Zimmerman recalls ‘the good old days’ around Berkeley Springs
Paul Zimmerman, a former Berkeley Springs Post Office mail carrier, recalled the center of town when he was growing up and lived
on Fairfax Street in the 1940’s. Zimmerman is 82 years old and lives in Berkeley Springs.
Zimmerman lived in Doe Gully until he was in sixth grade. He said he attended a one-room school at Orleans Crossroads where ages six through 17 were taught.
In 1941, his family moved to a two-bedroom apartment across from Berkeley Springs State Park over what is now Portals.
They paid $15.00 a month for rent, but had to provide their own heat, Zimmerman said. They shared a coal shed with other tenants. Their apartment had no plumbing.
The store below them then was Gorrell & Gorrell, a grocery and furniture store. They later dropped the groceries and just sold furniture, Zimmerman said. Clarence Spring later had Spring’s Appliance Store there.
Farmer’s horses and wagons were tied across the street from what is now the Chamber of Commerce office, he said. They later were asked to park on the street by the library.
Vehicles were parked in front of the Masonic Temple in the middle of the street as people shopped at the line of stores that went from the Hotel Washington to Mercer Street. Later the street had angle parking on both sides.
The businesses along Fairfax Street along the Hotel Washington side included Lawyer’s Jewelry, J. Lee “Mutt” Walsh’s barbershop, Max Lipstick, the Potomac Edison office, John Ayers’ grocery store, the state liquor store, Joe’s Grill and the Trump’s business, he said.
The Lee Mason family also had a flower shop there. Lee’s Dress Shop, with men’s and ladies clothing on separate sides, moved in when Potomac Edison moved out. Zimmerman opened a charge account at Lee’s to buy work clothes when he was 13.
The Ideal Theater entrance was toward the end of the block. A hallway led to their ticket booth and the theater in the back. The theater had movies six nights a week from Monday through Saturday. It became the Moose Lodge in the 1950’s, he said.
Zimmerman’s first job was being a paper boy for Joe’s Grill. Joe Hawvermale was the owner. Zimmerman remembered their soup costing a nickel and their lemon pie being 10 cents. They also had a one-armed bandit slot machine.
“If you played it and got three cherries, you’d win a few dollars,” Zimmerman said.
Roman baths, hotel
When Zimmerman was about 14, he worked at the Old Roman Baths cleaning the tubs after every use. He earned $3.00 a week and got to swim in the pool when he wasn’t cleaning tanks. His boss was Arch Myers. Zimmerman said they had a closed-in swimming pool at the park.
At age 15, Zimmerman worked as a bellboy for the Hotel Washington for owners Niles and Skipper Miller. They got $8.00 a week and tips plus room and board. Behind the hotel were little chicken coops. The cooks would go out and kill one when someone wanted fresh chicken, Zimmerman said.
Sled-riding, ice skating
They went sled-riding down Fairfax Street from what they called McCaffrey’s Hill, he said. Schoolteacher Pearl McCaffrey lived in a big house by the hill’s bend.
There wasn’t much traffic in those days, Zimmerman said. An adult would watch for cars while they sledded. Someone owned a bobsled and they’d all ride on it.
“If we were lucky, someone had a car and would pull it back up the street,” he said.
When he was around 14 years old, Zimmerman went ice skating at the Pittsburgh Pond below Jimstown by the sewer plant. All the kids skated there, he said. They would burn old tires to stay warm and often walked the railroad track to get there.
“It was very safe. If the ice broke, it wasn’t very deep,” he said.
Zimmerman drove a truck for George Fearnow and hauled pulpwood to Luke, Maryland and brought back coal. He also hauled truckloads of cases of cans from Baltimore for small area tomato canneries. The canneries hired local ladies to pack the tomatoes and label the cans, he said.
Cannery owners included Ray Hovermale by the fish hatchery, Jerry Ambrose in Oakland, Walter Neely in Cold Run Valley, the Rice family and the Michael family in Great Cacapon, the Householders in Sleepy Creek and the Peter C. Yost Cannery in Martinsburg, Zimmerman said.
He also worked for Newbraugh’s Feed and Supply, Pennsylvania Glass and Sand and built airplanes for Fairchild Aircraft for nearly 10 years. Zimmerman married and spent two years stateside in the military during the Korean War.
Post office, other
Zimmerman started working for the Berkeley Springs Post Office in 1957 when it was located in the Masonic Temple building where the Chamber of Commerce Office is now. A new Post Office was built in 1961, which is now the Sheriff’s Department.
Where the Morgan County Extension Office is now used to be a youth hangout place in the mid 1940’s, Zimmerman said. They had dances to a jukebox and birthday parties. Before that, Dr. Dudley Shaw had his medical practice there.
Retired but active
Zimmerman retired from the Post Office in 1985. He credits all the walking he did as a mail carrier to keeping him in good health.
Zimmerman works part-time at Hunter-Anderson Funeral Home and plays tuba in the Shriners’ Band in Cumberland and in the Tri-State Big Band.
Zimmerman is also active in the Trinity Asbury United Methodist Church and volunteers for the Morgan County Historical and Genealogical Society and the Almost Home respite program at the Berkeley Springs Senior Center. Zimmerman is also affiliated with the Masons.
The good old days
Zimmerman acknowledged that his description of town was as he remembered it.
“Others might have different memories,” he said.
As he recalled his memories, Zimmerman noted that while they may not have seemed like much at the time, it was amazing “how good those good old days really were.”