I have been asked many times "Why do you want to return to Johnstown?
Why return to where you have nothing? "No job, no money, no future. you have nothing" So I tell myself, "They are so right, I have no job, no money and no future.
"So why go back to a house on New Street where on summer evenings I could see the flames from The Lower Cambria Works emanating so bright it would light up the night and create a silhouette unimaginable to any artist.
In the mornings I would watch my father with his lunch bag walk to the steel mills to earn an honest days wages for an honest days work.
Why go back to where I had to ride a trolley or bus just to shop at Penn Traffic or Glosser Bros'. enormous stores. Or stand in Central park next to the Joseph Johns statue as the wind was blowing and decide which store to visit, W. T. Grant, S.S. Kresge or F.W .Woolworth remembering each of these stores had a basement to shop in and Woolworth's' had the monstrosity of the First National Bank building towering 12 stories above it and further down Main Street stood Hiram Swank hardware where Santa would sit each December with his wife, of course he was also at Penn Traffic, Glossers and all the downtown stores. As a child I thought I was fooling Santa by running from store to store ahead of him (he always got there first) and in each store I would get his gift and tell him what I wanted for Christmas then run to catch the bus home again hoping I didn't have to wait too long for it.
No future in Johnstown, they are right, but I do have a past here. A past with memories that only historians can fathom. I have no money but I have what money cannot obtain. A memory of buying in downtown during the "Old Fashioned Bargain Days" and graduating from Johnstown High School or going to Saturday matinee at the Embassy, State or Majestic theaters. Even my injuries are pleasant memories, as a child I needed stitches a few times and the doctors at Lee Hospital were the most caring and the most calming to an anxious child. They still may be, but they are no longer at Lee Hospital it is different name and different place, because what it was they can never be, it was the past and soul of Johnstown.