My name is Jo Ott and I live in Lewisberry, northern York County, PA. Previous to moving back to PA in 2001 I lived in northern Virginia for more than 50 years. There may be few if any individuals in the borough who would remember the family which lived at 141 Forty-fourth St. in West Pittston during the war years. There was six of us, our parents, David & Evelyn Bratton, and myself--then known as Josie--brother Jack (David, Jr.), brother Roger, sometimes called Butch, and sister Pat, the oldest. We were one, two and three years apart and Roger and I had pretty much the same goup of friends, Jack had his & Pat, hers.
We got to move to West Pittston because our father, a printer, took a position as a linotype operator at the Pittston Gazette sometime in 1941. I know we lived there prior to Pearl Harbor Day. Even though I was only about 5 1/2 and had only been in grade school for a few months when we moved the wonderful childhood memories are many.
Shopping at the Acme store where boys made deliveries in bicycle baskets; many, many visits to the skating rink to roller skate; the very special times at football games where, although I really was too young to know what football was about, I learned the words to most football fight songs and still remember many today. The high school stadium for every football game is where we could be found.
Sister Pat was the only one of the four of us who attended West Pittston high school. The rest of us were all in West Pittston elementary. My mother saved several of our report cards from those West Pittston school days and they are now in my posession. Looking at the grades we received one would think we were illiterate! Two of us have BS & Master degrees and one (me) has a BS degree.
Back in those days the winters were bitter cold and the snow very deep and sled riding was all that was on a kid's mind after that first snowfall. There was no salting and plowing the streets so the snow was available on them all winter long. Day and night, we stayed out, with the snow frozen to our mittens and snow pants, runny noses, having too much fun to go home and thaw out. Sometimes at night a kid's father would build a log fire to warm by and another parent would bring out mugs & a kettle of hot chocolate. The streets are long and hilly, just right for trains with as many as a dozen sledders, on their stomachs, feet clinging to the sled behind them to pull along and not break the chain. Sometimes a sledder would deliberately lift up his boots, sending the train helter-skelter. If a sledder felt especially mean or devlish he or she would deliberately drive their sled into the legs of an uphill walker, sending that person flying and the empty sled back downhill.
As I think back to those days and try to remember names, many come to mind. (I may not have them spelled correctly!) Michael Minacello, the funeral home director's son Michael and Roger were good friends. I have photo taken with Sally Sickle in our Easter finery. There was a Wilson, possibly James, son of neighbors, who our mother got to have him take a group photo or all four of us. Every time he got us in focus one of all of us would start to giggle, then push each other, time after time. I don't remember if he ever took the photo or just gave up.
Our parents were good friends with neighbors Betty & Louie Lewis who they played cards with all the time. Louie I think was a cemetery care taker.
There was my little friend Bobby Barnhart who I pulled around in his little red wagon. Bobby was a couple of years younger than me. (Google Dr. Robert A. Barnhart to see what he's been up to since those days.) Bobby and I think his mother lived with his grandparents the McCartneys who lived across the street. Some of our adult male neighbors worked in the coal mines and I have vivid memories of seeing them come home from the mines, carrying that black, metal lunch pail, their faces and clothing covered with coal dust.
I remember too of the horrible story one day of the little girl who was walking down the street in Pittston eating an orange and a mine shaft caved in underneath her. She was buried alive in the hole!
Other memories are of walking across the river bridge to the Roman theater on Saturdays to watch "Our Gang," Roy Roger & the "Lone Ranger" movies. Riding the trolly to Wilkes-barre for shopping: At Christmas time our mother would take us, one at a time, to see the Christmas decorations and have lunch there. I remember too Mr. Peck, the owner(?) of the Pittston Gazette had a cabin at Harvey's Lake and a few times in summer he would invite our family for a day. I still do not know how to swim but somehow I managed to not drown in that lake! Wonderful times we always looked forward.
I remember too well the hardships everyone lived with during the war. There was no money to buy goods that weren't available anyway. All commodities such as sugar, flour, clothing, tires, gasoline and many others were in short supply because most goods were sent to the troops for the war effort. Everyone was issued rationing tokens (stamps) according to their family makeup to buy limited amounts of certain items. There was a lot of sharing when one family didn't need some of theirs. An aunt in Juniata Co. owned a restaurant and had good supplies of sugar and eggs especially so she would see that our family had some, but not plenty. The recently released 1940 Census records reveals name of other neighbors, places. I remember walking up to a cracker or cookie factory and getting samples and crumbs to eat. I'm sure as time goes by I will continue to remember other places, incidents and people.
Our family left West Pittston in 1947 and moved to Shiloh in York County where father worked for a printing company as a linotype operator. It is in York that we all graduated from high school. His dream was to work for the U. S. government. He applied for and after working for the old Washington Star and the Washington Post received a position with the U. S. Government Printing Office in Washington, D. C. We left York and moved to Arlington county, VA in 1957 where some of us stayed & others moved on. He retired in the early 1980s. Both parents are now deceased, but all siblings are still alive.