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Dave Komarnicki

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Dave Komarnicki's Recollections of Growing Up in Chester

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"I'm just reflecting on community" A Trip Down Chester's Memory Lane

By DAVE KOMARNICKI - Daily Times Community Adviser, March 8, 2001

Time: Thursday evening.
Place: Edgmont Diner.
Mood: As congenial as a family reunion. Laughter and family chatter dominates. My wife remarks, "When this diner opened, Chester rediscovered community." I nod in agreement, fixing on the word "community."

We finish our soup and just then Tony Bennett croons these lyrics: "One upon a time, the world was sweeter than we know. How happy we were then. But once upon a time never comes again."

In a blink, I dropped through time's trap door, landing in a sagging bed. It was midnight and patrons of the Eagle Bar and Grill, urged on by a honky tonk piano player, belched their lager-heavy rendition of "The Pennsylvania Polka," followed by "When Irish Eyes are Smiling," then "Danny Boy." The nightcap was routine fair for my sentimental ear. It was free. It floated gently through the open window directly across Seventh Street, inducing a sense of belonging.

But sleep was a premium that morning in 1941. The following morning a recitation was expected in my sixth-grade home room class. The topic? "Community, why my parents chose to live in Chester."

Halfway through "Danny Boy," I faded like an etherized cat. A dream sequence followed, the details of which I've never experienced since.

I remember floating through the patched, screened bay window. I circled the city north to west, then along the riverfront. Drinking in the patchwork quilt of neighborhoods, finally touching down on the Crozer Building at Fifth and Market, the perfect vantage point from which to observe formation of the premium event of the year, the Memorial Day Parade. Participating groups were forming in Market Square, hemmed in by Stotters, the Wolf Building, with the Swedish Graveyard in the distance, with the Wilson Line Excursion Boat docked beside Scott Paper Co.

As the lead band disappeared beneath the Sixth Street Pennsylvania Railroad underpass, I took flight from atop the Crozer building. I settled in the review stand, reserved for city dignitaries at Seventh and Edgmont.

I snapped to ramrod attention, returning a salute offered by the Spanish-American War vets as they shuffled by. For the next 92 minutes, frozen in parade-dress stance, I reviewed, saluting everything I came to know, love or admire. Marchers moved with alacrity born of pride, pride in neighborhood, pride in country, pride in group with whom they pledged allegiance.

There were the Knights of Malta, Order of Eagles, Elks, Orioles Improved Order of Red Men, B'nai B'rith. All marched, followed by Odd Fellows. Then came Knights of Columbus, Knights of Pythias, of St. George, the Moose, the Masons, the Owls. Then came Col. Hyatt of PMC, leading the order of Independent Americans.

Scottish clans, bedecked in kilts, aroused warrior instincts with shrill bagpipes. The American Legion preceded the Woodman of the World, followed by Jewish War Vets, Sons of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars. 

All marched, shuffled or played with barrel-chested pride.

Ah, but there was more. The neighbor kids, all knicker-clad, followed Fred Parker, marching before the Larkin Grammar School teachers. Eddie Morrel sauntered along, leading all who earned their shark swimming certificate. Bobbie Berman was present with his brood of street kids.

Then all my brothers and sisters walked by, saluting me. Finally came mom and pop, ensconced in the back seat of a yellow convertible Cadillac chauffeured by John J. McClure. The Salvation Army brought closure as they blistered out in brass, "Beulah land, sweet Beulah land .."

As the parade snaked its way beyond Ninth Street enroute to the Chester Rural Cemetery to pay tribute to these sleeping on the hill, tears misted my vision.

"David? David?" my wife asked. "David, your eyes look misty. Is something wrong?"

"No, I'm just reflecting on community."

Dave Komarnick is a member of the Daily Times' Community Advisory Board. Columns by advisors appear on Thursdays. 



2001 David Komarnicki, all rights reserved.

 


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