Saturday, September 4, 2010

A Fond Farewell and update

So it's been a good run, this little blog. And since my last "spasm", I must tell you that I think that I've told you pretty much all that there is to say about my little town of Smock, Pennsylvania.

But instead of saying goodbye and slamming the door, I'll tell you a few more things before I go.

Just this week, a friend and neighbor, Rich Constantine passed away from a personal invasion of cancer, the equal opportunity destroyer. I really never got to know Rich personally but every time I spoke to him, he always had time to speak back. That was a quality that Rich and so many others in Smock had. I'll miss him.

My old friend John Hovanic, whom I've spoken about so many times, is starting to, well..., fade. Age is catching up with him as it is with all of us. I don't even think that John dug a garden this year. And that's serious news. I'm glad his kids are well and able to look after him. And if you're traveling down Route 51 South and you've just passed the I-70 intersection, look to your right for Grille 51. That's Dorothy Hovanic's lovely restaurant. It has a bar made of poured concrete and there's something to be said for that. And Dorothy.

I couldn't say goodbye without mentioning my dear friend Marian Senker. She and I are the same age. Her Mom, Mary, is hanging in as best she can but she, like John (they are related) is fading a bit too. You may remember the news of a daughter stabbing her Mother in the heart about 2 years ago who lived in Smock. The victim was Marian's sister Theresa. Despite that, Marian goes to visit her niece every week at prison. There's a life lesson to learn there.

Two months ago, I was asked to speak at the Smock Reunion. I declined. I initially was asked how long of a talk I would give. I answered "maybe 10-15 minutes." I was then asked if I could make it 5 minutes. When asked why, I was told that no one will listen beyond 5 minutes because they will want to be talking and catching up on the news from their friends. When I said that I would probably hold their attention, I was told "I don't think you can". I then politely said "no thanks". Some might say "typical" and I would agree. The only time that the people of Smock allowed themselves to be lectured to was on Sunday mornings, and this was on a Saturday night.

So what's left? The church now only has Mass about 2 times a week. The old bathhouse from the Smock Colonial #1 mine still stands, and for many years, became the Franklin Rod & Gun Club. Granted, you could sight in that .243 or 30-ought-six hunting rifle, but you could also get a drink on Sunday, which was its main popularity. The ball diamond is still there, one of the only really "FLAT" ball diamonds in the area. The Colonial School is now the Volunteer Fire Department. And, if you look close, there are still remnants of some of the old outhouses and coal shantys.

But if you listen really hard, you can still hear....nothing. That blessed silence that is only punctuated by the occasional automobile, bird, or wind. And if you're like me and you've lived there once upon a time, you can hear Mr. Florek pop the clutch as he rounded the top of the street where I used to live. And you can hear Mrs. Dubos almost constantly calling for one or more of her 9 children, all living in HALF of a Smock company house. The Angelus still rings at noon and 6:00 PM but Kuba doesn't pull the rope on the single bell which has been replaced by a loudspeaker.

It is simply not the same, no matter how hard I close my eyes and try to resist the changes.

As Eleanor Vrabec once wrote in a high school essay, climbing the hill from Route 51 was like taking a trip to Heaven. All of the craziness would fade away and be replaced with the radio sounds of The Johnny Sims' Polka Party.

But that's all gone now. Smock has changed, but I fervently pray to Almighty God that I haven't.

So please, would the last person out please turn off the lights? We don't work for West Penn Power.