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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I got the knowin'...

You know, if gross mismanagement were to somehow be misconstrued as wise and virtuous, this area would be the new Mesopotamia of modern civilizations everywhere. If utter stupidty were to become a tradable commodity, this would be the financial epicenter of the known universe.

Man, it's enough to make you want to divorce yourself from this entire, floundering program. It's enough to make Utah seem attractive by direct comparison.

Wilkes-Barre Area OKs four modular classroom units, KOZ extensions

Wilkes-Barre Area School Board gave the Apollo Group Inc and Pasonick Engineering the OK to move forward in getting four modular classrooms at an estimated cost of $374,576 to relieve overcrowding at two elementary schools this fall. The board also approved a 10 year extension of tax exempt status for a string of properties Wilkes-Barre City is trying to develop.

Apollo Group Project Manager Michael Kryzwicki said the deal with Mobilease Modular Space Inc. was not put out for bid because it can be arranged through a state purchasing program. He estimated each unit could hold between 25 and 30 students. The deal includes covered walkways and electrical service to the buildings, but there are some questions that have to be ironed out, including issues with concrete surfaces needed at one of the two schools, Heights Murray, and the capacity of an electrical panel that would likely be used at that school.

Installation would be complete in time to give the district at least two weeks before the start of school to set up furniture and equipement [sic].

Okay, here’s the rub.

While I realize that I am not, nor could I ever be, as completely worldly or nearly as pan chromatically brilliant as anyone serving on our illustrious school board, but isn’t this group the very same group that was considering closing Dan Flood elementary school as little as two years ago?

Forget the election season drug raids. We need not fuss nor fret over rampant cocaine, heroin or model glue usage, no matter who gets wasted in the process. No, what the Luzerne County Drug Task Force has to do is rethink things, retool just a tad, and then devote it’s manpower and all it’s vast resources to the eradication of stupid pills in this area.

Because I have to tell you, when it comes to our various and sundry local school boards not yet indicted, arrested, jailed or flogged, these people are all dealing in stupid pills--the deadliest drug of them all.

Sez me. Sez effing me!

Somehow, Wifey and I got around to sharing notes on what it was like to grow up, well, to grow up poor. Now, the way she tells it, her family was poorer than mine was. But I find that unfathomable when I remember that all we had was a government-subsidized townhouse, 2 measly welfare checks and some paper food stamps every month. Oh, and that government surplus cheese-like substance. Yum.

As for her predicament, she had two parents who were gainfully employed, but the opportunities in this area were kind of low-paying once upon a time. There’s was a typical two-earner family in that mom was a seamstress, and dad did menial stuff with his hands. By Wyoming Valley standards back then, your average family. You know, for lack of a better word, poor.
Did you ever try to one-up somebody whereas your onetime poverty was concerned?
Oh, yeah! Well, we were so poor, we looked forward to mama's homemade cardboard parmesan on Saturday nights!
Oh, really! Try wearing your Weekly Reader to the sixth-grade spring dance!
Did I save my Bazooka Joe comics? Dude, we knitted those comics into quilts.
Quilts? Must have been nice. We were reduced to burning those comics for heat. At least, when we weren't eating them.

All of that outlandish stuff aside, we ended up talking about what we considered the above and beyond treats back in the day. Not the stuff we had access to once we were growing well beyond our parents control and getting mobile. Not the high school stuff like Kresge’s Pizza, The Orange Bowl or those deliciously steamed soybean burgers at Guys ‘n’ Dolls pool hall. Rather, we were trying to remember the kid stuff, the places we visited when we were still totally dependant upon our elders for both transport and funding.

Wifey’s scant remembrances seemed to be limited to occasional trips to McDonald’s, and the much more frequent jaunts up to what she called “The Cow” for a single-dip ice cream cone. The big cow, better known as Gorman’s Dairy. I do recall being there as a kid, but, I suspect, not very often.

As for my ice cream treats, I was kind of limited to walking on down to the Woodlawn Dairy on North Street with my grandma. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. I always looked forward to going there, even though it was situated next to that haunted-looking school from the prehistoric days--the North Street School. As a kid, the decrepit looks of that place just creeped me out. Gave me the heebie-jeebies. Made me want to step up the pace. Spooky, spooky, unspeakably horrible stuff just had to be going on in there, even though my cousin Will testified otherwise. Perjury, I'd say.

Interestingly enough, I once read somewhere that both the Gorman and Woodlawn Dairies in Wilkes-Barre, as well as a couple of others, were supplied with their fresh dairy products by a single farmer somewhere in the Sweet Valley area. And that same farmer also supplied mutton and the like to Percy Brown’s. Kittle, or Kyttle. Something like that.

We both have fond memories of hitting the local drive-in theatres. In these close by environs, mine are almost all borne of the Wilkes-Barre Drive-in. Remember that operation? That was back when Route 309 was one of the darkest and loneliest and most underused stretches of road in the immediate area. Not the congested sprawl nonsense that it is now. Not the unchecked, asphalt-covered producer of storm water runoff that it has become. Not the temple of consumerism that the whole formerly woodsy outpost has devolved into being.

No, back then, save for the big white screen and the tiny ancillary buildings, it was the tree-covered place where kids from a wide swath of Wilkes-Barre used to learn how to operate air rifles. Well, that is, the kids that managed to slip the guns across the road and past the annoyingly ever-present Wilkes-Barre Township cops. For the most part, I think they used to hassle those gun-toting younger kids because they were frustrated with all the teenaged kids continually drinking in those woods, but slipping away into those woods whenever the cops would try to spring forth and bust them.

And oddly enough, even though she grew up, literally, in the shadow of the Wilkes-Barre edition’s enormous screen, her flock always headed over to the West Side Drive-in in Edwardsville. And no snack bar, mind you. Not with five kids in tow. No, the giant, giant jawbreakers would have to suffice. My most fondest of memories from the drive-in era are pretty much limited to the big screen that once graced my summer retreat…Sandy Beach. Every summer, every movie, without fail…grandma, grandpa and myself sitting on the benches right up front.

According to her, her family didn’t get downtown much. Sure, she has the almost obligatory memories of the freshly roasted peanuts from the Planter’s Peanut shop, as we all do. My absolute favorite was the Woolworth’s Luncheonette, where grandma and I would chow down on an affordable lunch, and then order the banana splits with the accompanying balloons concealing the price of the desserts ranging from a penny to ninety-nine cents.

Although, she says she absolutely loved shopping at the Huntzinger’s five & dime store a ways away from the downtown, as did I. If you can call the acquisition of tiny trinkets shopping, then, yes, I too enjoyed that shop. All that I can recall buying there were the smallish and less than spectacularly crafted Tootsie Toy cars. In fact, I still have quite a few of those.

Surprisingly, there were some popular local fast food eateries she has absolutely no memories of. Something I find to be remarkable when you consider that these places thrived well into the 1970s.

She cannot remember, Top Spot, home of the Lulu Burger. Although, with a Top Spot once sitting right up here in the Nord End on River Street, now Antonio’s Pizza, it was easily within walking distance for us. And walk we did, many times over.

She looked at me in stunned disbelief when I asked her about Carroll’s Restaurant, which was part of a then thriving fast food company that had sprawled it’s way through much of New England when I was a kid bopping back and forth between the Derby, CT, area and this one. You don’t remember Carroll’s? It was on Scott Street right about where the Dunkin Donuts now sits. The employees wore these garish-looking plaid uniforms? Chicken burgers? No?


When I was a boy, we used to hit the Carroll’s that sat at the end of one of the runways at Stewart Air Force Base in New York. Not far from Newburgh. Next to it sat a Carvelle’s Ice Cream on this lonely, dusty nowhere of a road. Actually, it was quite the much-anticipated attraction while on our way to Wilkes-Barre from Connecticut. First the burgers. Then the ice cream. And all the while, sitting on the car’s hood waiting for fighter jets to scream out just overhead. Literally, just overhead. F-4s, I think. Cool, cool stuff when you’re a vertically-challenged sprat of ten or less. Way cool.

And this one blew my mind. Darn near fried my last few functioning brain cells. She has no memory of the Stop ‘n’ Go burger joints. None. Nada. We had one right here on Kidder Street, which sat almost directly across from McCarthy’s Tire. And then there was the other one in Edwardsville, now an ice cream shop. The one with the oversized slide-away glass doors up front, where, when opened, you could pull up, exit the car and step right into the place. Unique.

How could you grow up in this valley, in this city and never once munch down on that cheap grub? Weren’t the burgers like 15 cents or something? It was the only place where you could get a burger, fries and a Coke, and all for less than a buck. Cheaper than even Mickey Ds was.

No Stop ‘n’ Go? Never? Not even once? Man, that’s mind-blowing. That’s outrageous. That’s, that’s…dare I say it, that’s freaking borderline child abuse. Talk about being deprived.

That‘s just not right.

Anywho, the preceding circumlocution is a great example of what can happen when a bored blogger has way too much time on his hands. Here I sit with my police scanner, my Pepsi Zero and not a damn thing to do. And you know what? I’m loving every minute of my self-inflicted boredom, my vacation.

So, if things keep going at this rate, you can expect to be reading my 6,000 word dissertation on my favorite rummage sale sites when I was a kid tagging along with grandma. Coming soon, I swear.

How did the marooned colony of kids left to fend for themselves put it in Mad Max Beyond Thunder Dome? “We got the knowin’ of a lot things, history back.” Yeah, well, I got the knowin' of a lot of things, history back, too. Sadly, mostly useless things.

You have been warned. And if you’re truly smart, you’ll run screaming from this electronic place of mine never to return.

On the count of three…



Gort said...

You are some sort of Psychic (if not Psycho) Freak. I spent time tonight trying to remember the name of the dairy on North Street after the subject came up at work. Just to add to the wierd Karma I worked at the sucessor to Top Spot on N. River St. It was called Zesty n' Tangy where I cooked many a "LuLu."

zorcong said...



Translation: Extra cheese, no onions, hold the pickle.

Joe said...

Top Spot! I worked for one high school summer at Carter Rubber, the cheap sneaker factory behind Top Spot. A legendary story tells of one Carter employee who got a burger at Top Spot for lunch and found maggots in the vegetables. He took it back and accepted another burger in trade for the bad one. Too bad that ugly lawyer whose picture is on just about every billboard in the valley was still a snot nosed kid himself back then!

Anonymous said...

i used to live in scranton. from 1954 (when i was born there) until i left for college in 1972 at age 17. my parents still live there and two of my sisters. i returned for summers thru college, grad school and law school thru 1981.

i remember stop n go burgers. my wife and i were just talking about it and i thought id see what there is on line about it and found your blog. thanks for nthe pic. i remember carroll's too. there was a stop n go on lackawanna ave in downtown scranton across from the train station. there was a carroll's in dunmore at green ridge and blakely streets.