Thursday, 29 April 2010
100 things about Central PA and Birthday Memories
On my birthday, I'm thinking about birthdays past, when I celebrated with my three children in Pennsylvania, sharing a picnic of PB & J and chips and carrots and fruit by the Susquehanna River. Those years went by quickly. And this year, my son is far away and I will celebrate with my two daughters and my new husband near different water in TY Park. I love birthday picnics. And I'm hoping the menu is the same -- but I'll miss the fun of playing on the playground at the end of City Island with the kids, and wading in the chilly spring water.
In honor of those memories, here's a taste of what life is like in Central PA. This list lives in a link on the side of this blog...but I'm adding it here in the main page today. If you've lived in PA., you may recognize some of these things. If you've visited, you may catch a few. But if you've never been there, trust me, this is ALL true!
1) The great diners of America are alive and well in almost every town here
2) Fire departments are staffed by volunteers and paid for through pancake breakfasts and chicken barbeques
3) About 70% of the people here have lived here their whole life. As did their parents. Possibly in the same house. Probably in the same neighborhood.
4) The Amish (pronounced om'-ish, not A'-mish) are leaving in droves because the population and building boom in the area has made the area too expensive for their simple lifestyle.
5) If you move here, you will pay more kinds of taxes than you ever imagined could exist...Federal taxes, State income taxes, county taxes, local (city) taxes, school taxes, property taxes (no, they are not the same!), occupation taxes and head taxes!
6) Local delicacies include scrapple, a patty made from a ground mixture of everything usually not eaten off a pig, dipped in flour and deep fried.
7) And stuffed pig stomach...no description needed. Or wanted.
8) And fastnachts -- a delicious calorie laden potato donut, served especially just before Lent on Fastnacht Day
9) And fresh apple cider and schintzle (dried apple slices)
10) In many areas, there are still more cows than people
11) It is breath-takingly beautiful on a foggy spring or summer morning when you look out over the farmland and valleys.
12) The milk is fresh...really fresh. Like from the day before.
13) If your car breaks down along the road, 6 people will pull over to help you. No matter what the weather. And will not take a dime for helping.
14) Summers here make summers in South Florida look like a cold wave...count on upper 90's and not a breeze in sight for months. Even at night.
15) The snow makes great snowmen, snowforts and snowballs
16) Great scrapbook stores, especially Times to Remember in Hershey
17) The air really does smell like chocolate everyday in Hershey
18) Tuesday is Market Day, when you can buy fresh vegies, fruits, cheeses and almost everything else for your week at huge open air farmer's markets in the cities and in the rural areas. Some are open on Saturday too. A few on Wednesdays.
19) Don't plan on doing anything on Sunday after 4 pm. Almost everything will be closed. Except the diners. (See #1, above)
20) Front door locks are optional
21) You can live 15 miles from the nearest grocery store and locals will consider your home to be "in town"
22) It's the only place in the world where you can stand at the corner of Chocolate and Cocoa, and have them be real streets.
23) All of the Amish information centers and tourist attractions are run by Mennonites
24) Horses and buggies still share the road with cars
25) If someone asks if you're from Perry County (and you're not), you've just been insulted
26) If you are, sorry!
27) The words "leave" and "let" are interchangable. So you may "Let your daughter go to the mall" or "Leave her go to the mall." Same meaning.
28) Gardens grow almost by magic. The soil is amazing.
29) So do weeds
30) The most famous city in the area is pronounced "Lang'-ka-ster", not "Lan-ca-ster". The latter is a late actor. No relation.
31) Something is close by if it's less than 40 miles away. Really.
32) Except cities. They are far even if they're less than 20 miles away.
33) The nickname for this area of Pennsylvania is "Pennsyl-tucky."
34) Townships are the most important form of local goverment. Counties are seldom mentioned except at tax time. Townships are smaller than a country, and may cover several towns.
35) Villages are a legitimate government designation for a locale smaller than a town...I lived in one. Population 54. No kidding.
36) Birch Beer, a non-alcoholic soda is made locally -- and is very popular at all local fests and gatherings
37) Having a house that's over 150 years old is no biggie...most of them are
38) My house was 227 years old
39) The paved roads (except the highways) are mostly the old farm paths that led between the farms or from the farms to the market. So they are winding and quaint. And narrow.
40) In the early 1900's there used to be a trolley line from Elizabethtown to Hershey.
41) Now there is not even a bus. So much for progress.
42) You cannot tour the Hershey Factory anymore.
43) But you can ride a very Disney-esque simulation ride, complete with dancing cows and animatronic hershey kisses.
44) And get a free mini candy bar at the end of the ride
45) If someone says that they "Redded up their house", it means they cleaned it completely, not that they painted it crimson
46) Soft pretzels are HUGE and delicious
47) The oldest pretzel bakery in the US is here in Lititz, PA
48) You can actually try making a traditional twisted pretzel there
49) Your "ticket" for the tour is a pretzel! A real one
50) For a rural area, there is a suprising amount of religious diversity
51) Except in the schools, where major tests, competitions and field trips are often scheduled on the holiest of Jewish and Muslim holidays.
52) Lots of the women here are named Rachel, Sarah and Rebecca
53) The autumn colors are amazing. Who needs New England?
54) You can meet an amazing number of adults who have lived there their entire life, and have never been to Baltimore (about 45 minutes away) or Washington D.C. (about 1.25 hours away.) And they are ok with that.
55) The same people who loved the area for its rural charm have moved there and are now demanding Targets and Best Buys and all the other strip mall clutter they left behind in NJ, NY and MA.
56) Unfortunately, they are getting it
57) Central PA has some of the most fertile farmland in the country
58) In another 10 years, almost all of it will be under houses, strip malls and roads.
59) You can buy produce, hay and homemade preserves from roadside honesty stands where they put out a box for you to pay for your selection.
60) And people actually pay
61) And don't steal the box
62) Lots of the men here are named Jacob, Issac, Abraham, and Samuel
63) Local elementary schools frequently have less than 200 students total
64) High schools have about 800 students.
65) You cannot go for a drive without seeing a pick-up truck.
66) Herbal medicine, accupuncture and holistic healing are very popular in the area
67) Being a vegetarian is not
68) If your family ever lived here, chances are they have a genealogy record for them in one of the historical societies
69) Harrisburg is the capital of Pennsylvania -- not Philadelphia
70) Harrisburg has a growing art community and two really cool annual waterfront art festivals
71) And a gay pride festival
72) And a film festival
73) But no good art museums
74) It's always freezing for the Harrisburg St. Patrick's Day parade...even if it was 70 degrees the day before
75) There are still weekly local newspapers
76) With headlines like "Parking too close to corner annoys local residents"
77) I know because I wrote that story
78) It was the biggest thing at the town meeting that month
79) People wrote in comments about the issue
80) For two weeks
81) Cats are a way of life if you don't want rodents in your house or barn
82) Almost every town has a really nice community pool.
83) HersheyPark has an awesome concert season
84) Locals will tell you they "moved away" for awhile...they mean to other side of the river 15 miles from where they started. But they came back.
85) Garden clubs are a major social gathering
86) For most non-locals, it's difficult to stay for more than two or three months without a trip "outside" to New York, Washington, D.C., or Philly or someplace further.
87) Local fairs are another major Central PA social gathering.
88) Pretty much everyone in the community enters something in the fair -- a pie, a quilt, a model airplane, a drawing, a pianting, a vegetable...
89) People who live there refer to their area as "Central P.A."
90) There are lots of really cool old cemeteries to explore
91) Every festival, show or public event will have a stand selling fresh hot kettlecorn.
92) It's addictive
93) Most people seem to have a dog...a big dog. Not many maltese or yorkies around
94) Blackberries grow wild every summer
95) Every school has an annual craft fair
96) They all sell the exact same crafts
97) The Amish make the most beautiful quilts ever
98) Only the tourists buy them
99) It is only sunny about 34-40 days a year. The rest of the time it's gray.
100) Outlet shopping rules in Central P. A.