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Celebrating the Fourth on the Third in Altoona, PA

Celebrating the Fourth on the Third in Altoona, PA

Old Jul 5th, 2009, 01:31 PM
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Amy
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Celebrating the Fourth on the Third in Altoona, PA

This started out as a messing-around type thing in the Lounge (where you're going, where you've been type), but I decided to take this seriously and give y'all a portrait of a not-too-frequently-trip-reported type trip.

We left Philadelphia late afternoon on Wednesday, my sister, BIL, the three kids, and me, to visit my other sister and BIL in Altoona. Taking kids there is kinda like taking coals to Newcastle, but the cousins all have a wonderful time together.

Traveling up the PA turnpike for four hours is a triumph of scenery-- Hey, it's trees! And more trees! Look, it's a cow! Ulp, they've just fertilized the fields!-- and cuisine: We can stop at Roy Rogers. Didn't they close up, oh, about five years ago? Not on the timewarp known as the turnpike, they didn't! But we didn't make it to Roy's, instead getting Burger King, a feast for the discriminating palate matched only by the cheerful service that would put Disney to shame if Disney decided to stop using their perky people and start using the Wicked Stepmother and Evil Queen characters.

You get to go through tunnels about 2/3 of the way up, which is cool because of course the idea is to hold your breath through the whole tunnel. Of course, you don't really want the driver to be doing that. But the tunnels mean you're now in the mountains, so to speak, or at least the foothills. From the Bedford exit, it's about half an hour on the I-99 highway, a ride which used to be much longer and take you through some backwoods kinda mountain towns but now just takes you past a few good views of the valleys and hidden state patrol cars. (Don't speed on I 99. Seriously. I'm telling you this for your own good. Plus deer tend to pop out here.)

We arrived at Sis's house and got the grand welcome with rugrats hurtling themselves at our knees. The Princess (3) was delighted to see us all, but Baby J (18 months) was already asleep. She made up for it the next day, though. She's a piece of work little chica who remembers just how to play patty-cake with Aunt Amy (she gives me a big hug at the end) and how to communicate her wishes very effectively with all of us.

Altoona time is laid-back, so on Thursday it was fairly late when we leisurely went to the Logan Valley Mall (partly destroyed by fire in 1994, and I actually hadn't been back since it was rebuilt) to pick up a few things, and then to Sam's Club for vast quantities of food for the Third of July Fourth celebration. The traffic was insane, with shoppers galore; Altoona, moving rather slowly, never became a big part of the real estate bubble and hence isn't having as bad a time now with the economy. (That had happened to it with the end of railroading/coal as a way of life, a number of years ago. Altoona was, in fact, built as a railroad town, and one of the highlights is the World Famous Horseshoe Curve. For realz: their minor league baseball team is even called the Curve. I used to have a great time as a teenager at the curve, but they've fancied it up a bit since then. It's still pretty cool, though: http://www.northeast.railfan.net/horseshoe.html )

Up early the next morning (yup, all of us stayed there: the next night, more (local) cousins joined the party; my sister has a very expandable house) to prepare for the picnic in the yard, which included a few more families. It was only in the 60's, so not too much could be done in the swimming line, but there was volleyball and basketball and swings and a Little Tykes car for Baby J and rockers and gliders and a some big picnic tables and...food. Which needs its own paragraph. (deep breath)

Hotdogs, hamburgers, chili, sauerkraut, macaroni salad, potato salad, deviled eggs (48--I made them), lettuce, tomato, cantaloupe, strawberries, cherries, fruit dip, potato chips, chip dip, cheese, and then dessert: brownies, peanut butter squares, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate cookie dough brownies, strawberry pretzel jello (absolutely something we had to have for my BIL the high-end caterer; he can't imagine how we can even eat it--by the way, the pretzel bit is the crust, then a cream cheese-y layer, then strawberries in jello), cheesecake, and of course the whole Pepsi pantheon plus sweet tea.

Everybody ate mightily for about the space of an hour, then packed all the kids into assorted cars and vans and went to Lakemont, the area amusement park, for fireworks.

A good time was had by all!

(Oh, and trip home: same, same, reverse, no Burger King.)
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Old Jul 5th, 2009, 05:09 PM
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LOL
This was just so funny and charming and sweet ! and funny ...

I loved the scenery and where to eat parts and the patty caking baby part and the expandable house and then the park the fireworks and a good time was had by all.
Isn't that just great?

The trip home sounded good, we never want anything unexpected to come up on the way home

I loved this lol .... thank you for posting .
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Old Jul 6th, 2009, 10:12 AM
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Hi Amy, sounds like a very fun family time and oh my, you all certainly had a lot of food! And 48 deviled eggs, that is a lot of work! Thanks for sharing..your mini trip report gave me a good smile!
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Old Jul 6th, 2009, 10:37 AM
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Amy - Altoona is my hometown, so I'm glad you described it kindly. I have very fond memories of a small town with pretty streets, and probably a lot of it is still like that except where I grew up, near the Altoona Hospital/Strohman Bakery, which has turned into a disgusting slum with what look like several crack houses per block. The malls in the Logan Valley keep growing larger, and Lakemont Park has changed a lot since my childhood, but I still travel to Altoona to see relatives and eat at the old places (Luigetta's for their great hoagies, and Texas Hot Dogs for the best hot dog with chili sauce that you'll ever encounter!).

I'm glad you and your family had a great Fourth of July reunion!
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Old Jul 6th, 2009, 02:54 PM
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Twina49, so cool to meet an Altoonan on here! (Altoonite?) Do you remember Pappy's, the pizza joint/pub that was the only thing besides bars, Denny's, or King's open on a late Saturday night, and when Lakemont was Boyer's Candyland, and when there weren't any street signs 'cause everybody there knew where they were? (I've been going to Altoona since 1982, and there have indeed been a few changes. ) I love some of the old houses, beautiful architectural detail.
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Old Jul 6th, 2009, 05:38 PM
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Amy - where was Pappy's located? I mostly remember Pal Minos pizza. I also remember the dismay when Boyer's bought Lakemont Park and proceeded to cut down 90% of the big, old, beautiful trees! The AAHS senior after-proms were always held at the Casino at Lakemont. The downtown area is not at all what it used to be, either. Most the stores went out to the malls and left the downtown a wasteland. Gables Department Store was the big draw when I was growing up.
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Old Jul 6th, 2009, 06:31 PM
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Hmmmm, Pappy's....Plank Road area, maybe? (They really didn't have any street signs back then! ) And I'm baaaad with directions. It had a great jukebox and a fireplace. I'm sad it's gone. It is a pity about the downtown, too; they've tried a lot, but wasteland is a pretty good description. I come in by train on occasion, and have wandered the area, but there's not a whole lot there. Oh, and the Meadows--there was a pajama party there where you could do your $1 mini golf and get a $1 sundae between midnight and 1AM on Saturday morning; I didn't do it, but the older nieces and nephews did. But I've gone to the Meadows (and done midnight bowling, I forget which lanes--for Pepsi) a lot in the past. And I love reading the Altoona Mirror, too: "The bride carried a single orchard."
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Old Jul 6th, 2009, 07:57 PM
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Amy - do you remember (or have you ever heard of) Tom & Joe's diner in downtown Altoona? It's still there, complete with the miniature jukeboxes beside the booths, and they still serve the best cinnamon rolls in town! My half-sister has a photo of when her mother worked there in the 1940's. It's also right around the corner from the original Texas Hot Dog shop (it's been featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives), plus Obama stopped there when he was campaigning in Altoona.
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Old Jul 6th, 2009, 08:05 PM
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Wow, I shall have to check out Tom & Joe's, as well as the hot dog shop. I didn't spend much time in town ever, more along the Pleasant Valley Blvd. area. In town there was a second-hand store (Sally's Attic, maybe?) that was pretty cool, but we usually just popped in there on our way to the yard sales. Yard sales in the 80's up there were great, pre-eBay days when you could get depression glass for a quarter. (I was a somewhat unusual teenager.)
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Old Jul 7th, 2009, 05:52 AM
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You're close - it's Sandy's Closet, and it's across the street from Texas Hot Dogs and around the corner from Tom & Joes. From what I heard, Sandy's husband was/is a physician, so she got all her friends with really nice clothes to put them in her consignment shop, so you usually can find some fairly nice stuff there.
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