I Remember Lopez
“It is my loss to never have lived in Lopez,” I’ve often said.
Though my mother Anna Shymansky Logan grew up in Lopez, my grandmother Martha Eckell Shymansky raised her family in Lopez, uncles and aunts grew up in Lopez, and my grandfather Theodore Shymansky lived in Lopez and died in a mine tunnel collapse at the old Murray Colliery on January 22, 1909, I never was blessed with having been a resident of this wonderful, historically rich town.
My first memories were of a family visit to the rectory of St. Vladimir Orthodox Church where Rev. Fr. Peter Dubrovsky was priest for a number of years. Fr. Dubrowsky’s wife, “Nettie” (Anastasia), was the daughter of grandfather Theodore Shymansky’s brother, John Shymansky. “Aunt Nettie” as she was called, was less than five feet tall, always smiling, a whisp of a woman, always eager to entertain in old country style when company would visit. Her eyes glinted through her gold-rimmed glasses as she greeted you at the door. There was always some old Russian delicacy to eat and a glass of wine to wash down the food (for the adults).
Father Dubrovsky was a rotund man, with a hearty laugh that would lift your soul regardless of the situation. We were fascinated when Father John would tell a story or joke and conclude it by pursing his lips and lifting his head while snorting through his nose, and break into rolling laughter at his own joke.
As children, my sister and I were not eager to listen to the “old folks” talk about family and old memories. After enduring a few minutes of polite formalities, we would ask to be excused to go outside and play in the church yard and back yard of the rectory. We entertained ourselves by playing with the well windless, lowering and raising the wooden bucket for a drink of cool well water on that crisp late fall afternoon of 1939..
“Tragedy” struck during that Sunday afternoon visit! We accidentally unhooked the bucket from the rope, and it tumbled end over end into the depths of the well. My sister and I were without a clue as how to retrieve the bucket, floating in the stygian darkness below. Frightened almost to trembling, we hesitatingly entered through the rectory kitchen, called our father into the kitchen and announced, “The bucket fell into the well.”
Dad directly went to the white-washed well house, adeptly maneuvered the rope and hook onto the bucket handle, and with great exultation, hoisted a bucket of fresh water into the late afternoon sunlight. Whew! What a relief to us kids! After that incident, we kept our distance from the well.
When our parents, aunts and uncles would journey to Lopez during the summer months, a trip to the hill just north of Lopez provided us with a “berrying opportunity”. Hundreds of “hunkleberry bushes” (as we kids called them), loaded with countless large, luscious huckleberries waited for picking and enjoyable eating. Mom would tell us kids how she and her sisters would go “berry picking” on that hill, oblivious of the threat of rattle snakes, skunks, or maybe . . . .a BLACK BEAR!
Though we kids usually ate more berries than we picked, the adults managed to bring a copious supply of large, tasty berries back to Wilkes-Barre for eating with iced cream or on our Monday morning’s breakfast cereal.
One memory etched into my mind is of one late Sunday afternoon as we played along the iron fence of the front yard of St. Vladimir’s rectory. There was a nip of Fall in the air, as the leaves were beginning to turn to rusty oranges, yellows, and reds on the mountain side just south of town. The sound of cow bells wafted through the crisp air, coming up the unpaved road from the west.
Through the streams of golden sunlight, a young boy, barely a year older than us, drove four Jersey dairy cows past the rectory, and on down the hill, right through the center of Lopez town! We “city kids” watched in sheer amazement as the melodious procession wound its way across the Lopez Creek and turned onto Turrell Road. Memories of that nature live forever in young minds.
As a youngster whose family lived near the Delaware and Hudson – Wilkes-Barre Connecting Railroad tracks in south Wilkes-Barre, PA, I was always fascinated by trains. When we visited our favorite relative priest, Fr. John at St. Vladimir’s Church, I always hoped that a smoke belching, steam-hissing locomotive would come through town, perhaps with a few passenger cars loaded with riders on their way to Sayre or Wilkes-Barre, or even a string of coal cars on their way to New York City or Philadelphia.
As luck would have it, the train never came, but the presence of several coal hopper cars assured me that one day, perhaps, my wish would be granted.
On one of our summer visits, I saw, but never caught the significance of several old passenger coaches parked just beyond the station with several old box and gondola cars standing near by. It was a “work train”.
A few months later when we visited Lopez, I was disheartened to discover that the old passenger station had disappeared. Our old 1936 Chevy no longer bounced over the crossing rails. The end of an era, The Lehigh Valley Railroad no longer served idyllic Lopez. My grandmother Martha often rode that train to and from her job as laundress at the Rickett’s Estate a few miles down the line. Time was moving on for us and our beloved Lopez.
Though I never lived in Lopez, each time I visit brings a strange familiar resonance to my soul. Familiar sights and buildings, homes and churches, as well as missing buildings, brings a warmth to my heart. This is still “My Lopez”, the ancestral community home of my family of so long ago, . . . . and still in my heart today.