If you haven’t been from one end of Pennsylvania to the other you have missed one of our most beautiful states. Are you aware of the importance of The Declaration of Independence signed in Philadelphia? Independence Hall, The Liberty Bell and The Betsy Ross House are musts when visiting Philly. Heading west through Lancaster County you will see the Amish on the country roads with their horse drawn buggies which do have the right of way. The large diamond shaped reflector helps avoid accidents especially at night. One must be patient and careful when passing a buggy on the highway.
I was born in Altoona which is located between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Centrally located most men including my father, his father and brothers worked for Pennsylvania Railroad. They built railroad cars and worked on steam engines until diesel came about. I remember walking across the bridge when a steam engine would pass beneath me. My white blouse was covered with soot. When you attempted to brush it away it left a black mark. That wasn’t the worse of it. We washed our windows and window sills every Thursday to clean up the dirt from those engines. Our house was about three miles from the tracks. And Dad’s coveralls were covered with grease from working on railroad cars and large trucks for PRR. Mother ran his work clothes through two cycles in our washing machine. At times she got them stuck in the wringer which almost took her arm through the rollers.
Most men complained about having to work for the railroad but it provided a better income than nearby factories. Aside from coming home filthy and tired there were large layoffs. Our family would get ahead financially and then there would be weeks of no work. Most families had to borrow money to make ends meet and ours was no different. I remember Dad complaining, “I had our house paid off and now I have to borrow money against the mortgage.” He told my brother never to work for the railroad when he grew up.
On the bright side was the beautiful country side, surrounded by tall mountains of evergreens. Dad built a cottage along the Juniata River that carved its way along the mountain ridge. He drew up his own plans and built it with nothing more than a hand saw and nails. There was no electricity in those mountains. Spending weekends and summer vacations he completed it in two years. We shared a large tent among the pine needles under the fir trees until he finished the first floor. The best part for my brother and me was fishing and swimming in the river. Mother cooked simple meals on a two burner Coleman kerosene stove. We ate a lot of hamburgers and hot dogs in those days. But the family gatherings brought about large picnics and corn broils. Relatives living hundreds of miles away made this cottage their refuge on every holiday. The homemade potato salads, lemonade, baked ham, and cakes were delicious. Grand Pap always brought a watermelon and Dad built a large fire with a tripod to broil corn. In the evening we roasted marshmallows at dusk. To Be Continued…….