Born into a middle class family presented opportunity and at time obstacles. My father, his father and brothers worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad. There were perks in the spring and summer since my father could afford to purchase riverfront property and build a cottage. He chose a spot among tall fir and oak trees. Dad liked to fish and hunt. It took two years of all his weekends and vacations to complete our cabin. There was no electricity in those mountains along the Juniata River. He sawed every board by hand and nailed them in place. He pitched a tent for us under the evergreens until he got the first floor nailed down. From then on we pitched our tent on the flooring. Our uncles and his railroad buddies came and helped him nail the side frames into place.
Mother cooked on a two burner Coleman propane stove. We ate lots of hamburgers and hot dogs. But on holidays we had relatives come for hundreds of miles for three day picnics. The food is what I remember most-homemade potato salad, baked beans, meatloaf and my grandmother’s cakes. Dad would build a large bon fire under a tri-pod that held a large kettle for corn broils. My brother, my cousins and me went swimming, fishing and I learned how to row our boat up and down the river to our favorite fishing holes. We caught black bass, rock bass, bluegills and catfish. When the river was muddy we fished with dough balls–mother’s biscuits that failed were great bait. We enjoyed fish fries and occasional frog legs for breakfast. It took getting used to strange sounds from wild animals at night. Dad would shine a lantern up the tree and we would see owls, racoons and possums. The sound of the bullfrogs and the crickets took some getting used to.
The Juniata carved its way between the mountain range of tall evergreens. Below our cottage there was a bend in the river and the area was named Long Bend Beach. Although there was no beach just an embankment, narrow dirt road above and a steep climb up the mountain side. It was so picturesque mother named our cottage “Shangrila.” Of all the countries I’ve traveled in the world from Canada, Norway, Sweden, Austria and Switzerlandto name a few. I’ve never encountered a more beautiful place. When I can’t sleep I close my eyes and picture the bend in the river and the tall greenest of green evergreens casting a shadow onto the water. Read more about life in the 40’s and 50’s as described in my latest book, A Marked Woman.