Aug 27, 2010

Reading, Pennsylvania

My children have easily connected to my past because we live right next to it. I grew up in Long Beach, California and my parents continue to reside in the house of my youth. My 2 brothers and they're families live close by.

My husband, Barry, is a transplant from Reading, Pennsylvania due to serving in the Marines. Once he landed in California, I like to say that he fell in love 3 times: first with California, next with God, and then happily with me.

Barry's hometown of Reading houses the famous Reading Railroad noted in Monopoly (see previous post.) His family is Pennsylvania Dutch, so he has a hearty heritage of good cooking as well as Dutch-ified speech. They don't bury people, they "burr-ry" them. They go "ot and abot," not out and about. And, in a town that was mostly Dutch-German, Polish, Italian, and Jewish, they built a giant pagoda on Mt. Penn. Go figure.

The Pagoda - Reading, PA.

Reading Company's Outer Station, Reading, PA
Circa 1910-1920 - Courtesy of Peachhead (Loretta Killian)

The website, Remembering Great American Department Stores, wrote the following: "Pomeroy's was a department store chain, originally based in Reading, PA. It also had flagship stores in Wilkes-Barre and Harrisburg, and was later operated in two divisions based in Harrisburg and Levittown, PA." Although Pomeroy's is a stranger to California, we did have an F. W. Woolworth Co. (right side of postcard) where I spent my girlhood allowance on Christmas gifts.

Postcard: Pomeroy's Department Store - Reading, PA.

Postcard: Penn Square looking east from 5th.
The Pagoda on Mt. Penn can also be seen.

In almost 26 years of marriage, I have been to Reading only once. It was for the wedding of Barry's brother, Kenny, and I would discover there that I was pregnant with our first child. Years later, I took a trip to D.C. for a large rally and I had time to slip into Gettysburg for a life-changing tour. Sadly, I have never been back to Pennsylvania.

We have lived a modest life and airfare has been a major challenge without racking up credit card bills. Barry, thankfully, has been able to fly back a few times for visits, which included the funerals of his parents.

Up until this week, not one of my children had stepped foot in Pennsylvania. Uncle Kenny changed that by arranging for our son, Bryce (almost 16) to fly back for a few days. Bryce had flown on a plane only once when he was 3 years old. This was his first solo flight — with layovers. What an adventure!

Uncle Kenny, who is quite a cook, is feeding my son all of the comforts of the Dutch-German lifestyle, including Kielbasa Stew for today's menu. Bryce has seen the old Cotton Street row home where his dad and uncle grew up; the swimming pool built into a hillside just behind their home; their schools; The Pagoda; The Neversink Woods where the boys played; the neighborhood where his grandparents lived and met...

As for Barry, well he is overwhelmed with emotion that one of his children is finally experiencing his roots.

NOTE: The tall building in the Penn Square photo is the Berks County Courthouse. Barry's grandfather was a highly skilled mason and he chiseled glorious eagles at the top of the courthouse. The eagles are lit up at night.

Aug 25, 2010

You've got to be kidding me!

Classic Monopoly - The Green Head

Monopoly wasn't one of my favorite games growing up; mostly because my left-brained brother usually clobbered me. There was one detail of the game, however, that I learned to love.

My grandparents worked for Union Pacific Railroad out of North Platte, Nebraska.  One year, my family even rode the Union Pacific from California back to a reunion.  This may not be a novelty for some, but I was born in 1958 and less people in California were using the train as public transportation.

I loved the train whistle, the motion, and the sound of multiple wheels on a single track.  I remember dining in the old dome car and being scolded by my father for thanking our waiter too much.  There was also an older man with a shaved head — a health nut — who kept insisting that I eat his atrocious carob chocolate.  Again, I was too polite.

Now, what does this have to do with Monopoly? Well, I thought I was familiar with railroads, but there were 4 different railroads in Monopoly: Reading, Pennsylvania, B&O (Baltimore and Ohio), and Short Line. Being kids, we got a kick out of B&O because it sounded like the B.O. for body oder. And, we pronounced Reading as in "reading" a book.

Then, I met Barry Lee Miller through attending church in Southern California.  He was a handsome Marine stationed at El Toro and he had just become a Christian.  He told me where he was from in Pennsylvania and I immediately associated his city with Redding, California.

"Oh, we have a Redding here," I told him and I spelled it to see if it was the same.

He shook his head and said, "No.  R-e-a-d-i-n-g," and pronounced it like "Redding."

"You mean like the Reading Railroad in Monopoly?"

"That's the one."  He smiled and corrected the way I said it.

"You've got to be kidding me!"  I stared at him like he was from Mars.

I was a little insulted that I had said the name over and over while playing Monopoly and had never known that Pennsylvanians didn't know how to pronounce it.  Barry, who is now my husband, wasn't amused.  And, he certainly didn't rush back to Pennsylvania to set them straight.  But, he married me anyhow.