Born in 1930 my brother, Andy, missed by a year being a member of The Greatest Generation and I missed by six years. Andy spent four years in the Navy during the Korean conflict, while at Penn State, I had three semesters of ROTC. Neither of us achieved the accolades garnered by those of an earlier age but I'd like to tell you about our lives in Pottstown, a college town, which molded us creating who we have become today.
Brother, Andy, returned from the West Coast when his enlistment expired. He had married a local girl while still in the service so upon arriving back to the area both got jobs and he sought tutorial help from a Hill School professor so he could academically apply for college. His application was accepted at Muhlenberg, Allentown, and with both working and him getting financial aid from The GI Bill, Andy graduated and accepted a high school teaching job in northern New Jersey. After a few years there he accepted an English teacher ship at Morris County Community College where after many decades when in his late 70's he retired and lives today nearing 82 years in Boonton, N.J.
My story parallels the boom and bust which portrays Pottstown's, which is finally a college town, history during the later half of the 20th Century and into the first decade of the 21st. Generally, if something had happened in our town during that time, I'd have known about it or had been part of it. Let me tell about the goings on in the late 1940's and early fifties.
This was the era of deep longing for your own car, an automobile, which was in such short supply because none were built during the war years and the returning vets were gobbling up used one's too quickly. So, young men enamored with motors and their chassis migrated to be around cars when they met at their favorite service station to work pumping gas and changing oil when on duty, and when not working, just to hang out. The gas station was the proving ground, the training field for their generation. There at service stations young men of this generation achieved adulthood through trial and error's unscripted associations, also then, by running through the gauntlet made up of their peers.
Informal groups formed and evolved from boys turning into men at nondescript locations like : Merkles, Epiheimers, Chick Wades, Red Arrow, Jacks, Gauglers, Merits, and numerous others. There was no demarcation time line when the locations changed from gas stations to drug stores : Ellis's, Carmel Corn, Sheridan's, Rosenberry's, Pete's, Peoples. It was at these places boys met girls and the next generations began to evolve. Here, also, the juke box and the pin ball machine made noises over the talking, joking and the loud music couples danced to while forming close relationships as youth moved into adulthood.
To the Reader's who remember those times, please fill in the voids I leave unrecognized in this written exercise. Through your memory, life take on meaning personal and, if you wish, private. Maybe you could write your own story to illuminate your family and friends of the early years.
Ronald C. Downie