SOUTH PYMATUNING TOWNSHIP
Here’s a story guaranteed to bring back memories to those who grew up in the Sharpsville area in the 1950s and 60s. Bill Parcetic is no longer with us, but you’ll feel that he’s still alive and kickin’ when you read about his boyhood antics. Many names have been kept intact for the sake of a good story, but if you are someone he mentions who would like your name removed, please let us know.
NOTE: Be sure to check out this Group page on Facebook titled “South Pymatuning Township Memories”:
Thomas Riffe, who grew up on Carlisle Road in South Py through the 1960s and early 1970s, started the Group “as a place to reminisce, share stories and pictures and to keep our memories alive.” If you lived in or near South Py in the 1950s-1970s, please consider sharing your memories with others who have done so at his site.
Growing up in South Pymatuning Township
By Bill Parcetic
What you are about to read actually happened. It’s all true. It has taken over 50 years to bring these stories to light and you’ll be shocked to learn what was going on right outside of Sharpsville, Pennsylvania. You’ll read of children deprived of TV, huddled in their cramped bedrooms listening to a small radio for entertainment, of these same children playing on piles of dirt or building their own shelter with discarded building material. You’ll be shocked to learn of grown men who trudged through deep snow to buy the barest of food to feed their families. Of teenage boys who openly walked the township with real firearms, dogs that were forced to walk miles without food or water for the pleasure of their owners. But most shocking of all, small children forced to ride in cars and buses WITHOUT seatbelts! The people who lived through all this called this time….THE GOOD OLD DAYS!
This is my view of growing up in an area outside of Sharpsville. I’ll begin by telling you about some of the history we had in these other districts before we got to Sharpsville.
I went to Farrell city schools for kindergarten from first grade through half of the third grade. In November of 1950 we moved to a house my dad built on Route 18 in South Pymatuning Township. When I say he built it, that’s what he did: He cut the wood with a hand saw and hammered the nails. The south edge of our property bordered Hickory Township (now known as Hermitage, “livin’ on the edge!”). At this time Route 18 was a two-lane road and from our house you could see all the way past where the Corral [Restaurant] is now. There were no trees or buildings in the way.
The Big Snow [of 1950]
I tell you about the location because, for my mom and me, this became a very dramatic location. So this was November 1950 and shortly after we moved in we got hit by the BIG SNOW….on a Friday afternoon. This affected all of us living in the area at the time, but this is how it was for us.
My dad was in the habit of stopping for groceries after work on Fridays at Nicholoff‘s Market on Idaho Street in Farrell. (D’Onofrio’s Food Center was a few years yet to come.) Dad would get home around 5 p.m., but on this night he was late. It snowed and snowed. Mom and I watched out the front window for dad’s car. Six o’clock went by, then seven. Fewer and fewer cars were able to make the trip down the road and there were no snow plows coming. A lot of men from Clarksville, Transfer and Greenville worked at Sharon Steel and Westinghouse, so there should have been a steady stream of cars. Then no cars came along! Finally around 8 o’clock a lone set of headlights could be seen way down the road. It turned out to be my dad. He only got a short way up the driveway before coming to a halt because of the deep snow. We had about three feet in places.
No cars moved on Route 18 for two days. We were isolated and my mom was sorry we moved. She had always lived in Farrell and years later she couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. I remember George King, Betty King’s father pulling a sled and walking to Joe Antos’ store in Clarksville for milk and other stuff. (Clarksville became Clark after the Shenango Dam was built.)
At this time those of us who lived in South Py on the east side of the river went to school in Hickory. The kids in Clarksville had a wooden two-story “school house.” How many of you knew that? Betty King [SHS class of 1959) lived next door to me and we were good friends. The closest classmate to me was Bob Heiges down over the hill toward Clarksville. The next closest classmate was Rodney Houck. He lived on Valley View Road, kinda behind me. There was a country lane behind my house that went to Valley View Road and that was my connection to Rodney and Rodger Gill, Don Hancock, Jim and Bill Wilson, and Carol Gunsley. We called Valley View Road “Old 18” because it used to be Route 18 before the section I lived on was built in 1943 to make it faster to get to Camp Reynolds (more trivia).
With all of us spread out like that, it was impossible to get a baseball game together or any team sport. In the summer we’d play Monopoly or some other board game. We were NEVER in the house. Riding broomstick horses never caught on like it did in Farrell, but we had huge piles of dirt left over from the excavation of our basements! I had a good time going up and down dirt piles.
My dad made Betty and me stilts to walk around on. After we got the hang of that we were all over the yards. I liked to build forts and hideouts with all the leftover building materials. We had bonfires in the backyard and roasted lots of marshmallows and hot dogs.
After I got a bicycle my world opened up a bit. l spent a lot of time learning to ride a bicycle. I never had a new one, and the ones I had were way too big and I had a hard time getting on them.
Talk about heavy old bikes! Dick Heim had a really sweet old Schwinn. It had “knee action,” a big spring in front that allowed the front forks to move up and down to give an easier ride. Yeah….it was a Cadillac, and Dick kept it shiny: We’re talkin’ mud flaps and reflectors.
Skates, Ponies, Jokes and Guns
In the winter we had Stanley Stewart’s pond that he built in Winwood Acres. That’s where a lot of us learned to skate. Adults skated there too. And we had more fires there to keep warm. For the big thrills we’d sled ride on that big hill on Valley View Road that goes down into Clark. And no one told us not to. What good times!
Speaking of this hill….it was a bear! I had to push my old bike up the thing. Rodger Gill lived near the top of it. Although he’s no longer living I know he wouldn’t mind my telling some things about him. He was a full-blown diabetic. He missed a lot of school back in the third grade. He had a pony and all this western gear he’d wear when he showed the pony. I guess I wanted to ride it, but I can’t remember ever doing that. (We learned to accept disappointment in those days.) However, I did learn to put a bridle on a horse and how to cinch a saddle. Skills I haven’t used since, but I’m ready if l ever need them!
Rodger was one of those very pleasant kids that adults like, clean-cut, polite, etc. But he did introduce me to the “dirty joke!” This kid always had an off-color story to tell. It might only be about his pony passing gas in front of the lady next door, but to me it was new stuff! We’d laugh and laugh and I’d run the story over and over in my mind as l pedaled home on my bike, so as not to forget it.
Jim Patterson and l were shooters. We regularly carried .22 rifles with us into the woods. I moved past the BB gun stage pretty quickly. We’d pass the time on the school bus telling each other about our latest hunting adventure. At our 50th reunion Jim reminded me of the day we rolled metal can lids across his yard and shot at them with our 22s. No one got hurt and no one called the cops. We knew our guns and we tried to shoot safely.
Ice, Fire and True Friendship
On one cold winter day, Fred Brown and I walked with our dogs up the river on the ice. Fred’s dog was a German Shepherd named “Bullet” after Roy Roger’s dog and mine was a mix that I got from Tom Antos. His name was “Toby,” named after a tree he liked to lay under in the back yard. That doesn’t have the excitement of a name like Bullet but he didn’t mind. I walked everywhere with him.
Now, walking on river ice may not seem real smart and it wasn’t. After awhile we came to a bend up near Reno’s farm and on the bend where the water ran faster, it wasn’t frozen.
You have to understand that Toby loved to fetch sticks. One time I took our old Christmas tree out to the garden to burn and Toby tried to drag it back. You can see he was serious about fetching! (You can also see that burning things comes up a lot in my story.)
We took a break on this bend to watch the fast flowing water. (Actually, we were gauging the ice and trying not to look stupid about walking on it.) Toby was looking at the ice too. He was more stupid than I was, but not by much. I picked up a stick and threw it at this hole in the ice, never thinking what the dog’s reaction might be. Toby, without hesitating, jumped into the water after it! Holy CRAP! Toby hit that cold water and knew he’d messed up. He was being swept downstream, looking up at us! Fred, with even less hesitation than Toby showed, threw himself down on the ice and reached into the water and grabbed Toby as Toby’s head hit the edge of the ice and was ready to go under! I got down and grabbed Fred’s ankles, and we got the dog out.
We built a fire (of course) to warm up. Toby didn’t seem to mind his brush with death and started a fight with Bullet! Maybe Bullet said something smart to Toby that started the fight….we’ll never know. Once again Fred jumped into the fray and got Bullet by the tail and started swinging him around in a circle….with Toby in pursuit….and me chasing Toby. What a sight it must have been! The moral of the story? Get a German Shepherd, they don’t jump into cold water! This is a true story of friendship.
Move to Sharpsville Schools
Some of us were going to school in Hickory as I said earlier, until the school in Clarksville burned down. The kids in Clarksville had a wooden two-story “school house.” (How many of you knew that?) The volunteer firemen couldn’t put the fire out with their 1927 Model T fire truck so, figuring they had to save something from the school, they started throwing school books out the window. My good friend Fred Brown told me the boys from town picked the books off the ground and threw them back into the burning school! I believe it….l got to know all those guys.
All of us, including the Clarksville kids needed a school, so a deal was worked out to send us to Sharpsville. Those of us in grade school got sent to South Pymatuning Elementary School. For me that was for just one year, the sixth grade. l don’t remember much of that except I liked it more than Hickory.
(Funny how some people stick in your memory. In Hickory there was a kid who ate the egg shells from his hard boiled eggs at lunch time…. I guess today he’d be called a “special needs” kid. He was the sweetest kid you’d ever meet. He was 18 years old at that time, and I’ve never forgotten him. I never saw him again.)
On to Sharpsville middle school and the seventh grade. This is where I met so many of you and made so many friends. l can’t tell you much about the west side of Sharpsville. I got to meet those classmates slowly over a period of time. The reason was that I didn’t know what area most people were from. I’d hear about Deeter, Robison, and I didn’t have a clue where they were. So it recently dawned on me that as we started seventh grade we were a bunch of strangers! I thought everyone from Sharpsville knew everyone else from Sharpsville. That just wasn’t the case.
Our One and Only School Bus
We had the same bus driver the whole time I was in school. His name was Kenny Paden. A really nice man who had a farm out on Route 846.
For that matter we also had the same bus for all those years. It was like a 1948 GMC and the worst bus Paul Bortner [then owner of Bortner School Bus Inc.] had in his stable. He didn’t trust us to ride a better bus. Remember the story of the boys throwing the books back in the fire? Well that’s what Paul was worried about. Sometime Paul Bortner drove our bus….you never saw a better bunch of kids! If Paul drove, you didn’t want make eye contact with him in that mirror that the driver can watch the passengers with. “I’m watching you Parcetic!”
One time that old bus caught fire out on Route 258. We put the fire out with snowballs….but that’s another story.
– Bill Parcetic ( 1942-2014), Sharon, PA – (Sharpsville High School 1960).
Bill Parcetic’s narrative was submitted to “Small Town Memories” by Judy McCracken (SHS 1960), who wrote: “I worked with him for a year to write his memoirs of his years in the Navy—we got it done and printed two weeks before he died—I think it kept him going a long time with that purpose—what a treasure for his family.”