Playtime remembered

Community leaders recall favorite toys

Community leaders recall favorite toys

December 26, 2009|By ARNOLD S. PLATOU

TRI-STATE -- Today, they head a business site employing thousands, preside over courtrooms, inspire athletes, lead a college, recruit economic development prospects, and serve in Congress and county, city and town governments.

But ask them a simple question -- Growing up, what was your favorite toy? -- and the decades fade away, taking them back to a time when they were kids at play.

For this Christmastime story, The Herald-Mail contacted 10 Tri-State-area grown-ups whose names will be familiar to many.

Because they responded in the same spirit that the question was asked, we share the stories of a time past.

Roscoe Bartlett

U.S. congressman

Republican, 6th District

"The thing that I looked forward most to owning was a bicycle because we were so darn poor," said U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, 83.


"It was a used one because it was put together from parts from others. As I look back on it, it was enormously expensive because it cost $15," and this was in the late 1930s when some workers only earned $1 a day, Bartlett said.

He remembers getting the blue-and-gray bicycle, with coaster brakes, one Christmas when he was about 13.

"I remember the exhilaration of going down hills," he said.

His father was a tenant farmer near a little town called Export in western Pennsylvania. The family -- four children and Bartlett's parents and grandparents -- filled the square eight-room farmhouse, with Bartlett and a brother sleeping in the cellar and a sister in the attic.

"The fondest memory of my childhood was Christmas morning," Bartlett said. "When we went to bed at night, there was no Christmas tree. And in the morning, there was a Christmas tree.

"It was a huge, huge surprise because the tree was all up and decorated.

"And nothing was wrapped. You just found your presents under the tree. You got probably one toy and clothes -- most of your clothes were hand-me-down. It all made Christmas kind of special."

Dana Moylan Wright

Washington County District judge


"I had a horse that was on a frame with springs and you could bounce really, really high," Judge Dana Moylan Wright said.

Wright, 43, grew up with two older sisters and a younger brother in their parents' old farmhouse in Spring Valley north of Hagerstown.

While her mother stayed at home with the children, her father, retired Washington County Circuit Judge Daniel Moylan, was an attorney who became a judge when Dana was in the fourth grade.

She thinks she was just 3 the year she got the bouncy horse for Christmas. At the time, she said, she still was too young to pronounce words correctly.

"I came down the steps -- this is the story -- and it was sitting by the tree and I said, 'A force! A force!' in a very excited tone," she recalled with a laugh.

"I called it 'my force' instead of 'my horse.' But I bounced on it until I couldn't sit any longer."

Richard Starliper


Waynesboro, Pa.

"We didn't have a lot, growing up," said Mayor Richard Starliper, 72.

But one year, when he was 7 or 8, his parents gave him what probably became his most cherished toy -- a little red wagon.

Starliper, an only child, said he played with it behind the double house his parents rented on East North Street in Waynesboro. His father was a machinist at Landis Tool Co. and his mother was a secretary at various places.

Starliper, who became mayor four years ago, said he remembers only that he used to pull the little wagon on "a narrow sidewalk in the backyard. And I could go up and down that walkway."

As a young man, Starliper began building a career in banking and finance at loan companies and banks. As it happened, his last job before retirement was in the accounting department at Landis Tool, where his father worked.

"Never thought I'd do that, that I'd work at Landis, where my dad worked," he said. "It was good."

Patsy Noland

County commissioner

Jefferson County, W.Va.

Commissioner Patsy Noland got Dolly one Christmas in the late 1950s.

"She was not a baby doll. She was an older doll, the kind of doll that I guess a teenager would appreciate," said Noland, 63.

"She had red hair and her eyes were blue. She had a blue dress. It was more of a dinner-type dress, probably just below the knees. It was silky and blue, and had some gold around the collar and the cuffs, and it had a belt. And she had high heels.

"I dressed her all up and I did her hair. And I'd take her shoes off, put her shoes on," Noland said, laughing at the thought.

"I still have her -- packed away. I've always remembered and had a fondness for that doll."

Noland, a lifelong Jefferson County resident who became a county magistrate and circuit clerk before being an elected commissioner last year, said she grew up in a "very small" rancher in Ranson, W.Va.

Her father was a supervisor at Doubleday Bookbinding Co. in Berryville, Va., and her mother worked for the telephone company as an operator "before we went to the dial system" and later, as a clerk.

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