All of York City was like this once, if the nostalgic ruminations of Generation X's grandparents are to be believed.
Each little neighborhood had a heart, a center of the community that wiped the noses of children that weren't its own and shoveled snow beyond the boundaries of personal responsibility. People did things because they were right and they were neighborly.
Ed and Anna Mae Follers' five-bedroom duplex on Wallace Street was a hub of the city's blue collar northeast, a place where the number of children in the backyard swimming pool most often exceeded the number of Foller offspring: six.
Ed Foller was an industrial union man who kept the romance alive by physically hoisting Anna Mae into his arms and carrying her up to their bed every night before he left to work the late shift at Acco Chain.
He sometimes worked more than two jobs at once to provide for the family, yet there were times when his efforts fell short and folly found him.
He once had to drive home from Hallam in a tilted station wagon filled from front seat to hatchback with sweet corn someone had given him.
He also once spent more than an hour trapped, naked and pruning, in his swimming pool in the middle of the night after a scorching day at work, because a neighbor unexpectedly turned on an outdoor light.
Anna Mae Foller kept the home fire burning and can boast that, of all the neighborhood children to whom she attended, only one "went bad." For decades she was the delegator of the family, standing by the door with outstretched hand on his every payday.
To this day she gives him only 33 cents allowance per month. It's a stipend he explains, with the tone of a lottery winner, he gives away because he doesn't want the burden of worrying over it.
— — — — —
Anna Mae grew up at 736 E. King St., across the street from Ed Foller at 735 E. King St.
The two played together as children until he moved away after World War II. They met up again as teens at a theater in York City, but she decided he was "roly-poly" and wanted nothing to do with him. But another few years would pass before a cheating boyfriend left her single, and her little friend from the old neighborhood had grown into a strong and "sexy" man.
She can still remember the yellow dress shirt he was wearing the day she looked at him "that way."
But her parents looked at him a whole other way. Her mother disapproved of Ed Foller and was under the impression he was a troublemaker because he always sat on the roof of his house assembling model airplanes as a child. Also complicating matters, Ed Foller's grandfather had run off with Anna Mae's grandmother.
But the two finally married in 1953, moving their growing family to Wallace Street in 1958.
— — — — —
These days, an electric chair lift is the only way anyone gets carried up the stairs. Anna Mae is 77 and Ed is 80, and the house is fuller and emptier than it's ever been.
The kids have long moved on, but some of their stuff hasn't. Among what's left behind are four bottles of Honey Brown beer a granddaughter put in the refrigerator 15 years ago. Collectors of things, the couple laughs while surveying their close but tidy surroundings.
They've changed, and their neighborhood has changed.
The children still come out to play, but the parents stay inside.
Motorists speeding down the alley display a specific finger when Ed Foller tells them to slow down.
Many of their old friends moved and the houses of Wallace Street were converted to apartments, but the Follers have stayed and continue to fight for their neighborhood. Anna Mae Foller said she realizes some of the best times in their lives are just times remembered, but this still is and will continue to be home.
When a 2011 fire destroyed some row houses on the block, the couple lobbied city officials to be diligent about addressing the nuisances they caused. Strange odors. People with questionable intent entering the properties. Bugs, and an unsightly mess.
The couple was one of the inspirations for a recently introduced anti-blight bill from state Rep. Kevin Schreiber, D-York City. The legislation is intended to give municipalities more resources to clean up properties that have been damaged by incidents such as fire.
"They kept us on our toes and kept us moving forward," said Schreiber, who on Tuesday brought the couple to tears when he presented a citation from the House of Representatives, honoring their 60-year marriage.
The couple lived on Wallace Street for decades, raised a family and worked in the city, and their commitment to the city is much like their commitment to their marriage, he said.
"They have a commitment to the community that's binding and unwavering," he said. "They personify the Greatest Generation, and they remind me of my grandparents."
After many thanks, Anna Mae Foller said now Schreiber just has to work on reducing property taxes.
— Reach Christina Kauffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.