Growing Up in Emmitsburg In the 40's & 50's
Growing up in Emmitsburg in the 40s and early 50s has
very fond memories for me. There were three main things,
besides my family, that we did; church and school, and
going to the Harner's
At this time in my life the
Lutheran Church had a very active young people
group called the Luther League - we met Sunday night for
a Bible study - then we would play games etc. Other
projects were to help teach vacation Bible school for
two weeks in the summer. Kids from other churches joined
us and we had a very large attendance. Most of us
belonged to the choir which had rehearsals at least one
night a week - helped with the clothing drive for
Lutheran missions - go caroling either by foot or
hayride - up and down the street, - then return to
church for cookies and hot chocolate. Then of course
there were all ways special services attended thru out
Most all our activities were done in a group, like
sledding - ice-skating - swimming (at a creek) bowling -
roller skating parties at Rainbow Roller Rink in
Taneytown. Rarely did we just cruise around in cars and
drink. (I won't say it wasn't done but we didn't).
During our school year there were always plays - dances
- sock hops - sports (especially when we got to travel
to other schools by bus or just up the street to
Joe's). Before (and after) sixteen we rode bikes
everywhere or walked. A few kids at 16 got licenses to
drive but you could not get the family car very often.
To drive to school was a really big deal.
In Emmitsburg you knew everyone and if you walked
downtown (or up) after 5 PM everyone sat out on their
porch or on the street (in summer)- so 'til you visited
you were at least a 1/2 hour late. The friendship was
great when you think about it now, because now most
people are afraid to speak to you.
At a very early age (about nine) we were allowed to
go to the 'Gem'
movie theater (most of us called it the 'Germ')
for 15-25 cents. After the show (which by the way was
most always filled) we would go to 'Chick' Rosensteel's
across the street (later Harner's Bowling
Alley) for a
large scoop of chocolate ice-cream with marshmallow for
10 cents - Chick had the cutest small Ice-cream table
and chair set you ever saw and you really had to rush to
get to sit at it. Of course this would only happen on
I don't remember every saying I was bored like you
hear most children's today. Of course if there was any
spare time you would baby-sit for someone or some of us
had jobs after school.
During the summer months you would ride your bicycle
or walk to Hartmans's Bridge (on the mountain road) to
swim and cool off. Some of the spots we swain in were
'Snake Hole' 'Red Rock' 'The Bridge' or 'Bent Tree'.
After a fun time you had to walk or bicycle back to town
and be just as hot as you were when you left. There was
one thing during 'Dog Days' which was in Aug. you were
not allowed to swim in the creek.
When you became 9-10 years old (and up) you could go
cherry picking in Orrtanna. The bus or truck would pick
you up on the square at 5 AM and brought you back about
4-5 PM unless it would rain very hard. Hard work but
also had a lot of fun picking like crazy 'til noon then
goof off, for most of us this was the money to purchase
our school needs for Sept. Tit was dirty work, but also
In my neighborhood the children would get together in
the evening (after chores were done) and play games. We
had a great big yard and we played hide n seek- statues
- skate - or just go for a walk and after dark we would
make up ghost stories. Of course these fun things were
only done after your jobs were done like weeding the
garden, carrying wood for the stove, dishes, maybe help
with supper, ironing or just sweeping the sidewalk -
then of course after the garden matures there was
canning. My parents both worked so there was a lot to
do. We also raised rabbits and chickens at one time.
Speaking of rabbits, before we started to raise our own,
every Saturday afternoon we got to Mr.
Zacharias farm to buy rabbits for Sunday
Also the town had a very good baseball team. They
played in the field were the town park is now. In 1947
the team were champs - but they had good teams for
years. At least once during the summer the carnival came
to town - what fun rides - cotton candy - games and what
was more fun was when you got old enough to go without
By the time September rolled around you were ready to
go back to school and see all the friends you did not
see all summer. Being in a small school you had a lot of
opportunity to do things that you would not have even
thought about in a larger school like FAA (Future
Farmers of America), FTA (Future Teachers of America),
glee club student council, newspaper staff, basketball,
track & field games, volley ball and softball team.
In my 9h grade of school a classmate Frank Stinson
passed away This was a terrible thing for our whole class - being a very
small class we were close.
In the wintertime we had real snow, that would last
for months. I remember one winter there was a white
fence across from our house with a deep ditch, we could
across the top of the fence on our way to Frailey's pond
to ice skate. The older kids would build a fire and
roast marshmallows and sometimes hot dogs at nite - this
really pretty and warm too. While skating you would play
whip or hockey. We would stay for hours, getting so cold
we could hardly walk home. But the one thing we always
did on the way home, was to look in the cellar windows
of 'The Haunted House' (of course it was not haunted, so
they said) but we knew different, Ha. Then it was called
the Fraley House.
Broad Alley was the greatest place to sled. They
would shut the street down to
traffic and you could sled for hours and go clean down
to Flat Run or Whitmann Wharf.
Do you remember 'sacks on the mill' That was when
more than three would lay on top of
each other and then try to sled down the hill, usually
you did not go far and roll of and just lay there and
laugh, then try again. After a few hours of sledding we
would go to CA's (Harners Bowling Alley) for hot tea or
chocolate. Once in a while we would go to
Bollinger's hill (behind the Lutheran Cemetery) but that
was a very long walk.
As a young girl I would love to watch the snow thru
the glow of the street light - when everything was still
except for the crunch of your shoes in the snow. Then
was the making of snow angels - building tunnels,
building forts, or just snow balling.
All the while you were praying for no school the next
day - which did not happen often, only when the county
buses couldn't get through. Even with a lot of snow you
school, rarely did your parents take you.
Two weeks off at Christmas and New Years seemed like
forever; but it was also fun not going to school.
One of the thing that happened on the Saturday before
Christmas, courtesy of the Firemen, was when all the
children of the area gathered at the 'Gem' for a free
movie or two (mostly cartoons or a cowboy) After the
movie we would run not walk to the fire hall for free
hot dogs and hot chocolate. When our bellies were full
and we were warm we would gather at the square in front
of Mondorff's Hotel were a farm wagon (well decorated)
held Santa. A line was formed going up the steps taking
turns to sit on Santa's lap and get a free orange and a
box or net stocking filled with candy. What a Grand Day
was has by all! What a wonderful addition to the
Christmas Eve in the churches would be beautiful with
their candle light services. They don't do much of that
any more. Everyone received a candle and while singing
Silent Night at the end of the services they were
lighted one from the other. What a sight! Some of us
always tried to make it to St. Joseph's for midnight
mass, but most of the time could not get in.
We had Girl Scout meetings all year round with a lot
of activities. For a while we met on the 2nd floor of
T. Hays Gas store on W Main St. We met at Mrs.
Hay's house also at one time above the VFW.
In the spring at school we had field and track meets
with other schools - great fun. We would be bussed to
Frederick for the all day event. Our school always did
very well. Mrs.
Hoke was our teacher. Also there would be days
for softball, soccer and volleyball.
In May 1-6 grades would go to Frederick for May Day -
you had to learn "The Shoemaker Dance" and the
'Minuette' Boys hated it but did it anyway. Also they
did May Pole where you would hold a streamer and cross
one and under each other 'til the pole was wrapped. In
1953 1 was fortunate enough to be a part of May Queen
Court of Darlen Brewer. We just revised it after a long
In 1944-45 Civil Defense wanted a group of young
people to volunteer to stand watch atop the VFW building
on the square. They were to watch for planes - if any
were spotted you were to ring a siren. I don't believe
we ever spotted any. There were usually 3-4 of us and
what fun while doing something for our town (and you
could stay out 'til midnight sometimes).
We would have black outs, either you had heavy drapes
or you turned off your lights until the siren blew
again. Then there was the ration stamps for sugar - gas
- butter not sure what else - some weeks got a little
tight and may be some of the neighbors would trade. We
lived beside a family that had 3 sons in the war, all
were pilots I think, of some kind, I just remember one
was a P-81. I loved to hear their mother talk about
My uncle was in the war also but other than the
stories from the news I can't say that it meant a whole
lot to me. In school we made Red Cross boxes to send
over seas to children. Emmitsburg had a lot of men and
women in the service at that time - Mr. Harner had his
store windows on the Square (where the Ott
House is now) filled with their pictures. Each
Friday, at school, the kids could buy saving stamps for
10 cents each for the war effort.
They built the government tunnel up off the Sunshine
Trail after the WW II. We called it 'Harry's Hole. It
was to be a little Pentagon and still is I think. The
soldiers use to go back and forth in the trucks and we
would stand out on the street and wave to them.
store was neat as someone else wrote about - we
were one family that charged there all week and Dad paid
on Saturday - but the Christmas floor was just the
greatest - spent many an hour there just wishing and
There were many other little things we did in a small
friendly town but am sure you tired of reading by now -
but before I stop I want to mention the Minstrel Show -
man were they great and fun and lots of work. I don't
think anyone was ever turned down to be in it or help
with something for instance - stage changes - customer -
travel advertising etc. Helen Daugherty was manager
behind this project. The first one was held at Elias
Church but became so big we had to move to E. H. S. It
was truly a community project. We were even invited to
Taneytown Lion Club and Martinsburg Va. Vets Hospital to
Also there was a kindergarten held under the Mondorff
Hotel. It was free and Mrs. Rowe taught us. She really
was great she took us on tours in and around town;
showed us how to take a mason jar and put paint on it
for vase - also to take hollyhocks flowers and made
dolls - this was about 193840.
These are a few of my memories growing up in a small,
sleepy town that I loved and still do.
Have your own memories of growing
up in Emmitsburg?
If so, send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Other Historical Articles by Shirley Troxel Rohrbaugh
other Personal Memories of Growing Up in Emmitsburg