Chocolate Drops and Hard Tack

This is the prose piece I wrote that was included in the Old Mountain Press winter anthology called Celebrating the Holidays.

Chocolate Drops and Hardtack
Growing up in a preacher’s family meant that I got in on all the background preparations that went on at Christmas. This was especially true when getting ready for our annual Christmas program.
We lived in a poor coal mining community of Southwestern Pennsylvania. The Christmas program created a special time for everyone, especially the children. They knew that after the program ended everyone got a special treat to take home.
A week prior to the program my father shopped for all the goodies that went into, the Christmas boxes. He came home with a variety of candy, English walnuts, and Brazil nuts. We all participated in the job of sorting the candies and filling one hundred boxes.
The small cardboard boxes came flattened and needed to be pushed into a rectangular shape and closed on one end. The long narrow side had a string inserted so it could be carried like a miniature suitcase. On the outside were colorful pictures of Mary and Joseph with baby Jesus, the Shepherds, and the Wise Men. The boxes were about the size of an Animal Crackers box of the past.
On Saturday we all gathered around our big dining room table and began filling the boxes. Into each box we put a couple of chocolate drops, some colorful hardtack, English walnuts, Brazil nuts and Hershey Kisses. We folded and locked the flaps together and carefully packed them into several large cardboard boxes.
As the program commenced, the atmosphere grew tense with excitement. Parents watched their little ones recite their piece, all dressed up in housecoats and holding shepherd staffs. When the program ended, my father announced that we had one last thing to do. Several adults passed out a box of candy, a big red apple, and a big navel orange to everyone.
The service ended and we all went home with a treat and a smile.

Printed in the Old Mountain Press winter anthology 2017

Note that all anthology titles  are now in Kindle format visit



#1    4′ x 4′

Appreciation is one of the most pleasant surprised one can encounter. To have your work loved and appreciated is validation like no other.  A couple of years ago, I was asked by a friend to paint his childhood home, which has long been torn down. He had one photo of the house and wanted the painting for his aging father, who was in early dementia. He hung the painting on his wall and brought his father in to view it. He told me his father just stood and looked and looked at it, making comments about the house and its past.

This past year, as I was driving home from town, I got a cell phone call from his aunt, who wondered if I could paint one for her as well. She said her husband saw the original one and really loved it. When it was finished, they loved it and even gave me a tip! She called me up a week later saying how much they appreciated the painting.  What a pleasant surprise to fell this kind of appreciation.

Our old house is gone

Many great mem’ries remain

Painting preserves joy


#2   4′ x 4′

Paintings: Dwight L. Roth

This was written for:

Frank Hubney asked us to write a Haibun with the prompt — Pleasantly Surprised.

A Haiban is a poem composed of a short prose followed by a Haiku. The two when combined make the Haiban.

Grandma’s Black Raspberry Pie

Grandma's Black Raspberry Pie

My grandma died when I was very young, but one thing I remember was her delicious black raspberry pie. When we arrived at her house for a visit, she would get out her pie, even if it was in the middle of the afternoon. Her pies were smooth like custard since she strained out all the seeds. Something that good is never forgotten.   This poem is one for the dVerse poetry group prompt: visit.

Black Raspberry Pie

My earliest recollection

Of real fruit pie

Is sitting at the grandma’s table

When I was a little guy


Blue eyes got big

My smile grew wide

Watching her cut into

That black raspberry pie


Thick and smooth

No seeds inside

That big dip of whipped cream

Was hard to hide


My visits were always special

Put a sparkle to her eye

She loved watching her grandson

Eat her black raspberry pie


No need to wait till dinner

She knew I couldn’t wait

So from the fridge she took the pie

And put a big slice on my plate


Bing photo

Our dVerse poetry prompt for today is the word visit… A poem any style with the word visit in it.  Be sure to visit this site:

This is a revision from an earlier poem I had done.


Little Friends

Roy Steiner with Kevin S Christopher R and Doug L

These three little boys Kevin, Doug, and Chris had such fun together back in the mid 70s. All born the same year, they were bosom buddies. Every time they got together they had a great time. This photo shows them enjoying their ride in the potato cart. Kevin’s father, Roy, built the tractor and mower combo. It pivoted in the middle and could turn on a dime.


These little rockers enjoyed the music coming out of the ancient Panasonic Stereo record player. Having grown up together they always loved getting together, as you can see. This is definitely poetry in motion!!

Now they are 47 and have children of their own.

Old Photos are so much fun to look at!!

Photos: Dwight L. Roth


Fall in the Woods

Dwight with bird house from Lauralville 001

Growing up playing in the woods all summer was wonderful. We ran over the trails and played Cowboys and Indians, Davey Crockett, and Daniel Boone. We had no video games or smartphones. We spent our days in the outdoors. I hope you will bear with me for reposting this bit of nostalgia. I posted it last year and will probably post it again next year. Perhaps you can picture the changes in our woods as fall came on each year. This is where I grew from a child into a teenager at Masontown, Pennsylvania.

Fall in the Woods at Masontown

I can still remember, like it was yesterday
Fall in the woods at Masontown

Cold weather closed in early
Leaves in the woods
Turned shades of yellow, orange, red, and brown
What was once a lush green woods
Filled with green hollow stemmed weeds
Now becomes blanketed
With a soft silent coating of leaves

The Silver Maple and Butternut next to the house
Dropped their yellow-tan leaves
The quince turned yellow-brown
As the apple trees blended into the scene
With rich deep red leaves
Highlighted by a back drop of color
Pouring from the shallow woods
Extending from our house
To the church cemetery

On the driveway black walnuts still in the hulls
Driven over with car tires
Squishing and shelling
Removing the hard nuts inside
Picking them up, peeling off the excess
While blends of saffron, amber, and walnut stains
Are left on my hands and under my nails

From driveway to furnace room
Down in the basement
The nuts carried to be dried
For cracking with hammer and brick

Out in the field behind the chicken house
Rows of asparagus
Lined the edge of the woods
Bent over like a hundred old men
Kinked and twisted
Dry hollow stems
Seed pods still clinging stubbornly to the tops
Some will weather the snow and wind
Only to be disked up in the spring
To start all over again

Masontown 1972 (2)

Out in the woods,
Paths where our bare feet ran all summer long
Disappeared under layers of leaves
As frost took its toll on the trees
Now I can walk through the woods,
With a borrowed single-shot 12 gauge,
Looking in the pit holes for rabbits,
Flushing out ring-necked pheasants
From the edge of the corn field
Just beyond the back side of the woods

Life was simple then,
Rabbits shot were few and pheasants even fewer
But walking through the woods and field
Was an experience I enjoyed
Just for the sake of being there

The woods remained stark and bare
For the rest of the winter,
But it’s passing and recurring beauty
Left indelible impressions
On my mind for years to come

Sometimes I wish
I could just be there once again

Masontown, PA circa 1949 001

Photos: Dwight L. Roth & Family Album



Ghosts Floating


Ghosts Floating   

Every now and then a ghost from the past

Floats through from the cobwebs of my mind

A friend I once knew breezes through

Clear reminders of events and actions

Some worth remembering and others well

Maybe not so good

Ghosts hidden for years suddenly appear

Carrying me like Scrooge through time and space

Reminding me of that first kiss

In the dark halls of the church

Feeling the mixed excitement coming of age

A broken heart from time to time

Ghosts of a friend who taught me more

Than I should have known at the time

Doing adolescent crazy things

That now can never be changed

Associating with a borderline petty thief

Bragging of his devious exploits and sexploits

Being older and more daring he plotted

Who knows how much was true at the time

Exaggerated imagination for a friends ears

Impressions that last a lifetime

Ghosts of accidents and death

Drowning in the river

A crushing cave in

Leaving deadly impressions on my young mind

Putting the fear of God in me

Reminded by parents of dangerous risks that

Should never be taken

Amazing how Ghosts can haunt us

Whether sixty or seventy they still come by

Visiting on occasion

Reminding me

Nothing is ever really forgotten

What we learn when young

Stays with us for ever


Photo: Dwight L. Roth


Publishing the Past Pt 4


Here are a few more of the stories from my father in laws childhood collection from the 1930s. They were written when he was sixty-five. He is now eighty-nine and suffering from Alzheimer’s, I have transcribed them so they could be passed on to my grandchildren and beyond. He grew up near Ephrata, Pennsylvania. His mother died when he was four and his father remarried two years later.


11.Playing in Grandpa Snavely’s Mill

Grandpa Hurst was a miller before I knew him. Grandpa White was a train conductor, but I never knew him. Grandpa Snavely was a miller also. I never really learned to know him because he never talked to his grandchildren. He was sort of a loner and did not converse much with anyone. He owned a large stone gristmill along the Hammer Creek.  Hammer Creek was so named because a hundred years ago or more there was a forge upstream from the mill.

First, let me tell you about the old mill along the Brunnerville-Clay Road. It still stands today (1992), but when I was a boy in 1935 it was already closed up and the machinery removed. The mill was three or four stories high and had wide expanses of hardwood flooring. The windows were all intact so it was well preserved. It was later converted into apartments.

Across the road is an old farm where my stepmother was born and where she spent her childhood, until her family moved upstream about a mile to the better mill.

The farmstead had a whitewashed two and a half story stone house that was rather small for such a family. Attached was a large, never painted, wash house summer kitchen.

Nearby was an old bank barn which was never painted and looked sort of black, especially when it rained. Uncle Charles Hollinger and Aunt Katie lived there with their family. When we visited Russel and Pearl and Jean and David, I sometimes went into the old mill or walked along the bank of the creek, but not often.

I learned to know about the Snavely Mill when my father married my stepmother in 1934. It was a prosperous place and was in operation for a very long time. The mill had a reputation for manufacturing very fine flour.

They also had two portable hammer mills mounted on trucks and four men went from farm to farm grinding cowfeed or “chop” for the farmer’s cattle.

The four and a half story stone building was very attractive and in complete repair. Behind it was a metal-clad granary about four stories high.

The Snavely family often came together for Sunday Dinner or just to visit. I think that may have happened because aunts: Nora, Jenny, and Anna still lived at home. With them lived a cousin Warren Snavely and a worker Lloyd Wideman.

When we went to visit them, there were many cousins and many interesting things to do. We could take walks along the dam or go swimming in the race. In the winter we went sledding down the road at a really high speed. Now I think it was very dangerous, but we grandchildren had such good times.

Many times after our big Sunday dinner, my cousins and I would play hide and seek in the mill. It is surprising that none of us ever got hurt. I think we all realized there were dangers there to avoid.

Grandpa Snavely also had a player piano. That seemed like a modern thing. They had many player rolls which could be loaded into the piano to make it play different songs.

A special time each summer was when everyone came home for “Snapper Soup!” Snapping turtles lived in the dam and if you put a stick in the water and teased them they would bite the stick and hang on. Only the uncles did that!

Another yearly event was when we went to see the night cactus bloom. It only bloomed once a year and did its blooming at night.

Beside their house were three unusual trees. They were persimmon trees, which were not very common in Pennsylvania. We tried tasting them once, but never again!!

Boat Rides on the Mill Pond
Grandpa Snavely’s gristmill was picturesque and so was the mill pond we called “the dam.” The mill was a four and a half story limestone building of good size, with a slate roof. I wish I could remember which year it was built, but it was old and had hardwood floors throughout.
The dam was wide and tapered down to twenty feet wide at the narrow end. It reached up and around the curve to the floodgates which could divert high water when a flood came.
In the winter we grandchildren sometimes went skating, but not very often. Perhaps once each summer or every other summer the grandchildren wanted to ride in Grandpa’s old wide bottom red and white boat which was always docked under the chicken house, which extended about ten feet over the water. There was always supposed to be a responsible adult along.
On a beautiful summer Sunday afternoon, about ten or twelve children climbed into the boat and we rowed up from the dam. I was about eleven at the time. I sat on the edge, the gunwale. The smaller children sat on the bench boards in the middle. No one had life jackets. Maybe they weren’t invented yet?
We were going slowly along the bank and the person up front, who was supposed to guide it, let it bump a lump of ground. The boat stopped immediately, and I rolled off into the water! I was scared and flailed about until someone grabbed my arm and pulled me up into the boat.
They said I was yelling, “Help me! Help me!!”
I climbed onto the bank all dripping wet and walked back around the pond to the house. I was embarrassed about it and just a little disgusted at whoever was supposed to be guiding the boat.

The Swimming Hole

In the old days there were no swimming pools. Even towns didn’t have them. When they did get one, we “Christians” wouldn’t think of going there. There were various swimming holes or dams where people could splash around in the muddy water and feel refreshed.

There was such a fun place about two miles from our home on Middle Creek, across from the Ivan Stauffer’s farm. A small dam about three feet high made it a nice place to swim. I only ever saw men and boys there. A rope hung from a high tree branch and there was a kids’ diving board from which we jumped into the three feet of water. One could hardly swim in this place, but it was special when Father took us there, perhaps three times a summer. Maybe that is why I never learned to swim as a boy.


Photo of Dayton Mill: Dwight L. Roth


Publishing the Past – Pt.2

Paul and David

This past week I shared my self-published transcription of the book, Childhood Memories …Growing up in Ephrata, Pennsylvania. It was suggested that I share a few more of my father-in-law’s stories from the 1930s.  From time to time I will publish some of his stories that I think you might enjoy. Here are a couple more for you to enjoy.

My First Day at School
For many months I looked forward to going to school. My Aunt Lydia who came to stay with us after my mother died found a Grade one reader somewhere and taught me to read 2 or 3 pages. I could say the alphabet and print my name.
The school I would attend was called Wood Corner School, but it was not in a woods. It was beside a gravel road seven eighths of a mile from our house and next to a large barn with a manure pile beside the fence.
The playground was three sided and rather small. The school building was of brick with a slate roof and a bell tower. It had a big front porch and two cloak rooms and a dingy basement. It had double desks, a big black heater, a piano, and oiled boards on the floor which were worn and splintery some places. My first teacher was a young lady named Esther Markley who went to the Brethren Church and wore a covering.
Well, the first day finally came. It was the last Monday in August in 1933. I was ready on time and began walking along the highway with my new lunch kettle. as we called it. Nearly right away our old retired neighbor, Sam Nissley, came by and offered me a ride. I got into the car and a quarter of a mile up the road, I remembered that I did not have my reader, so he turned around and brought me home, but my aunt said, “No, you don’t need that book.” So Sam drove me to school.
Something I had never done in my life was ride a teeter-totter. We called them see-saws. And, all four of them were occupied by the other excited children. No decent person called us “kids” in those days. Soon the high see-saw became vacant and I climbed on. Some boy jumped on the other end and up I flew and immediately I slid down to the middle in a split second. I slid down to the middle because I didn’t hold on. What a surprise and an embarrassment.
Then the bell rang and everyone rushed to line up at the door, and then to their seats. The teacher sat at the piano and asked what number we should sing. My little hand shot up and I called out, one hundred forty-four. She said, “No, we don’t have that many songs in our book. Surprise again. I assumed they had the Church and Sunday School Hymnal just like we did at Indiantown Church. The song I wanted to sing was special to me because they sang it at my Mother’s funeral just four months before. It was, “I’m Going Home to Die No More.”
There were ten pupils in grade one and a few could only speak Pennsylvania Dutch. They had a hard time but I didn’t. I liked school and it was special to me. I think there were forty or forty-four pupils in the eight grades that year.

Dr. Fake was our Doctor

I think his name was Warren Fake. Some people liked him and some thought he was a fake doctor, but he was handy. He made lots of house calls, as was common then.

As a child I had asthma and hay fever. It always grew worse in mid-summer, and lasted until the end of fall. There were no medications. Someone recommended to my parents that they give me Swiss Tea to drink. So sometimes they gave me tea when I went to bed, but it never made a bit of difference, so eventually we dropped that idea.

The doctor discovered I had enlarged adenoids. So, Dr. Fake recommended that I have my tonsils and adenoids removed before I began grade one. He would do it in his office. In those days it was popular for most doctors to operate on small children in this way.

Father and Aunt Lydia took me to Dr. Fake’s office early one morning. I remember going back into a back room and they put me onto a high table. They put a thing over my nose and mouth and told me to start counting as they pumped in the ether. When I woke up I was in a dark room with my Aunt. I had a very sore throat.

All this was done, but I had no relief from my asthma. During grades one through three, I was quarantined at least three times. But so were most families in our school, and throughout the state. Neither I, nor any of my brothers and sisters were allowed to leave the house, to attend school or church, or any public gathering, during a quarantine.

First, I got chicken pox.  I stayed in bed about five days, but I think I had to miss ten days of school.

The next year, it was measles, and I missed another ten days. When David had the measles, he became deathly sick, and my parents were alarmed.

The following year, I came down with scarlet fever and I was very sick. It seemed as though I was in bed for three weeks. I lost weight and felt weak when I stood up.

My parents told me that when I was a small child, I had the whooping cough and the mumps, but I cannot remember.

Antibiotics today are a real blessing to the parents of this generation, but most people do not realize it.


Photo from the family album

All stories are (c) copywrited and require permission to reproduce parts or all of

them.  They may be reblogged on your wordpress site if you desire.

Dwight L. Roth

John Mayer’s Store


When I was twelve I had a paper route. The roll of papers were dropped off at John Mayer’s store, where I picked them up and started my deliveries. Some of my money was spent there on soda’s and candy. We did not buy sodas when I was at home, so getting one here was really a treat. Yesterday, as I was writing this poem I thought, wouldn’t it be great if I had a picture of John Mayer’s store. Since I had no photo from the past, I decided to paint it using my memory and imagination to recall how it looked.  Everything is probably not exactly to scale, but the painting depicts how I remember it.

John Mayers Store    (Childhood Details Collection)
Shotgun store long and narrow
Screen door self-closing hinges squeaking
Like street car wheels sliding on steel
Sitting in the sandy bottom at the edge of town
Whiffs of burning garbage float in
From the town dump beyond the creek
Across the road Albaini’s Beer Garten
Where coal miners stop and tip one
On their way home from work

Levered cash register sits on the plain wood counter
Holding my quarters nickles and dimes
Boxes with chocolate bars all in a row
Bread loaves on a rack stacked inside the door
Best of all a Red Coca Cola water cooler

Filled with Cokes Orange Crush and RC Colas
Green six-ounce bottles up to their necks
Like synchronized swimmers all in position
Bathed in ice cold water only 10 cents
Cold quarts on the other end only 25 cents
Those I could tip and guzzle in five minutes
When I was twelve
I loved the cherry ones
A bottle opener on the side half full of caps
Wooden cases stacked on the floor
Collecting empty bottles turning sweetly sour
Along with coal dust and flies that buzzed around

Refreshed I picked up my roll of seventeen papers
Headed across the road to Albaini’s Beer Garten
Placed a paper on the bar and exited out the back door


Painting: Dwight L. Roth

Coca Cola Water Cooler:

Things I Miss From Childhood

Masontown, PA circa 1949 001

On Sunday I heard Billy Collins reading one of his poems on the Prairie Home Companion radio show. I love his poetry and also enjoy listening to him read his poems.  As I am finishing my Childhood Details Collection, I thought a poem like his would fit in really well. So here is my “Billy Collins version”  of my childhood memories.  Some of the things mentions are pulled from other poems I have written earlier, so I hope you will bear with me.  It really works best when read aloud. It helps feel the flow and rhythm of this free verse poem.

Things I Miss From Childhood  (Childhood Details Collection)

Now that I am almost ready for my second

I think back on my childhood with fond memory

I miss sitting on my mom’s knee while she talked on the phone

Hoping no one was listening in on the party line as we rocked

I miss running barefoot in the summer through trails in the woods

Resulting in poison ivy rashes and pink calamine lotion

Hoping to dry up the bubbles that grew on my ankles and toes

I miss the long high stair case with its heavy rail and balusters

Fun to slide on but no fun to tumble down

I miss watching my mom and sister wash clothes in the cellar

Sitting on the basement steps watching the suds

As the clothes were put through the ringer

Soap squeezed out running back into the washer

The cool dank smell of the dark stone basement

Mixed with the stale smell of coal dust and ashes

From the furnace room around the corner

Rows of canned fruit in Mason jars sitting on old wooden planks

Preserved for many winter meals and Sunday chicken dinners

I miss the way Mom tucked me in on cold Pennsylvania nights

Covering me with a heavy quilt she made and knotted

Sleeping in the old iron bed that once belonged to my brother Nelson

It became mine when he left home to go to college

A hot clanking radiator on the wall next to the window

Cooled down till morning as the coal fire burned low

I miss the rides with my pop in our old green 54 Chevy

Feeling the power glide shifting underneath us

The cleaning of whitewall tires with little round pads

Steel wool and soap from a yellow box that read Comet S.O.S

I miss the clothes hanging on the line in the bright morning sunshine

The wicker basket piled high the pin bag sliding down the line

Little wooden soldiers waiting to stand attention all in a row

The long wooden clothes prop pushing up the sagging middle

A sweeping line of towels and sheets extending on an on

Osmosis of water and cotton absorbing the sweet smell of freshness

Unmatched by softeners or dryer sheets shrinking hot clothes dry

I miss gathering eggs upstairs in the chicken house

Feeling the nest of straw prickling against my fingers

Contrasting against the smooth hard shells of perfect eggs

Baskets full of eggs hand washed and boxed for selling

Saving the cracks for us to eat never once thinking of salmonella

I miss watching Pop popping corn on the blue flames of our gas stove

In the old cast iron skillet with a special lid full of holes

Steam squeezing through the holes as the corn popped loudly

I miss the dirt road in front of our house

Where I used to ride my bicycle sailing down the hill

With the siren chain pulled tight against the wheel

Screaming past our front door all the way down past the mailboxes

I miss the spinning wheel that held all the mailboxes

One for each neighbor spinning on top of a big iron pipe

Saving our mail man a trip back the long dusty road

I miss sleeping with my head on my mom’s lap on Sunday evenings

Lying on the old hard oak benches at church as the wall clock ticked

Carried home when the service ended and talking was done

Put straight to bed knowing nothing till the morning

I miss the big white house with two chimneys and German siding

That I painted with Dutch Boy paint one summer when I was eightteen

I miss climbing the Butternut tree that grew tall

Getting bigger each year just like me

I miss climbing the Red Delicious apple tree along the road

Lodged in its fork biting into ripe delicious fruit in the fall

Wiping sweet juice running down my chin on my shirt sleeve

Of the many things I miss from my childhood these are only a few

And…As I enter the beginning of the second they say

These memories are the last to go


Photo of my childhood home in 1949 from our family album

( The round spinning mailbox post had not yet been put up.)