Early Days in Hazelton, Circa 1891
Marjorie Van Wickle was born in 1883 in Cleveland, Ohio, where her father, Augustus, was president of the South Mountain Coal company. Three years later they moved to Morristown, New Jersey so that Augustus could attend to business at his head office in New York. But Marjorie’s mother, Bessie, longed to return to her home town of Hazleton, PA. Her father had recently died on a family vacation to Florida and Bessie wanted to be close to her large family of ten brothers and sisters – all of whom still lived in Hazleton with their growing families. So in 1892 the Van Wickle family moved to Hazleton and built a house on North Church Street.
In her memoir, Marjorie remembers her early adventures with her cousins:
I was very discouraged when I first came to Hazleton at the age of 8 because all my cousins were so much younger. The shock was terrible. So I decided to teach them all the swear words I knew. I don’t think the grown-ups liked that.
We had wonderful sledding on nearby hills in winter, and I loved to go tearing down the hills lying on my stomach. But Aunt Kate was very feminine and she didn’t approve of her children lying face down on the sled. It wasn’t ladylike, so her children had to coast sitting up.
We had skating outside on the tennis courts when it froze. The rest of the time we could go rollerskating in the barn. I fell one time and dislocated my leg and had to be in bed for a while.
We had a goat in Hazleton who had been trained to pull an express wagon. Well, he was sort of trained, and we would go lickety split down the road, in the gutter, and we hung on with all our might and main. Finally he would get tired and turn around of his own accord and go back to the barn, never without some hair-raising moments, however.
One day my Great Aunt Maria decided she wanted to have a ride behind the goat. She was large and portly, a widow, wearing her widow’s cap, and stiff black bombazine dresses. I didn’t know what to do. She could never even fit into the express wagon, let along manage without a catastrophe. Suddenly I had an inspiration. We’d harness the goat to the little pony phaeton, which was small – but big enough for her to sit in. It was so much heavier and unwieldly than the express wagon that I prayed it would slow down the goat. I got her in all right and we went up and down the street as calm as could be. Even when she was getting out the goat was on his best behavior, for about the only time in his life.
The goat didn’t usually want to go out. So he had developed a technique of flattening up against the barn door. He could hold us there for hours! It didn’t hurt but we couldn’t get away. One time some older cousins were visiting and I had the bright idea of asking them to help us harness up the goat. They were bigger and stronger, and surely would be able to hold off the goat. But the goat held them against the door too. We never got our ride that day.