PLYMOUTH – Walking up and down Main Street at the 9th annual Kielbasa Festival, one thing was missing – mustard seeds.
Back in the day, my mom and dad would make kielbasa for the holidays and mom – Elizabeth Kraszewski O'Boyle – always added mustard seeds to the mix. It was a recipe brought from Poland near Krakow that she stuck to and we all enjoyed every Easter and Christmas.
Just about everybody in our family made kielbasa and all called for mustard seeds.
But the little yellow spicy gems are no longer to be found – at least not in the kielbasa I tasted at the festival.
"The Germans use those," one person told me.
"Only the Lithuanians use mustard seeds," said another.
It's been a long time since I helped turn the handle on the meat grinder as my dad held the casings and my mom mixed the meat filling that became kielbasa, but I miss those little yellow seeds.
As I went from stand to stand, I anticipated looking at each kielbasa sample with the hope that a glimpse of a yellow mustard seed would be there. I didn't find any. My friend Rich Mackiewicz still makes kielbasa at his mom's house in Larksville and they use mustard seeds, but they aren't at the Kielbasa Festival this year.
My weekend wasn't ruined, however, because kielbasa can still taste pretty darned good without the mustard seeds. Judging the Kielbasa Contest was still an honor and a joy that I look forward to each year.
What I realized in my walk down Main Street and Memory Lane, was that much more was missing from my old hometown. The old saying is that you can never go home again, but that isn't true. You can go home, it's just that home may not be what it used to be.
That's the case with Plymouth. The Plymouth Alive organization is doing a great job bringing the town to life with the Kielbasa Festival and other events like sidewalk Christmas trees and window painting. Plymouth is still a good place, despite the rash of recent shootings that have happened there and in other towns. Dwindling tax dollars in these towns have all but eliminated small town police forces and the state police ranks are low. Law enforcement is difficult to adequately accomplish when you don't have law enforcement jobs.
Main Street Plymouth was a vibrant place in the 1960s. Lots of cars and pedestrians and many stores to shop. It was Small Town, USA, back then. Plymouth was no different than any other small town – it had a busy Main Street where you could shop, see a movie, have an ice cream, get a haircut, drink a beer with your friends, and buy a new sofa. It had everything.
And when your day on Main Street was over, you returned to your neighborhood and visited with your friends and played games in the street. The only drive by that occurred was Mister Softee, Dairy Dan or the Good Humor man. Ringing bells or happy music would play as the ice cream truck drove through.
A crowd gathered on Main Street Friday night to listen and dance to Tom Slick and the Thunderbolt Grease Slappers. People of all ages swayed to the music of yesteryear and everybody had fun. Garlic filled the air and bellies were full – the Plymouth Kielbasa Festival was going full throttle.
Chief Myles Collins had extra officers on patrol – just in case. But there were no incidents. In the nine years of the Kielbasa Festival, no major disturbances have occurred – a testament to the borough leaders, police and event organizers.
But that's when I realized what has really changed.
Place the blame wherever you want, but Small Town, USA, just isn't what it used to be. Whether this new world we live in was born out of intolerance, disobedience, bad parenting, lousy music or an extended down economy – we live in fear and we worry about things we never even thought of when we were growing up.
That's when I realized that mustard seeds aren't the only things missing from my hometown.