PS:  My younger brother Nelson remembers when the soft serve ice cream shop in the picture went out of business.  He recalls that Sterling and I dragged the plastic cone that had been on the roof all the way over to our back yard.  All of us kids loved forts and hiding places so we crawled inside of the cone to hide at times. 

Visiting my aunts, uncles, and grandparents on the apple orchard in Red Hook, New York, that my Grandpa managed.  Grandpa Ernest Hard is on the far right of the picture and I am the fourth from the right in the front.  My older brother, Sterling, who is standing behind me with his hand on my shoulders has a bandage on his forehead.  But, that is another story.

Willow Grove Amusement Park - 1959.  Looking from my porch or out my bedroom window on the second floor, this is the view I saw.  The intersection in the story is just to the left of the picture where the two streets cross.

Rodney Hard, the young culprit.


By:  Dr. Rodney T. Hard

After five years of missionary work in Korea, it was time for my father to take us back to the United States for a year of furlough.  We visited family, Dad gave talks in churches and seminaries about the mission work in Korea, and we kids went to school at Philmont Christian School. The Orthodox Presbyterian Church Missions Board put us up in a house in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia.  I was in the fifth grade while Sterling was in the sixth grade.

The house we lived in was right across from an amusement park.  The park’s slogan was, “Life is a lark at Willow Grove Park.”  During the summer months when the park was open, I went to sleep every night to the never ending screams of the people on roller coasters as the connected cars roared down the steep grades and squealed around the corners.

Among the many ways that we kids entertained ourselves, in the winter we had snowball fights, went sledding, and built igloos out of blocks we cut out of the packed down snow.  We piled snow in front of the house as high as we could, climbed out my bedroom window on the second floor, and jumped onto the giant pile.

We had a crab apple tree in the back yard.  When the apples would fall off of the tree late in the season they would start to get rotten and mushy.  We had the neighborhood kids all come over and had crab apple fights using garbage can lids for shields.

One day, after a messy battle, we wound things down and congregated on the front porch of my house.  After a round of bragging and speculation as to how far an apple could be thrown from the front porch, I accepted a dare and threw a rotten crab apple from the porch all the way to the middle of the intersection about 40 or 50 yards away.

The apple splattered all over the windshield of a car entering the intersection.  A very angry man slammed on his brakes, jumped out of his car, and came running toward us yelling and cursing at the top of his lungs.  All the kids scattered and ran away in abject terror.  I froze in place.  I realized what I had done and decided to take my medicine like a man.  My brain was racing with a string of lame apologies I would try, but I was more afraid of the whipping I would get from my parents when they found out.

The man ran up to me and stopped.  The veins in his neck and forehead were bulging out and if eyes could burn you, I would have been on fire. He yelled out asking me, “Where did they go?”

Suddenly, I realized that I had another choice.  It was time for a decision.  It all happened so fast.  I blurted out, “They went that way around the corner.”

He ran around the corner of the house chasing after them.  He finally tired out when he could not catch anybody, so he went back to his car, cleaned off his windshield, and drove away.  I have had mixed feelings of smugness and of guilt every time I have recalled that incident or retold that story, even to this day.  I am afraid though, with the passing of time, that the smugness is taking precedent.

My father, Reverend Theodore Hard, is standing by our car.  I am standing on the porch, right at the place from which I threw the crab apple.  To the right of this picture is the intersection in the story.  The crab apple tree is in the yard behind the house.

Dr. Rodney T. Hard