My Home Town

Hanover, Pa.- 1936 to 1957
    "I am a small town girl at heart"
By Carolyn Clausen Harrell

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"You never really leave a place you love- Part of it you take with you, leaving a part of you behind."  


What I Hope I Took With Me

Hanover, Pa.- 1936-1957- Who can ever picture it as it use to be?  Before me, 4 generations of my ancestors grew up there, within only a block of one another.  A town where everyone knew everyone, as well as everyone's business!  But a town where there was familiarity and helpfulness and watching out for each other.  A town with value and morals that were demanded and upheld.

 

Even though the town has grown and changed, generations of Pa. Dutch people have stayed there. There is still that old culture which has been passed on through their customs, their speech, their dedication, their food, and their commitment to the community they knew so well. Theirs was a culture rooted in a high standard of work ethic- hard workers. A culture rooted in food- the growing of the food, the cooking and canning of the food, and the eating the food. A culture of family kinship and loyalty- kin who lived so near to one another. A culture of frugality and no waste.

 

Most people did not aspire to become rich in Hanover. Most made modest salaries.  There was no unemployment.  They didn't even need a car to get to everything they needed.  If a family had a car- there was only one car.  They often lived in houses that were passed down from generation to generation.  They had food on the table, a roof over their heads, a shirt on their back, and most importantly-family around the table, and extended family right in the town.

 

My whole world for 21 years until I graduated from college was the town of Hanover, Pa. 
Those years were spent in school and joining in many school activities.  I was active in my Sunday School and Church.  The YWCA provided many activities when I was in Jr. High and High School. My life didn't reach beyond Hanover, until I went away 20 miles to college!

 

My Hometown, Hanover- THEN

In the 1930's-to-1950's, Hanover was considered a small town of about 17,000.  Our town was laid out like a bicycle wheel- 5 main roads led into The Town Square from nearby towns or cities like spokes on a bicycle wheel.  Funny how a circle was called a Square.

 

There were walkways leading across the streets to a small park in the Center which had benches to sit on. Large trees circled the edges, providing shade for those sitting on the benches watching the traffic and shoppers, and catching up on the day's events with one another. A large monument commemorating the battle fought in this town during the Civil was in the center.
A special attraction to all the children was a life size iron dog statue which stood in the park for so many many years.  Thousands of children climbed on it and sat there happily dreaming daydreams.

 

No one was troubled that traffic may flow better if it didn't feed around the circle.  No one was troubled that the beautiful foliage from the established trees could block a view from across the Square.  No one had to worry that a car would not stop to allow a pedestrian to walk across a street to go over to the park in the center of the square.

 

Located in town along these 5 spokes were all the clothing stores, Murphy's 5&10, Myer's Drug Store, The Fruit and Vegetable store, The Bon Ton Dept. Store, The Central Hotel, The Shoe Store, Banks, Penny's, The Jewelry Shop, Mr. Kroh's Taxi Stand and popcorn machine, Thelma's Candy store, Smyser's Card Shop, The Victory Lunch Restaurant, The MauDra soda shop, The Greek Hot Dog Restaurants, The YWCA, and the 3 Movie Theaters. All were within walking distances of our homes. All provided all that we needed.   All closed on Sundays!  Sundays were for Sunday dinners at home, and afternoon rides if you had a car. If you didn't have a car, another family was bound to invite you to go for a ride.

 

Description of the businesses near the Square:
 

Movies:
On Frederick St. was the State Movie.  So luxurious with its beautiful chandelier which would glow as we entered and then dim as the time came for the movie.  The seats felt like velvet and were soft and comfortable.  Out in the lobby was a candy machine with my favorite- Jujubees.  Before the show, "the Peanut Lady" sold her delicious home-made peanuts.  My Mother would often buy an extra pack as a special treat to take home.


About a block away was the Park Theater- also very pretty inside, but as I recall, didn't have a beautiful chandelier.  It did have a balcony which for some reason seemed a special place for us to be seated.


There were ushers in the movie theaters with their flashlights to assist you to your seat.  How glamorous, I thought, to be the woman in the fancy booth selling the tickets.  Tickets- yes- 20 cents to see a main feature.


There was also a third movie theater on Carlisle Sreet, The Strand.  It featured mainly cowboy movies. Gary Schollís memoirs had a good story line on the Strand.


Churches:
Within a block of the Square were many churches- The Methodist, 3 Lutheran, 2 Reform, and further out the Catholic Church. All faithfully attended both at Sunday School and at the Church services.  The Catholic Children went to their own school, and received their religious instruction there, going to Mass on Sundays.


The Post Office:
The Post Office was a beautiful building with many steps leading up to it- looking something like a building you would see in Washington, D.C., or in the Pennsylvania Capital in Harrisburg, Pa.  It was so impressive to walk in there to mail a letter.  The offices of the Water Co., the Electric Co., and the Gas Co. were located near the square and most people would go directly to the offices to pay their bills, and exchange pleasantries with the clerks they knew so well.


Schools:
Three grade schools and the Junior High were in the immediate area of the Square. Penn Street School was then on the outskirts of town. Mother and I went to Jr. High in the same building with very little modernized from when she was a student there. 


The High School was about a 1/2 mile from the Square, but within walking distance. The
athletic field for football games was a great stadium on the other side of town, donated by wealthy citizens, Mr. Shepard and Mr. Myers, who owned the Shoe Company in town.


Public Library:
The library was several blocks away from the Square- a healthy walk.  It was a beautiful building donated by one of the wealthy citizens of Hanover.  It had 2 floors and a giant stained glass window.  I loved going to the library, starting from before I was able to read.  My parents would take me to the children's corner and we would pick out story books for them to read to me.

 

During World War II my mother sold our car and another was never bought until they were in their fifties. To them a car would have been an unneeded expense and a luxury.  Why? Because we could walk to everything!  Or what we couldn't walk to- came to us. ( the butcher, the baker, the Iceman, the fruit man, the drycleaner, the coal man all delivered to the front door.  Picture the butcher who came with his meat in his truck where he weighed it and sliced it to order.  The corner grocery store serviced everything and billed you at the end of the week.)

 

So, you see, within less than a mile of my home- there was EVERYTHING.  A short walk, and even shorter bicycle ride. Yes, I walked to places that today, I would definitely drive to in my car.  Drive, yes, not because these same places are too far to walk to, but because everything now depends on speed and getting more done in a time frame.

 

The Dialect and Way of Talking

I once read that in a small town everyone knows everyone, and they are there to help; BUT.....
They also repeat everything they know!!  True.  After moving away, I realized something I had never noticed when I lived there. This is how a story was verbally passed on: "Lucy Snyder- you know Helen Knoell's sister, the youngest one, she married Carrie Wildasin's brother, Ed Snyder- well she fell on Tuesday and had to have her leg up in a cast."  So whether you knew Lucy, or not, you may be able to connect her through one of the others.

 

There are many ways people can be prejudiced.
     Rural Life was just Next Door

The town was surrounded by farms, valleys, and nearby hills.  The farm people were so close by, that they, too, should have been counted in our populations because we were so close in proximity.  The Farm Kids went to school in their rural, and sometimes one room schools, until 7th  or 8th grade.  By then we Town Kids knew each other real well, and these farm kids were the ones we would size up when they came into town for Junior High. I hope we welcomed them kindly.
   
We were not prejudiced against Blacks, then called Negroes, or against Jews, or anyone else, because there were NO Blacks, only a handful of Jews, and Italian families in Hanover.  Almost everyone was German and Protestant.
     
A form of distinguishing was by Religion.  The Protestants lived in Hanover with many churches- the largest congregations belonging to the three Lutheran churches.  The Catholics lived in the next town which literally touched Hanover.  They went to their schools, and we went to ours, and rarely was there a mixed marriage.  The competition on the football field between our high school and theirs was fierce.

 

Communication- What was News?

The local daily newspaper- The Evening Sun- was delivered to our homes by a young person riding his bike with a large pack over his shoulder containing the papers there and in his bicycle basket.  Then, the front page news told of local deaths, births, car accidents, marriages, and whatever would interest the local townspeople.  Now, when I read their local paper all that news is either hidden in the middle pages, or not there at all.  World news hits the front page.  The one page that still seems to highlight its local news, much in the same way as long ago, is the Sports page.  High School sports competitions still draw big crowds, and the way to fame still seems to be through being a sports great.

 

How Our Families Were Employed

Although small, Hanover was big in that it was an industrial town well known across the continent for its products- Del Monte foods, and other canning companies, Rope and Wire Cloth, Spinning Mills, Diesel engines, and Engineering works, the Hanover Shoe factory, cigar factories, glove factories, The Hanover Shoe Farms, Pretzel and potato chip factories. Today I love going in a supermarket in NY, and even as far away as Texas, and seeing Hanover's products on the shelves- Utz Potato chips, and Snyders Pretzels to mention only two. Therefore, most of its population you can see worked in factories. These companies still remain, but some have moved to much larger quarters on the edge of town.

 

Hanover was and still is the shopping center for clothing in the region, with people coming from towns in Md. and Pa. in order to buy their family's whole wardrobes there.  My Mother serviced generations in her profession as a saleslady in women's dress stores.  She fit the job perfectly and was extremely dedicated to dressing generations of families who came to her as their personal saleslady, and often would wait (WAITING?). until she was free to help them- taking clothes in and out of the dressing room for them to try on. Can you imagine that type of service in this day and age?  We are all in a hurry to buy and get out of a store.

 

My father worked for the local Gas Co., and seemed to know everyone in town.  I also worked in women's stores as soon as I was 16 and throughout high school and college years.

 

Homelife

Many workers and school children walked home for dinner.  Schools and factories stopped for "Dinner Hour"- not lunch hour.  We would have a full dinner waiting for us at home, and then walk back to our school or factory to finish out our day.  The evening meal was supper, and much lighter than the noon meal

 

When grandparents became too old to work, they lived with the family or close by where they could be cared for.  My grandmother's relatives all lived within 2 blocks of each other.  During WWII, when the fathers went off to the War, and the mothers went to work, the grandparents were in the home to watch the kids.

 

Watching kids in those days was so different than today.  Kids were free to go anywhere.  We would get on our bicycles and ride for miles out into the countryside and up in the hills.  There was no worry whatsoever that we would be harmed.  Just so we would be home for mealtime!  Then hearing our name called, would bring us in to the house.  Being late for a meal was like a cardinal sin.  Everyone ate together. Evenings, we played Hide and Seek from one yard to the next.  No TV to occupy us.

   
 After Moving Away from Hanover, and NOW

We chose to make our home where Jerry had grown up on Long Island.  Every summer and sometimes in between, we would visit my parents back "home" in Pa.  There were always places I wanted to take my family, to share with them where I had grown up. The children loved having a Grandma and Grandpa to visit with side excursions to Hershey Park and to Lancaster, Pa. where they were fascinated with the Pa. Dutch Amish people, as well as the Mennonite friends of our family in our town.

 

Some towns hold on longer to a way of life, but sooner or later they give in to growing.  During the generation of my Great-Grandmother, Grandmother, and Mother there was a way of small town life that now has disappeared.   Each time we would return, there would be changes.  It started with the stores moving from the center of town to a Mall built at the edge of town on Carlisle St, and later one at the foot of Hershey Hill.  One certainly needed a car to go shopping out there- families have more than one car, and shop where they can park in huge parking lots.

 

The Circle in the Square was taken away, so there could be straight through traffic.  The monument was placed on the square in front of a store, and even the old iron dog found a new home for more children to play on him.  But now people meet out at the mall, and sit on benches out there to talk to one another.

 

The population grew and grew, and the town spread and spread.  Where once there were farms at the end of the street where I lived, were now housing developments after housing developments.  A few years ago another Mall was built- a Walmart, a K Mart, all the big stores from outside- not as before when all the owners were local people.  Hotels had to be built to accommodate the people who did business in town or for people like me who were visiting, who no longer had a "home" to come back to because it had been sold when my Mother died.  People like me, who still returned from time to time to try to once again see the roots of their Past.  It's becoming harder and harder to find the places I once was so familiar with.  For the most part, I do notice that old buildings are not torn down- they are renovated- and new businesses take over.  So I can still point out a building and say- that use to be........

 

One place remains the same...the Cemetery! I can visit the graves of my ancestors back to my great great Grandparents.  No, I won't be buried amongst them  My spot will be hundreds of miles away on Long Island. Theirs was a Way of Life with a long continuity that has ended. Will any of my children or grandchildren ever travel to Hanover, Pa.  to visit where their Mother and Grandmother grew up?  I doubt it.

 

I am grateful for finding my home in West Sayville on Long Island where I was able to raise my family in a small town climate. But this small town that my children remember- it, too- is changing and growing just as Hanover has.