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 September, 2006


 A look back at summer's past in Uniontown

Now Let’s All Think Summer!

By Al Owens
Last month, I did my part to help us all get through the blistering days of summer. I wrote a column about winters in Uniontown. It was the only way to sit at my computer and cool myself off.

But fall is here. I’m feeling a bit chilly today. I need to think about something that’ll keep me warn while I brace myself against the approaching winter. (I’ve braced myself against winter, since I lived in Phoenix, Arizona for four years. Winter there produces blustery 60 degree nights!)

But Uniontown, Pennsylvania in the summer! Here we go.

Oh I remember when the mere hint that my family could head off to the Moonlight or Starlight Drive-ins would force me to think of nothing all day but the possibility of a rain postponed night at the movies. An evening with bags of popcorn popped at home, with homemade hamburgers that preceded some double feature that somehow produced a family snore!

There were summer days when any part of Uniontown could be visited on foot. One day we’d walk out to the Uniontown speedway, the next day we’d follow the railroad tracks into the country.

And in those days, there was a lot of country right in the middle of the Uniontown City limits. On the East End of town, we had a place the called The Horse Field. It was a little boy’s fantasy village. It had trees that have long since disappeared, and a ball field that was makeshift, uneven and perfect.

My summer months could easily send me to the lot behind Gallatin Elementary School. That’s where the carnivals set-up when they came to town, back then. I can remember sitting with adults, while we watched them put up all of the rides and sideshows. And by the coming weekend, there would be a group of us who’d walk back there several times so we could empty our pockets.

One night, Leroy King, Vernon Anderson and I did get our money’s worth. We got a twofer! We waited until nobody was around but us, and we decided to go talk to the Bearded Lady. Not just any Bearded Lady. This Bearded Lady was two feet tall. She was a twofer, for sure. There she sat on her little couch answering all kinds of stupid (although serious) questions from kids who had nothing better to do. What a night!

I can also remember going with my parents to the Uniontown Speedway. Not to watch the races, but to see the circus. There would be once a year visits by the Clyde Beatty Circus in those days. And there were also rodeos, when you’d see cowboys walking all over Uniontown in their cowboy hats and chaps.

Ah! Summer in Uniontown meant East End (Craig, Lafayette, Boyle, Lincoln View or Gallatin) playground in the morning, Bailey Park in the afternoon, and playing hide ‘n go seek at night. I still remember those wonderful evenings, when the littlest kid was it, and we all decided that we wouldn’t run and hide, we’d all go home. Some of those kids are now in their fifties. I hope they’ve stopped looking for us.

On Monday nights on East End playground, they’d hang a sheet on the wooden fence, bring out a movie projector and show a movie – until the film broke. And it always seemed to break! There was some guy named Mugsy, who’d follow the movie nights from Uniontown playground-to-playground and sell us popcorn and snowballs. He may have been the most popular adult in town.

There were Soapbox Derby races each summer. And, in those days, the time trials would make the front page of the Morning Herald. Little guys who’d build their little cars, and fearlessly ride down that big hill along Connellsville Road just outside Uniontown.

I remember when we’d get the parental authorization to sleep out in our yards at least once a summer. We’d all enthusiastically gather our bedding, get our provisions (bologna sandwiches and Milky Way bars), and come inside by midnight because that ground was too hard.

And we were all fascinated by nature in those days. We’d climb apple trees all over town (other people’s apple trees), so we could “examine” the apples. Green apples, that always seemed to bring our digestive systems alive!

There would be warn nights when all we’d do was chase lightening bugs or try to catch those ever elusive crickets.

Summer in Uniontown in the 1950’s. Oh how I miss those days.