07/30/2014 08:10 am ET Updated Jul 30, 2014

Love Letters: Kane, PA

Barbara Bretherick lived in Kane for twenty years, but her heart has been there for 58. She's now a retired high school English teacher who homesteads with her husbands on 20 acres in southeast Georgia. Kane will celebrate its sesquicentennial this summer--and Bretherick remembers the 100th fondly.

"Oh, you've never heard of it" is the oft-repeated response when asked "Where did you grow up?"--and the just-as-often reply: "I know Kane!" Whether the home of a distant relative, the site of a hunting camp, the memory of a summer trip to the local reservoir, or the view from a car window passing through, multitudes have known Kane for a moment, but not with the blissful and strong eternal ties claimed by those of us who grew up "on the heights of the Alleghenies," in the shade of towering maples and black cherries, "air-conditioned by nature," and sworn to be loyal to the Kane Wolves forever.
While our tiny neighborhoods were segregated only by four elementary schools to which we walked daily--and walked home and back at lunchtime--we came to know and form our cliques in the one junior high school and one senior high school that identified and solidified our friendships and our rivalries. Our various churches and our one street of shopping venues, our Evergreen Park and our Market Basket defined our boundaries and our culture. Before we learned to drive, our bicycles took us to the West Side, the South Side, Twin Lakes, Glenwood; after we earned our licenses, we cruised Fraley Street from the 'Basket to the park and back, sometimes venturing to Ludlow or James City or Mt. Jewett in search of our more-rural friends or the probability of a woods party. Bordered by a stately national forest, friendly creeks, and two-lane blacktop, we in Kane treasured the idyllic life of a proud history established by a fearless Civil War General, a freedom mostly unsupervised by adults and untethered by great responsibility, a perfect symbiosis of four exuberant seasons carrying us hopefully from one innocent adventure to the next.
We summered at the local school playgrounds where we fashioned plastic lanyards, hooked pot holders, and plaster-cast figurines--fancying ourselves budding artists--interrupted only by a lively game of hopscotch or a dizzying turn on the merry-go-round. We picked blackberries and huckleberries in the local woods; fished for trout in the local streams; swam in the local watering holes; won and lost ball games at the local fields; skinned our knees, earned our bruises, and lost our teeth in the local yards, streets, and alleys; bought our shoes at one of the three local shoe stores; ate hot onion rings at the local Homestead, frozen chocolate-covered bananas at the local Tastee Freeze, and spicy sauce-covered hot dogs at the local Texas Hot. In our local woods, we imagined forts, carved paths, built lean-tos, chugged beer, camped and hiked and snow-mobiled, lost our virginity, earned our first dollar, and killed our first rattlesnake/deer/turkey, celebrating various rites-of-Kane passage. Little induced us to want to leave: our factories and offices and stores provided ample work and career opportunities; our uptown shopping and neighborhood groceries filled our buying needs quite suitably; our scheduled sports and unscheduled recreation occupied us year-round and kept us fit and happy.
The halcyon days of Kane invoked a love affair that entices us to return annually on the last weekend in June when we celebrate our Alumni homecoming to revisit, reconnect, and revere our beloved community and our cherished friends and families. It is no wonder that "Home Again" became the appellation of friends' camp, the totem of our gatherings, and the emblem of our hearts: "There among great trees abiding" we revel in Kane and all its hoary glory!