Childhood Stories … Growing up in Ephrata, Pennsylvania
By Paul H. White
The past couple of months I have been transcribing stories written by my wife’s father. He grew up in Ephrata, Pennsylvania in the 1930s. When he was sixty-five he decided to write stories he remembered from his childhood. His mother died when he was almost five years old. His father later remarried and he tells of the adjustments he had to make, getting used to a new step-mother. Most of his stories were short and rarely more than a page and a half. He hand typed forty- six stories and made copies for each of his four children. He is now 89 years old and living in an Alzheimer’s unit in Edmonton, Alberta. I felt these stories should be kept for grandchildren and beyond, so I decided to transcribe them to digital format and get them printed into books for our family.
Below is an example of one of his stories.
When I was twelve or thirteen years old, and David was ten or eleven, Father and Mother decided a little extra income could be made selling extra things from the garden and field.
So on Thursday evenings we would get things ready to take to Ephrata. There would be beans, carrots, potatoes, flowers and whatever else was in season. The next morning we would ride with Father when he left for work at 7:30 AM. We had a 1932 Chevy. We would remove the back seat and put in our big six wheeler express wagon with green racks. Then we’d load the produce and drive three miles to where Father had a garage he rented, where he kept his car while he was at work.
Now it was up to David and me to go from house to house in all directions and knock or ring the bell telling what we were selling. We had a peck Measure and a half-peck measure to use to sell potatoes and beans, etc. Usually we could sell everything by 2:00 PM or so. Then we would walk the three miles through Lincoln to our home in Weidmansville.
One week we had mainly green beans to sell, and everybody said they already had too many beans, so consequently we hardly sold anything from 8:00 to 12:00 noon. I said to David, “We will go up the hill to Spring Garden Street and if we don’t sell any beans we will go home right after lunch, especially since it was such a hot day.
We knocked on many doors, but no one pitied us so we started down the hill toward the garage. We had an idea that it would be fun to coast the whole way down on the sidewalk. I sat on the back corner with one foot out in case I needed to brake. I held the wagon tongue tightly to guide us. David somehow perched on the other back corner. The wagon was still loaded with boxes of green beans. The sidewalk was clear. Soon we gained more speed than expected. Suddenly we approached a driveway we didn’t know about. It had a one inch step up in the concrete. Without warning the front of the wagon jumped into the air, and the front wheels turned sharply to the left. There was a crash, rattle and BANG! We rammed the corner of the two foot high cement wall around someone’s yard. The beans scattered in seven or eight hundred different directions. The metal peck measure kept rolling in a straight line down the hill telling all the neighbors something strange was happening. David and I picked ourselves up from the cement. David told me quietly, “I can’t find my shoe.” I began picking up the beans. Some boys came and asked David what he was looking for. “My shoe,” he told them. One said, “I saw something land on the street, beyond the parked car.” Sure enough, there was his shoe on the street.
So we returned to the garage, where the car was parked, with the crashed wagon and the bruised beans. We left it there and walked home.
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