From Chuck Wiser, 9/9/21, “I write the words to share what my eyes see and my heart feels.”
Our recently passed latest holiday, Labor Day, brought back nostalgic memories as I listened to the scanner calls listing various local fire departments out of service at the parade in Rushford. My mind, and heart, went back to the many times in my youth that we had attended the parade and “carnival like” celebration in Rushford, every year, in the town near where my grandparents lived. As I recalled those days, I thought about how we do, or don’t, celebrate holidays now, compared to how we celebrated them over the course of my life, and my married/family life.
The holidays come on a regular schedule every year. Some have been added, some have had celebration dates modified but for the most part they are predicably constant. My celebration of those holidays has changed dramatically however, from year to year, and generation to generation. The change in celebration date, not favored by all at the time of change, moved the celebration from a repeated specific date to a Monday approximately relative to the original date. One such celebration was originally established as Decoration Day in remembrance, and honoring, of those in the military who had fallen in battle during the Civil War. It was officially recognized as a Federal Holiday in 1938. The name changed to Memorial Day after WWI but was more commonly accepted after WWII, and, by that name was again declared a Federal Holiday in 1971, after the official celebration day was changed to the last Monday in May. Several other Holidays also have a fixed Monday date as opposed to celebration on a fixed date. Labor Day for example is celebrated on the first Monday in September. Its Federal Holiday status was declared in 1894.
In my youth most holidays were large family gatherings, typically celebrated at my Grandparents farm in Rushford, NY. Independence Day, more recently known just as “4th of July”, typically features fireworks. Ironically it was always celebrated at my aunt’s house in Portville, which was just over the river from the fireworks place in Eldred, PA, which suffered a catastrophic life taking explosion in 1950.
One Holiday spent at my grandparent’s house was marred by an accident that injured one of the family children who was marching around the yard tooting an old metallic car horn in his own little parade. He fell, somehow, jamming the horn into his throat. Details are sketchy but recollection has it that there was a harried trip to a local Emergency Room. All turned out well.
Another, at that same location, was a Christmas celebration that required car travel during or shortly after a snowstorm. I am not entirely sure of the vehicle make but I think it was an old Studebaker. The roads were snow covered and slippery. All I recall is that my mother, who was our sole transportation at that time, had to turn the car around, and back up the longest hill on the road that led to the farm. Not sure what automotive rationale or characteristic was behind that, but it seemed to be the only way she could get traction.
In later years the celebration of the Holidays was more often dictated or controlled “generationally”, but still seasonally related. In my “service days” in the US Navy, I was less able to participate in Holidays as I was often deployed and not able to get “leave” or get home. Christmas was one Holiday for which I was almost always able to wrangle leave.
As my grandparents aged, and eventually “passed away”, my mother and my aunt, Claire Miles, shared hosting the family gatherings. As my generation of siblings grew and started raising their own families, participation of each fluctuated as spousal family celebrations entered the picture. Decisions had to be made as to which marital side would be honored with a visit on any given Holiday. Many solved that choice by splitting or sharing years, or days, such as Christmas Eve with one family and Christmas day with the other.
In my early days of the 50’s, with my mother re-marrying, my step father Paul Miles, was involved in stock car racing, owning and driving car # 8Jr. Memorial Day was a “racing holiday” so we spent it at a track somewhere. Until it closed, we were at the Cuba Lake Raceway that day, and every Sunday and most other holidays. After its closing we would travel to wherever there was a race on that holiday, 4th of July, and Labor Day as well.
Eventually, as my own family grew our celebrations changed and were related to our recreational activities. Camping soon came into our lives and at this time, The Family of Three was born. The Geyer, Muscato, and Wiser families began “camping activities” around holidays by traveling to local campgrounds like Stony Brook and Deer Run in Andover. Eventually we all became s annual members with fixed onsite locations. From that “Marriage of Families” not only camping but also other holiday activities were often complemented by a holiday, or other, observance. Spring, Summer and Fall activities centered around gathering at the Deer Run Campground in Andover, owned and operated by the “Spanglers”.
In addition to our inseparable, manufactured family, we developed a series of lifetime friendships with a number of other camping families. Those memories are etched in our hearts and minds, and maybe more so in those of our children. There was never a lack of childhood friends with whom to explore the creeks, valleys, and hills on Jones Road. “The Big Rock” and “The Fort” were well known by all.
The “Family of Three” bloomed and flourished during these shared camping adventures and thrives today, especially now by the next generation. Sadly, we have now lost the Matriarch and Patriarch of one of the families, but their offspring now carry, and lead in the traditions. Christmas Eve, especially, was always spent together, and still is, especially with the 2nd , and now 3rd generation of this family.
I started this as a discussion of the seasons and holidays, but my heart turned it toward a celebration of that cherished family relationship. What better way for me to celebrate than to share the following words from Wiser.
More Than Just Friends, But a Family
A family was born from a friend’s group of three
Not related by marriage or family tree
Tho’ their ages were similar
They at first were not familiar
With each other or the good times they’d see
In the beginning, the guys common link was their work
But their interests soon spread to where fun often lurked
Tho’ their work was a beginning
The parties and banquets were winning
So the wives would soon join after their work
Wellsville, was the first place, these friends would call home
But the Geyer’s were the only to stay there, not roam
The Muscato’s would soon to Allentown move
And the Wiser’s to Scio would therefore remove
But each birth, or celebration, would not leave them alone
Over the years our friendship has always held fast
The fam’lies have grown but some loved ones have passed
While we’ve grown, and changed, thru the years
We’ve shared laughter, good times, and tears
This “Family of Three”, shares a lifetime of memories, to last.