PENNSYLVANIA

Chambersburg, PA: How Things Used to Be, Minus the People

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My parents and I get in the car and I have been looking forward to this moment for over a year.  Truthfully, I have not stopped being excited about this moment for the past 15 years.  Chambersburg, PA, located in the edge of the shadow of Gettysburg, is one of my favorite places in the whole world.  We go.  We do the same thing every year.  We eat almost the same food.

I am getting married next year and don’t want my future husband to come.  It won’t be the same if he comes, and I have a year to convince him of this.

In Chambersburg there are a plethora of billboards promoting the life and times of Jesus Christ.  Motorcycles, minorities who were not there 40 years ago, and billboards about Jesus.  That is how I think of Chambersburg and the thought makes me smile.  We are right on the edge of Amish country and often, while having our pre-theatre dinner at the Cracker Barrel, see Mennonite families coming in for their chicken and dumplings.

We started going to Chambersburg because it is the home of my dad’s first wife and the location of that wedding.  We always drove by a beautiful stone farm house built in the 1700s.  This was the first checkpoint on our cruise around Row Run Road and Row Run Loop.  The house is gorgeous and surrounded by fields.  About seven years into the trip I learned that the house is where my dad’s ex-wife lived and where their wedding took place.  I learned this because we ran into his ex-in laws at Totem Pole.  Set of Days of Our Lives…you have nothing on CBurg.  Actually it was quite pleasant and this year we ran into his ex sister in law and she gave us a tour of the house.  Not a part of our typical itinerary, but I’m not so crazy as to have said “Sorry lady, but this trip down memory lane is not on the schedule”.

When we’re in downtown Chambersburg my dad often thinks about what the town looked like in 1967 and compares it to now.  My eyes are wide and my heart is light as a feather as he speaks and we walk down Main Street, bellies full of Grilled Cheese from Kenny’s Drive-In and ice cream from The Igloo (which we call the Fluffy Cup because for the first few years of the trip my mom could not commit “The Igloo” to memory).  Kenny’s is wonderful because the cheese is cheesy, the fries are crisp and thin, and they serve grilled cheese sandwiches are round pieces of bread.  This is a reflection of how things used to be.  Food can be more than just food and in the case of the round bread at Kenny’s I truly believe that it is a reflection of the town.  The unofficial motto of Chambersburg should be “Chambersburg, PA: How Things Used to Be, Minus the People”.  Again, I mean this in a good way.

I love Chambersburg, but I do notice its faults.  At some point Chambersburg stopped growing.  It didn’t revert back either.  No one churns butter or plays a fife.  There is the campus of Wilson College and a section of town that is lined with lovely brick homes and Victorian houses that are now B&Bs.  On one side of this section are brick ranch homes.  On the other side are, well, 3 story homes that sell for $69,000.  Do with that what you wish.  The town feels empty even though we’ve met lovely store owners and employees.

My dad says that in the late 60s/early 70s you would never be able to find a parking spot in downtown Chambersburg on a Saturday afternoon.  There are plenty now, which is sad, but I brush the gruff of reality aside as we head towards the Olympia Candy Kitchen.  Chocolate covered marshmallows allow me to temporarily disregard the thought that if Olympia, which has been around for over 100 years, closes, what is left of the charm of the town at its peak will be gone too.

Written by Rachel Goldfarb