I was very fortunate to be able to read “Growing Up In Wellsville” thanks to the kindness of Ms. Terri Martin of Wellsville. She made a gift of her copy of the book to a stranger, namely me. Her gift is traveling further since I took it to the Post Office to ship it to Texas to my sister Barbara. The book will probably go on to my Aunt Katharyn after that. I hope that the other copies of the book are being shared.
I have to admit that I was a little surprised that someone had written a memoir about Wellsville. I have treasured memories too, but considering how much the loss of the large industries had affected the village I suppose I thought people would not want to be reminded. When I lived in Wellsville, several times a day one could watch barges of coal moving north on the river to Pittsburgh. The railroad was much more active and constantly humming with boxcars full of raw materials headed to Pittsburgh and Detroit. And of course there were the potteries. I confess that I too am a “plate flipper” and have been for years. Fortunately Ron Price was able to put the economic downturn aside and record his memories of the Wellsville that I also remember. So much was so familiar, like the path to Hammond Park. I could almost smell the ripe wild blackberries that grew along the path. My father would pack us up in our old Dodge stationwagon and drive us out to bridge 55 on hot summer days so that we could cool off. I especially enjoyed Ron’s walking tour of the town. So many of the barely remembered events of my childhood were dusted off and enjoyed again as a result of reading the book. Memoirs can become maudlin, jaded or too perfect that you just know the author’s emotions are playing into the writing. Mr. Price avoids this and provides a very real look at the Wellsville of the late 40’s and early 50’s.
It is unfortunate that the book did not have a wider distribution, but then that is the fate of these independently published books. The authors are not known by the large publishing companies so their books may be the ones that receive instant rejections. I know that the publishing firms are in business to make money, but sometimes I wonder about them passing on some truly wonderful books simply because the author is not a commercial draw. I have been reading a lot of independently published books and I admit started for financial reasons; I get free copies in exchange for the promise of a review on Amazon.com, Goodreads.com, Facebook or Pinterest. I have come across some real gems through this arrangement.
I did enjoy Ron’s book so much that my mind has been flooded with my own wonderful memories. Every summer there were the temporary fruit stands on Route 7 where you could buy the best tasting corn, green beans and watermelons. I so loved the parades that we had. My favorites participants were the fire trucks, the VFW drill team and the float of the “40/8” that looked like their symbolic boxcar. I would dash into the street for the candy the float riders would throw to the children lining Main St. and I especially was proud that my grandfather Joseph Hughes was on that float for every parade. Each year in August we had the St. Rocco’s festival with the carnival and fireworks. I can still smell the Italian sausage sandwiches covered with grilled onions and peppers. And the paper cones of French fries that we sprinkled with vinegar. I played the midway games of ring toss and trying to knock over the cat-like targets. I never won, but the fun was in the playing. I remember being able to purchase strips of tickets from the Knights of Columbus before the festival started. Since the festival often occurred at the same time as my birthday, my godmother Martha Luckino would give me a strip of tickets for my birthday. I loved Broadway and each time we were traveling in that direction, I would shout for my parents to take the “froggy-way”, so named because of the two fountains with frogs over the spouts.