Car Wash

Car Washing in 1953!

A clean car was a priority for my father, even though we lived on a dusty dirt road. Since we did not own our house, the car was the only major possession we acquired. Therefore having a clean car became an extension of himself. We loved to help wash the car feeling the soapy water running between our toes. The photo above is a picture of me in 1953 when I was six years old. My sister is up on the bumper of our 1951 Chevy, scrubbing, and my father is on the far side. I had the job of pumping the buckets full at our outside pump. As a result,  we all acquired the need for  clean cars as we got older . 

Car Wash    {Childhood Details Collection)

Soapy suds run over dusty surfaces

Cleaning unwanted coatings from the car

Dirt roads shed their dandruff

Cars stir up cumulus clouds of dust

Following behind like a little boy’s shadow

Settling into every crack and crevice

Mud builds up from pothole splashes

Water from the well-pump and dish soap

Chase those particles like an avalanche

Washing them to the ground

Wheels washed and shined

Comet cleanser and wire brush scrubbing

Wide whitewalls cleaned to perfection

Sponged and rinsed the shine returns

Chrome surfaces sparkling in the sunlight

Seems like such an effort in futility

Knowing that the first trip out our dirt road

Will invite powdery dust

To once again settle like dandruff

On the fender-shoulders, hood, and roof

But that ephemeral pristine look

Brings satisfaction if only for a moment


Photo from the family album



The Honsaker Tombstone

Honsaker Tombstone

The Honsaker Tombstone  (Childhood Details Collection)

Who knows the tales that could be told

Of goings on behind the stones

In the dark after church on any Sunday night

Children loved to play among those stones

Behind our church in the cemetery

Stood the biggest marble stone I ever saw

Seven feet tall five feet wide two feet thick

Two ledge around the bottom eight inches wide

The Honsaker Tombstone stood out above the rest


A place to play and a great place to hide

My friend Jimmy told tales of making out

With a girl named Marion behind that stone

Little children love to walk on its ledge

Hide and seek and games of tag in the dark

We squealed and hollered as we ran and played

Teens walked slowly hand in hand in the dark

No need to fear falling in a grave

The plots were all filled

Digging moved further up the hill

If those stones could talk

Who knows what tales they’d tell


Photos: Phil Roth







Chocolate Drops and Hardtack

Children love getting boxes of candy. Each Christmas, when I was young, our church had a Christmas program where the Sunday School Children were given parts we called “pieces” to recite.  Christmas Carols were sung and sometimes they dressed up in house coats for acting out the parts of Mary and Joseph and the Wise Men and Shepherds.  At the end of the service my father would pass out boxes of chocolates along with an Apple and a big Navel Orange to each person.  The candy boxes were put together by our family a few days before. It is a very special Christmas memory.

Chocolate Drops and Hardtack  (Childhood Details Collection)

Every Christmas we had a program and treats

Where children gathered to say their piece

Of wise men and Shepherds and Baby Jesus

Cute voices and smiles they always pleased us

Each year the words were much the same

Children emerged different but cute once again

Songs and carols filled the air

Everyone who came was glad to be there

At the end of each service treats were passed ‘round

Children waited anxiously with nary a sound

An apple an orange and a box of candy

Put together at our house by the preacher and family

Flat cardboards with pictures of camels and angels

Became boxes for candy when bent ‘to right angles

A string on top made them easy to carry

Rounded lids over lapped and ends were married

Chocolate drops and hardtack sorted and laid out

Gum drops and whole walnuts finished them out

Ends folded and crisscrossed to hold it all in

A hundred or more for everyone who attends

A special time for all and a simple treat

Topped off the season and kept us all sweet


Bing Photo:



Our Cistern

Paul Sanford and Dwight with our goat

The cistern was an important part of our household. The well water we drank was too orange for washing clothes, so we used the rainwater from the house roof.  We loved to play on the cistern, climbing all over it and sitting on top.  The plastered finish did not hold up and flaked off in big chunks. You don’t see them much any more. Everything is now piped in for drinking and household use. For me it is a very good memory of my childhood.

Rain Water Cistern     (Childhood Details Collection)

Rising from the earth sitting next to our porch

A concrete bowl capped our cistern

Provided water for our house hold use

And water to wash clothes in


An acned finish flaking with age

Made it easy to climb on when we played

A brick wall inside divided the pool

Semi-filtered seepage let water pass through

From rushing intake to calm output pool


Slate roof rain water fed angled downspouts

Transporting water and soot from our coal furnace

Dust from farmer’s fields and smoke from coke ovens


Dirt settled to the bottom and re-stirred with every rain

After the downpour it settled back again

Water for washing not for drinking

When dry weather came we  hauled water in

Keeping clothes washed and our bodies clean


A great place to play with our little pet goat

Agile as a rock-climber he was no joke

Butting my head with concussion blows

Running wherever his little chain let him go


Two lids on top let us look down inside

Dark brackish water with mysteries to hide

Small round hooks embedded in the top

Made it easy to grab when set aside with a plop


Cisterns are long a thing of the past

With piped in water that fills every glass

But it’s an interesting invention as old as time

Preserved precious water we used all the time


Photos: from Family Album





The Old Iron Pump

pump 001

Our water came from a cast iron pump in the back yard. Since I could not find a pump picture on line that matched the one we had I attempted to sketch one so you could see what I am writing about. The pump furnished our drinking water for many years. When I was in elementary school, We had an electric pump and a tank installed in the basement. It was hooked up to the cold water line only since it was hard water with a lot of orange iron in it. We had a cistern with rain water from the roof for bathing and washing clothes.

The Old Iron Pump  –  (Childhood Details Collection)

Under the grape arbor beyond our back porch

Stands a sculptor of cast iron like liberty’s torch

A simple machine brings the flow from below

Filling our bucket or pitcher to go

The iron pump sits on a long hollow root

Extending all the way down to the deep water boot

A weighted handle helps do my job

I raise up the handle and push down the bulb

One pump two pumps three pumps and four

Out of the spout fresh water pours

A triangle hook holds the bucket in place

When it’s full it’s heavy as a Mt. Rushmore face

Amazing gizmo this great invention

Works really well if I pay attention

The water is “hard”  a flavorless orange tint

Leaving rings where it stands and stains in the sink


Sketch: Dwight L. Roth

Concord Grapes


My father built a grape arbor before I was born. By the time I came along the vines had grown and covered the arbor that extended out to the driveway. The grapes were deep blue Concord Grapes and very sweet. Every summer we all looked forward to the time when these grapes were ripe. The arbor was only seven feet tall, so it was easy to reach up and pick the clusters of grapes and pop them into our mouths. This is the first of my collection that I have called Childhood Details.

Concord Grapes   (Childhood Details collection)

From the back steps to the end of the walk

Clusters of blue Concord Grapes hung ripe and full

Sweet and delicious bursting with flavor

Grape vines climbing the arbor

Covering the walkway with green foliage

Grape vines

Honey bees buzzing about not interested in me

Seeking sweet nectar of the gods from the overripe clusters

I pull off grapes squeezing them into my mouth

Swallowing them whole avoiding the seeds

Squeezing hard finding sweetness just under the skin

All I could eat and some left over for jelly and juice

Happy tummy and sticky fingers

Sweet satisfaction every summer


Photos: Dwight L. Roth &  B&W Family Album





Trains of My Childhood


My fascination with trains goes all the way back to my childhood. Watching the old steam trains rolling along the river embedded images in my mind that are just as clear now as they were back then. I lived in coal and coke country in the southwest corner of the state of Pennsylvania. The power of those Pufferbilly Dragons always leaves me in awe.

The Pennsylvania Dragon

Steel wheels keep on turning

Keeping rhythm perfect time

Hauling coke from the ovens

Hauling coal from the mines


Down along the winding river

Monongahela was its name

Comes the “Pennsylvania Dragon”

Belching smoke & shooting flames

Engines 29’s a coming

See the light and hear the steam

As she passes Martin crossing

You can hear that whistle scream

Train coming up the track

Whistle blowing at the crossing

Black smoke pouring from her stack

On to Pittsburgh she’ll be rolling

Tomorrow she’ll be coming back


Counting coal cars as she passes

Waving to the engineer

100 cars hauling heavy

Red caboose at the rear


Now the trains of my childhood

Are all silent lost in time

And those “Pufferbilly Dragons”

Are just memories on my mind


Down along the winding river

No more smoke or shooting flames

Just the rumble of the diesel

…but it’s just not quite the same


A song I wrote in memory of the beautifully powerful steam trains that used to run the tracks between Pittsburgh and Morgantown, WVA.