We were conceived and grew as one, but our progress after birth varied. My body faltered as I attempted to imitate the others by walking upright. I fell back many times on my behind, but I finally walked. When I was held to my mother's chest I relaxed when I heard the familiar sounds from my days in the womb.
Time moved on and my body gained muscular tone and for the first years my mind developed further, gradually categorizing the sights and sounds around me. I wandered into trouble from time to time while exploring my surroundings and I responded to the good things with smiles and acknowledged the hurts with cries of pain.
I was born in Carbon County, Pennsylvania, in the hard coal mining town of Lansford, which is located in the Panther Valley. The street address was 336 E. Patterson. I was the youngest of three sons of George and Blanche (West) Reichard. Charles was the oldest son and he lived until 2 Nov 1990. My memory of Georgie is not clear, because he died at the age of eight. He had been playing with some other children and was struck by a vehicle. My dad was walking home from work. Saw him, picked him up and in the block-and-a-half walk to the doctor's office, Georgie became an angel. That death would affect my life because my parents were ever so watchful of my activities, so there wouldn't be another angel in the family. We resided with my grandfather Daniel C. West, a wonderful person.
My father was born in the Lehighton, PA area in 1888 and lived his younger days on his father's farm. I was born in Lansford in 1924 and lived in my grandfather West's home.
My father had told me that there were no deer left in the area around Lehighton when he was small, but there was a wealthy farmer living nearby who had brought some into the area. He had fenced in a part of his farm on a hillside for them. Over the years the fence declined and the deer escaped. That helped repopulate the area again.
I had seen pictures taken during that time and they were of hunters with dozens of huge cottontail rabbits hanging on a wooden fence. The local stream provided them with good fishing and another picture showed a catch of very big fish, the likes of which I never caught fishing locally. I couldn't tell what kind of a fish they were, but they could have been carp or suckers.
My father loved hunting and had a pair of English Beagles to pursue small game. When I was in grade school he brought home a deer from a hunt in the Poconos. Neighbors came to see it as some had never seen one before.
In time my Dad took me hunting, but for the first couple of years I wasn't allowed to carry a gun. By that time the quail had just about disappeared, and the doves were trying to make a comeback. He told me that we were not to shoot at either of them. Harsh winters and freezing rains had killed the quail over the years. The ringneck pheasant had been introduced to the area and they were fair game along with the rabbits and squirrels. Even they were not too plentiful in this area and it was hard to find a groundhog, because they were heavily hunted to provide meat on the table during the 30's when people were trying to survive during the depression.
Is located along the Panther Valley creek, which runs in an east and west direction between the two mountains. The Town is called Lansford and it was located in Carbon County, in the state of Pennsylvania. The town was built because hard coal (anthracite) was located on a mountain nearby, in the 1700's. The coal became an industry when it became a medium of heating, so it was mined and sent to the cities by barge and train. Workers flocked to the area for work. In time miners from Europe came to the new world and found work with the coal company. Over 10,000 people called it home at one time.
The town grew to provide housing close to the work place. Private homes were erected as were row upon row of company houses to accommodate the miners and other allied workers. The industry grew in that relatively flat area of the valley. The mines were dug into the hillside, the rail tracks were run through the valley, and other support industry for the mines covered the valley floor. That left the northern exposure of the south mountain open for the town and everything associated with it.
I was born on 15 August 1924, in a house at 336 East Patterson, St. The house was owned by my grandfather, It would be quite a few years before I was able learn about my town. I could see the beautiful chestnut trees that lined the brick paved street and the street lights that provided safety during the hours of darkness. I was fascinated by the cars, horse and wagons, and the trolley car that came and went.
The house I lived in was on a corner lot, which had a hedge growing around it. Along side of the house was a lawn and that butted against a grape arbor. The back yard was dominated by a large cherry tree, which provided a tasty treat in the summertime.
My town was divided in to three wards; west, middle, and east. Each had a public school. In the middle ward was the high school, and the other wards contained elementary schools. We walked to those schools and at the noon break we walked home to eat and then returned for the afternoon school session. Various churches provided parochial schools for those who wished to attend.
In many of the neighborhoods there were grocery stores, hardware stores, and butcher shops. Some people still baked bread in their homes, but the majority bought it in a grocery store or bakery. Milk was delivered to your door in the early hours of the morning. Ice was delivered throughout the day. At first the home deliveries were made by horse and wagon, but in time the gasoline vehicles took over. In those days you shopped for clothing, hardware, or other household items in the business district. There the stores stood shoulder to shoulder for several blocks and their contents satisfied the needs of the average household.The workers worked long hours and the work was back breaking, especially in and around the mines. The eight hour work day was only a dream back then. If you were hurt on the job you received medical treatment. If you were disabled or killed you were replaced and there were no monetary benefits for the surviving family members. Those benefits would come along years later.
The citizens of the town were from many nations of Europe. The experienced miners had come from Wales and Italy. Those desiring to become miners came from Ireland, the Balkan states, and other countries of eastern Europe. The town was a real melting pot and as the years moved on the nationalities blended into a species called, "Proud Americans". There were no Orientals represented. I think the town was too far east for their migration and the only black faces were those of the miners when they emerged from their coal dust laden tombs at the end of their shift.
The schools were run by dedicated teachers and the title of administrator had not yet emerged. We had an overall superintendent and a principal for each school. Offenders of any breach of discipline were brought to task. We hadn't gotten to the stage of hands-off discipline back then. The severity of the breach of discipline dictated the punishment, so your behind might be a little sore thereafter. If news of your bad conduct beat you home, you would be put to task once again.
The law for the town was the mayor, a policeman or two and they were backed up by constables for each ward. The overall boss was the county sheriff, but he was usually too busy politicking to get involved. In those days the policeman had a free hand and excuses such as a hard or bad bringing up hadn't been invented yet. The policeman knew their towns and they knew their people, so anybody suspicious would be questioned and possibly frisked. That procedure kept individual crimes down, guns at home, and as a result many homes left their doors unlocked day and night.
The lawmen were backed up by a Justice of the Peace in each ward. They administered the law, if minor, or advanced the case to the county court if required. They were not paid, but they did get money for the legal papers they processed. Many of the JP's sold home insurance, performed marriages, worked income tax papers, or drew up wills and other legal documents to make a living. My grandfather Daniel C West was one of the JP's and before he passed on, he handed me his worldly possession and that was his pocket watch. You see, he was an honest politician who served the people.
The town had plenty of entertainment; there were over 25 neighborhood bars, two movie houses, several pool rooms, veterans and fraternal clubs, and several undertaker parlors. The area high school football and basketball teams kept the valley rivalry at a peak. The radio was in its infancy, so there was just one or two AM stations you could get with an outside antenna. FM and TV were yet to be. Newspapers were available at a downtown newsstand or you could have a Philadelphia newspaper delivered to your home on a daily basis. In the evening the local newspaper was delivered to your home. The mailman delivered mail to your home twice a day, six days a week.
Automobiles were just replacing the horses, so very few people owned cars. However, you could get a ride through the Hauto tunnel to make connections with the railroad north to Buffalo or South to New York City. Travel through the valley was by trolley car. In time the trolley cars would disappear when they were replaced by busses.
There was a state hospital nearby to handle mine accidents and it also provided for the local populace. There were no transplants taking place back then, but appendicitis, hysterectomies, and tonsils were the money makers.. The town had a good supply of doctors and they went to your home if you couldn't get to their office. They even provided the medicine at no extra charge. If it was an unusual medicine or you wanted a patented medicine the local druggist would take care of your needs, even dish out an ice cream cone or a CMP Sundae.
The town had a well-equipped volunteer fire company to serve the town's needs. Every home had a coal fired kitchen stove and some had parlor stoves going all the time, so there was always the possibility of fire. Only a few houses had central heat back then. Located throughout the town were red fire alarm boxes on light and telephone poles. These boxes were numbered as to their location, so when the alarm was initiated it would cause a huge horn, located in the coal company shop area to sound that number. The volunteer fireman would leave their jobs to go to the fire station to get their equipment and then head to the fire. The firemen were backed up by a system of fire hydrants located throughout the town and this would provide them with water as needed.
The town was kept clean, well, as good as could be expected for a coal town. The people had pride, they didn't litter and they would sweep the sidewalk in front of their homes as well as the parking area at the curb. The church spires of the town told a religious story. There were Protestant and Catholic churches with their many denominations. People filled the pews on Sundays and most had several services that day. They were a God fearing people. Those who had left distance lands for a new life had found it and they weren't about to let go. They struggled to give their children the opportunity they never had. Years later they were rewarded when their children reached ahead and became the scientists, engineers, educators, doctors and respected members of their adopted country.
I'm proud of my town. In the last decades the town has lost a lot; Coal is no longer king, most of the stores are gone, the population is less than half, the pioneers of that period have answered their roll call, the families are scattered, welfare has become a way of life, values have crumbled, and the Great Depression that was the trial by fire for so many has been forgotten. However, there are still some who sweep the side walks clean and the parking area to the curb. Remember, "Poverty has made many more good men than it has destroyed."
TRAVEL BACK IN TIME
There are times when we mentally travel back in time. Sometimes to the days of our youth, which includes the time at summer camp, our times at the shore, times on a farm, the place we lived long ago, or those Saturday and Sunday drives with our Mom and Dad. Other times we look back at times of challenge, such as our formal or military schooling, and last but not least, those times of real challenge such as war and the things associated with it.
A look back at my early days makes me think about the house I was born and grew up in. The stone-fitted or brick covered streets in town. The trains and trolley cars by which we could start our journey to the next town or reach the other coast. The people who guided us into maturity by their caring and direction and that included my scoutmaster and the neighbors in the block. Those buildings that were part of the town structure and that included our schools, the post office, police station, firehouse and the borough hall. And of course the industry, which was the only reason the town grew where it did. As a result of that birth, the churches, schools and the many businesses slowly came into being to supply our needs.
So if you want to travel back in time, let your memory wander. It will filter out the bad times and you will be left with the good memories of yesterday. You can hasten the pace into the past if you relax while listening to a song from that period. It will tie all the loose ends together and transport you back there once again. You will conjure up visions of that childhood sweetheart and the pleasant memories associated with youth. Bon voyage
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