Richard Brugger, although he is the same age as I, was a student in Scripture classes I taught many years ago. It’s just that, because I entered the seminary at age 15 and he well after he graduated from college, I had the advantage of him in seniority and biblical credentials. I remain in touch with him – up in Auburn, Washington. And I firmly believe his writings will show up in future anthologies of American literature. He writes much about his early years in Pipersville, Pa.
The village of Pipersville is in Pennsylvania, about an hour’s drive from Philadelphia and two hours from Manhattan. . . Pipersville had hardly 100 people and I suspect in this year of 2016, it still has less than 500. It is still, from what I gather, a place that is unique.
And, yes, I lived and grew up in a hotel, the Pipersville Inn, which my family owned for sixty-three years, from 1921 to 1984. The inn was centrally located on Pipersville’s one and only intersection, US Route 611, alternately known as the Lackawanna Trail or Easton Highway which rounded a treacherous curve in front of our inn at the junction of Durham Road and Dark Hollow Road . . . In every direction except south you had to go down a steep hill, which was great going anywhere on bikes, but somewhat tedious on the return. Roads in every direction took one to vistas of unspeakable beauty. Roads with memorable names like, Dark Hollow, Deep Run, Cabin Run, Durham, Applebutter Road, Cold Spring Creamery, and Iron Bridge, Swamp and Stump roads. All told a wonderful tale. . , Later in our latter adolescence we drove down these good dirt roads to neck with our girlfriends.
Yes, Pipersville was my home, where I grew up. We lived at the Inn and the General Store was across the street. Pipersville Elementary School was a skip and jump away on Dark Hollow Road. As my brother Bob used to say, the two-room schoolhouse became one room when a huge family moved out of town and we had only twenty-three pupils in the entire eight grades.
I guess it was out of that simple 1930’s environment that Richard kept a kind of rural open mind about life and nature, in some subtle way moving me as only grace can do – almost like the environment of a perpetual Christmas. Take for instance a poem titled Ella Nash:
When I think of Ella Nash / I think of plump Rhode Island reds, / russet hens brown-shelled eggs / starched white laundry hung to dry / neat manicured lawn, gnarled cherry tree / a motherliness about her all my years / growing up, back door never locked: / Mrs. Nash, it’s Dickie, I’m here! / Never did we think we’d be unwelcome. / Were we bothersome, were / she indisposed? / To this day I do not know.
And then there was My Father Manning the Bar
“I need a drink,” said the stranger at the bar. / “Can’t you see I’m playing cards? Help yourself,” / My father said, perturbed, veins popping in his head. / Garrulous Nick Stadler, pinstriped suit, garish tie, / My father’s buddy, sundry others / Wholly consumed at the round table, / Pipersville Rummy or Catch Five. / Commerce a standstill. // Some desirous of paying bills, getting a drink, / Just getting a whit of service. Lou Rufe, steel-rimmed glasses, / Bucks County reddish clay reflected on his lovely face, / Oblivious to all else, reciting poetry. . . . // That bar, that table, another day, another setting: / S.J. Perlman, Moss Hart, George Kauffman, / Pipersville Inn, the Summer Algonquin, / Dorothy Parker, the first woman my father allowed in the bar. / To her credit no one questioned her gender.
And finally a poem titled Do Something!
My mother waged an on-going war against / the depravity of inactivity. Putting it positively /it played out vociferously: “Do Something!” / Doing nothing was akin to the most heinous of sins. /It had dire consequences for a New Hire / at my family’s Pipersville Inn. / I’d cringe when I’d see a young waitress / audaciously sit down. // For my brother Bob, an expert writer, / it was precise: / “Robert, write something!” / For me it was simply the generic / “Richard, Do something.” / She or we never knew exactly / what I would do or be. // Over the years / I became a Roman Catholic priest / grew a youth and family counseling agency / developed shelters for runaway kids, / was named a Citizen of the Year / and comfortably retired. / Became Auburn, Washington’s First Poet Laureate / Yet, my mother’s words / constantly haunt me.