I have no memory of whose idea it was or how I got involved, but it was when we still lived on the hill on West Main Street, so it was probably during the summer of 1962 or 63. Most likely it had something to do with the Boy Scouts, as I was still active in them in those days.
Anyway, Buddy Pennypacker, Jay Kegerreis, and Larry Fetter (I think it was him, though perhaps it was Jay’s brother Robert), and I planned a bicycle trip to Coleman Park in Lebanon, PA, where we would spend the night in our sleeping bags, and then return to Richland the following morning. How I got included with those older kids, I have no idea.
We took the back roads, of course, and I recall that I tended to lag behind the others because while they all had three-speed bikes (ten-speeds not having been invented yet), my bike didn’t have a gear shift at all, so I was really puffing whenever we had to climb a hill. This made me the slowest member of the group, something that Buddy (the de facto leader) kept reminding me of.
When we reached the Dairy Queen just outside Lebanon on 422, we stopped for refreshments, just as a flash thunderstorm swept through the area. We stayed dry by eating our ice cream at the rear of the building where there was a convenient roof overhang. Then an employee came out the back door and said she was worried that she had left her car windows open. She pointed out her car, and I leaped into action. I ran through the driving rain, got into her car and closed the window, which had only been open a tiny crack. In the process of opening her car door, I probably let more rain in than would have gotten in through the tiny opening. I also got myself soaked.
The storm didn’t last very long, and soon we were on our way again.
That evening as we were eating whatever it was we had brought along for our supper in one of the park’s pavilions, we received a surprise visitor. Two, actually. Boom Karsnitz and someone else (I no longer recall whom) stopped by to bring us a watermelon for dessert.
Boom Karsnitz (the vowel sound of his nickname was pronounced like the short oo sound in good) was one of those characters in Richland who seemed to be everywhere, although this is my clearest memory of him. I think his actual first name was Harvey [but see the update at the end of this post]. He was 40-ish with a round face and a bit of a beer belly. How he got his nickname was something I never knew, but it did seem to fit him. I’ve never actually seen his nickname written or printed out, so I don’t know if that’s how he spelled it, but that’s my best guess. It might also be “Bum”, but that just doesn’t look right. But I digress—
Now if truth be told, I was never fond of watermelons. They were always a chore to eat with all those seeds, and the ones I had tasted up to that point had never seemed worth the effort. They had very little flavor and weren’t sweet enough to compensate for their gustatory blandness. But the watermelon that Boom Karsnitz brought us that evening—that was something else. It was flavorful and sweet. It was the absolute best watermelon I had ever tasted and definitely worth a little effort to eat.
When I said as much, Boom replied with a laconic, “I’ve had better.”
I can’t imagine where. That watermelon still remains as the best I’ve ever had.
I don’t recall much more about our Coleman Park adventure, and nothing at all about our return trip the following morning. Since we obviously did make it back, it was presumably uneventful.
Update One Hour Later: A little searching on the web, which I don’t know why I didn’t do before writing this post, and I find that a) Boom’s nickname was indeed spelled “Boom”, b) his first name apparently was Lee, and c) he would have been in his mid-30’s when he delivered that watermelon.
He died at the age of 87 in 2015 and his obituary is still on the web. He was living in Manheim, PA, at the time of his death.