One of the best things about growing up in a small and rural town in the 1950's is the lack of influences from the "city". And we're not talking Pittsburgh. We're talking Uniontown.
Let me give it to you straight. Most of the families in Smock never had television. Oh, we all had radios since the Eleventh Commandment was "Thou shalt listen to the Johnnie Simms Polka Party on Sunday afternoon from Latrobe". It was pretty cool to walk up and down the street and hear one radio fade away and another get louder, all being tuned to the same AM frequency. I think I learned the first four lines of Ja Parobec Z'Kapusan thanks to Johnnie Simms.
So how did we entertain ourselves and each other? Since we were boys, we played male exclusive baseball, softball and football. However, we also played hide and seek, catchers, and a middle European form of hide and seek called Lie Low Sheepy. Girls could join us on these.
Cut The Pie was a winter sport. It really was catchers played in the snow. The first kid out in the field behind our house (which was always cut with the lawn) would make a big circle in the snow. Then there would be two diameters; one going North and South and the other East and West. What you then had looked like a snowy representation of a big Bayer aspirin. Then catchers was played. The game was to strictly adhere to the established pathways in the snow. If you strayed from the pathway, you "cut the pie" and then you became "it". Easy.
Because of the lack of television, radio, and other things electronic, we actually read books and used our imaginations. I remember a big mound of finely crushed coal near my back yard that doubled nicely as a pirate ship, a drainage ditch that became a battlefield, and a specific apple tree that became a rocket ship. My secret can finally be let out that I fought more battles, sailed more seas, and navigated galaxies in those mental vehicles that I created.
Thanks to Father Fabian Oris, Pastor and Chief Disciplinarian at St. Hedwig's Church, I saw my first color TV, first wall-to-wall carpet, and first actual Frigidaire automobile air conditioner. But since Father Oris was a priest, he was exempt from being looked at in those days as "uppity".
If you talk to one of the old gang from Smock today, you'll find out something that some might call odd. The casual observer might detect the personality of a dreamer or a person who likes to do things their own particular way. These individuals truly are what they are. Some of us became writers or computer wizards or pilots. What qualified them for these important occupations was that in their youth, the machines and factories where they had their first exposure to these honorable occupations were no more than trees or a mound of dirt or a baseball diamond that sloped uphill with a pretty big ditch in left field.
My dear friend "Junie" (he was born in June) and I spoke about this recently. I said that I thought that we were fortunate that we did not have outside influences; influences from Uniontown or Pittsburgh.
"Bobby, we had lots of outside influences. We were outside all of the time when we weren't either in school or sleeping."
I stand corrected.