Editor’s note: This account is reprinted with permission from the October newsletter of the Shippensburg Historical Society. Jake Crider and his family lived at Maclay’s Mill along the Conodoguinet Creek, and he attended The Pine Grove School in the village of Mowersville. Crider attended school there for grades 1-8 and he regularly waxes nostalgic about those days. These memories are a favorite of his and his recollections are vivid. We enjoy reading Crider’s accounts and the memories of others, and hope our readers do, too. The first part of the series was printed on Sept. 13.
Continuing on the left side of the highway was a large hill that the McKean’s used to pasture their livestock. On the right where the old road ended was a piece of land about 3 or 4 acres owned by the Mower carriage maker family (they lived in Mowersville). The road started to elevate here, but there was a flat section between the road and the creek that one of the Mower ladies tilled for a vegetable garden. She had a one-row push cultivator that she used to keep the weeds down between the rows. Some people call them “Missouri mules.”
It had a steel wheel on the front about the size of a bicycle wheel. One time my brother had a flat on the front of his bicycle and didn’t have any tube patching material. So, he removed the wheel off the cultivator, put it on his bike and rode with the steel wheel until he got to Shippensburg and got a tube-patching kit. Then he installed the wheel back on the cultivator.
Just past this garden about at the crest of the hill was a roadside dump where everyone in the neighborhood would dump their trash. We never encountered any tin can men, but we did collect an abundance of tin cans! There was a variety of things dumped there. Again, WWII was still going on and at school we were asked to bring in scrap metal and tin cans. We hardly ever had tin cans at home. My mother did her own canning; she canned fruits, vegetables and meats. The only empty cans we got were salmon cans, which she would buy sometimes to make salmon cakes. However, we would get the empty cans at this dump, cut the bottoms out, put the bottom inside the can then smash it down flat to take them to school. Uncle Sam would pick them up and melt them down to make into war machines. In his book, Harry Stouffer, who was teaching at Pleasant Hill School and wrote Mowersville Memories, mentioned that the students at Lurgan collected over 1,252 pounds of scrap metal that was picked up by Uncle Sam. The one-room school students' efforts helped win the war! Back then, I didn’t know anyone that consumed alcoholic beverages (they carried their booze in their back doors). But, in the dump, there were lots of beer cans and whiskey bottles. I can remember the name of the most popular whiskey: Corby’s. It had a picture of a parrot on the label. Beer cans had a cone shaped top that had a cap like the old glass soda bottles. People liked to take the quart-sized cans. To make funnels they would remove the bottom and had a very useful funnel.
Hay bales were tied with wire at this time. When a bale was opened, farmers would save this wire; it had many uses around the farm. They would fashion a hook out of the wire, attach it to the beer can funnel and hang one on their tractor and one under the hood of their car. The whiskey bottles had cork stoppers. We would write notes that we were stranded on a desert island with nothing to eat but coconuts and bananas with the hope of soon being rescued. We included our names and addresses on the notes. (We didn’t have any telephones). Then we would roll the note up, slide it into the bottle and throw it into the Conodoguinet. None of us ever received a reply. I don’t know if any bottles made it to the Chesapeake Bay or not.
All along the roadways we would keep our eyes open for empty soda and milk bottles that people would toss out of their cars while driving down the highways. Back then, soda and milk bottles were made of glass and were returned to where they would be sterilized and reused. There was a 2 cent deposit on soda bottles and 5 cent deposit on milk bottles. We didn't find many, but when we did we would take them to the Mowersville Store and redeem them for penny candy, bubble gum or if you had three soda bottles, you would get 6 cents and that would buy you an ice cold Coke for 5 cents and one piece of penny candy!
Continuing on at the boundary of the McKean farm, a gravel lane intersected Paxton Run Road. It ran for 3⁄4 of a mile to the farm buildings that belonged to Mr. and Mrs. Paul Reese. This was one of the two farms that the Reeses owned and operated. The farmland bordered each other; the Reeses always referred to this farm as the “other place.” Continuing at the bottom of the grade was a cement bridge that spanned a small stream. When I was thinking about writing this story, I asked the neighbors and some of the Reese descendants what the name of the stream was. No one knew for sure what it was called.
I contacted the township supervisors and they informed me they didn’t have a name but, the headwaters start at Lurgan, and pass through four or five other farms before emptying into the Conodoguinet. Then I called the Fish and Boat Commission; they told me the same thing. They did tell me that when they are doing surveys on Pennsylvania waterways they refer to it as a tributary to the Conodoguinet.
Thirty years ago, I read in a magazine where the supervisors somewhere in New England were erecting identification signs on highways and bridges to help emergency services to better locate where an incident was located. They went around the countryside and asked the people living there to help with this project. At the one bridge, the supervisor asked a farmer that was working in his field if he knew the name of the stream that was running through his property.
The farmer replied, “We always called it the crick.” When the new sign was erected it read Crick Creek. We always called the stream under the bridge Reese Run. I always refer to the Conodoguinet as “the crick.”
People in the cities in storybooks and sophisticated people call a stream a brook, so I have decided if any sophisticated person reads this story I would like to refer to these two unnamed places as the “bridge with no name that spans the brook with no name.” We always checked this stream out for frogs and turtles in the spring. We would look for fish; in the springtime, suckers would come up this stream to spawn. When the “sucker run” started, my neighbors and my brothers would go at night with flashlights and use jigs or nets. To harvest them was illegal back then, now jigging is permitted. If a lot of suckers were harvested, people would can them in Mason jars to preserve them and used them to make imitation salmon cakes. Most of them had roe inside. My mother and father relished this, but I was never a fan of fish roe.
Next to the north end of the bridge with no name was the lane that serviced the Reese farm. Pasture fencing ran along each side of this lane. We used to meet the Reese children so we could visit while we trodded to school. We had a system if our family or the Reese children were running late. We had a sandstone that we would place on the top of the corner fence post to communicate that we or the Reeses had already walked by on their way to the schoolhouse.
Letterkenny Army Depot was bustling with WWII still going on. The Army had an Italian POW camp in its facilities that housed Italian POWs. The LEAD had a large kitchen to prepare food for these prisoners. Someone who lived in Mowersville worked there. He would collect the kitchen scraps in a 50-gallon steel drum, which included potato peels, vegetable trimmings, moldy cheese, stale bread and other scraps. He would drop these scraps off at the end of Reese lane and they would feed it to their pigs. We would always investigate this stuff in the steel drum to see what the pigs were having for dinner.
Continuing on Paxton Run, the road bed started a little upgrade at this point. Both sides bordered the Reese homeplace. They tilled the fields on the right, the ones on the left side they used for grazing their cattle. It was hilly with a small drainage ditch that ran along just inside the pasture fence. It emptied into the brook with no name. Also in the steepest section there was a wood lot. On the right side of the roadway was a steep bank of about 15 feet. The bank continued on to the bottom of what we called “Turn Hill” where it was about 20-25 feet tall. This was where Mr. Reese had a slate bank which he would dig out and spread on the lanes to his farms, and also sold it to neighboring farmers for their lanes and driveways. This slate they now call shale and was brown or tan in color and was a softer texture than the slate they used for slate roofs on buildings; it made a very efficient road bed. Directly across the road from this slate bank, Brethren Church Road intersected with Clover Hill Road. Named for the Brethren in Christ Church that is situated at the next intersection where it connects with West Creek Road.
A stone’s throw back Brethren Church Road on the left was another roadside dump that we frequented on the walk to and from school. We gathered cans and other metal that people discarded. One day, one of the neighbor boys found a complete set of dentures. One of the teeth was gold; he used a rock to break it off and took it along home. I don’t know whatever happened to it. I thought he would have drilled a hole through it and put it on a chain to wear around his neck.
He had a large collection of Native American arrowheads. After he passed, I asked his widow if she ever found a gold tooth when she sorted through his collection. She said she didn’t see it and never heard that story before.
While we are here at the Brethren Church intersection, I would like to relate to you two incidents that I remember about the Brethren Church. The whole neighborhood always referred to it as the Dunkard Church, although it is a separate denomination from the real Dunkard Church, now officially called Church of the Brethren. The members dressed plain back then; the men sported goatees and wore black hats, dark jackets without collars, no neck ties and their hair parted in the middle. The ladies wore long dresses, black shoes, stockings, and always wore a covering on their heads. Today they dress like everyone else. My father had a brother and two sisters that were members of this congregation. Every year, most churches held a two-week revival to raise money and recruit new members. My uncle invited our family to a night of revival. My oldest brother did not want to go, and finally after a lengthy discussion, my parents convinced him that he go along with us to revival. When my brother came down from his room he was dressed to go. He had his hair parted down the middle, no necktie, and his collars of his shirt and coat were folded under. Before we left, he recombed his hair and turned his collars out. Another story my father told me is that a wino asked a Dunkardman why he wore a goatee. The Dunkard replied “I am a dunker.” The wino replied “I am a drunkard, too, but I am not too lazy to shave!”
A little poem that the children would recite sometimes while playing in the schoolyard was “The Dunkard Meeting Has Begun!” “No more talking/No more laughing/No more chewing chewing gum!”
Continuing on, Paxton Run Road curved to the right and started up a pretty steep grade before leveling off where it made another sharp bend to the right, up a little grade then, almost leveled off until we reached the intersection of West Creek Road. At the top of Turn Hill was a flat area on the right that someone had donated and dumped a load of chicken manures for Mr. Reese to use on his fields for fertilizer. Some people had chicken houses on their property but they didn’t have enough land to spread the manure. The pile had been there a good while, and had settled down, and had gotten very firm. The Reese boys and my brothers would ride their bikes up over it and become airborne. One afternoon, one of the Reeses rode his bicycle up over it. When he became airborne, his front wheel fell off and he went head over heels and got chicken manure all over his clothing. My brother started to help get his wheel back on his bike, and the Reese boy started to shed tears. My brother asked him if he was hurt and he replied no. But he had his lunch pail (a Gallon King syrup bucket) hanging by the bail on his handlebars. The bail was missing and we could not locate it in the chicken manure. My brother and I helped, and soon we found the missing bail of the old syrup bucket. Today, getting upset over losing a bail on an old syrup bucket is nothing. Back then, we didn’t have much and everything we had was important to us.
When he arrived home all covered in chicken manure, his mother gave him a cake of homemade lye soap and made him go down to the creek to clean the manure off his body.
This reminds me of a song the kids used to sing on the playground at school: “Mrs. O’Malley lived in the valley, She suffered from ulcers I understand, Until one day she swallowed a cake of Grandma’s lye soap, Now she has the cleanest ulcers in the land.”
Continuing on up the grade on the right was tillable fields. On the left, the Reeses pastured their cattle. One morning, there was about 2 inches of snow cover on the fields and the field on the left was dotted with dead crows (I thought possibly 100 or so). When the
Reeses butchered, they would dump the intestines and lungs (we called the lungs “lights.” I never knew why) about 15-20 yards behind their workshop. The crows would flock in to feast on this offering. The Reese boys had cut about a 4-inch hole in the back wall of the shop where they would stick the barrels of the old double-barreled shotgun through. When the crows were flocked in shoulder to shoulder in devouring the guts, one of the boys would stick the double-barrel 12-gauge out through the hole and pull both triggers at the same time. I think I remember one of them killed 23 crows or so with one double-barrel shot. After a couple days of crow shooting, they would load the crow carcasses along with some cow manure in the manure spreader, and spread this on the fields. We dubbed this field “The Dead Crow Graveyard.”
We never saw any flying monkeys like Dorothy encountered on the Yellow Brick Road, but we did see an abundance of what we called “whistle pigs” (alias of a woodchuck or groundhog). They had burrows all along the road banks and in the fields. If we would walk up close to them before they detected us we would startle them and they would give out a really loud and shrill whistle before darting down in their burrows. Groundhogs are all vegetarians, eating only grass. We used to shoot the younger ones and my mother would fry them for our supper. We thought they were really tasty. Hunters would come to our farm to hunt whistle pigs to eat. I don’t know anyone that eats them today. They just shoot them for target practice. I am not sure why nobody eats them today.
-To be continued-