Reminiscings, Ramblings and Celebrations

By The Olde Forester, Emmett A. Conway Sr.

For my Christmas stocking, we hung our knee-length black cotton stockings over the back of a chair by the register above the furnace. That was as close as we could replicate. It worked as we found an orange, candy, etc. Christmas morning.

One Christmas Errett and I arrived home from school with the hardware delivery truck in the drive and Mom not at home. They had a huge Flexible flyer Sled 5C. We took it and hid it in the closed in Mom and Dad's room and never let on.

Before we  had a furnace in our Struthers home on 18 Ninth St., we had a room stove. It had foot rails on the sides where you could place your feet to dry out your shoes. The top turned aside for placing a teakettle. It was a coal stove. with a coal bucket and  a little shovel. You had to remove the ashes carefully so as not to dust the room. There was a  hopper you pulled out and carried outside to the driveway.

My ever faithful dog, Rags
One of the most memorable wake-up calls was when Mom called to us, The Twins, to come and see what Dad had brought home after leaving the mill on the night shift. We flew down the stairs and there was "Rags" a raggy looking nice dog. He was smart. Learned to climb a ladder to the haymow of the barn--leaning into the mow door. The ladder had boards not round rungs. Going up was easy for him, but going down was hard on his manhood when his feet slipped through. A trick of his was to be up in the haymow door looking down at some visiting dog which was trying to locate Rags. He actually had a smile on his face.

Poor old Rags eventually met his doom. He chased cars and got run over . He walked about half a block with me toward the grocery store, my errand. then lay down and I realized he was dying . I ran home crying and praying. Dad and Jerry and our neighborhood buddies gathered for a funeral procession--rags in the wheelbarrow. Jerry and dad dug a grave and made a coffin. It was put under a grape arbor. The kids with rifles fired a volley over his grave with 22 s.  Later, Carl Isaacs furnished a concrete lintel on which we carved:
    "Here lies Rags, My ever faithful dog.
        Died May 25, 1925"

Long after we had left that home and returned for a visit, the owner told us that there was a tombstone
for a dog under a grape arbor.

Sleeping in the barn
Once I found a neighbor's tomcat in the hay mow. I closed the doors and chased it around a while, then opened the front door. The cat flew like the winged horse of Pegassus. It landed running and was still going a block away. I doubt that it fathered any of our barn kittens.

The first barn dad built burned down because we had not turned the green rye straw. Probably spontaneous combustion. The next barn was much better. That is where Errett and I slept about three winters and summers. I recall Chris, Errett and Esther's daughter saying, you slept in the barn? Actually there wasn't enough room for us in the house. They had our folding bed in the hallway. It was under a dormer. The shape was dutch colonial. The opposite side was where Jerry slept and had been planned for a bath--unfinished. Everyone walked past Errett and I so close that we could tickle their legs.

When we reached teenhood and boy scouts we needed out. Even when we still had a couple of cows, we slept out there. Walked up the stairs behind the stalls, careful not to cut your foot in a cow cake. Had a trap door to cover the stairs. There was an opening to throw hay or fodder down to the cow manger.  Once I went down that ladder and jumped the last three feet. Unfortunately, I hit the side of a bucket. the other side dug a hole in my shin and the cow wondered what I was doing rolling around in the manger holding my leg. I still have the scar.

Living off the land
Life was interesting at 18th Ninth St. There was only one other house on the block and at the far corner. Later someome did build nearby.  All the fields provided hay, cut with a scythe by us, turned to dry and doodled and hauled to the barn on a wheelbarrow with a rack. Once while haying, a bumblebee whammed me on the forehead-bowling me over.

The cows made something besides milk with lots of cream, 'espesially, Old Jersey,  whose milk was richest--tons of manure which 'Errett and I had to haul to the garden each spring in mudtime. Once my hands slipped  off the handlebars and I rammed my head into the stinking mess. That was the last time I wore that wool "Tim's Cap." They were wool with flaps to turn down or button up.

How could just one acre between two streets, 9th and 10th provide so much sustenance for a family of eight children?  We have to give Mom and Dad much credit for buying a sustaining miny farm. It had about thirty fruit trees bearing. 'four cherries, two plums, several apples, peach trees, a quince, grape arbors with blue, green and a delicious cinamon which I would lunch on at noon.

The back half was open for a garden of sweet corn, beets, raddishes, turnips, potatoes, beans, lettuce, etc. A chicken house provided eggs and Sunday fryer--especially when Mom's sister Daisy and her wild boys would drop in. Actually, a big family dinner was a social occasion. The Akron boys always had a touring car with open top. I went 55 mph for the first time.

College years
Errett and I continued to den in the barn through our two years at Youngstown College, 1933-35. We spent our summers at scout camp; four as dishwashers and kitchen help and in 1934, I was waterfront director,having taken a waterfront training course at Akron Scout Camp. Scout camp only paid $50 for eight weeks as waterfront director.

In1935, we were given jobs at a YWCA camp on Lake Erie at $75 for the summer--as maintenance men. Mowing, cleaning, etc. That summer we met Addison Leitch, ministerial student and professor, who came to see his fiance, Miss Heslip. Knowing Addison, got us jobs for two summers at Great lakes Camp for boys, a private camp ten miles west of Erie, Pa. We took a Red Cross  refresher course before camp at Lake Chatauqua, NY. Made $200 each for eight weeks.

In 1936 we were induced to transfer to U of Mich to study forestry by Morrie Morgan and Bill McMaster. We had to take pre-forestry courses to enter for the two yrs in forestry. However, Dean Dana permitted us to take a combined curriculum which  gave us BSF and MasterF at the same time. Five years of total college plus a ten week summer in the UP got us through. Addison Leitch married Mom and I at Pikeville, Aug. 30. 1940.

What a saga--from Rags the mongrel dog to a lovely wife on our eloped wedding day. Couldn't afford a big wedding.

That's enough of my rambling for one night.

Pax vobiscum .  Now my tale is tole, said the 'Esquimois sitting on a block of ice.


Eagle Scout Club Log Cabin
Errett & Emmett were members of the Eagle Scout Club of the Mahoning County Council. Our best friend and Eagle Scout was John (Jack) Thomas. We had become good friends when we found ourselves as tent mates in 1931 summer camp. Jack’s job that summer period was assistant quartermaster. He worked in the Trading Post while Errett and I worked in the kitchen doing the camp’s dishes each meal and helping serve. This left us with plenty of time to help on the waterfront morning and afternoons. Each earned his Senior Red Cross Life Saving Certificate and the Scout Life Saving Merit Badge. Jack belonged to a Youngstown Troop 39 and we belonged to Troop 16 until we helped form a new troop at the Congregational Church in our neighborhood of Struthers.

In the Fall of 1931 we were all back in high school. Jack at South High, Youngstown south side and Errett and I in Struthers High. Errett and I graduated in February, 1932, I’m not certain if Jack graduated then or in June. The point is that we started using the Eagle Scout Club log cabin on some weekends.

 I don’t know when the cabin had been built--by some earlier enterprising Eagles. The location was at the extreme west side of the camp property next to a fence. On the other side of the fence was land owned by Christ Mission of Youngstown. They had a group camp with buildings further west on their property. Our cabin was on top of a ridge with a gentle climbing path. It was about an eighth of a mile from the nearest stockade or cabin on the main part of camp. Well isolated with a valley in front running south from the main Indian Run Creek and backwater to the camp lake. We spent many week ends at the cabin the spring of 1932, picking up beech nuts(small but tasty), walnuts and butternuts. Even chestnuts were still to be found on diseased trees with only a limb or two left. We learned to use leather gloves to pick up the burrs.

On a couple of week ends, Errett and I were hired for working in the kitchen at the Christ Mission Camp. Once it was used by some military group.

 In the spring of 1933 the Roosevelt Administration created many relief projects. One of interest to we teenage unemployed boys too broke to go to college was the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC). Errett and I immediately applied downtown in Struthers at the City Hall on Bridge Street. We learned right away that we weren’t qualified because our family was not on government relief. Dad was a steam engineer at the Youngnstown Sheet & Tube Co. just east of Bridge Street. It is a very strange coincidence that the lumber company with which Emmett, Jr. is affiliated now has a modern lumber dry kiln where the mill once stood in which Dad worked.

Jack, Errett and I went camping in the Eagle Log Cabin in the fall and winter of 1932-33. Somehow we got the idea to try to make maple syrup. There was an abandoned sugar camp just north of the scout camp in a private woods which had been logged. The buildings were still there and many wooden buckets-all drying out and loose at the hoops. They were ours for the taking, so we carried many to the scout camp lake one Friday. RAIN, RAIN, RAIN raised the level of the lake and washed many of our wooden buckets over the dam. We gathered up what we could and put them to use. Must have had some other buckets also.

As I recall we raided the Conway homestead for a brace and bit for tapping the trees.  I think we found some old metal spiles at the sugar camp and also made some from elderberry stems. We tapped about 22 sugar maples and, I am ashamed to say, one white oak. The white oak was like the song, “You can’t get milk from a gentleman cow. Don’t try it for it can’t be done.

Dad Conway never quite got over what we did with the family apple butter copper kettle while using it to boil the sugar water down into syrup. When we got tired of chopping wood for the fire, we found an outcropping of coal and used it under the kettle. It got quite black from coal sut. It takes forever to boil sugar water down, but after two weeks we proudly went home, smelling like wood and coal smoke and carrying into the house two gallons of what we called maple syrup. The reaction upon examination was that it looked like used motor oil.

Mom courageously whipped up some pancakes and Errett and I slurped our smokey syrup for a couple of meals, trying to whip up enthusiasm among Marguerite, Inez, Evelyn, Jerry, Garnet and Billie Sue. Dad didn’t think that the damage to the copper kettle was worth the syrup. I am certain that it was much better tasting that the sorghum molasses he came home with remembering it from his younger days.

Sadly, as I recall, our two jugs of motor oil--I mean maple syrup--sat in our fruit cellar and molded. The fruit cellar was off the cellar and under the front porch. It was used to store potatoes and apples in bins, jars of vegetables and fruit. Also strawberry jam, quince honey and blackberry preserves from berries we picked nearby and on our small mini-farm.

Back to the woods for one more memory.  It was about a quarter mile into the heart of the scout camp to the pump. You are right. We cooked our potatoes and made tea from sugar water. Also used it in our beans. Weren’t we the sweet things.

Jack Thomas had a job and came out on week ends. Once his mother made a half gallon jar of spaghetti for us. It was my turn to warm it up and I burned some of it. They almost kicked me out of the cabin.

One night or morning we were lying in our bunks and a skunk came into the cabin and out.

First Kiss
Errett and I used to operate the telescope at scout camp. It was made by a plumber with a ten inch lense reflecting the  image forward and diagionally through lenses.

Best time was when they kept us working in the kitchen when 200 Girl Scouts used the camp.  Holding them on the step ladder was my job. My first crush was freckled face Martha Lyman Niles. I took her to an Eagle Scout Club dance--rather had a date with Margaret Finney. When dancing with  Martha, I told her bumblingly  I would rather she were my date. She heaved a big sigh and planted one on my cheek. Had only a few dates as we were working at camp on Lake Erie, but a nice memory.

Meeting the love of my life
Hadn't met Myrt yet. Took Martha to an Eagle Scout Club dance at Pioneer Pavilion in Mill Creek Park. Also a dance at Youngstown College. I recall she had a new perm and the smell got to me.

That meeting was at the YMCA in Youngstown, as you have heard many times. White bathing suit standing 20 feet away. We were practicing for an exhibition. Her sister Melva, had brought her. Attraction must have been mutual, for we started doing tandem swimming. Wish we could still do it.

Louise said that when Myrt walked out on a diving board, all the boys looked her way.

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