Written by Larry E. Wolfe (edited and compiled by his brother Brian)
Grandpa at the store was the first of our ancestors to live during our lifetime. My older brother Warren and I spent many a summer at the store ‘helping’ Grandpa and Grandma take care of business…yeah…right! It was a real treat to spend time at the store. Grandma had a beautiful flower garden across the street and the barn, summer house and house were kept impeccable. The white with dark green trim buildings were immaculate.
It was not unusual for Grandma to pick off a couple of pigeons from the barn roof with her .22 rifle when she needed meat for her Pigeon Pot-Pie. She would send us out to get them. Oh, yeah, she was no slouch with the gun, most, if not all, were head shots so that the good meat was not disturbed! The memories abound from those summers when Grandpa was in his late seventies/early eighties. He always seemed somewhat gruff in his manner when dealing with us kids, but, let’s be honest, most of our life was about doing fun things and his life was about getting the job done at his business!
However, I remember the last summer before he died he seemed to mellow somewhat when he and I took inventory of the shoes. Then he talked to me like a father and was very kind, gentle and personal in his manner. He surely understood more than he let on.
That was when our family was going through some very tough times, for 1955 was the first time Mom went to the hospital for a nervous breakdown and we had moved in with Grandma Harriet about a mile from the store. So, we spent a lot more time at the store which was the year before Grandpa died in 1956. Grandpa obviously knew the details and decided to take a more tender approach.
In the 1930 census Grandpa and Grandma Kate were living alone as their only son Clarence had married Harriet Zimmerman. Between them on the same road was our Great-Great Grandpa Samuel still living at the homestead with two of his sons, his wife Ellomanda had died in 1928 from complications suffered after breaking her leg . All three of these properties were occupied by the Wolfe family…three generations in a row…the only census in which this occurred!
Our father, Warren Alfred Wolfe (better known as Barney) was born the second day of May in 1922 to Clarence and Harriet Wolfe of Greenpoint, PA, he was their first child. Clarence (Uncle Junior) Wolfe, and Aunt Kathleen [Thompson] Wolfe would follow completing this family in 1930. Dad’s father Clarence was employed at A.J.’s store as a ‘truck driver’ for over a decade according to the 1930 census record.
Barney himself also worked there and listed his occupation as ‘truck driver’ when he was discharged from the United States Army. So, that makes me, his second son, a third generation ‘truck driver’ by inheritance! But, getting back to my Dad’s story, his childhood was marked by music, playing hooky and spending time in the outdoors trapping wild animals.
Just about forgot to tell of his ‘playing hooky’. For you younger folks, that is what we now call skipping school. He only finished eight grades at the school across the street from his home, and he was known for hiding under the big pine tree instead of going to school. Uncle Junior once told me: “I don’t know how he stayed under that tree all day long” and we all laughed.
Not exactly sure what he did under there, but he must have had a great imagination, huh? This could be the reason he only went to the eighth grade for Uncle Junior and Aunt Kathleen went on to graduate from High School. Maybe Dad was still under the tree when the bus came…this was one of the tricks us guys also pulled…another inherited practice…hah!
Dad got his nickname ‘Barney’ after he injured his eye during a sledding accident. The downhill sledding trail across the street from his home was still in use during the days when we lived with Grandma’ Harriet (1954). Dad had to get glasses and the kids called him ‘Barney Google’ which was taken from the lyrics of a popular song during that day.
Aunt Kathleen told me that Dad was the only child in their family to be taught ‘Pennsylvania Dutch’. I can remember Mom and Dad speaking Dutch when they didn’t want us kids to know the details. So, in a sense he was bilingual, for he was able to speak this local German dialect which should have aided him when he traveled within Germany during his service to our country in World War II.
On the musical side, Dad played the saxophone with skill. He bought his first sax in 1935 with money he earned trapping. He told me of the time when he found a mink in one of his muskrat traps and was paid ‘fifty bucks’ for it which was like receiving five hundred dollars in today’s economy. He was a mighty proud thirteen year old having the good fortune of bagging a mink.
This same sax was played by my brother Fred, my son Nathan, and I played it for a number of years in my brother Brian’s Rock n’ Roll band, “The Entertainers”, in the late sixties. It still plays well even though it is now over seventy years old! Dad’s musical influence permeated our family as did Mom’s for she could play the piano and guitar without reading a single note of music!
Dad told me about a skeleton he found hanging in the mountains during his trapping days. A local man had been missing for quite some time and Dad happened upon the remains of his body hanging by a rope tied to a tree limb. He didn’t mention how old he was when this traumatic incident occurred.
But, back to the musical side. When we were young-uns’ Uncle Sammy [Wolfe] the youngest of A. J.’s brothers would take our family to outdoor band-shell concerts. Uncle Sammy played the trombone, and Dad played the saxophone when we went to these concerts in the 1950’s.
Uncle Sammy would always give us a quarter for candy so we looked forward to jumping in his butterscotch colored 1939 four door Dodge until one day Dad was driving and going faster than Uncle Sammy normally drove…and the engine blew up on New 22 as we headed for the band-shell in Bethel!! Not good, to say the least, Uncle Sammy was not a happy camper!
Dad had five saxophones, a bass, a baritone, a tenor, an alto, and a soprano. The soprano was really ‘cool’ because it was shaped just like the bigger ones but it was only about 12-15 inches tall!! He would usually take a number of his saxophones along and had stands for each of them so that he could switch around depending on the music/march the band played.
He also could sing well and Mom was a great singer too so they would harmonize as we drove along in the car singing: ‘Side by Side’, ‘With someone like you’, and “In the Garden” (his favorite hymn) and many, many others. He also would sing tenor with his future father-in-law Clarence Anspach while he was dating Mom.
Here’s an aerial photo of where Dad grew up. You can see the church of God on the right, the one room school across the street and the home of Clarence and Harriet Wolfe in the lower left. By the way, Henry Wise of the “Blue Eyed Six” is buried in the Church of God’s cemetery.
As a young teenager Barney had a peculiar practice of attending the revival meetings at the Church of God which was also across the road from his home. He told of the time when he and his buddy Earl Fake sat in the back row poking fun at the goings on during the service but when the preaching was over he went up to the altar.
He also regularly attended the Chapel which was founded by his Great-Grandfather, Samuel Wolfe, in 1907. Dad’s Grandfather A .J. Wolfe also figured heavily in the initial construction of the building and was a pillar in the Church until he died in 1956.
Uncle Sammy, organized and led the Chapel’s music/orchestra which included Grandpa Clarence who played the cornet and French horn. Dad and Uncle Clarence a.k.a. Uncle ‘Junior’ who, like his Dad, also played the cornet at church, with the entire band sitting in the front rows of the Chapel in those days.
All four of them played in the Annville Cornet Band during the thirties and forties. Uncle Sammy and Dad continued to play with this band during the late forties and early fifties which is when we attended the band-shell concerts mentioned above. The family’s musical influence must have come from A.J. for he was proficient on the piano having his occupation listed as ‘piano teacher’ in the 1910 census. He would walk or ride horseback as far as Tower City and Manada Gap teaching piano to the few who could afford this luxury.
With the great depression and the Stock Market Crash of 1929, Grandpa at the store would play a life-saving role in the days to come when the families in the valley ran out of money, property and hope. He stood in the gap and supplied them with what they needed to live. He was a very, very generous man…God blessed him…He in turn blessed others!
When he died in 1956 over $50,000 dollars was owed by store debtors. Very little of this money was ever paid back. He received a lot of land deeds in those years of the depression only to restore much of this property to the former owners after the tough times subsided. He was a wise, very kind and loving man…reminds me of the Bible story of Joseph… famine in the land…Joseph comes to the rescue!
One of the families that benefited from his generosity was the Anspach family who lived over the mountain near Indiantown Gap. Clarence Anspach, the father, would regularly come over to Grandpa’s store with no money to get food and merchandise for his wife and children…his oldest child was named Irene Violet…our mother.
So, Grandpa Wolfe played a key role in the survival of the Anspach family! This story was told to me by my Uncle, Wayne Anspach, born in 1930, who was one of the Anspach children. This man of God, A.J Wolfe, could have easily said “No” to those who were destitute…but instead he, like the God he worshipped, decided to display the primary character trait of God Himself… Goodness …which A.J. demonstrated in his giving, exactly like the Lord God of Heaven!
The connection between the Wolfe’s and the Anspach’s would pay dividends as years later when their children were grown A. J.’s grandson Warren Alfred Wolfe, my father, would marry my mother, Irene Violet Anspach, still a poor, but strikingly beautiful, country girl, from ‘in front of the mountain’ near Indiantown Gap, on February 28th of 1942 when they were both just nineteen years old. The infamous Pearl Harbor attack had been announced a few months earlier as the two of them exited a favorite movie house on Cumberland Street in Lebanon, Pa.
But, even though Dad got married, he was drafted into the Army in November 1942. Warren, my older brother was born April 13th 1943 and while Mom was pregnant with me she traveled by train with her first son, Warren, a.k.a. ‘Butchie’ to Brownwood, Texas where Dad was stationed. I was eventually born there December 31, 1944.
Sixteen days later Dad left for Germany to take part in the aftermath of ‘The Battle of the Bulge’. The Bulge represented the great mass of German forces that were assembled in the snowy forests of the Rhineland. This pivotal struggle began on December 16, 1944 and when the need for additional infantry became obvious to General Eisenhower, Dad was sent into the fray. He was in the infantry and was a mail clerk/carrier which was his primary job while he was a common foot soldier.
The 1940’s brought tragedy to the Wolfe family as Grandpa Clarence died from sclerosis of the liver October 27, 1945 just a few months before his 46th birthday. Dad came home from the war in Germany just before his Father died. Uncle Clarence tells the story of how he also made it home just in time from serving in the Navy to be with his Father right before he died.
He was addicted to alcohol…the moonshine brewed in the valley was lethal. He was survived by his wife, Grandma Harriet, and three children: Warren our Dad, Uncle Clarence and Aunt Kathleen… and his parents…he was the only living child that Grandpa and Grandma at the store had. It must have been devastating to the whole family.
Warren and Irene went on to have five boys: Warren Jr. (1943), Larry (1944), Bruce and Brian (1951) (twins) and Frederick (1957). Mom and Dad are gone now as Dad passed away in June of 1985 and Mom in October of 1991. For the most part us five boys stuck around the place of our roots, the majority of us living a nominal distance from the old homestead where Samuel and Ellomanda raised their family.
However, in 1980 after living the life of a drunken drug abuser for more years than I care to mention, God in His mercy forgave my sin and saved me giving me eternal life all because of His precious Son Jesus’ dying on the Cross to pay for my sin. A year later, my wife Betsy and I, my daughter Wendy, my son Nathan, and my daughter Andrea moved to South Carolina where I attended Bible school ‘cramming’ a four-year Bachelor’s degree program into five. After graduating we returned to our home in Pa. where I pastored and preached in evangelism for a few years. Since then the Lord has turned me to writing which continues to keep me busy. I also minister to Truck Drivers at a McPilot Truck Stop in South Carolina.
Although scores of years have passed since we spent those memorable days as carefree young-uns’ in Greenpoint with our Grandpa A. J. and Grandmas Kate and Harriet, our hearts still yearn, at times, for that small, tucked away valley in the mountains of northern Lebanon county, and all the grand memories it holds, not to mention those good thoughts of that great company of Wolfs/Wolfe’s who went before.
For more inspirational stories go here: New Blog Index
For Brian’s life story go here: Brian’s Beginning
For the Blue Eyed Six go here: Blue Eyed Six & The Faith – Chp.1 (Israel Brandt)
For a Reservation to Heaven: Guaranteed Reservation in Heaven!