Sunday, August 01, 2010

The silent ghosts

Last night I sat in the dark in my back yard, observing a planetary conjunction and listening to sounds that weren't there.

The last weekend in July was always the time for St. Mary's Church Bazaar. In my youth this was a three-day affair - Friday night, Saturday afternoon and evening, and then wrapping up on Sunday. The air would be splintered by the raucous noise of polka bands and bingo numbers being called out and the clicking of spinning chance wheels , and filled with the smell of pierogies and potato pancakes and french fries (doused with vinegar, of course.) And beer, lots of beer.

Back then all this took place in the parking lot behind St. Mary's church and school, just a block up the hill from my grandmother's house - now my house. Some years I remember sitting on the back porch of the house and listening to the sounds of polkas coming from the bazaar, along with all the other sounds.

The last church bazaar held in the parking lot of St. Mary's was back in 2005. Five years before that the St. Mary's bazaar was still a thing of legend. People would come from miles around. That was the thing to do on those lazy late summer nights, as dozens of church and firemen's bazaars sprang up all over Northeastern Pennsylvania in July and August. But gradually a dwindling population, cut down by the ravages of age and the flight of younger generations to other regions with better employment opportunities, has reduced the call for such things. Parish consolidation has taken a toll, too: instead of individual church bazaars for St. Mary's, St. Stan's, St. Joe's, Holy Trinity, and Holy Family, we now have a single parish festival for all of St. Faustina, the consolidated parish for Nanticoke. That festival was held the Fourth of July weekend - the traditional date for the Holy Trinity bazaar.* I was scheduled to work those days, so I couldn't go.

Last night there were no polkas in the air. The night was very quiet, except for the clinking of dishes and cutlery in the house next door and the sound of a conversation from a block away. For the most part it was just me and the occasional electronic whirr and click from my camera.

But if I listened very, very closely, I could occasionally pick up an echo of Stanky & the Coal Miners playing "The Pennsylvania Polka," coming from somewhere in the distant past.

*In many respects this reportedly was the Holy Trinity festival under a different name.


KD said...

Whoa...I got boosegumps from this post. Nice delivery. There are more sounds out there...if you listen.

bats :[ said...

Nice post. It made me remember two church festivals from a long time ago -- even with large parishes now, there's probably nothing quite like the silly little games and crappy plastic tschotke that could be won there.

Anonymous said...

I too was part of the bazaar...your writing so true...its sad to look at the lot and know those old times will never be again...