Hazel Street, the Early Years


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I have been stepping back in time through my years growing up in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.  I started with my days with the Pool Gang and my years at Meyers High School.  Then I remembered living on Moyallen Street between the ages of six and nine.  Now I will try to recall my earliest memories.

I started my life on Hazel Street near the Metcalf Street corner, close to the railroad tracks.  In those days the trains came by regularly, day and night.  I had mentioned my earliest memory in a previous post.  It must have been early 1954 when I was three years old.  My mother helped me up on a wooden box so that I could look out the window and watch the snow fall.  It had to be early in 1954 because my brother Richard wasn’t born yet and it was snowing.  Richard was born in September of 1954.  It couldn’t have been much earlier.  I night have been late in 1953 but I don’t think so.

The window was in the front bedroom where my brother Tony and I slept.  I remember waking up in the middle of the night and looking out of the window from our bed.  I remember seeing the moonlight on the buildings across the street.  That was just one of those images that stuck in my mind.  Now and then I will get a fanciful thought that I would wake up in that bed, looking at that sight, and the last sixty years would have been a dream.

It was form that bed that I witnessed the night when my brother Tony saved our lives.  My dad was in the middle of painting the kitchen.  It those days there wasn’t any water soluble paint; you needed turpentine to clean things up.  Turpentine is as flammable as gasoline.  The paint and turpentine were out on the floor ready to be used the next day.  They happened to be very close to the refrigerator.  That night Tony woke up screaming because he saw the electric cord from the refrigerator was throwing up huge sparks very close to the turpentine.  My dad ran out and pulled the plug.  If Tony hadn’t woken up, realized the danger, and screamed; it might have been us that people talked about dying in a fire.


From that window I saw the Grove and Brown bus, attached to the electric cables, make the turn from Hazel onto High Street.  I guess those buses were called trolley buses.  I watched them build the Salvation Army Thrift Store across the street.  I remember during the construction a bull dozer got stuck in a big hole.  They had a heck of a time getting that thing out.  Tony and I watched them try for a long time.  As a kid I didn’t know that the Salvation Army Store was a charity place, I just thought it was where we went to buy stuff.  We called it the Sally’s.

Other than falling on my face on the schoolyard ice slide when I was nine, I received most of my childhood injuries on Hazel Street.  I guess I forgot to tell that story in my Moyallen Street posts.  I’ll sneak it in now.  In the winter in the fifties the Dodson schoolyard was covered in ice and snow.  There was a slope in the schoolyard at the corner of the building going toward the Jones Street schoolyard entrance.  That slope made a great slide.  One cold afternoon I returned to school after lunch and realized that I was the first one back to the slide.  I thought it was great and I got a good run to the slope and started a great slide.  What I didn’t realize was that the janitor had put ashes down at the bottom of the slide.  I hit those ashes and fell right on my face.  I chipped my front tooth, my front tooth is still chipped, and I got three stitches in my lip.  If that happened today everyone remotely connected to the school would have been sued.  Then, it was my own stupid fault for not paying attention.

 Again there are more memories that can fit in one post.  I will return to Hazel Street tomorrow.


Pete is a retired software developer, a writer, and a martial arts instructor. He lives in Maryland with his wife Cathy and they are enjoying their retirement. Pete is the author of four novels, "The Teacher", 500 Years from Home", and "The Long Journey Home" are available at Lulu.com; and "Pioneers" in available at the Kindle Book Store.

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Posted in Growing Up, Memories, Wilkes-Barre
2 comments on “Hazel Street, the Early Years
  1. David Wojtowicz says:

    Bush – Danny & I were born and raised at 400 Hazle Street (between Stanton and Jones). We would walk with my Mom to Sally’s a couple times a week perhaps. Ma would sift thru sweaters and find nice ones. She would bring them home, wash them, hang them on a drying rack, and then fold them to be placed in a clear plastic bag that she made from cut plastic sheets and sewed seams custom fit for those folded sweaters. She hoarded them. Vintage clothing by today’s standards. After she passed we distributed them to cousins who loved to go thru what Ma called “my things” when they visited us on Sundays as kids.

  2. petejoem says:

    Great story Dave.

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