Tuesday, April 21, 2015

 Volant, Pennsylvania

I wish I had more pictures of Volant, the old Volant, before they turned it into a tourest destination. The Volant that I remember was a sleepy little town located at the bottom of a steep hill with the Big Neshannock running through the middle of it. There was a general store...I mean a real general store with a pickle barrel and all kinds of stuff in it. The little town had a fire station, and years before it had a brick plant...but I only know that from the stories my older siblings have shared with me. 

Of course, there was the Mill...and it is still there, but instead of being used to grind grain by the huge mill stones it now houses  an indoor shopping mall of sorts. The dam...located about 100 yards to the left of the Mill was built to power the big water wheel. The dam was an attraction for many reasons, but mostly for fishing, because those waters were always stocked with trout as I remember it.

Just below the dam, during the 1930s and through the summer of 1941, there was actually an inhabitable rustic cottage that became the summer home of my parents and my siblings. The older boys, Joe and Dave grew up there during the months between Memorial Day and Labor Day during those 11 or 12 years. They ran the neighborhood from dawn to supper time. We'd call it free range parenting today as I have heard the stories. It was there that they learned how to rough it, farm, get along with neighbors and other skills necessary that they would need when we moved to the farm in Neshannock Township in 1942.

I remember Volant as the place we would go during the summer evenings in 1950 and 1951 to watch North County League baseball. That's where I learned the game...the strategy and the fine points. We followed the Volant team even though they were not the closest team, but due to our attachment. Some of the old timers would come over and talk to Dave about the old days...Dave being about 20 at the time.

I looked forward to going in the general store...Wilkin's...to buy popsicles. The Wilkins family consisted of oldest, Todd, who was a really good pitcher, a set of twin girls, Elaine and Elew and a younger daughter, about my age, Paige. The father's name was Rube...and we all called him that. They were patients of Dad's and they were always welcoming to the little band of Lutzes that hung around.

There was another family that lived at the base of the big hill that owned an actual grocery store...hardly a super market, but bigger than Wilkins. I think they sold paint there too. They had a big family and were patients of Dad's also.  We  would go there to shop during the mid-50s when they had a dental bill that needed to be traded out. That was a carryover from the Great Depression and how things were done then. Dad was respected there...I always thought...because he served in WWII...besides being a dentist.

We always felt welcome there...

Volant had a blacksmith shop. Aleene rode her horse there from Harlansburg during the late 50s to get shoes on her. There was car repair garage there...owned by the father of one of Dave's sister-in-laws. I took our family car there several times to get inspected when I was a teenager. I would show up and Mr. Barkley would acknowledge me and strike up a conversation while he was doing the semi-annual state inspection.

Volant is on the edge of the Amish settlement and as a result, to get there you most likely drove past the beautifully kept farms with no electrical poles or wires attached to the white houses with light blue front doors. The Amish gentleman who lived with us on our farm to gain a military deferment in 1946 and 47 bought a farm about a mile west of the villege...and we would go to visit him periodically over the years...so Volant was a destination for us.

I was always proud of my affiliation to the rustic village.  Thinking about it over the years makes me happy. I am glad it is thriving...and it is...but it is not the Volant of old. That Volant is locked in my memory and tries to bust out every now and then when I see pictures of the 100 year old dam and mill.

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