaded it the same way she did the Speed Queen. Heavily weighted items went in with lighter materials as long as the colors were the same. Unfortunately, when it went into the spin cycle an out of balance load would trip the safety. The knob popped out and the cycle was stopped. When she came back into the house and opened the lid to the washer she found the clothes were still soaking wet. The service department was contacted and a repair man showed her how to balance the load. Everything was fine – for a while! She just couldn’t seem to get the balanced load thing right. “This thing is supposed to be automatic and it’s not as good as the wringer washer,” she groused. “If I could just stop that doggone knob from popping it would work fine.” Then it happened. Over the next two days dad took control of the problem. He made a few measurements, sketched something on a tablet and went to the garage. The following Saturday he walked into the kitchen and proudly informed mom that he “fixed” the washer. Heating a length of steel strapping in the forge, he used the sledge hammer and anvil to shape a device to prevent the knob from popping out. It was a long and slender and it fit around the right side of the washer. The front part had a donut shaped ring which fit over the knob perfectly. The other end clipped around the back. Spring tension held it in place. Never again would that washer shut down because of an unbalanced load! An unbalanced load would cry out “ga-thunk, ga-thunk, ga-thunk”, but the knob didn’t pop. There was a time that the load was so unbalanced the washer “walked” in a robotic-like manner across the kitchen floor. After it pushed the table to one side it turned and halted abruptly. It had walked so far the electric plug was pulled from the wall outlet.
The kitchen was a gathering spot for everyone.
Weekdays started with coffee and oatmeal on the
stove. Near the
cellar door there was a bowls of dog food and water for
Muffet. On the
kitchen table a few waxed paper wrapped sandwiches waited to
be put into a lunch box along with a couple of apples or
oranges. Off to
the side were school books and tablets and dad’s empty
lunch box ready to be filled.
Later in the day a box of groceries from Hickes might
occupy the table as well as a new round of school projects
and homework papers. By
four thirty the kitchen table was cleared so it could be
readied for the supper that was usually served by five.
Tonight’s meal will be meatloaf with potato cakes,
macaroni with stewed tomatoes.
Tomorrow will probably be leftover roast beef on
toast with gravy. If
the month has an “R” in it we’ll probably have oyster
stew this Friday. Conversation
continued while we ate but it rarely delayed completion of
the meal. By
six the dishes were washed and put away unless seconds on
dessert were warranted.
Once the table was cleared homework papers were
retrieved from the dining room and we finished our work
while trying to eavesdrop on the adult conversation still
going on. After
homework the Philco in the next room was turned on and
programs like Beulah,
Jack Benny, or Fibber Magee and Molly would compete
Weekends were a little different. Saturday mornings evolved at a slower pace with each family member making what they wanted for breakfast. Lunch was promptly at noon and consisted of grilled cheese or chipped ham sandwiches plus a bowl of soup. During the afternoon while most of us were out mom had the kitchen to herself and, depending on the season, she’d use that time to bake dessert for the big meal on Sunday. Sunday after church was my favorite time in the kitchen. We always had a “country breakfast”. The odor of pancakes, homemade “syrup”, sausage, eggs, and fried potatoes filled the air and tickled our senses with anticipation. Other Sundays might greet us with French toast, grapefruit, bacon, sausage always with mom’s homemade “syrup”. Autumn Sundays were extra special since buckwheats and scrapple were in season. Sunday breakfast was the one meal that no one in our family ever missed. It was also a favorite of many of our parents’ friends who often dropped by in time to enjoy the fare. Dad always said we used the dining room for guests but we used the kitchen for friends.
Sunday suppers were usually served around three and always included roast beef, roast chicken, or pork and sauerkraut. There were always mashed potatoes, and a green vegetable. If we had a friend or two there would also be a salad and a relish tray. To make room for friends at the table we’d drag a dining room chair into the kitchen. Supper was served without fanfare but with a lot of conversation. We knew the meal was finished when dad would say, “Well, Mary. I’d have to say that was a little bit of all right!” When supper was done, the dishes were washed, dried and put away while conversations continued in the kitchen. Some would gather around the table talking and playing cards throughout the continual chatter. Others leaned on the sink or sat on the kitchen steps still talking about yesterday, last week, tomorrow, or even next week. The sink remained full of hot, soapy water for that last minute plate or coffee cup. Around 7 o’clock someone would usually go in to the dining room and turn on the radio to get the news or get the station that carried Red Skelton. Still, most everyone stayed in the kitchen and conversation and laughter drowned out the sounds coming from the Philco in the next room. By eight thirty or nine o’clock things began to wind down. Dad went down to the stable to check on the horses. A few friends began making their way out the side door and down the street. My brother and I were getting ready for bed after frantically searching for the arithmetic homework that was misplaced. Mom washed and put away the last of the dishes because the house had to be in order since “…you never know when you may have to call a priest or a doctor during the night.” Sometimes there would be one or two people still mulling bout in the kitchen and I’d hear dad say, “Come on Mary, we’d better get to bed. These people probably want to go home.”
Monday morning starts the cycle all over again. There will be new problems to be discussed and important decisions will be made. We’ll have some things to laugh about and maybe even a few to cry over. At some point our sense of smell will be excited by the aroma of pot roast or chicken pot pie. And it’s a shoo-in that someone’s coming for breakfast next Sunday- guess who? A lot will be happening but if you’re not in the kitchen you’ll miss it all.
Baseball, Apple Pie, Chevrolet ….
It was a typical Sunday afternoon in July: hazy, hot and humid. Church services were over before noon, Sunday dinners were on the table by two and by mid-afternoon people sat on their front porches listening to the final innings of a Pirates’ game as they sipped cups of coffee or iced tea and ate slices of a fresh fruit pie.
Mom usually sat on the glider still clad in her kitchen work clothes, a red and white floral apron. Dad would always lean back in the red metal porch chair and, as he rocked back and forth, we all watched and waited for the extended ash from his Lucky Strike to drop. In the middle of a hot afternoon, Grandpap Soulerin’s only concession to the heat was to remove his suit coat. He still had grey wool slacks, matching vest, and a white shirt with stiff cellulose collar, a tie and suspenders. He looked much like Connie Mack ready to come out of the dugout at the start of a doubleheader at Shibe Park. My brother Ken and I would usually sit on the floor nearby vaguely listening to our elders’ conversations while going through our baseball cards.
Porch conversations were usually lively and stories of “life in the good old days” were both humorous and thought provoking. Mom told of her days as a girl growing up in the coal mining town of Smoke Run and working as a housekeeper for a doctor in the “big city” of Houtzdale. Dad’s tales were centered on Tyrone and his blacksmithing apprenticeship under his father’s watchful eye.
Then there were Grandpap Soulerin’s stories. Born in Marseilles, France in 1870, he came to New York in 1888, and finally settled in Smoke Run in 1892. He would speak of the home he made for his family, the garden he prepared annually which provided fresh fruits and vegetables for his family. He never believed in using credit to make purchases and he held “company stores” in contempt. But no matter how informative or interesting the current topics of discussion, grandpap would inevitably change to a subject that caused the hair on the back of my dad’s neck to stand up. He complained about the weather (couldn’t grow good wine grapes), work (mine owners treated men like slaves), medicine (cost too much), and politics. He didn’t like Roosevelt and blamed him for not getting involved in the war in Europe and providing military support earlier. Since we had a serviceman’s star hanging in our front window complaints about U.S. involvement in the world war didn’t go over well. Dad would remind him that France was liberated by the allies but grandpap would deftly move to a new topic.
Even though he contributed for less than five years, he often complained about the small amount of his Social Security check. “If I were still in France, my retirement check and my medical care would be much better.” After a half hour or so dad would get tired of the complaints. He’d flick the ashes from a final Lucky, get up from the red chair and walk around the side porch toward the stables. As he turned the corner we could sometimes hear his fading voice murmur, “If he doesn’t like it in this country why in the h--- doesn’t he go back to…..” Mom was left to smooth the waters and she would do her best to change subjects and get grandpap to talk about things he enjoyed.
Although his youth was spent in southern France, somewhere along the line he developed a fierce passion for baseball. He enjoyed the team competition coupled with the individual skills demonstrated by even the most amateur of players. He could quote batting and pitching statistics for virtually every roster player on the Pirates, Phillies, Athletics, Giants, Dodgers, and Yankees as well as many of the better known players on the remaining ten major league teams. Mom gathered her apron as she rose from the glider and headed inside. She paused at the door looked at grandpap and said, “Why don’t you tell the boys about the time you went to Philadelphia to see that Ruth fellow play baseball?” Instantly his demeanor changed as problems that had occupied his thoughts and mind just minutes before vanished. His padded wicker chair creaked as he leaned forward, smiled and motioned for Ken and I to come closer.
“The Philadelphia Athletics were a good team when I saw them play – not like now,” he said. His eyes twinkled as he regaled us with stories of his first trip to Shibe Park. The Yankees were in town and the atmosphere was electric. Arrival to the park at 21st and Lehigh on that Sunday afternoon was standing room only on a trolley from just about anywhere in the city. There were people from the heart of the city, from New Jersey and even a few had come all the way from New York.
Being a Philadelphia Athletics’ fan my brother’s eyes lit up as grandpap spoke of the old players like Lefty Grove, Jimmy Foxx, Mickey Cochrane, Rube Wahlberg, Jimmy Dykes, and Metzler. The invading men in pin stripes included the likes of Herb Pennock, Gehrig, Merkle, Combs, Benny Bengough, Lazzeri, McQuaid, and “that Ruth fellow”. These guys were what legends were made of. We had only seen some of them on baseball cards but now we knew somebody, our grandpap, who had seen them in person.
Our mouths opened in awe as he described batting practice and an unofficial home run contest that took place among Gehrig, Cochrane, Foxx, and “that Ruth fellow”. As he spoke he pulled a small pouch from his right vest pocket. From the other pocket came a packet of cigarette papers. His story continued as he deftly made a crease and distributed a small amount of Bull Durham onto the paper. During the “contest” there were balls were flying out of the park with such frequency that he wondered if there would be any left to play the game. He paused again to lick one side of the paper and his story continued as he rolled the paper and twisted one end.
Down the first base line the A’s had a hot game of pepper going on and the players used the opportunity to display their prowess with the glove and sleight of hand to the awestruck fans. The Yankees put on a similar display down the third base line but the home fans remained entranced near first. Players that weren’t involved in pepper were shagging flies in the outfield or running wind sprints. As they finished warming up most stopped at the edge of the dugout to talk with fans. With all that activity it seemed unnecessary to even have a game! He struck a large wooden match on the leather sole of his black high top shoe, placed the hand rolled cigarette between his lips and lit it. Then he continued.
After an hour or so of pre-game activities, the man in blue yelled, “Play ball!” and the game was underway. The game’s action could not rival the activities and the electricity he felt in the pre-game. Ruth hit a couple of deep flies to straight away center that were outs. Foxx put one out of the park in the middle innings and Lazzeri made a couple of sparkling infield plays. Still, batting practice, “pepper”, and fielding practice was a bigger show. When it was all over grandpap’s team had won 5 to 4 and he came away with a new favorite player but it wasn’t that “Ruth fellow”. After the game he watched the Yankee first baseman talk and laugh with the Philadelphia fans. It was then that he decided Lou Gehrig was the finest gentleman to ever play this wonderful sport. This man’s team had just lost a close game in a rival city and because of the way Gehrig treated the opposition fans made grandpap a lifelong fan of a game he never played.
The fascinating story our grandpap was weaving was interrupted by a lady standing on our sidewalk. “Good afternoon, Albert”, she said. He paused, smiled and we all looked up to see Olive Hample from up the street. Mrs. Hample helped mom out from time to time with cooking, cleaning and caring for grandpap if needed. She started talking with grandpap as mom came back out on the porch so Ken and I jumped off the porch and headed toward Walk’s. “Don’t you two boys get dirty”, she yelled. We still had our “church” shoes on so we merely traded porches and continued baseball conversations with Dutch and Warren shifting leagues to the Pirate – Cards game we heard earlier.
It was nearly five o’clock when we were called for supper. Since we had a big meal at around two, mom covered the kitchen table with a smorgasbord of leftovers, chipped ham, bread, sharp cheese, potatoes, stuffing, fruit and more. “Grab a plate and help yourself. There’s milk and ice tea in the fridge.” For once in my life I wasn’t too hungry but chipped ham and Cooper cheese on bread was too good to pass up. I grabbed a fistful of grapes and the sandwich and headed back out to the porch. Two bites of the sandwich made me acutely aware of a much needed drink. I put the sandwich down and ran inside for some refreshing iced tea. When I came back out, the sandwich was gone. Apparently my dog, Muffet, didn’t think the sandwich was too dry. By the time I got back to the kitchen the ham was gone so I had to settle for a sandwich of roast beef, stuffing and mashed potatoes.
At five thirty or so, Uncle Paul arrived with a half gallon of “white house” ice cream. Something was up! Usually he walked but today he drove his ’37 Buick. As he handed the ice cream to mom he said, “I don’t know if we have time to eat it now - maybe after the game.” There was a game at 6PM at the Athletic Park. The Tyrone VFW was playing a team from Houtzdale and since grandpap was from over that way Uncle Paul came to take whoever wanted to go. Grandpap, Ken and I were in the car before mom put the ice cream away. Mom stayed home and dad wanted to stay to ride one of the horses but Uncle Paul convinced him to come along.
We drove through town and out Columbia Avenue so slowly I thought we’d never get there. This Buick had been pampered for nearly 15 years and no ballgame was going to change that. When we reached 23rd Street there was a decision to make: will we go up the rutted dirt hill to the park or will we go the longer way around and enter off Adams? Adams was a better route for the car so in we came past the third base side past the cinder track and around the back stop toward first.
There were a few people there to see the game, mostly family and friends of the players. Finding a place to park wasn’t hard and we were able to get really close to the field. We parked the car at an angle in a spot between home plate and first so grandpap could sit inside the car to watch the game if he wanted. Ken and I sat on the front bumper with the job of intercepting any errant balls before they reached the Buick. Players from both teams seemed to know each other as they talked and joked prior to the start. Once the first pitch was thrown, however, the competitive juices flowed and friendships were put on hold.
Dad and Uncle Paul wandered around to the other side and took up conversations with a few other people in attendance. Ken and I lost interest after about 4 ½ innings. The pitchers for both teams were controlling things pretty well so, except for a few foul balls that we chased down, there wasn’t much going on. Through it all grandpap kept his eyes glued on the field of play never raising his voice. He seemed very respectful and appreciative of the pitching masterpieces he was observing on both sides. A strikeout to end of the sixth inning prompted him to clap his hands softly a couple of times and say, “Very nicely done!”
The game concluded just as dusk came over the field. Our VFW team had prevailed by a score of one to nothing on two fewer hits than the visiting team. After brief team meetings at their respective benches the two teams intermingled near home plate and picked up their pre-game conversations. As we prepared to leave for home and our waiting ice cream dessert we could overhear a couple of Tyrone players invite the Houtzdale nine to the VFW for a friendly beer. The game was hard fought, the competition fierce, but in the end these men were still friends above all else.
As we headed toward Adams grandpap spoke to no one in particular but for all to hear, “You know, I think Mr. Gehrig would have been proud of those young men.”
"Are we there yet?”
This familiar question is posed by anxious kids
everywhere as they peer out the windows of cars on the way
to DelGrosso’s Park, the first ballgame of spring, or a
visit to grandma’s house.
While the pace of travel keeps getting faster and more emphasis is placed on the getting there quickly, we sometimes lose sight of the path we’re taking. Whether by car, bus, plane, truck, train or even foot, the focus seems to be on how fast we can get there with the least amount of distraction. The drive to spend less time in transit has given rise to aircraft that travel at or near the speed of sound, bullet trains, and automobiles capable of cruising at speeds our grandfathers would never have thought possible.
Early travelers made their way across hill and dale by foot. Grasses and underbrush were worn away and routes to common or popular destinations were formed. Horses, oxen, and the carts they pulled widened and deepened these paths. However, when rains came, water filled the ruts, and “roads” were made impassible. That visit to a neighbor would have to wait for a drier day. As population centers began to spring up the need for better roads became imperative. The birth of neighborhoods with streets paved with cobblestones became highly desirable. Generally recognized as the oldest residential neighborhood in the United States, Elfreth’s Alley in Philadelphia was one of the first cobbled paths to connect neighbor to neighbor even on rainy days. As cities grew, so did the streets and avenues.
Sprawling cities, exploding population and economic growth dictated the need for interconnecting travel arteries. Modern highways, turnpikes, freeways, and interstates became laced throughout the countryside like doilies draped over parlor room furniture. The evolution of highway travel has resulted in higher speeds with fewer distractions, but it has also given rise to more monotonous travel. Highways of tomorrow take us farther and get us to our destinations faster, but let’s not forget the lowly paths from whence they sprang – the alley.
Webster defines an alley as merely “a narrow street” and there are many people who agree with that simple definition. They see alleys as small, innocuous service roads. They are merely a way to get to a garage, a backyard, a place to set out trash for pickup on a Monday morning. Some utilities, like telephone and power lines, drape wooden poles that traverse alleys. In our neighborhood we saw alleys as these things and much more. Additionally they provide shortcuts to other streets, access to vacant lots, places for uninterrupted baseball games, spots for games of hide ‘n go seek (“hide-e-go”), and a place to safely ride our bikes. They become communication conduits as moms and dads talk with backyard neighbors across the alley on a daily basis. When the snows of winter come, cars are parked in the alley so we can sled ride down “bury hill”.
Alleys are generally found between the main or signed streets and usually take their names from a landmark in the immediate area. Herald runs from Blair to Washington and once abutted the Tyrone Daily Herald building. Riverside parallels Bald Eagle Avenue from 13th to 15th running next to the Bald Eagle Creek. Even though I never saw the namesake for Cottage, I have faith that there is or once was a cottage. The ice house, side entrances to Acme and Aults & Crane, exercise areas for horses, the entrance to the Herald pick up room, Uncle Paul’s garage, the “other” slaughter house, and the primary route to the “clay bank” had at least one thing in common. They were all in alleys!
While many alleys were rough and full of ruts, a few have been smoothed and coated with tar and gravel. Cottage has always had macadam its full length and Herald was the “yellow brick road” especially between Logan and Washington. Official or not, all alleys have names. Some are called “streets” as in Herald or Cottage. A few are “avenues” like Riverside, Burley, and North. Still others proudly proclaim their “alley” heritage! Garden, Stone, Hemlock, Birch, River and those designated alphabetically as in “F” and “P” are alleys through and through. Regardless of the “official” name, neighborhood alleys will always carry neighborhood names. There was the Laundry Alley at 12th, Koogen’s Alley behind Bald Eagle, the Bloody Lane adjacent to Rupert’s “OK” used car lot (named for the slaughter house), and Bickle’s Alley behind our house on 12th. Most of us know how to find Herald, Cottage, or Riverside and in the old days we knew the quickest way to Dworsak’s from Bald Eagle Avenue or the route to Artie’s from the laundry field. Visitors to our neighborhoods usually stay on the “main” streets.
Once across the 12th Street Bridge the alleys are less familiar to me. I do remember a very short alley that ran between the feed store and the Villa on 10th. This peninsula path served as the service artery for most of the businesses facing Pennsylvania Avenue between the Iron Bridge and 10th Street. On Blair between 10th and 11th is Herald then nothing until midway between 12th and 13th. I used to turn right at the Hookies pulling a wagon load of papers, tin or rubber on my way to Sealfons. Another alley I used a lot as a kid was Cottage. Running from below Bald Eagle Avenue near my Aunt Gert’s house to Pennsylvania Avenue it was a direct route to Dworsak’s. There’s nothing like an ice cold bottle of pop on a sultry July day. The ice house was just a little bit further up so if I didn’t have a dime I’d go and scrounge for a small chunk of crystal clear ice.
The layout of the town determines the length and direction of the alleys. Hills, creeks, houses often alter the direction and the length of the alleys. None of the alleys running from Woodland toward Bald Eagle could make the jump over the Bald Eagle Creek. Just up from 12th there was one that ran from the south end of Ridge down to Woodland that we called “the run”. It was too steep, rocky, and wet to go up or down on a bike or wagon but when it iced over in the winter it made a great launching pad for that assault on the record for longest sled ride of the season. Slightly longer but similar in topography was an alley that ran from near Skelton’s on Woodland down behind Sullivan’s, Carling’s and Livingston’s to the Laundry. Mussers, Turianos, Skeltons, and others who lived on Woodland may have occasionally used Skelton’s alley as a short cut home from the laundry field.
Businesses take advantage of alleys not only for deliveries but as side or back entrances for the convenience of those customers taking a shortcut. Aults & Crain, Acme, Lugg & Edmonds, Steel’s Drug Store, and Dworsak's all had secondary alley entrances. A few main entrances were on alleys. In addition to the ice house on Cottage there was a tire retreading operation and a Mission Bottling operation in the alley behind the Wesley Methodist Church off 12th (Alley F). While I didn’t care much about retreads, I could take three empties to the bottling plant and get a free bottle of pop. Even though the pop wasn’t cold there isn’t anything quite like a free Mission Orange.
Steam locomotives and our mill made keeping a car clean and shiny a real challenge. If you do have a car that usually looks good, you probably have a garage and, if you have a garage, you travel the alleys. Row upon row of garage rentals were all over town. Uncle Paul had a ’37 Buick that he kept at a rented garage in a row on the alley between 10th and 11th (Herald) between Logan and the railroad. While the garage was convenient to his work at Graham & Getz, he walked to and from his home on 14th every day. The car only came out of the garage to be washed and waxed (Blue Coral), although he did drive it on weekends. Mom said he wanted the garage close to work so he could visit the car during his lunch break. The row of garages is still standing.
Behind our house we had garages in our alleys, too although our garage housed horses and a forge. Across our alley facing Walk’s backyard there was a row of about four garages. The garages formed the right field wall of our ballpark. If a fair ball cleared the garage roof on a fly and went into Stoner’s yard, it was a homer. If it bounced on the roof first, it was a double. Besides being a ballpark, the absence of traffic made it an ideal location other activities. Backyards, out buildings, a few parked cars, and wide open running lanes to 12th made it a great spot for games like “kick the can” and “hide-e-go”. A mad dash toward “home” or an upright can waiting to be kicked often results in collisions and falls. An unpaved alley with its clumps of wild grasses is gentler to knees and elbows than macadam. Some games last well beyond supper since a couple of well placed arc lights provide just enough light to continue the games beyond dusk.
The telephone pole between the backs of the McClellan and Reeder houses served as home base for a lot of games as well as a spot for our basketball hoop. We cut the bottom out of a five gallon bucket and boost one of the older guys up high enough to get a hand on to the metal climbing spikes. He makes his way up to a spot where he hangs the bucket. Even though there’s no backboard and the height is wrong, it’s our first basketball court. The soft, uneven ground that protects knees and elbows when we fall creates a basketball dribbling nightmare.
On really hot summer days the alley at the bottom of our hill is our pathway to refreshment. To the right is the route to the clay bank and the edge of the cold waters of the little Bald Eagle Creek. But this day I have a nickel in my pocket so I’ll turn left and head toward 10th Street. Within four or five minutes I’ve passed 11th Street and less than two minutes from my goal. As I arrive at tenth, the roar of truck engines and the odor of diesel fuel assault my senses causing me to pause and look to my right toward downtown where I see the Hookies new American LaFrance ladder truck turning on Blair. Gathering myself I remember my mission, make a hard left and swiftly move four doors up 10th to my oasis. Entering Artie’s I move quickly to the back right of the counter and begin searching. As I slide open the chest freezer door my worst fears are realized. Today he has both Root Beer and Lime Popsicles. And me with only one nickel!
For me, alleys have always been and will always be the preferred path to take. Free of noise and traffic these narrow streets are safer, quieter, and more interesting. Whether it’s a Sunday horseback ride up to Reservoir Park traversing the alley between 15th and 16th, going up Cottage to Dworsak’s, or going to pick up the papers for my Herald route you see more people and more of the neighborhood in alleys than any other street.
I’m sorry Mr. Webster, but our alleys aren’t merely “narrow streets”. They may be roads less traveled, but these routes to happiness still give adventure and excitement to any who walk their paths. The best part? They’re still around and they’re just outside everyone’s backyard!
As long as most of us can remember, music has been an important part of our lives. Love it or hate it, we can’t help but hear it. Newer music has often been the focal point of prior generation’s criticism and even ridicule. In the fifties, Rock ‘n Roll was seen as eroding family values and making a mockery of finer artists of the past. The music of those who grew up in the 30’s and 40’s was subject to similar critique and disdain. Music of the “roaring twenties” really raised the hackles of a more mature and sensitive generation. Rap or “Hip Hop” music has solidified most, if not all, of the prior generations in their disdain and vilification of this assault on musical integrity. Each of us knows that our music was best and we’re betting that no Rap tune will ever become a “golden oldie”. But, can we be sure?
Information from a new study was recently released showing that familiar music may relieve or lessen stress. Select teams of cardiologists, neurologists, and psychologists from universities in the United States and Britain evaluated and analyzed how patients under stress responded to various external mitigating stimuli. They found that, of all factors considered, the soothing sound of familiar songs had the effect of lowering heart rates, reducing blood pressure, and lessening anxiety. That’s probably why some hospitals play music in the background for patients undergoing stressful procedures such as MRI’s, CT scans, Mammograms, and others. Some surgeons lessen stress in an operating room setting by calling on Bach, Beethoven, Strauss and other masters. A few dentists even pipe music into special earphones for their patients to minimize and even eliminate pain while in the chair. With the advent of the MP-3 downloads, some patients are allowed to select their favorite music (even Rap) while undergoing a stressful procedure.
Background music has been part of virtually every aspect of our lives. Enter a shopping mall and it’s there; pick up groceries in a supermarket and you’ll hear it; ride an elevator – well, you get the point. For the most part, the sounds are relaxing and not intrusive. But, stop in a Spencer’s Store, a new music and video store or even an Appleby’s Bar and Grille and you may get a slightly different sound.
A true test of the
generational shift in music is when you pick up your car
AFTER it has been serviced.
The young man who had to drive the car about 450 feet
from the drop off area to the service bay had time to tune
the radio to his favorite station and then kick up the volume for all in the
service bay to hear!
While most of us don’t remember
the first time we heard music, chances are it was within a
day or so of our births.
Quieting ballads probably came from our mothers as
they tried to sooth our discontent.
Songs that were their favorites became imbedded in
our hearts and minds forever.
Lyrics and melodies such as “Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ra”
Jacques” could be both restful and soothing.
The lyrics from others like “Jack
and Jill”, “Rockabye
Baby” or “The Mockingbird Song” didn’t seem to have the same restful
lyrics but the melody and the softness of your mother’s
voice calmed even the most restless among us.
Even at a very young age, musical
sounds played an important part of our lives.
The sights and sounds of animated music boxes as well
as toys that squeaked, rattled, or rang were all part of our
world. From the
time our mother’s hand first rocked our cradle we heard
some form of music.
Music continued to be an integral part of our lives as we grew up, but radio wasn’t much of a source of melodies on 12th Street. The role of radio was for a different type of entertainment. Sporting events like Pirates’ baseball, the Friday night fights from Madison Square Garden, or Saturday afternoon football from Beaver Field were as good a reason as any to own a radio. During the week there were afternoon shows like the Lone Ranger, Tom Mix, or Sky King. In the evening we’d gather around to hear The Shadow, Jack Benny, Red Skelton, Beulah and others. There were a few shows that had some music. Programs like Arthur Godfrey, Don McNeil’s Breakfast Club, and the one and only Grand Ole Opry on Saturday nights brought some music into our house.
Still, I remember music coming from the real people I knew in my neighborhood. I remember my mother warbling like a bird as she whistled through her daily chores. Mrs. (Flo) Walk could be heard singing as she did the laundry or ironed Paul’s work clothes. Since she ironed everything including socks and underwear, she had a vast repertoire of song lyrics. Mrs. McKinney was a “hummer” as was Mrs. (Veta) Harshbarger. All the way down the street the sounds of music came from most of the other homes in some way or form. Susie (Miller) seemed to dance with her broom as she swept the front porch while singing her favorites. When Mrs. Hambright didn’t have a piano student taking lessons, her daughter, Muriel, was busy practicing. Mr. (Oscar) Dayton could be heard on his piano most evenings.
Even though no one in our family played, we did have an upright or “studio” piano in our living room on 12th Street. My Aunt Gert (Ritz) played by ear but she lived on Bald Eagle Avenue. My oldest brother, Deb took a few lessons from Aunt Gert in the hope of moving him along his journey to learn a little “Boogie Woogie” by ear. Fortunately, for all of us, Deb fell in love with a girl from Coalport, Betty Andrews. Deb and Betty were married and moved in with us while he continued his studies at Penn State. Betty had played the church organ in Coalport so our studio piano was a natural for her. She played all the popular songs, jazz, and even “Boogie Woogie”. She really had a special “touch” for the classics – not often heard in our neighborhood. After supper she would often entertain us with many of our favorite songs leaving little time for Deb to “practice”. As dad would say, “Thank God, she fixed the piano”.
There were a few others in the family that were musically inclined. My Aunt Gert lived at 1352 Bald Eagle Avenue and played by ear quite well. Although she never took a lesson, she had a knack of being able to sit at a keyboard and hammer out just about any song people knew. When I was really young, I remember holiday parties at her house where she played for sing a longs. Other than family I don’t remember many of the people that came except Bill and Joanne Hiller. Bill was always trying to stump my aunt by throwing out the name of a song for her to play that she had never heard. “Hum a little, William, and I’ll wing it”, she’d say. And wing it she did with that honky-tonk style of hers.
Aunt Ag (Agnes Long) was the real musician in the family. She could read music, adapt musical scores, arrange and teach. Before she married Louie Hill and moved to Bellefonte, she lived in an upstairs apartment on Pennsylvania Avenue. The apartment was on the second floor near Black’s car dealership (near the present Wine and Spirits store). She used to walk from there to her job at the Wilson Theater where she played for the silent movies. Her ability to adapt music to the action on the screen made her a hit. She also played before and after the show.
In addition to playing at the Wilson six days a week she was one of many piano teachers in town. She had one student she really liked even though he struggled with the scales and his “touch” was rather heavy. Still, he persevered, and twice a week Tom Waring, Fred’s brother, trekked down the alley from Lincoln Avenue for his lesson.
The men in our family had
neither the desire nor the “gift” for music.
My dad, brothers, and uncles liked music but not
enough to seriously attempt to play.
We all had harmonicas at one time or another and Deb
did try his hand at “Boogie Woogie” on the piano but
that was about it. Dad
whistled while he rhythmically hammered red hot iron into
the right size and shape for the next horse to be shod.
He also sang short, quieting songs to skittish horses
as he prepared to lift an unshod hoof for a fitting.
Strangely, classical music became familiar to me at a young age. My Uncle Paul (Long) lived in an apartment on 14th Street across from the old Logan school. He owned a “crank” Victrola and about 10 or 12 recordings, mostly classical. I was introduced to them when I was about 11 and they fascinated me, not because of the music or the performer but because of the player. He worked for Graham and Getz and I would stop to see him when he got off work so I could use the Victrola. He showed me how to coax Enrico Caruso, the New York Philharmonic, Scott Joplin, Al Jolsen and a couple others to perform in his living room. After only one lesson, I became adept and the master of song. The few recordings he owned were black, thick and large with only one song per disc. After cranking the handle and positioning the stylus or needle in the starting groove I was fascinated to hear the scratchy, hissing performance of the artist. I could increase the volume merely by opening the inner doors to the front of the cabinet.
Even though I never had the desire to learn how to play an instrument, I did envy a few friends who made the effort. I can remember Danny (Morningred) trying to show me how to get sounds from his clarinet but I could never master the reed thing. Gib (Minemier) became good enough on the trumpet to play in the high school band and later the Gardner Guards. Ray (Trenary) went through the accordion phase and showed me a couple of chords. I couldn’t master standing while holding the weight of that portable keyboard. Lessons for the piano and organ were the purview of girls, or so it seemed.
In addition to Mrs. Hambright, I remember hearing the strained sounds of a distressed keyboard coming from St. Matthew’s Convent, (Pearl) Cowher’s, (Oscar) Dayton’s and a few others.
Many of us were intrigued by the advertisements on the back covers of magazines urging us to become the “life of the party” by taking piano, guitar, or organ lessons by mail using a “foolproof, unique, color coded music system”.
Yes, music was important and while I sometimes thought about taking lessons, I remembered my brother’s failed attempts and all that practice. Besides, things were changing. The life of the party was now a collection of 45 RPM records. All the latest hits were on 45’s and they only cost 89 cents at (Joe) Fresh’s Music store at 12th and Pennsy. Since there was no hissing or scratching sounds, they sounded much better than Uncle Paul’s thick discs. And, even better, there was no need to crank the record player.
Now we have a couple of grandchildren, and you know what? They occasionally cry and need comforted. If we sing to them, they usually stop crying. Am I surprised that a study shows that music reduces stress? Not really! But, I am surprised that someone would pay good money for such a study.
Didn’t any of these scientists have a mother that sang to them?
Favorites are important to each of us. Each favorite is unique, personal and means so much because of special days, events, or memories. A favorite such as a color, a book, an ice cream flavor, a movie or a song can be shared by many different people. Other favorites are private and uniquely individual. A childhood pet, a favorite relative, a special Christmas present, or a once in a lifetime vacation trip are privately heartwarming. Sometimes a favorite can be realized instantaneously and remembered forever. Other times it may evolve slowly in our hearts and minds to becoming so very special. That’s how Sunday came to be my favorite day.
I don’t think there was any one thing that made this day so special. Rather, a collection of many special things all seemed to come together on this special day.
Assuming dad didn’t have to work at the Juniata shops, Sundays always started out much the same way. One at a time we each got our turns in the upstairs bathroom at 1352 Bald Eagle Avenue. Since I was the youngest I was always allowed into the bathroom when I wanted or needed – less chance of an accident that way. With hair combed, faces washed, shoes polished and best clothes all laid out we were preparing for 10 o’clock High Mass. Dad had been ready for over an hour and was feeding and watering the horses while the rest of us were being primped for church. Since my sister, Patty, was in the girls’ choir, she was usually the first one ready to go. My brother, Ken, was next and he usually joined Patty in trying to help mom get me set. At the impish age of three I generally required more than one person to assist in this Sunday morning ritual. My oldest brother, Deb, was in the army, somewhere in the Pacific. Once we were ready, we followed Mom down the side steps where Dad was waiting. On the way, Mom would remind us to be sure to say a special prayer for peace and for our brother.
We always sat in a pew on the left side of the sanctuary near where Dad and many other men would place their hats on the slanted sill under the stained glass window. Mr. and Mrs. Morningred were always in a pew on that side too, along with their kids, Duane and Danny. As three year olds, Danny and I had a silent way of communicating during Mass. The choir’s responses to Gregorian like incantations were very special to my mother especially if Father O’Malley was the celebrant. After forty-five minutes my impishness was replaced with restlessness and dad would remove me to the vestibule. Shortly after eleven Mass was over ad we were making our way down the outside steps to Cameron Avenue. People slowly wandered down the steps greeting each other on the way. More often than not we’d stop and talk with Aunt Rose and Uncle Joe (Long) from up the pike. My folks would see the Smiths from Grazierville, the Homans from Decker Hollow, and the Pallos from Cameron Avenue, the Futricks, the Kilmartins, Aunt Gert (Ritz), Uncle Paul (Long), and many others. Meanwhile I kept tugging on my family members to get started home. Mom’s special Sunday breakfast still had to be made and I was really hungry.
As I got
older, Sunday mornings didn’t change much.
We had bought a house and moved to 225 East 12th
Street, Deb had come home from the war, Patty was in nursing
school in Philadelphia and I had learned enough Latin to
proudly join my brother, Ken, as an altar boy. Mom still went to the ten o’clock High Mass but Ken and I
were at the mercy of the
server’s schedule and occasionally one or both of us went
to the 8:30 Low Mass. No
matter, the Sunday breakfast (now they call it brunch) was
served after 10 o’clock Mass. It made the other days’ breakfasts pale in comparison.
There would be grapefruit halves, orange juice, ham,
sausage, bacon, or scrapple; eggs , scrambled or fried sunny
side up; fried potatoes with onions and green peppers; hot
cakes (either buttermilk of buckwheat) served with warm
syrup. If we
were out of store bought syrup, mom would make some – it
was made with brown sugar and water brought to a slight boil
and a syrupy consistency.
There were times that my brother would hide the maple
syrup so mom had to make her own.
Sunday breakfast was always eaten in the kitchen no
matter who came. I
can remember Jack Yenter, Ben Jones, my future
brother-in-law, George Haupt, and neighbors to numerous to
count all raving about that special breakfast.
Except for the syrup, we just took it for granted!
matter what else might be happening on Sunday, none of us
ever missed the breakfast.
On summer Sundays, Dad and I would occasionally go to
the 8:30 Mass. After
church he’d saddle up “Precious Pat” (a chestnut
mare), I’d ready “Tony” (my black and white pinto) and
we’d head out for a morning ride.
We’d go down the alley and make a left at Bald
Eagle Avenue then turn left at 12th Street over
the bridge and up to Logan Avenue.
At Logan Avenue we’d turn right, go past Pike
Gardner’s to 14th Street and turn left to
Lincoln Avenue and out to 16th Street.
We’d stay on 16th to Madison then left
until we reached 15th – a right turn would take
us up the Janesville Pike. Normally it would take about twenty minutes to get to 15th
and Madison – on a nice day it might take an hour. Nice days brought a few people out on their porches and Dad
stopped and talked to all of them, or so it seemed. Dayton, Dixon, O’Rourke, Fleming, Martin, Kirk, Johnson –
any that were out. Finally
we passed Stevens Park and were out of earshot of any others
that might slow our trek.
We always rode past the two reservoirs to the old
homestead where my dad’s grandparents had first settled in
the mid-1800’s. A
quick trot back to the original site of the house and we
were ready to start for home.
Mom’s breakfasts were calling.
the way back we came straight down 15th Street to
Lincoln Avenue and the normal route home.
Occasionally dad would stop and speak with a lady who
lived on 15th near Clay Avenue.
While I wrestled to keep “Tony” under control
they spoke of the “good old days” on the farm in the
what seemed like an eternity, we’d finally get under way.
After several times, I finally asked dad who she was
– it was Dorothy Crawford.
Dad cared for her father’s horses at the farm.
Later, when I was in high school I came to know her
as Miss Crawford. She
still remembered me, fighting to keep “Tony” under
those occasions when Dad was scheduled to work first trick
on Sundays at the shops we’d all have forego a few hours
get up at 3:30AM, feed and water the horses, get cleaned up
and dressed in our best and head to Altoona.
There was a five o’clock Mass at St. Marks and most
of the shift workers attended.
Some called it the “blue and white” Mass which I
naturally thought was for Penn State.
I found out later it was named for the policemen
(blue) and nurses (white) in attendance.
We got home in plenty of time for the special
breakfast but Mom usually left something out since Dad
couldn’t be there.
were always spent in leisure.
My brother and I would listen to the Pirate’s game
while he washed the car.
“Rosey” Rowswell was my favorite announcer for my
favorite team. “Lookout
Aunt Minnie here she comes!”
If the Pirates won it was icing on the cake.
Sometimes we’d all get into the car and head up the
pike to Aunt Rose and Uncle Joe’s for Sunday dinner (Bob
Long lives there now).
What a place – apple trees to climb, grapes to pick
(and get sick on), two mules, a little pond with a few fish
in it, and the coldest, freshest spring water in the county.
Aunt Rose always had fresh bread and elderberry jelly
which usually prompted mom to warn us not to spoil our
cousin, Leona (Haag), always managed to sneak me just one
more piece of jelly bread without mom knowing.
also meant pickup games in Walk’s backyard, picking apples
in Sullivan’s tree, and sometimes making ice cream.
That meant taking the wagon with a burlap sack up to
the ice house on Cottage.
Even though they were closed Sundays they had a self
serve chute with a coin slot.
Drop in a quarter and out slides a 50 pound block.
Cover the ice with burlap, put it in the wagon, and
head home as quickly as possible to keep melting to a
minimum. An ice
pick, rock salt, and the churn – we were ready for the mix
that was being prepared inside.
Finally we started to crank.
I was always first while it was still easy.
When it began to get harder Ken took his turn.
Finally either Deb or dad would take over when things
really got near the end.
Then each of us were given first tastes of the fresh,
cold treat when the dasher was removed.
The newly made ice cream was allowed to harden a bit
while mom cut wedges of freshly made blueberry or apple pie.
The ice cream made the perfect topping.
When the pie and ice cream were gone dad would always
remark, “Mary that was a little bit of all right!
If I could make a pie like that, I’d make one every
Sunday dinner there was always time for another favorite
past time – horseback riding in the alley.
I always felt fortunate that my dad was a blacksmith
because I always had horses to ride.
The first one I remember was “Billie”.
We had him when we lived on Bald Eagle Avenue and
brought him with us when we moved to 12th Street.
My brothers and sister rode him before me so he was
quite old when we moved.
Soon after Billie died we got “Mike”.
Mike was blind and got to know me by smell.
He’d nuzzle me every time I came near him in a very
gentle and trusting way.
We had him about 6 years.
The last pony I had was “Tony”, a magnificent
pinto. He was
very high strung, hard to control, but he showed very well
in parades and horseshows.
After the ponies phase I graduated to horses and,
while enjoyable, it just wasn’t the same.
Giving a neighborhood kid a ride on a gentle, well
behaved pony was another of my favorite things.
the time the afternoon started to fade we were full, happy,
and pretty dirty. This
meant another line up to the bathroom as we washed up and
changed into clean clothes in preparation for Sunday Vespers
and Benediction. Ken
and I always left first since we had to change into our
cassocks and surplices before the service.
On the way we’d pick up Jim Fleming, Duane and
Danny Morningred and head toward Kienzles.
There we’d meet up with Cyril and Christy but
before we left we’d catch about 10-15 minutes of the Red
Skelton Show. Cutting
it close we’d usually have to run part of the way up 11th
Street and through the Pig Hole to St. Matthew’s.
Back then vespers were sung with Latin hymns and
Gregorian chants. Strains
of “Tantum Ergo”
and” “O Salutorus
Hostia” still ring in my mind from time to time.
Once finished we’d all head home by the most direct
Duane and Jim went one way, Danny and I went another, with
Christy and Cyril on their own down 11th.
I’d usually get home in time to see the end of the
Ed Sullivan Show. A
perfect way to end my favorite day!
Cold cereal and orange juice for breakfast? It must be Monday, not my favorite day!
Typically, a day for our family would start sometime
after 5:00 AM. Dad
was first up, especially on chilly mornings like this one.
He always had first dibs on the bathroom so he could
get ready for work and get the fire stoked to warm the house
for the rest of us. While
he was getting ready, Mom went down to the kitchen to start
mornings usually meant something hot in the pot like oatmeal
with raisins or Cream of Wheat (a.k.a. “mush”).
When the cereal was cooked, she’d cover the pot and
keep it warm in a makeshift double boiler - a large skillet
filled part way with boiling water.
Soon the aroma of percolating coffee filled the house
and the delightful odor stirred even those of us too young
to drink it. It
made a characteristic “ba doop, ba doop, ba doop doop”
sound as it perked one minute for every cup being made.
When done she’d pour two cups and add a little milk
Dad would head down to the kitchen, pick up the
cup of coffee that was waiting for him and head to the
basement to bring our furnace back to life.
First he’d shake the grates until a few hot coals
dropped into the ash bin then a few sharp jabs into the
firebox with the long poker with the hook on the end.
The fire seemed to stretch and yawn before flames
were finally awakened and slivers were seen through cracks
made by the poker. Satisfied
that warmth was on its way he’d head for the stable to
feed and water the horses.
If it was below freezing overnight he might have to
come back to the house for a bucket of hot water to break
the ice on the watering trough.
While he was in the stable Mom was busy preparing his
lunch. Today it
was leftover meatloaf sandwiches, an apple, some Fig Newtons
and a Thermos full of fresh made coffee.
With coffee made, our breakfast and Dad’s
lunch ready, Mom would come upstairs and stick her head in
our room for our first wake up call.
While we weighed our options and tried to conjure up
“stay home from school” symptoms, she had her turn in
the bathroom. Within
5 or 10 minutes she was done and on her way to her
room her eyes peered through the crack in the door and a
second wake up call came forth.
The stomach pains weren’t developing the way I had
hoped - maybe a headache!
Ken’s up by now and in the bathroom.
I’m still lying there stretching and yawning while
looking out the rear window toward the sound of a steam
locomotive heading toward Huntington.
I could hear the chugs and the whistle but the dense
cloud of smoke and cinders wouldn’t appear until the front
of the train neared Nealmont. I hear dad yell “s’long” as he goes out the side door
on his way to catch the black and orange bus from the Ready
Taxi stand on Blair Avenue.
He was on first trick and the bus usually left around
Heat from the revived furnace was finally
beginning to make its way up the stairs.
In the house there was only one heat register above
the furnace so it took a while.
First the air in the dining and living rooms were
heated, then the kitchen, and finally the door from the
kitchen to the stairs was opened and the heat began its
final journey. Just
as I peeled back the hap and swung my feet to the floor Mom
stuck her head in the room for the final wake up call.
“Are ever going to get up on time? If
you’re late for school you won’t be allowed to see any
Just then the seven o’clock mill whistle sounded in
agreement with my mother’s scolding.
Neither stomach nor headache pain materialized
and with thoughts of tonight’s big show in my mind, I had
committed myself to yet another day of student trials.
I bolted from the bed and ran to the bathroom.
Feverishly I turned the knob but the door was locked!
I yelled for Ken to hurry as a new found sense of
urgency became the panicky call of nature. I danced up and down the hall and Mom gave me an “I told
you so” smile as she went downstairs.
Finally my pleas were answered as the skeleton key
turned and the door opened.
I shot past my brother and gave him a dagger-like
look as he exited the room.
I could hear his fading laughter as he went down the
steps. When I
came out I yelled, “Just wait until tomorrow.
I’m going in first”.
More laughter - even from Mom!
By the time I got downstairs, things were
pretty quiet. Mom
was finishing her coffee and putting on her coat to go to
work at the Reliance shirt factory.
She had to be there by 8 AM and it would take her
about twenty minutes to walk from our house to 16th
Street. Ken had
been down in the cellar to bank the furnace for the day and
now he was ready to take off.
On his way to school he’d pick up Dutch, Jim and
Duane as well as others that they’d catch around
Pennsylvania Avenue. On
the table was my orange juice and an empty bowl which was
soon filled with the last of the oatmeal.
A little milk, a little brown sugar and I was ready.
As I slowly stirred my cereal with my spoon Mom
warned me not to be late as she left for work.
As I heard her last footsteps on the side porch I
placed my cereal bowl on the floor for my dog, “Muffet”
I still had plenty of time so I went down to
the stable. If
someone brought something good to school I’d need
something to trade. A
ring made from a horseshoe nail was always a hit so I took a
few nails from the kit and held them one at a time on the
horn of the anvil while gently bending each with the hammer.
Two of them came out pretty good but the third ring
ended up oblong in shape.
I would have tried another but just then the eight
o’clock laundry whistle blew.
I ran back to the house and put the “Muffet”
cleaned bowl and my empty juice glass in the sink, grabbed a
jacket and my books from the dining room table and headed
out the side door. Two
doors down I stopped at Walk’s to see if Warren was ready. “He’ll be right down.
Would you like some cinnamon toast?”
Much better than oatmeal!
Going up 12th Street we caught up to
Danny at Pennsylvania Avenue.
Just then we heard a faint whistle in the distance.
We couldn’t be sure but it sounded like it was a
train on the Bald Eagle line heading for the coal fields
down the valley. If it is, it will be a long one and a slow one.
We’ll never get to school on time even if we go
down to the Pig Hole to get to the other side. Crossing the alley on the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue
we picked up the pace first trotting, then running and
finally an outright sprint.
Warren turned right at Logan Avenue while Danny and I
went straight. I
could feel pains in my lungs as my chest heaved for more air
to power my efforts. Nearing
Iavasil’s store I grabbed my right side and slowed to a
walk. I could
run no more. It
wouldn’t matter anyway!
We spotted the railroad crossing guard walking from
his little shed on the other side of the tracks carrying the
“Stop RR Crossing” sign.
Once he was out, no one crossed.
Safety was his life, especially around trains since
he lost his left arm in an accident in a PRR rail yard.
He motioned for us to make our way down to the Pig
Despite the detour, we made it just as the
final bell rang. That
block and a half sprint must have given us the extra time we
The day passed without incident or interest.
A times tables contest and spelling bee were the
day’s highlights. I
won the times table thing but lost the spelling bee, as
always, to my cousin, Mary Alice.
The best part always came with the 3:30 bell.
Charging down 12th from Cameron
Avenue we saw that the railroad crossing guard was in the
middle of the street and a coal train stopped on the tracks.
We approached him as he leaned on his sign and puffed
on a short cigar. He
anticipated our question with another question.
“Would you believe this is the same train from this
smiled at our looks of amazement and then told us -
“actually it’s been here about an hour but it isn’t
likely to move much for another hour.”
He motioned for us to make our way down to the Pig
Hole - again.
The rest of the trip home was uneventful. We
stayed on 11th most of the way - not the normal
Ray left us at Pennsylvania Avenue we stopped to look in the
DeSoto garage window on Blair. There was a dark blue sedan that must have just
arrived. It was
being cleaned, polished, and prepared for delivery.
We headed up Blair to 12th where Danny
made a left and I went right over the bridge toward home.
I ran over to the laundry field then to the laundry.
In a few minutes the whistle would blow and the
workers would be homeward bound. Wandering the length of the building I kept jumping to get a
glimpse inside as I went.
Nearing the end of the building I hear a familiar
voice. “HEY BOY!” It
was dad. On
this rare day the bus was actually on time. I joined him at the alley and we walked the remaining half
block asking about each other’s day.
I asked him if he got hurt.
Ever since I once stepped on his broken toe, I always
asked that question and he always laughed (except for the
day I stepped on his toe)!
Because the train blocked the crossings Dad and
I were home long before Ken or Mom. I had visions of them
waiting on the other side of the tracks waiting for the
train to move. Neither had a kindly one-armed crossing guard to let them
know the reason for the delay and it would take a while
before they went to the Pig Hole. Supper may be a little
late tonight. Dad
went to the stable to check on the horses and I was told if
I wanted to watch Berle I’d better get my homework done .
I waited for him to go out then I went out on the
front porch to see if anyone was outside.
Even though winter was over, nightfall was still
early so if you wanted to do anything outside it had to be
weren’t many kids on Walk’s front porch since the high
school kids were still on the other side of the tracks.
No one was on the laundry field and it was too cold
to do anything at the clay bank near the creek.
I made a pass through our neighbor’s backyard and
peered through the window of the stable to see what dad was
curiosity caught his eye and he glared at me indicating
I should be doing my homework.
Using a more direct route I made it to the house and
sprawled out on the dining room floor with my books.
Within 10 minutes of opening my Geography book my
studious endeavors were rewarded as Mom walked in the door.
“Been home long?”
“A little while.”
“What have you been doing?”
A soulful look must have convinced her that I needed
a break. So,
while she prepared supper I rolled over toward the Philco
console and switched it on to listen to some of my favorite
nearly 4:45 PM and there should be enough time to listen to
at least part of one of my favorite programs before supper:
The Lone Ranger with Silver, Tonto and Scout brought to you
by Cheerios. I
forgot to check the mail!
I had sent away to become an honorary Texas Ranger.
I’m supposed to get a badge and an official ID
card. Did they come yet? It
wasn’t in the pile - maybe one of the neighbors got it by
someone broke in and stole it - why do we leave the door
I was busy looking, Ken came in.
As he headed up to the bedroom, I heard him tell Mom
to call him when supper was ready.
I’ll bet he has my badge!
Supper was macaroni and cheese with stewed tomatoes.
I liked mine separate while everyone else put the
tomatoes on top. During
supper there was the normal chatter about how the day went.
Dad would be making a trick change in two or three
weeks; Mom heard that the shirt factory would be hiring
another five people within the month; Ken got an “A” on
a physics experiment - something to do with mothballs.
I wanted to know where my badge was.
Since this was Berle night, Ken and I had to wash the
dishes after supper, mom cleaned the kitchen, dad washed and
changed clothes. Somehow
Mom found out I hadn’t finished my homework (I’ll bet
Ken told her) and I was quickly dispatched to my room with
the mandate not to come down until it was done.
By 7:30 it was dark outside and not many people were
on the street. The
norm was to read a book, sew, do homework, talk , iron, or
even bake a pie all while listening to the radio. Fibber
McGee and Molly, Beulah, The Dinah Shore Show, Amos ‘n
Andy, The Shadow, Edward R. Morrow, Life of Riley, Luigi,
and if it was Friday, Boxing from Madison Square Garden were
background to life’s other and more important activities.
But things were changing in our little town.
A few people owned something different - something
that required your undivided attention. Now you couldn’t read or do homework or bake a pie.
Now you had to look as well as listen, usually in a
darkened room. A
strange looking aluminum bird perch attached to the chimney
let everyone else know who had something called television.
To say it was fascinating would be an understatement.
We didn’t have one yet but a neighbor on Woodland
did - a 14 inch black and white encased in as much wood as
in our entire dining room table.
That’s where we were invited to go tonight.
Mom and Dad went up early enough to catch John
Cameron Swayze and the news.
Somehow the news seemed better when you could see the
person reporting. Ken
went to see his friends, Jim and Duane.
I was still busy with my homework pushing feverishly
to get it done before eight - one more arithmetic problem.
I ran up Twelfth to Woodland, up the steps and around
the house to the back door.
I was breathing hard but as I came I heard the words
to the jingle “…we work from Maine to Mexico…”
The set was in a darkened room against the inside
was sitting directly in front of it in a quiet, church-like
I heard at least three viewers join in to greet me with “Shhhh!” I took a position on the floor down front anxiously waiting
for Uncle Milty to appear.
Something was different - the picture was larger and
more distorted than usual.
Then I noticed it - a HUGE magnifying lens directly
in front of the picture.
A lens so big it had to be mounted over the top of
the set and clamped to the back.
While it did increase the size of the picture, the
magnification did little to enhance one’s viewing pleasure
unless you were fortunate enough to get a seat directly in
front of the set at eye level.
Everyone else got distortions, a partial picture, and
dramatic views of snow and static - not what WJAC intended,
watched and laughed as the comedy unfolded before us.
Occasionally I’d close my eyes and pretend it was
radio but many of Berle’s antics were visual so radio
wouldn’t work. From my vantage point there were times I’d have to use
reactions of the audience or others in the room to sense
when to laugh. Still
we were guests and our hosts were proud to share this new
the son of a blacksmith I knew to “never look a gift horse
in the mouth.” If
they just didn’t attach that magnifying lens.
It would be another year or so before we got
our own television set.
It was a metal, table top Columbia I think.
Even though there was still only Johnstown’s
channel 6 and the antenna had to be adjusted occasionally it
was time. Especially
since a second channel was coming to Altoona and Gillette
was sponsoring Friday night fights every week.
That was enough to seal the decision.
Radio continued to play a big part in our lives.
The Lone Ranger on radio competed with Gabby Hayes on
TV. The Pirates
continued on radio as did the Nittany Lions football and St.
Francis basketball. Television had games of the week and special events like the
TV has changed a lot over the years. One channel has grown to 60 plus cable offerings and over a hundred on the dish. The screens are no longer gray, black and white and the size doesn’t have to be enhanced with a clamp on lens. Yes, it’s with us to stay but could it ever compare to the really big show at a neighbor’s house on Woodland?
STORES FOR ALL
by Gary Long
“Which came first, the mall or the mall shopper?” This is a question that has plagued man since the first trip to King of Prussia. Mall owners like to think that the malls of today are the same as the Main Streets of yesteryear. In some locations they’ve even attempted to create a Main Street atmosphere with brick walkways, artificial trees, park benches (without a park), and even a few abbreviated storefronts.
few windows that may exist always face inside, never toward
the parking lot. Birds
haven’t yet made it into this shopper’s world although I
have seen a few at a Lowe’s or Home Depot.
Some malls have attempted to give their “main
street” natural light by installing skylights overhead.
Then a mall decorator hangs theme decor from above
and the skylights and their desired effects are obscured.
Over the years, stores have changed approaches to attracting customers. While advertising is still the single most important means of drawing attention to a store and its goods, it has taken on many shapes and modes ranging from radio, TV, and newspapers to the ever crucial word of mouth. Sound trucks no longer roam the streets announcing the arrival of the new models. Billboards don’t advertise the unique qualities of the latest model car, TV, washer, dryer, sofa, or refrigerator that makes each a “must have”.
Now the focus by the store or dealer is “zero down
and no payments until 19__”, “lowest prices”, and
“limited time only “. While the method and form may have changed, advertising is as
old as time itself and will always be with us.
A wise store owner once told me, “Half the money I
spend on advertising is a waste, now if I just knew which
I guess changes in advertising really reflect many of the changes in our society. Mall stores don’t have store windows to decorate since people no longer leisurely stroll along a block of storefronts to look at displays. Time has become such a premium to many people and, as a result, customers now seem like prey that must be tracked, hunted, and trapped. No longer are they “shoppers”, now they’re “buyers”. Stores use a shotgun rather than a rifle to bag their prey. Advertising is aimed at attracting the largest number of people possible with promises of “lowest prices around” and “limited time only”. Product displays at the store entrances are aimed at impulse buyers with short attention spans.
Taken for granted a short generation ago, service and
courtesy have become buzzwords for Madison Avenue ….
“Come in and let
staff assist you with service
and reliability you can count on.”
Some specialty stores will even tout the presence of
something they feel is unique to their store: a
Mall stores live and die based on the success or
failure of “black Friday”.
Then, shortly after Christmas a few of these stores
will disappear. Maybe
the unique little gift shop was too unique or the toy and
model shop had the wrong brands.
A casual clothing store that didn’t stock the right
styles and wouldn’t or couldn’t order what a customer
toll and pain of competition will be felt by these and other
stores. But, by
Easter, another group of small shop owners will open other
stores and try their hands at being a little more courteous
with a little more service at the lowest possible price.
I seem to remember when things were a little
first mall I knew was Pennsylvania Avenue and 10th
Street. You could find just about everything you needed in every type
of store on those two streets.
If you needed furniture, there were three places to
go - Wolf’s, Blatchford’s, and Rothert’s.
Gardner’s, Levine’s, Lugg's, Garman’s, or even
shoes people went to Cut Rate, Triangle, Lugg’s, or
was available at Simm’s, Acklin’s and later, Molnar.
Not one but two movie theaters, and more drug stores
than you could shake a stick at.
In addition to hardware and grocery stores we had
specialty stores like Kienzel’s Bakery, Burchfields
Sporting Goods, Engleman’s Florist, and Gardner’s
two streets were the main part of our “mall” but, there
were other stores off the main drag like Kennedy’s Model
shop on Columbia Avenue.
Window displays were always a key component for shopkeepers to advertise their wares. Windows would be filled with sofas, chairs, trains, shoes, jewels, models, wrist watches, balls, shirts and slacks. Garman’s even had a special stand alone display cupola and full size mannequins dressed in the latest fashions. Gardner’s Candies used stuffed animals to herald the coming of the next candy buying season. Windows could even be tantalizing as merchants displayed products that made them famous. There were molasses and chocolate cookie displays, sticky buns and iced coconut cakes at Kienzle’s. Cut flower arrangements would alternate with displays of potted greens and ferns at Engleman’s.
Up at 14th and Pennsy, Rudy’s right
window was always alive with newly made popcorn rolling out
of the popper. Walking
downtown could easily take an hour as people stopped to look
at the window displays and ponder their next purchase.
Seasonal changes in windows were harbingers of the
bats, and gloves; stuffed rabbits, decorated chocolate eggs,
and jellybeans; white patent leather shoes, ribbon hats, and
white shirts with bow ties; porch furniture, hammocks, and
swings; jelly bean cupcakes, coconut cakes, and iced
tulips, daffodils, and seed packets;
in their own way, they all said the same thing.
Spring was just around the corner.
My favorite store anchored this downtown mall. It was so big that you could enter on Pennsylvania Avenue and leave on 10th Street and vice versa. McCrory’s had just about everything you wanted and even some things you didn’t. The 10th Street side had toys, coloring books, models, a few hand tools, shoe polish, laces, shoe repair kits, pots for plants, and some gift items. At the inside corner of the store there were paper goods, tablets, pencils, pens, staplers, and construction paper. I remember buying a book of blank receipts that looked like checks for my dad. I thought dad could use them when he needed money and not have to work so hard. The 5 & 10 also had a candy counter, peanuts, costume jewelry, lipstick, nail polish, a place to get socks and slippers, tee shirts, and a magazine rack with a huge selection of comic books. They had special things for different occasions. Special candies for Christmas and Valentine’s Day, snow shovels in winter, kites for spring, and cards for birthdays and holidays. Kids would shop there for friends’ birthdays, Christmas gifts for the family, Spanish peanuts for a snack, or the latest Captain Marvel. Price never stood in the way of a sale and the clerks were always helpful to every customer, even the youngest.
Once, when I was about nine or ten, I was really mad
at my mother. We
had a real knock down drag out over a messy room or a chore
not done before I could go out and play.
Anyway, I stormed out of the house and after a while
found myself in the 5 & 10.
I knew mom was right and I was being stupid but
there’s no way I could ever say “I’m sorry” or admit
I was wrong. With
limited funds I paced up and down the aisles of the 5 and 10
looking for a peace offering to heal the rift while
maintaining my pride. Twenty
minutes later I presented my mother with a nineteen cent
aluminum saucepan. She
smiled, I knew I was forgiven and I never had to admit I was
years later she still had the pan even though I think she
was afraid to ever use it.
The “courteous and knowledgeable” clerk at the 5
and 10 helped me pick out the perfect gift.
On 10th Street across from Rothert’s was another store I found to be special. Their large display windows were on each side of the entrance and set back from the sidewalk. The displays at Lugg and Edmonds were aimed at different family members. There would be clothing, shoes, and toys for the kids; dresses, jewelry, and household items for mom; shirts, boots, and hats for dad. With the windows set back from the sidewalk, people could study the window displays a little longer without interfering with foot traffic on 10th Street. The clerks were always attentive to potential customers even those merely window shopping. If a clerk observed you were looking at something in particular, she would reach into the window and hold up the item so you could get a better look. Since the windows usually displayed a large variety of products it usually took a while to see everything. As fascinating as the windows were, they were but a brief preview of the enchanting theme park beyond the doors. It was one store I didn’t mind going into with my mother.
The first thing that always hit me was the “trolley” system that ran throughout the store. I’d watch as a sales clerk would write a sale out on a slip of paper then place the slip and money from the customer into a little torpedo shaped, wheel less, chrome car. The car was closed, placed on a track of moving pulleys and, “whoosh”, away it went. I’d follow the car as it raced up to another track, make a turn, head back toward the rear then another turn, up, and over disappearing somewhere on the second floor. After a few minutes I’d hear another whirring and my eyes would follow the car as it made its return journey to the clerk. She would open the car, retrieve the change and receipt and give it to her customer. Since there were several clerks at different locations on the floor, I could never figure out how the car knew which clerk to go to. Determined to break the code, I would stand there near the entrance and watch those little cars make trip after trip each time returning to its proper destination. One time, after several minutes of trolley tracking, I glanced around and realized I was alone. Mom had made her way toward the back left part of the store. I ran back and bolted up the steps to join her.
I was about to experience the other great attraction
Lugg’s had to offer.
I was getting a pair of shoes!
Not too exciting in most places but Lugg’s was
really special. They
had a magic machine that let you “see” how well your new
shoes fit. It
looked like a scale that you put a penny in to weigh
yourself except you put the front of your foot into an
opening and through a small screen on top you could see the
bones of your toes and foot inside the shoe. For a growing boy there were always two looks.
The first came with your current shoes …”See how
tight?” … the second with the new Buster Brown’s … “See how much room to grow?”
Mall stores seem to look alike and even though they
are identical or uniform in design and layout they will
continue to thrive. Lower
prices, wider selection, longer hours, black Fridays, and
special offers will attract a substantial number of buyers.
But, real shoppers should know that my hometown still
boasts stores that each have their own unique personality.
And while friendly, courteous, and knowledgeable
service may be rare in modern malls, at our downtown stores
we still expect it, even for a kid who’s only buying a
nineteen cent aluminum pan.
Forecast - Rain Tomorrow!
October can be a fickle month for weather. It can be raw and damp on Monday, crisp and refreshing on Tuesday. Today was one of those brilliant days that made you glad you live in the mountains. We were used to mornings that normally started with the chattering of squirrels and the chirping of song birds.
Not any more! Those sounds were but a memory until the dawning of a new spring. We were hit with an early frost this year which was followed by a hard freeze a day or two later and this combination sent any remaining birds fluttering about trying to catch a southbound thermal to warmer climes. Neighborhood cats no longer stalked backyard feeders as they turned their attention to small rodents who were in search of warm winter quarters.
The air was so still that plumes of smoke and steam from the paper mill stacks shot straight up into the deep azure sky barely pausing at our nostrils long enough to be recognized as a sulfured pulp byproduct. From the Woodland Avenue extension above 13th Street you could see much of the town across the Bald Eagle Creek. Chimneys from houses on Blair, Pennsy, Logan, Washington, Lincoln, and Columbia belched forth gray smoke as they received their morning feedings. There was an eerie sense as smoke columns rose skyward giving an appearance of missiles being launched from underground rocket silos.
the wail of a distant steam locomotive whistle broke the
longs, a short, two more longs as it passed the crossing
near the Vail bridge. It
was probably a coal train coming down the Bald Eagle line
toward the mainline switch at the Tyrone station.
Soon it would pass Northwood and the train yards by
the mill ultimately dissecting our town as it did every
at 14th, 13th and 12th
Streets would be interrupted by the slow passage of up to 80
cars filled with bituminous energy. To get to the other side
of town, drivers would have to venture all the way to 10th
Street while pedestrian traffic could utilize the “Pig
Hole” on 11th.
Waiting for a train to pass was usually a pretty good
excuse for being late for school so there’s no real need
to hurry, especially in good weather.
Crisp days like this were normal this time of year
but things could change in a hurry.
In our town there were quite a few of ways to predict changing weather. Some people had willow branches tacked up on their back porches. If it bent up, clear day; bent down meant rain. At night a “halo” around the moon was a sure sign of precipitation. As a kid the only time that signal was important was in winter when precipitation was almost always snow. If you were a true local, the mill was always a pretty good weather predictor.
Normally, on a crisp, clear day we couldn’t smell the mill. But when the threat of rain was in the air, so was the smell. Some of us had one of those little mantle top weather predictors. It looked like a small house with two doorways. Between the doors was a thermometer. Inside were two figures: a girl with a basket of flowers and a boy with an umbrella. If the weather was fair the girl came out. When rain was in the forecast, the boy and his umbrella appeared as the girl disappeared inside. I remember times when I tried to change rainy days to sunshine by pushing the boy into the doorway while pulling the girl and her flower basket outside. One of our neighbors had a glass swan on her coffee table. The neck was partly filled with colored liquid which chanced height depending on the weather.
But when all was said and done, every household had a
family member who could predict a change in the weather by
an ache or pain. The
McKinney family had Sam’s neck which was fine on sunny
days but stiffened in advance of showers.
Mr. Turiano’s back would nearly cripple him if the
weather was really going to be bad.
Our foolproof weather predictor was Aunt Gert’s
right ankle. No
matter, this was a great day and we were in line for another
With the crisp, dry air many of the homemakers in our neighborhood took advantage of the weather and hung out laundry, aired out pillows and throw rugs, swept porches and sidewalks, and cleaned windows. By three o’clock clotheslines were cleared of their loads, windows were closed, and supper was usually in a pot on the stove ready to be turned on. Now it was safe to burn leaves that had been raked into a pile or put into a “burn barrel” without fear of contaminating clean laundry or a fresh smelling house.
at the PRR had already changed at 3 and now the mill whistle
blew ending the 4 o’clock shift.
It was such a nice day that many people were still on
the street in front of their house leaning on their rakes
and brooms discussing the day’s events in Tyrone.
As I passed, I handed Daily Heralds to Mrs. Dixon and
Mrs. Largent. They
each smiled at me, nodded and kept on talking.
Later they would open the newspaper and verify what
they had already discussed while leaning on their rakes.
Then again, maybe Paul Goheen had more details than
they had heard earlier.
The day was coming to an end and as the sun started to slide below the Janesville Pike the temperature began to drop. The 4:40 from Philadelphia was pulling out of the station on its way to Altoona. Most of the first shift laborers had arrived home. I was wrapping up my Heralds for the day and a hearty stew with homemade biscuits was on the table for supper. Now it was up to the second shift to keep the wheels of progress turning.
Steam and smoke put a blanket over the lights at the mill as the North end of Pennsylvania Avenue took on an eerie glow. Homes that had railroad shop and mill workers on second trick were a little quieter. School janitors were busy eliminating evidence of the day’s classroom activities while preparing a clean slate for tomorrow. The Wilson and El Patio projectionists were getting ready for tonight’s shows. The soda fountains at Rea & Derrick, Fink’s, Sully’s, and Artie’s prepped for the evening’s customers.
Most of the downtown stores were closed for the
night: McCrory’s, both Levine’s stores, Garman’s, the
bank, Fineman’s, Acklin’s, Lester’s, Cut Rate Shoes,
and Simms. Gardner’s
Candy Store “later shift” was ready for evening
customers and the smell of fresh blanched nuts drifted out
the doors each time they opened.
Kienzle’s Bakery will close shortly but not until
they make a special delivery to a place down the street:
Next to Levine’s Men's Store there’s a lady in the window making pizza. Something new in our town! The Hub had pizza ovens in their front window. You could look in from Pennsylvania Avenue and watch pizzas being made to order using fresh dough from the German baker down the street. The lady who made them didn’t spin them or throw them into the air. She made them one at a time with just the right amounts of sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni, and mushrooms - whatever you ordered. Occasionally she’d look out toward the street and smile at friends she hadn’t yet met.
The pizza she made had two prices: a 14 inch cheese pizza at the Hub went for $2.75 while the same size at the Villa went for $3.50. The Villa pies were prepared at the Hub and taken out the back to Blair Avenue and then to 10th and in the back door at the Villa. There were some customers who liked the Hub Pizza but swore that the Villa’s was much better. It must have been the night air. Turnabout was fair play, though since the Villa spaghetti and meatballs ordered at the Hub fetched a lower price.
Earlier this special cook had walked from her home on Bald Eagle Avenue to her “second shift” job. She had to be at the Hub by 4:00 PM so she probably left her home around 3:30 or 3:45. The time she left depended a lot on where her stops along the way. On certain days she’d stop to see “Bud” at Aults and Crane about getting a roast or a chicken for the weekend. Occasionally she’d stop for a magazine and a chat with Mrs. Freeman. She would always stick her head in to the shoe store and yell, “Yoo hoo!” to “Morry” and Betty. Earlier in the day she was probably downtown to do some shopping or take in a matinee at the Wilson, especially if there was a Greer Garson or Jane Wyman movie playing. Now she’s on her way to work and this hefty woman’s rapid, almost running gate assures she’ll be there in plenty of time to don her apron and prepare to perform her magic.
known far and wide as one of the best cooks in town. This reputation wasn’t based on something as mundane as
pizza although this Irish cook did team with a German baker
to make the best Italian pizza around.
Her reputation as a cook and baker was based on
decadent desserts and candies. All of her friends received fudge, sea foam, divinity, raisin
fills, and brownies for Christmas.
She always made enough for her own use and her size
bore testimony to her appetite for good food and willingness
to taste test everything she made.
She always told us to “be
wary of eating food prepared by skinny cooks”. This lady was Gertrude Ritz, my Aunt Gert!
Tomorrow was Friday and Dad had the day off.
He had scheduled some horse shoeing to be done in
Sinking Valley and wanted me to get some exercise riding on
“Penny”, a three gaited sorrel.
He was telling mom his plans for the next day and
asking if there was anything else when she said,
“You had better change your outdoor plans to
Saturday; it’s going to rain tomorrow.”
Dad looked at her quizzically and said, “The
forecast is like today, crisp and clear.”
“Don’t think so,” she said.
“I saw Gert on her way to work and she was
NOTE: The Morningred Train Station mentioned in the December, 2003 recollection, generated a response from Pat Morningred Plaster. The Train Display is still very much alive, although it is in Wilmington, DE. Scroll down and read her email.
We Liked It Hot!
Lookout, Tyrone, here comes summer! As a kid in my small hometown I always looked forward to the changing seasons - especially summer. It was like no other and, when I was ten, no one had to tell me it was here. It wasn’t a special date on a calendar. It wasn’t even the heat of day nor the smells of honeysuckle, roses, or fresh cut grass.
What made it summer was that school was over for
the year and the days belonged to me.
I knew it wouldn’t last for long, summer never did,
so the celebration had to start as soon as possible.
Every moment was to be enjoyed to the fullest.
Memories that would last a lifetime were forged in
the heat of the summer fire.
Mornings for the next few months always started out about the same. Attempts to avoid eating breakfast so I wouldn’t waste any of my precious vacation time. Since that rarely worked, maybe I could quickly eat just a half bowl of Cheerios or Kix or maybe just take a piece of fruit to be eaten on the run. The day was wasting away so I really just wanted something quick. Besides, if I got outside in a hurry, the next item from the dreaded list of summertime chores might not be assigned. There were windows that needed washed inside and out, rugs to be beaten, and a front porch plus furniture that needed to be scrubbed! A basement that suffered through another dreary and dirty winter needed cleaning from top to bottom, especially the coal cellar. In a weak attempt to make me feel older and more important, mom said the cellar was a “real man’s work.” I believed that for about a year or so until I found out that every mother in town seemed to have chores that were “men’s work” for their boys.
There were other seasonal tasks, too, like cultivating a garden, planting vegetables I wouldn’t eat, pruning the hedge and there was always grass to mow. The pronouncement of each chore was always followed by the familiar refrain, “Gee, mom, can’t I do that tomorrow?” There was a task that was rather unique and only a few households in town had to contend with it. A chore better completed prior the buildup of summer heat - cleaning out stables. This chore required proper planning and a good bit of time. Cleaning out the “suites” of our horses was like the chamber maids or housekeepers at the Logan Hotel and the Pennsylvania House did for their tenants. I think their guests were a bit cleaner than ours. First, the horse had to be removed from the stall and taken to an open area where it was tied, curried, and rubbed down. Meanwhile, pitchforks were used to remove manure and old bedding first to an area behind the stall then to a pile outside. The stall was then hosed down, sweetened with lime, aired out and allowed to dry. Finally an ample supply of new dry yellow straw bedding was distributed throughout the stall. Doing it right took the better part of a full day for each horse and stall. Weather permitting, with four horses, the job could be finished in about five days.
Since moving a 1200 pound horse could be dangerous
and there may be some heavy lifting required my dad had to
be there with me. Scheduling
the cleaning of the stable depended on dad’s work schedule
(trick) at the shops and mom’s housecleaning schedule.
I had little or no say!
It was one of the first jobs of the summer season.
Generally, the stables had to be completed before any
major housecleaning effort because,
“you’re not coming into this clean house after
being in that smelly stable all day!”
Getting hosed down in your underwear in the back yard
to minimize the stable odor was embarrassing even if it did
For the most part, chores were completed before the real heat of day and by noon whines of “can I go now?” could be heard all over the neighborhood. The lunch whistle blew and I hoped that mom had made me something that I could take with me - a baloney sandwich, even cheese, just please don’t make it a sit down lunch. The day was wasting away! Lunch was served and the sandwich, wrapped in wax paper, was quickly stuffed in the back pocket of my jeans. Running out the side door there was a “bye, mom” just before the screen door slammed shut. Before I hit the sidewalk, I sat on the porch steps and removed my sneakers and socks. The socks go in the other back pocket of the jeans and the laces of the two black sneakers are tied together and the shoes draped over the left shoulder.
Off I go on another adventure, down the hill to the alley by
the laundry field, turn right at Burnham’s then up past
the laundry to the bend in the Bald Eagle “crick” to the
clay bank across the water from Patton’s and the alley
where Charlie Koogen garaged his trucks.
There were always kids at the clay bank. Tacky, Skelly, Ray, Danny, Dutch, Sonny, Warren, Joey, and
the others. Wait
long enough and everyone would eventually show.
If the sun’s really hot we’d sit back under the
bank overhang. Out came the squished sandwiches for trade and barter:
baloney, peanut butter, cheese, jelly.
“Trade you half of this one for half of that
nothing to drink, the peanut butter would be left to cook in
the noon day heat. While
we ate we talked about what happened yesterday, what we were
looking forward to tomorrow and our plans for later in the
only topic off limits was anything to do with the
next school year. There’s
the whistle - must be one o’clock.
Now what to do?
There’s not much at the clay bank on a hot summer
Some of us head back up the alley to 12th
Street then over the bridge to Blair Avenue.
On the way I can smell an odor of hot tar. Roads and streets seem to be boiling hot and the center seems
to be blacker then normal.
Wonder if you can really fry an egg on the sidewalk?
Edges of the road are shaped by ridges of gravel or
“chips” pushed there by car tires as they pass by.
I take the sneakers from my shoulder, sit down on the
12th Street bridge steps near the Pentecostal
brushing some loose gravel from the soles of my feet I put
the sneakers on to protect my feet from the hot tar. I don’t need the socks so they stay in my pocket.
I turn up Blair Avenue opposite Fleming’s and head
up the street past Shope’s.
I turn right at the Hookies and go down to Bald Eagle
Avenue where the Dry Run dumps into the Bald Eagle.
Both of us climb down the bank past the hollyhocks
and wrestled with whether or not to walk up the underground
tunnel to the park across from the Legion.
The Dry Run is living up to its name this day - not a
though this underground oasis affords ample protection from
the heat of day, we opt to continue our journey above
momentary stop at Sealfon to see what they’re paying for
paper and tin theses days then we back track.
Across Blair Avenue near Wolf’s then up the alley
to Pennsy to Krieger’s Esso.
After talking with Mr. Krieger for a while and
watching him fix a tire or do an oil change we asked if he
had any odd jobs that needed done.
Not today so we head next door to the Neptune Fire
much happening there - it was even too hot to polish the
On a real hot day there were a couple of great
ways to cool off. A
gulping drink from the bubbling water fountain that never
stopped in the First Blair County Bank.
A chunk of ice from the ice house on Cottage above
Pennsylvania Avenue. Wading
in water in a dam you built at the stream in Reservoir Park.
A three dip cone (teaberry on top) from Pike
Gardner’s or even a soft cone at Sully’s.
But today, a dry lunch coupled with the day’s heat
added up to a man size thirst that could only be satisfied
with an icy cold bottle of pop - but we needed money.
We meandered around the area for a while looking for
empty pop bottles. We hit every back alley between Blair and Logan and from 12th
to 14th. After
about an hour we came up with nine empties.
Bottle redemption came to eighteen cents at Dworsak’s.
There was enough for two cold bottles of pop if we
got the right brand. Looking
into the cooler, we couldn’t find what we wanted.
Dworsak had the brand we wanted but not cold.
His wasn’t the only store around so with time on
our hands, we began our search.
Rudy’s was the next stop.
The smell of hot buttered popcorn always pulled me
into that store. Unfortunately,
all he had cold was Hires, Pepsi, and 7UP.
Heading up 14th, we passed Logan
school and looked to the opposite corner.
From the outside, Sam Donoways looked as though the
roof was about to fall in.
When you entered Sam’s you always looked up at the
ceiling just to be sure.
There was a slope in the floor that tilted us to the
left when we entered. Right
there inside the door was the cooler with bottles of pop
randomly floating in the mixture of ice and water.
Since the bottles weren’t standing upright so we
couldn’t tell which was which.
But, on a hot day like today it felt good to fish
around for the one I wanted.
Mission Orange, Grape Nehi, Hires, 7 UP, Coke, even
Moxie. But I
was looking for a bargain.
Then I found it - 8 Ball.
Twelve ounces for eight cents plus a two cent
wouldn’t let us have two bottles for the eighteen cents
even though we promised to drink it right away and give him
the bottles - he wanted the whole twenty.
So we bought one, sat outside and shared it.
Then we redeemed the empty bottle for the deposit and
bought the second. We
decided to take this bottle with us and redeem it along the
way as we headed toward “East” Tyrone.
Passing the park we glanced toward the other end of the dry run - still no water. By now the second bottle was empty so we crossed Lincoln Avenue and got our bottle deposit back at the Quaker/Sterling Gas station on the corner. Heat continued to build but two bottles of pop helped keep us going. There wasn’t much for us between 15th Street and the park so we picked up the pace. We crossed 15th and headed out Lincoln Avenue to 16th, turning left at the corner. There’s supposed to be a carnival here later in the summer. We passed Hodes’ on the left and the Reliance Shirt Factory on the right up to Columbia Avenue. Now we headed out Columbia Avenue with one goal in mind - the Athletic Park.
Along the way we ran into Gib who was on his way to the park, too. After we passed 17th I wanted to stop at Kennedy’s Hobby Shop for a minute. They had a gasoline powered model airplane I wanted and I needed to check the price - not today, I forgot it’s Wednesday afternoon. By now I’m beginning to drag but my two compatriots kept trudging ahead. I hear a voice yell, “Wait up!” It was Freddie running up from behind. I waited so I could have someone to talk with the rest of the way while following the other two up the hill. We got to the field but hardly anyone was there. A few older kids were in the outfield shagging flies and an older guy was raking the infield. The VFW team was playing there tonight at six. We wandered down the dusty dirt road on the right side of the field toward our goal. The sweat on our arms, faces and shirts mixed with the rising dust to form a clay-like coating. We could hear screams and splashing and just over the rise we spotted it.
The crisp Athletic Park pool was glistening in the
afternoon sun. Fred
and Gib bolted from us and dashed to the entrance gate of
the pool. We
stood there for a minute and pondered our situation.
We had two cents between us and our swim suits were
still at home. What
were we thinking? No
way we were going to get in the pool today.
After about ten minutes we saw Gib and Fred run
screaming from the bath house and jump into the pool. This
was followed by a shrill whistle and a half crazed life
guard telling them both to get out of the pool and sit by
the fence for ten minutes.
Absolutely NO jumping into the water except in the
We walked around the fence to the area where they
were sitting. We
joined in their
misery and complained that the lifeguard wasn’t fair.
They should have been given a warning - never mind
that the same thing happened to them the last two weeks.
Our empathy must have moved them because when they
were told they could go back in the pool they paused a
minute and asked us for our shirts.
They took them over to the run near the shallow end
that feeds the pool and dipped the shirts in
water as crisp and refreshing as Donoway’s cooler.
The shirts were ice cold and soaking wet when we put
them on. Nothing
ever felt so good and, even though we were still dirty, we
were refreshed. Yes,
we liked it hot but only when we were cool.
If the shirts warmed up and we got too hot before
we got to the Dry Run…..well, we’ll see.
“Did you see
the new Dodge at Shope’s?”
I received a new car brochure in the mail the other
day. It pointed
out all the advantages of the new Buicks.
Low rates, no down payment, buyout options, and
variable leasing arrangements.
Cars and models weren’t mentioned until the end.
It’s May and they’re talking about a model year
that’s over eight months away!
No hype on styling, unique design, options - just a
steady, coercive pressure to lease, not buy.
Brother, have things changed.
When I was a kid, it wasn’t until the end of August that our sense of anticipation and excitement was aroused. No, we it wasn’t for the coming new school year! The car dealers were offering end of the year sales. That meant the new models would be coming soon. It was this time of year that our espionage began in earnest. Summer magazines that were rarely scanned were gathered together and we began our search for undercover photos of the new cars. Magazines like Popular Mechanics, Car and Driver, even Popular Science would have early season features on “what to look for” in the new cars.
they’d have sketches of some models or at least a
silhouette - especially if there were unique designs coming
such as the slopes of the Pontiacs of the early 50’s or
the fins of 1957, 1958, and on.
Before they even hit the showroom floor, most of us
could pick out the subtle differences between the ‘51
Chevy and ’51 Olds, or the ’52 Plymouth and the ’52
gathered in Sully’s and marveled at the new ideas and
breakthroughs that were coming.
The annual unveiling was near, the red carpet rolled
out as each car company tried to out do each other if not by
innovation then by hype. Each family in our town was
identified by the car they drove.
Cars divided the town. The car parked on the street in front of your house said a lot about you. We had Ford families, Plymouth families, Chevy families. There may have been Dodge, Buick, Olds, Studebaker, Chrysler and even Cadillac families too but they weren’t as well organized. Competition among dealers and automakers was fierce as they sought ways to bring people into their showrooms. There was also a bit of a rivalry among the kids of the “car families”. Which cars were going to look best? Which ones would have the newest gadget? What about the engines and this thing called automatic transmission?
In ’51 Chevy and Olds came out with a curved
windshield; the following year they made it one piece.
Ford had a standard V-8 in 1949.
Chrysler had something called “Fluid Drive” in
1951 - but they still had a two piece windshield! Upscale GM cars automatically dims your headlights when
another car approaches.
Torsion bars replaced front springs on DeSotos.
Kaiser had a “heart shaped” windshield in 1953.
That same year the Ford two door hard top had an
optional tinted Plexiglas moon roof.
Packards had tinted glass all around, air
conditioning, and the biggest white sidewall tires ever
seen. All cars
replaced vacuum wipers with electric wipers which made going
up Janesville Pike in the rain a lot safer.
Padded dashboards were introduced, FM radios became
an option rarely ordered - AM was king. Push
button automatic transmissions, wrap around windshields,
overdrive, fins that could be lethal, hard top
“convertibles”, metallic paint, two tones, and by the
mid-50’s, three tone cars - who could forget the black,
gray, and pink 56 Dodge? The 50’s were alive with innovation and not only were we in
awe, we had to be the first to see them.
Rumors always preceded arrival of the new models.
“Did you hear that Rupert’s got a new
Chevrolet delivered last night at 3 AM?”
“Well, someone saw a car come in to Shope’s
garage entrance on Blair Avenue and it was completely
covered with a white tarpaulin.”
“Did you see Black’s has the showroom windows
covered with white paper?”
Subtle comments like these would send us running down the alley to Rupert’s or over to Pennsylvania Avenue to Black's or Shope's. We’d go from window to window stretching and straining to see if the rumor was true. Rupert’s front windows faced 10th Street and one side was coated with “Glass Wax” - the Chevy must be in there. The window on the left is for Oldsmobiles and that isn’t due for another two weeks. They’re putting up multicolored, triangular pennants so it has to be here. We put our noses against the “glass wax coated” panes and we could make out the outline of a car. It had to be the new one - it wasn’t just another rumor. About then the sales manager steps outside and tells us to move along - at least that what we think he said. We were too busy try to get a glimpse of the car through the open door.
dash home and get out our reference magazines.
The sketches, outlines - sure looks like the new
Chevy. On the
way to Black’s we swing by Feller’s.
It seemed there was always a gleaming black Packard
Clipper in the Blair Avenue showroom.
That was one car we didn’t know too well but it
sure was big. Then
on to see the Fords ever hoping someone was careless when
they put up the white paper.
Maybe there was an opening near a seam, look for a
slight tear, stand near the front door and wait for the mail
to be delivered - anything for a glance.
The tail lights are supposed to be bigger this year
and we heard they have backup lights integrated into the
In 1955 Ford came out with something called a
didn’t get one until later in the year but it was well
worth the wait. Excitement
filled the air much like the September hype of the new model
year. There was
only car in the showroom sitting majestically on a checkered
black and white circle.
The depth of the
black finish seemed to pull you in like the waters at Black
chrome seemed to accent the color more, from the small
checkered racing flag emblems on the fenders behind the
front wheel wells to the chromed square grillwork.
Approaching the car slowly and in awe the red
interior cast a glow like hot coals in a furnace.
The steering wheel was recessed and it had a subtle
turquoise Thunderbird emblem in the center. Nothing like this had ever hit town and we all wanted one.
The windows were down so we couldn’t see the
sticker price. How
continued to wander around the showroom eavesdropping on
conversations between salesmen and potential customers.
Someone had to give out a number.
If one of the three of us overheard a price he was to
give the high sign to the others and we could go.
Finally it came! I heard a number and my legs began to shake as I raised my
hand and shook it. I
couldn’t believe it, not even a Packard…
As we stepped out on Pennsylvania Avenue I was
bombarded with “well, how much?”
This was a car that none of us could ever afford.
I looked at them shook my head and said,
Birthday To Me…
Winter’s last harsh breath can be felt and even heard. The frozen tundra that remains is a mix of blackened road ashes, locomotive soot from passing trains, and ice crystals reformed at night from the snow that melted the day before. Each day a little melts, each night smaller glaciers are formed. Now the special days of February are here and that means spring training is just around the corner.
First there’s Punxsutawney Phil telling us
we’re going to get six more weeks and, he’s probably
there’s a change in the air.
Daylight is lasting a little longer, Gardner’s
had Valentine Chocolates in the window last week, all the
after-Christmas sales are over, Burley is back to plumbing
supplies, and Dean Phipps replaced the sleds in their
window with bicycles.
On Monday we had a program at school on Abraham
the assembly, I was chosen to read my essay.
I wrote about the time he spent in Kentucky.
How he worked as a clerk in a general store after
school, how he studied by the glow of the fire in the
fireplace, and, my favorite, how he did his numbers by
writing on the back of a shovel with a piece of charcoal.
On Tuesday we
put up “mailboxes” on our desks - brown lunch bags
stuck up with tape - and anxiously waited for them to be
filled with Valentine cards on Wednesday.
at St. Matthew’s had two grades and even though most of
the cards came from “anonymous” we each got one from a
special person. I
was in the lower grade in my room so the first thing I did
was count the cards I received. “There are twenty-two.
it, I’ve been accepted!”
You see there are sixteen kids in my grade which
means I must have received at least six from some older
someone played a trick on me - like Joey Turiano or Dale
They wouldn’t do that.
Maybe it was Ray or Danny or Dick.
Didn’t matter, I’ve passed the test - some big
kids gave me cards.
Thursday would be kind of important. It
was Washington’s birthday and we even had the day off.
Funny, we don’t have an assembly for it like we
do for Lincoln! It
doesn’t matter to me - I like Lincoln better and
besides, a day off is better!
Almost forgot about the most important day in February - at least to me. It was the Tuesday before Washington’s birthday. Like any other day, I stopped by the Herald on my way home from school. I folded a few papers at the office, put my books in my paper bag with the rest of the papers and started down Blair Avenue. I turned on 11th Street and delivered to my customers on 11th between the creek and the alley where White’s and McConaghy lived then I turned up the alley and headed home. I got to the house, ran in, dropped off my books, and yelled to let mom know I was home. As I went in, I sniffed the air. Smelled like macaroni and cheese for supper. Anything else? No time to linger. I hopped on my bike and set out with the rest o the papers to finish the route.
By the time I
got back home, dad was there and we were ready for supper.
This was my day - macaroni and cheese, tomato soup
and warm bread - a meal fit for a king! Then it hit me! I
know what’s missing and why.
Lent came early this year so I wouldn’t be
getting a spice cake for my birthday.
It didn’t happen often but this was one of the
years that Ash Wednesday preceded my birthday. That means no desserts which meant no cake.
I was in a funk and I ate my supper silently and
slowly barely acknowledging my parents except to grunt
when asked about my day.
finally over and I was ready to go to my room to feel
sorry for myself but mom stopped me.
She handed me a box wrapped in colorful paper and
tied with a green ribbon. She and dad watched as I tore open the box and found two
bronze horse statuettes.
Then she said, “we’ll have spice cake on Easter
but we’ll have your birthday now.”
changed over the years and occasionally Ash Wednesday
still comes before my birthday.
But I still remember those days on 12th
Street and to me nothing will ever taste better than a
spice birthday cake - or an Easter spice cake.
December Walk Downtown
take a walk downtown.
I’ll bet we’ll see things you didn’t know
my Tyrone people are smiling, humming carols, holding
doors open for each other, helping with packages.
Whether it’s in Aults and Crane, McCrory’s 5
& 10, Steele’s Drug Store, or doing some leisurely
shopping at Lugg and Edmonds, it’s a great time to be
downtown. Even though Christmas is just a few days away there’s little or no stress since most
of the shopping is done and now there’s time to enjoy
you walk through
our little town you can see that we’re really getting
of the houses have decorations outside as well as inside.
Our tree is up and covered with red lights and
whipped Ivory Snow; outside we have lights and crow’s
foot strung around the front door.
The Walks have their tree up in the right corner on
a small platform next to the piano.
Harshbergers, Sullivans, Burnhams, and Carlings all
have decorations around their doors. Kerchner’s have the colored lights in the hedge facing 12th
Street and their tree is on the front porch waiting to be
brought inside; Miller’s
have red cellophane wreaths hanging in the windows;
Hambright’s have the orange candles in their windows;
Dixon’s have red candles aglow in their windows as do
By now the stars on the lights on Pennsylvania
Avenue, 10th Street and even part of Logan
Avenue are up and lit.
Hickes’ Grocery decorated their windows using
Glass Wax making it look colder than it really is.
Dean Phipps Auto Store has red bows on the
bicycles, Radio Flyer Wagons and Flexible Flyer Sleds in
its window. Sully’s
has streamers of red and green draped across the ceiling.
Spriggs’ Barber Shop has a poinsettia or two in
the window as does the Puritan cleaners.
The Wilson Theater is advertising a special Bing
Crosby Christmas movie and their doors are draped in
silver garland. Can’t
really see what the El Patio has since the doors too far
As we cross 11th Street you can see that
the Pennsylvania House Hotel has a small tree in their
sitting area, Burchfield’s has a lot of balls, gloves,
uniforms in the window, most with red bows, and
Engleman’s florist is a sea of red - there must be a
hundred poinsettias in the window.
Look further up 11th Street across from
the Post Office and you can see that the Christmas Tree
bet they still have a few trees left ranging in price from
50 cents to $2.00. If
I were Greek I could pick up a tree for next to nothing in
a few weeks. Continuing
up the street the children’s clothing store is decorated
in whites, pinks, and blues - even the tree.
Levine’s Shoe store has a festive air about it,
Bakery has a cotton tree in the window trimmed with blue
lights and blue ornaments - and the smell of molasses
and Derrick has so much stuff in the windows that you
can’t see in the store - the left window features the
new Kodak Brownie camera for the holidays.
Across the street, Acklin’s windows look like a
snow storm hit - the
watches, bracelets, and necklaces are barely visible
“beneath the snow”.
The Herald office has gold garland draped across
the middle of the windows just above the blacked out area.
Even the Acme across the street has white
“snow” sprayed on their windows. The 5 and 10 entrance on Pennsylvania Avenue has displays of
the decorations they sell - every color, shape, and size
10th Street side will be all toys, wait and
the corner at 10th but this time of year you
have to continue up the street to Burley’s.
Just like every other year, they took the plumbing
supplies out of the window and put in the display of
Gilbert toys - the American Flyer is there, the Erector
set is there with a giant crane someone made, the
Chemistry Kits, and the working Steam engine.
Then up at the end of the street you’ll notice
that you can’t see the train station because of our huge
Tenth Street has its own magic.
Look up above Gardner’s and you’ll see
Yes, that’s Santa peering down on us from a
window above the store. Gardner’s store windows always look great but the aroma of
hot peanuts, chocolates, and other treats will really get
you each time the door is opened.
Next door the Triangle Shoe store is red and silver
this year. Toys
at the 5 and 10 - what did I tell you?
They have displays for each age level - dolls,
cowboy outfits, trucks, cars, you name it, they got it.
Sims’ Jewelry has red velvet under a display of
watches and a few rings.
Lugg and Edmonds has a tree in the windows on the
right and a small train running around it. The other window has a mannequin family dressed in wintry
something I want for Christmas.
Look closely inside and you’ll see they’ve
decorated the “trolley” that runs throughout the
Men’s’ store has a sophisticated display of men’s’
wear in the window but the handkerchiefs are red.
Across the street, Rothert’s furniture has a big
train display and Mr. Colt said it’s really special this
year. I think
he had something to do with it - wanted something special
for the kids. It’s
inside near the back and you have to be accompanied by
your parents - wonder why?
If you look closely as we get near the railroad
over pass you can see something special where Washington
Avenue intersects 10th Street next to the
Methodist Home. A
nativity scene that is very near life-size.
They have more straw this year which makes it look
more realistic. The
stable, the animals, the Christ Child, Mary and Joseph -
it’s hard to pass by without stopping to ponder why this
season is so special. You ought to come down here and stand in front of the
Nativity around noon - the Presbyterian bells play
Christmas songs this time of year and even despite the
roar of the truck traffic the bells come through loud and
Before we go home we have to stop at Morningred’s.
They have the greatest train, toy, tree, platform
you’ll ever see. Scale
- schmale! This
place is for fun! I
think there are four different trains - one may even be a
a short, white picket fence around it and the tree is in
the middle surrounded by houses, people of all sizes and
shapes, cars, trucks, and animals.
The display takes up most of the living room.
Now, I’ve been there at other times of the year
and I know they have furniture.
I have no idea where they put it.
When December comes, no one sits. (NOTE:
See response from Pat Morningred Plaster below)
Listen to the water as we walk back over the 12th
Street bridge -the Bald Eagle Creek even SOUNDS cold. Snow hasn’t arrived yet but the crisp air tells me that
it’s winter and it won’t be long before we’ll be
able to use our sleds again.
So, what do you think of our little downtown?
Pretty nice, huh?
Just a note to let you know that the Morningred train station is still
running. Not every year because it takes so much time and space to put it up
now. It now runs in Wilmington, DE. My father is Duane Morningred. My father
for years has put up the platform for all of his friends, family and new
grandchildren to enjoy. It has grown though. Dad seems to add something each
time he puts it up. It takes up half of our basement and takes about a month
or two to put up. It is still amazing! With a mountain that the train runs
through, a running stream with a fountain in the pond. And the Ferris wheel
that still turns. You should see it now! It has added to many peoples'
memories along with yours. Thank you for mentioning it in you story.
Patricia Morningred Plaster
That Helped Make
El Patio Special!
We were really spoiled growing up around here.
Sure, the economy had its ups and downs; the
railroad furloughed workers at regular intervals; meals
had to be stretched from time to time and hot dogs were
referred to as “tube steaks”.
Still we were spoiled.
After all, how many towns the size of Tyrone had
two movie theaters?
The Wilson was for our parents and their friends. They had the “first run” shows, the Warner Pathe Newsreels, and a marquis that stretched out over the sidewalk announcing today’s feature. Rarely did they ever have double features. Some say it was because they were too classy, others felt that the mature audience to whom they catered couldn’t sit that long.
you went to the Wilson you never smuggled in candy from
Gardners or Albrights.
You bought your food at the counter inside the
that came in boxes like Mello mints or Nibs licorice bits
were popular. A
box, unlike cellophane, was quiet and didn’t make noise
that would interfere with the show when you opened them.
Rarely, if ever, did a cowboy ever show up at the
Wilson. Well, actually there was one time when Tex Ritter came to
town and appeared live, onstage at the Wilson.
Dad took me to see him and while Tex was singing
“Rye Whiskey” all I could think of was “if he would
have appeared at our El Patio they would have let him
bring his horse.”
Tex, Gene, and Roy were big draws at the El Patio.
But we had others that were special, too.
“Lash” La Rue, “Whip” Wilson, “Smiley”
Burnett, “Gabby” Hayes, The Cisco Kid, all had their
followers in our neighborhood.
These were the good guys that always fought for
truth and honesty in the old west.
Best of all, they always triumphed!
There were a few others that captured our fancy as
Tracy, Joe Palooka, Ma and Pa Kettle, Abbott and Costello
as well as a myriad of nameless private detectives that
helped the police solve crimes whether they wanted help or
could always tell what played at the El Patio last
Saturday by watching what the kids in our neighborhood
played on Sunday and Monday.
“Whip” and “Lash” movies were quite a scare
to our mothers since they just knew we were “going to
put an eye out with those whips.”
But the El Patio was more than just great
most Saturdays you could see two for the price of one - 17
the two movies were some of the greatest serials known to
Green Hornet, Batman, Flash Gordon, and my personal
favorite, Junior G-men.
Week after week our heroes would find themselves in
life threatening situations that would surely mean their
demise. Week after week we would go home fretting over their perils
while trying to come up with a way to solve dilemma of the
following Saturday a still and uneasy quiet would descend
over the noisy and rambunctious audience as the new
episode filled the screen.
“Did you see that?
He woke up and jumped from the car just before it
went over the cliff.
the episode came the second feature then the real crowd
pleaser - a cartoon.
Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Pepe Le Pew, Tom &
Jerry, all came from time to time to “send ‘em home
see something like that at the Wilson.
But there was something else that made the El
Patio really special.
It didn’t happen often, maybe four or five times
a year. It
was held on a Saturday morning, cost more to see (25
cents), and didn’t last as long as a double feature.
There were no previews of coming attractions, no
newsreels, no cowboys, no serials, but it was the hottest
ticket in town. Kids
from all over town marked their calendars, pestered their
parents, begged, cajoled, redeemed pop bottles, and worked
to get that 25 cents.
The show didn’t even have a real name.
It was merely advertised as “Seventeen
other theater had it so no one ever made a “preview”
for it. But
it was the biggest thing that could happen to a ten year
old. If you had an extra dime maybe you would stop
at Freeman’s, Gardner’s, or even the 5 & 10 to get
some candy. If
you only had a nickel you could get a box of stale Jujy
Fruits from the machine in the lobby.
The line for tickets would start forming a half
hour before the show but it moved quickly - there was only
one type ticket sold - 25 cents.
The place would be jammed with screaming, laughing
kids. If an
announcement was ever made, no one would ever hear it.
Then here comes the first cartoon.
The chaotic noise changes and laughter becomes more
orchestrated to the images on the silver screen.
All our favorites were there - Bugs, Popeye, Felix,
the Magpies, Elmer and a lot we didn’t know. There were sing-a-longs following the bouncing ball.
Each cartoon was always new, always fresh, and we
always went home laughing.
Yep, a memory of a Saturday morning is something that
helped make the El Patio special.
Who Beat Tacky?
From the Q4U file: This question comes from Woody Cox, Fayetteville, NC, a 1966 graduate of TAHS: "Who beat Tac Hambright up and down Brewery ("Burry") Hill? Tac had just got new track shoes, and this guy ran in his stocking feet and beat Tac up and back. This was in the 50s and there were only a very few of us to witness this great feat. (no pun intended) Can you tell us the name of this stocking feet winner?"
A rare occurrence and it only happened once. Buzzy Barnes, who actually lived above 11th Street, beat Tacky in a short sprint on the hill. Tacky had a hard time living it down because Buzzy's brother Buddy broadcast it all over town. There was a rematch that took place later. Buzzy started on the 12th Street bridge and Tacky started from his front porch. The race started at 8:20 AM and ended at the high school. Tac got to his home room before the 8:25 bell - Buzzy had to first stop in the Guidance office. The shoes must have finally been broken in.
Strange as it
may sound, cans were a very important part of growing up on
12th Street. They were used by moms to hold
kitchen fat, dads to hold nails, and Mr. Walk to store
paint, and most importantly, by us as toys that changed and
grew as we grew.
on a hill exposed us to the thrill of racing at a very early
age. Cans would
be lined up on their sides behind a yardstick at the top of
the Harshberger’s sidewalk.
When the flag was dropped, the yardstick was removed.
Cans careened down the walk drifting right and left
causing multi-can pile ups.
The first can over the step to our sidewalk was the
milk cans were a favorite of eight year olds.
By stomping hard on the side of the can, you could
get it to bend and wrap around your heel becoming firmly
with these on your feet made the clomping sound of a
favorite El Patio movie star - Trigger, Silver, Champion,
Scout. Often the attached “horse shoe” required a trip to
McCrory’s for a tube of rubber cement to reattach a loose
2 cans with a top removed made great headlights when
attached to an orange crate from Hickes’ grocery store.
Wheels for the car came from a sister’s doll carriage.
Threading cotton string through a small nail hole in
the closed ends of two cans and stretching it taut made for
a first class walkie-talkie.
Stack six cans (1 on 2 on 3) and you could practice
for knocking down milk bottles at a coming Carnival.
Older kids used larger cans for fireworks on the 4th
of July. Punch
a nail hole in the solid end of a cleaned out paint can.
Put a 10 cent chunk of carbide from Fink’s in the
can and spit on it. Attach
the lid, lay the can on its side and hold it under your foot
with a lit match at the nail hole.
goes the lid amidst the cheers of all the kids.
all the things you could do with a can, one really stands
out - Kick the Can! Any
size can would do although an evaporated milk can lasted
longer. One person was chosen to be “it”, usually by one potato
or by a race. A
circle about three feet in size was drawn in the dirt or
chalked on the street. This was the “home” in which the can was placed.
The game started when the can was kicked and everyone
ran to hide. The
person who was “it” had to retrieve the can and run
backwards to the “home”.
After putting the can down he would count to ten and
begin the search.
When he found someone they would race back to the can
and the “it” person would “tap-tap” the person who
had been hidden. The
game was over when everyone was caught and the first person
caught was “it” for the next game. If your weren’t caught you could run in, “kick the
can”, and free
everyone that had been caught to that point.
Many of the games were marathons that ran into the
night ! We had
some “local rules” - if the “it” person accidentally
knocked over the can, everyone caught was freed and he had
to count to 10; when you were caught, the “it” person
had to give your name and location while touching the can -
e.g.,“tap-tap Tommy behind the shed.”
Kicking the can after you were caught was illegal and
now you were “it” - “New game, -
Allee, allee, in free!”
are still part of my life. Yesterday
I accidentally kicked one over that was full of nails,
screws and small hardware items.
For One More!”
Open windows, sheer curtains drying on stretching
racks, rugs hanging on makeshift lines awaiting their annual
beating (batting practice),
linoleum floors slick as ice and clean enough to eat
off - spring cleaning was in full swing.
“Take you shoes off before you come in.”
“Watch where you walk, I just waxed the floor.”
“You better not spill anything on that clean
Every house was the same - well, almost.
Ours was pretty full that year!
In addition to mom and dad, there was me and my
brother, Ken. Then
there was my other brother, Deb, his wife, Betty and there
first born, Mike. Deb
was finishing up his first full year at Penn State and would
be starting to work at the Juniata shops for the summer.
Our Grandpap had the right front bedroom, everyone
else shared. Even
Grandpap had to share the one bathroom!
Late spring was really special. It was finally warming and mom’s favorite spot was to sit on our front porch so she could keep tabs on the neighborhood, talk with friends, and just enjoy the sights and sounds after a hard day’s work. That’s where we all were after supper when we heard a gentle but persistent knocking at our back door. The front door was used by salesmen, the side door by friends and family - no one ever used the back door. Dad disappeared into the house to find out who it was. The rest of us stayed on the porch. Mom and Betty were playing with the baby, Deb and Ken were discussing the days box scores (both the A’s and Pirates lost) and Grandpap was telling me how he missed his boyhood home.
After about 30 minutes I went in the house to get a drink. Dad wasn’t in the kitchen but I could hear his voice coming from the back porch. I went to the door and heard “Come here, boy! I want you to meet Mr. Clayton Washington from Moore Bridge, Alabama.” As I stepped out onto the porch I saw a short black man turn from my father with a big smile as he greeted me. “Pleased to meet you, son.” “Me, too,” I said. My awkwardness didn’t seem to bother either one of them as they resumed their conversation.
Mr. Washington was drinking coffee and biting into a hefty roast beef sandwich while balancing a plate of baked beans on his knee. Dad had a cigarette dangling from the right side of his mouth and every time he spoke a small amount of ash tumbled down his shirt. Their conversation was mostly about Clayton. He came north this past week looking for work so he could send for his family. He tried a lot of places on the way then he heard that they were hiring at the mill in Tyrone - that turned out to be false; he tried about the railroad but didn’t want to join the union.
heard they were doing some logging over the mountain so he
was going to apply tomorrow.
He wasn’t sure where
it was but dad had heard of it and was busy giving
him directions. Right
now he was just tired and hungry and smiling because he just
met his first friend in town.
That’s about when I went back to the front porch.
“Where’s your father?”
“He’s talking with Mr. Washington.”
“Who’s Mr. Washington?”
“He’s a lumberjack!”
At that my mother got up, sighed, and went into the house shaking her head. Deb and Ken were still at it and now Grandpap was regaling them both with stories of the great Connie Mack and the glory days of the Philadelphia A’s. After about 15 minutes, mom interrupted us and told Ken, me and Deb to go meet our father in the stable. When we got there we couldn’t find dad. We heard his voice coming from a small room just inside the door. He and Mr. Washington were still at it.
When he saw us we were told to got to the attic and
get a cot for the room.
Mom was heading down the back steps with some bedding
and a small lamp. I
found a small radio that I used to listen to Pirates’
games. Deb and
Ken carried the big stuff.
Mr. Washington held Mike while Betty helped mom get
the room ready. Grandpap
offered the men a glass of wine.
It was a spring night on Buryhill and no one was on
our front porch!
Mr. Washington got the job cutting timber on the
stayed with us for the better part of the summer.
While he was there he showed told us how to tell the
age of a tree and how to tell how much it had rained by the
thickness of the rings, and how to tell the type of wood by
the color and the sound when you hit it, and how you could cure a headache by chewing on
willow bark. Best
of all, he got some willow tree saplings and
the end of summer, he returned to his family in Alabama. Before he left, he invited us one and all
to visit with him if we’re ever in Moore Bridge.
“After all, as your daddy said to me when I stopped
always room for one more’”.
I never made it to Moore Bridge but I like to think
that Mr. Washington would have welcomed me if I had - maybe
he could have shown me how to make arrows for my bow!
The War of the Year
The battle lines were drawn. Strategies were being developed and weapons prepared for the war of the year. Before the first shot was launched, the defensive fortresses had to be erected. Even though others were busy laughing and enjoying their sleds and skis on the 12th Street hill, Dan and I had work to do and time was running out. The snow was just moist enough to pack and make great walls.We needed forms and molds to make the "bricks" for the walls. That meant a trip down to Hickes’ Grocery. Packing snow into orange crates made great blocks for the base. You couldn’t use both sides of the crate, it was too heavy but one half made blocks that were about 18 inches cubed. Two rows laid side by side would yield a 36 inch wide base on which to build the rest. The location of the fort was critical and we had a great spot. Our house was on the slope, halfway up the hill. On our side of 12th Street, from our house up to Woodland Avenue the sidewalks were concrete. Below our house, the sidewalks were brick. From the brick sidewalk to ours there was a step; there was another step up to Red Harshbergers, then two steps to Charlie Harshbergers walk. From the sidewalk to our porch there was a slightly elevated walkway. The combination of the sidewalk slope and the elevated walkway to our porch made a natural back wall for the fort. We held the high ground. Our porch was close to the neighbor’s porch and the space between the houses was only about three feet. Once the foundation was completed, a second, then a third course of orange crate bricks was laid by packing the snow as tight as possible making the snow walls firm and thick while maintaining straight inside walls so you could stand and fire. The remaining courses were made from a different mold - a melon crate. These would yield a brick about 10 inches thick that was rectangular in shape. Several courses of that material would add not only height but more strength. A couple courses was also added to the back wall provided by the walkway. A quick trip to Wolf’s to look for shields. Appliance boxes would be perfect. Made of cardboard with wooden framing, they would provide strength and protection from incoming snowballs yet be light enough to maneuver. I scrounged around and found three separate cardboard sides, each framed with 1x2’s. All three would fit neatly inside the fort against the straight walls where they could be raised at the slightest sign of attack. By now it was nearly 5:00 PM and all that had to be done was to firm up the outside walls. Using a sprinkler can the outside of the walls were lightly doused with water. Overnight they would freeze and make the walls impenetrable to a frontal attack. We prepared ammunition (snowballs) and stored it in the orange and melon crates. It was nearly done!
We could see that Sam, Dutch and a few others had hastily prepared a fort of their own in the open space between Walk’s and Kerchner’s. It was only about three feet high, open at the back and made with much less attention to detail than ours. We hadn’t seen them since 1 PM. The construction of Fort Folly left a lot to be desired. One sortie and their fort would give way well in advance if the warm winds of spring.
The new day was crisp and clear. A light dusting of snow overnight made both forts standout like sentinels guarding our castles. The cool temperatures firmed up our outside walls, the cardboard shields were still dry and ready to repel even the most ferocious attack. The ammunition was in place - we were ready.
By 11AM the hill was filling up with sledders. We watched them as they made run after run down the hill. Ever now and then we’d hear a snide comment about our fort and the preparations for war. A few well placed snowballs gave an opportunity to test the accuracy of our ammunition while silencing the critics. Still we watched and waited. The other fort was empty, or so we thought! Suddenly there was an eruption of snow coming at us. Quickly we returned fire with two or three rounds. About half of our ordnance found the mark. Still they launched even more. We reached for the cardboard shields and pulled them up in place. THUD, THUNK, THUD - their weapons had no effect. Our defense was impenetrable. We decided to wait for their ammunition to run low then we’d launch an all out assault. The sledders on the hill had stopped to watch. They started to cheer. Obviously they had never seen such a formidable fortress as ours and our strategy was being admired by all.
THUD - the last snowball hit our shield. Everything got quiet - we waited for 5, maybe 10 minutes. They’re out of ammunition. This is the time to attack! We pulled back the shields picked up an arm load of snowballs and prepared for attack. A roar went up from those on the hill as we prepared to scale our walls. Suddenly there was a huge roar followed by another as two huge loads of snow came crashing in on top of us. As I looked up I saw Chuck deliver shovel after shovel of snow from his porch roof as he shouted, "Bombs away!". I turned toward the walkway to escape only to get hit by similar firepower by Sam from my own porch. I caught a glimpse of my mother laughing as she looked out the living room window. She had let Sam come through the house to get to the porch roof.
Well, we were right - Sam and Dutch’s fort didn’t last into spring but ours did. A lot of the snow from the porch roof was still with us into late April - a bitter reminder of that February day when we didn’t really occupy the high ground!
The Wilson Chemical Company
The "Company on the Hill" which overlooked the train station and beyond that, Pennsylvania Avenue. Getting to work was a bit of a challenge, since you had to cross the main line tracks of the PRR. (High narrow foot bridge, or take your chances crossing the tracks themselves) The railroad crossing is still there, but the company fell to the caterpillars and earthmoving equipment that also took away Woodland Avenue making room for the Bud Shuster Highway. The Wilson Chemical Company, makers of White Cloverine Salve. Sell enough and you could win a pony.
Christmas On The Hill
December 24! Christmas was just about here. We spent the morning in our classrooms finishing up some last minute assignments. How long before we get out? To try to keep us occupied, the nuns tried to make the subjects more interesting - like geography. Where’s Bethlehem? Find Jerusalem on the map. Spelling bee!
Bethlehem: Capital B-e-t-h-l-e-h-e-m.
Epiphany: Capital E-p-i-f-…uh-oh! Time to go to the times tables.
It’s ten o’clock and we were herded upstairs for festivities. Songs, skits, plays by each grade only reminded us of what awaited us outside. The nuns provided punch and cookies and one of them even made fudge. Finally Father Harkins gave us his blessing and wished us a very blessed Christmas. What was still missing? Ho! Ho! Ho! It was Santa and he gave each of us a small box of hard candy. It wasn’t good candy but it was ours. It was 11:30 and we were free. Now we could go! I even have time for last minute shopping before I had to pick up the Heralds. Down the hill we all ran carrying nothing but that precious box of hard Christmas candy.
I had three places to go. McCrory’s 5 & 10 for an aluminum pot for Aunt Gert, Rea and Derick’s drug store to get mom a small bottle of Tweed, then to Freeman’s at 12th and Pennsy to get dad Zane Grey’s Last of The Plainsmen. Then my shopping would be done. All I would have to do is pass the papers, eat supper, wrap the presents over at Walks and wait.
Christmas was and is a time for tradition. Some traditions are based on folklore, some on faith, some on family, and most are combinations. Christmas at our house always began shortly after supper on Christmas Eve when the air was filled with the excitement of anticipation. For weeks before, we prepared our home for the holiday. The aroma of fudge, cookies and pies filled the house. Our tree, which was purchased at the lot on 11th Street across from the post office, was always a scotch pine. We trimmed it with red lights, red shiny balls, and Ivory Snow whipped and layered on the branches to look like a fresh fallen snow. We always began placing the presents under the tree right after supper. Each of us had chores to do before we prepared for Midnight Mass. I’d help dad with the horses, mom would straighten the house then get out cookies and fudge, cover the plates with wax paper and put them on the dining room table. After the work was done we’d prepare for church. After Mass we would get to open our gifts, eat cookies and drink eggnog.
This year seemed different. The Korean War was raging and a lot of boys weren’t home for the holidays. It wasn’t that long since the last war ended. Peace on earth seemed so remote. People were still doing their best to keep the holiday spirit. My dad seemed especially giddy and full of joy. He always wanted to open the gifts before church but this year he was even more intense. "Come on, Mary - it won’t hurt to open them before we leave. The kids want to." His pleas were falling on deaf ears. He even tried singing a few carols in hopes that mom give in to the holiday. I think it just made her think dad had opened the Christmas wine early. Despite his repeated requests, we all went about our routine and by 10 PM we were ready for church. In one last gasp attempt dad said, "All right, Mary, we won’t open all the gifts. At least let each person open just one before we leave and I won’t say another word."
"Okay, Deb, but just one."
A small victory which I relished. I never thought she’d give in. We dug through the packages and found something for everyone. Dad got a necktie he’d never wear, I got a pair of shoes, Aunt Gert got an apron. Mom started to open one with her name on it but before she could, dad stopped her. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small box and handed it to her. "I waited 30 years for you to get this," he said. The room got silent and all eyes focused on that small box. I noticed a tear form as she slowly opened the hinged satin box to reveal a single diamond set in a gold band. In 1922 dad couldn’t afford an engagement ring - in 1952 he couldn’t wait until after church to give it to her.
Fifty years later and traditions continue. Hard candy still isn’t any good, the smell of cookies baking still fills the house, and the tree is red. Some give way to the changing times - Ivory snow doesn’t whip anymore, scotch pines are harder to come by. One thing that doesn’t change is hearing someone ask, "Can’t we open just one gift early this year?" Think twice before you say "No" - I will.
Many of us will remember walking at
night in the quiet snow drifted streets with the crunch beneath our feet the
only sound to be heard. Other fond memories will be the time spent in the
solitude of Reservoir Park with the spectacular pines blanketed in white on a
bright Sunday afternoon. Passing through the solemnity of the forest, our
prayerful solace is broken by the choir of laughter reverberating from the lake
full of skaters.
These memories are special but one that will always be near and dear to me is sledding on 12th street. That first snow of the season brought out sleds from all over town. The sledding hills of the town were the specially designated streets of East Tyrone, 5th Street and 12th Street. We gathered before noon and gained in numbers throughout the day. Belly flops, snakes, Roman horses, sit ups, crack the whip, and laughter. The day continued into darkness with the last runner gliding down the hill around 10 PM. This was our Sun Valley - our winter resort in a smoky mill town. We left the hill eagerly looking forward to the dawn of a new day on the hill.
What made it so special was the participation by everyone. Those who were too old to sled came to watch and remember. Those who lived on the street parked their cars in the alleys to keep the street clear for sledding. Many shared their Thermos of hot chocolate on a cold wintry night. The town blocked the streets off to through traffic using black and white striped barriers that looked like sawhorses. At night the barriers had red kerosene lanterns hung from the cross piece to aid in visibility. The lanterns hung until the night was over when they were retrieved until another day. The lanterns were delivered and retrieved by very special people in our town -people we respected, joked with and respected - our policemen. Officer Tonkay, Officer Giles and others showed us what it meant to serve and protect. The vehicle that was used to deliver and reclaim the lanterns was our only police car. It was a special car and had an affectionate name among our residents. Do you remember? Just a dusty memory.
Gary Long Answer: The Blue Goose.
now and then I try to remember who lived on the greatest
street in town and the surrounding neighborhood. We lived
at 225- Across the street were the Sullivans -Ann,
Betty and Bob. I still remember when he opened Sully's
on Penna Ave. Mext to them at 12th and Woodland were the
Wertz sisters - they made the best oatmeal raisin cookies.
Below the Sullivan's was an open lot then the Carlings and
their dog Inky - Inky pinned more than one of us up in the
apple tree. Next to Carlings were Burnhams of feed
store fame, then came the laundry field home to the world
series, summer Olympics and several bowl games. The
white house at the corner of 12th and Bald Eagle is a double
and is still standing. I don't remember who lived in
it when I was little but I do remember that Johnny Kienzle
lived there at one time.
On our side of the street there were two Harshbarger families that lived above us - Charlie at 12th and Woodland with Red and his wife next to us.
Below us was a double with McKinney's closest to us. Then came Walks with all the friends and stories you could want - there was Pete, Hayden, Dutch,
Warren, Dick - there were a few girls too but being a boy of 10, I avoided them - Donna I remember because she chased us a lot. Next to them was
Kerchners at the alley. Then came Suzy Millers and the Hambrights. There was one house next - Mrs. Largent, and they had a pony and an Irish rear opening cart. Then came the house of Mr. Dixon, a guard at the Blair County Prison. The final house on 12th at the corner of Bald Eagle Avenue was Mr.. and Mrs.. Dayton and her lemonade. With the notable exception of Inky, that street was one the most kid friendly in town. We had hot chocolate and cookies when we went sledding on the hill and Halloween night was unbelievable - it could take over half an hour just to do 12th between Woodland and Bald Eagle Ave. All the treats were home made - fudge, cookies, popcorn balls, caramel apples, you name it.