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Random Thoughts from a Random Memory

By Edward Master

I guess I have always neighbored. I grew up playing with my neighbors Linda, Jane, and Dick(ie) McHenry when I was a youngster. We lived in the close-by creek waters; we fished with safety pins and earthworms; we searched the stream for crabs (crayfish). We rode bicycles around the swamps, and ran through the fallen oak leaves in the woods. We built rock dams to try to have a swimming hole. We got green feet by running barefoot through freshly mowed grass. Hey, we were kids!

When I got older, I played ball with Jack(ie) and Ron(nie) Klingler, and added some swimming at the the Beery, the car bridge, Mickey, and later at the Grassy Flats (on the Clarion River) near St. Petersburg. My mother was friends with a few of the local mothers and I just followed suit with the neighbors.

In the winter, we rode sleds down the roads that led into the valley and Turkey City. If you started at the top of Turkey Hill Road (Chestnut Ridge) and the road was covered in snow, your sled could make it to the store, but you had to navigate the first very sharp turn at the top of the hill. You really built up speed by that first turn. One winter we rode a car hood through the pasture field towards Turkey Run. Fortunately, trees and big bushes put a halt to the downhill car hood before you hit water. Patty Sheesley once fell from the sliding hood and got her wind knocked from her. I think that ended her afternoon in the car hood.

The barn where we played basketball served as a primitive gymnasium. One stall was full of straw with a rope hanging down from the roof. We could take a swing and drop into the straw. There was a ceiling over storage bin rooms for a running start with the rope. The other big ‘stall’ was the basketball court. With a basket at each end, dribbling the ball was an adventure with the uneven floor, but we were inside out of the rain, snow, and wind. We nailed cardboard over the louvered windows to keep out blowing snow and cold in wintertime. But in summer, it got really hot inside.

Originally, we had just the one hoop, but Roy Campbell, who had married Edna Watson (property owner) and owned a hardware store in East Brady, provided us with a second goal—now we had one at each end, full court! I used to see Roy’s nephew, P-J who played basketball for East Brady hi on a visit to his uncle and I told him that the barn was where I learned to shoot; but that was an exaggeration.

We’d get a key hanging inside a back door, go to the barn, open the lock, and play until the court was too shadowed to play. Wonderful!

The Shoup brothers, Merle and Jerry, used to come down from Monroe all the time, often bringing a couple friends, too. Once, we even had a car load from Clarion come down to tiny Turkey City. I guess the word got around. I heard stories that some of the smaller boys would climb through a machine sitting unused in the barn, but fortunately I was too big for that. I don’t recall any livestock in the barn.

We played home run derby once between barn buildings. That didn’t last however because a home run over a building meant a search for the ball. Oops.

In Glassboro, NJ, my wife and I were good friends with our next-door neighbors, Bob and Ginny Bates. Their boys, Bobby and Rodney, watched our cats when we went on a visit. The Bates often included us in their family gatherings and picnics. Bob was an industrial arts teacher in Philadelphia. The daughter of a neighbor across the street bought our house when we moved to Indiana, PA.

In Indiana, the local kids often stopped at our window to visit with a cat basking in the sun. I ended up doing some painting for our landlords. Our one neighbor was a childhood playmate with the actor Jimmy Stewart. Eleanor Blair, Stewart’s friend, was a lovely lady and we listened to a interesting stories about the actor. Eleanor had friends (sisters from Pittsburgh) who grew up in dancing class with actor/dancer Gene Kelly.

In Grove City, we had neighbors who were alumni of Grove City College and for several years we enjoyed the GCC homecoming parade from their front porch (often with donuts). My wife was a substitute in the local school system and had the kids across the street in classes (their father was a political science prof at GC College). She also often subbed for a lady a couple houses down the street who taught at George Junior Republic.

Speaking of sports

How ‘bout those Buccos! If Bednar gets untracked, the Bucs could really do some damage. Hope those Pirates don’t revert to years past. Not much faith here for the Pens. The jury is still deliberating the fate of the Steelers. Have to wait for a bit. Hope for in the draft.

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