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Childhood Memories of Emmitsburg
with My Father

John Allen Miller

While living in Emmitsburg with my wife Alicia and my son Marshall, I remembered the times I spent with my dad while he lived in Emmitsburg.  Watching Marshall grow for five years, doing things with him that my dad once did with me.  I know that the term father like son is true.  As I take my son to McDonalds I remembered the times gone by that I spent with my dad.  Every time we stop off at the Post Office, I remember the C&P Telephone building where my dad used to work.  I would tell Marshall stories about when his granddad worked there.  I remember most of the places in Emmitsburg that my dad took me to, although not much has changed from 1986.  Except that Silo Hill is now a development where McDonalds and Exxon is located. 

My father Allen moved from Thurmont to Emmitsburg in 1986, where they lived in the little but quiet trailer park along Flat Run creek. The back of the grocery store was visible since it sat up on the hill on the other side of the creek. My whole family was familiar with Emmitsburg and its layout. Mainly because my dad had 15 years with Bell Atlantic and he worked in the building located next to the Post Office. I would spend the weekends with my dad and soon to be stepmother.

Once the caravel came to town, you bet I was there. Seeing all the rides and all of the lights it was a spectacle for a little boy to see. We would walk around and enjoying the music and the rides. My dad wasn’t big on going to these activities, but he always managed to take my sisters and me. We would walk around eating our dinner and drink soda.  This was the only time we had soda for dinner.  My dad was old fashion about dinner and we would always have to drink water.

Once summer came, I spent it with my dad. During the weekdays when his schedule permitted, my dad would allow me to come to work there at Bell Atlantic to meet everyone and basically for me to see what it was he exactly did. I still see these faces today but I can't remember who they are. Now when my dad comes to Emmitsburg to visit once and in while he will see a co-worker, and they will talk about work and people.  I can remember the heavy stench of wire and electricity that filled the small building as you walked in. There you seen row after row of circuit boards and wires connecting them to the outside.  This controlled every phone in Emmitsburg and surrounding area of Tom’s Creek where it connected with Thurmont's telephone company. There were pouches that had scarp wire and little transformers of some type that were to be discarded. These little transformers were only about two to three inches long and had a single prong attached to it at the top where it would be placed into the circuits. I thought these were the neatest things I have ever seen as a boy of eight years old.  

There were circuit boards that were also to be discarded; now I enjoyed them.  They reminded me of something from the Star Wars movies. They were about eight inches long and four inches wide and they were really thin. The color of them was a bright brown with a whitish gray color on the end. They were covered in little gadgets that were round, squared, and flat.  Dad would pull off the computer chip that was attached by wire and soldered on the other side. Once he pulled the chip off, he would take his knife as slowly pull the rubber coating off the chip.  The rubber side revealed had the most beautiful dark green-blue color I had ever seen.  It amazed me that this chip controlled these circuit boards.  

When he would get calls in the evening depending on what time it was, I would tag along to the office long enough to watch him work on whatever the problem was. Sometimes he would get called to the Emmitsburg or Thurmont office at two or three in the morning.  I don't know how he did it, but he always fixed the problems and came home as soon as he was done. 

During my stay in Emmitsburg, I remember Radio Shack used to be one of the main stores about three or four building up from the Bar and Grill across the street. When I spent the weekends with my dad, we would go into Radio Shack mainly because of the cool toys they had. Then we would go for pizza at Pizza Hut if I was good during the week, and if I was really good we go to Gettysburg to McDonald’s so I could get ice cream. This was before Silo Hill was developed with Exxon and a McDonald’s, and Rutters was still a Highs Store on the other end of town. My dad would rather go to McDonald’s before paying the Highs’ price of ice cream. I may have been young, but I knew what Highs meant.

In the hot summer months, I would play in the Flat Run Creek to cool off a bit and catch crawl dads in a cup. I would skip rocks across the creek and count how many times they skipped before they landed on the other side. Then I would ride my bike up the stone road and back without ever worrying about getting hit by a car. He lived in the last trailer, which had extra ground to play on. It was flat and always green. During the rainy days, we would have to worry about the creek over flowing which at that time it always did but never enough to worry about getting your stuff and leaving.

My dad would take my sisters Dixie and Jenny and myself to the park to play by the Elementary school.  There we would all run around and play acting goofy and just being who we were, a bunch of 9 year olds.  Even then it didn't take much to amuse us. Then we would go and get something to eat.  

I remember that dad always dressed the same way Blue jeans, western shirt, cowboy boots and a cowboy hat.  I would try to dress like him, except that I carried a cap gun with a holster.  He would take me to Gettysburg Battlefield where I acted just like a soldier.  Pulling out my pistol and shooting the bad guys, this would come in handy in the future as I began re-enacting the Civil War.  I started an interest in history while living in Emmitsburg. This was due to the fact that Gettysburg was minutes away. As I would climb onto the cannon or shoot my way through battlefield, I would then stop and read one of the signs. I couldn't always pronounce the words on these tablets.  So my dad would always read them to me.  I was then full of questions like who was Robert E. Lee, what was a civil war anyway? Can we take the cannon home? My wife says that some things never change.

My dad use to take me to the Barbara shop at the square to get my hair cut. Once I was finish, the Barbara would say, "Boy there’s enough hair on the floor, that we could make mop." My dad always wanted to make me look my best. He knew the barber by first name and both of them were hunters.  I even take my son to the same barbershop that my dad once took me.  Even though it's under new management, it still brings back those memories.  I can see my son through the same of eyes that my dads once look upon me.

One weekend out of the summer, we left Emmitsburg to visit my grand parents in Mineral County, West Virginia. The mountains around Emmitsburg looked like little hills by time we returned. I remember how happy I was to return to Emmitsburg when we came back.  The first thing I do was go to the little creek and play.  Now today, I can't wait until those weekends I have available to go to West Virginia to see my grandparents. 

Once school got under way I returned to Keymar, to my mother’s house. I would still go up to Emmitsburg on the weekends in the fall and winter months. Once Thanksgiving came, I knew what that meant; hunting season was only two days away. My dad would always take me up to the mountain where we go hunting. As we sat waiting for the deer to appear, I mumbled and grumbled because I couldn’t feel my legs or my feet were to cold. But I learned everything from him about gun safety and hunting tips that were cruel and unknown to a child. That meant you go into the woods and don’t move. I learned that in order for you to see a deer you have to be quiet. I can remember tramping through the mountainside, stomping on every stick, branch, and pile of leaves I could find. But in the end it taught me things I can and cannot do when I get older and go hunting on my own.

When Christmas came to town that meant Christmas lights would decorate the houses in the community. We would drive around at night looking at the lights. There was always somebody that went all out and you could see his or her house light up the whole entire night sky. All you had to do was follow in the direction that the brightness in which it came from. Then once you got there, they would have those big bulbs placed all around their house with decorations in the yard. I’m not sure, but I think it is the same house we see today around Christmas time. Emmitsburg usually had snow on the ground by Christmas. We would sled riding dashing through the snow on the hills around Emmitsburg. 

I never came back to Emmitsburg after that Christmas. My dad was transferred to the Bell Atlantic Offices in the Oakland, Maryland and West Virginia area. From then on the only time I came to Emmitsburg was when my mom took me to the carnival or when we wanted to go to Pizza Hut.

After marrying my wife Alicia, we moved to the charming town of Emmitsburg in April of 1997 where our son, Marshall was born.  Now I can relive my memories with my dad through my son.  The saying is true, like father like son and I have it no other way. 

Read other articles by John Miller