skew * four *  march '95

The Sections Out in the middle of... nowhere?
Not really.

by Anabella Wewer

A year ago, I had never heard of the Pennsylvania Dutch, not really. I had heard of the Amish, but I have recently found out that most of what I had heard was inaccurate. Beyond that, my knowledge of Pennsylvania was pretty much limited to the historical events that made Philadelphia "the cradle of liberty". Since moving to the United States twelve years ago, I had learned a little about the Quakers, and I knew William Penn to be a pioneer in finding a new land for those seeking religious freedom in the times of King George II. Most of that knowledge came from having lived in Rhode Island, where similarities between Penn and Roger Williams are often drawn.

[ Deitch ] As life would have it, through a series of events, I ended up moving to Pennsylvania seven months ago. Prior to that, I had come in contact with someone of PA Dutch descent, so I had heard of hex signs as something people put on their barns, but the reason wasn't very clear. I heard of food I couldn't pronounce, and I was intrigued by all the names of cities and towns that kept popping up in conversation, all ending in "ville" or "town".

I seem to have a natural affinity for historical facts, and I'm always fascinated by the history of places - what makes them be what they are, why people do the things they do. But the reasons that brought me to Pennsylvania kept me too busy to learn all about these things of which I had briefly heard, and well, it's winter, and I figured I'd get to it this spring or summer.


Still, here I am, smack in the middle of Pennsylvania Dutch Country. That is not apparent in my everyday life. I do drive through corn fields every day, but they are the kind of corn fields that have barely escaped the advances of "civilization"; small, without barns by them, much less hex signs. I guess whoever owns those fields drives over, plants their stuff, and comes back to visit it later. That still amuses me almost every day, though, for the smallest city I had ever lived in previously had 1 million people, and corn fields (or wheat fields, vineyards or cattle ranches, as the case may be) were miles and miles away. [ PA Dutch Barn ]

Although not in my face all the time, I have been aware of the PA Dutch "thing" all around me. I have met wonderful people who are Dutch, and have also struggled to understand the heavy accents, or the seemingly mangled "English" of those who own shops or are the older relatives of my friends. And I know that if I drive ten minutes out of Allentown, I'll be in the midst of real corn fields; the ones that seem to expand over the horizon, with a proper barn, and those quaint signs painted over them. I have, but that was just that; quaint, unfamiliar, exciting in the same sort of way that made me go hunting through the cementeries of Boston until I found Paul Revere's resting place, or driving up and down the New England coast looking for light houses. Just to know; just because they are there; because they have withstood the passage of time.
Story continues.

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