I can date only a couple of my brother Virgil’s school photos, but tried to arrange them by apparent (to me) age. I wasn’t born until Virgil was almost eight years old, and I don’t remember much before kindergarten (except, I think, climbing out of and dangling from my crib, giving my mother heart palpitations when she found me). My first day of kindergarten was his first day of eighth grade.
I was on a train in Indiana that had left a campground I was staying at (I remembered being at a camp but didn’t remember it). The train started to pass snow-covered fields, although it was only August. I thought, …Continue reading →
We visited my parents’ graves at Logan Valley Cemetery, located across from the high school. A cousin I haven’t seen in decades had left flowers at my dad’s grave. His flag holder for veterans still has a metal medallion. The newer medallions are plastic thanks to theft. Once upon a time I was young enough to find it shocking someone would steal the flag holder from a veteran’s grave.
In Sinking Valley, this little mare and her young’un attract customers to Hilltop Farm. There’s also a wee donkey.
On to Whipple Dam State Park, which was new to me. It’s yet another part of our legacy from the Civilian Conservation Corps. As it was Labor Day and central Pennsylvania isn’t rich with beaches, a college-age crowd had gathered at Whipple Dam’s postage stamp of sand to play volleyball and stand in the relatively shallow water. Despite the crowd, the surrounding woods gave the lake and beach an isolated feeling that reminded me of Pewit’s Nest in Wisconsin.
We’d passed the road to Shaver Creek Environmental Center and stopped on the way back. The buildings were closed for the holiday, so we relaxed on the deck’s Adirondack chairs. I kept hoping to hear a creek.
On the way to the park, V. spotted a plant she thought might be teaberry (ICE CREAM!). According to the folks of iNaturalist, it’s partridgeberry. Pretty, but perhaps not as weirdly tasty as teaberry. If you can’t get teaberry ice cream, try Clark’s teaberry gum. You won’t thank me, I think. It’s an acquired taste, associated with childhood 50 years ago.
I’ve seen vintage photos and postcards for sale, and even bought a few myself, such as postcards of Starved Rock State Park.
I understand wanting postcards, souvenirs of places that have disappeared, changed, or survived — time capsules of a not-too-distant, recognizable past.
It’s harder for me to understand buying mundane photos of regular people the buyer never knew. Do they hope the photos will turn out to be valuable? Do they want to make up stories about the unknown, deceased-these-many-years people? Do they pretend strangers are their own family members, giving them names and histories? Or do they simply want to add old photos to their decor for a vintage look?
I was thinking about this when going through two shoeboxes of family photos. I’d finally found the perfect scanner for small photos (e.g., 4” x 6”). Many of my oldest photos are smaller. Some have typewritten captions on the back. I suspect these were added by Aunt Marietta, who after World War II became an executive assistant with the Atomic Energy Commission, later the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. I don’t think anyone else would have had access to a typewriter.
Some have handwritten captions. Many aren’t labeled — no subject, location, or date. Dad labeled most of his photos, at least later. I think these random, unlabeled photos frustrated him — even though he knew most of the subjects. I wonder what a photo buyer would make of them?
I don’t know what to make of some of them myself. There’s a little blonde girl who is not the daughter of my mother’s best friend. (She agreed it’s not her.) There are a boy and a girl. The boy could be my brother, but he doesn’t recognize the girl. two of my aunts are posed with a taller man. I can only guess he may have been Harold, a brother had had epilepsy and died before he reached 21.
I have two shoe boxes and a suitcase of my dad’s photos and a lot of scanning to do of the people photos. When he moved to Pennsylvania to be closer to family, he threatened to throw out every photo. Panicked, I hastily communicated he was not to toss a single photo, and I would take them. I was shocked, but he was in a purging mood. Who knows? A buyer may have wanted them.
All this is a long way of saying to expect to see small vintage photos posted here once in a while, along with anything I know and think about them.
I can’t say we took any great American road trips when I was a child — mostly 200-mile jaunts to visit family in the Altoona area of Pennsylvania or rare shorter ones to local attractions like Niagara Falls or Letchworth …Continue reading →
(The title is from The Thief of Bagdad. Grand Vizier Jaffar, played by Conrad Veidt, dramatically summons the sea wind to do his evil bidding.) I was living with my parents in a trailer in a sweet location, probably with …Continue reading →
December 27, 2017: After seeking elk in the outlying areas of Benezette, we found a little herd at the campgrounds in town, which they favor. I handed my phone off to my cousin, who was in a better position to capture them. Benezette is part of the area that’s been rebranded “Pennsylvania Wilds” to attract adventurous tourists of the have kayak, will travel variety.
Today is the 100th anniversary of my mother’s birth. I discovered this delightful clipping about a hike to a farm and a picnic with storytelling under a big tree she helped to organize. It could be straight out of Anne of Green Gables.
I love finding these blurbs. This and others are giving me new insight into my parents’ early lives pre-me.
As a child, I didn’t think about water until I started visiting a friend whose family drank well water that smelled and tasted of sulfur. The odor permeated their house. “You get used to it,” she said. Accustomed to the tasteless taste of “city water,” invariably I felt thirsty the moment I arrived. I never got used to it.
Forty-five years ago the typical person didn’t carry a water bottle or buy bottled water. We drank whatever came out of the tap. Unswayed by Dr. Strangelove or decades of bottled water marketing, I still do, and that’s what I fill my insulated water bottles with when traveling.
On our annual pilgrimage to Pennsylvania in the 1960s and early 1970s, we used to stop at a couple of roadside springs and fill a jug or two with spring water. We didn’t need to. Our “city water” in New York was fine with us — well, as fine as any water in our polluted world can be. There didn’t seem to be any objection to our hosts’ water, either. By the time I was sentient, we were no longer staying with anyone who lacked indoor plumbing. My guess is my parents liked the idea of getting water from a roadside spring and preferred it as a rare treat. I did too. Water straight from a spring — as nature intended. (We didn’t boil it, either.)
Later we stopped at the usual places and found signs indicating the water was too contaminated to drink — the effects of coal mining. My heart broke a bit at the loss of a tradition and the sense the earth itself was dying one roadside spring at a time. After all, I was being raised in the era of the fiery Cuyahoga River, algae-choked Lake Erie, and the horrors of Love Canal.
I wish I could remember where those springs were and find out if anything has changed.
According to findaspring.com, which seems to be defunct, Pennsylvania leads the U.S. in the number of listed springs with 84. New York is second with 59, while Illinois lags behind with only 17 shown.
When I was visiting my cousin for Christmas 2018, I found out they’ve taken to collecting and drinking spring water. My cousin hinted, however, that the spring is far from picturesque. In my mind’s eye, I saw an ugly, chipped-up plastic pipe protruding from an ugly, denuded hillside in town. Something like that.
The spring is south of Tyrone, so we used a visit to Village Pantry as an excuse to get some water. It’s on a lightly traveled road paralleled by a stream, Elk Run, that seems to cross back and forth under it in several places.
My cousin and his wife quickly set up an efficient two-person jug-passing and -filling operation while I meandered back and forth across the road, drinking in (so to speak) the sights and sounds of the spring and Elk Run on its journey.
When a house buyer sees a stream, he pictures flooding, damage, and dollars. I picture myself at a church picnic at Chestnut Ridge, a lifetime ago, walking on 18-Mile Creek, listening to its gushing and trickling, soaking in the sight of countless tiny drops, waterfalls, and eddies, and hoping to spot tadpoles, frogs, minnows, and fish in the clear water reflecting a perfect summer sun filtered on the edges by healthy trees. I had no way of knowing how ephemeral that experience would be.
I don’t know how clean or safe the water from this spring is. As I said, it’s south of Tyrone, whose paper mills wafted their distinctive odor through my aunt’s screen door seven or eight miles away in Bellwood. I’ve seen a discussion about agricultural runoff in the area as well, although many think it’s insignificant.
Elk Run appears to be a tributary of the Little Juniata River. I once told my dad I’d seen a leopard frog in the Little Juniata as it runs past Logan Valley Cemetery in Bellwood. He made a wry comment about it, perhaps “How many legs did it have?” Now he and my mother are buried in Logan Valley. Cemetery, within earshot of the Little Juniata. Water, however clean it is or is not, connects us — all of us. We shouldn’t forget that.