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Hundreds attend Wheaton Park reunion

June 26, 2011|By DAVE McMILLION | davem@herald-mail.com
  • Moses Norris, left, and Robert Harris share a laugh Sunday at a reunion for people who grew up and lived near Wheaton Park in Hagerstown. The two have been friends for more than 35 years.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

Memories of paddle ball games, honing basketball skills, holding hands with girlfriends and doing things that they shouldn’t have been doing were shared by those attending a reunion for those who grew up in the Jonathan Street area.

It was all part of life in and around Wheaton Park and Jonathan Street, where area residents experienced lifelong memories with people that became like family, people said Sunday at a reunion at the park.

The reunion was part of a string of events held over the weekend to pay tribute to life in the Jonathan Street area.

Events started Friday at 6 p.m. with a “splash party” for kids at the Memorial Recreation Center swimming pool, and a meet and greet later that evening at Georgia Boy Cafe. The restaurant is owned by Chuck Holman, who is from the Jonathan Street community, said Deirdre Norris, who helped plan the reunion.

Organizers said hundreds of people turned out Saturday at Wheaton Park for a reunion that included performances from two bands. Saturday’s events also included the opening of a new trail in the park intended to promote exercise and learning in children.

Sunday was designed as a family day that included gospel music and speakers, including Fox News reporter Kelly Wright.

Wright, who grew up in the area, told the crowd that his worldwide travels have taught him that there is no one greater than God.

“The one thing I remember about Wheaton Park is that this is where my faith began. This is where my life began,” Wright said.

Randy Robinson of Hagerstown sat at one of the picnic tables in the park Sunday afternoon, recalling how he sharpened his basketball skills in Wheaton Park and played there with local basketball standout Rodney Monroe.

Monroe’s mother, Ruth Anne Monroe, was involved in summer basketball leagues in the park.

“It never would have happened if it wasn’t for Ruth Anne Monroe,” Robinson said.

The park also was a place where paddle ball ruled and the scent of fried chicken often wafted through the neighborhood.

Paddle ball was played with a soccer ball hanging from a rope that was attached to a pole, Robinson said. Two players stood on either side of the pole, smacking the ball back and forth as the rope wrapped around the pole.

If a player was able to get the ball wrapped tightly around the pole before the other one could stop it, the player making the hit won, Robinson said.

“It was addictive,” Robinson said.

The smell of chicken came from the house where “Step” Washington lived, people at Sunday’s event said.

“You could be on Church Street and before you walked up here, you could tell he was frying chicken,” Robinson said.

Herb Younker, who has been around the park for years, remembered when softball games were a hit in the park. The games were so popular that a pickup team often was formed to play the winner of two teams playing on the field, Younker said.

The field is still there, but today’s generation does not play as much softball, Younker said.

“Time changes things,” said Younker, who was anxious to get a game of horseshoes started at the park Sunday.

The weekend’s events were sponsored by DOT Foods, the Memorial Recreation Center, State Farm Insurance agent Steve Swayne and local grocery stores, Norris said.

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