|Source: Kris T. Jones (Flickr) - 09/26/2006|
This photo was taken by Kris T. Jones on September 21st, 2006. I know this because the photographer included this information when they uploaded it to Flickr. If they had said it was taken in 1996 or 1986, I wouldn't have doubted it for a second. You see, time sort of has a way of standing still in Nuremberg, Pennsylvania. At least that was my experience of the place. In fairness to the town and its residents, what I have to say should be taken with a grain of salt. My memories of Nuremberg are from 30 years ago, when I was a 10 year old boy with undiagnosed autism. It was a very challenging and painful time in my life, and over the years, I've come to unfairly associate a lot of painful memories with the town itself, though it wasn't the cause of any of it. Still, I hold to the opinion that time has a way of standing still in this place, and if you've been there, I think you might agree.
|Source: Jake C (Wikipedia) - 10/18/2014|
Although Walt worked in Hazleton before he ever met my mother, his dislike of the city was so strong that it became his defining characteristic in my eyes. He frequently ranted to my mother and I about how terrible the city and its people were in comparison to his native Quakertown. He even came up with his own slur for the people of Hazleton. He called them "Heynas". This was inspired in part by the local slang used by older residents of the city who would use the word "heyna" to ask someone for confirmation. The word is kind of a bastardized version of "ain't it", as in "it's pretty cold out today, heyna?". I remember on a car trip that he heard Natasha England's cover of the song Iko Iko on the radio and he mistook the lyrics of "hey now" as "heyna", after which point his slur for Hazletonians took on a musical tone. I'll circle back to Walt in a bit, but for now, the thing to know about him is that, to the 8 year old me, he was the living embodiment of Foghorn Leghorn, and he was very keen to moving out of Hazleton.
Throughout late 1988 and 1989, the three of us visited the Singley family on a regular basis. Walt worked with Bill Singley, who lived with his wife Pat and five children in Nuremberg. The parents were nice folks who always treated me well. At the time, their youngest child was a baby and their oldest was a teenager. The middle children were closest in age to me. Ryan Singley was about three or four years younger, Billy Singley was a year younger, and Mary Beth was a year older. I got along with them well enough. I remember that they cried a lot more than I was accustomed to, especially Ryan and Billy. If their dad so much as raised his voice at Ryan, he would break into loud, ear piercing wails of tears. Seriously, to see this kid's reaction to his father saying "go to your room", you would have thought his dog was hit by a car. Anyway, this was my first introduction to Nuremberg, and it wasn't too bad. I wasn't an easy kid to get along with by any means, but they'd play Nintendo with me and we had fun. I remember that they had three cartridges: Mickey Mousecapade, Donkey Kong Classics, and the Super Mario Bros/Duck Hunt combo. As I'm writing this, I remembered one time, we were playing Super Mario Bros when Bill came in to yell at Ryan or Billy for something or other. He ended up grounding one of them, which he followed up by doing a little dance to the tune of Super Mario Bros, which I found to be hysterically funny. I'm pretty sure that even at 8 or 9 years old, I knew enough to not laugh at a kid who just got grounded, but it was hard. Man, the Singley kids are going to have a fit if they ever discover this blog. Oh well. If any of you are seeing this, take a chill pill. Your part in my reminiscence of Nuremberg is over now.
|Source: John Lockwood (Flickr) - May 26, 2008|
Before I get into the negatives, allow me to paint the picture of the town as I remember it. Looking back on the place with adult eyes, it was a charming little town. It was very small, very quiet, and out in the middle of nowhere. It had its own elementary school, a little pizza parlor, a post office, a bank, a hardware store with a painting gallery on the second floor, and a small grocery store called Bott's Market at the end of the town. There's not a lot to do, but it's only about a 15 - 20 minute drive through the woods to get to the Interstate, so if you're an adult with a car who can leave whenever you please, it's damn near ideal. When you're nine years old and isolated from your friends, the rest of your family, and the world as you knew it, it's closer to a dystopian episode of the Twilight Zone.
|Bott's Market closed in 1996. The guy I remember the most from this store is standing on the far left. His name is Dave Bott. He put up with me coming into his place, even though I was a pain in the ass of a kid. Looking at him sort of reminds me of a hybrid of John Oates and Art Garfunkel.|
Source: Standard Speaker - September 19, 1996
|Ellen Casey (wife of Governor Bob Casey) visited Nuremberg Elementary School in 1990|
Source: Standard Speaker - June 2, 1990
Finally, there was Walt, who seemed to have this idea that if he moved us out to the country, I'd suddenly turn into Huck Finn, running around in the corn fields and finding other kids so that we could spend the day chucking rocks at a tin can. As you can probably imagine, I wasn't too successful when it came to making friends in Nuremberg, and even if I had been, I would have wanted them to come over and play Nintendo. That wasn't going to work for Walt. He made the decision to buy a two bedroom house in which the bedrooms were right next to each other, so having a nine year old reading quietly or playing video games in his room presented a bit of a problem for the old man when he wanted to spend some alone-time with my mother. His solution to this problem was to lock me out of the house, where I suppose he imagined I'd be running and playing with the other kids. I guess it was for some of the time, but more often than not, I'd just go for a walk by myself.
|This is Mahanoy Street, the main road that goes through Nuremberg. The red building with the red awning on the left is Marchetti's Hardware Store, which has been in business since 1884|
Photo Source: Jake C (Wikipedia) - 10/18/2014
There were two roads out of Nuremberg that led to Hazleton. If you left the town headed North on Mahoney Street (at the top of the hill near Bott's Market) it took you through Fern Glen and eventually led to Route 93 near Penn State Hazleton and the Laurel Mall. If you went South on Mahoney Street (at the bottom of the hill near Nuremberg Elementary School) it took you through Oneida and up Route 924 and past the Humbolt Industrial Park.
I think that I took the North route. I have a vague memory of stopping at the Laurel Mall to find that it was closed for the day because it was Sunday and I had gotten there after 5 pm. Additionally, although I frequently took walks down the South road, there are a lot more intersections and twists and turns to get lost. For the most part, the North route was a straight shot, and fairly easy to navigate and avoid making a wrong turn. Keep in mind, I was doing this by myself, without any maps or cell phones or GPS, and going solely off of my memory of sitting in the back seat of the car when we'd go to and from Hazleton. I was also 10 or 11 years old (I know I couldn't have been older than that, because I moved to Florida before I turned 12). It was also over 11 miles and over four hours of walking on back roads and highways (there was no sidewalk after Nuremberg until I was well into Hazleton).
As luck would have it, the day I picked to walk to my grandparents house was the one day of the month when Grandma, Grandpa and Nana went to Atlantic City, so there was no one to answer the door when I got there. I suppose I could have gone to my uncle Georgie's or my cousin Tommy's house, but I walked a few extra blocks to go see Granny and Aunt Margie. Granny was my grandfather's mother, and Aunt Margie was my grandfather's sister. They lived on Broad Street in West Hazleton. Granny was born in 1902, so I was reasonably sure that she would be home, and she was. They gave me something to eat, and after a few phone calls, my mother and Walt drove down to pick me up.
In retrospect, this seems pretty crazy, but it didn't feel weird to me at the time. I was locked out of the house, which was typical, so I wanted to see my grandparents. My mother was very bitter towards my father's side of the family after the divorce, and she had a bug up her ass about letting me spend the weekend at my grandparents house, so I figured to hell with it; I could find my way there, and I did. I didn't make a single wrong turn, and I didn't even really get upset when my grandparents weren't home. I was more confused than anything because I couldn't imagine where they would have gone.
Later that week, my grandparents made me promise not to do this again, and I never did. They didn't seem mad at me, but they were very flustered. I know I didn't get locked out of my house in Nuremberg after that, and I was suddenly allowed to go visit my grandparents on the weekend. I can only imagine the conversation that took place between my grandparents and my mother after this incident.
|Nuremberg Post Office - Source: PMCC Post Office Photos (Flickr)|