I always end up in Warren. Why Warren? I am sure many of you reading at home ask or have asked yourself the same question – whether in general wonderment or exasperation.
I wasn’t born in Warren, but moved here from the Chicago, Ill., area when I was 5.
Why Warren? I recently took two months off of work, thanks to the Family Medical Leave Act, to help my parents through some medical issues; I asked my Mom that very question. She claims it was because my Dad felt that I was going to grow up to be a thug (Apparently a mishap with my snorkel and mask vs. a neighbor kid’s nose who had used my Bigwheel without authorization).
I always figured it was to help my Grandmother, who was living alone after the death of my Grandfather.
Whatever the reason, it was for the best. I could ride my bike all over in the summer. The North Warren Playground was often my destination where we would waste away the day playing Home Run Derby Wiffle Ball or Box Hockey (and under extreme protest participate in forced art projects by the playground counselor) .
In the winter, there was unlimited sledding either at the neighborhood hill, or at Chapman’s Dam.
Then there were the family deer hunts. Once we were “big” enough we could drive deer for our Fathers, Uncles, and Grandfathers – maybe even an Aunt or two. We hunted as a family and shared the bounty as a family. Nothing went to waist. Deer liver and heart were as good as Caviar as far as Gramma Lawson was concerned. She had dibs on both.
As I grew up, I learned to love the outdoors by fishing and hunting either alone or with family. I remember testing the waters as to what I was allowed to do, when at 14 I came home from school and was bored; so I put on my hunting boots, orange vest and hat, grabbed my Stevens single shot 16 gauge and headed out to the woods to hunt grouse, squirrel, or whatever was in season. I made sure to tell Gramma (that’s what I called her), I made sure the gun was unloaded by carrying it with the action open as I had learned from Grampa Bowersox and the Hunter Safety Course I had taken at the Warren Public Library.
Off I would go until I knew I was running out of sufficient light to make my way home. If I was lucky enough to get something, Gram would always check it out, pat me on the back and say, “Clean it outside.”
Gram was a “Depression” child, born in 1911, so by the 1930’s she was painfully aware of the struggles her and others’ families had been through. Nothing went to waste. I eventually stopped shooting squirrels because I really didn’t care for the taste of them.
I took my appreciation for the woods and water to college with me; checking my shotgun and bow at the local police department – yes, the school had guidelines for hunting equipment.
I was fortunate to get to hunt in diverse areas of Pennsylvania by heading home on weekends with buddies who also hunted or fished. But I always came back to Warren for the first day of Buck and the opening day of Trout.
I lived and worked in the Philadelphia area for the better part of 15 years. But I always came back to Warren. Years ago, I honed my fly-fishing casting skills right in the middle of Biddle Street with Gary Kell, and became the fly-fishing guide that I am today because of him.
Most people my age will chuckle when they read this. They don’t chuckle because it’s funny. They chuckle because they know it’s true and have in some form or fashion performed the same pilgrimages as I have.
I describe Warren’s location to people that don’t know where it is by telling them the following: “You know where Erie is right? Well, just to the east, or just to the right, is a county that is mostly all green – National Forest – and right smack dab in the middle (said for effect – not geographic perfection) of the National Forest is a little town called Warren.
We have a major river running through town, that joins up with a pretty sizable creek close to the middle of town , lots of woods around the area, hiking, biking, fishing, camping, etc.
I don’t come back to Warren because of any one of those things. The by-product of those things is the reason I come back.
Family, friends, schoolmates. The same reason you either have done the same, or made the decision to remain here and raise your families here. Warren isn’t a perfect Utopia, but it is familiar. I know where stuff is. I know where people are. The people that are nearest and dearest to me are here day in and day out.
Teaching your children, patrolling the streets to keep them safe, fighting wars in far-off lands, answering the fire whistle at 3 a.m., building businesses to provide us with a living – doing all of the hard things day in and day out that make this town what it is.
That’s Why Warren.