Sunday, January 15, 2012

Reader memories of West Pittston, Pennsylvania

Photo of West Pittston from

I wrote about Sue Tatterson's trip to Scranton Lace Company last week, and reader Jo Ott used that post as a springboard to share these wonderful memories of growing up in West Pittson, Pennsylvania:

If I'm reading that ticket correctly (my old body doesn't twist sideways much any more!) that ticket says "West Pittston." My family lived in West Pittston -- 144 North Street -- during the 1940s -- most of the WWII years. My sister (1 year older) attended West Pittston High School and I attended elementary school there. I have old report cards from all four of our school days there.

It was a fabulous town to live in back in those days. A June Cleaver kind of community. My best memories are the snow sledding on the town's great hills in the very deep snows the area received every winter, staying out, even at night, until my wet gloves and snow pants turned to ice and I was in very bad need of a nose wipe.

Being in coal country in coal's peak mining days, I remember as a little kid seeing neighbors coming home from the mines totally black with coal dirt, carrying the metal lunch pail all miners then carried into the mines. Speaking of the mines, I remember one day hearing of a little girl who was walking down the sidewalk across the Susquehanna River in Pittston, eating an orange, and she just disappeared. There was a cave-in and she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Cave-ins were frequent back then and as a little kid I would sometimes wonder if our house would sink into the ground. I'd scare myself thinking I heard digging underneath!

I drove up to West Pittston back in the summer to see what it's like today. Not much has changed. The great high school is still there although it's no longer used as a the high school. The Grand Union is gone. So is the wonderful skating rink where everyone in town could be found except when on the hills sledding in winter. My old house is still there, as are the neighbors'. They're all gone now, including, Louie Lewis who managed the cemetery. Louie and his wife Betty and my parents were good friends and played cards with other neighbors all the time. The Michalango funeral home up the street is still in operation, but with a new name and owner. Grablick's Dairy is gone or at least I couldn't find it.

Saturday mornings it was walking across one of the river bridges to downtown Pittston to the old Roman Theatre to watch all the cartoons. Roy Roger, Tom Mix, Abbott & Costello, Our Gang movies, all the great musicals and love story movies. Loved playing marbles in the dirt in the yard next to our house. There are many more stories -- like how our family received eggs and sugar in the mail from a relative in Juniata County during those war years. [Comment from Chris: How does one mail eggs?]

We left West Pittston for York County in 1947. Myself and one brother entered Edgar Fahs Smith, another brother finished his last grade school year at Shiloh Elementary and my sister went into York High. Three of us graduated from Ol' York High.

Sadly, West Pittston was badly hit by flooding this year. One newspaper article I read included the information on how the town's citizens voted down flood walls similar to those installed up river in Sunbury, I believe. They didn't want to lose their views of the river.

Every family I ever knew growing up in Pennsylvania had at least one Scranton Lace table cloth. They were brought out every Easter and Christmas and other special occasions. Some families even graced their dining room table with a Scranton all the time, then would bring out the "good one" for holidays.
Thanks for sharing all of those wonderful memories, Jo!


  1. You're welcome, Chris. If I can find them I'll send you some photos. I neglected to mention the wonderful Methodist Church in West Pittston where I still fondly (or not)remember all the kiddie church Christmas pageants in which I played.

    The egg story goes like this: My aunt Lydia owned a restaurant in Mifflin, across the Juniata River from Mifflintown. As a business owner she was able to have much larger rations of food items then residents with those tiny ration coupons. She would share with some family members & I'm sure some town folk with some restaurant supplies that were rationed by the government during those war years. She had a square box made out of some kinds of composite materials that was very sturdy. Inside were three layers of dimpled and thick fiber board. Each dimple held one egg, so the box was able to hold two dozen eggs, with one layer on the bottom, one above filled with eggs and the third on top for protection. Once filled and ready to be shipped there were two heavy-duty straps to hold the lid, which fit down over the sides, in place. On the outside there also were two square, metal frames in which to place address to and return address cards. Aunt Lyd, as nearly everyone called her, would ship the carton of eggs to us and we would ship the empty carton back to her to begin the process all over again. I don't recall if any or how many eggs were ever broken in the few years we did this. I've no idea whatever happend to that box. With the many floods in that area I'm sure it floated on down into the Chesapeake Bay and out to sea many years ago! :)

  2. Hi Chris: A few good things have happened since I posted that over a year ago. I joined the WP Historical Society and posted my family's history living there on their forum. In the meantime I looked up WP in the 1940 census which became available last year and specifically North St. where we lived. There I was able to locate names that were so familiar and some less so. I have heard from the son of one of the families who read my post in the forum. He must have been very young when we left for York as I do not remember him even though he remembers my family. He lives in Plains, PA, not far from WP and yesterday sent me a photo and asked if I knew who the people in it were. I sure did--it was the little boy who I used to pull around in his little red wagon and his grandparents, sitting in front of the Christmas tree with the train underneath. In this photo Bobby is about 7 years older than when I pulled him in the wagon. (Google Dr. Robert A. Barnhart to see what an interesting career he has had.) I asked Jack to send more photos and unfortunately, many of the family and other photos were destroyed during Hurricane Agnes' flooding in 1972. We'll stay in touch with each other, possibly meet over the summer. Jo