A Memoir       
Don Lehman

Chapter 2
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Foreword
1945-1950
1950-1957
1957-1961
1961-1962
1962-1966
1966-1973
1973-1977
1977-1983
1983-1988
1988-1991
1991-1996
1996-2002
2002-2012
2012-2014
2014-2016
2016

1950 - 1957

In the 1950s we had difficulty with men burglarizing the store in the night. Since we lived next door, the idea of people breaking into the store was frightening for me, however, I generally felt safe in our house. Daddy rigged up a homemade alarm system attached to the doors that would ring a buzzer in our house if any of the doors at the store were forced open in the night. Several times I was awakened in the night by the alarm. It was creepy knowing one or more people were right next door stealing from us. These events presented a dilemma for Daddy because he was reluctant to involve the police, however, he did call the police. There was a deputy who lived across the street in the early 1960s. If he was home, he was quick to respond even if he was not on duty. I remember at least one occasion near Christmas when burglars were captured and held in jail. I went with Daddy when he took groceries and clothes to their families.

When I was five or six, I was playing in the back yard. We had clothes lines for drying laundry. The clothes lines had posts with a horizontal cross pipe so that two lines could be strung from each post. I rolled a wooden barrel over to the post and set it upright. I then climbed onto the barrel to reach the cross pipe. I used the pipe like a monkey bar, hanging upside down from my knees. We called it “skinning the cat.” I was having fun, until I slipped. When I fell, my armpit was torn on the metal edge at the top of the barrel. I held my arm tight to my side and went into the store to find Mother. I told her that I hurt my arm. She asked me to wait until she was finished helping the customer. I asked a few times. I guess she was used to my interruptions because she put me off for a while. When she finally took a look at my right armpit I knew by her reaction that I had a major gash! They rushed me to the hospital emergency room. I remember the rubber mask and the smell of gas. Someone told me to count to ten. I think I only made it to three. I had several stitches and my arm was in a sling for a few days. I still have scars from the stitches. That’s the only time I was taken to the hospital, though I went to the chiropractor quite often. The next time I went to the hospital I was sixty-six years old.

Since Daddy and Mother preferred chiropractors I sometimes got treatments for a cold but I also got treatments for nervousness. I think they hoped it would help my stammering. Sometimes Daddy would drop me off for a treatment and take care of some business in town, then stop back to pick me up. Our chiropractor was Dr. Hill. His office was in the basement of their lovely house on Mealey Parkway, a wealthy section of Hagerstown. He would massage my back, stretch my legs and crack my neck. Then he would put me under large, black plastic panels that may have been ultra sound but frankly I have no idea what it was. I rememberer it felt warm. He would leave the room and when he came back it was obvious that he had smoked a cigarette. He was a kind and gentle man. On a few occasions my treatment was over before Daddy returned. He would take me upstairs to their fine living room and turn on TV cartoons. I loved that! Sometimes he gave me a toy his son had outgrown.

Mother once took me to a medical doctor for my stammering. His name was Dr. Bell. He was large, had a deep voice, talked slowly and looked over his glasses. Picture a Saturday Evening Post, Norman Rockwell painting. He sat on a low stool in front of me and asked some simple questions. I stammered out the answers. Finally he looked over his glasses and said, “you... need...to...talk...slower.” That was that! I don’t know how much that advice cost my parents. I remember many times coming to my Mother with some exciting bit of news and having trouble getting the words out. She would stop me and tell me to slow down and start over. Sometimes I didn’t want to continue telling the story. The subject had changed from the exciting news to my speaking difficulty. It was frustrating. I also remember Mother telling me to not frown. In some of the snapshots I have from my childhood, I have a frowning expression. I was to some extent, an anxious child.

Maugansville is a small unincorporated community located near the Mason Dixon Line. There was no police or mayor. One or two of the male citizens may have been deputized but it was never much of an issue, I don’t remember any crime other than our store break-ins that would be investigated by a county sheriff or a possible drunken disorder that was quickly handled by neighbors. There was a post office and a combination lumberyard and grain elevator. Next door to the grain elevator there was a lunchroom run out of the front room of a residence. There were two auto repair garages with gas pumps, and a very small milk bottling company. In the sixties, a new post office was built next door to our house and a Sinclair filling station opened just beyond the post office. The Sinclair logo included a green dinosaur. There were two farm implement businesses. The John Deere dealership, located just east of town near the I-81 ramp was owned by Mother’s brother, uncle Leroy. There was one church that was Pentecostal which we referred to as the “Holy Rollers.” I was curious and once on a Sunday night, crept up and tried to look in the windows. It looked pretty normal. There was no ethic diversity in our little town and we didn’t even think about it as being an issue. We knew that the majority of the area’s African Americans lived in a condensed community within the city of Hagerstown along Jonathan Street. We referred that part of town as the “colored section.” The African American kids went to a separate school until the late 1950’s.

I think it made me feel special that the local people in Maugansville and the surrounding area came to our store. Even though we dressed different and did not socialize, I felt, somewhat, integrated into the community. Daddy did not join the Ruritan Club and Mother did not join the Homemakers Club. I was not permitted to join the Boy Scouts or any other community organizations. To my parents, the Boys Scouts seemed militaristic with their olive green uniforms and the civic organizations involved too much mixing with, “the world.” However, we were an important part of the community.

I liked living in the center of Maugansville. Our house and general merchandise store was on main street near the fire hall and the Post Office. People walked to the store or stopped in on their way to work or on their way home. Some worked at the lumber yard and grain elevator. We knew people who worked at Fairchild Aircraft, near the airport, and some who worked a few miles away in Hagerstown at manufacturing plants such as Moller Organ or Pangborn Manufacturing. I recognized everyone in our village. I spent many hours in the store and the neighborhood was comfortable and familiar. At the same time, we were clearly different in that we were one of a handful of Mennonites in the village. We did not socialize beyond conversation in the store and I was aware that there was still some hostility toward Mennonites for not being willing to fight in the wars. World War Two was a recent memory. There were quite a few veterans, and air raid drills when the fire alarm was sounded and everyone was required to turn out their lights. Our neighbor Mr. Mowen, was an local official. He and others walked the street with flashlights to make sure everyone complied. There were Civil Defense drills then sirens signaled and we followed directions at school. Those drill became known as “duck and cover” because that’s what we were told to do. I remember nightmares of war involving red planes flying in formation and jackboots stomping through our house while I hid in a cupboard. I would wake up terrified and realize that I was safe in my bed. The Russians were not really in our house and they were not attacking, at least not yet.

I had two feelings I felt safe in my family and yet we were pacifists. We would not physically defend ourselves. I knew all of our neighbors and yet we were different in ways that confused me. The non-Mennonites and even the non-religious seem just as happy and content as my parents, but we were going to heaven when we died and even if we suffered in life we would have an eternal reward. Well, I was discontent. I wanted to experience all that life had to offer which included many things that I was told would send me to eternal damnation to be tortured in hell fire.

I was secretly rebellious toward my religious family but most of the time that was not my focus. We were a family and these were my parents. They provided for me. I mostly felt a degree of normalcy because the religion was what I knew and I was not alone with it. I had friends that seemed to be experiencing a similar ambivalence. Ironically, most of those friends have remained church goers as adults.

At the time we did not hear people talk about post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but in retrospect, there were several WW2 veterans in our little town who were unable to work and some alcoholics who were obviously suffering from this illness. The ones who were on permanent disability and the ones who drank and could not work.

Like many small towns, there was one mentally handicapped man who liked to hitchhiking in and out of Hagerstown. He would hold stones in his hand and when drivers did not stop to pick him up he would become angry and throw the stones at the cars! Most people who knew him would give him a ride.

In the 1940s and 50s, Fairchild Aircraft built cargo planes a few miles from Maugansville. The plant was located along Route 11, the major north and south highway at that time. I watched as the big planes were tested overhead and I built crude wooden models. The factory had three shifts. While Maugansville’s, Main Street, was not a major route, when the shifts changed there was heavy traffic for twenty or thirty minutes between four and five o’clock every afternoon. This was a busy time in the store and the only time I saw customers that we did not know personally.

Maugansville remained relatively unchanged through the 1950s until Interstate 81, linking Pennsylvania to West Virginia, the Maryland section, was finished. It passed within 2 miles of our village affecting traffic patterns and in the early 60s bringing the Mack Truck manufacturing plant from somewhere in New Jersey. Many workers, moving from New Jersey with the plant, chose Maugansville as their new home.

I enjoyed riding my bike. At the age of nine or ten, I was permitted to start riding on the streets of the village. I played with a neighbor boy named Jerry. Sometimes we pretended our bikes were motorcycles. He wanted me to call him “Carson” when we were doing make believe.

Our next door neighbor was Mr. Eshelman. He lived with his brother and sister in a white two story house with porches. They had a large yard with a thorny barberry hedge. A looping driveway entered at the edge of our property and extended to a carriage style garage and exited at the opposite side of the house. Beside the garage, there was a vegetable garden. At the back of the property there was another yard and small orchard. A portion of the driveway featured a row of tall lilac bushes. In the summer, Mr. Eshelman would knock on our door with big bouquets of lilacs and for days our house would be filled with the smell of flowers. All three of the Eshelmans were elderly and unmarried. Lilly had been a missionary. Harry was an alcoholic and had a sofa in the garage where he spent his days drinking. Ira was a cabinet maker at the Fairchild Aircraft plant and had his own woodshed on the second floor of the garage. He would often request my help with yard work. I helped him rake leaves, mow grass and trim hedges. I didn’t mind the yard work but I didn’t like working in the vegetable garden. After helping for several hours on a Saturday, I could count on him reaching into his pocket and giving me a quarter or two. Even then it was small payment but I think I accepted it graciously. One Christmas he gave me a finely crafted small walnut chest. I valued it and it is still here on my studio shelf 60 years later.

I liked building things with scraps of wood. I made what I called, “go carts.” They were basically a piece of wood with wheels and some sort of seat. The challenge was to attach wheels that would turn freely and would not fall off. Another problem to be solved was the steering mechanism. These cart did not have a motor, so of course I would need to push a friend or talk someone into pushing me.

The Brewers lived directly across from us on Main Street. Mr. and Mrs. Brewer had a daughter named Joyce who was my brother Nate’s age and a son Eddie who was my sister Janice’s age. I sometimes played with Eddie even though he was older than me. They had one of the first TV sets in our village and on a few occasions I got invited in to watch. Eddie’s Dad smoked a pipe and their house smelled different than ours. I liked the way it smelled. Sometimes I would say to Eddie, “Let’s go in and watch TV”, and he would say, “There’s nothing on.” I knew there was something on and I would have watched anything! Eddie’s Mother, Edith, was pleasant and helped out in the post office. His Dad, Bill, had the gas station and auto repair garage next to the house. Eddie had a go cart with a motor. One year, on summer evenings, when he had that go cart, he would speed up and down the street. I was envious of that go cart!

Eddie’s Dad made a big impression on me. In many ways he was the opposite of Daddy. While they both had businesses, Bill’s attitude was much more casual. Daddy said, “the customer is always right.” Bill was more like, I’ll be fair and do good work, but life is to be enjoyed. He had a great laugh, was competent and successfully fixed cars, but at five o’clock every day, he stopped working and stood in front of his open overhead door, waved to people passing by and fiddled with his pipe. If anyone pulled up to the gas pump he waved them away calling out, “We’re closed, go on down to Dick’s.” Dick’s was short for Dietrick’s, a competitor located down over the railroad tracks. A few older men liked to stand around and chat with him after hours. He had a blue three wheel Harley Davidson motorcycle with a trunk where he put his tools. He used it for service calls. More than once I saw him kick start it and head out to help someone who was broken down. He would go, rain or shine! He worked under cars so his clothes and hands were greasy. Bill kept cats and I remember him leaning over to rub the pet and talking to them. On Saturday afternoon, after he closed the garage, he would bath, put on fresh clean work clothes and have a few drinks. Early Monday morning he was back at work on cars and happy to stop and pump gas for anyone who tooted their hook at his pump. After he had those drinks on Saturday, he would walk across the street to our store in a very jolly mood. While he always seemed to be in good spirits, he was even more so and very talkative on these occasions. If there were Mennonites shopping in the store he would joke and tease, telling them he was coming to church on Sunday morning. We sold fresh oysters in season. He would buy a pint of select oysters and a box of saltine crackers. While he was standing around joking he would place a raw oyster on a cracker and eat them. When I was seven or eight years old, he shared them with me. It was great eating raw oysters with him and he got a big kick out of me eating them! We also kept a wheel of sharp cheese on top of the meat counter. When he was ready to head back across the street, he would take a big wedge of cheese with him. One night when one of the Mennonite men began asking when their car would be repaired, Bill frightened me by telling the man it was my fault that it was not finished. In a serious tone, he said he was waiting for me to come help him finish the work. That night I remember going outside the store and praying that it was not really my fault. One Christmas morning, before we went to church, he knocked on the door. He was dressed in a full Santa suit and gave us oranges and candy. Since we did not celebrate Christmas with a tree and and fancy gifts it was a real funny and happy treat! I liked to go into the garage to watch him work. Somehow I learned that he had “pin ups” taped to the inside of a parts cabinet behind a wall of shelves. Sometimes when he went out to pump gas I would sneak back and look at those pictures. His work ethic and happy attitude made a big impression on me in contrast to my parents’ serious and anxiety filled, religious lives.

When I was in my early teens, Bill hired me to paint the trim around the windows and soffits of the garage. Shortly after that, I was hired by a family who lived at the south east corner at Main Street and Showalter Road to paint all the trim on their house and garage. It was a lot of work and took several weeks that summer. I remember being surprised that I was given so much responsibility and concerned that I was not doing a professional job. I just road my bicycle to their house and painted. I don’t remember how much I was paid.

The large grain elevator and lumber yard was next to the railroad tracks a few blocks from our house. The lumber yard had a cabinet shop with a constant pile of discarded pieces of wood. I would scavenge through the wood pile for usable scraps. I built shacks behind our garage. They were like little clubhouses though I didn’t have a club or club members. It was mostly about the process of building and having a place for myself.

I was not a big kid and my first bike was a special evert. When Daddy brought it home, I was disappointed because he had bought a large bike so I would, “grow into it,” but in order for me to ride, he had purchased a girl’s style without the top bar. There was no way I wanted to ride a girl’s bike. I remember the conflict but not the resolution. I think it was exchanged for a regular boy’s bike. I remember many bike related experiences. I worked on my bikes attaching head and tail lights, speedometers and sirens. These accessories were either battery operated or operated off a wheel that ran off the bike tire. I remember a light that became brighter when I rode faster! My friends and I would use clothes pins to attach bubblegum baseball cards so they rubbed the wheel spokes. When we rode, the cards would flip against the spokes making a motor sound! We also tied balloons to the front fork so that they rubbed the spokes. It made a great motor sound until it popped. We loved it when it popped because it made a sound similar to a car backfiring!

One of the problems with a boy’s bike, especially if it is too big for you, is that if the chain is too loose and pops off when you are really pumping the pedals you will definitely crack your “nuts!” If there was no one around when that happened to me, I would swear and cry from the pain.

The only sidewalk on our street was in front of Miss Maugan’s house. That’s where I roller skated. My parents bought me roller skates on the advice of a doctor who said it would help correct my right foot that was slightly turned in. We called it “pigeon-toed.” I didn’t want to be pigeon-toed and I liked rollerskating so it worked out. The old style roller skates fit onto your shoe. They grabbed your heel and had adjustable clamps at the front to grab the sole of your shoe. A special key was used to adjust the length and the front clamps. Mostly we kept the key on a shoe string and wore it around our neck so we did not loose it. (Joni Mitchell, “Brand New Key”)

One day, after getting my first big bike, I was riding along the street near our house. When coming up behind a much older boy, I made a beeping sound to let him know I was approaching from behind. He stepped to the left just as I was about to pass on the left. He was carrying a large paper bag of groceries from the store. I don’t remember the crash but I was told that groceries went flying and I did some flying myself, right over the handlebars. I was knocked unconscious and lost a sizable chip off one of my front teeth. Apparently the boy that I hit was not injured because he carried me back the half block to my house. That broken tooth was part of my “look” until I got upper dentures when I was 12 years old and starting the 7th grade.

My parents had dentures and at twelve, it seemed like getting dentures was the grown-up thing to do. We did not have good dental care or hygiene. I started saving early. I had a small, cloth drawstring bag that I kept my savings in. I hid it in a hole in the wall behind my dresser. I remember getting my last upper teeth pulled and having the dentures fitted. There was not a bit of embarrassment on my part, in fact, I entertained friends by using the dentures to make strange faces. I was in my early thirties when I completed the set and got lower dentures. My parents and my siblings, all had complete sets of dentures.

We went to church each Sunday morning and many Sunday evenings. The Sunday evening meetings were sometimes called “Youth Meetings” and teenagers were given topics to speak on. On Wednesday evenings we went to prayer meetings or bible studies. The men always sat on one side of the church sanctuary and women sat on the other side. I sat on either side until probably around the age of four when I started sitting with Daddy. I remember when I would get sleepy and lean against him, his wool suit coat was scratchy and irritated my face. He sometimes carried Lifesaver peppermints that he would share with me. At around the age of twelve we could begin to sit with our friends toward the back of the church. This gave us an opportunity to trade furtive glances with girls. While many churches have accommodations for kneeling, one of the odd traditions of the Mennonites in our area was to get on our knees and turn toward the bench during prayer. This was also an opportunity to sneak a glance toward the girls side of your row of benches.

Some times we had a week of “revival meetings” or “evangelistic meetings.” These usually featured a visiting preacher. There were certain preachers who were particularly talented and dramatic. These preachers were in demand and traveled from church to church. The meetings would often end with tragic stories of people who died without being “saved” and faced eternity in Hell fire with Satan. An invitation would be given for people to raise their hands or walk up to the front to ask for forgiveness or to accept Jesus as their Savior. This also meant that you would join the church and be baptized if you were not already a member. When the invitation was given, a song was sung. We sang songs like, “Are You Washed in the Blood of the Lamb” or ‘Just as I Am Without One Plea.” This is when I would often struggle with feelings of guilt and fear!

One of the most popular evangelists when I was young was George R. Brunk. He traveled with two 18 wheelers. One trailer contained a large tent, folding chairs for hundreds of people, and generators to power lights and amplifiers. The other trailer opened at the side to become a stage. The event would be set up in a local farmer’s open field. There was sawdust on the ground and as the sun went down the atmosphere was theatrical. On summer nights for a week we would go to the tent revival meetings. It was at one of those meetings that I decided that I wanted to join the church, I was about nine or ten years old. It was considered young but some of my friends were also joining. We went through a short study course and were baptized by a Mennonite bishop who sprinkled water on our head in a special baptism ceremony. Mennonites are “Anabaptists” and do not do infant baptism. Baptisms are administered by choice after the “age of accountability.” This must be similar to the “age of reason” generally accepted as seven to eleven years old. “Accepting Jesus” and joining the church also meant that I would wear a “plain” suit to church. Any suit that was purchased for me would now have the collar removed and would be altered to button to the top just like the grown-ups. I never liked that and only wore it to church. I did not want my non-Mennonite friends to see me dressed that way. The mother of a local Maugansville friend, gave my mother a suit that her son was not using. It was a light blue, cool, summer seersucker fabric. I would have loved to have worn it. Mother had it altered in the Mennonite style. I thought it looked ridiculous and I don’t remember ever wearing it.

In addition to George R. Brunk, another popular evangelist was Myron Augsburger. I don’t recall him using a tent but he was the closest thing we had to a celebrity. I say that because he was handsome and had a beautiful speaking and singing voice. He could recite “The Creation” by James Weldon Johnson. I was not used to that kind of dramatic recitation. I was mesmerized!

Occasionally, Daddy would initiate “family devotions.” I guess it was after revival meetings. We would all sit in the living room. Daddy would read from the Bible or we would take turns reading. Then we would sing hymns, the part I liked, since I would get to choose a song. I think it was also Mother’s favorite part and she would sing out in a clear soprano voice. Daddy would sing too but he struggled to stay on key. At the end we would get on our knees and turn toward our chair and Daddy would do a long prayer. Sometimes he would ask each one of us to pray. I didn’t like that because I didn’t know what to say. The whole affair seem somewhat awkward and arbitrary. I think Mother and Daddy thought it was the right thing to do but it was mostly skipped as their lives became busy with day to day activities.

I remember that sometimes, late in the evening seeing Mother with her black stockings removed and her long hair let down and brushed out. She seemed almost like a different person, someone more relaxed and more free.

Daddy taught little lessons that he thought were important. When we arrived home after church, evening services, it was late. For some reason, Janice and I, rushed to the door, pushing to be first while daddy, sorted through his keyring to unlocked the door. I remember Daddy, paraphrasing from the Bible, saying, “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.” The one who had pushed to the front had to trade places with the person who was last. We thought it was funny, it gave us something to think about.

My favorite family time was in the summer after 8 pm when the store was closed we would sometimes sit in the yard on our metal lawn chairs until after dark. People waved as they walked or drove by. It was a time that I seemed to have the attention of my parents. When it got dark Janice and I would chase fireflies until it was time for bed.

We went to a small church that had once been a one room school house. Our meetings were pretty informal. Before I was born there had been disagreements between the ultra-orthodox Mennonites in Washington County where Mother had grown up and the somewhat little less restricted Franklin County churches. Daddy had grown up in the Franklin County churches. There was a notorious bishop controlling the Washington County group named Moses Horst. Daddy and Mother chose to go with a group that started the Eshelman’s church near Stateline, PA, part of the Franklin County group. At that time Moses was still a ruling bishop and he would not recognize our church as legitimate, therefore, we did not have our own church officials. That was unique because it meant that we did not have a preacher or deacons. On alternate Sunday’s we had a bishop or visiting preacher from one of the Franklin County churches who unlike Moses Horst accepted our legitimacy. On those Sundays we sat through a sermon. On the Sundays we did not have a sermon or official service we had Sunday school and sang songs. We were rebels! At least that’s sort of how it felt. Sadly, in the last two decades of my parent’s life, they became more conservative and went back to the Washington County churches.

I liked it when we did not have a sermon. Most of the families were young and there was an emphasis on the children. The men sat on benches to the left facing the front and women sat on the right. Children were usually split, girls with mothers and boys with fathers. The typical service consisted of opening songs chosen and lead by a “song leader” There was no piano, organ or musical instruments of any kind. The singing was strictly acapella, four part harmony. The song leader would stand at the front, announce the song number and everyone would take a book and find the song. The leader would then blow the key into a “pitch pipe” and sound the starting soprano note. The leaders were always men. They would start the song and keep time by directing with the right hand. One of our leaders used a “tuning fork” A small devise that when struck sounded the “a” note. From that “a” note he could determine the starting note and sound it out. The pitch pipe was a small round harmonica type devise that had the complete scale. All you needed to do was to determine the song’s opening note, find it on the pitch pipe, blow that sound and start the song on that note. The hymnals we used had shaped notes and we learn the music that way.

The reason this was important to me was that some of the adults decided that since I was interested in music, maybe I would like to lead songs. I was no more than twelve at the time so it was a sort of novelty. None of the other churches had a child choosing and leading songs. I sometimes had difficulty announcing the song number because of my stammering speech problem, but I never had a problem singing or even starting the song. I did have an issue when I passed through puberty and my voice “changed.” For a while I kept starting songs in my falsetto. Somehow I learned to adjust after someone who was several years older than me pointed out that I should be using my natural voice to start the songs. From that time on through my teen years I carried a pitch pipe to church and was often asked to lead the singing in our church and the affiliated churches.

In the 1950s the Eshelman’s group outgrew the small, one room, school house and built a new church building nearby. The group changed the name to Salem Ridge Mennonite Church. Into the early 1960s, we still did not have a minister so the emphasis remained on the children. When you had joined the church, you participated in confession, communion and an ordinance called feet washing. These traditions were held a few times a year. A bishop and deacon would come and oversee those activities. First we would go into a small room in groups of ten or twelve and one by one say the words, “I have peace with God and man and I desire to take communion.” The men and women did not mix for these rituals. I guess if you felt that you were guilty of some sin, this was an opportunity to confess. Ironically, I do not recall anyone ever confessing. Then when everyone was back in the sanctuary, the bread and wine (we used non-alcoholic grape juice) was passed around. After communion, several buckets of warm water were brought in and the men washed each others feet. On the other side, women discreetly removed their hose and did the same. The water was just sort of symbolically splashed on and dried with a towel to follow the example Jesus taught at the ”last supper.” I remember my feet being tickled when being dried. There was also tradition called the “holy kiss.” At our church this was only practiced by some of the older members but they would greet each other with a kiss on the lips. They would not do it outside of the church. I remember some of the older men kissing me after I joined the church and it was creepy, I tried to avoid them. If someone felt that they wanted to confess a sin there was the process of public confession and if there was a known sin that a member refused to confess and ask for forgiveness, that member could be excommunicated. I am not aware that this ever happened at our church but I do know that it happened, especially in the Washington County churches, under bishop Moses Horst.

Sometimes I would be scolded after church for talking with my friends or generally misbehaving. There were bubblegum cards popular at the time that had silly cartoon pictures. When we shared them, it was had to keep from laughing. We also would play a little game of adding the phrase, “between the sheets” after song titles in the hymnals. Everything was hilarious when we were supposed to be reverent and quiet.

Maugansville School was within view of our house. We did not have kindergarten or preschool. I remember the first day of first grade. I had not yet met many other kids my age in the village. My friends from church went to other schools. I made friends quickly. I had a crush on a little girl who sat in front of me. We didn’t know how to write but we handed notes back and forth with little drawings that I thought were suggestive. She was participating but I don’t know if she had the same interpretation.

The Maugansville School was not a place with high academic expectations. I don’t remember being challenged and my grades were not especially high, yet I was always in the top group. In the first grade, I had a competition with another kid to see who could write the most numbers. I think he won. He said he could write to one hundred but I had no way to verify it. Another kid named Albert put an airplane in every picture that he drew. Someone started calling him “Airplane Albert.” After Christmas holiday, some students brought a toy to school to show what their favorite gift was. One kid brought a pressed metal, army tank. It was battery operated and moved forward making motor and firing noises with sparks shooting from the barrel. I found it exciting and repulsive at the same time. I liked it but I would never have a toy like that. I had some toys but they did not come wrapped in Christmas paper and we did not decorate for the holidays. We sang Christmas carols and read the Christmas story from the Bible. I certainly did not have any toys that were war related or suggested violence. I didn’t take anything to school to show.

Student were very aware of World War 2 and since our family were conscientious objectors on religious grounds it was a sensitive issue. At night I had war in my dreams. At school we had “air raid drills.” We would go to the hallway and sit on the floor along the wall. We were instructed to pull our legs up and cover our heads with our arms. People talked about building fallout shelters that they thought would protect their families if there was a nuclear war and bombs were dropped on us like we had dropped in Japan. Cities and towns had designated fallout protection areas marked with a special sign, a circle with three inverted triangles and the words “Fallout Shelter.” I sensed hostility from some people who resented conscientious objectors unwillingness to fight in WW2 and any war to come. In some cases I actually heard people refer to conscientious objectors as being “yellow” meaning that they were cowards. I wondered if that was true. It was much later that I realized that the “objection” was to the killing and not the fear of being killed. At church, there were lessons about “turning the other cheek” and frightening stories about anabaptist martyrs. I don’t think the lessons of peace was taught well.

The stammering speech problem I had as a young child continued until my late teens. It seemed to end when I left home which might indicate the cause, but I never tried to analyze it much. I was just glad to be done with the problem! In elementary school, I would sometimes be called out of class to see the public health nurse who would speak to me. I was not told why but I assumed it was to check on my speech problem. When we had reading exercises the teacher would call on each students to read a paragraph from our reading book. I remember trying to hide behind the student in front of me to avoid being noticed and hoping the teacher would not call on me. It didn’t occur to me to talk to the teacher about the problem. When I stammered my throat would tighten and I could not get the words out. Once I got the first word out it seemed that I could keep it going if I didn’t pause. Over time I learned little tricks that helped get sentences started.

I was hyperactive, nervous and worried about social interactions. Maybe because I was youngest in our family, I seemed to interact more comfortably with grownups than with others my own age. I got in trouble quite a lot in school by causing disturbances. I had difficulty sitting still. I remember falling out of my chair. I remember incidences involving glue and the long hair on the girl who sat in front of me. I rubbed my arm with the edge of a plastic ruler until the skin was raw and became scabbed. It seems that I was often sent out to stand in the hallway. The principal’s office was at the end of the hall. There was a small offset just outside the classroom door where the hallway lockers started. I stood in that little offset hoping that the principal would not see me. I was sometimes sent directly to the principal’s office. On one occasion that involved scratching an obscenity onto the paper towel dispenser in the bathroom, another kid and I got into big trouble. The principal came to our home and talked with Daddy. When Daddy confronted me about it, I blamed the other kid and said that he made me do it. Daddy seemed to accept that lie, I was surprised. I guess it was easy for him to believe that I could be intimidated by other students or maybe he just didn’t want to believe that I would do such a bad thing. I was just nine years old and he may have wondered, how did I even know words like that? I did use bad language as a child and I used to be amazed that I could repeat “dirty” jokes and used “bad words” and yet they never slipped out around my parents. I was just a child yet I seemed to be living a double life!

I had very little awareness of the world at large. Since we did not have a TV and popular magazines, we did not seem to think much about the larger world’s population or issues beyond an abstract fear of nuclear destruction, thanks to the cold war with The Soviet Union. Fortunately my parents decided to purchase a set of World Book Encyclopedia. I spent hours looking at pictures and scanning the text. I also saw an occasional National Geographic magazine. I had a View Master with a few slide reels. Of course we saw newspapers which I delivered, but that required a lot of reading. I do remember the big events that were documented in bold headlines. I remember “I Like Ike” buttons and pictures of Nikita Khrushchev pounding the table with his shoe at the United Nations meeting. There was some news of the civil rights demonstrations in the south but unfortunately, that seemed far removed from anything that effected us. I don’t remember what occupied my mind when I played with my slinky, my erector set and electric train.

The day Nate and Kathy were married was stressful for my parents. Kathy’s Mother did not approve of Nate and refused to come to the wedding. Her Dad, in support of his wife also stayed home. Mother and Daddy did not approve of the church Kathy and her parents attended but they liked Kathy and knew that Nate loved her, so rather than having a church wedding they offered our house. Home weddings were not unusual for the Mennonites. They were married in our living room. All this, in addition to Daddy and Mother’s first child being married and moving to Florida to fulfill his alternative service to the military draft was a lot for them to deal with in one day. I have no memory of the actual wedding ceremony but I remember the reception. It was held at the Maugansville Elementary School, two blocks from our house. After the reception, I was told to go home and change out of my good clothes while the adults worked at cleaning up the dining hall. When my parents came home I was pitching a football in the yard with a friend. I was still in my good clothes. That was when Daddy lost it and I got a good spanking. A memory from my brother’s wedding day. It was 1956, I was 10 years old. I didn’t get spanked often but when I did, it was over Daddy’s knee and he would spank with his hand. I don’t recall it hurting a lot but it made a big impression because it was a clear indication that I had crossed the line. He would talk to me after the spanking and it felt oddly intimate and embarrassing. He came from the tradition of, “spare the rod and spoil the child,” though he never used a rod! I do remember some of the few times he turned me over his knee and spanked me with his hand. Later in life, I realized that it may have had a lot to do with what kind of day he was having before I got on his “last nerve.”

While Nate and Kathy were living in Florida their first son, Jeffery was born. When he was a newborn they made a visit home. Kathy’s Mother was now accepting of the marriage and we were all excited about the new baby. Since Nate had moved out and Gerri was eighteen and going off to college, our family was shrinking. It was Dick and me. At this time I did not have much in common with Janice. She was fourteen and a bit more of a “Mother” figure when Mother was busy or depressed. When Nate and Kathy had to leave to go back to Florida with the new baby, It was decided that Janice would go with them to stay for a few weeks to help out. I wished that I was the one going with them. The day they left, the house seemed empty and I was extremely sad. I had become interested in religion and had been reading, “Pilgrims Progress” by John Bunyan, a big, dark and dismal piece of old english christian literature, inappropriate for my age. That afternoon after Janice left with Nate, Kathy and baby Jeffery, I went back to reading the book. I started to cry and it was not a little cry. It was a hysterical, unstoppable cry. I didn’t understand why I was so out of control and I could tell that Mother and Daddy were confused. Finally, they decided that we should go for a ride in the car. Getting out of the house and riding in the car helped and I was able to calm down enough to stop the crying. I don’t remember Gerri or Dick being involved in that event. They must have been there.

It was an awkward time. I was struggling socially at school and beginning to feel oppressed by the church and guilty of my inability to conform.

I wanted to please my parents but it seemed impossible to be that “good.” I lied to them and pretended to be a “good” boy. I knew I was being deceitful and I felt guilty. I was still quite young when I realized that I wanted a life that was more free than the life my parents had. As a result I was not open and did not confide in my parents. They seemed busy and preoccupied with work, church and personal anxieties. I didn’t know it at the time but it seems now that my parents did not provide a nurturing relationship for me.

I liked cars and for a while I knew every make, model and year. I glued scale models together and I talked about cars. I made motor sounds when I walked. Making squealing tire sounds when I started and again when I was “changing gears” or turning corners. It must have been terribly annoying.

I longed for freedom. I wondered what it was like to live in a non-religious family. There were times that I fantasized that the entire world was conspiring and I would, some day, find that everyone knew something that I did not know. Sex was especially confusing because I could not believe that people actually did those things. I hoped that it was true, but it seemed unfathomable! Of course, I did not know any adults who talked about sex. It was just discussed in jokes with my friends.

I wanted to be good and I wanted to be bad, bad being a relative term. My parents didn’t go to the “Great Hagerstown Fair” when it was held each summer. I’m sure they had reasons that would be hard to explain to a child, so I thought, going to the fair was bad. The same was true for movies, having a TV in your house, listening to popular music, reading great books, other than the Bible, joining Boy Scouts and playing Little league baseball, anything that was “worldly” or secular. I didn’t know why exactly but I knew Daddy and Mother, and the church, were opposed to so much and I assumed all those things that seemed so appealing to me, were bad. I learned to keep my desires to myself. That training followed me into adulthood. The experiences that were denied me when I was young became fantasies that grew to impossible proportions. When I was old enough to be on my own and chose to do those things I was denied, I was obviously disappointed. I had to re-adjust my expectations. I’m still inclined to prefer my imagination over experience. I needed to redefine my expectation away from the excitement of doing something bad, or something denied. I needed to stop and ask myself, why do I want this experience? What is good about it? I still like my imagination. It helps me work as an artist. It was always a source of both pleasure and guilt as a child. As an adult, I still find it difficult to allow myself the freedom that I could but I have for the most part eliminated the guilt.

I was generally uncomfortable with my parents unless the focus was on work, some general subject or if others were around when I knew a personal discussion could not occur. I avoided intimate situations when I might be confronted with something about my behavior, especially with Daddy who may have attempted to discuss sex or other potentially embarrassing subjects. I didn’t want to talk about religion because I did not like their views but I was not sophisticated enough to explain why. I knew I would just end up feeling like more of a disappointment to them. There were a few things I knew about Daddy and things he knew about me that I did not want to discuss. Unfortunately these things were a wall between us. We got along well in work and financial matters but sadly there was a lack of intimacy between me and my parents that was never resolved. As an adult, I decided that I preferred to leave those issues locked away. Our differences were too entrenched to hope to resolve. Leaving issues unresolved even today causes me to feel like a person with a secret.

In the early 1950s, there were more changes to the store. The dry goods department was expanded by about 30 feet wide and 50 feet long to include an office for Daddy and some storage at the back. The expanded dry goods would mean Mother would be busier.

At about the same time, auto insurance law changed in Maryland requiring Mennonites to purchase insurance. Daddy was approached by Goodville Insurance, a company that was started by Mennonites several decades earlier in Lancaster County Pennsylvania. He was encouraged to quickly get his license and become an agent. In the next few years he had the beginnings of a thriving business as Mennonites flocked in, purchasing insurance from a “brother” in the church.

Many Mennonite churches still rejected home owners or medical insurance which the law did not require and they preferred to pitch in and help one another in the event of a fire or health expense. In some ways this worked well and in other ways it made some church members dependent on the more fortunate and successful members. Rather than achieving the common good it may have created a hierarchy based on wealth.

Once again Daddy added to the business facilities. He built about twelve more feet on the dry goods side of the building with a length to accommodate two offices. One for a secretary/receptionist and one for him.

Occasionally Daddy took me on calls to clients and meetings with other agent. It was not clear to me whether this was to introduce me to the business or “father/son” bonding time. Neither was very effective. I do clearly remember one call to a farm family. We sat around the kitchen table as Daddy presented the insurance options. The mother did most of the talking and on several occasions referred to her daughter having her “peanut removed.” She sort of referenced events as occurring before or after the poor girl’s “peanut was removed” I had no idea what she was talking about and my imagination was going wild. It turned out that the kid had inhaled a peanut at some point and it had to be surgically removed. I remember being relieved when I learned the full story.

During my preteen years I enjoyed watching the original store grow and construction workers building additions. One of my jobs as a young child was to “sort pop bottles.” There was a refund of 2¢ per empty soft drink bottle. Many bottles were returned for the refund. I learned which brands were marketed by Pepsi and which were marketed by Coca Cola, etc. Many minor brands like Royal Crown, Cloverdale, Grapette, Truade and Barq’s Root Beer had to be sorted out to be picked up by the parent companies. This had to be done every day as the mixed bottles quickly accumulated! There were no diet soft drinks. Tab was a diet cola introduced by Coca Cola in 1963.

When Daddy had the store built he attached a furnace room, designed to heat both the store and the house that he intended to build next door. When all was finished, there was the store, the furnace room, a two car garage and then, the house. The store and the house were heated by water fed through underground pipes. It was a coal furnace and one of my chores in the winter months was to fill the coal stoker and remove the “clinkers” from the furnace. The outside of the furnace and all the large water pipes were coated with flaking asbestos. A substance that is now known to cause cancer. Its use is no longer permitted.

Since heat for the house was supplied from the furnace room, there was no need for a chimney on the house. The neighbors thought a house with no chimney was odd so there were jokes. I was told that the Hagerstown newspaper showed a picture with a caption that went something like, “there is no chimney, what will Santa Clause do?” Daddy was being conservative and he probably did not mind the joking.

On non-religious holidays like Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day, when most businesses were closed, Daddy would unlock the front door to the store and Gerri, Janice and I would be responsible to help if anyone came in. I liked imagining that we were in charge. We would have some customers but it would not be busy because most people would assume that we would be closed. The store was closed on religious holidays, however, since our house was next door and everyone in the community knew us, people would sometimes knock on our door and ask if we could help them. Daddy didn’t mind if it was milk for the baby or some other essential, but he was not happy when some one asked him to go to the store for a half gallon of ice cream or some other non-essential. If someone came on a Sunday for an emergency item, he would go to the store and get it for them but he would not take money on a Sunday. He would ask them to come back on Monday to pay. If we were traveling any distance on a Sunday we would never travel beyond one tank of gas because we would not buy gas on “the Lord’s Day.” We would pack our meals so we did not need to stop at a restaurant or buy food. No buying or selling on Sundays!

It was important to my parents to have a clean car for driving to church on Sunday mornings. It was often my job to wash the car on Saturdays. I didn’t really mind because after washing the car, I could drive it around to the back of the store where we had a gas tank. I would hand crank the pump filling the car’s gas tank then drive it back around and park it in the driveway. When I was twelve, that was a big deal. I remember washing the car when the temperature was well below freezing. I would use warm water but it would still freeze on the car. We used genuine chamois leather for wiping the car down after washing. In freezing temperatures the chamois would sometimes freeze to the metal surface.

It’s no secret that children can be unkind. Often on Halloween unkind messages would be written on the store show windows with paraffin wax or soap. Sometimes it would be obscenities but also references to Mennonites and embarrassing personal references. Daddy would wash or scrape the pictures and messages off the windows in the mornings.

One of the slogans I heard from older boys, meant to be demeaning was, “ol’ man Lehman sittin’ on a fence tryin’ to make a quarter out of fifteen cents.” I hated it when I heard that, but later I thought, well yes, he wasn’t exactly sittin’ on a fence but he was trying to make a quarter out of fifteen cents. That’s called retail marketing!

Work and earning money was highly valued. I always had jobs. When I was nine or ten I delivered the “Grit”, a weekly newspaper. Soon I was delivering the Hagerstown, Herald Mail afternoon edition called the “Daily Mail”. I had an official paperboy bag and a “change maker” attached to my belt, for Saturday collections. I had the Maugansville, Main Street route. Every day after school I got on my bike and delivered about 70 newspapers from the south end of Main Street just over the railroad tracks, to the north end near the airport runway. Like the U.S. Postal Service, I delivered year round in rain, snow, and the blazing sun. When I started I was under the recommended age. It was typical for me to be encourage to take on responsibilities before I was age appropriate. I was mostly responsible, but immature, and often would be distracted and skip one of the customers. By the time I returned home they would have called Daddy and I would need to hop back on my bike. I skipped one customer a couple of times and he told Daddy how mad he was. Daddy said I would have to knock on his door and apologize. I hated that and it was the last time I missed his delivery. Sometimes I would stop at a friends house and “shoot some hoops.” When I did that, deliveries would run late. I did not understand the importance grownups placed on the timely delivery of the daily paper. I enjoyed the company of adults and often had friendly conversations with my customers. On one very hot day a young wife who was a new customer, offered me a glass of iced tea. It sounded great because I loved the sweet, mint tea my Mother would make. This tea however was not mint and was not sweetened. This tea seemed bitter and I remember an awkward silence as I sat across from her at her kitchen table. She was so young and pretty. It seemed strangely intimate and I felt grown-up having been invited in and offered iced tea. I forced myself to drink that tall bitter beverage. Some of my customers were older and I realized that they were lonely and liked having someone to chat with for a few minutes each day. I recall some winter nights when there was a lot of snow. I could not use the bike and I would still be trudging along with the mail bag after dark. I only recall being helped with the car on a few occasions. It was my responsibility. I saved most of the money that I earned.

In the summer the Fuller Brush man would come to town. He would pay pennies per catalog to have them delivered door to door. He would then follow up the next day to sell brushes and other household products. I work for him on several occasions. He had a plaid jacket, a hat, a bow tie and a mustache. He had other kids helping too. On one occasion he found a bunch of his catalogs thrown away in a ditch. He had paid someone to deliver them and they had just thrown them away. I would never have pulled a trick like that. He told me about it. He was angry but he didn’t accuse me.

I also helped maintain the yard and garden. I never liked working in the garden. Hoeing and pulling weeds in the hot sun was the worst. I remember a hot day when I was told to work in the garden. I worked for a while and then went to Daddy and complained. I said I didn’t think I should have to do it. Daddy was an even tempered man and seldom showed anger. But I was angry and I said, “I don’t know why I have to do it, I didn’t ask to be born.” I was surprised by how angry he became when I said that! I realized that I had crossed a line and it was time to get my butt back into the garden and pull some weeds!

I had a few pets. A local man gave me a hunting dog that was the runt of a litter. I guess he did not expect to be able to sell it. It was a short haired pointer. For reasons I do not understand, I was not attached to the dog. I called her Jenny. I fed her and she had a dog house but I do not remember playing with her or taking her for a run. I did not have her long but when we gave her away she was full grown. I hope she went to a good home! I also had rabbits. They were pets but we also ate them! I had several litters and raised them in a pen behind he garage. Rabbit pens have a distinct odor that I can easily recall. It seems that I was never very attached to animals until later in life. As an adult, I have always had at least one cat.

During this same time, for a few weeks in the spring I would set my alarm for 4 am, get on my bike, meet up with a few other kids, and ride about three miles through the dark and damp morning to the Miller’s Asparagus Farm. The farm belonged to Amos and Liddy Miller. Amos was a bit of an inventor and built his own canning machine. We were given bushel baskets and sent out to pick asparagus in the muddy fields. The rows of asparagus were long and the baskets became heavy as we worked. Soon it would be time for school. We would be handed a few dollars and get back on our bikes. My shoes were heavy with mud and I remember how difficult it was to wash the smell of asparagus off my hands!

Daddy and two other men from our church, Russell Martin and Glen Martin held a two week summer bible school at the beginning of summer vacation. They used the Maugansville School facilities. It was an evening event. Mostly Mennonites attended but some community kids came. Folding chairs were set up in the auditorium and at the opening each evening Russell would lead everyone in singing. Daddy printed up little song books on his mimeograph machine and stapled them together with a special stapler with a wide reach. After the singing everyone went to the classroom for their age group. For me it was a time to hangout with my friends, meet new guys and girls. I had been listening to some of Nate’s records and was especially enamored with Mario Lanza singing “The Lord’s Prayer” by Albert Hay Malotte. I told Daddy I would like to sing “The Lord’s Prayer” in front of the entire assembly at bible school. One night Russell Martin called me out of class and took me into the boy’s bathroom and asked me to sing it for him, I guess he just wanted to be sure I knew all the words and could make it through. I remember how great the acoustics were and I probably imagined that I sounded just like Mario Lanza sounded on Nate’s stereo. The next night he announced that I would sing and I went onto the stage and sang the song a cappella. Fortunately, that was before video cameras and iPhones. It was still about ten years before Kodak created the Super 8 camera. I can be pretty sure there is no document of that performance. So let’s just assume it was terrific! It was around that time I began to tell people that I wanted to be an orchestra conductor and I told Mother that I wanted to be a tenor like Earl Mast. He was a music professor at Eastern Mennonite College and we sometimes went to chorus performances at the college and he would be a featured soloist. Mother told me that it was an unrealistic aspiration since I had inherited her voice and it was not clear enough. In my late teens when I lived in Philadelphia, I took voice lessons for a while but did not stay with it. My favorites exercise pieces at that time were “Panis Angelicus” and “If with All Your Hearts” from Mendelssohn’s “Elijah” but my voice teacher mostly had me practicing songs from Broadway shows.

The Maugansville School was two block from our house
School picture, around 1955
The view of Brewer's house and garage from our driveway
Florence, me and my playmate and neighbor, Jerry
 
 
  Chapter 3, 1957-1961

 
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