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Growing up in Vintondale in the ’60s & ’70s

I grew up in Vintondale…

I was born in 1955, the youngest of six children. My father was a coal miner—the son of Polish immigrants. My mother was a housewife, of Irish and English descent. We lived in a “double house”/duplex on Second Street, besides my wonderful and devoted Polish Grandparents, my entire life. I was blessed to have grown up in such a wonderful little town. The Second Street community was comprised of many immigrant families from varying European and religious backgrounds. I vividly recall the yards of all of the houses were neatly maintained, with plenty of flower and vegetable gardens and beautiful big maple trees in many of the front yards and so many fruit trees in the backyards.

I recall when we got sidewalks…that was a very special occasion indeed! Of course, when the alleys were paved…oh, that was yet another landmark!

Those days, we walked to school, church, and to the grocery stores and post office…it was a gloriously simple life…church picnics and suppers, school picnics at the Big Rock behind the Delano building, 4th grade flute-a-phone lessons, ball games at the field, building “cabins” in the woods, kickball games, hide ‘n’ seek or honk-conk-the-can in the alley, building and playing in “leaf houses” in our yards in the fall, weenie, and potato roasts and, in my teens…going downtown to play pinball, pool, the jukebox, and to meet boys—of course!

I fondly recall the holidays…particularly Christmastime. We actually had a P. A. system on Main Street, which played Christmas music during the season…how wonderful! In those days, Christmas truly was a magical celebration… Walking to Midnight Mass when our snowy little town was so still and quiet…and, of course, trying to stay awake during entire Mass….That was surely a challenge for any little girl!

I remember that someone (I believe it was Mr. Lonesky) dressed up as Santa Claus one Christmas Eve…and walked up and down the streets of Vintondale ringing a large school bell and singing out “M E R R Y C H R I S T M A S”! What a terrific memory!

We always had plenty of snow in the winter and had great times sledding Second Street or the nearby Rock Dumps. We would wax our sled blades to ensure the fastest ride possible, and how we loved to ride our sleds through discarded coal-furnace ashes in the alley—sparks would fly from our sled blades! Often, we would tie four or six sleds together and sled down the streets in train fashion. On occasion, we would use old fridge doors, cardboard panels, or even Mum’s large iron frying pan to slide down the rock dumps… We were very creative!

Another special memory (which I still sorely miss) was hearing the frogs at Dinky Pond singing at dusk in the spring. That sound permeated the entire town and was a sure indication that winter was over and spring had arrived.

I can recall bike rides to Dilltown—stopping off at Three Springs for a few good swigs of freshwater before peddling on. We always made a pit stop at a little Dilltown store for a Popsicle before heading back home.

Even growing up in the ’60s and ’70s, which has been historically perceived as a fairly volatile time in many ways, life seemed to remain relatively calm in our home town…

My husband and I were married in Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, on Fourth Street, in 1978, and enjoyed a wonderful “Firehall” reception right in town. My husband grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D. C., and was always amazed and delighted with the wonderfully innocent and naive life in Vintondale. (Once—before we were married when we were visiting my folks—he commented that he was astonished that I’d found my way to “the big city” (D. C.) from such a far-away town.

With both of our parents now deceased, my sisters and I recently found it necessary to sell the only family home we’ve ever known. I know we will always cherish the many years of treasured memories and love we experienced growing up in Vintondale. In those days, it surely was a grand place to grow up.

Fran Wojtowicz Ward of Lake Ridge, Virginia