Friday, November 15, 2013

Steelworker Picnic - Part 3

Courtesy, the Author
by Robert Giles

What a curious thing memory is. All those steelworker picnics and I remember four things. We've covered three of them - Dad making a "Huey" on the turnpike, urban blight in the sticks, and the Wildcat. What is the fourth?

Let's go back to that residential street that led us into Idora Park.

“Dad, stop the car. Are those apples under that tree?”

If they were apples, they were the biggest, yellowest apples I had ever seen. Maybe they were grapefruit. My brother got out of the car and fielded a couple.

He passed them around. They were heavy and solid. Their skins were folded and bumpy like the hide on an elephant’s elbow.

We had never seen anything remotely like them.

“Those are Osage oranges”, Dad said authoritatively. “They’re not really oranges. You can’t eat them.”

“What are they good for?”

“Put one under your bed and it’ll keep away bugs. Grandma used to think so anyway. The tree has to be very strong and flexible to bear all that heavy fruit. That's why Indians made their bows from the wood.”

Dad isn’t around anymore to tell us more. We'll have to make do with a link to Wikipedia - maclura pomifera.


Besides the one in Youngstown, the only other Osage orange tree I have ever seen stands on the edge of the Delaware Bay in Battery Park, New Castle DE.  I took the photograph at the top of this article at Battery Park. Some day I hope to see a tree in its natural habitat - the Red River Valley.
Courtesy, the Author

Before then I will have to be content with chucking an "orange" into the Delaware Bay when I visit New Castle DE (pictured on left).


I moved my family to New Castle PA (that's Pennsylvania, not Delaware) in 1978 and lived there for ten years. 

My wife and I went scouting before the move. We drove north on Route 18. The same decrepit building I first met in 1956 - 1957 greeted us near Wampum. A light bulb still gleamed in a window.

In the 80s Lawrence County began selling itself as a good location for new business. Corporate representatives visited to weigh the pros and cons of locating there. Naturally, when they saw the Wampum area they were taken aback. 

The crumbling apartments along Route 18 were certainly not representative of the entire county, but what did they say about the effectiveness of county, borough, and township governance?

The at-grade railroad crossing further up the road at Mahoningtown didn't help. Railway crossings may be picturesque, but they are outmoded and accidents do happen. 

Route 18 was then the county's southern link to the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Not exactly modern, is it? This town is a bit of a backwater, don't you think? How about a game of checkers while we wait on the train?

In the early to mid '80s, the "eyesore" at Wampum was finally torn down because it was bad for business.

It had been unfit for human habitation for a very long time before that, as even a child could see.

Take a look for yourself at Lawrence County Memoirs.*

*Jeff Bales, Jr., site creator and author.

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