Children don’t forget.

Right before my parents split up and my mother dumped all 5 us in Sacred Heart Home. My younger brother Patrick was too young and was put out for adoption right away and the youngest brother, Bobby who had Down's Syndrome was disposed of a few years before in a special home for broken babies.

Right before my parents split up and my mother dumped all 5 us in Sacred Heart Home. My younger brother Patrick was too young and was put out for adoption right away and the youngest brother, Bobby who had Down’s Syndrome was disposed of a few years before in a special home for broken babies.

Children don’t forget

“I was born and bred in the Lehigh Valley. Born at Easton Hospital and raised on the South-side of Easton on Wilkes-Barre Street for most of my childhood years. That was my permanent residence with my grandmother and my father who was going through a bunch of a mess relationally with his marriages and relationships. Most of my actual residence living however, was at the Sacred Heart Home and School for Children in Coopersburg, PA., and a couple of foster homes along the way too. My brother and I spent approximately 8 years in the children’s home until we finally went home for good in 1973 when I was 12 years old.” Richie “Rich” Merritt

“Indeed, I remember that linen closet and the plastic jump rope that was used to administer punishment. I remember a boy by the name of Curtis B., a tough fighter who I remember having a singing voice best described like the sound of a buzz saw when singing in the choir. One day, Curtis did something wrong that warranted him to become a victim of the linen closet. When Curtis emerged from the linen closet, he had welts down the side of his leg that amazingly spelled the word “ball”. As children, we were so amazed by this gruesome anomaly and we all marched Curtis over to the nun who administered the punishment on poor Curtis. The nun (whose name I cannot remember), upon seeing Curtis’s leg and the word ball written in black and blue welts, sternly told Curtis that it meant for him to get on the ball. I think I never really cared for playing jump rope ever since. I also remember acquiring a fond taste for black pepper, as it was also used as a means to punish those of us who had a propensity to offend nuns with unwanted questions and/or statements. I also remember having my arm nearly twisted off in the laundry room by a nun, while my sister Charlene, who was working in the laundry room at the time, stood watching in helpless horror. I received this punishment for throwing a snowball.” Dean Rooks

“I was there from 1947 to 1959. I remember Eugene Scrivanek and his sister, John and Joan Miller, the Dutkos. I remember Stanley ( was my best buddy) & Mickey Herman. I remember the place fondly, though Sr Bonita used to take me to the linen closet so often I had calluses on my rear end. I vaguely remember when their were no brick buildings, just the barns and houses and we built the school and church and dormitories. I remember Sacred Heart fondly but haven’t been back there in quite a while. I remember, “Donation Day”? in the summer every year and the Christmas pagent in Rockne Hall in Allentown every Christmas, using divining rods to find water before digging the pool, the pool was half paved and half mud bottomed. Neat place that Sacred Heart. I do remember the room you are talking about where the kids would go with their parents to pick out candy and maybe a soda from the display on the table. I remember Mother Alfreda used to slip me a candy bar.
That room, was actually in a converted barn that was part of the original residence. That barn also was the original chapel. Of course, it was all torn down to make room for the new dining hall and dormitory.” Nick Langston

“One morning in August 1960, my mother said, “Hey, let’s go for a walk”. After some distance, she stopped and said to me, “Open the door and take your sister Theresa in with you. Tell the nice lady your names. I’ll be back in a little while.” Jaye was five months old then, and came some months later. I did what I was told. The building I walked into was the Catholic Welfare Services. And that night was the first night of the 1,l00 days that I resided at that orphanage. Each day seemed like a week, each week seemed like a month, each month seemed like a year, and each year seemed like a lifetime.” Christine Miller

“My aunt put my cousins in there in the early 70’s and I remember going to visit them there amd they hated it.It looks run down but every time i pass I remember how sad I felt to leave my cousins who were innocent victims of my aunt.” Carol K

“I also took many a trip to the linen closet for knocking off the habits of many of the nuns, by accident of course.” Lyn Hertzog

“I hated that home and was devastated when my dad would come from phila every two weeks for visiting days. sister bonita, sister,petra,sixth grade, sister ernelda. i know that thehome was clean but it was not a home. my family has never healed from the beatings.” Eileen Slaughter

“When I went to the home in 1939, it was only a few years in existence. I was at the Sacred Heart Home from 1939 to 1947,and remember it well, altho I don’t have pictures. The brick building, the ‘Boys’ house was built during that time. We cleaned up the barns and other buildings for the school and church, and I remember serving Mass almost every day. Some names I remember are Flately, Jones, Schadel and the caretaker Mr. Coudriet, His son became an actor in Hollywood. I remember Sister Itwara, Sister Boromeo and a Sister Leonciona, I think was her name. she was in charge of the kitchen. I also remember the boys building being built. Originally the basement had a large play room with a stage on one side and a storage room on the other side. The main floor had the dining room, the skullery and the kitchen and the second floor had two rooms for boys, younger on one side and older on the other. We farmed the fields behind the school all the way to the car tracks.” Rudy

“I remember taking accordin lessons and Larence Welk and his whole tv show came to the home and put on a show in the gym and we played our accordins for them. We all got to meet Larence Welk and the Lennon sisters and there whole show members.what an experience that was. I,ll never forget that.” Rosemarie Makuski

“I also remember there was an individual that used to sleep on his hands and knees and violently rock himself to sleep at night. So much so, that his bed would move 10 to 15 feet from where it started, and one could never be quite sure where you would find him and his bed in the morning. ” Dean Rooks

“Myself and my brother were only there temporarily in 1947, while my parents tried to find a place for us to live after my Dad’s return from WWII. ” Rita

“I was around 6yrs old. I remember mother Alfreda (not sure I spelled that correctly. I remember being sized for socks (does anyone remember how that was done?), the shoe room near the gym, the swimming and fishing pond, playing baseball without bats (using our fists) and a few other things. Does anyone remember the Halloween parades we marched and participated in? Does anyone remember the big meteor that flew past one summer?
I remember some of my occasional charges involved polishing hundreds of shoes, dishwasher duty, cleaning scoff marks off the gym floor (they would line us up in a row and give us a tooth brush & paste balls made of Ajax). I remember drinking black tea and cornbread, and that one had to act quick when the bowls of food arrived and were placed in the middle of the table.
Here is a funny story that I will share…..
As I had mentioned the shoe room earlier, there may be some that don’t remember that it was a room where hundreds of assorted shoes were deposited into a big pile, and one had to go through them to find a matching pair that fit; consequentially, I seldom had shoes that fit. Anyway, next to the home, on the other side of the street was a golf course, and we use to occasionally go over and find golf balls to bring back to the big courtyard and play wall ball (using the big brick walls of the gym)…
On one occasion, a few others and myself had gone over to acquire some golf balls, and in the process of our covert actions we were discovered and chased by big men in a golf cart. We all ran in the direction of the home, and because my shoes never fit, both of them immediately flew off of my feet and high into the air… Never to be seen again. It must have been a hilarious sight (for those who were chasing us), that is, to watching me leap out of my shoes in fright!!! ” Dean Rooks

“I remember the gym, creek, dorms with long rows of beds and a little set of drawers next to each. I remember movie night and those stainless steel pitchers full of drink. I remember being dropped off at the the school in the office, which was just inside the front doors and crying my eyes out. I also remember alot of crying at night in he dorm rooms after lights out, even though one of the Nuns would sit there in a chair for quite awhile until, I guess, we were asleep.” Greg Casamassa

“me and my brother were the only african americans at the home during our stay which was in the late 60’s early 70’s. I remember my introduction to Mother Alfreda and to Sister Ernelda who was in charge of the girls dorm. I know the answer to the person who was asking how we were measured for socks…we had to ball up our fist and the heel of the sock and the top met and that was your fit. does anyone remember the carnival like fair we put on the second sunday of august when the tents went up on the property of the home….i even remember the mans name mr. dematrovoich he had a daughter named marilyn to me she looked like a shirley temple and i mean that in a good way i can still see her.” Audrey Allen

Advertisements
Larence Welk comes to Sacred Heart Home

Larence Welk comes to Sacred Heart Home

Does anyone remember taking accordin lessons and larence welk and his whole tv show came to the home and put on a show in the gym and we played our accordins for them. we all got to meet larence welk and the lennon sisters and there whole show members.what an experience that was. i,ll never forget that.does anyone have a video of that i wonder? rosemarie makuski

Larence Welk

Larence Welk

Kathy W. tells her story.

Kathy W.  tells her story.

Kathy O’Connell drew this little cartoon of Kathy W. after hearing her story.

Today on the Sacred Heart School and Home Facebook page we were told another child’s story about her 9 year stay in the “home”.

Kathy ( not Kathy Roman/ O’Connell) wrote to me and shared her experiences.

Kathy said, “I was there from 1953-1963???  My brother, and sister were there also. But they came there later than me. I remember Sister Enelda who was in charge of the girls dorm and Sister Evara who was the nurse and of course Mother Alfreda. My sister was the most unliked girl there…including by me. She was a tattleteller and often would teach the same class she was in. Her name is Darleene. She was responsible for me and i hated it! She was so mean. lol 
I was the first girl to work in the kitchen, I made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I really liked doing that. It made me feel important. My brother worked in the kitchen too. We got along great! 
I was always sick too. Had all the childhood diseases there as well as Scarlet Fever and RheumaticFever. Hated to be locked up in the infirmary alone – isolated from everyone. I remember one time i had to use the bathroom down by the pool and there were girls in there. Well my sister took me there and the girls in the bathroom were smoking and they wouldn’t let us in (because of my sister) so we were pushing our way in and my thumb got caught in the hinge side of the door and i screamed so loud that Mother Superior came down from the school to see what the matter was. I ended up in the hospital for a very long time. So having a sister like i did was not the best thing being there. My brother smoked and he would do most of his smoking behind the school near the grounds keepers house where the garbage and incinerator was. Anyway, the only reason i was able to leave there was because the school was closing down. My grandparents agreed to take me in.”

The Marble Statue and lessons in love.

jesus

I had always lived in very small towns. A bar and a church were all the towns had. But then, what else do you need? I usually lived with the minister of the one church, at least until he kicked me out for some offense or other. Like one time I got kicked out because I liked to wear two different colored sox. They said I was a bad influence on their children. So Christian of them to take me in, too bad there god didn’t give them the strength to tolerate my little quirks. But I never really minded, because it just meant a new adventure, new people to meet, new places to see. Although just last night, I dreamed that the very same Lutheran minister that threw me out because of my sox, was at my door. He came in and apologized. He gave me a huge bear hug. I stayed in his arms and felt the warmth and love. It felt good. So maybe it did bother me a little. Maybe as a child I did wish some of these foster parents would love me, just a little. Wouldn’t it have been nice if I could of felt that no matter what I did, I would still be loved and cared for? But that was not the reality of my childhood. I knew that what I did, how I acted, what I said did matter very much. My actions decided if I got to eat or not. What I said decided if I had a place to sleep at night. My quirks decided if I would be packing my boxes once again. I went to a different school every year. I lived in an orphanage a good part of my younger years. Actually, that was easier. The nuns at the orphanage would just beat me in the linen closet if I did some offense, not kick me out in the cold. Like the time I painted the imported Italian marble statue of Jesus with flowers and grass. I rubbed red flowers on his toenails. I love red toenails. I have red toenails now. Football head wanted to do it too but I said no so he went and told on me. Mother Superior came sailing down the garden path with murder in her eye. “How dare you deface the son of God!” she screamed.

I replied timidly, “I just wanted to make him pretty. He’s all white!. He needed some color!”

“This statue cost thousands of dollars! It is imported italian marble. The Pope himself blessed it.You have ruined it. Your father will have to pay for this!”, said Mother Superior putting her ugly face close to mine.

I thought to myself, “Good luck, lady. If you can find my father, let me know. I have a few things I’d like to talk to him about myself.” She slapped me across the face as though she knew what I was thinking. She just kept slapping me till I fell to the ground sobbing. One thing I learned from all the beating I received in “The Linen Closet” was after a few hits- cry and cry loud and hard. They won’t stop hitting till they are sure you are hurt. The only way they can know you are hurt is to cry dramatically. Some kids think they want to save their dignity and not shed a tear no matter how many times they are hit with a piece of garden hose. They make it a battle of the wills. All that does is prolong the beating and guaranteed that the nun will be on the look out for any excuse to beat you again. My brother was like that. He was so proud. A Nun would beat and beat him until welts would swell up red and angry on his arms and legs. But he would just stand there not flinching with a smug smile on his face, just to drive those nuns crazy. Finally the nun would stop and put down the hose tired from the effort.

“Go! Get out of my sight!”, she would scream,”Next time I will let Sister Edwards beat you, she is as strong as two men. She’ll wipe that grin off you face.” The point is: they may have beat us and never loved us but we knew they could never throw us out. No matter how much we wanted them to do so.

I wonder how much of this affects me now? Am I so defensive because I am worried that if I am accused of doing the wrong thing, I will be turned out on the street? Am I entertaining because I feel that if I amuse others they will give me a place to stay, some food? Am I sexy because I want to seduce men to take me in and take care of me?

I think I’ve gotten over most of these issues. I feel very capable of taking care of myself. When I’m tired or stressed I might revert back to childish behaviors but on the whole I think I’ve come to terms with my stormy childhood. Dreams bring some of the memories and maybe hidden feelings back. The hug from the minister points out to me that I also craved love. I never felt that. I just felt a need for survival. I don’t even remember thinking about receiving love. I just wanted to survive. But at some level I must have felt that need too. It just was at the bottom of the list. I don’t think it has made me hardened to love. In fact I am a very loving person. I think when I met my husband, Danny, he taught me all about love. He shows me unconditional love. No matter what I do or say he will always love me. I met him when I was 15 and he always poured love on me like pancake syrup. He tells me 5 times a day he loves me. He calls several times from work and tells me how wonderful I am. He has helped me heal any scars I received from my crazy life with his unfailing love. He always kids me that he got me out of the gutter and made me what I am today and he is right. Without his love and sunshine, I would have withered and died. I may have never even known what love could be. I know I was lucky to have met him, but then again I get a feeling that we have been together though many lifetimes. That this life was meant to be a contrast, a lesson in contrasts. A loveless childhood versus a love-filled adult life. Without the darkness, how would I have appreciated the light?

Linda Jeffery remembers…

Linda Jeffery remembers…

writing-300x198

A email from Linda Jeffery:

I went to Sacred Heart Home in 1961 and graduated in 1971, along with my brothers and sisters. My name is Linda Jeffery and my sisters are Mary, Kathy & Diane, brothers, Michael and Johnny.  We all stayed until we graduated.  I was 3 1/2 years old and in with the babies,   Diane was 18 months, Kathy 2 1/2, Mary 4 1/2, Johnny 6 1/2 and Michael 8 1/2.

When I think about the home I feel as though it was a good way to grow up.  We were lucky to have an in ground swimming pool and I had a lot of fun swimming everyday.  Do you remember when Perry Como performed in the gym?  We sang with him around the piano and he gave us 45’s and we also went to see him at the Allentown Fair.  I really enjoyed that and like him very much, he has a soothing voice.  He donated the pool to the home.  We had a swimming pond before that, it was a plaster or cemented pond.   I really had a lot of good times there, climbing the trees, eating the berries, building forts, playing in the creek, catching frogs and swinging on the rope across the creek.  Oh and running thru the tunnel to Tiny Town.  I did get in my share of trouble and got punished, but the nuns did a good job taking care of all the kids, we were very well protected. When I think back, there were only approx. 15 nuns to 130 and at one time 190 children……….2 parents have hard with just 2 children!!!  Sister Ernelda was in charge of about 75 to 100 girls, God Bless her!!!!
Mother Alfreda was really good to us also, Sister Bonita lived for 101 years, may they all rest peacefully.  Can you imagine making 3 meals a day for all the children, it was an immense responsibility.  Our family still kept in touch with Father Denny O’Donnell, he was in the seminary and worked at the home in the summer, do you remember Denny?  He was real good to us, he was there with Richie and Victor when they were in the seminary.  Sister Virgine was my favorite teacher, she was at the reunion and it was really good to see her, I told her she was my favorite Teacher, she was very happy to hear that but she seemed shocked, she said really and I told her again yes you were the best teacher I ever had and I meant it too. She was so good to our class, she is no longer a nun.  Sister Josetta and Sister Gorgette were at the reunion, all out of uniform, in regular clothes, just seem unusual seeing them without their habits, Father Denny was there too.  We also had “THE BEST BASKETBALL TEAM” in the Lehigh Valley. Our boys came in first place for several years in row!!!!!  Stevie Gerancher told me at the reunion the reason they came in first place was because of the good cheerleaders!!!!!!! The girls team was pretty good too, we came in 2nd place and lost by only 2 points!!!!  Do you remember the Geranchers? There was Louie, Stevie, Mary, Julius, Jeannie, and Julie.  Stevie was in my class and I had a crush on him since 5th grade, he was at the reunion with his family, he has a nice family.  Louie, Julie and Mary were also there.

…do you remember the Halloween parades we were in……….Coopersburg, Allentown and Catasauqa.  Allentown gave us $1.00 at the end of the parade.  We also took a lot of trips…..Dorney Park, Ice Capades, West Point Park, Allentown Fair, Fish Hatcheries/farm, New York trip when we graduated, several Fairs, lakes, drive-in movies, plays and picnics.

foot

When I was there I hated it and could not wait to get out of there, I just wanted my freedom but now when I think back I do really feel as tough it was a good way to grow up and I think that I did have a lot of freedom, I would take my socks and shoes off, throw them and run free over in the playground barefoot with no broken glass around.  The only thing I was afraid of was that a snake would bite my foot if I stumbled in a hole in the ground.  I never did see a snake just tadpoles, frogs, crawfish and minnows, I could never catch those minnows.  Running thru the Creek was a lot of fun…….Julius Gerancher told me he caught the minnows all the time, he said he used his T-shirt to scoop them up, I wished I knew that back then………of course I would’ve put them back or maybe in a large can in my fort, that’s where I hid my frogs but they always got out, I do still like frogs.  The boys use to chase us with the crawfish, ohhhhh they were scarry looking and I hated them!!!!  I was always scared of the crawfish!!!

crawfish

Perry Como donates a pool to the kids at Sacred heart Home and School

perry como

Do you remember when Perry Como performed in the gym?
Perry Como the famous singer, visited the home (sometime in the 1960’s) and sang to the kids gathered around the piano in the gym. Perry gave the children 45’s and they also went to see him at the Allentown Fair. He donated the pool to the home. There was a swimming pond before that, it was a plaster or cemented pond.

`I am going to get you out of here,` he vowed before lumbering from the orphanage with a heavy heart.

Dad’s Vow Kept Triplets, Their Siblings Close For 50 Years Hokendauqua Trio, Born A Half-century Ago This Week, And Brothers And Sisters Were Sent To An Orphanage When Their Mom Died Young. But Their Determined Father Reunited The Family At Home.

May 28, 2000|by MIKE FRASSINELLI, The Morning Call

Every night, he left his 11 children with hugs and a promise.

`I am going to get you out of here,` he vowed before lumbering from the orphanage with a heavy heart.

In the foyer where they had gathered a half-hour before his arrival, the teary-eyed children would begin counting down the 23 hours until Dad would visit again.

How could it have gone so wrong for the Hudak family?

Why, just four years earlier papa Frank `Fireball` Hudak was a celebrity of sorts, having been the father of triplets at Sacred Heart Hospital in Allentown.

In the days before fertility drugs made multiple births ho-hum, surviving triplets in 1950 was big news. The births of Baby Rose, Baby Steve and Baby Paul on June 2, 1950 — a half-century ago on Friday — were treated like the arrival of a president in Allentown.

To put it in perspective, not only were they the first triplets ever at Sacred Heart, the hospital went about 30 years before having the next set. In the first half of the 20th century, just three sets of triplets had been born in Allentown.

Frank Hudak and his wife, Sue, appeared on the `Strike It Rich` quiz show in New York City in 1952 and charmed host Warren Hull and the audience with their easy-come-easy-go nature.

It billed itself `the quiz show with a heart,` with contestants always regular Joes or Josephines who needed money.

Answering five questions, including which city is the one of `Brotherly Love` — a gimme for Pennsylvanians — the Hudaks pocketed $300. The money allowed them to dig a well and access water for the huge family, which included 10 children at the time. Two children would arrive later.

Previously, Frank Hudak went to a tavern a quarter-mile from their five-room home in Hokendauqua and lugged jugs of well water over his shoulders.

Those shoulders had to carry an entire family on May 20, 1954, when Sue Hudak died of a brain hemorrhage in the home at age 38.

`I remember standing at the door and they had this big black car there,` recalled Rose Hudak, not quite 4 at the time. `Mom was in there.`

Frank Hudak, a cement mixer, struggled for four months to keep his children, ranging from 1 to 18 years old, together. His son George, at 18 the oldest child, tried to help.

`Me and Dad tried to do it together, which was a joke,` George said. `When I was upstairs trying to do something, these kids were downstairs splashing each other with paint. And Dad would come home and get mad.`

Finding it too difficult to be father, mother and provider, Frank Hudak reluctantly decided to place 10 of his 12 children in the Sacred Heart Home and Trade School in Coopersburg. The oldest daughter, Barbara, decided she would join the 10 brothers and sisters, including the triplets, in the orphanage.

George stayed home.

Paul, the first Hudak triplet out of his mother’s womb and timid as a boy, has unpleasant memories of the orphanage and some of its strict nuns.

Some children would tie sheets to a bed and try to escape through the window, risking a broken leg for a chance at freedom.

`It was horrible,` Paul said. `Me and my sister got slapped` for such things as wetting the bed.

Rose and Steve don’t recall the orphanage being a terrible place.

It was military-style, with numerous beds in one room.

One thing Paul and his siblings had to look forward to was a visit by Dad.

`He used to see us every night after work,` Paul remembered. `He had determination, our dad. He said, ‘Don’t worry, I am going to get you out of here.’ `

Steve recalled the father saying the children were going to come out of the orphanage `as a family.`

A story about the hard-luck family appeared in the Sunday Call-Chronicle in 1955 and was picked up by newspapers in such cities as New York, Philadelphia and Boston.

Mary McIsaac of Nova Scotia saw a version of the article that ran in The Boston Globe and was impressed by Frank Hudak’s determination. She was one of several women who wrote the father of 12 a complimentary letter.

Other people offered to adopt the children.

Frank Hudak wrote back to McIsaac. They began to correspond and she visited him. They married on Sept. 9, 1955.

The children returned home.

`It was great that we got another mom,` George said. `She was an angel in disguise. It it wasn’t for our mom, we would probably be scattered throughout the United States.`

`She was heaven-sent,` added Steve.

To hear the Hudak triplets describe their childhood from that point, it was mostly a typical one.

The boys played Little League baseball and basketball and softball behind their pink-sided house (anything into or past the Coplay Creek was a home run) and eventually got an above-ground pool. Siblings wondered why the pool water looked different, until they saw George after a softball game taking a bath in the pool and lathering with soap.

They camped, fished, rode sleds, climbed weeping willow trees and fell from weeping willow trees.

Their property was a mini-farm, with cows, chickens and pigs.

`It’s not like today, where you have got to go to a park,` Steve said. `We had a family. We played cops and robbers. You name it, we played it.`

They formed the rock group the Flames in the 1960s, with Paul on drums, Steve on lead guitar and brother Ed, the seventh child, on bass. They played Beatles songs and competed at the Allentown Fair and Dorney Park before the flame went out.

Not typical were the sleeping arrangements. There were three children per regular-size bed, including Rose, who had a reputation for tossing and turning at night.

Children at school knew the triplets were unique. The newspaper would write about them every five birthdays or so.

Still, Paul said the triplets did not expect — or receive — special treatment as they progressed from Hokendauqua grade school to Whitehall middle school to Whitehall High School.

`We were basically treated like everybody else,` he said.

Besides, being a triplet wasn’t going to help you on the baseball field or basketball court, where things really mattered for the Hudak boys.

George likened the rough basketball games to Hokendauqua’s version of the NBA.

`Everybody thought we were getting paid to play this game,` he chuckled.

Even a benign discussion about sports some 40 years later can become competitive.

`Who hit the most balls across the bridge?` Steve asked his brothers this month, expecting them to say he did.

`I did,` replied proud George, who ran the Hokendauqua Eagles hardball team. `Thirty-eight in one year.`

As competitive as they were on the athletic fields, the siblings were as protective of one another at home and school.

Frank Hudak Sr. had his children kneel at a crucifixion and pray before going to bed every night.

Children stayed at home until they got married, and three — third child Eleanor, fifth child Margie and sixth child Frank — had wedding receptions at the house. Entertainment was cheap. The Flames played the music.

George was the family’s cruise director of sorts, making sure the large group remained a tightly woven one.

He drove a variety of trucks, but the favorite one of the siblings and the neighborhood children was the musical Mister Softee ice cream truck he would drive on muggy days.

George also was a popular brother around Easter, when he would come home with chocolate rabbits as tall as some of his siblings.

He is continuing the commitment his father made to keep the family together, scheduling frequent weekend reunions and annual Christmas parties. Many of the get-togethers are at the Center Valley home of fourth child Martha, who has a pool.

`Some families, they have big families but they just don’t stick together,` George said. `They just leave and don’t correspond. That’s what made this family stick together. Pop’s commitment to bring them home.`

Frank Hudak Sr. retired early at age 57, after a falling load of bricks at work broke his ribs. He died in 1990, at age 79.

Her work raising the family finished, Mary Hudak left to care for her mother.

Frank Hudak Sr. used to play Santa Claus at family Christmas parties. That task has been picked up by lanky Paul, who needs a pillow on his belly to pass for St. Nick.

All of the siblings except twelfth child Michael live in the Lehigh Valley area. And Michael is a short drive away in Old Bridge, N.J.

As close as the siblings are, each of the triplets feels an indescribable, special attachment to the other two.

`There’s a connection,` Paul said.

The siblings needed one another more than ever when Frank Jr. died in a fiery car crash in Northampton in January 1987. He was 40 and left behind three children.

`That was devastating,` Steve said. `As close a family as we are, we never got over it.`

Paul had finished his morning run driving a bus for the Parkland School District when his boss told him to go home right away.

Paul thought something happened to his dad, and was startled to see him at he home.

`Dad,` Paul said, `you’re all right. What’s wrong?`

`It’s your brother.`

Paul went for a walk along the Coplay, the same creek he tried to reach with his softball hits.

The memories, good and bad, rained during a gathering this month with the triplets and George at Paul’s house in South Whitehall Township.

There was talk about the orphanage, the neighborhood baseball games, Frank’s death, the mother who saved a family, the uniqueness of being triplets and the father who vowed to keep a family together.

They talked about the scrapes that accompanied a childhood of climbing trees and the time they got so rowdy that Mary Hudak sent them to bed without their usual snack.

The triplets sneaked down the steps to bring back jelly, apple butter and molasses sandwiches for the siblings.

Not knowing the children had raided the cupboards, Mary Hudak, feeling bad for sending them to bed without chow, told the youngsters they could eat.

For once, they didn’t want to.

Steve grinned at the memory.

`It’s hard to believe that it’s 50 years,` Steve said.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

The Hudak triplets were the talk of Allentown when they were born a half-century ago.

Through family births and deaths, marriages and divorces, accomplishments and setbacks, siblings Steve, Rose and Paul have remained close — emotionally and geographically.

So, where are they now?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Steve — Lives in Allentown and works for the Federal Aviation Administration as an aviation safety inspector; married the former Joan Petrovich and has two children, Annmarie Toth and Stephen Hudak, both of Allentown; joined the Navy after high school; only member of immediate family to graduate from college.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Paul — Or `Mr. Paul,` as he is known by the youngsters for whom he drives a Parkland School District bus; lives in South Whitehall Township with his wife, the former Diane Dunbar, and their dog, cat and parakeet; trains bus drivers wanting to get a commercial license.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Rose — Works in the Allentown School District purchasing department, where she recently was recognized by a Sacred Heart Hospital nurse who held her after she was born; lives in Allentown with Greg Harrison, her companion of 21 years, and German shepherd Schultz.