The unmistakable sounds of lawn mowers are beginning to be heard in the warming days of spring 2011. Momentary puffs of blue smoke are seen as the long quiet mowers are started and the oil burns out of carburetor for the first time this season. From a nearby neighbor’s lawn comes the unmistakable smell of fresh cut yard grass. You close your eyes for just a second to remember life is good, especially if you’re not the one doing the mowing.
In the divide between the four lanes, the white blossoms of flowering trees are in full bloom beneath the warm sun of the lengthening days. Thousands of small white flowers are on display for the passing motorist to enjoy but will all too soon fade in the green of summer.
Along city streets, Willow and Maple trees are eager to be first to spread their leaves to gather the sun’s rays around the community. In front yards and gardens colorful tulips, Forsythia and yellow Easter flowers surround neatly kept houses in this place we call New Martinsville, our home.
Ball fields that for months have sat quiet are once again alive with the youth of our community playing what many consider our country’s favorite pastime sport. A young player with a determined look swings at the ball while a proud mom and dad sit in the bleachers and watch. Hitting the ball for the first time must bring a tremendous level of excitement to the young player, as the crowd cheers them on toward first base. The community ball fields have for many years provided a place for the enjoyment of baseball each spring.
Downtown the business owners are sweeping the dirt of winter from the side walks and touching up the fronts of their buildings. People walking on Main Street greet each other with a smile and “Hi,” even if they don’t know each other. Nearby Bill Witschey can be seen talking with a long-time customer and friend as he walks with them to their car. Bill’s family has been in business in the downtown area for many years.
On North Main, Dave Cisar’s baseball team once again entertains fans with his player’s skills and ability in the game of spring. Cameron Benson hits the ball with a metal bat sending it toward center field; he reaches first base before the ringing sound of the bat fades into the noise of the crowd. Coach Cisar has for many years been a fixture on the George Mullet ball field as head of Magnolia’s baseball program. During his career Dave has coached many a young man who went on in life with skills and discipline leaned on Dave’s field of dreams. That dream came true for Justin Fox as he will play ball for West Virginia University next year.
Below the Hannibal Dam fisherman try their luck at catching the big one from the dark green waters of the Ohio River. They hope to be there when the water temperature changes from the cold of winter to the warmer waters of spring. When the water temperature is just right the fish will eagerly take a variety of baits offered to them by the local fisherman. During the winter surface water is cooled by the air while the deeper water remains warmer. With the coming of warmer air temperatures, the surface water begins to warm and the deeper water is cooler. This seasonal change is referred to as the water turning over in temperature.
High on the bank, men sit and tell stories of the one that got away last year. It has been said on occasion the size of the fish grows with each new telling. Some come each day to walk the road along the river to improve their health and then stop for good conversation. Others come and sit to socialize with old friends. It is a place of changing faces and stories told by old men.
Our community is a small town at heart, even as we have grown into a bustling place. For me, I see our town as a place of change over nearly 56 years that I have lived here. Growing up I knew many of the faces I passed during my daily life around town. Today the faces I often see are unfamiliar to me even as we exchange passing greetings.
In those by gone spring days of the mid 50s, when I first came to the community, people often cut their grass with push reel mowers. The smell of the grass was the same as today, except it took longer for your neighbor to cut their grass. Back then he might stop for a while and sit with you to drink a cold lemonade and talk of the movie coming to town the next weekend. Twelve Angry Men with Lee J. Cobb and Henry Fonda was going to be playing at the local drive-in that Saturday night.
Back then no flowering trees separated travelers heading toward Steelton and the White House Restaurant or going downtown to shop the five and dime store. The bridge to Ohio was still years away and men going to the aluminum plant to work waited in long lines at the ferry landing. Along the river Maple and Willow trees were beginning to spread their bright green leaves for the coming summer.
Witschey’s Market was downtown, but in a different location in those days. Harold Witschey with his white apron would have welcomed customers into his store with his usual smile. Wooden baskets filled with seasonal fruits and vegetables were offered for sale in front of the store along Main Street.
Bruce Park ball fields were alive with a new season of eager young ball players and cheering parents. Probably not much different looking at a glance than you would see today. Not far a way the high school baseball team was hitting home runs with wooden bats and the voice of Dave Cisar directing the team was years in the future.
Fisherman had to go south to the old wicket dam site to catch a big catfish from the waters of the river. A Pflueger Supreme reel filled with braided nylon line was the best on the market. If a fisherman had this set up, he was in tall cotton and after the really big one. Many a fisherman has sat on the old concrete wall with a smoky kerosene lantern in the near darkness waiting for the fish to find his bait. And somewhere John Harman was probably telling the story of the big catfish that did not get away.
We each measure time in seconds and hours, but time is really about the changes we experience through out our lives and the people we meet that marks time and its passing. We sometimes stop and talk of the old days and if you think about it, those were the days of your youth. Spring has once again returned to our community as we emerge from our long winter hibernation, much like people have since I first moved here. We sometimes take for granted being part of a small community and the benefits it gives us. Perhaps take some time to watch a baseball game or sit and watch as someone catches a fish. If nothing else enjoy your community as the flowers bloom this spring as we look Thru the Lens.