New Castle News

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February 14, 2014

Gary Church: Dry ice, Ralph Kiner and ‘Popcorn Pete’

NEW CASTLE — I've lost track of most of the kids I grew up with on the West Side.

One of them was Pete Kearns.

Pete lived on Boroline Street, right across the road from the ballfield we all played on.

Thinking of Pete brought back a lot of memories.

The first television I ever saw was at Pete's house. The kids would all gather there at 4:30 p.m. to watch cowboys. The name of the show was “Video Adventures.”

Another thing I remember about his house was, he had a life-sized cutout of Ralph Kiner. At the time, I had no idea who Ralph Kiner was. I've learned a little more about him since then. I guess he played baseball.

Then there was Pete's birthday party I went to, where I actually saw dry ice. I had never seen it before or since.

His dad worked for Sealtest, and kept the ice cream cold in it during the party.

Pete also was our New Castle News paperboy on Bluff Street.

A few months ago, I met Bridgette Williams, a former classmate of Pete's, at Parkstown restaurant. She gave me Pete's e-mail address.

She told me that Pete makes popcorn in Michigan.

Not just any city in Michigan, but in A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H-I got a gal, in Kalamazoo.

Popcorn Pete and I finally connected after 50 years.

Pete informed me that he and his lovely bride, Maureen, are the proud owners of the Kalamazoo Kettlecorn Co. They ship kettle corn all over the United States.

Their slogan, "Popped For You in Kalamazoo."

Maureen must have come up with that because, Pete was more of a ballplayer than a poet.

You will never guess what my old buddy Pete did?

He sent me a care package of the different varieties of kettle corn they make.

I was in ecstasy. I think my wife was a little pumped herself, and she never heard of Pete.

All varieties were delicious, at least the ones I got to taste before my wife downed the package.

I asked Pete how he ended up in Kalamazoo.

He said after living in the rat race in the Washington, D.C., area, he and his wife decided to move to a more peaceful area, where Maureen's parents were from.

Personally, if I decide to get out of the rat race in New Castle, I think I would relocate to an area where the winters aren't as severe as they are in Michigan — maybe like Alaska.

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