Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Boys will be boys, even at the cemetery

In the 1950s boys were not playing video or computers games on a nice sunny day, or even an awful winter day, they were playing in the cemetery. What better place to run and hide, to taunt and tease and to tell secrets. But most of all to scare each other!

A crowd of boys in Johnstown, Pa always knew where to find one another….it would be at the cemetery. This was a very old one, especially to 10 year old boys. Very old, therefore the most scary. The stones marking the dead ones are all catawampus, many are very low in the ground, some are tumbled over, probably many are hidden underground along with the bodies.
There was a flood here in 1889, a very big flood, one that every school child knew about. It was at this cemetery that the landscape was washed over. This is at Sandyvale Cemetery, where many cemetery residents were also victims of the great flood.

From the Sandyvale Cemetery website the history is briefly told:

"Sandyvale is a pioneer cemetery that was developed by the Horner family and used by many first families when the City of Johnstown, Pennsylvania was established in 1800. The veteran's graves date from the Revolutionary War through World War II. Sandyvale has been a part of the fabric of the City and region for over two centuries. In the early years it provided a gathering place for many community civic and social events. It was a beautiful green spot in the pioneer days but with the industrial era and the development of the steel mills and plants and the birth of the railroad access to this industry, it came to be an area that was isolated and forgotten, sustaining extensive flood damage and neglect for many years."

This group of boys made memories here, ones that are remembered 60 years later and have been retold many times.

When new kids came to town they would be enticed to join the gang at the local cemetery. There they would be told ghost stories, chased and de-pantsed, Yes ...de-pantsed (is that a word?). As the new kids would be running someone would surely pull off their pants, toss the pants high into a tree, perhaps not to be found again. After all the scary stories, the new kid might not want to look for them.

The poor child would be left to either search for his pants or run home with no pants on. Once a kid had his pants torn off and he had no underwear on!!!

I learned of this story from a John, a man that I met at jury duty. When he was a kid the cemetery was neglected. Researching the cemetery today indicates that there are some great plans to make it a beautiful place!!

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