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Growing up in Summit Hill

Published January 08. 2011 09:00AM

When I was growing up in Summit Hill, it was pretty much of a foregone conclusion that unless I took over our family grocery store on Market Street that I was going to make a career somewhere other than the Panther Valley.

Opportunities and good-paying jobs in the Valley were limited. Many Valley residents commuted daily to Bethlehem Steel or Mack Trucks in Allentown, and, aside from being on the road for about two hours a day, they made a comfortable living with outstanding benefits.

I wanted to be a French teacher, so I enrolled at East Stroudsburg University. When I graduated, I taught at Stroud Union (now Stroudsburg Area) High School for a year and at Washington, N.J., High School (now part of Warren Hills Regional) for a little more than a year before I gravitated into full-time radio, then newspaper work.

My jobs took me to Stroudsburg, Easton, Oswego, N.Y., and, now in retirement, Schnecksville.

But I will never forget my hometown, Summit Hill.

Who I am today had its origins there. First, I was blessed by parents who taught me to be polite, kind, courteous and grateful - hallmarks of working in a corner grocery store where the customer was always right.

My friends' parents in Summit Hill taught me the graciousness of hospitality, something we were keen on, too. Anyone coming to our home was greeted with enthusiasm and was given food and drink practically before they had their coats off. That's the way we were treated when we visited friends' homes.

When I walked the streets of the borough, I greeted everyone with an enthusiastic "Hiya," and they returned the greeting. If I encountered more than just a passing acquaintance, it is likely that I stopped to chat. Sometimes when I went to Summit Hill Trust Co. to make a deposit for my parents - a two-block journey - it might take me an hour because of the number of conversations I had on the street or on someone's front stoop.

My mother always said she had thousands of eyes around the community, meaning that other parents had my back just as she was looking out for my friends. God forbid, though, if I did something unacceptable in town, she would sometimes know about it and confront me with details of the infraction as I walked in the door.

At the time, this seemed oh-so-smalltownish and invasive, but, as I look back on it today, I realize it was done in the name of love and caring.

There were so many kind people who crisscrossed my life as I was growing up - each teaching a lesson of life. There was Mrs. Tarleton, an octogenarian who lived on West White Street. Each Saturday, she placed an order at our grocery store. I would deliver these orders in my red wagon. Mrs. Tarleton invited me to sit with her over a cup of tea and some cookies and tipped me a dime, and we would have conversations about world events and happenings around town. I really looked forward to these sessions, and, apparently, she did, too.

The guys at the Summit Hill Post Office - Jake Llewellyn and George Zorochin among them - were like big brothers. I had a job delivering special delivery letters three times a day - before school, at noontime and after school. Jake and George were great kidders. They took me under their wings and taught me so much about life and, especially, about Summit Hill. Because of their job, they knew just about everybody and everything about the community.

When I was about 15, I could go up and down every block in the community and tell you who lived in just about every house. Today, I am lucky if I know who lives two doors away from me.

My teachers were a microcosm of the town's residents. They took a real interest in their students and knew them like a - pardon the pun - book. I knew the rules of engagement: I would never dare come home and tell my parents that I was "mistreated" by a teacher. In our home, the teachers were gods, and if I ran afoul of one of my teachers, I knew that I would face triple the consequences at home. Is it any wonder then that I was a well-behaved pupil?

Along with my parents, the caring people of Summit Hill helped form me into who I am today. They gave me the grounding in the important things of life; they were there to knock me down a peg or two when I got a little too full of myself, and, above all, they formed an invaluable support system. If I stumbled, I knew they were there to help me to my feet.

I will be eternally grateful that I lived in such a community during my formative years, and I have always looked upon Summit Hill with the utmost respect and affection.

My brother and his family and my niece and her family still live in my hometown, so I visit often. Regardless of how many times I do, when I reach the top of White Bear hill, I get a smile on my face and a lump in my throat, because I feel as if I am home again.

(Bruce Frassinelli, a 1957 graduate of Summit Hill High School, lives in Schnecksville and is an adjunct instructor at Lehigh Carbon Community College.)

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