I recently overheard two young women talking about clothes shopping. One woman asked the other if she was looking for an Easter dress. I didn’t know people bought special dresses for Easter anymore. My mind began to wander back to the late ’50s/early ’60s, when a girl wouldn’t be caught dead without a new Easter outfit. It was a social rule and we followed rules in that era. For example, no meat on Friday, especially during Lent.
Lent was a big deal. We really took it seriously and sacrificed as only Italians can. My nonna got us ready for a month of fasting by making castignoli, deep fried dough balls drizzled with honey, and frappe, thinly rolled out dough shaped like a bow tie, fried, and sprinkled with powdered sugar. No wonder it’s called Fat Tuesday. The next day we got ashes on our foreheads and went off to school, making it clear who in the class was Catholic.
I belonged to St. Anthony’s Church where everyone was of Italian descent, but my friend Carolyn is Polish, so as a teenager I sometimes accompanied her to St. Joseph’s. It was a time when people chose their parish by the nationality of their grandparents. One Lenten season, my friends and I met every morning at St. Joseph’s for Mass before school. We were never devout, but who can explain the thought processes of teenagers?
After Stations on Fridays, my parents drove to Phillips Seafood, a take-out place in Exeter where Voitek’s is today. During Lent, the line stretched out the door. Once inside, we followed along aisles of food like packaged coleslaw and apple pies that my Dad couldn’t resist, until we reached the fried fish displayed in enormous aluminum trays. People behind the counter packed our fish sticks and fries in a cardboard box and tied it up with string.
But Fridays really meant pizza, as it still seems to in the Valley. (I used to tell my sociology students that associating pizza with Friday is not universally American. That always surprised them.) Friday evenings at Gina’s Pizza was wonderful. It was still chilly and dark outside, but in Gina’s tiny pizza parlor, packed with teenagers, it was warm and bright and smelled like heaven. I can still taste that pizza.
After the merger, we teens ate Friday lunch at the Italian Kitchen in West Pittston. That was back when high school students were trusted to leave school for lunch. I guess not having a cafeteria made our principals more trusting.
As Easter approached, the most exciting and challenging kid event was the egg hunt on the football field in Wyoming. We all lined up raring for the race to begin. Our eagle eyes scanned the field for a bit of shiny color that meant a hidden treat. The signal given, dozens, if not hundreds, of kids shot out of the starting gate in the great Easter candy Olympics. Everyone found at least one small egg, but the coveted prize was a large bunny. Finding that gave you street cred.
Holy Thursday meant Easter pizza in every Italian neighborhood; not pizza as we know it, but a dense bread flavored with anise. Some people made theirs savory with ham and cheese, but not my nonna. Ours was sweet. She started early in the morning with a starter batter that she marked with a cross. By late afternoon, I was slicing it up and slathering it with butter. In the evening, my dad filled about a dozen cups with hot water and vinegar, dropped in a colored tablet, and with our little wire dippers we became egg decorating artists to rival Faberge.
Easter Sunday began in the usual way, with a basket full of chocolate in all sorts of shapes, jelly beans, and marshmallow peeps. Less concerned with cruelty to animals, many of us got real peeps that never lasted to adulthood, proof that the ’50s weren’t perfect.
My mom made sure I had a special dress with matching bonnet and white gloves for the big day, and she always got me a corsage from my father. After church and a feast to break our fast of 40 days, I settled myself in front of the one television set in our house and watched a Bible inspired movie starring Charlton Heston.
What a flood of memories those two girls set off. Things really haven’t changed so much. I’ve tried to make Easter pizza and failed, but I still buy chocolate bunnies. Parents are smarter about what their kids ingest and hats are not required for church, but we still love our pizza, pierogi, halushki, and potato pancakes. A season intended as a sacrifice is more like a celebration of ethnic foods and that’s fine with me. Take the opportunity to visit our local restaurants or get take out from St. Barbara’s or the West Wyoming Hose Company. Let the traditions continue. Buon appetito!
United Methodist ham and cabbage dinner
The Wyoming United Methodist Church will hold a Ham and Cabbage Dinner on Saturday, March 16, from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Cost is $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 5–12. Dine in or take out. For ticket information call 570-693-2821. The church is located at 376 Wyoming Ave. and is handicap accessible.
The Wyoming United Methodist Church will be hosting a bus trip to the Hunterdon Hills Playhouse in Hampton, New Jersey on Friday, May 17 to see “Over the River and Through the Woods.” Cost is $98 and includes bus, show, meal, and gratuities. For reservations or further information, call Audrey at 570-693-0905 or 570-693-2821.
Healthy eating on a budget
The First United Presbyterian Church will present “Healthy Eating on a Budget.” Food expert Christine Fazio will offer tips on menu planning food shopping, and recipes. The event will be held from 7 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 20, at the Institute. Everyone is welcome.
St. Barbara’s Parish will sell Lenten foods beginning Ash Wednesday, March 6, and every Friday thereafter during the Lenten season. The event is strictly take out and no pre-orders will be taken. Food will be available from 4 to 7 p.m. and sales are strictly cash only. The selection includes potato pancakes, $5 for half a dozen or $10 per dozen (13); pierogi, $5 for half a dozen; halushki, $5 per quart. The Good Friday menu is yet to be determined.
Ash Wednesday ashes will be distributed at St. Anthony’s Church, St. Barbara’s Parish, at 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. with Mass and ashes, and at 3:30 p.m. for ashes and service only. Stations of the Cross will be held every Friday during Lent at 3:30 p.m. Confessions will be heard every Monday from 6 to 7 p.m.
Hose Company pizza sale
During Lent, from March 22 to April 12, West Wyoming Hose Company No. 1 will sell pizza from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays. Baked and unbaked pizza will be available to order for pick up by calling 570-693-1811.
Wyoming Free Library news
The library will hold a fill-a-bag book sale in April, so gather up your gently used books for donation to this important fundraiser. Adult fiction, children’s books, non-fiction, DVDs and audiobooks are welcome. Please, no textbooks, encyclopedias, medical books, catalogs, Reader’s Digest, condensed books, or old, moldy books.
A children’s market is held at the library the first Saturday of the month. The Commission on Economic Opportunity distributes canned goods, non-perishables, fruits and vegetables to any Luzerne County family with children. After the children receive their food, what is left over is boxed for senior citizens to pick up later in the day. Registration is required. Applications are available at the library. For reservations or information, call 570-693-1364.
The library is soliciting donations to replace its eight public computers. Computer use is free to all who need it, young and old. Not much can be accomplished without a computer and internet access, something that is cost prohibitive for many. The library allows visitors to do research, write papers, apply for jobs, check email, and just pass time surfing the web. Donations can be made on Facebook or mailed directly to the library, 358 Wyoming Ave.
The Exeter, West Pittston, and West Wyoming American Legion posts are each offering financial awards to Wyoming Area graduating seniors who have enlisted in one of the branches of the armed services, or who are planning to enlist. The only prerequisite is to present official commitment papers to Teddy Rabel, guidance secretary, no later than 2:30 p.m. Friday, April 5. Awards will be presented at Wyoming Area’s Scholarship Celebration on Thursday, May 23.
W. Wyoming sanitation fees
West Wyoming Borough reminds people that sanitation fees are now past due and the penalty fee of $300 is in effect.
Exeter veterans events
Exeter Events announced a veterans celebration will be held at the town hall, Lincoln Street and Wyoming Avenue, from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 18. Banners to honor veterans or current service men and women are being sold now. Cost is $225, or $25 to renew. To order a banner, call 570-239-5260 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Exeter refuse stickers
Exeter Borough refuse stickers for 2019 are now available. Prices remain the same as last year. Regular fee of $180 is in effect through March 31; $130 for senior citizens age 65 and older. Proof of age is required. On April 1, the stickers will go into penalty and the price for anyone who hasn’t purchased a sticker will be $250. Stickers can be purchased at the Exeter Borough Building from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Stickers also can be purchased by mail by sending a self addressed, stamped envelope to Exeter Borough Refuse Department, 1101 Wyoming Ave., Exeter, PA 18643. Please use a long business-size envelope. For information, call Lynda at 570-654-3001, ext. 2.
Barbara Bullions writes about Exeter, Wyoming and West Wyoming. To include an item in her column, email email@example.com or call 570-301-2185 by Monday.
Wyoming garbage fee
The 2019 Wyoming garbage fee is now due. Face value of $200 is in effect until May 15. After that, the cost will be $250.
Wyoming council meeting
Wyoming Council will meet Monday, April 8. Executive session is at 6:30 p.m. Work session is at 7 p.m. and the council meeting begins at 7:30.
Kaufer office hours
State Rep. Aaron Kaufer’s Exeter office, 1101 Wyoming Avenue, is open on the third Friday of the month from noon to 2 p.m.