On a recent trip on I-70, I experienced a wave of nostalgia so I turned south on U.S. 522 to spend several hours on a beautiful afternoon strolling around Berkeley Springs, the little town that time forgot. I mean that in the most complimentary way.
As a boy in the late 1930s and early 1940s I spent every summer with my mother Edith Edmiston Miller visiting my grandmother, Anna Edmiston, who lived in a house now occupied by the new St. Vincent de Paul Church.
I have nothing but pleasant memories of summer days catching crayfish and wading in the stream in the park while anticipating the highlight of the season, the annual Tomato Festival.
The new courthouse is grand and the new St. Vincent Church is a tribute to the Catholic people of Berkeley Springs. My mother told me that in her day only one mass a month was offered and then not even on Sunday. The way the new church has been tied to the old, making it a kind of grand foyer to the new sanctuary, is imaginative.
There are the things that have not changed. It was reassuring to see the castle still looking down on the town from its perch on the mountainside. The row of little businesses on Fairfax Street is virtually unchanged. I had breakfast in the coffee shop where I picked up The Morgan Messenger, a familiar periodical in our home for many years.
What a surprise to see the Star Theater still in operation. The last movie I saw there featured the Ritz Brothers. The traffic is still heavy on Washington Street and traffic lights were inevitable and necessary, but I found the abundance of parking meters a little off-putting, as well as the signs in the park prohibiting things.
The park buildings need to be spruced up. They are beginning to look a bit tacky, but I guess money for public works is in short supply.
I was amazed to see the sand mine still in operation. The old mountain keeps giving up her sandstone. During those summer days I was often taken to the mine, then known as the Pennsylvania Sand Glass Company, to watch the little trains carrying enormous sandstones from the quarry to the crushers, where they were reduced to white sand.
They say you can’t go home again. Perhaps that’s true, but I found going back to my once summer home was worth the detour. I plan to come back again.
Henry Elmo Miller, Jr.