BRISTOL BOROUGH >> “In the 60’s before the library had the iron fence put up, does anyone remember sledding down the hill and going into the river filled with ice …. these two boys would now be maybe in their late 60s early 70s. My parents lived in Mrs. Douglas’ building on the corner of Penn and Radcliffe streets. My father saw these 2 boys sled into the river and ran down and pulled them from the water. My dad spent about 2 weeks in the hospital because he severely pulled his back out. I’m not sure what happened to the boys but it would be interesting to find out who they were, if they’re even still residing in Bristol. Has anyone heard this story?” inquired Joy Borsavage.
“Yes, I once saved young boys from the River who were sledding and slid right into the River. Then I went into the hospital because I pulled a muscle near my spine," shared Robert Ronald Borsavage.
Bob’s bravery sure changed things up for the recently widowed James “Jimmy”/ “Tink” Spadaccino!
Robert Borsavage, dubbed “Nabisco Bob” by many in 19007, was born and raised in Luzerne County in Plymouth shortly after the depression. He has resided in historic Bristol on the Delaware since 1957.
Plymouth sits on the west side of PA’s Wyoming Valley, wedged between the Susquehanna River and the Shawnee Mountain range.
Robert was the youngest of seven children born to Joseph and Anna Strazdus Borsavage. He had three sisters, Agnes, Anna and Alice and 2 brothers, Ed and Jack. His parents also lost an infant son, Joseph Jr.
“I slept with my two brothers in one room in one big bed and the girls slept in the other bedroom.”
His sister Anne Alice Borsavage Powell “Anna” “was the smart one” and she would help him with his homework. Robert’s favorite subject was always math. As a young boy, he attended the new Central High Grade School that sat on a bluff overlooking the Parrish Colliery of the Lehigh & Wilkes-Barre Coal Co. After 1913, the Central High School was used to educate children in the lower grades. He graduated in 1954 from Plymouth HS. “I loved numbers. I loved arithmetic.”
Anna worked at J.B. Carr's Drugstore in Plymouth and later for the Wyoming Valley West School District at Central and Main Street schools for over 20 years. She and her husband Edwin R. “Ed” Powell Sr., who had been injured while in the Navy on a ship, resided in Plymouth.
"I loved my Aunt Anna. I got to see her a lot!" shared Robert’s daughter, Joy.
Every weekend they would travel upstate to visit his family.
His sister Alice and her husband Tom Klemash, also a Navy veteran, lived in San Francisco, CA.
He lost his sister Agnes to tuberculosis [TB] when she was in her 30’s.
His late brother, Edward E., was a Korean War Army veteran, and his only surviving sibling, his recently widowed brother, John “Jack” is still living upstate.
Robert’s grandparents were from Poland, immigrating to the USA in the late 1800’s. Many of the new arrivals from Eastern Europe to Plymouth were poor and uneducated and the character of the town changed from a sleepy agrarian village to a rough and tumble mining town. His father Joseph had only attended school to the third grade. He always worked in the vast anthracite coal mines.
“He didn’t get paid much. I remember him saying that he worked 30 years in the mines and he was happy to have made $5,000 one year. He passed away at only 66 years old from clogged arteries. He loved everything fried.”
His mother, Anna went to the 4th grade in school and she worked in a sewing factory. At their home, she canned a lot of the vegetables and fruit from their garden. She made her own jelly and jam from the huckleberries, blueberries and blackberries that they grew.
“We had a real big back yard with peach trees and apple trees, and we also grew red beets, corn, and tomatoes on our property. Mom was always in the kitchen working on the coal stove. She lost her leg from diabetes and passed when she was 70. She was still living in our same house. Now one of my nephews, Ed lives there.”
There was a wooden shack outhouse in their back yard on Orchard Street. “No showers. On Saturday night, our mom would pour hot water into a big wooden tub. The youngest got the bath first! The big bar of yellow soap always burned my eyes.”
Robert earned his keep in quarters on Saturdays. He never went to any dances. It was $.25 to go to the movies and buy popcorn at the Shawnee Theatre on Main Street to see westerns starring Orvon Grover "Gene" Autry [1907–1998], Leonard Franklin Slye "Roy Rogers" [1911-1998, and Marion Michael Morrison "John Wayne", nicknamed "Duke" [1907-1979]. “But I really liked the Three Stooges!” Then they would go to hangout at the ‘Half Circle Barbeque Restaurant’ in Hanover, PA for good pork sandwiches and delicious pizza. [It opened in 1937 and it’s the oldest Barbeque restaurant in the area!]
His job was to clean the coops and scoop it all up together to be used for fertilizer. “We raised about 350 chickens and we ate them, and we sold the eggs in a big basket to the neighbors.”
His mother made delicious chicken soup and one of his favorite soups was her yellow bean soup with potatoes and bacon.
Robert fished in the Susquehanna River with his brother Ed. “We caught carp and suckers, and bass and just threw them back. We ate the bass we caught at Harvey’s Lake.”
He swam in Harvey’s Lake too after learning how to swim in a mud hole near his house.
They lived in the mountains, so they also hunted rabbits, deer, and squirrels for food.
“We skied in the winter in the hills of those Plymouth Mountains. Our skis were wooden with a strap that went around the boot. We had wooden toboggans and sleds, and we ice skated on the pond.”
He never rode a bike. It was all hills, everywhere!
Just below the mountain, there are hills that surround the town.
"I remember as a kid crawling up his street because it’s one big steep hill”, shared Joy.
And then there were always more chores. Chores were just a part of daily life.
Robert also collected coal from up on the hill and packed the coal chunks into a wheel barrel. He wheeled it back home and then cracked it into little pieces with a hammer. There was a spring in the Plymouth Mountains about a ½ mile away. He would carry gallon jugs of water up from the spring. Their milk was delivered in glass quart bottles to their home and kept in an old ice box.
“The ice man would come every day and we would buy 50 pounds for 10 or 20 cents.”
No scholastic sports were permitted for him because at the age of 14, Robert was earning $20.00 a week pitching on a Dallas, PA semi-pro team. “People even passed a hat around for extra money for us.”
Someone had been getting a youth team together, looking for any boy who could “throw the ball over the plate”. When he was only 9 years old, he tried out and starting playing for the Plymouth Dusters.
“We had no uniforms, just wore overalls and old sneakers. The diamond was not like the fields today. We had to clean up rocks before we could play.”
Robert pitched a perfect game when he was just 14 at the Kids League championship for the Plymouth Eagles in Artillery Park in Wilkes-Barre. The article appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1950.
He bought his first car for $400.00. “It was a black 1948 “fluid drive” Dodge DeSoto with big white walls. It had belonged to a funeral home and it followed the hearse.” His next ride was a 1953 cream and Grecian green Chevy Bel Air.
He continued playing baseball for the Detroit Tigers, a minor league team until he injured his arm as their pitcher. Then he coached the Bristol Brackens, an American Legion baseball team for 5 years in the 1960’s.
*Bucks County Courier Times Newspaper Archives July 27, 1967 Page 52*
Bracken Jolted Falls 9-04!
Bristol Bracken clashed with Fallsington in a crucial battle in the Lower Bucks American Legion Baseball League last night. Fallsington put the heat on Bristol in the fourth inning by scoring two runs. Bristol Manager Bob Borsavage called time out to talk to pitcher Tony Embessi, second baseman Joe Accardi, and first baseman Bill Delia. Bristol took a decision due mostly to scoring seven runs in the third inning.
He was also working at the former Northeast Philly Nabisco Plant preparing ingredients for the mixers during this time. Robert had just answered an ad and was immediately hired, and he worked there for 35 years. He retired in 1993. He was dubbed “Nabisco Bob” because he brought home bags of cookies, sharing some with the First Federal Bank employees, and some with the patrons at Dugan’s Bar now called Sadie's Irish Pub, LLC.
This former pitching athlete has also tended bar at the Moose Bucks Lodge which he joined in 1976, and for the St. Ann's Athletic Association Club who has asked for his sports picture to hang on their wall.
At one time, he lived across the street from Senator Joseph R. Grundy’s home on Radcliffe Street but he never did see him. The late barber, Joseph Peter Cuttone cut his hair. Years ago, he remembers shows at the Grand Theatre that later became the Bristol Playhouse, and he recalls shopping at the 5&10, and purchasing clothing at Nicholas Gilardi’s Mens Store on Mill Street.
Danis’ Deli on Farragut Avenue was his go-to place for lunch meats and homemade salads. He still loves eating Cesare’s cheese steaks and sausage sandwiches and his favorite Italian dishes at Annabella’s.
Years ago, he and his young daughter Joy would go fishing behind the bank. They caught catfish and gave them away. Joy has blessed him now with 2 grandsons and 2 great-grandsons.
Robert occasionally still plays a game of golf with his longtime friends but he truly enjoys just sitting out by the river by the old Manhattan Soap Company building.
“Oh, did my dad tell you that the late Costic F. "Ike" Borsavage [1924-2014] was his cousin?
He coached Council Rock basketball for years and played for the Philadelphia 76ers with Wilt Chamberlain when they were the Warriors in Philadelphia,” stated Joy.
Robert’s cousin Ike was the first soccer and bowling coach as well. He was also the Athletic Director at Council Rock High School from 1965 to 1970 and was inducted into the CR sports Hall of Fame in 1992.
A barrage of sports has obviously always been a central part of the Borsavage brood.
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