For the Sundays in June, I will be featuring some of the things my dad learned from his dad, my grandfather.
Some Things I Know or Learned About My Dad…. by Jim Eiswerth
My dad said, my grandfather, Edward Charles Eiswerth, worked at a foundry there but with the hard times of the Great Depression they moved back to central Pennsylvania where they had other family members. Dad was still a small boy then. My grandfather, Edward, and my grandmother Catherine rented a farm from relatives in the Bastress area of Lycoming County. So my dad really grew up on a farm that had chickens, pigs, cows, and work horses to till the fields. They never owned a tractor.
My dad always had pet dogs while he grew up. ‘Tip’ was one of his favorites. The dogs were never allowed in the house. When dad was about 10-12 years old, his father gave him a Remington pump 22 rifle, which he still has today. Anyway, dad and his pet dogs became pretty good hunters. Dad also made box traps out of scrap wood to catch rabbits in the winter, but occasionally a skunk or opossum were found in one of his box traps. The family always ate the rabbits and squirrels that dad shot.
Crows were always a problem on the farm. They would eat out of the corn silo and sit on the barn roof. Dad often loaded up the 22 rifle and shot at the crows. Although he got lots of them, he also admitted that he put many hole in the metal barn roof too. But over time he got better and better became a really good shot.
One of the most interesting pets that dad had was a pig. One of the farm sows had a big litter of piglets and one was very small – the runt. His mom was worried that the little runt wasn’t going to make it, so she brought it into the house where she and dad cared for it. Well it survived and became my dad’s pet, ‘Sailor’. Sailor followed my dad around wherever he went. Sailor wasn’t allowed in the house as he got bigger, but picked a spot by the front porch steps to sleep. Needless to say Sailor got big fast. Dad could even get on his back. The hard part of this story is that being on a farm, butchering season happened every fall. So when fall came, Sailor was to be butchered along with several other pigs. The butchering party of old German men made my dad get his 22 rifle and shoot Sailor for butchering. That was really tough, but that is life on a farm. After that in the following years, dad , ‘Joey’ as they called him, always got the job of shooting the pigs between the eyes at the butchering parties that travelled from one farm to the next each fall season.
Dad went to a one room school house run by nuns at the Immaculate Conception Church in Bastress. The nuns were tough old German women that demanded discipline. Dad did well in school and made it through 8th grade, but then as was typical at that time, dropped out of school to help work his father’s farm full time. A couple of stories that dad related about his school days included bobsledding in the winter snow, and dealing with an older school bully. There were no school buses back then and the kids walked to school. Dad’s walk was less than 2 miles when he cut across some fields. The kids would join up as they walked, and talked on their way to school. There weren’t Snow Days like now, but snow also meant that they got to go tobogganing and bobsledding at lunch recess and after school. They could get a good quarter mile or more trips down the hill each time. One time the bobsled went out of control and went through a barbwire fence, and ripped dad’s pants. One of the nuns patched his pants up with safety pins for the trip home. Another story related to the school bully. Booggy Bower was older, bigger and rougher on kids. One day Booggy just kept picking on my dad, who was always a short little guy. Dad grabbed a rock and threw it at Booggy and hit him on the head, knocking Booggy down. Dad said he ran home crying and told his mom that he just killed Booggy with a rock. Well the next day at school Booggy still had a lump on his head, but stopped picking on dad so much.