A monthly memoir writing class at the Falls Active Adult Center is not only giving seniors a chance to reminisce about the past, but helping them preserve the history of Falls.
Nancy Smith of Falls teaches the class on the first Wednesday of every month at 10 a.m. It began last month and while still in its preliminary stages, has seen a good turnout.
Smith and her husband formerly spent their summers in Falls while living in suburban Philadelphia for the remainder of the year. They eventually made the decision to move to Falls permanently because they enjoy the area and its people.
Smith studied elementary education and when her youngest child was in first grade, she returned to school to pursue a master’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania.
She worked as a reading specialist and taught children with dyslexia and also participated in a memoir writing class at her church before moving to Falls, which she also helped facilitate.
While attending a community event before Christmas in Falls, she was chatting with other Falls residents about their memories of the past.
“I realized what a rich history this area has, most of which is memories before the flood,” said Smith, who also experienced flooding twice while living in Falls.
It struck her that so many people who moved away from Falls for several years, even decades, eventually returned.
“It’s fascinating to me that people go away and come back and what is it that draws them? That’s what I’m trying to find out,” she said. “It’s also a chance for people to talk about their memories and play upon them.”
During last Wednesday’s (March 6) class, around 10 seniors shared memories while passing around old newspaper clippings and photographs.
Smith asked seniors about how their families ended up in the Falls area and what they remember about Falls from years ago to spark up ideas for writing topics.
The conversation was lively as people remembered old businesses in Falls and what they used to do for fun, like hanging out at a local roller rink. One of the biggest conversation pieces was how hobos would use signs and symbols to let others know of safe routes, places to find food and more, and how these markings are relevant to the area.
Jeanette Line brought a list of the symbols she had at home for the group to see.
“The people have so much fun talking about this stuff. It’s great,” Smith said.
Some members of the class like Connie Wilbur have already started writing.
Wilbur, who has lived in Falls for her entire life, shared a paragraph she wrote about how people used to get around without cars.
There was a bus that would take people to Pittston and back to Falls, she said, and she remembered a Martz bus dropping her sisters who worked in New Jersey off in Falls for the weekends.
In her writing, she also remembered how Falls had important places like grocery stores and churches all within walking distance of her home, and with staples like bread and milk being delivered, a car wasn’t always a necessity.
Wilbur said she hopes to write more about how different Falls has become.
“We were poor, but didn’t know we were poor,” she said, because they were rich in experiences instead. “It was simple and it was safe. You can leave your doors open all night and not worry.”
Nancy McKinney was born and raised in Wilkes-Barre and lived in New Jersey for some time, but relocated to Falls when her daughter was young. Her family went through the 1972 flood and she hopes to carry on this memory with the class.
“It’s history, something that the people need to know about, even though it’s just a little town,” McKinney said.
Through the memoir writing class, she hopes to bring back the memories of what it was like for her to live in Falls. Moving from a bigger city, she wasn’t accustomed to living in a country setting at first.
This was a lonesome time for her, especially since many of her neighbors only spent the summers in Falls, but she got involved with community activities and made Falls her home.
“I began to love living here and love the country living,” she said. “It’s a community of people knowing people. It brings us closer together to know more about each other.”
“I have a lot that I have to think about and probably take time to write it down,” she added.
In the future, Smith hopes to gather pieces of writing from the group along with photographs to put together a small book of Falls history and memories that the Active Adult Center could sell for a fundraiser.