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Main Street, USA – Life was Simpler Back Then (Part I)

I grew up at 6510 Main Street in East Petersburg, Pa. As a kid I went to East Pete Elementary School, I spent my summers at East Pete pool, I went to church in East Pete and we shopped for groceries at Erb’s Store on the corner of State and Lemon streets in East Pete. The Erbs lived up the street and we attended church together – now widows, my mom and Mrs. Erb are still friends.

As a Main Street bank that has been serving local communities for generations, we have a lot of employees with similar fond memories of their hometowns, so we asked them to reminisce. Not surprisingly, they responded with tales of family, food (especially penny candy) and simple outdoor fun. After reading their stories, maybe you’d like to share one of your own?

Growing up in East Petersburg, we knew our neighbors, they knew us, and on Halloween my mom handed out Rice Krispie treats or caramel apples made from scratch. Why? Because she could – no questions asked.

My favorite “holiday” of the year? Fasnacht Day of course! Our neighbor Mrs. Quade would show up at 6 a.m. with those soft-on-the-inside, yet slightly-crispy-on-the-outside doughnuts still warm from the fryer. And we ate them the “right way” — we sliced them in half and dribbled a little molasses in the middle. In our house, fasnachts don’t have holes in the center and they aren’t rolled in granulated or powdered sugar!

As I look back at my “little hometown” (which isn’t so little any longer), what stands out is the fact that there was no glitz or glamour, but lots of great memories of a simpler time. The “family homestead” has long since been sold; my mom has moved on to another small town; Mrs. Quade, sadly, is no longer with us, and fasnacht day? Well it’s never been the same.

Since I have such strong memories of my own hometown, I was curious what I would hear when I asked other employees. They didn’t disappoint. I received so many responses that I’ll be sharing them in two blog posts, one today and one later this week.

“Although I grew up in the country, our town was Clear Spring, Md.  I saw my 2nd grade teacher, Miss Mary Steele, every day of the week.  Monday through Friday in school, on Saturday my aunt and I would walk to her home to buy eggs, and on Sunday she was my Sunday school teacher.  Our parents were never worried about us – even though it took us a long time.  It took so long because Miss Steele would always say we ‘had a nickel too much’ so we would stop at the grocery on the way home to buy some candy!” –  Brenda, Hagerstown, MD

“My favorite hometown memory was going with my dad to pick raspberries from bushes that grew beside the railroad tracks close to my home in Hagerstown, Md. I think I ate as many as I put in the bucket to bring home for mom to make a pie.” – Sue, Hagerstown, MD

“I grew up in Mohnton, Pa. Wyomissing Avenue was the ‘main drag,’ if you could call it that. Every Saturday my mom, my brother and I would walk up Wyomissing Avenue to the corner of Church Street to the town square. One corner was Snyder’s Store, a two-story, family-run business that would trust the regulars to run a tab. Upstairs was groceries; downstairs was sundries, including the candy counter, toys, tools, knick knacks and sewing notions downstairs.  On the other corners were a church, a knitting factory and a house

Saturday was grocery day and my brother and I would each get a dollar to spend. I remember my mom running a tab one summer when she was laid off of work.  We were only getting the essentials at the time, no extra treats for my brother and me. One visit Mrs. Snyder told my mom to bring us downstairs where she allowed each of us to pick our favorite candies from the case and she filled a small bag for us at no charge.  My favorite was the red Swedish fish and my brother’s favorite was sour balls.  The family store is long gone, and the knitting factory has been closed. Mohnton is still a nice little town.  I will always remember those Saturday morning walks to the store with mom and that day of getting a surprise treat.”- Bonnie, Lititz, PA

“My favorite hometown memory is my friends and I riding our bikes to Herr’s Dairy Ice Cream Store to get an ice cream cone and red or purple Swedish fish for only a penny each! We also enjoyed getting out of the summer heat into the air conditioning. Herr’s was located on Fairmount Avenue in Sunbury, Pa., and is now on Market Street.” – Renee, Ashland, PA

“My favorite childhood memory was going to a little family-owned store called Severs Store in Fairton, NJ. Mr. and Mrs. Severs lived on top of the store. We would go there and buy penny candy with our weekly allowance of 25 cents. We could ride our bikes all over town and we had to be home before the street lights came on. There were no dangers back then; everyone knew their neighbors and looked out for each other. The good old days!” –  MaryAnn, Vineland, NJ

Be sure to check back later this week for our second collection of employee hometown memories! In the meantime, let us know your own favorite memories of growing up in the Comments section below.

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