Don’t Click Your Heels Together Yet

Fundraiser Cookbooks
Cook­book Guru

Uniontown PennsylvaniaWhen I was in high school I couldn’t wait to get out of this region of the world. I knew there had to be some­thing else. I watched that pic­ture box in the liv­ing room and there was just some­thing dif­fer­ent about those places. It seemed like there was never noth­ing to do. The win­ter was ugly and cold and every­thing seemed dirty. I wanted to spread my wings and get out of this dirt hole. So I took my last pay­check at my sum­mer job and said good­bye to Mr. Hardy at Nema­colin Wood­lands and headed south. I arrived at Hilton head Island South Car­olina a day and half later. I was absolutely in love with what I saw. I saw the ocean for the first time. Every­thing was so clean and peo­ple seemed to have a good atti­tude.
I ran out of money stay­ing at the Motel 6 and going to clubs. I had never been to a club before this and as far as I was con­cerned I would never live any­where where there was not a club again. I made my way out to find work and had two job offers on the first day. Now I knew I wasn’t in Penn­syl­va­nia any­more, this was unheard of there. I took a job work­ing for Domino’s pizza and it was awe­some. I went into exclu­sive places, met celebri­ties and ate all the free pizza I could eat.
I didn’t have a place to live yet. I had to wait for my first pay­check. I found a cata­ma­ran on the beach that I stealth­ily approached and slept on every night for almost 2 weeks. Every night I would lay there lis­ten­ing to the waves, look­ing at the stars think­ing about how much I missed Penn­syl­va­nia. Yeah right!  I don’t think so! I had it made. I lived on an island. I drove around six hours a night meet­ing celebri­ties, eat­ing free pizza, lis­ten­ing to music and par­ty­ing while peo­ple gave me money. Then I went to clubs till 2 o’clock in the morn­ing. Then slept on a cata­ma­ran on the beach lis­ten­ing to the waves. Got up the next day and started all over again.
So so what hap­pened? What turn of events could cause you to be a guy writ­ing about how much he loves South­west­ern Pennsylvania?

As the days got shorter and moved into win­ter on this tiny slice of par­adise called Hilton head Island I became rest­less, feel­ing the con­fines of an island. So I decided to go to the big penin­sula where I could spread my wings even fur­ther. On my way there I heard so much about the place, I felt like I was in one of the “Lord of the Rings” jour­neys. I had high expec­ta­tions and headed straight for the heart of Florida, Orlando. There was so much to do and see it nearly exhausted me to the point of col­laps­ing (or maybe that was the heat). On my sec­ond day there I declared as if I had just arrived on the moon, that this would be my home for­ever and ever (pinky swear­ing with myself and every­thing).
Jobs were very plen­ti­ful with many of the mar­quee signs dis­play­ing posi­tions avail­able. I worked many of the hotels and motels along Route 192 in the Kissim­mee area as a main­te­nance per­son, house­man and maid. Soon I dis­cov­ered I wasn’t really good at one thing but many dif­fer­ent areas. This even­tu­ally led me to work­ing my way up to Main­te­nance Super­vi­sor in some of the largest apart­ment build­ing com­plexes in Florida.
Florida is the melt­ing pot of mis­fits. That is the best way I can describe it. Everybody’s from some­place else look­ing for a place to fit in and that’s the way I felt. I don’t regret going to Florida because I wouldn’t be who I am today and I wouldn’t appre­ci­ate what I have now with­out the expe­ri­ences I had there. I must say I grew up as a child in South­west­ern Penn­syl­va­nia but I grew into a man in Florida. Let me also say I never felt at home there and the first time I saw Santa Clause with sun­glasses and shorts on a bill­board at Christ­mas time I nearly hurled.


Lit­tle Dougy was born. A cou­ple years later in Vero Beach Florida Abi­gail Grace was born on May 16, 2001. A cou­ple months later we were hit with a cat 3 hur­ri­cane. I will say this about hur­ri­canes because I’ve been through a lot of them. Hur­ri­canes can be excit­ing as a ride at Ken­ny­wood but the after­math is hell. This was the worst I have ever been in and my eyes couldn’t believe what I saw when the sun came up that morning.

The National Guard was called in, Pres­i­dent Bush’s wife and daugh­ters showed up (who we met). No elec­tric, no stores, no water (except for what the National Guard gave you), no gas, no air-conditioning and no mercy. Every­one had to be off the streets and in their houses by 6:00 PM cur­few. The apart­ment com­plex I worked in was no longer liv­able and I lost my job. Some­one hit our van while we were sit­ting in a two-mile long gas line and totaled it. Our chil­dren were okay and so were we but we were told by the police not to go to the hos­pi­tal unless we had injuries that were life threat­en­ing because the hos­pi­tal wouldn’t see us. After two weeks the elec­tric started com­ing on spo­rad­i­cally in dif­fer­ent areas. We got our elec­tric on and two days later we were hit by another hur­ri­cane and went through the whole thing all over again. These were hur­ri­canes Jeane and Frances.

One day shortly after the sec­ond hur­ri­cane my wife was prepar­ing a (MRE) Meals Ready-to-Eat (given to us by the National Guard daily) and she said in a whis­per­ing kind of fact stat­ing voice, “We ought to just go to Penn­syl­va­nia.” I jumped up off the chair like some­one who just got on a plane and remem­bered they for­got the shut the iron off and said, “I’m going home I have been here long enough!” The very thing we wanted to do we were forced to do. We imme­di­ately called U-Haul for a reser­va­tion and was told that it would be at least three months. We took the reser­va­tion and waited with all of our things packed in the liv­ing room for 3 months. We were all excited to get to see Grandma and Grandpa. I would rem­i­nisce and tell sto­ries till my kids fell asleep about grow­ing up in South­west­ern Penn­syl­va­nia. The day arrived and we picked up our U-Haul with a car tow. Now was time to click my heels together and close my eyes and say “There’s no place like home.”

We left on the day George Bush was re-elected Pres­i­dent for a 2nd term almost exactly 3 months after the first hur­ri­cane hit. We sat 4 in the front squeezed in real tight. We packed the car on the hitch with plas­tic bags and put the cat in between all the bags and cracked the win­dows. We never really real­ized until we got to Penn­syl­va­nia how much noise those bags were mak­ing. The cat never was right again but she is still here.
As we entered the North­east we could start to see that the leaves are becom­ing less and less. By the time we got to Penn­syl­va­nia the leaves had all fallen off the trees but there was a smell in the air I hadn’t smelled in years. It was that crispy cold, give me a hot choco­late kinda smell. It imme­di­ately ush­ered me into mem­o­ries I had not thought about in a long time.


We unloaded the U-Haul and started off to my mother and dad’s house with our derelict cat. We started on 79 and I knew if we didn’t get gas soon we were going to run out. By the time we found an exit with a gas sta­tion we started run­ning out as soon as we start going down the ramp. I could see the gas sta­tion but I knew we were going to have to walk or push. As the car came to a com­plete stop about an eighth of a mile from the gas sta­tion we were com­pletely sur­prised as three young men out of nowhere pushed us to the gas sta­tion. I yelled thank you as loud as I could but they just turned and walked away teas­ing each other about how weak the other one was. Before I stepped out of the car to get gas I turned and looked at my wife and said in the best Clint Eastwood/Jack Nichol­son impres­sion I can muster up,” Wel­come to Penn­syl­va­nia.“
Many peo­ple have aban­doned this part of Penn­syl­va­nia. Many have stayed. My brother doesn’t live a rocks throw from where he grew up and he likes it that way thank you very much. Many have left to do great things in other places and many like myself come full cir­cle back home. What­ever the sit­u­a­tion I still believe there is some­thing mag­i­cal about grow­ing up here. I haven’t put my fin­ger on it yet but maybe I don’t want to know because then maybe it would be so mag­i­cal. Much more to come soon.

Thank you to the many peo­ple who have made our cook­book an over­whelm­ing suc­cess. I have received hun­dreds of e-mails and I will answer each one of them indi­vid­u­ally as time per­mits. My hunch was right when I wrote this book. Peo­ple of South­west­ern Penn­syl­va­nia are proud bunch and I am more proud than ever to be part of this bunch. With per­mis­sion from the authors I will be post­ing some of these e-mails and recipes. Thank you so much from myself, Doug Jr. and Abby.

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4 Responses to Don’t Click Your Heels Together Yet

  1. Dolores Robinson says:

    Well loved what I read so far.How about some more.I’d like to hear about your adventure.

  2. leslie woods says:

    Loved your blog. MORE PLEASE!

  3. Jean Sabbagh says:

    I just ordered your cook­book. Can’t wait to get it! I, too, grew up in PA and now live in Florida. I did the exact same thing when I moved here–I went to a Winn-Dixie and asked for chipped ham. They looked at me like I was crazy!

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