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Belsano memories; 1940's

I grew up a mile south of Belsano near the intersection of South Street and Red Mill Road. My first school, for grades one through four, was the two-room Belsano School, a two-story building with a classroom and a restroom on each floor; first and second grades and the boys' room were on the first floor; third and fourth grades and girls' room were on the second. Mrs. Margaret Drolet taught the first two grades when I was there. She was a white-haired kindly lady nearing retirement. Mrs. Helen Brown, stricter, taller, and younger by a decade or two, taught the upper grades. The school had a large playground and on freezing days our joy was turning icy patches into skating trails which we could run to and skate down in our clodhopper leather shoes, or if it was snowing, our rubber boots.

Belsano had two churches, the Methodist attended by the “upper crust” (as we thought at the time) on the east side and the Evangelical United Brethren attended by the working class and German-descended residents, including my mother, brother Gary and me, on the west side. Once a week we got out of school to attend released time religious studies” at the Methodist Church, which was the only time I attended it (except for a brief stint in the Boy Scouts which met there and for Janice Williams' funeral when I was in high school). I won the essay contest on What the Bible Means to Me” conducted through the released-time class. I wasn't fazed by it at the time, but it was the first recognition that I might have some writing aptitude. The prize was three wonderful books—the Bee” series—which I still fondly remember reading.

One of my Belsano memories, which I've often looked back upon as kind of an epiphany—a first glimmer of self-awareness, though I've never known why—was walking home from school in third or fourth grade on the Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving. I usually rode the bus home from the Belsano school but walked that day because we were let out early but would have a longer wait for the bus. I don't remember what I thought about on the walk, but I remember that for one of the first times in my life I was thinking rather than just letting myself daydream.

click for full size photoI also remember one year many of us, maybe the whole third and fourth-grade class room, went out into the woods to get a Christmas tree. It must have been both classes, because it was Lynn Woodling who carried the tree back to the school. Lynn was older than I was so he wouldn't have been at the school when I was in fourth grade. I remember him because he, being the biggest boy in the school, had carried me home from school with a sprained ankle once. And he was somehow a relative of my sister-in-law, the former Sally White. But I digress.

One of the most indelible memories of Belsano School is the day one of my classmates, Clair Crawford, was running near a school bus, skidded on shale and slid under a back wheel of the bus, and got run over. His thigh was crushed and he was hospitalized for what seems in retrospect like many weeks. Though his mother and he were also regulars at the EUB Church and I knew who he was from that connection, it wasn't until after he came back to school that we became close friends and were pals for the next three or four years. It was ironic that he got run over by a bus because, as I recall, his father had earlier been killed by being hit by a train in Nanty Glo.

Belsano is also remembered for wonderful, colorful parades on Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. I never thought about it at the time, but the reason surely was that it was the site of both still-in-current-use Protestant cemeteries for the township. The part the neighborhood boys and I played at the holidays was decorating our bikes in crepe paper and riding them up and down the street, a federal highway closed to traffic for Belsano's parade! Imagine! Later, in junior high and high school, I would have to play in the band for the parades, and I never liked that much. It was too much confinement for a holiday.

I remember Mert Edwards and his general store. There were two stores at the time. Ward Adams' store was fairly up to date and included the village post office. It was the normal” store. Mert's store was by comparison old-fashioned, with a genuine pot-belly stove, a spittoon or two, and cracker barrels...well, they were probably nail barrels, I don't remember ever really seeing crackers in a barrel. It smelled like Pepsi Cola and a boy couldn't go in there without wanting to buy a seven-cent bottle of Pepsi. Mert was an old man when I first knew him, constantly humming if I remember correctly, and after he died his son, Jesse Edwards, who was about the same age as my parents, kept the store open in the evenings, I think just for nostalgia's sake and for some place to socialize with the community. Jesse Edwards was Belsano's most successful denison, as the teller (and eventually its vice president) of the Nanty Glo bank, and when I was writing for the Ebensburg paper, he and I got acquainted. But this reminiscence is already longer than I'd planned, so I'll have to do another on my later memories of Belsano, on Edwardses' store and the Philbricks' Pinehurst Restaurant.

PHOTO: Mrs. Drolet's first and second grade at Belsano School, c. 1948.
Click here or on the small photo to get the original-sized photo.

—Jon Kennedy


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Links to additional Blacklick Township pages
  Blacklick Township High School Class Lists
George Warholic's Blacklick Township Pages
Belsano Memories (from Jon Kennedy's growing up there, with Belsano School photo-1)
Belsano Memories (from Trudy Rummel Myers, childhood on pig farm)
Belsano Memories (from Jon Kennedy's adolescence, writing for Mountaineer Herald-2)
Belsano memories—Halloween in the 1950's (Jon Kennedy-3)
Belsano's famous literary figure

Spring fever on the Kennedy farm, 1956

The Blacklick Township Class of 1960 35th anniversary reunion photo
Blacklick Valley's most famous athlete—Bill Hartack
The 'good old days' at Blacklick Township High School, by Linda Rae Watson Silbaugh
A Death in the Family and how it forever changed our lives (Belsano crash kills three)
A virtual hike, Vintondale to Belsano

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