“This is Peggy Barbour Straughen and I am on my way back to Ohio from a family reunion and I thought I would report some of my childhood memories of my grandparents. As I am speaking of this, I am now 60 years old. Let’s see…”
My grandmother grew up in south-central Pennsylvania, living for a time in Shippensburg but growing up mostly in Chambersburg. In 1997 she recorded a tape recounting memories from her childhood and transcribed it. These are some of Peggy’s memories in her own words.
A few words about my early years, much of which is the result of pictures I have seen and what I have been told.
When I was born, my parents were living on Penn St. in Shippensburg. After my parents were married, my Dad, having gone through a two year program at Shippensburg Normal School, tried school teaching for a year and just hated it.
My Dad told the story about a music class while in college. They were learning the song, ‘The Lost Chord’ and the teacher who was walking around the classroom, stopped at my Dad’s desk and said ‘Mr. Barbour, your chord is so far lost, that I don’t believe you will ever find it!’ My Dad said he never returned to that class.
My Mother was also a schoolteacher in one room schoolhouses in the country and of course, she was a natural at it.
So then my Dad decided to go into the funeral business as his father had, and he came to Cincinnati to the Cincinnati School of Embalming. I don’t know how long the course of study was, but when he graduated, they came back to Shippensburg and that is where they were living when I was born, though I was born in the private Maternity Home on Fifth Street in Chambersburg.
Their home on Penn St. was probably only 2-3 blocks away from my Grandma and Grandpa Barbour. I lived there for the first two years of my life and I’ve been told that Grandpa Barbour stopped by every morning to see me.
I have a large rectangular scar on my left leg just below the knee that happened in that house when I was learning to walk and trying to run to him. There was a floor register that the heat came out of. In the winter it was very hot and it was raised about a half inch. I tripped and fell on that register and got a pretty bad burn. I still have the scar, so I guess I was not any more graceful then than I have ever been at any point in my life. That is not what I am known for!
However with my Dad helping his father in the funeral business, there was not enough business in that small town for the two of them. My grandfather could not afford to pay my Dad a living wage. So when I was two years old, my parents moved to Jersey City, NJ and I can just imagine how difficult that was for both sets of grandparents, to have them move away. He went to work for a funeral director in Jersey City, and there were old photographs of trips to Ocean Grove along the Jersey Shore in the summer.
They must have been pretty good years. The only memory I have is of my final Sunday in Sunday school and saying goodbye to my friends and teacher. I would have been 4 years old when that happened. So when I was 4, we moved back to Pennsylvania and this time to Chambersburg, which is only 11 miles away from Shippensburg. Chambersburg was a larger town and my Dad became an apprentice to Herman Kraiss, who was one of the two funeral directors in Chambersburg.
Mr. Kraiss lived in a big old house out at the edge of town (Wayne Ave extended). He was kind of a gentleman farmer; he grew tomatoes.
And speaking of tomatoes, brings me to another childhood memory of mine: there was a Heinz Ketchup Plant in Chambersburg and all summer long, this wonderful smell of ketchup would waft over the town. Naturally I grew up loving ketchup! And my Grandma Coleman would make homemade ketchup which would taste so good and so very different from commercial ketchup. And I have her recipe for that! I used to make it in the early days of our marriage, but it is a lot of work and I don’t do that anymore.