Summer has arrived, and with it the chance to shop for farm-fresh produce every week in downtown Pittston.
The Pittston City Farmers Market will start its weekly run on Tuesday, July 7, at 9 a.m., and Main Street Manager Mary Kroptavich said most of the market’s previous farmers and vendors plan to return.
“People are really looking forward to getting out and about,” she said.
Among the local vendors returning are Braces Orchard, Deep Roots Hard Cider, Simply Delicious Desserts, Paul Plum, Dymonds Farm Market, Whisker Biscuits Pet Treats, Golomb’s Farm and Greenhouse, Beta Bread Bakery, Pittston Popcorn and Vikki’s Nut House.
“We are still hoping to get more,” Kroptavich said.
The farmers market will be the first of the city’s summer events to return while state restrictions put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19 begin to ease in the area. The market takes place outside, which Kroptavich notes will make it easier to hold the event as safely as possible.
“We will be trying to follow guidelines,” she said.
Kroptavich said the market area will have posted signs encouraging patrons to keep a safe distance between one another, to wear masks or face coverings and to use hand sanitizing stations frequently. They will also ask patrons to keep the touching of produce to a minimum prior to purchasing anything.
Vendors may have their own guidelines in place as well, but Kroptavich said the city is mandating that they each only have two people working their booths.
So far, Kroptavich has not planned any children’s days or activities in the interest of safety, and the Pittston Memorial Library, which provided some of the children’s programing, remains closed with the exception of curbside pickup. She said children’s activities may return later in the summer, but they are not planned yet.
“We’re just playing this week to week,” she said.
The farmers market will run from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. every Tuesday in the lower Tomato Festival lot until the week of Thanksgiving, “as long as nothing happens,” Kroptavich said.
It means, “I see the professor.”
It was part of the first lesson in my ninth grade French class, which began, appropriately, with, “J’entre dans la salle de classe,” — I enter the classroom.
I bring it up because this morning I actually am “seeing the professor.” Well, in my mind, anyway.
I’m looking at a computer screen, but I am seeing Jimmy Kolmansberger. Of course, Mr. Kolmansberger wasn’t “Jimmy” to me when I sat in his classes in the mid-’60s. Learning to call him Jimmy — at his insistence — took some doing.
Two things have Jimmy on my mind.
The first is seeing the tennis courts at the Martin L. Mattei Middle School complex. My (almost) daily walks take me right past them and it conjures up images of hitting tennis balls with my old pal Mike Caputo, with Jimmy Kolmansberger jogging past during his morning 5-mile run.
One of the things that kept Mike and I playing tennis together for nearly 45 years was the sound of the ball hitting the “sweet spot” on the racquet. For us, there was nothing like it. Little did we know, however, how far that sound carried. We’d start playing at 7 a.m. and about a half-hour later, Jimmy would run by. One day he stopped to tell us we were a bit of an alarm clock for him. He was already awake by 7 and on his patio with a coffee, he said, but the sound of us hitting tennis balls told him it was time for his run. Jimmy lived a good half-mile away.
The second thing causing me to think of Jimmy was watching Cal Ripkin Jr. break Lou Gehrig’s 56-year-old record of playing in 2,130 consecutive Major League Baseball games. It was on the MLB Network, which has been providing me with my baseball fix during the pandemic shutdown. I’ve seen that game several times but I never tire of it.
I cannot think of Cal Ripkin Jr. breaking that record, without thinking of Jimmy Kolmansberger.
A Baltimore Orioles fan since he was a Little Leaguer in 1954, Jimmy was not only a huge Cal Ripken Jr. fan but also a fan of his father Cal Ripkin Sr. It was because of his work ethic, Jimmy once told me. “He reminded me of my own dad,” he said. “My dad never missed a day on the railroad. He had a saying ‘if you start it, finish it.’ I think Cal Ripken Sr. was just like that, and I know Cal Jr. is.”
Jimmy’s son, Jimmy, worked in Baltimore at the time (Sept. 5, 1995), not far from Camden Yards, and called his dad to say he managed to get tickets for Ripken’s record-tying and record-breaking games.
He invited his dad to drive down for the first game, stay over at his place, and be there to witness the record.
Jimmy would have liked nothing better, except for a little problem. He had a record of his own. In his 35 years of teaching, he too had never taken a day off. Well, almost never. He took off a day one February when his youngest son, David, was born (Jimmy, he said, was kind enough to be born on Good Friday when there was no school and his other son, Robbie, arrived during the summer). He also took bereavement days when his dad and mom died. But other than that, he had never once called in sick.
“I can’t stay over,” he told his son. “I can’t break my record to see Cal set his.”
So he did this: he taught school on Sept. 5, drove to Baltimore afterwards and saw the first game, left Baltimore at 2 a.m. drove home to Pittston, taught school on Sept. 6, and drove back to Baltimore where he did witness the record.
Jimmy has told me he never met Ripken but came close once. He was standing near the railing at Camden Yards holding a baseball and Ripken was coming along signing autographs. There was a little kid behind Jimmy and he grabbed him and said, “Here, get up front where he can see you.” Ripken signed the kid’s baseball and moved on. “He must’ve thought I was the kid’s dad,” Jimmy said.
Jimmy told me he always wanted to be a teacher but remembers telling Sister Bernadine at St. John the Evangelist, who told him he was college material, “Thanks, Sister, but I’m the oldest of eight kids. My dad can’t afford it.”
Sister Bernadine called legendary King’s professor W. Francis Swingle, also a Pittston guy, and Jimmy was told if he was willing to major in French, which was in its start-up phase, he could get a full scholarship. He was. And that led to a 40-year career in teaching.
If Sister Bernardine had never made that call, I most likely never would have met French teacher Jimmy Kolmansberger.
And who knows what I’d be thinking about in the summer of 2020 as I walk past those tennis courts and watch Cal Ripkin Jr. on TV.