This page by Jon Kennedy
I was born and spent the first four years of life in Vintondale, so my earliest memories come from there, but they are very sketchy.
I remember the end of the war with Japan. The mine whistle blew incessantly in the middle of the day or early evening, and everyone ran out onto the street to dance up and down and wish each other felicitations of peace.
I remember being taken for walks by Mike Coco. He was a grey man who seemed old to me at the time, but may have been in his 40's, like my father. I also remember him saying, once, "Come to Mike Coco" in a thick accent, which caused me to burst out bawling as my parents would have called it. But generally I liked going for walks with Mike Coco; no other adult took the time to do that with me at that infantile age. We probably walked no more than half a block and back. Other than that, I have no idea who he was; I never knew any Cocos (other than TV star Imogene) when I got older, and don't recall ever reminiscing about him with my parents.
I remember being carried on my brother Bob's shoulders over the bridge to church. All of us but my father attended the Baptist Church. We lived on Main Street near the west end of town, with a good view of the Iron Furnace, and it was at least a half-mile walk to the church. I don't know if we always walked, or if Mom sometimes got to drive the family's '35 Ford.
One of my fondest memories is the sound of cowbells across the railroad tracks on the foothill, where the cows were taken by their eastern European owners to graze during the days. The old ladiesbabushkaswould round up their cows in the evening and walk them home, and the bells could be heard all over. I don't know how many babushkas and cows there were; maybe no more than two of each.
I remember Mrs. Colbert. She was older than my mother, and possibly a surrogate grandmother, as I don't remember either of my grandmothers. She lived in the nicest, biggest house in that part of town, a Victorian with a large sun porch. She made the first creampuffs I ever ate, and they made me sick. Lots of things made me sick until I reached adolescence.
I almost remember Dad putting an indoor bathroom in the house; maybe I only remember it being talked about afterward. We were among the lucky minority to have one at the time, and shortly afterward we moved to a farm, back to life with an outhouse.
I can't say I remember our nextdoor neighbors, the Dodsons, from that time, though I came to know them later through visiting back and forth. I do remember that there was a gasolene pump in front of their house. People could buy Esso from their neighbors in those days. Verna Dodson and my mother were the kinds of neighbor-friends depicted in radio shows of the era, and later on television, always back and forth to each other's houses like Lucy and Ethel. Mom said when we moved she would probably never have another friend like Verna, and she never did.
My first memory of Johnstownmy first impression of any city where streetcars rattled through the streets and traffic raced over cobblestone pavementsis also a Vintondale memory. Mom and I walked to the bus stop and took the bus to Johnstown in the fall, to do some "Christmas shopping." I remember Glossers' Department Store from later, of course; for years it had the only escalator I had ever ridden. I'm sure we went there that day, as Mom always did. She probably stayed completely away from Penn Traffic, the higher-quality higher-priced department store. I can't recall, but I do remember buying donuts at a tiny shop on Johnstown's Main Street. That was Mom's indulgence. Oh, and Glosser's always smelled like fresh-roasted cashews, which was worth the visit in itself.
We moved away from Vintondale, seven or eight miles at first, and then a year later to Redmill Road near Belsano, really no more than three miles from Vintondale "as the crow flies" down the State Game Lands trail and over the mountain (once in a great while we boys would hike it). When I was 18 and had my own car, Mom and I started going back to the Baptist Church in Vintondale and rejoined it after an absence of some 14 years. She had never left it in spirit and I, always hungry for orthodoxy, felt myself more a Baptist than an EUB pre-Methodist.
After I moved away and started seminary, my Dad finally made a profession of faith and got baptized, and joined that church, too. Mom and Dad spent their last 15 years or so in greater Altoona but kept their membership in the First Baptist Church of Vintondale. They died 11 months apart in 1992 and '93 respectively, their bodies returned to Nanty Glo for last rites at Ondriezek's Funeral Home, the service for Dad conducted by the Vintondale pastor. All of us sons lived far away: Bob and his wife in Goshen, Indiana (his wife's birthplace), Tom and his wife in Chattanooga, Tennessee (his daughters had attended college there and settled there, so Tom moved there to retire), and I in San Jose, California. We were entertained in the home of a Vintondale Baptist after both funeralsby Hazel Oblackovich, the aunt of Tom's wife, Sally.
Bob looks forward to attending the Vintondale Reunion every Labor Day weekend, and Tom has attended a couple of times, too. They both did much of their growing up in Vintondale and attended high school there, and know just about everyone at the reunion. Maybe someday I'll get to attend one, too, but it wouldn't be the same for me.
Postscript: I did attend the Vintondale Homecoming on the Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day Weekend 1998. I enjoyed it far more than I'd have expected. Thinking I'd be there only a couple of hours and then leave, I ended up spending most of both days there, to the detriment of other plans and duties. (See photos taken there on the Vintondale Home Page and Vintondale slide show).
© Jon Kennedy 1999