One of my more vivid memories of growing up in Nanticoke, PA was the nine o'clock whistle. That sound struck fear and anxiety into my heart and soul.
The sound of the whistle remains with me even after 50 years. It was not the sound of a factory whistle with a high pitch. It was a low tone, similar to that of a steamboat whistle but lower and much louder. It was so low and loud you could feel it deep in your chest. It was so powerful it could pin you up against the wall.
I know that's a little bit of exaggeration. But as a 10 year old kid, that's what it seemed like.
Anyway, the nine o'clock whistle was a signal to parents and children under 18 years old. The whistle signaled the town's nine o'clock curfew.
Two longs blasts. If you were under 18 years old, you had better be in your house before the end of the second blast. If not, you could be hauled down to the Nanticoke city police station.
This threat was enforced by the presence of a police officer standing on the corner of Church and Fairchild streets every evening at nine o'clock. He religiously opened the call box on the telephone pole to report everything was nice and quiet at that location.
As I said, if you risked being out outside after nine, you were in big trouble. If that officer caught you, he would use the call box to report to summon the "paddywagon" to take you to the station.
As the saying goes, "That was a fate worse than death."
First, it meant that your parents would get a call to come bail you out.
These were tough times and most parents could not afford the fine for this curfew violation.
Secondly, it meant that one or both of your parents would have to walk to the station to get you out.
Does anyone remember that term, "walk?"
Indeed, these were the ‘50s. Not everyone had a car.
Imagine coming home from a 10 or 12 hour shift working in the coal mines or the dress or shoe factory or the cigar mill and having to walk 5 to 10 blocks to and from the police station.
Imagine, as a kid, your parents had to walk to retrieve you, pay a fine and endure the embarrassment that their child had broken the law.
I am happy and proud to say that my father never had to do that. Not because I was such an exemplary child. I was scared to death of what my father would do.
The title of this piece is Fear, Discipline and Respect.
Need I say more?
You bet I will say more.
Those are three words that are miserably missing in today's society. Kids today have no idea what those words mean. And parents don't have the guts to teach or enforce those concepts.
Look what has happened as a result.
From being the smartest, wealthiest, most respected country on the planet, the US now suffers from a horrible lack of leadership on all levels, our dominance as a manufacturer and supplier to the world has disappeared and most of our biggest companies are owned by foreigners.
By this time in our history, we should be driving cars that run on water or air. But instead, we are still oil dependant and we now pay $1.50 for a bottle of water rather than drinking it from a tap.
And we are still killing and maiming coal miners because mine owners and the government flat out don't care about miners. Profit and power are more important than the miners and their families.
Okay, enough on morality.
Come visit me on my coal mining website, http://www.minewisdom.com
Copyright Al Borowski 2006 All rights reserved