Pennsylvania Memories: Childhood Playmates
Photo of Aunt Louise WikeThis article was originally published by U.S. Legacies in March 2005, however due to the passing of the author Polly Mazariegos nee Wagaman, we are re-publishing this article to help keep her memories alive.
How many people can say they are older than their Aunt? I can. This aunt and I played together as children. We also had two other people to play with. My sister, Shirley Wagaman, and my cousin, Ruthy Leeper. You see, Shirley and Ruthy were only a year apart and my Aunt Louise Wike and I were only a year apart. However, I was the older of the two of us and Ruthy was the older between my sister Shirley and her.
Photo of Polly Wagaman, Louise Wike and Shirley Wagaman
Could we get into mischief? Of course, what cute little girls did not get into mischief? I remember a time when we were playing hid and seek and Louise and I decided to hide under our grandmother's front porch. It had a lattice type structure under the porch, which you could open or close. Louise and I would hide there and we could see through the lattice those who were trying to find us.
We would play baking by making mud pies or sift sand. To sift sand, you needed an old window screen that was broken but perfect for making soft dirt. You just put regular dirt on top of the screen and shake it back and forth a number of times, and the same just came out and you threw the stones on another pile. While Louise and I were having our fun, everyone began looking for us, and the girls could not find us and went inside to tell our grandmother they could not find us. When she came yelling for us, we knew we better come out, so when Nanny (what we called our grandmother) walked to the other side, Louise and I would pop out and say "Here we are." Of course we got a scolding for scaring every one to death. Imagine trying that stunt today., they would have had the police and FBI after us. But, back then in 1946-47, you could do it as good clean fun.
Louise and I were more like sisters. We did everything together. When the time came that I had to move to Gettysburg (my Mom remarried a man from Gettysburg) I hated it. Mom told us we would come and see each other often because she also was leaving her mother, who had taken care of us when Mom went to work and my father was in the Army. Mother kept good on that promise.
Every major holiday, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Mother's Day or just a time to go see Nanny and Pappy. Pappy was Charles Wike. Nanny was Emma Wike. We loved our Nanny and Pappy.
After we moved to Gettysburg, our Nanny and Pappy and Louise would come to Gettysburg to see us. Again we played together, but this time we could hide in a barn that had no animals except an old dog named Dum Dum. That was the name my stepfather gave him. He said someone dropped him off, so he decided to keep him.
Well, behind Dum Dum's place, there was a secret room. It had a small entrance to get into and you could look through the broken boards and watch every one looking for you. It was fun to watch them go right by you and not know you were there. Of course, you could not sneeze or you would be found. Eventually, they discovered our hide out and we had to find another neat place to hide.
On the other side of the barn was a ladder that at one time went up to a hay loft. Let's go discovering. I was a scaredy cat. I did not like to go up ladders but, eventually, I went up. Now we had a bigger hole to watch people go by and since there was always a little bit of hay on the loft, we could throw some down on anyone walking by and when they looked up, we would move back. Of course, that hiding place was also discovered after so many times of not finding us.
There was also a neat shed that was long and at one time had animals in it but was now empty. It had a fairly high roof. So, we naturally climbed up on top of this roof and jumped off. When my stepfather saw us, he would come out the back door of the store and yell at us to get down as we might hurt ourselves. No way, not us. And we never did hurt ourselves. We quit jumping off but now it was like a big shopping store. We would have shelves and put empty boxes of cereal, milk cartons, and other items we would find in the trash. Back then, you burned the trash and since that was my Saturday job, I would sneak out different items I wanted in my store. Also back then you only had small stores which today are called "Mom and Pop" stores. That exactly described our store. My stepfather owned a small store and Mom worked in it also.
When the other children were born, Shirley, the eldest was to watch the real store. She hated it. Me, I loved it. As soon as Dad left the driveway, Shirley would holler for me to come to the store, someone was coming. Dad rarely marked the prices on many items, as he knew them by heart. We did not. Most of the people were very honest at this time also. Most of them bought the same things week after week, so they knew the prices. If they did not, I would make one up. That was the fun part. Also, if the phone rang, Shirley did not want to talk on the phone. Me——I can talk forever. I am sure Shirley and my other brothers and sisters will attest to that. However, Shirley used to do all the talking when she moved away and joined the Army. I would just listen to her and that was how I learned how to talk on the phone with strangers. Most of the calls were just "When were we open?" How much was milk? How much were cigarettes? And of course, "When did we close?" We were the only store in the area so almost everyone bought their main groceries from us.
Then the big Acme store came in to town. Dad lost a lot of his regular customers. But Dad would not give up. He was one of the first stores to stay open for a time on Sunday. He closed at 3 PM every Sunday. Mom was not happy about this as she wanted to have a day off also. Sunday after church, he would open up until 3 PM and then close for the day. The next day at 6:30 am he would go down and shake the cinders from the coal burning furnace. He opened the store than by 7 a.m. for the milk man. Yes, there really was a milk man. When Mom was having babies, and Dad had to go to the hospital early in the morning, I got to wait up for the milk man. I paid him whatever bill he showed me and how much it was. People did not cheat each other either, back then.
I will stop at this juncture in the story as I want to keep you guessing as to what happened when we grew up. Were my aunt Louise and I still friends? Were we still as close as we were when we were small? I will let you know in the next article.
Louise Bertha Wike,
born 21 SEP 1945 in Lebanon County, PA,
died 5 FEB 1980.
by Polly Mazariegos nee Wagaman