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Summer in Emmitsburg in the Late 1930's

Ed Houck, Jr.

As the warm weather ushers in the summer of 2001, I think back to the days when I was young and growing up in Emmitsburg. Like every kid in a small town, you wanted to earn some money so that you could have a special summer to remember.

Kenny Keilholtz had the same idea and we got together to plan what could be done. Like many cartoons and comic strips we decided to pick the next week and set up a "Lemonade Stand". Well, we had to start from scratch and this meant picking a location, getting set up, advertising and looking the part.

We talked with Mr. & Mrs. Keilholtz and they said they would provide the makings for the Lemonade. Then we went to my dad and he provided matching striped polo shirts and Navy caps, a table and chairs from our store, and the materials needed to make our own signs. The location we picked was in front of the Palm Lunch Restaurant, owned by Kenny's dad, and located just west of the Square. So with the planning done, all we had to do was pick the time.

Saturdays in Emmitsburg in the 1930's were busy as all the workers were off from the factories and the farmers of the area came to town to do their business and shopping. So for the next few weekends in July, we were business men that you could find hawking our Lemonade on Saturday afternoons for about 4 hours and raking in the money at 10 cents a glass. We each made about 15 dollars that summer and had an experience we would never forget.

The Keilholtz Restaurant, The Palm Lunch, was a treasure for a young person in this time. They had a pond in the back yard with a number of large goldfish or I think, Koi that they kept for the enjoyment of the young people. Then there was the time they would have their special large turtle that you could sit a chair on its back and ride a few steps - this happened just before they would have their special turtle soup put on the menu. About this time, they would have an old German Band come in and play for their sales of fruits and summer foods in their building behind the restaurant. It became a very looked for summer event.

The next summer, I think it was 1939 or 1940, I again wanted to make some money so I talked my dad into letting me clean our warehouse on No. Seton Ave. and in doing so found a lot of outdated shoes that had accumulated in the last 15 to 20 years. I got permission to get rid of them and so I put up tables in front of the store on the square and sold them at 25 cents a pair and 5 pairs for $1.00. This sale only lasted for a few hours as the word got out on this Saturday Afternoon and over 200 pair were sold to the public. Many people just grabbed any size close to what they needed and walked off buying an arm full. 

In the following years and into the 1950's, I had people that came in and asked when the next sale on shoes would be for the 5 for a dollar special. Many women stated that they still had some of the shoes. Summers were very special in Emmitsburg.

As I got a little older, I wanted to do something special and each summer I signed up to pick cherrys in Ortanna. You got up early, rode in the bus or truck to the orchard and put in a full day of picking & eating, picking & eating and by the time you got home you were gray from the spray they used on the trees, and after a bath, your bed seemed like a welcome relief. 

The cherry picking season was short so you tried to last and make it every day. It was paying about 19 cents a bucket and you were lucky to make 2.00 a day, even if you didn't fool around. The second year I became a ladder mover and this job was more to my liking. I was able to get a set fee for a days work but still got just as dirty. I also had some short summer jobs along the same lines like picking apples and de-fuzzing peaches in Fairfield for a few days.

One great summer activity I enjoyed was going with Bob Gilland when he had to exercise horses for his dad on the farm just west of town. Mr. Gilland bought and sold horses and livestock and it was his son's job to exercise them and at times he would take me along and we would saddle up two of the horses and we would head for a ride in the mountain. He was the horseman and I was thrown a few times as I tried to keep with him.

Once Bob had a small burro and we went to ride it. The burro did not want to move so we would push & pull to no avail. Then with Bob riding bareback and waiting I gave him a gentle bump on the rear and the burro took off running and their was no stopping him until he circled the field he was in. I never got my chance to ride the burro.

Again, I must say that Emmitsburg was one terrific place to grow up in the summer. No pools but Marsh Creek to the north was just a bicycle ride away and the Kumps Dam to the east. Toms Creek was to the south with the college boat pond. Then there was the willows that was down through Stansbury's field and an easy walk on a hot day. Out to the west was Hartmans Bridge and three or four deep enough holes to swim and dive into. If you wanted a cold dip, go up to Friends Creek and along the mountain streams. Everyone enjoyed each area in their own way.

When I tell my children of how it was in Emmitsburg in the 1930's and early 1940's they think it sounds like a page out of Norman Rockwell or an early Disney film. Yes, this was the Emmitsburg I remember in the summer.

Read other stories by Ed Houck

Read Cheryl Ashbaugh-White's: Summers in Emmitsburg  

Do you have your own memories of Emmitsburg in the Summertime?
If so, send them to us at history@Emmitsburg.net

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