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A ghost reappears from Gay Street past

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By W.B. Evans

Sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, we were indeed waiting our turn.

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I glanced up to see a ghost from my past, whom I hadn’t seen since making the final arrangements for my mother and father so many years ago.

My son was oblivious to the man’s presence and was engrossed in a story about the recreational upgrades for Indian Land in Wednesday’s copy of The Lancaster News.

I nudged my boy and asked, “Hey, you know who that fella is?”

My son’s reply was a rather curt, “No.”

Oh well, his loss, I thought.

I couldn’t help but smile. The years have been kind to this friend from my past. 

The man’s eyes still sparkled and his lips still had a devil-may-care curl.

However, his once-blond hair looked like Jack Frost had dusted it on a cold winter morning.

With nothing better to do, it gave me an opportunity to clear out some cobwebs and roll one of those films stored on the dusty shelves of a brain that is no longer interested in the daily operations of a major corporation.

That’s one of the privileges reserved for us great-grandpas.

I closed my eyes for a few minutes to recall a booming uptown Lancaster alive with car and foot traffic.

Now, I learned early on it was much safer to stay on the Mackey Drug side of Gay Street than on the Bank of Lancaster side.

That’s because this old friend was the scourge of the block.

For years, he ruled the roost from the corner of Gay and Main, all the way down to Catawba Street.

From early morning to almost 4 p.m., this tricycle-riding little terror – who was being raised by a local businessman and his wife in a Christian home – had every opportunity to be kind and considerate to folks strolling the sidewalks.

However, like most pint-sized gremlins we read about, he chose the sidewalk less walked, and for good reason.

He developed into a textbook example of what happens when kids are taunted by teenagers, fellas in the chairs at Steve Ghent’s barber shop, young ambulance drivers, Victory Cab Company drivers, along with sassy telephone operators at Lancaster Telephone.

Constantly teased, he grew from a sweet, little blond-haired boy into the the “Terror of Gay Street.”

That tricycle became his weapon of choice. With little or no provocation, he would zero you into his handlebar-mounted sights and run you down. Shucks, the terror had the respect of everybody.

He had quite a reputation. 

Brave high school student athletes often crossed the street to avoid the wrath of this young warrior. Why, men confined in the county jail down the block, would yell out the upstairs windows to ask passersbys if the little boy with the tricycle was still patrolling the sidewalk.

After graduating from high school and entering the military for 10 long years, the “Terror of Gay Street” disappeared from my thoughts until class reunion time rolled around.

You know, at every reunion, the little boy on the tricycle and his antics would get mentioned.

Years passed by and the deaths of my parents brought me considerable sorrow. On both occasions, the “Terror of Gay Street” – now a grown man, but still sporting locks of blond hair, twinkling eyes and thin lips, showed a compassion and understanding I didn’t expect.

I looked up in the waiting room to see the terror disappear from view. I wondered what ever became of that tricycle.

Yep, the “Terror of Gay Street” has grown up.

Bless Pete, we all do. But the days of his youth and mine are still recalled with a guarded fondness.

Good luck and best wishes, Snooks Cauthen.

We were old Lancaster and yes, I really miss it, too.