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.
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?