Bill Eggert

This has been a strange summer in many ways because of COVID-19. 

While we can’t control the lack of opportunities this summer, we can complain to our governors, who are making rules because of this disaster.

Some states have missed or dodged the bullet regarding COVID-19. Other states seem as if they are breeding grounds for COVID-19. 

In some places, customers of stores, such as Walmart, are only allowed in for short periods and only a small number of people are allowed in the store. Many restaurants have closed and many recreational events have been canceled.

Kids loved summertime back in my childhood, and I guess they still do. I remember playing baseball in the backyard with my brother and one of the neighborhood guys, friends and certainly hearing the ringing of the bell that signaled the ice cream truck was coming around – one of the most pleasant sounds of summer.

There are many venues in Johnstown and Richland that were open strictly during the summertime and would bring people in for ice cream and various other treats like magnets.

Sounds of summer were plentiful. I can still hear Pirates broadcaster Bob Prince’s booming voice coming out of the little transistor radios in people’s backyards. I feel sorry for kids today who never got a chance to see the “great one,” Roberto Clemente, play baseball. It was a major thrill for us kids. 

Prince and his broadcasting partner Nellie King were the only broadcasting team who were royalty by virtue of their last names. The kids always got a kick out of that.

People of a certain age probably remember Fun City (Ideal Park), which had a huge swimming pool. The territory that Fun City occupied is still there. 

I don’t know if the pool is still there or not, but it was a fun destination for Johnstowners in the past.

I remember as a kid taking my bike and riding down through Richland to go to Grants Department Store in the Bel Air Plaza. Grants was the Walmart of the era. I’m sure those of a certain age remember the giant fire that was at Grants way back when. 

When they finally reopened the store, it had not yet been completely renovated from all the damage, and the store had a pungent smell of burnt electrical wires, wood, rubber and other such things. It took a while for them to get rid of that smell.

Richland was a great place to grow up. It wasn’t totally developed yet, so there was a lot of empty space and fields to play baseball.

Kids had great music back then, too – especially some great summer songs. Probably the most consistent creative summer songs, of course, were by the Beach Boys – such as “I Get Around,” “Don’t Worry Baby” and “Fun, Fun, Fun.”

It was hard to find surfer girls in Johnstown. Where are they going to surf? The Stonycreek? Johnstown is not exactly “Surfin’ USA.” I wish all girls could be “California Girls.” While we didn’t have surfing in Johnstown, we were still getting down with “Good Vibrations.” It sure was fun.

Mom and Dad would always have us kids take separate vacations with our grandparents. 

It was a lot of fun. After work, Uncle Don would take us to fun places in Pittsburgh, different stores and even to Pirates games at Forbes Field.

You wouldn’t think that visiting Greater Pittsburgh Airport would be fun, but with Uncle Don it was. We would go and look at the airplanes landing and taking off, big planes such as the Constellation and other planes back then that were too big for Johnstown. I remember when we would watch planes that were moving close to us in the observation deck. We would feel the prop wash as it turned around and headed out to the runway.

Every other year, we would take a trip down to Georgia to visit my Aunt Alice and Uncle Jim and cousins Barb and Mike. If we thought it was hot up here in Johnstown, we would get a rude surprise in Georgia. The heat was stifling.

Those summers are long gone. Unfortunately, most of those people are, too. I miss them all and am grateful for the memories they provided.

It is hard to believe that summer is almost over here in Johnstown. It seems like summer just started a couple months ago. Thanks to the virus, the Steelers aren’t practicing in Latrobe this year. They are staying close to home.

The days are starting to grow shorter and the nights are getting colder. Before you know it, we will be stuck in the middle of fall. The fireflies are starting to disappear as well.

The summer of 2020 is not a summer I will miss. Hopefully our doctors will find a cure for this virus soon and we can get back to normal. As Chad and Jeremy sang a long time ago ... “autumn leaves must fall.”

Bill Eggert is a Johnstown resident and regular community columnist for The Tribune-Democrat.​ He can be reached at WDE1928@gmail.com.

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