Down Memory Lane

jimpattersonLast June, my husband and I traveled to Wellsboro for the signing of my very first book at From My Shelf bookstore on Main Street. While there, I reaped an entire week of nostalgic and warm memories of my idyllic childhood.

We drove into town on the Wednesday before Laurel Festival and saw the town had already decked itself out for the occasion. Our first stop—a 2:00 lunch at the Wellsboro Diner, aka Schanaker’s Diner, where my parents met in 1940 and together began the Sheer legacy. Throughout lunch, I educated my husband about the early days of the diner, how the kitchen was in the basement and customers ate their meals while drooling over the luscious pies in the glass case right beneath their plates.

After lunch, we decided to walk the length of Wellsboro to visit my cousin on Water Street. We stopped in front of the Methodist Church to take in its beauty. To me, this church stood as the cornerstone of the town where Grandpa Mudge sang duets with my Aunt Verna and where cousin Sharon married Jim Patterson. The Arcadia Theater brought back a flood of memories. Occasionally, I could save enough money (25¢) to see a Saturday afternoon matinee with my cousin Carole Wetherbee. Later, we spent hours reenacting scenes from Tarzan’s adventures or Sister Luke’s death from The Nun’s Story. The Penn Wells Hotel looked as pristine as it did in my childhood days.

Three hundred dollars—the amount that Carson’s Finance would allow on a signature loan. Daddy first borrowed from Mr. Carson for an indoor bathroom in 1945. When Daddy made his weekly payments, Carson Finance was a small office upstairs. Today, it’s much bigger. I guess the $300 signature loans worked. I was saddened to see the site where the Parkview Hotel once stood for so many years, where my father spent his first night in Wellsboro. The coffee and sub shops down the side street were new to me. We would definitely visit those another day.

We passed the red jailhouse and police station where my Uncle Jeff Murray worked as Chief of Police. I had to take my husband into the Green Free Library. It had been more than forty years since I last entered that building. The creaking floor and smell of books brought back fond memories of librarians shushing kids as I researched using the World Book Encyclopedia. However, a walk through the Green mansion on this day proved that it is not the same old library as in the 50s and 60s. A bright children’s section and an actual salesroom serve as great additions, as well as computers with wi-fi. And, I heard people talking—I wanted to shush them, either to preserve the sanctity of the old library or just for old times’ sake.

We finally came to my cousin’s home at 30 W. Water. Sitting in Jim Patterson’s new barbershop attached to his home, we enjoyed a 2-hour visit with Sharon and Jim, taking my husband, once again, down that proverbial memory lane he never knew. (Jim’s talents behind the camera provided the awesome photography for my book cover, an accomplishment that he humbly relished.)

After leaving the Patterson Barber Shop, we crossed West Avenue to stroll down the other side of town. I continued to remark on memories of various sites. The fountain of Wynken, Blynken and Nod on the Green where my father pondered his future when he first came to Wellsboro; Garrison’s Men’s Store that has weathered the economic times; the dismal steps next to the old 5 and 10 cent store that led to Dr. Bailey’s dentist office. How I hated the smell of Novocain so pungent as I climbed up those dark steps to what proved to be a painful experience every time. Dunham’s Department Store where I once stole a peanut is much bigger now. (I didn’t eat the peanut—my conscience got the better of me and I put it back in the barrel.) Every building held another story.

We ended at what used to be Bliss Hardware at the corner of Main and East Avenue. Now, it’s called From My Shelf Bookstore, owned by Kasey and Kevin Coolidge. Here is where my book signing would take place the following day.

I have to say, my husband did quite well on my trip down memory lane. He asked questions at the right times and seemed to be entertained by my stories (He has yet to read my book).

The face of Wellsboro has changed. I heard grumblings from those who have lived their entire lives here that it just isn’t the same Wellsboro. They say it is too “touristy.” They are right—it isn’t the same Wellsboro that I remember. It does seem to have taken a different focus. I wonder if Larry Woodin would find it too “touristy.” He brought national attention to little Wellsboro by establishing the first Laurel Festival in 1938. His plan was to “boost a sagging economy” (http://bit.ly/1bScz7h). I think he achieved his goal.

I look forward to returning to my home of Wellsboro this year for Dickens on Main Street. And I just might bring a couple new books with me.

Categories Legacy | Tags: | Posted on March 6, 2014

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