Just to set the stage for this essay: In my early childhood I lived in Steubenville, Ohio, a small city on the banks of the Ohio River, just across from the steel mills of Wheeling, West Virginia. My father was pastor of a Congregational Church and we lived in the parsonage. Both the church and our house were situated on high hills well above the river and I recall with clarity pieces of my experience there with my two sisters and my parents.
The routines of our family were set by the pastoral work of dad and Sundays were very special. After worship the family would gather at the table for a delicious meal that mother had prepared. Dad would always turn on the radio to the Longines-Wittnauer Watch Hour and we would listen to classical music as we ate. I believe I can trace my love of classical music to that Sunday dinner routine.
Kite flying was one of those “firsts” that has stayed with me all my life. For me the very best place to catch the wind just right was on the grounds of the Steubenville Hospital, located at the end of Lawson Avenue, on the highest point of our neighborhood. The prevailing wind always seemed to come from the southwest and the kites needed no encouragement to jump into the air. I recall a time when the sky seemed to be filled with kites, of all shapes and colors. For a small boy, it was a wonder!
In my memory, I have one real downer! At night, when the wind was just right, my bedroom would fill with a terrible acrid smell. I would lie in bed trying not to breath and, occasionally I would cry myself to sleep because of that terrible odor! Later I would find out that what I was smelling (and battling) was coke from the “beehive ovens” of the Wheeling mills. Coke was used to fire the big furnaces of the mill because it contained few impurities and had a high carbon content. But for a small boy, it was that smell that caused so much trouble.
As with all families, we had our traditions. The most delicious ones were birthdays. Birthdays always required a run to Isaly’s Ice Cream shop in downtown Steubenville. Dad would be the one to make the run and we looked forward to a treat that seemed to happen only on birthdays. I wonder…Is that where I get my love of ice cream?
Memories are contagious. One seems to provoke another, then another, etc. There is something strangely refreshing about pulling up those little “snippets” of pieces of our lives and looking at them with “old eyes” and mature perspectives. I suspect the awful was never quite as awful as it seemed at the time, and the very best were…well, just the very best. Those are the memories that we cherish. “Can it be that it was all so simple then? Or has time re-written every line?” I choose to believe that my memories are true, and like a picture album, are indelible. Cherish yours.
For What It’s Worth.