was born in Strongstown in 1927, the youngest of four siblings. Several months
after my birth, my mother moved in to Belsano. She moved because my dad had been
killed in an accident on the C&I Railroad just two days before my birth. The move
to Belsano was prompted by the opportunity to purchase a home there with the proceeds
from the sale of the Strongstown farm.
before my own personal memory are pertinent to Belsano history, as you will notice
by some names of people known to all in Belsano. Mother started selling LARKINS
products, which were very much like Watkins and Ralieghs products.
Being only a few months old, I needed a "Nanny" to keep the house while Mother
worked the area building a route of customers. She hired a lovely young woman
named Cleo Rummel as my Nanny.
Cleo sometime later married Doss Paul of lumber mill and trucking fame in Belsano.
three years of living in Belsano, mother found work in "the Overall Factory" in
Johnstown and we moved to Coopersdale. Mother
rented out our Belsano home to George Mentch, who rented for many years from Mother
before deciding to purchase the old house. George (Bucky, Jr.) lived in that house
for many years before he built a new home across the street, just below the Monroe
Learn family. I remember Bucky from childhood as he, regularly as clockwork, drove
in to Johnstown each Month to pay his rent, before he finally bought our house.
really do not recall our early trips to Belsano to attend "Camp Meeting." I guess
I must have been about six or so when my first recollections began to stick in
my memory. Every year, we went to Camp Meeting. It was a very exciting time for
me and brother Charles. Charles usually got a job in the dining room kitchen,
working for Mrs. Whiteor was it Wright [or Wike, a prominent Belsano
namewebmaster]? Charles did things like carry water from the spring,
helped around the kitchen, sometimes cranking the ice-cream freezer, sometimes
doing dishes or building a fire in the outside fireplace. For this, he was given
free board in the upstairs bedrooms above the dining hall. I loved sleeping in
those old cubicles they called bedrooms. They had no ceilings, and were open up
to the roof rafters from about seven feet high. This allowed for the prankster-type
children to peek over the top to see who was in the next cubicle. The aroma from
the aging raw lumber walls of the cubicles, plus the fresh straw used as mattress
stuffing, was a special and unforgettable memory. I hated the mandate to "be quiet
so people can sleep" and usually did not get much sleep.
arose early to partake of breakfast in the dining hall below before setting out
for the day. The Tabernacle, which I believe is still in use, was another adventure
in the smell of raw lumber and sawdust. The floor was dirt, well packed from years
of use. It was covered with what seemed like a foot-deep layer of sawdust, furnished,
I think, at least partly by Doss Paul. There was a long balcony across the rear
of the Tabernacle, and a row of rooms there, also. These rooms were not usually
available for public use as very often they were occupied by visiting ministers
who were scheduled to preach.
Tabernacle windows were swing-open barn-type windows that served a fine excuse
for not going inside the Tabernacle for services. Many people huddled around outside,
looking in the windows to listen to the music and then leave when the sermon began.
permanent fixture on the front pew was Nellie Anderson, a rather eccentric lady
who lived alone next to our farm in Strongstown. Nellie lived for the 10 days
of Camp Meeting each Year, never missing a service. She was fired up with her
love of Jesus Christ and was not bashful about it at all. She wore long ankle-length
wide-bloused dresses and wore bonnets or homemade sun hats, and usually carried
an umbrella. She was a loud "Amen" shouter and prayed long prayers. She would
very often jump up and begin running up and down the aisles shouting praises all
the way. Nobody minded, as everybody knew and understood and loved Nellie.
on the rostrum (stage) you would always find Ward Adams seated stage right in
his usual location, from where he would always be the first one to his feet when
it came to pledge time. He was always good for a $50 or a $100 gift. I used to
wonder how anyone had that much money. Ward and his siblings and his parents were
very good to us kids of a widowed mother, and I sometimes was deposited in the
care of Mother Adams while Mother worked, when we lived in Belsano.
seemed like everyboby came to Camp Meeting, even the "sinners," who were, of course,
the ultimate targets for salvation. I always looked for Uncle Ed Cameron, as He
was usually good for a dime, which I converted into Popsicles or ice cream cones
up at Bob Clausen's store.
favorite place of every camper was the spring house. There was a small peaked-roof
house with a concrete reservoir, which had a shelf across the back where people
stored things like milk, butter, soda pop, and such. One eternal problem was marking
your watermelons for identification, as there were usually a number of them lying
in the cool spring water. There was a pipe for the water to flow out of the spring
house, where you could fill a bucket or a cup for a cool drink. There was also
a hand pump up the hill outside the dining hall with a public tin cup hanging
where people could drink water.
were three or four little cottages around the grounds outside the Tabernacle,
which were also usually occupied by featured speakers and evangelists. I remember
one evangelist who was a very loud snorer, and he always took a daytime nap, so
a bunch of us kids would often hang around outside his cottage just to listen
to him snore.
our usual stopovers in Belsano during Camp Meeting (which always came over July
Fourth) one day visiting with Doss and Cleo Paul and daughters. I always especially
loved this, as Doss always had fireworks and Cleo always served up a sumptious
meal with great desserts. I remember being close to the age of the daughters,
and they would invite me to climb around in Doss' Diamond T truck and pretend
to be driving it.
usually would visit the Mardis family and I would play with George. I remember
when they built the "new" brick house across the road from their old house, around
1935 or so. George and I used saw horses and roof joist boards to make see-saws
and had a ball.
nearer the Camp Grounds, my cousins Elton (George) Straw and his wife Gertrude
(Cameron) Straw lived for many years. We always stopped there for at least one
visit. Gertrude was my Uncle Ed's daughter. My widowed mother was to later on
marry Elton's brother, Bradley Straw. There was a lot of fun made about that,
as the marriage made her nephew George also her brother-in-law and her neice Gertrude
also her sister-in-law. All I know is that Bradley was a wonderful man and stepfather
and Charles and I would usually have to walk to Big Bend to catch the bus back
to Johnstown. We would walk by the homestead of Dr. William Prideaux, who delivered
me and one of my siblings (I'm not sure which). I did not mind standing to wait
for the bus to come, as it usually entitled me to get a Popsicle to wile away
the time waiting. My Uncle, Mervin Angus, was very often the driver for our ride
back to Johnstown, but he stood for no nonsense. When I was tall enough that I
could not walk under the divider rail in the bus, I could no longer ride for free.
I wanted to say so much more once I finally got started, but time and space constraints
won out. I hope you all enjoy sharing my memories of Belsano Camp Meeting.
A true Heart for Belsano