A Stroll Down Memory Lane on Christmas

   Following is a letter written by Dottie Stasen Kauterman, a great friend to the Juniata News — 10 years ago. It’s a stroll down memory lane for many who grew up in Juniata Park. Here’s a wish for making great neighborhood memories for all of the children growing up now in Juniata Park — and all our neighborhoods. Reprinted from December of 2009 — Merry Christmas!

December 16, 2009

Dear Tom,

    I had told you that I would write you this letter by Labor Day. Due to the daily craziness of life, I am now writing to you as Christmas approaches.  I only did three re-reads but if I detail this letter I would be writing your whole paper. I have just touched on some memories.

    Juniata Park, the place I will always call home.  I grew up on the 4200 Neilson Street down from Piccoli Playground.  It was a great street to grow up on. Mikes Candy store on the corner of Neilson Street & Hunting Park, where you could buy penny candy, I mean, really good penny candy and Chalie Ricci’s on the corner of Neilson and Bristol.

    For a kid back then life was so sweet. Days spent going to school and then being outside with friends, jumping rope, playing Barbie’s, sledding down the driveways on snowy days from Neilson to “O”, dancing on the patio, riding bikes, roller skating, playing Bells Out, walking for hours on Halloween and refilling those orange & black paper bags(with the pumpkins on them) over and over again, trying to get to the convent early because the nuns would give out real pumpkins, Hopkinson’s Fun Fair, sledding up the park, Christmas caroling, waiting for Corky to get a water and pretzel,  renting horses from Ed’s Stables and riding them thru the Park and the streets as well. No matter what season we were out and we were never bored.

    We walked to school with our siblings and friends.  I went to Holy Innocents where on going to school you had to walk up the even side of Bristol Street. On returning home you had to cross at the corner of “L” and Bristol and walk down the odd side of Bristol. Why??? We never questioned why we just did it.

    May procession was held at early evening,  movies in the parish hall, going to mass on Sunday 8AM for the upper school, 9AM for the lower school and if you were not there….you better have a damn good reason because the nuns took a count!!! Holy Inn cheerleading, we had a great squad and our football team was composed of 5th to 8th graders.  Home games, we went to mass then marched down Bristol Street cheering and chanting into Piccoli Playground.  At Piccoli, football games,  rough touch, street against street, semi-pro, high school, grade school, basketball games, tennis, softball game for the girls, thanks to Paul, our rec leader, that ran from 3:30PM to 5PM in the spring. Piccoli had monkey bars, swings and of course the ever popular big spinner also known as the merry go round where you would send your head into total dizziness!!! When I was 11 they got a pool at Piccoli, above ground. We were delighted!!!!!

    Walking to Frankford Avenue to shop or just to look, the route was down Wingohocking Street to Unity Street and onto Frankford Ave. Going to the library, Joseph’s, Judy’s, Kenny’s, Dairy Maid, Kresge’s, Fashion Centre, Famous Maid, so many stores and at Christmastime it was all light up and decorated. The annual burning of the Christmas trees down at the “Resie”, the boys would drag those trees from the sidewalks and pile them good and high!!!! Big fire with no trouble, the smell was wonderful!!! Back then there was only a small building there…..most of the property was trees and open space. It also was a shortcut for many to get to school!!!!

    The Juniata Boys Club, no girls back then….a little clubhouse on Lycoming Street. Games for little league baseball and soccer teams, were up at Juniata Park. Many days watching my brothers, and friends playing what seems like thousands of games, big crowds on the sidelines, with their blue and gold on!!! Carnival was held in the summer, at Food Fair/Pantry Pride parking lot across from the club. Opening Day, a huge parade, then the opening game and then the free hotdogs under the pavilion is was a great day.  No carnival just Opening Day!!! Afterward we’d head to the crick (creek) or to Ferko, where in the play area a huge sliding board and the cheese houses.

    Everyone had a garden, a rock garden maybe but a garden just the same. Beautiful flowers in the spring and summer. Loads of azaleas are probably what I remember the most. The homes were well taken care of and no matter the season …… decorations were in most people’s windows.  We would walk to Renel’s to get our sneakers aka bobos. They had a great cosmetic area where my girlfriends and I would wander for hours!!!! Kiddie City was right at Erie and Castor. We would walk down Castor Avenue to get there and buy cut-outs or whatever we could for a quarter or fifty cents if you were lucky!!!

    One of my fondest memories was on Christmas Eve 1966, it was snowing.  We didn’t have any gold bulbs for the tree.  My Mom and I walked to Kiddie City to pick some up and it was crowded!  At the time I didn’t understand why anyone would be shopping for toys on Christmas Eve but nonetheless we waited in the long line and when we got out it was really snowing!  My Mom and I walked home and I remember the snow was blinding, she told me to hold onto her coat and don’t let go. Christmas Eve, it was glorious.

    Just some of the many memories I have of growing up in Juniata Park.  I am grateful that I still have my family and many friends from Juniata Park who I remain connected to. I have lost many friends too but with every word I write I remember them. When I started writing this I didn’t realize how long my memories had stayed with me. I could write another couple hundred pages!!!! It was quite nice growing up in Juniata Park.  It will be forever a part of my heart. I miss it still.

    Merry Christmas everyone! Best wishes for a healthy and happy New Year.

Happy Holidays Tom,

With fond memories,

Dottie

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