Stories of What It’s Like Returning Home After 25 Years

by dave ammenheuser

Norman Feldser, my former scoutmaster of Thurmont Troop 270, and I reconnected this winter when his wife, Gloria, called to ask if the antique furniture my late parents had in their living room was available.

It was.

One of the silver linings of clearing my parents’ estate has been seeing friends, classmates, and neighbors whom I have not seen in several decades.

Quickly for those of you catching up: My parents, John and Elizabeth Ammenehuser, died in 2020. I recently left my long-time sports journalism career to return to Thurmont to take care of their estate, their house, and their beloved possessions.

Growing up in Thurmont in the 1970s, I had many mentors and friends who helped mold me into the person I became and prepared me for the career that I sought.

Norman was one of them.

Affectionately known then as “Alka” by his teenage troop members (Alka Seltzer, Norman Feldser, get it?), he had a major impact on my life.

I looked forward to the Thursday night Scout meetings, the monthly hiking trips, and the summer camps and jamborees. In 1976, as our country celebrated its 200th birthday, Norman and I and other Frederick County Scouts were on a bus traveling to Cimarron, New Mexico, for a rugged 14-day hike at the Philmont Scout Ranch. It was the best summer of my young life.

In 1977, he helped me attain the prestigious rank of Eagle Scout, just the third in Thurmont’s history at that time. I’m pleased to hear that he’s still involved in Scouting and has helped hundreds of others across the region achieve the same lofty rank.

And that antique furniture? It’s now in the home of Gloria’s daughter, Bonnie, a high school friend of mine. Norman and Bonnie carried it out of my parents’ home near Creagerstown. And Norman and I agreed to catch up soon to retell stories of our past.

But, he wasn’t the only recent reunion.

Jane Nicholson was the first familiar face to drop by. She and her husband bought some old metal milk cans that my parents had on their front porch.

“Do you recognize me?” she asked.

“Sorry, I don’t … it must be the mask covering your face,” I responded, trying not to embarrass either one of us.

Then she said, “Jane Hill!”

Ahh, Nicholson was her married name. Yes, it was Jane Hill from our Catoctin High Class of 1980. Her long hair should’ve been the giveaway. I sold her the cans for less than the market value. It’s not the cash that counts. It’s the memories and knowing the items are staying in the community.

Jackie Campbell, mother to my high-school classmate, John, bought an antique marble table. She reached out later, seeking a VCR to watch some of John’s old basketball and baseball tapes that had been stored on VHS tapes. It took me a while, but I found one in a closet (next to an 8-track player). It’s in her home now. Hopefully, those movies bring back the same warm memories that I have of our Cougar teams.

Another classmate, Jimmy Rickerd, reached out to ask about a portable heater that I had posted on Facebook Marketplace. “It would be perfect in my greenhouse,” he said in a text.

Jimmy and I have been friends on Facebook for many years. I’ve enjoyed reading about his musical career and his annual tomato harvest. We’d only seen each other a couple of times since graduation day in 1980.

Jimmy’s father, Austin, died in 2018. His father and my mother worked together for decades at Moore’s Business Forms.

So, when Jimmy inquired about the heater, of course, I immediately told him it was his. No charge. Just give me a few of those ‘maters when they are ready this spring.

That’s what friends do. No matter how long it’s been since we last saw one another. No matter the differences in our political beliefs. Or, that one guy decided to stay in his hometown while the other chose to move away.

It’s good to know you can always come home. And your friends are still there.

Bonnie Horn and Norman Feldser carry antique furniture from Dave Ammenheuser’s parents’ home earlier this winter.

Photo by Dave Ammenheuser

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