Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Crowded lawn speaks to town's good spirit
CANONSBURG, Pa. – The jumbled assortment of lawn ornaments outside Canonsburg’s borough building could rival the number in a national park.
There’s a flagpole donated by the Jewish community in 1941, a dozen American flags, five lampposts, more than 20 shrubs, four plastic park benches, a fire department bell and hundreds of memorial bricks in this Pennsylvania lawn. The list goes on and on.
If this keeps up, there won’t be a blade of grass left in the postage-stamp-sized lot that pays testament to a small town with more community pride than a major metropolis.
A covered-over lawn would be fine for me because 68 E. Pike St. is my favorite place in Washington County, one that can bring out a smile, even on the gloomiest days.
It’s the life-size statue of 5-foot-6-inch homegrown crooner Perry Como, and especially his songs broadcast over a loudspeaker, that seal its special place atop my list of happy places.
Sure, it’s funny that the microphone on the granite statue looks more like an ice cream cone aimed at the lips of Como, who died in 2001 shy of his 89th birthday. He didn’t live long enough to see, up close, his likeness that was created in stone in 1999.
But the music is the punch line, especially on days when Como can be heard belting out “Papa Loves Mambo” when it’s my turn to rummage through the borough police reports.
The recordings fill the air, thanks to the ingenuity of borough manager Terry Hazlett, who made national headlines and drew many chuckles in the fall of 2002, when he turned the masterpiece into the “The Singing Statue.”
The first rows of the memorial bricks around its base were reserved for relatives of the former barber who became one of the most successful television hosts of a musical variety show.
It seems that nearly every Canonsburg family has left its name on something outside the building – Italians, Greeks, the Irish, the Polish.
These hard-working families, symbolic of America’s melting pot, are what make the borough of 8,600 residents so special, Hazlett said.
“You talk about family names – some of them are 100, 200 years old,” he said. “It really is home to certain families.”
And on the music front, they have more than Como to brag about. Bobby Vinton grew up there and went on to have a string of hits in the 1960s that made him the “most successful love singer of the rock era.” A popular vocal group, The Four Coins, also consisted of members from Canonsburg.
These are among the reasons why Canonsburg hosts the county’s largest Fourth of July parade and the sixth-largest Oktoberfest in the United States.
Yet, Hazlett has looked outside his office window toward the lawn and thought it looked a mess because nothing was staged with any rhyme or reason.
“It is overwhelming,” he said.
But if council ever considered moving anything out to make room for more grass, it would meet with resistance, Hazlett said.
“The people wear Canonsburg on their sleeve. It’s apparent by the front lawn on the borough building.”