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 Remembering Friends & the Old Firemen's Carnival of Emmitsburg

Donna Wetzel-Needy Sterner

When I sit back and watch my 25 year old son play touch football with his buddies, it reminds me of recess during my days at Mother Seton Elementary. Being chubby I wasn't particularly athletic outside of the occasional game of kick ball. It was kinda hard to miss those big red rubber gym balls. I tried to steer away from dodge ball because I was too much of an easy target and those same red rubber gym ball stung like heck...especially on a nippy fall day!!!

Phyllis Ott, Kathy Hartdagen, Sue Siske, Carol Phelan...they were all much better at sports than I was. I was the typical last to get picked sort of a kind. But that doesn't mean I still didn't have fun. Although I must admit, I preferred a board game with my cousin Harry Welch on indoor recess days to the endless running and jumping during outdoor days. I can remember the games of hopscotch with Mary Morningstar or Sherry Topper. Funny how I can turn the pages of my mind and see all of them gathered about in little clumps around the asphalt recess area.

We always had plenty to do. Being from a multi-religious family, I was involved in the Mother Seton School Bazaar and then I'd put my artistic and crafting talents to work for the Elias Lutheran Church Christmas Bazaar. I'd make posters for both and help to distribute them at places like Boyle's Store, Carter's Drug Store, Reeves Electric and the like. No one ever turned me down. My friends and would have individual contest on selling Heath Candy as a fund raiser. It never really mattered who won the school prize. We all just had a friendly competition amongst ourselves.

I went to Brownies with Mary Morningstar, and Ann Williams and Patricia Marshall. Anna Bushman went to Elias Lutheran Church and she served as our den mother. I remember one year we made little sleighs for the older folks who got Christmas baskets. The sleigh consisted of a bar of Ivory Soap wrapped in aluminum foil, two construction paper runners and a rolled up wash cloth for the seat. The runners and the cloth were carefully secured with straight pins and they topped off the basket. We were all so proud of ourselves.

I never got to make use of the bowling alley. It burned before I was old enough. And there wasn't a movie theater in town during my childhood years. But you know something? I don't think I missed any of that. We were kids of a different age. We were involved in church and school activities. I learned to play guitar from an older lady who lived close to Janie Lowe down by Flat Run. I visited older folks who didn't get out much. I'd get on my bike and ride out to my adopted Aunt Margaret Motter Wilkinson's house on the Old Frederick Road, fishing pole and worms in hand and go fishing with my adopted cousins, Denny McCusker and Mark Wilkinson.

Since my adopted mom, Mary Needy took care of her mother, I spent a lot of my free time at 219 East Main Street. My adopted grandmother was Mary Eyler Motter. She walked with the aid of two wooden crutches but she was pretty independent. She taught me how to make sourdough bread from scratch one fall. It was a lot of work but the effort was well rewarded when that bread came out of the oven and was slathered with sweet cream butter. YUMMM!

My grandmother lived next door to Barbara and Ernie Rosensteel. Right after our house burned, Barbara gave me a set of cap guns from the old Paladin TV show, complete with little business cards that said "Have Gun Will Travel." Claudia and Mike Rosensteel were older than me but they would let me join in there games. I remember on summer Mike Rosensteel and Steve Myers helped me build a little go cart out of scrap wood. They always treated me like one of the boys because I was such tomboy. I spent many afternoons at the Rosensteel's building forts in their living room out of big foam Lego type blocks or up in Claudia's bedroom, when I was older, listening to the latest 45's on her phonograph. On summer nights I'd get my dad to drive me to the little league games to watch my adopted cousin, Johnny Wantz play ball.

I think all of the kids looked forward to the Emmitsburg Firemen's Carnival every June. Sometimes I'd go by myself. Since it was held on the parking lot of H.O. Tours Shoe Factory, I could walk there and back without my parents worrying. I remember one year my dad drove Laurel Hewitt and I into town. My adopted mom went to school with  Hilda Hardman Hewitt, and Laurel and were friends just the same. I'd save my allowance for weeks for that one week in June every year. The Ferris wheel positively glowed and I was and still am afraid of heights. But it's lure would never be denied.

The summer of '67 we were living in a trailer down by Flat Run and someone had given us some metal chairs and a table for our new house that wasn't ready yet. Mom had stacked the chairs and I was a sleepwalker. After a night of riding the Ferris wheel, I sleepwalked to the back of the trailer and climbed into those intertwined chairs. Mom was awakened by me screaming that I was stuck on the top of the Ferris wheel!

I still remember the smells of the food served up by the firemen like Dick Sprankle and the Boyle Brothers. Oh, the French fries! Sometimes I'd have them with ketchup and then there were times when I just had to have salt and vinegar! I'd happily take my mountain of fries to the bingo tent and try my luck there. Gene Myers was one of my favorite number callers. He was so funny. Gene always had a smile and some good natured sarcasm for a person just to keep you on your toes. I remember it was something like a nickel a card and the markers were real corn.

For weeks after the carnival, the empty parking lot was a feasting spot for birds of all kinds. There was the penny pitch. Guess it's be a dollar by today's inflation rates. I'd always brink home a glass or two and some ashtrays for Mom. But Bingo gave me a chance to rest my feet and eat my fries. One year I gathered enough bingo tokens for a flashlight and this wonderful blue glass bottle with a glass bubble stopper that I called my genie bottle. I don't know whatever happened to that bottle but, for years, it was proudly displayed in the bay window of our house on the Waynesboro Pike amongst Mom's ivy, mother-in-law tongue and coleas. The trinkets may be long gone now, but those memories will stay with me forever.

Read other personal memories of life in Emmitsburg

Read Other articles by Donna Wetzel-Needy Sterner

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