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Bear N Mom - Growing up in the 1950s - Fun Times
From Radio to TV
In my earliest year, there was no such thing as a TV in our home. I spent many a happy hour listening to the wooden box with a speaker enthralled in my heros from the big screen at the Embassy Theatre. The Lone Ranger comes to mind and the mellow tones of the voices that brought the wild, wild west into my living room.
Another time I remember being scared out of my socks and afraid to come down the stairs from my bedroom and more afraid to go back to bed. It was the eerie voice of another late evening program that my grandfather was listening to that I could hear from my vantage point on the stairs. I don't remember which program it was. It could have been the Green Hornet or the Creaking Door. Whatever, I sat frozen on the top step until my grandfather discovered me sitting there shivering with fear.
I was privileged to be invited into the home of a neighbor who had a television and she would welcome me in each evening just in time for Buster Crab playing in Captain Video. That program was the forerunner of the intergalactic adventure into outer space.
I guess I was around 7 or 8 when my Dad bought a television set for the living room. It was a treat to watch all of the Saturday morning cowboys in their adventures. My paternal grandfather would come down on Friday Nights and pull a chair from the kitchen and sit and watch the prize fights. He always said that wrestling was all fake but you couldn't fake a good boxing match. I still remember the shaving cream commercial that opened the show every Friday night, "To Look Right."
As we grew older, we would run home from school at lunch time to watch the soap operas and swoon over the good looking guys. Best of all was American Band Stand that came on in the afternoons that featured rock and roll music and teenage dancers in Philadelphia.
Sports and School Events
The biggest attraction was always the Friday night football games at the field. I lived on Fourth Street and the high school band would march from the school to the field playing the fight songs all the way.
The chill in the autumn air never stopped us from swarming into the field and shouting cheers with the cheerleaders from the home team grandstands. There was a brick barbecue pit at the lower end of the field and you could smell the hot dogs cooking before you even entered the field. Alas, being Catholic, I wasn't able to imbibe in the wonderful taste of these treats that everyone around you were scarfing down.
After the football game, we all converged on the Women's Club where the ladies would hold a teenage dance every Friday night. There were two sessions. The early session was for the junior high students and the later session was for the older students. The music was provided by a jukebox; and to our parent's horror, the jitterbug was the rage. The girls would be decked out in their poodle skirts with the starched crinolines making them bounce back and forth as the girls spun to the music.
After football season was over, it was time for basketball. If you were adventurous, you hid out in the school after classes in order to get a good seat in the stands since the doors were locked until a half hour before the game.
In the winter, the borough would flood the tennis court with water so that you could ice skate on the court. Those were the days. Another place to ice skate was on Squaw Run Road where they would flood a section of meadow next to the road.
Speaking of skating, there was always the Chesarena Skating Rink in Cheswick for those who enjoyed roller skating. Friday and Saturday night skates were popular events for daters.
Skalski's owned a tavern on Freeport Road and next to it was their duck pin bowling alleys. Saturday mornings and afternoons were children and teenage leagues. Then it was on to Bard's for a sundae.
Diners and Drinks
There were two drug stores in the borough, Erwin's and Fehrmann's. Both had soda fountains in the store, but Erwin closed their fountain and eventually closed long before Mr. Fehrmann ever closed his store.
Many a happy hour were spent deciding what to drink from Mr. Fehrmann's fountain drinks. He made his own simple syrup but I'm not sure if the flavorings were made by him. I know he carried the original coca cola fountain and it was treat ordering either vanilla or cherry cokes. The other drink he made was called a phosphate which was flavorings in tonic water. His Chocolate milkshakes were scrumptious and you got to watch them put in the ice cream, chocolate and milk before putting them on the machine that had three stirrers to mix up the shake.
In later years, Sam Zuccaro opened Towne Drugs two doors away from Fehrmann's Drug Store. When it opened it had a soda fountain but it was later removed and the store took on the modern shop look.
The other special eatery was Bard's Dairy Store on Brilliant Avenue. Bards was the same as Isalys with a different name for those of you who don't know what Bards was. It was here that you could get a chipped ham sandwich or a ham barbecue which was all the rage of the times. They made their own barbecue sauce that dripped off the sandwich onto the paper plate. Bards made many a milk shake and sundae but their claim to fame was their walk-a-way sundaes. This was a paper cone cup with one scoop of ice cream and whatever sauce you desired. My two favorites were hot fudge on vanilla ice cream or marshmallow sauce on chocolate ice ream. This wonderful treat only cost a whopping ten cents and was worth the expenditure.