Chatter, coffee brew in the mornings

January 19, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Early each morning in Waynesboro, the chatter begins to percolate with the coffee pot.

Groups of men, mostly retired, gather every day in local businesses to talk about most anything. Admission is a cup o' joe, an opinion or two and possibly a newspaper.

"I guess this is the men's version of a beauty salon," Dennis Mickey said.

Larry Calimer, who often joins Mickey at the News Agency on West Main Street, agreed the daily meetings afford the guys an opportunity to "get a newspaper, cup of coffee, socialize, see who can tell the biggest lie."

On the other side of town, John Beard said he has formed deep friendships with his coffee gang.

"We refer to this as our office, so we go to the office every morning," he said.

Waynesboro is the hometown for many of these men, and the others have made it an adopted home for a few decades.


Together, they remember the town's past and share concerns about its future.

Looking back

Calimer recalled a time when Waynesboro was booming with downtown businesses, where recent high school graduates could participate in an apprenticeship.

Now, he feels the News Agency and Dollar General are the only two businesses actually thriving downtown.

Calimer also thinks today's young people don't have a good place to spend free time in downtown Waynesboro.

While growing up, he would go to the YMCA on North Potomac Street at the end of the school day, head home for supper and return to the YMCA until about 9 p.m.

"I learned all my values there at the YMCA," Calimer said.

He also said he learned to shoot pool, dance and swim there.

"I saw my first television there," he said.

The YMCA now is in the 800 block of East Main Street - far from downtown.

Bud Hovis, who spends mornings with Beard, thinks one of the black marks in Waynesboro's history came from the demolition of the old arcade theater in the first block of West Main Street.

"Everyone would like to see better development downtown," said John Poffenberger, who added that he knows there never again will be big department stores on Main Street.

However, Poffenberger and others in his group feel revitalization will come from new small businesses.

Mickey disagrees.

"Your malls will pretty much put them out of business," he said.

Mickey said he will shop Wal-Mart when it opens in neighboring Washington Township this summer, although Calimer said he refuses.

The presence of Wal-Mart "is going to be a big change for Waynesboro," Mickey said.

Looking ahead

Beard anticipates more people will move to the Waynesboro area from cities, taking a toll on the water supply and creating the need for additional police officers.

The group of friends who sit down with Poffenberger and Beard say the trick to bettering the Waynesboro area is getting the Borough of Waynesboro and Washington Township working together.

"We think Washington Township and Waynesboro should get together as a whole," Beard said.

Jack Clemmens, who brews over matters with Poffenberger and Beard, feels it is important to get trucks out of Waynesboro. Beard thinks a parking garage downtown would help revitalization.

"They're going to have to clean up that Main Street," Hovis said. "People don't respect buildings."

Mickey said he can appreciate a town with a local government that creates regulations for residents.

There is one politician - state Rep. Pat Fleagle, R-Franklin - whom the News Agency gang often sees in the mornings when he gets his own cup of coffee.

"Pat Fleagle comes in here," Calimer said. "We're on (him) all the time."

He nodded toward the counter and other seats at the News Agency.

"This is the town hall," he said.

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