A quite enjoyable if occasionally hazy memoir of Altick's youth in Pennsylvania Dutch Country during the 1920's and 30's. While giving a historical overview and profile of Lancaster County's ``plain people,'' the Amish and Mennonite population that the rural area is known for, Altick (Deadly Encounters, 1986, etc.; English/Ohio State) offers a detailed look at Lancaster City itself. With a population of 60,000 (the ``German element predominated'') between the wars, Lancaster, proud of being ``a miniature Philadelphia,'' was a rich amalgam of small town and modern city ``with roots in 18th century soil.'' Laid out in 1730 by Scotch-Irish settlers and at one time the country's largest inland city, Lancaster was far enough (70 miles) from the metropolis to develop independently but, connected by the Philadelphia Pike and by railroad, was not cut off from notions of progress and modernity. Altick's most vivid recollections are of the sights, sounds, and smells: the trolley cars; the aftermath of a thunderstorm in Buchanan Park that left dripping trees and ``cleansed air''; the red-brick houses with slate roofs and iron railings; shoofly pie, pot cheese, and chicken corn soup. His memories of working as an announcer at radio station WGAL and of spending night shifts at the local Gulf station reading Whitman, Forster, and Max Beerbohm provide humorous interludes. But Altick often stumbles when he relies solely on his personal memory and fails to do basic research: for example, he recalls a Greek family but forgets ``whether they ran a shoeshine parlor or the Red Rose Cafe,'' and cites renowned Franklin and Marshall College alumni, including an ``Oscar- winning director'' and ``the great editor of the Adams family papers,'' without providing their names. Still, overall, amusing and pleasant remembrances.
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