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Emmitsburg of My Youth

Ed Houck

When I look back at my life in Emmitsburg where I lived and grew up in the 1930's, 40's and into the 1950's and early 60's, I have only fond memories. It was a town that could have been the model for Norman Rockwell's paintings. It was a strong religious community with 5 major churches within a few blocks and the people attended services on a regular basis. They attended the church suppers, church picnics or any event at each others faith.

The town, with it's main street providing what ever was needed for the community from the ice plant with it's window card for the amount needed, to the Milk Man that delivered each and every day, just put a note in the bottle. We had real Butcher Shops - you could see them butcher if you dropped back in the alley. A large Shoe Repair shop to the Ohler Watch Repair that would even fix a broken cap pistol for a child. We had a weekly newspaper "The Emmitsburg Chronicle" that carried the merchants sale news, national news, and a lot of town happenings. We also had what many town's lacked, farm fields that were just a block off of this main dray. Children had their own petting zoo.

During the depression, with money in short supply, merchants would carry those in need until the better times came. We were considered a farming community but we also had 3 or 4 small factories that produced clothing, shoes and the like. It was a quiet community with the schools providing much of the entertainment with their plays, musicals, and even an occasional minstrel put on by talented local people. We had a band called the Emmit Coronet Band that marched in all parades and provided a concert at times. When any national holiday would come around, the Parade Committee would form and the first volunteers to take part were the members of the Vigilant Hose Co., The American Legion and VFW.

Emmitsburg was blessed with one of the finest Baseball fields in Western Maryland. This served the community and was called the Fireman's Field and had facilities for a local carnival and bingo in the spring & summer.

Emmitsburg fielded a very fine Baseball Club and the attendance on Saturday or Sunday could run into the hundreds. The rivalry with Thurmont and other nearby towns in their league could get quite heated.

Saturdays were the busy times for the town with the farmers coming in to sell their produce, do their banking, shopping and socializing. They stayed throughout the day and into the evening. Merchants would stay open to accommodate them. The factories were closed and the entire town was busy. The local Theater, shops and clubs as well as the churches enjoyed the activities of a full weekend.

Boy Scouting and Girl Scouting would be active through the year with hikes, campouts, and other activities and nearly always in uniform. There were swim holes in all four directions with Kumps Dam, St. Joseph's boat pond, the willows, Hartmans bridge and Marsh Creek. In the winter these turned into ice rinks for skating and a game of hockey. Sledding could be anywhere' St. Euphemias hill to flat run or Bunker Hill and Bollingers Hill to name a few.

During W.W.II you could walk up and down the streets and look at the small flags hanging in the window with one star meaning one son or daughter was proudly serving in the armed service. Some had two or three for the service persons from that family, and then the Gold Star, a sign that this house had someone killed in action.

During the war, everyone from the town took part. Young people collected old tires and old scrap metal, milk weed pods for life preservers. Some older but too young for the service joined the Air Plane Spotters and took their shift on top of what is now the VFW Building. Every family with a yard had a victory garden. Many women learned first aid and served as hostess's entertaining the boys from local units at Ft. Ritchey, and the Navy unit training at Mt. St. Mary's. The factories were at full pace and the farmers had their jobs feeding the nation.

When the war ended and those in the military came home, many had to look for jobs in other locations. Like many communities, the dream of having all the veterans be able to stay at home and raise their families was just a dream. Times in the late 40's and 50,s were good for the young that were still in school but once graduated, they had to look elsewhere. The town was getting to be a nice place to grow up in, and a nice place to retire. In the 1960,s and into the future the town leadership had to plan for the town to grow and prosper. It is doing just that, one step at a time, and will face the future with optimism.

As I said in the beginning, Emmitsburg could have been one of the communities that were pictured in Norman Rockwell. Think of one of his paintings and then think back to those years he pictured about ... I see many of our citizens that fit in with his concept of a patriotic and religious America. Thanks Emmitsburg for the many memories.

Have your own memories of Emmitsburg? 
 If so, send them to us at history@emmitsburg.net

Read other stories by Ed Houck

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