I keep an old photo in my wallet. It shows seven little girls, standing in an arranged row by height (I'm sure my mother ordered that). The three Wells Sisters are interspersed with our neighborhood playmates. The photo was probably taken around 1950.
We were all standing in the terraced front yard of our home in Mauch Chunk, PA. Our yard was the playground for all the kids in the neighborhood. Actually, we were the only ones on our street with a front yard. Everyone else might have had a small back yard, but the front of the homes went right up to the pavement.
One might wonder why I keep a photo that is more than half a century old. Well, it reminds me of how fantastic my childhood was - and what a great neighborhood we had.
Our closest neighborhood friend was Doris Mele. She lived three doors up from us. Her sister Betty and her brother Mauro owned the two homes in between. It was a family affair. Doris almost became a 4th Wells Sister. She has been our friend since the first day we met. Her family is Italian and, since our Mom was Italian, too, we had a strong bond.
There were other great neighbors on West Broadway. The Schatz family owned the Mauch Chunk Bakery - across the street from our house. Franklin was their only child and he helped out a lot in the bakery. Once in a while, he would be able to come over and play in our yard. He was a fast runner and told us stories about going to Catholic school.
The Fahey family lived across the street, too. They had a lot of kids. One of their sons, Eddie, had a terrible diving accident while swimming and became a paraplegic. His bedroom window looked down on our yard and I can remember him watching us run and play.
Leaving Mauch Chunk (now Jim Thorpe, PA) after living there for 50 years was a little difficult. I didn't mind leaving behind the snow and ice, the 15- room brick monster house (with only one bathroom!), or the job. What I minded was leaving the people - the family members, the neighbors, the friends.
After moving to Pawleys Island, SC, I discovered new neighbors, new friends, and new co-workers. It warmed my heart to be accepted so readily by strangers. Soon, life there became as comfortable as our years in PA.
Our closest neighbors were Kathe and Richard Lovene. Jim met Richard on the first day we moved into the neighborhood. The four of us soon became fast friends - almost like family. And, across the street from our home lived the DuMonts. Suzanne and Boyd DuMont have eight children and we learned to love them all.
We spent 12 great years in Pawleys Island. Deciding to leave there and move to Florida was not an easy choice. We loved our South Carolina home and we were happy with the area. What prompted our move was the eight- hour trip that was needed to see our daughter and grandkids in Florida. The older we got, the worse the trip seemed. We would drive eight hours for a five-minute piano recital or a soccer match.
Now we have new neighbors in "On Top of the World" in Ocala, Florida. Right across the street live Bob and Ann Loring. Bob is a retired minister who works part-time for a funeral parlor. They were the first neighbors to welcome us to the development. Actually, they had a porch-full of neighbors watching us unload the moving van.
There are also 10 other couples from Jim Thorpe, PA who live in OTOW. One couple - Sandy and Al Yeakel - found OTOW and moved here a while ago. Their relatives and friends came to visit, fell in love with the place, bought their own homes, and started a "Chunker South" group.
It's wonderful that my sister Judy and her husband Tom also own a home here. We are two blocks away from each other. When they visit here, it's great spending time with my sister. We haven't been able to do that for years.
We have been very lucky to have wonderful neighbors wherever we lived. It's a warm and fuzzy feeling to know that you are surrounded by friends.
IF YOU WANT TO CONTACT DR. SMITH, SHE CAN BE REACHED AT HER EMAIL ADDRESS: JSMITH1313@CFL.RR.COM OR IN CARE OF THIS NEWSPAPER.