Saturday, April 19, 2008

Lenni, Pennsylvania, 1974 (III)

At the Flatiron Tavern

Not everything in Lenni took place outdoors, of course. The Flatiron Tavern, named for the shape of the building whose first floor it occupied, was a convivial indoor gathering place. Draft beer (Schaeffer and Pabst) was 25 cents a glass. Bottled beer was considered an elegant alternative. Mixed drinks were a rarity ordered mostly by the owner when he came down to ask the barmaid how things were going. There were several pool tables (quarter a game in the coin slot). The patrons tended to middle age and older, though there were always some young adults around. But the jukebox all summer seemed to play almost nothing but Elton John's current hits. A classical music listener, I had to go look at the juke to find out who the guy was, singing half the song in a strong baritone and half in a raspy falsetto. I wondered whether the somewhat older audience here in the bar was really open to new things, or just not paying attention.

Minibike Repair

The little repair business had its own inside space. Trike conversions and minibikes and engine blocks needing new rings all passed through. At one point I wasn't quite circumspect enough with my glance, and the proprietor told me about his wooden leg. No, it wasn't from the recent war in Indochina. A few years back he'd gotten dressed up as a ghost on Halloween. After far too much liquid preparation, he jumped on his motorcycle to go check out the trick or treat action in neighboring towns. The sheet got into the drive-chain, his leg got separated from his body.


"Doc" told me a lot about the town's past. When I asked if his nickname came because of a career in medicine, he just shook his head and smiled at how stupid an outsider can really be.


Not everyone played outside.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Lenni, Pennsylvania, 1974 (II)

Living Out of Doors

In the previous post, looking back at my picture project from a small Pennsylvania town in 1974, I mentioned how even back then it was startling to see how much time the kids spent playing outdoors, with no adult supervision. It wasn't just the kids. Older folks spent a lot of time sitting on porches, talking over fences and railings, doing yard work in yards no larger than the living room.

The young adults in town also spent a lot of the summer hanging around outside on the street. One of the few businesses left in town was an informal custom garage. You definitely could not get your state inspection sticker renewed, but if you needed someone to help you work on your trike conversion of a '61 VW chassis, it was probably the best place in the county to go.

Families spent lots of time on the porches. Nearly every house had a front porch, many had a side porch as well. Porches seem nearly to have disappeared from suburban house design over the past decades. Even when a subdivision's houses have porches, they seem to be nothing but an architectural decoration that nobody uses.