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Growing Up

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Our Home in Somerset County PA

This is the home where I was raised from about age two until I enlisted in the Air Force at age of 18.

I grew up in rural Pennsylvania, in the mountains just to the east of Pittsburgh. It was a small town named Somerset and was really a great place for a kid to grow up. My early child hood years were typical of the 1950s and 1960s, much like you saw on the movie "A Christmas Story", or the TV shows "Leave it to Beaver" or "The Wonder Years". I had loving parents, three sisters and a brother.

Mom and Dad (photo taken in mid 70s)

My Mom and Dad

As I was growing up, my larger than life hero was my Dad. He worked for the DeVilbiss Company there in Somerset, and I never really wondered until later in life how he ever managed to provide for five children. I can honestly say that although I sometimes didn't always get what I wanted, I don't ever remember not getting what I needed. As a youngster I can remember always following my Dad around and helping him with whatever a little boy could do. Naturally as I grew into my teenage years I got much smarter than my Dad and we eventually grew apart a little. Oddly enough though as I got into my 20s and 30s he began to get smarter again.

My first  birthday

Being held by my mother on my first birthday

The first love of my life obviously was my mother. I don't think there are words that can describe the love between a little boy and his mother. She was a stay at home mom, typical of the era, and was always there for us. When I was two years old, we moved about a mile out of town, and had acres and acres of an oak forest as our playground. With five kids at home, how she ever managed to do all of the housework, laundry, cooking and whatever else came along, and still count five kids at the end of the day is truly a miracle. She obviously had the toughest job in the family.

My sister Pat was the oldest of the five kids, and I'm sure was a big help to my mother trying to keep the rest of us in line. She graduated from high school in 1960 and went off to nurses training when I was just eight years old so I don't remember a whole lot of her being in the home, but the memories I do have are great ones. Looking at old photographs really brings back the good times I had as a youngster when all five of us were at home. I didn't realize it at the time of course, but it was probably much like The Walton's.

Mike, Pat, Sue, and me (the little one)

Mike, Pat, Sue, and Me (the little one)

Mike, my brother was about six years older than I was. Just like with Pat and I, with that many years between us, we never really grew too close. Being a guy though he put up with his little brother as good as I should've expected. I do have some great memories of us spending time together though; building a tree house in the woods, trapping rabbits, trout fishing with he and my dad, and all the other things that go along with being boys. He left for the Air Force when I was just 12 years old.

Sue and I busy being kids

Sue and I busy just being kids

My sister Sue and I were born just 17 months apart. We were two years apart in school and had much more in common than with Pat or Mike. As I remember we got along pretty good, but not to say we didn't have the typical disagreements expected of teenagers when we were growing up. As the only guy besides my dad in the house, after Mike left for the Air Force, it was my job to aggravate and get on Sue's nerves as best I could. I'm sure if you ask her today, I was successful from time to time. I'll never forget how Sue always looked out for me when playing with the other kids in the neighborhood. She may have been a girl, but the older guys in the neiborhood realized she was a strong willed girl who wouldn't let anyone take advantage of her little brother.

Pat, Mike, Dad, Sue, Ruth and I

Rear: Pat, Mike, Dad and Sue
Front: Ruth and Me

The only one younger than me in the house was my sister Ruth. She was two years behind me in school, and since we went to the same schools together we had quite a bit in common. We hated the same teachers, and going to parochial school hated the discipline handed out by the nuns. Some of the best memories I have of being a kid living at home were the times Ruth, Sue and I would have playing in the woods and sled riding on the hill behind the house. We were really durable in those days too, and would stay out forever if we could.

Grandma B's 90th Birthday

Grandma B on her 90th Birthday

Although both my grandfathers died when I was real small, I was fortunate to have my Grandma B who lived near us. She would take us along with her fishing for bluegills, and perform all of the other grandma duties. Since she lived in town, her house was a convenient stopping point for us when school let out. During the summer months, when we were in town to play with our friends (many of which lived near her), her house was always a great place to stop for a snack. Later when we reached our teens, She'd allow us to spend the night at her place after a school function rather than have my mom or dad drive into town to get us. This always worked to our advantage, because she went to bed early and we could stay out later and sneak in without waking her.

Grandma Ellis holding me (front left)

The two grandmas with the kids

My other Grandmother, Grandma Ellis, lived in Detroit, and later lived with my Uncle Jack who moved around to wherever the Air Force would send him. I only got to see her perhaps once every year or two when she would come to stay with us for a few weeks. Since we saw her so seldom, her job was to spoil us the best she could in the short amount of time she could spend with us. She always did a good job at it too. She always had goodies in her suitcase for us when she came to visit.

I feel truly blessed to have been born and raised in such a loving family. Although we've scattered and multiplied over the years, we all still keep in touch as much as can be expected. We all have our own families now, and I'm sure have tried to pass on to our children the same values that our mom and dad taught us. It's always such a pleasure to get together with Pat, Mike, Sue and Ruth, and to talk about the good old days growing up in Somerset. It's a shame that so many miles separate us now that it only happens every few years. When it does though, without fail one of us will always bring something up to rejuvenate some sleeping brain cells in the rest of us.

Looking back on my early years, I can only hope that my children have as many great memories of their childhood as I have. Although they grew up in a different place and a different time, childhood memories are those that you hope you never lose.

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