Saturday, April 20, 2013

Shamokin: The Walk to School

My grade school years, Grades 1 to 6, were spent in Shamokin, PA.  I lived in a semi-detached house in the last block of West Walnut Street.  This last block joined a vacant lot, the dump beyond (which was full of treasures), the woods where we picked violets, teaberries and birch bark. There was a crossroad leading up to the mines owned by The Cameron Coal Company.

In the other direction. there were 16 blocks of West Walnut Street which ended downtown.  Twice every day I walked five of these blocks back and forth to school.

I went mostly alone as the other children in my neighborhood were either older, younger or went to parochial school.  In any case, my walk was never dull.

First, I would go past Knovichh's corner store, watching both ways on Woodlawn Avenue for coal trucks or other traffic.  As often as not, there was a group of WPA workers repairing potholes.  Adults referred to them jokingly as "We Poke Along."

I walked the next block quickly in order to pass the Delaney's house.  There were quite a few Delaney boys who could make things miserable for the casual passerby if they chose.  Peggy Delaney - my age -  was the exception; but she went to St. Joseph's.

Two blocks further was a complete line of row houses, one front porch after another with two steps to the sidewalk.

In one of these lived my friend, Isabel Hoffman, who had me to supper on sauerkraut night.  My father could not abide sauerkraut. Near Isabel lived Gloria Picarelli and 17 brothers and sisters.  We all wondered where everyone slept.  Near the Picarellis lived Joseph Poniotowski, a big shy boy who surprised us by singing "When They Cut Down the Old Pine Tree" very nicely in front of the first grade class.

Across the street was Phyllis Scholtz with her brother and two sisters whose father worked in the silk mill and they had a piano, joy of joys.

The last block before turning down Arch Street and arriving at school was special:  a woman lived there who sold homemade taffy lollipops.  They were big, chewy and utterly delicious.  One could get three different toppings, coconut, peanuts or red hots.  They only cost two cents.  I used to have to cover them with tablet paper during school hours.  This was a nuisance but could be borne.

If I missed the lollipop lady, there was always the candy store, conveniently situated across from the school.  Sometimes I had up to 4 pennies to spend after lunch and I would gorge on greenleaves, Mary Janes, blony bubble gum with war cards, pumpkin seeds or Guess Whats complete with riddle and prize.

Thoughts of those walks to school are always filled with "sweet" memories.


  1. Love the story, but the school would be the McKinley, not the Grant. That was on Shamokin St.

    1. You're right Donna! If I had paid attention to the previous story ("Shamokin: 1728 W. Walnut")I would have learned that. Too bad, this is such a nice post card.