Not long ago, I wrote and shared a few memories of my hometown, Hanover, PA. It was based, largely, on the majestic theater that stands downtown, an icon of years gone by. The downtown area itself was a bit iconic, too...in those long forgotten days. I left town in August of 1981 and headed to Philadelphia to attend Temple University. Ah, Philly. One of our larger cities that is also extremely rich in history. I fell in love with it and stayed, after graduation, to live and work there. I returned to Hanover a few years later, in 1986, to work in York as a dental hygienist by day, as well as a bartender/manager in Hanover by night. Obviously, I was young enough then to work both jobs and have fun at them...as well as pocket some good money. Being single, as I recall anyway, had some serious advantages. I moved again, in 1988, to Richmond, VA before heading off to Birmingham, AL in 2006.
I've been away from "home" for many years, yet always head back to visit, safe in the knowledge that, "I'm coming home." It's the same for many of us, I presume, that have left our roots and wandered across this incredible country. The anticipation we feel on the drives and the flights is incomparable, and the expectation of spending time with friends and family, for me at least, is rejuvenating. Soon enough, I'll get to see my 85-year old grandmother, Mom (sorry, can't share her age - she'd kill me), Step-dad (if I catch him), and countless friends. My step-father once told me, when trying to impress upon me how I would never get away with anything, that, "You're going to get caught. If someone in this town doesn't know your mother or I, they know your grandparents. If they don't know them, they know your dad's family and your other grandparents. Don't even bother trying." He was right. No, of course it didn't stop me from trying...but he was right. The town and its outlying areas, at that time, had a population of about 40,000, and my family was fairly well-known.
My great-grandfather started a dairy back when milk was delivered to your door. I was only a kid then, but Little's Dairy was THE place to get your milk and assorted dairy products. My grandmother, when she remarried (okay, we have a slight history of that), was the sister-in-law of Art Kuhn, owner of Kuhn Motors, the Dodge/Chrysler/Plymouth dealer in town. The ultimate 'There's a target on me' move, though, was made when my mother remarried and my new step-father adopted my sister and I. His grandfather, you see, started the Famous Hot Weiner downtown at the corner of York St and Broadway. Yes, I say it like you should know it - if you've never been there, it's one of the truly amazing culinary delights you'll find. The second location on Dart Drive is probably the most popular and run by friend and cousin, Tim Keriazes. One grandfather worked as the head mechanic at Snyder's of Hanover for countless years and mom was a dental hygienist at one of the busier dental practices in town. I was done. I realize, too, that I seem to be digressing, however felt it important to help illustrate how close the ties are that bind many of us to this town. My parents were born and raised here, as were my sister and I. It was the same with many of my friends and their families as well. We all have a certain sense of pride about this area and, quite honestly, wish we could share the "Hanover of Old," with our kids. We, like others from many small towns across America, actually loved this place.
Sadly, though, "progress" happened. The small stores and businesses that thrived in the downtown area during our youth are fading. They gave way to the shopping centers and the mall. The Clearview Motor Lodge, with all of its 10-12 rooms, has given way to the Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express. That once-majestic theater with its single screen gave way to a multiplex theater with HD and surround-sound near the mall. The hardware stores and lumber yards are gone and have been replaced with Home Depot and Lowe's. Buildings and storefronts downtown are boarded up and stand empty, along with a few businesses trying their best to lure patrons back to this quaint area. The tree-lined streets are begging for people to walk them again, either in the shade offered during the day or the streetlamp-lit shadows by evening. You could do that...in days gone by. It was safe and pleasant. We'd stop at McCrory's or Woolworth's. We'd go shopping for school clothes at Benn's, stop by Staub's Drug Store, or go to one of the hardware stores that carried sporting goods while mom went to Baker's Dress Shop. This downtown area was the center of the town, the hub, and we remember it fondly. I think I can safely say, too, that our fondest memory (for those of us that were 'band-geeks') was the night we got home from Philadelphia after having won the State Championship Competition. Ever seen a parade at 3:00 a.m.? It was something we will never forget - throngs of people waiting for us as we marched into town, going the wrong way on a one-way street, until we turned the last corner and played a concert right then, right there. Amazing. The 'old' Post Office, too, was a thing of beauty. Marble and concrete that later became a clothing store when Trone & Weikert moved in and did their best to save it. The Lucky Spot was (and still is) a great place for a Saturday morning breakfast, and Posie's Sub Bar was the place to get the best grinders in town.
Now, it's gone. Not completely 'gone', as much as it is fading...fast. There are those, though, that are making an effort to revitalize it. They want to return this small town to its' former glory, yet seem to be met with as much apathy as anything. I find it ironic, in this day and age, that larger cities, in their personal quest to provide a "hometown feel and atmosphere" are building these areas. I've seen them in Newport News, VA and Richmond, VA. They're actually building business-lined streets with sidewalks and street lamps. They have common areas and parks. The buildings, though only covered with facades, are made to look exactly as our small town did so many years ago. In my opinion, doesn't that mean a town with the actual buildings has a head start on this type of development? These developers are now selling what we once had! It's sad, for many of us, that the Borough Council and leaders of the community have allowed an apathetic attitude to take over.
I don't have the answers, but many do. It's going to start with the Borough Council. Why not incentivize businesses to return to the downtown area? Why not put a committee together to bring manufacturing back so that their corporate money can help rebuild the town? Why not offer any incentives you can think of to volunteers? I would have loved to have stayed in the area and raised my kids there. It's THAT kind of town...and it's been good to many. Isn't it time to repay that debt? It doesn't only have to be with money...because, honestly, it all starts with a dream and a plan. Based on what I've seen and read, it looks like a man named Sonny Eline has a handle on just such a dream.....
Until next time.........