Up and Down Anchor Road: Secrets Revealed

Thumbnail: Home is on Anchor Road, connecting our house to Grandma’s house and neighbors in between. The story continues . . .

. . . . As we drive from Grandma’s past the Hoffers, I notice off to the right the weathered frame house of Mr. Heisey, who contentedly makes and fixes clocks. Then come our next-door neighbors, the Mummas, who have just opened the Clearview, a home-style diner on Route # 230, which parallels our road. Their old Lincoln Continental bobs in and out of their driveway early and late. Owning a restaurant is slavery in more ways than one, Mom says. Our mother likes Edna Mumma, who like Mom has a brood of kids to worry over.

Corset

Before the restaurant took over all of her time, Mom used to enjoy Edna’s Spencer parties (like Tupperware, but with metal stays and elastic, not plastic), specializing in heavy-duty corsets for well-fed Lancaster County bodies.

Sometimes Edna calls up my mom and asks her to help out on chicken “dressing” days. Together they kill the chickens, pluck their feathers and chop them up into separate pieces for cooking. I can hear one half of their conversation on the phone:

“Sure, I’d be glad to help . . . just say when.”

“No, I don’t want anything for it. Remember, you gave us 4 or 5 pullets the last time I helped. . . . “

“You daresn’t look on turns like that. . . .”

“Okay. I’ll be over as soon as I’m done making applesauce.” Working together, they often dress thirty or forty chickens at one time.

Lancaster County farm women are always busy. Why, the day before my sister Janice was born Mom was dressing chickens. Before Jean was born, she was canning peaches, and before I was born at home, she was hoeing tobacco.

A mixture of gravel and grass connects our house to the Mummas, only a 1/2 mile from Grandma’s. Out in front of our white frame and green-shuttered house, there are two leafy maple trees and a forsythia bush, which puts out spiky, yellow blooms in April. Until we get too heavy, my sisters and I can climb all over the red Japanese maple beside the house. Our porch, flanked by four evenly spaced posts, sports two painted metal chairs in the summertime and a swing from where we can count cars on a Saturday afternoon or hope for Uncles Landis, Leroy, Clyde, Abe or Aunt Verna and our cousins to visit on Sundays after church.

The Rentzels live next door and on the corner the Gromolls, whose clothing is two degrees plainer than ours. I believe they’re black bumpers, an ultra-conservative branch of Mennonites, who paint their bumpers black to avoid showing off shiny chrome. A small street separates their house from Wolgemuth’s Tavern, where we surmise Betty Rentzel finds some of her clients, lured by the glowing red porch light. Daddy calls the tavern a beer joint. Every so often he has to rescue a drunken driver from the wreckage of a car that doesn’t steer well enough to stay on the road in front of our house. One Saturday night it was Charlie Oberholtzer, who still can’t look Dad in the eye.

Rounding off our neighborhood is a huge, grey farmhouse, sheltering two families: cheery, loud-spoken Eva Gebhardt and the Hilsher family with a gang of boys who feed the pigs, cows, and chickens on the farm and help their dad plant corn in the acreage across the road from our house.

Strange neighbors are not unusual. What interesting neighbors do you recall from your childhood?

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10 thoughts on “Up and Down Anchor Road: Secrets Revealed

  1. Can’t get that red light on Anchor Road out of my head. I see a string of sailors, but wait, I’m in the wrong place.

    Ooh, you say a lot about two men when you describe Charlie’s inability to look your dad in the eye.

    You have a gift for capturing personality and action with few words.

    As for our neighbors?

    Near Manheim, we had the Clarks, Weidmans, Georges, and Martins. Two were farmers like us and two lived at the crossroads with Fruitville Pike. Mr. Clark made it into my memoir.

    Two were plain and two were not. I got to watch Lucy stomp grapes on TV in this famous episode at the Weidmans: http://www.tv.com/shows/i-love-lucy/lucys-italian-movie-17248/

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    1. I’m assuming you went to the Weidmans to watch TV as I did, viewing “Howdy Dowdy Shows” at the Rentzels sort of on the sly. I’m amazed that you remember that particular I Love Lucy episode. In a few months, I guess, I’ll get to meet Mr. Clark. Yeah!

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  2. This post brought back memories. My grandmother started a business by dressing about 6 chickens and frying them up on Saturdays and delivering them to sick and shut ins whose names appeared on the prayer list at Church. She would always go gaga over their potted plants and shrubs and they would give her cuttings, which we kids would have to come home and set to root. She started a horticulture greenhouse business that has lasted through four generations now. The entrepreneurs these women were! Thanks for the idea, I should really do a post on that myself. I think I will 🙂 Thank you for sharing.

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  3. We had an eccentric cat lady who had over 40 felines. We think she was eating cat food because there wasn’t enough from her SS to buy both human and cat food. My mother had to step in to get her some help.

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  4. My neighbour, Mr. Reid, used to sneak over in the evenings after I went to bed to oil my swing. I spent hours on that swing, singing at the top of my lungs. No on complained. He used to have a dog named Tom who howled every Sunday when the church bells rang, and every time an ambulance zipped path. I loved waking up to church bells and old Tom howling!

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  5. My childhood was sprinkled with a gallimaufry of neighbors from various neighborhoods we lived in. My older brother dated the daughter of our neighbors, the Motts. They were very precise people, and I can see them now dressed on a weekend day at home as if they were about to leave for a picnic or a party. My parents taught us to address our elders as “Mr.” and “Mrs.”, but the Motts were somewhat “new age” in that regard, and I can remember Mr. Mott talking with my dad about the fact that the “kids can just call me Charlie. I want to be their friend, not their ruler.” That will stick in my mind forever.

    On the other side lived the Alleys. Elmer was the head of the first TV station in Nashville and that made him special in all our eyes. Elmer and Sue were just ordinary people though. Mom and Sue borrowed from each other when they ran out of an ingredient and chatted over the back fence as they hung laundry. But my favorite Alley memory is captured in a photo of their son, Bill, and me sitting on our back steps. For some reason, we each have a hand covering our face as we look at each other. I wish I knew the story behind that image.

    Yet, the strongest friendships last the longest and my parents became friends with three couples on Gartland Street in Nashville. At the time my folks moved there, all four couples were expecting or had just had a new baby. I was just about three months old, and another baby, a boy, was just a month old. Two others came along in close succession. Our parents stayed friends all their lives, and our families engaged in many get-togethers even after some of us moved to other parts of Nashville. I currently still send Christmas cards to the last remaining of the women; the men have all been gone a long time. Occasionally, I’m in touch with some of my growing up friends from this group, but I will never forget the three families who became so close to ours as the fourth. Cherished people, cherished memories.

    I think I just wrote a book! Sorry!

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    1. No need to apologize for writing a book. Your word pictures evoke strong images. And thank you for adding a new word to my vocabulary: “gallimaufry.” I’ll try to use it soon–maybe on a revision of my neighborhood stories or anywhere else the idea of “jumble” is needed–ha!

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