Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Long Time Ago

Exactly four years today I stopped Blogging.
Here we are.
Since then moved back from Galway to Allentown, continued theatre adventures and here we are.
Simple. More later.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

"The Tinker's Blade" cast, June 2007 held at An Taibhdhearc, Ireland's National Irish Theatre in Galway. I'm the one with the red glasses !

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Stevie Vahovitich’s corner store, nestled on the Southeast corner of Third and Ridge Street, Coaldale, was a smaller store than most. A store in a house in fact. Across the street was Wilbur Berger's mansion like house , catacornered from the Coaldale Bank, an institution of demanding size for our little coal town village.
It would take eighteen teen steps to go through his red painted front door and into variety store madness. Filled with tablecloths, mouse traps, a tricycle, tools and paints, and candy, the store was a haven for kids and grownups too. The magic would begin when you stepped inside. The door bell attached to the top of the door would ring as you entered and when you escaped. Ting-a-ling.

A thin small built man with wire glasses appeared from the yellow tulip flowered curtains behind the counter of the narrow aisled store. His gray and thinning hair, was neatly combed parted on the right, too far, into the top of his head. He pulled at the sleeves of his brown sweater with the quarter-sized holes in the elbows. His wife.... we never remembered her name.... peeked around the closed curtain, and said something that sounded like “hmmarmya.”
“You want candy ?” Stevie said in what seemed to be an Czechoslavakian
American accent.
Penny candies scattered in small cardboard boxes at the front of the glass encased counter. Candies ready to jump into your pocket ..... awaiting the pennies in your pocket to jump into Stevie’s hand.
Pink peppermint tablets, MaryJanes, black nigger babies, and red fiery lozenges. Occasionally a square of chocolate , some very small pillow like candies that tasted like licorice mints called Sen Sens.
“So,” he would say as he leaned on the counter awaiting the decision of the eight year boy from Ruddle Street.
“I’ll have….. three of those….and….one of those…no,no, those red things shaped like quarters….yeah. Ahh, yeah, that’s it.” A hungry pause. “And five of them…how much is that?”
“Nine cents, you got nine cents ?” Stevie would smile. He must have had false teeth from the same dentist my dad had, they looked the same. Stevie’s choppers were perfect.
My God, I thought, Stevie was old, he must have been at least fifty and he had one golden incisor ! Wow !
“Ahhh, six of those there jaw breakers.”
Ahhh, the jawbreakers, round hard sugared flavors of lemon, lime, orange and cherry filled with what seemed to be plastic chewing gum. Lucky if this good cheek full of artifical flavor didn’t actually break your jaw or a tooth along the way of bubble blowing fun.

There , I did it, spent the entire 15 cents mom gave me. The change from buying milk, bread and butter at Nardini’s Market two doors away. I almost tripped and broke the milk bottle running passed the druggist store in my eagerness to get to Stevie’s.
Usually we would get our milk from Harry Bolles. His red truck with the golden "Freeman's" lettering would regularly stop on Ruddle Street on Tuesdays.
Harry, a gentle chubby Santa Claus for all seasons, would blow the old Chevy truck horn twice and walk up to the house. He always carried a wire bottle holder to our side porch door in the his left hand. In the square holes was buttermilk, white homogenized milk and an occasion, a bottle of chocolate milk.

He would leave a bottle of white at our basement window and pick up the empties. He’d carefully jump over the chicken wire fence between our house and Buehla’s making sure his pants didn’t catch a grasping wire end, and then he’d continue his deliveries.
I never actually saw Harry do this during the school year. He’s come about 9 am to deliver, but from June to August when school was out for the summer, I’d sit and wait for him. In that summer of 1952, Harry began his chanting.
“Georgie Porgie Puddin N’ Pie,
Kissed the Girls and made them cry,
when the girls came out to play…”
I would repeat the last line of the well known jeer along with him…
“Georgie Porgie ran away.”

We’d laugh- later when I was 11, and all grown up, I would see him coming to deliver and shout out at him…

“Harry Bolles, milk 'N Cakes
Kissed the dogs for goodness sake
When the cats came out to play
Harry Bolles drove away.

Okay, so it wasn’t very clever. But we still both laughed.

“Today, I got strawberry milk,” he said showing me the pink ambrosia.

I ran into the house and pleaded with mom to buy just a quart of this dairy delicacy. She’s gave me 21 cents and I was happy for a full week. I’d drink only a small amount each day to prolong the rare treat.
Stevie Vahovitch took the 15 cents, put it in a green jar where all the candy money apparently lived.
After I was finished buying as much candy as my change would allow, he would ask whether my mom needed thread or yarn for her crocheting.
“No, not today Stevie. See you tomorrow, if I get any worn out pennies.”

It would take seventeen steps to go back through his red painted front door. The last, a leap back into the real world.

He never said goodbye, he just disappeared behind that flowered curtain again just like the Lone Ranger would disappear before anyone could say thank you. Back into his wonderful cabbage, onion and potatoe smelling Slovak kitchen with Helen…oh yes, her name was Helen.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

The Day the Music Tried

A remembrance of my short lived musical childhood. A later picture from C.H.S. of George Matrician.

...............1955. Monday morning. First class of the week. 8:20 am.There wasn't a more pleasant time to welcome the week at school than in sleepily floating up to the second floor, winding the light green corridor to the back rooms of Mr. Matrician. There were only fifteen of us chosen for this vocal class.....I was considered a mixed voice, a singer unknown to tenors,aritones or basses.
The classroom was bigger than most. Not only did screeching, maturing, teenage voices cling to the walls, but treble cleffs, notes, sharp, flats and musical military marches hung from the ceiling. The Coaldale High School Alma Mater was sung and practiced so many times in that room that the song itself seemed to be etched into the north wall plaster.

“Oh the wind through the trees blows cheerful
It sways them in their glory
It whispers a little earful
It tells a wonderous story
Of spirit true and athletes too
Of deeds both brave and gory
Of courage that has been true blue
Our Alma Mater’s glory.”

Only when the large bottom-swing windows were opened would the music escape.
When we didn't practice in the music room, we would be forced to use the cloak room on the first floor, a long narrow space where some of the instruments were kept.

Mr. Matrician was soft spoken and of a good nature most of the time. He always gave us a sense of a favorite uncle, and didn't act like a teacher at all!

One October afternoon, Bobby Davis, the tuba player, failed to show up for practice. Mr. Matrician put aside his violin and attempted to "get into" the junior sized tuba. His arms flailing through the opening of the mighty brass horn, he looked like a giant octopus caught in a cave underwater. He laughed for about two seconds, became aware that he might actually be stuck in the confines of the bellowing beast, and finally asked us for help to free him of the embarrassment. It took three of us from the reed section to give George his freedom again. After Bobby returned the following Wednesday, he gave up the tuba and started to practice on the bass drum. He said he “wasn’t gonna get into that tuba no more after Matrician stretched it !”

I took private clarinet lessons from Mr. George Matrician in his home on Ridge Street. Each Tuesday, after school, for four years I practiced the clarinet in his living room. I was in the Coaldale High Band, although I was less than fluent in conversation with the other clarinets in the troupe.

Mr. Matrician was very gentle and kind man but did have a mean streak. When I was not prepared for the lesson of the day as witnessed by "very poor fingering", George would threaten me with playing his trumpet. He usually practiced with me on his violin.

The trumpet would make the neighbor's Irish Setter bark, stop the mahogany mantel clock, pierce the eardrums of this student and would upset his wife, who sweetly appealed to me to learn to practice at home so this sort of thing did not happen again.

I always felt inadequateb with that clarinet. It was one of those old fashioned siler metal types, Everyone else had a sleek new black ebony wood style. I despise them because they could play better than me. No doubt, a black licorice stick sounded better and has memory of the notes played. Mine didn't.

The song's over now. My memory of that clarinet and of our school Alma Mater exposes an embarrassment and a peaceful moment of long ago.

It is as if the banshees were tapping on my shoulder again, telling tales to a long lost boy of another world, another time and place.

The boy is still within me, here, even now. But I've lost the clarinet and my mixed voice !

Friday, April 13, 2007

Desperado's Dreams

Friday, April 13, 2007

Desperado's Dreams

I'm telling you the truth here.. Even though it might seem hard to believe...He came to my house every Saturday afternoon at 3 o'clock... Channel 3 ...."Stagecoach Matinee."
Every Saturday, same time... same station. Dust billowing in the living room and footprints of his horse Shiloh imprinted on the anglo -persian red rug in our parlor.
He came in a glorious fury to the edge screen of our new light blond wood Arvin black and white floor model television set, then... when mom was busily cleaning the bedroom on the second floor... he would gallop through time , space and the 12 inch tube screen and he'd sit with me watching the adventures of ...himself...."The Durango Kid."
How brave he was rounding up bank robbers and gun macho he was in capturing the hearts of the town's women.... how fast a draw with his silvery Colt six shooter.... he was the greatest cowboy of them all...handsomer than Gene Autry, more exciting than Roy Rogers, faster than a speeding bullet, braver than Flash Gordon, more newsworthy than John Cameron Swayze...and at times, disguised as a black scarved outlaw, he would save the day, protect the girl and win the respect of the small western townspeople, not to mention the Kellog's Corn Flake crowd on mornings when nothing much of anything was happening... except maybe walking atop the wrought-iron fence circling the Ruddle Street elementary school yard.
Why he was a popular with the kids on weekend afternoons as Milton Berle's "Texaco Star Theatre" was on Tuesday nights.
The Durango Kid...the Durango Kid.....oh, I wanted so much to be the Durango Kid !
Every night before I would fall asleep I'd pray.....
"God Bless Mom and Dad and brother Chas and Grandmam and Grandpap...and please dear God, let me be just like the Durango Kid when I grow up...that's all I ask...let me be as handsome and brave and even have a big white hat like his...Please God..and if not, let me be like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, very ugly and very sad....please God. Listen to me. Amen."
Well, I wanted to be noticed in life. I wanted people to notice me, to remember who I was...who I am..
That was April 1952.
It is now April 2007.
So there you have it !

Mighty Spirits Rising

“Make way…prepare! For the time is coming.”
He shouted the words over and over again. I knew what was meant.
I would wait patiently.

With his hands outstretched as if preparing to fly, the black robe formed curtained wings. He shouted even more and as he did his body seemed to float upwards toward the cathedral-like ceiling.

Trinity Evangelical and Reformed Church stood on the corner of Lafayette and Washington. A long narrow brick church, with finely detailed stained glass windows and a bell-towered steeple reaching to the heavens, was adjoined to a small parking lot. A street level foyer took you to Sunday school rooms and the 1940’s kitchen. The church was visible on entering the Five Points intersection in town. It towered high above the Tamaqua train station.

Stairways on both sides led you up to another small foyer, which opened into the simply appointed but breathtaking church. More than 25 rows of pews, separated by a center aisle, led you to a divine emotion of comfort, safety and love. The faint fragrances of last week’s flower arrangements and the congregational mix of perfumes and face powder, with frequent odors of pipe smoke, filled the air.

I turned the page of my coloring book and began filling in the lines with pink crayola tints. I should have been using the tan and brown colors, but pink expressed my tingly feelings welling up on this warm spring day.
Pink ears, nose and tail, seemed unnatural… but it made me happy.

The fifth pew on the right of the church, where we always sat, was hard. There were no cushions. Coloring books loved the smooth surface of the varnished wood, even though there were the occasional deep scratches which caused gaps and ridges on the page being colored.

“The multitudes gathered, and he could be seen walking down from the barren hill,” he told the congregation.
My neighborly sinners eagerly awaited the anticipated baptism.

Rev. Kleinginna paused. He coughed slightly. And after a silence of what counted as a full 60 seconds, he excused himself.
“A moment if you please. I am …I have ….… a moment.”
He disappeared from the behind the pulpit and went through the door next to the altar.
Hymn 124 and 241 remained on the plaque above the door.

Myrtle Freeh stood up. She signaled to Mrs. Derr at the organ and the Trinity Choir stood to sing hymn number 124, “How Glorious is Thy Name.”

Half way through the melody, the tenor voices blended perfectly. John Pavlick and Bruce Hartman hit the middle “c” with precision, and Chick Freeh’s eyes wandered for a moment to the pastor’s door.
Out came Rev. Kleinginna, looking a bit peaked . He smiled at the choir and stood in the pulpit until the “Amen” signaled the close of the hymn.
I was perplexed. What had just happened?
For a moment I looked at my efforts of coloring of the Easter bunny in my manila-paged book.

“He is coming,” shouted the pastor. Louder then…”Prepare Ye the Way !”

I knew the Easter bunny was coming. It would only be a few weeks and chocolate candy would flow endlessly throughout April. Thanks goodness, he is coming. I couldn’t wait!

But where did Rev. Kleinginna go? Why did he leave the pulpit? Why did he go through the Trinity Choir music room door and why did he look so pale? Minutes later, the door opened.
On his return, his balding head was no longer shiny, and his hair which tufted out on his temples seemed combed flat.
There had to be an explanation.

Herb Derr and Henry Devonshire kept looking over at the pastor throughout the very shortened sermon, as if keeping a check on the outcome of the baptism story.

“And so we, too, must be John the Baptists. We, too, must spread the word even into this day. He is coming. Be ready for any unexpected occurrences…Prepare yourself.”

The once hell-fire-and-brimstone minister’s sermons, that would bring everyone to account for their misjudgments, were quieted that day. His rocking at the altar, forward and backward, up and down on his toes, would not be as animated. His sermons seemed no longer to burst out of him. His eyes no longer were filled with fire and his arms seldom stretched out into the church universe.

Rev. Kleinginna remained long into my memory throughout the years. His presence is still with me. His force in nature is great, and his message has become even more apparent as I enter my 63rd year.

For years after the Reverend’s heart attack incident, I prided myself in being in that choir, in that chambered brick church. I joined the tenor section with John and Bruce and Henry and Chick. I was attentive to Myrtle’s direction, and occasionally would imagine John Kleinginna standing on the pulpit where Rev. Joe Miller now stood.

The church has since been demolished and replaced with a lonely parking lot. A new Trinity church towers triangularly above the town.

But every Easter season, I can see that coloring book, hear that choir and wonder where Rev. Kleinginna journeyed that Sunday….
I know now. His mighty spirit was beginning to ascend. He was prepared.