- This summer, at the movies…
- Easter Egg Hunt List
- Irish dance showcase at Warwick High School
- Roots and Blues 2017
- Reel Reviews: 2017 Oscar picks
- ‘American Idiot’ at EPAC
- Warwick grad producing ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ at Dutch Apple
- ‘Somewhereville Station’ revisits the 50s and 60s
- St. Patty’s musical at Ephrata Main
The Akron dream
I suppose it was around 1970 when this new family rolled into the small green home two doors down from us in Akron.
For the life of me, I can’t recall anyone else living there prior though I suppose only being about 7 or 8 had something to do with that.
Incredibly however, I can see them unloading their car like it was yesterday – and of course, I took keen notice that there was also a boy about my age nervously walking around his new driveway. Evidently there was a young girl as well but at that age, I was really just interested in the one who I could play catch with, shoot hoops and run alongside through the streets of our wonderful little town.
The other image that is burned in my mind is that little red-headed boy standing with his dad on the back steps of their new home staring out into their spacious yard, which actually was part of a five backyard-group that would serve as one of the primary playgrounds/ballparks of our youth. Beyond those yards to the left was even more open space and a large bank that led up to a dirt area of the old abandoned trolley line. The large, solidly-built dad, towering over his young son, wore a look of contentment I can still see.
It wasn’t until years later that I realized I was witnessing, right there on my street, the start of one family’s “American Dream” that would play out in front of me over the next 17 years or so. That man, who we only knew as “Butch,” his wife Betty, and their two children at the time, Tony and Missy, were settling in on what I remember as an almost idyllic scene. After all, while no one was or is going to confuse our Main Street in Akron with a “Rockwellian” portrait, to me it truly was “Main Street USA” with just about anything a young family could want right at their fingertips.
At that time, we had a convenience store right across the street “Beatty’s”, a post office, old Akron Restaurant, gift shop, and sandwich shop all in the block before 9th Street! Then of course, it was Snaders (which was later Shop Rite, Sangreys and now Weisers) full grocery and bakery just across 9th. You could even go a little farther down the street and buy a pair of shoes at the Miller-Hess outlet! Oh sure, you went to the big town of Ephrata for quite a bit but really you could be quite comfortable right there on Main Street for long stretches if you wanted to…and the Styers certainly seemed like they were.
Before long, Butch and Betty welcomed two more children to the neighborhood, Jeff and Robin, and soon we had more to join in the fun for afternoon games of whiffleball or late night kick-the-can. Everyone’s house was an open door, bikes were shared, money and candy was bummed off each other and the summer days and nights seemed endless. Though the official Akron playground – the greatest of all time – was a daily destination, the vast connecting backyards off 11th Street belonging to the Melendez, Styer, Dissinger, Fasnacht and Martin families, were the gathering spots on those wonderful summer nights. In subsequent years, we would also be joined by Dale Schwear and Ron Schroeder from 11th Street.
Looking down there now I don’t see how it’s possible sizewise but I remember some super intense softball games played at the bottom of those somewhat steep hills below the Styer’s garage. Night after night, both the boys and girls would join in the fun and slam balls back up the hill toward the garages, hoping like the dickens we didn’t take any of Prince Dissinger’s windows out. Betty Styer for sure joined right in with the games and helped keep order among all us wild young ones. In the winter time, all the fun switched to sledding and we would make the most amazing “bobsled-like” tunnels in the snow going down those hills. My mom would often be the one to police that action and make sure there weren’t too many cold faces being smashed in the snow. But regardless of the activity, we just kept these most amazing friendships and learned to interact and develop bonds which we never realized would be lifelong. With good guidance from our parents, who stayed involved in what we were doing, we did our best to separate right from wrong and developed qualities such as hard work (we all had chores and usually helped each other at one time or the other), competitiveness (always playing games), diplomacy (there usually was more than one squabble to settle), leadership (someone had to set the day’s agenda) and overall friendliness (those were a lot of long days and summers to hang with the same people). Our parents deserve so much credit for fostering and supporting all this and giving us what seemed like just the right amount of leash at the time.
So there you had the Styers, now years into their move to Akron seeing their family grow and thrive in this “Mayberry-like” environment.
Being one year ahead of Tony in high school, after my freshman year of college, I lost touch with Tony as he eventually went off to pursue a career in the Navy and then Marine Corps. Missy would also graduate a few years later and eventually started her own family in the Cocalico area. Younger brother Jeff, already a burly strapping teen-ager when I graduated college in 1986, soon began to make a name for himself on the scholastic athletic fields. When I returned to town and began working at The Review later that year and beyond, I had the opportunity to cover Jeff while he was starring in wrestling and football for Ephrata – with perhaps the highlight moment coming when he kicked the winning field goal in the Mounts’ only section championship in the past 50-plus years. Then, the very next spring the youngest of the crew, Robin, was the starting catcher on the amazing state-champion softball team (also featuring the lovely Donna) from 1988 that I had the privilege of covering. Older sister Missy was also one heck of a softball player but unfortunately I was away at college during those years. You can’t help but think however, about how much of an impact those backyard softball games may have had on the ability of these two sisters.
And how about the irony of seeing Missy pictured in the Years Ago section this week, belting out a homer 30 years ago in the same issue where brother Jeff is featured for his retirement from an amazing military career.
This of course follows in the footsteps of big brother Tony, who in 2008 retired as a decorated Major from the Marine Corps.
And all of this comes on the heels of Betty and Butch celebrating their 50th anniversary recently. I know the pride I am feeling just being the neighbor of these successful individuals – can’t imagine being in the shoes of mom and dad. I had thought about all of this previously but I guess it came rushing back to me seeing Jeff and Missy in the same edition, so shortly after that anniversary announcement.
Though they are still right here in the Ephrata area, I have never asked Betty or Butch if they felt they were living the American Dream, raising their family in that house along Main Street during the ‘70s and early ‘80s. I suppose I should some time. But regardless of their answer, that certainly is how I saw it from that first look I saw Butch make out into the yard more than 40 years ago to the one I can imagine them both having thinking about what all their children have accomplished.
The Akron or American Dream…either way it is pretty darn neat.