Andy Williams likes to sing, "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year."
Except he is usually referring to the tsunami of commercialism and sub-freezing temperatures that herald the December holiday season. As for me, I sing that phrase from the first day of October to the final day of the month.
The autumnal bliss that blankets our region is a veritable Hallmark card to rural Americana. The season invariably takes me back nearly a half-century to when I was growing up in Sidney. I'm sure it is the same for everyone. Only the names are different.
My dad and my brothers and I would spend a full October Saturday raking the leaves that carpeted our big backyard. The neighbor men were out doing the same thing, each shouting World Series updates back and forth over fences. I remember that we all wore plaid. I loved wearing plaid as a kid. It made me feel grown up somehow. I haven't worn plaid in 40 years.
The big event of "rakin' day" was the enormous pile of red, orange and green leaves that would soon be sacrificed to the God of Fire. Dad stood sentinel over the glowing pyre, dutifully holding a garden hose, which he never turned on. My brothers and I watched through the inky sky as tiny, dancing embers came down harmlessly in the distance. And the smell of burning leaves? Sublime.
Our area had a plethora of apple orchards and cider mills, and a trip to the fields was always an adventure. Edmeston, Unadilla, Franklin, Otego, Gilbertsville and beyond ... brother, this was "Apple Country!"
Around mid-October, the Johnsons would open their farm to our whole town. Our mothers would shop at Millie's farmstand, and ol' Walt would drag wagons filled with youngsters behind his big tractor out to see where "the witches lived." And he'd do it from sunup to sundown.
To many in my hometown, Walt Johnson was "Mr. Sidney." To us kids, he was just the friendly guy "who took us on a wagon ride."
Halloween was a night of great excitement in all of the towns that dot our region. Kids would spend hours on their costumes, right down to the littlest item, and then schlep on big winter coats to cover it all up because it was freezing outside. The neighborhoods came alive on Halloween night.
We were clever candy professionals in those days. We knew which houses gave the trick or treaters a pencil or a nickel, and we avoided them like the plague. A pencil? On the other hand we knew the exact directional coordinates of every house that dispensed chewy homemade popcorn balls, or chunks of fudge or even a FULL SIZE Snickers bar. Wow ... that was the mother lode.
Every Halloween night ended the same way, with a stop at Mrs. Logan's house for a candy apple that was heroic. A gigantic round McIntosh apple dipped in a sweet, red, sugary coating and "hard-cracked" to perfection. She'd jam a stick through the core and then wait for the kids to line up at the side door over her grocery store. The resemblance between the "Pied Piper" and Delphine Logan was not lost on the children of Sidney.
I'm sure the dads and kids of Worcester raked and burned leaves together in the old days, too. And I'm certain that Cherry Valley, Franklin and Milford had their own haunted wagon rides. And no doubt the Fly Creek Cider Mill, Willy's Cider Mill, Middlefield Orchards (and all of their predecessors) sold cider and apples by the ton long before today's generation ever stepped foot on a frostbitten October field in Central New York.
Some things change and some don't. I miss going on Mr. Johnson's hayride and I miss my Dad and raking leaves with him like I did when I was a boy. And I sure could go for one of those candy apples of my youth. Alas, they've all flitted away like the amber embers of the backyard leaf piles of my childhood.
But I still revel in taking my kids to the local cider mill (they insist on it, all four of them, from ages 13 to 28). And our Center City neighborhood still comes alive at Halloween time (and yes, our little ones know where the pencils are doled out).
"It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year." I agree, Andy.
You're just a couple of months late.
Now where can I buy me some plaid …Catch you in two.
'Big Chuck' D'Imperio can be heard on weekdays beginning at 6 a.m. on WDOS-AM 730 in Oneonta, and also on Thursday nights from 7-9 p.m. on WSRK-FM 103.9 for his "Oldies Jukebox Show." You can find "Big Chuck" on Facebook under Upstate New York Books. He invites you to contact him at email@example.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/bigchuck.
Andy Williams likes to sing, "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year."
- Big Chuck
There's no tough sledding when you're a youngster|
Winter weather is here. And so are outdoor winter activities.
Vroman's Nose hike is no walk in the park
I haven't gone on a hike since 1961 when President Kennedy asked all Americans to take a 50-mile hike for physical fitness. I did it then. With a large group of my schoolmates and friends. We walked from Sidney to Oneonta and back.
Being a grandpa will be better than just OK
I am going to be a grandfather.
Some hits from the soundtrack of my life
As most people know, I wear two hats at my radio station.
Some book picks from an avid reader
I came to reading begrudgingly. I was an impatient student easily bored with books. Finally an eighth-grade English teacher in Sidney, Kay Jester, figured out my problem. She told me that I had an inquisitive mind and had an affinity for storytelling. She also told me I was reading the wrong books.
- Monday, September 23, 2013
Swapping stories with a sweet centenarian
Marge Mathews is one very special lady.
- Monday, September 9, 2013
Farm honor system can grow on you
What a difference the flip of a calendar makes. I love September and the produce stands!
- Monday, August 26, 2013
My brush with a future president
President Obama came to town!
- Monday, August 12, 2013
Colonoscopy isn't much of a pain in the ...
When a professional looks you in the eye and says, "Sit down, I have something I want to talk to you about," your normal reaction is a flexing of the gluteus maximus and the appearance of sweat drops on the palms of your hands.
- Monday, July 29, 2013
An easy way â€¨to be a hero
It is not much to ask. Plus they give you a cookie and a glass of juice!
- Monday, July 15, 2013
Digging up memories, one box at a time
My Dad kept everything.
- Monday, July 1, 2013
Moms, girlfriends and wives of TV history
I recently saw on TV a birthday salute to actress Betty White. It included many archival videos, celebrity interviews and reminisces from her early days on television. There is no doubt that Betty has found the magic pill. Into her nineties she is still starring in a hit sitcom, "Hot in Cleveland!"
- Monday, June 17, 2013
Upstate theme parks offered affordable thrills
I saw in the news last week that Disney theme parks are raising admission prices to almost $100 a person. Children (who Uncle Walt considers 10 and under) are now $86 a day.
- Monday, June 3, 2013
Getting creative with gifts for grads
Well, it is graduation time again. So much pressure, so many decisions, so many things to take into consideration.
- Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Safety Patrol D.C. visits never get old
I asked Cam Morris, head of Eastern Travel/Oneonta Bus Lines, how many years her company has been handling the Safety Patrol trip to Washington, D.C.
- Monday, May 6, 2013
My pal Brucie, savior of Sidney's hospital
Ask any hospital administrators if they've ever heard of a closed hospital in New York state that has ever been re-opened. They will say, "Impossible." In a half century of going through records you can't find any.
- Monday, April 22, 2013
Catching a whiff of 'Vermont Vapor'
We just came back from a weekend in Manchester, Vt., and my wife insists that something "magical" happens when you pass the state sign. "I think they spray 'Vermont Vapor' out of the sign or something," she opined, "something that actually changes us."
- Monday, April 8, 2013
Selections from the virtual mailbag
Well, it's time to open up the email bag, and it's really full!
- Monday, March 25, 2013
Recalling days of 'Doughnut King'
In 1969, I was "The Doughnut King" in Sidney.
- Monday, March 11, 2013
Opera great's visit still a thrilling memory
Opera singer Marian Anderson (1897-1993) has been called the "most distinctive American voice of the 20th century."
- There's no tough sledding when you're a youngster|