Cindy, come redd up these tables with me,” a senior waitress told me during my first “real” job at Bechtel’s Restaurant, in Lewisburg. I had lived in Shamokin, Northumberland County, my whole life, but my family had only recently moved to Mifflinburg, in Union County, and I wasn’t sure what was being asked of me until the waitress grabbed a cloth and started cleaning off some dirty tables. Aha! Redd up — clean up. I found a cloth and hurried to help.
Velcome to Pennsylvania Dutch land, where Wictor lives down in the walley, and the crick is just a little futher along the road. Chakey likes to fish there, still. Ve can go wisit him onct, if you like, but not if you vant to listen to Chunny Cash on the radio — they don’t get good reception down in the walley.
Living in Central Pennsylvania can be a little like stepping into a foreign world sometimes, particularly if you have Old Order Amish neighbors, like I now do, who once (onct?) told a young woman, upon hearing that she was 27 years old and still single (Hey, I was engaged!), “Twenty-seven? Oh, you’re well past, then.” Well past what, I didn’t ask, and really didn’t want to know.
The Pennsylvania Dutch are primarily descended from southern Germany — Deutchland — and the border of Switzerland, and the story I’ve always been told is that, when asked their nationality they would respond, Deutch, or German. To their new fellow-Americans, that sounded like “Dutch,” and they’ve been the Pennsylvania Dutch ever since.
Look for part 2 next week!