Below are a few of my memories of growing up on High Street in Chester in the 1950s.
At the intersection of High and Grafton streets is where Joe and Jackie Krupsky lived. Harry Milkman lived here later. Joe worked in one of the shops in Springfield. Jackie was an attractive and petite woman. My mother and Jackie were friends so I saw a lot of her growing up.
I remember collecting old cow plops – meadow muffins – in Robert Parker Sr.’s pasture for Jackie. Every year, Jackie made what she called “barnyard tea” for her houseplants. The cow plops had to be bone dry. Jackie would put the plops in a kettle of water and simmer them for 30 minutes or more. This tea made a great fertilizer for houseplants.
The next place was Bill and Alice Bliss. They ran a small farm. When I was young, Alice did babysit me some. Going out in the barn and seeing the cows and pigs was fun for me. Bill, on the other hand, was a little rough around the edges to put it mildly.
One day, when I was 5, I went out to the barn to see the animals. Bill asked, “Do you want some warm cow’s milk?” That didn’t sound very appealing so I said, “No.” Bill asked a couple more times with the same answer. Finally, Bill reached up to a timber where he had hidden a pint of whiskey. He took a swig and handed it to me. “You take a good swig boy.” Boy did that burn.
Alice was a very kind and generous woman but was a bit of a gossip. My mother told me over and over, “Never tell Alice anything.” We probably had skeletons in our closet.
One summer day, my mother sent me to Al’s IGA to get something she needed. I was riding my bike with a small paper bag of groceries. Where Southern Pie is now, there was a laundromat. Alice was sitting on the steps in front of the laundromat as I rode by.
“Whatcha’ got in the bag, Ronnie Patch?” Bang! Flashback to my mother, “Never tell Alice anything.” So, I said to Alice, “None of your d*** business, Alice Bliss,” and rode on. I was 8 or 9 at the time.
Fast-forward 50-plus years to August 2007. We had a reception at the historical society that evening. Over 120 people attended. We offered an assortment of wine and cheese and new displays.
I was upstairs talking to a couple people when I saw Alice coming up the stairs. She was in her 90s at the time. I went out to her and said, “Alice, you shouldn’t have come up here.” She replied, “I had to come see what Ronnie Patch was up to.”
Alice and I walked into the room where I had been talking. Soon, she was recounting the day I was on my bike. She told those present how she had asked what I had in the bag and my reply. She enjoyed telling that story. Alice was a good sport.
The next place up the hill was John and Florence Pierce. John worked heavy construction and Florence had a taxi. My mother and Florence were good friends. My mother called Florence “Big Floss.” We went on several taxi trips with Florence. I will never forget the day I met Louis Marshall.
Between the Ulbrich/Stacey place and Winston Cook’s was a small cabin where Andy Ahola lived. We pronounced his name “Aho.” His dog, Tilly Lilly, was a constant companion. Tilly would wait outside a store while Andy got what he needed.
One day, I crossed the swinging bridge on School Street and was walking up the hill to High Street. It was here that I found Andy’s leather wallet stuffed with cash. I raced home to tell my mother. Along the way, I was thinking I was rich.
My mother made it clear that I couldn’t keep it and I had to return it to Andy. My mother called Florence and told her. Soon Florence drove in our yard with Andy. They came in the house and I handed Andy his wallet. He never said thank you or offered any reward.
The next meeting of the Chester Historical Society is Thursday, Jan. 23 at 7 p.m. upstairs of Chester Town Hall. The monthly slideshow will include photos of the damage done by the 1915 Chester Town Hall fire. Other photos are from Ted Spaulding. All are welcome.
This week’s old saying. “A poor man keeps a dog. A very poor man keeps two.”