Doin’ Dunmore: Christmas Memories

christmasBy Steve Svetovich

Everyone has a favorite Christmas memory.

It was the Christmas season of 2003 and this scribe interviewed eight prominent Dunmore residents asking each to reflect on a favorite Christmas memory.

Three of the eight interviewed have since past away, but their life experiences and memories live on.

Here is a sample of those eight reflections of Christmas past.

“That’s easy,” said late former Dunmore council president Leonard Verrastro. “My daughter Carmel Ann was born Christmas Day at 10:30 a.m. We brought my wife to the hospital and she delivered. I celebrated Christmas in the hospital with my wife and newborn baby. I celebrated later at home with my first daughter Vita Grace.

“Vita Grace was named after my mom. Carmel Ann was named after my mother-in-law.”

Late Dunmore community activist Addie Michalek, a founder of the Dunmore Senior Center and Dunmore 50-plus club, was busy doing good deeds in the borough until she was 90. She also had a special Christmas memory.

“As a child,” she said, “all holidays are memorable when the family is together. You see Christmas in a different light.

tree“I was one of five children who came from a poor family, but my parents made sure we had enough food on the table and even extra special for Christmas. We would each receive one gift and we would be satisfied.

“We would go to Christmas Eve mass and on Christmas there would be music and singing.

“I will never forget a little Teddy Bear I received as a child. I mentioned it once to my grown children and then four years ago (1999) my grandchild had a special gift for me, a Teddy Bear. It’s very special to me.

“Gifts are more expensive today than my little Teddy Bear. In today’s society we put too much emphasis on how many gifts we receive. The simple things in life are the best. You don’t need riches. You need health and family.”

Late former Dunmore School Director Al Frioni, Sr., reflected on a special Christmas memory after returning home from heart surgery in late 2003. “I used to dress up and play Santa Claus in a few different places,” he said. “I came into this one Dunmore house dressed as Santa and my grandchild was there. He then went to a friend’s house. The friend was Jeffrey Jason. I went over, knocked on the door and shouted, Ho, Ho, Ho!

“About three minutes later, little Jeffrey looked at his dad and said, ‘I know who that is. He’s not Santa. He is Mr. Frioni. He has wing tip shoes.’

“Well, I always wore wing tip shoes. That made me get a pair of boots the next time I played Santa.

“Today, the Jason boy is owner and chef of the Old Brook Inn on Route 307 in Moscow. He will never forget my wing tip shoes. When I go there today, he reminds me.”

Former Dunmore School Director James McHale, Jr., had special memories of Santa. “I had many good ones and never went without,” he said. “My parents always made sure Santa was good to us. I remember thinking Santa was at my bedroom door looking at me. I thought I better get to sleep. I remember thinking I heard him.

large_cute-santa2“I have two boys , Jim and William, who still believe in Santa.

“I wish I still believed.”

Dunmore Mayor Patrick “Nibs” Loughney remembered a special Christmas tree. “A few years ago,” he said, “my wife, the kids and I went for a Christmas tree. My wife picked it and I cut it down. When we put it up, we noticed a bird’s nest in it. We kept it up and put an ornament in it.

“As a kid, I remember my dad putting a train together. My brother and I took the icicles from the tree and watched them make sparks on the train. That was a lot of fun.

“And remember those rock em, sock em robots? We all wanted them for Christmas.

“Visiting Santa at the Globe Store was the biggest thing. Remember the little lapel pin you would get? Getting the lapel pin was a badge of honor. And then lunch at the Charlmont.

And remember when everyone would drive around looking at all the Christmas lights? Those were memories.”

Former Dunmore Police Chief Sal Mecca said his finest Christmas memory came in a pack of five. “The birth of my five children and their first Christmas experience were my best Christmas memories,” he said.

“It was extra special when they believed in Santa Claus. I remember their expectations of waking up and seeing Santa come down the chimney. The look in their eyes on Christmas is my fondest memory.”

Former Dunmore councilman Paul Nardozzi will never forget the Christmas of 2000. “I come from a large family, so many were special. However, the Christmas of 2000 stands out. It was the last Christmas with my dad. He died in August of 2001.

“We all knew he was ill in 2000. The odds were stacked against him. You would never know it by watching him. He was a pillar of strength for the whole family.

“He made sure no one was down. He helped my mom cook and made sure everyone had a good time. It’s a very special memory for me.”

Dunmore Attorney Melanie Naro remembered the Christmas of 2002 the best. “It was the blizzard that made it so special,” she said. “My sister Liz and I went to the 10 a.m. mass at Christ the King church. It was a beautiful mass and then it started snowing. The snow kept coming and coming.

“We spent Christmas Eve at my sister Eve’s house on Naphan Hill. It was real tough to get up the hill, but we made it.

“The blizzard kept us in. We stayed in together all day instead of the usual going house to house. My brother, two sisters, brother-in-law, the kids in our family and nieces and nephews were all there.

“We were all snowed in and it was a great family day. We were all together. I will always remember it fondly.”

Just a small sample of some great Christmas memories in Bucktown.

Merry Christmas, everyone. Merry Christmas, Dunmore.


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MEMORIES: Summer camp is an unforgettable experience that will give each camper memories (and camp traditions) that will last a lifetime. Youth return to school with plenty of camp stories to share!

YMCAA leading nonprofit committed to nurturing the potential of youth, the Y has been a leader in providing summer camp for over 131 years. The Greater Scranton and Wilkes-Barre Family YMCAs continue to give youth an enriching, safe experience with caring staff and volunteers who model positive values that help build their kids’ character.

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Doin’ Dunmore

By Steve Svetovich

The Christmas season usually brings out the best in people.

And we all have and share our best Christmas memories.

This scribe is lucky to be raised by parents who always made Christmas the best day of the year.

And thanks to my two boys it continues to be a special day as we carry on the tradition.

My dad, sister and brother and his family remain a part of it. My late mom made sure every Christmas with her grandchildren remained special right up to her final one in 2012, eight months before she passed away.

This scribe vividly remembers the Christmas of 1968 when my mom said she smelled something burning. My dad quickly checked the cellar and found a fire. I remember grabbing my sister Denise, four at the time, and running out of the house screaming, “Fire, Fire, Fire!”

Then the thought of the pet cat, Minsky, crossed my mind, “Get the cat out of the house,” I screamed.

Yes, our calico-colored cat Minsky was saved. My dad got her out.

And thanks to a quick response from the Scranton Fire Department, most of our Woodlawn Street house was saved. Still, we spent a good part of our Christmas Day sitting in our pajamas in the basement of the home of our Green Ridge neighbors, the Dreaters.

This scribe remembers the Christmas of 1969 when we decided not to tell my sister Denise, five at the time, that Christmas was the following day. We wanted to surprise her and figured this would be the final chance to do this. After all, she would be in first grade for the next Christmas.

So she, my mom, and I roamed the stores Christmas Eve warning shoppers not to mention Christmas to Niece as we affectionately called her. I remember telling a woman in the old Woolworth’s on Keyser Avenue to keep quiet when she said, “I bet you can’t wait for Santa to come tonight.”

And this scribe will never forget the look on my sister’s face when she walked down the steps on Christmas Day. Her green eyes squinted two or three times while slowly walking down the steps. Then her eyes popped out of her head when she saw all the presents. “Santa was here!” she yelled while sprinting down the rest of the steps with her blanket she called a “gee.”

Then there was the Christmas of 1970 when I received my first cassette player and recorder. I used that to record my dad’s comments and conversation as he patiently took three hours to put a train set together. In the background of the recorded tape, an Archie’s record I received for Christmas was playing “Sugar, Sugar” and “Bicycles, Roller Skates.” My dad was singing along, “Bicycles, roller skates and me…”

I still have the old Panasonic cassette tape recorder and the cassette of that Christmas.

This scribe remembers another Christmas a few years before when my mom tucked me in and played, “Silent Night” as I woke up to Christmas. I was six at the time. When I woke, I remember telling my mom that I actually heard bells and reindeer. My mom assured me the reindeer were there right over our roof on Woodlawn Street.

This scribe remembers all the Bob Dylan, Rolling Stones, Beatles, Cat Stevens, Jim Croce, and Paul Simon records I received as a teenager. One of my favorite gifts was when my mom and dad gave me a sneaker box full of my first eight-track tapes. My first record was “Burning Love” by Elvis, the King himself.

The old Strat-O-Matic and APBA baseball board games became a consistent gift during my teen years.And back issues of Baseball Digest were always a highlight as a gift.

This scribe remembers the Christmas of 1974 when an odd, shabby sort of guy came to the door trying to sell something rather insignificant. He appeared to be looking for money. My dad politely declined.

And then I really saw the kind of man my dad was and is. He watched the man slowly walk away before calling him back. He handed the man the only $10 he had in his pocket. And he never told anyone about it.But it is a lasting memory for me.

And then there were the Christmas memories as an adult.

There was the Christmas of 1991 when my brother George and I arranged for two sisters, both in nursing homes, to meet. Kitty and Irene Flaherty, both of Dunmore, had not seen each other in years.

We transported Irene from Adams Manor, where I worked, to Holy Family Residence where Kitty resided. We will never forget the look on their faces as they embraced each other, both in wheelchairs. And it was a surprise for Kitty. It was a special moment.

Then there was the Christmas of 1994 when I transported another Adams Manor resident, the late William Treitz, to my Shawnee Avenue home in Green Ridge, to see the Christmas tree. A simple man in nature, Mr. Treitz, a Luxembourg native, was in awe of the tree. And all he wanted was to pay a visit to Dominic the Tailor in Green Ridge and have a donut and coffee at Krispy Kreme. But he had a gleam in his eyes as he gazed at the tree and its ornaments. My cat, Meow, Meow, caught his attention as the tabby cat played with the ornaments. “Curious creatures, aren’t they,” he said.

And then I was able to arrange a surprise meeting at Adams Manor with his nephew Junior for Christmas. Shortly after, Mr. Treitz called me to his room from my office. He presented me with a wrapped gift and insisted I take it. It was a flannel shirt, one of my most treasured gifts ever.

The more than dozen Christmas days I spent with my former wife Beth were all very special. We always enjoyed surprising each other. I will cherish all of them.

There have been many special Christmas days with my boys, Dylan and Ryan, now 19 and 16.

I will never forget the great anticipation of Christmas Day in 2003 as we drove in a snowstorm following a visit to West Pittston. We arrived to our Parrott Avenue home and they kept yelling, “I love you Santa!” as they opened their gifts.

There was the Christmas of 2009 when our pet cat, Rosalita was losing weight, not eating and declining rapidly. She couldn’t jump and her once proud eyes became sullen and sad. We took her to the vet and it was determined she was dehydrated and hypoglycemic. Water was injected intravenously, a pill was prescribed and she was provided with a B-12 shot.

Still, she sat motionless two nights before Christmas Eve as my boys petted her. The tears were flowing. We thought Rosie would not make it for Christmas. She was down to two pounds.

My son Dylan came home early on Christmas Eve to find Rosalita eating for the first time in eight days. My son Ryan later saw her eating. And she kept eating. ‘It’s a miracle,” my boys shouted. “A true Christmas miracle!”

And there was Rosalita on Christmas Day frolicking in the Christmas wrapping paper as my boys opened their gifts. Curious as a cat, Rosie was sniffing, smelling, prancing and checking everything out. My boys’ prayers were answered.

And then there was that Christmas in 2012. Another miracle. My mom, who recovered from a brain aneurysm in time for the Christmas of 1995, this time came back from a near death experience not once, but twice– to give us one final Christmas with her. And she did it all that Christmas – with my dad’s help. Cooking, cleaning, presents, entertaining.

I was there when she came out of a two-month coma. That was a special moment for me. And my boys and I were there when we saw her and my dad shopping for Christmas presents at the Steamtown Mall just weeks after recovering from her coma. That was another special moment, another wonderful Christmas memory. A memory that will last forever.

Yes, there is a Santa Claus.

Merry Christmas, everyone.