My friend, Mary Ann, and I had been traveling in a Ford Expedition with her three kids and my daughter for ten days. We had spent the last fun night at the Great Wolf Lodge in Sandusky, Ohio (click here for info). We were headed home.
After driving to the shores of Lake Erie to get photos with another of the Great Lakes (we’d visited Lake Michigan in Chicago earlier in the trip), we plugged in my home address as our destination. I was driving, and Mary Ann was the navigator. Did I mention Mary Ann is a really good navigator? She had her phone and an atlas, and she would use the Roadside America app (highly recommend) to find fun things to do. We had a nine hour drive ahead of us. We were just getting started when Mary Ann said, “If we go 40 minutes out of our way, our kids can add Pennsylvania to their list of states they’ve visited.”
I looked at her and said, “If we do, will it take us anywhere near Beaver Falls?” Mary Ann looked at the map and said, “Yes. Why? What’s in Beaver Falls?” I got excited, because I’m a crazy Joe Namath fan.
Immediately, I said, “Joe Namath is from Beaver Falls! Look and see if they have any kind of monument to him anywhere in Beaver Falls!” She looked it up and learned there is a plaque honoring Joe Namath at the Carnegie Free Library in Beaver Falls.
We were on our way.
Of course, Mary Ann made fun of me for knowing Joe Namath is from Beaver Falls. “Only YOU!” she said. Any self-respecting football fan knows Joe Namath (aka Joe Willie, or Broadway Joe) is from Beaver Falls! He had played quarterback at The University of Alabama; of course I knew he was from Beaver Falls. Growing up in Alabama, I heard about Joe Namath my whole life, and I remember, as a child, getting to stay up to watch him as a guest on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. I’ve had a crush on Joe Willie my whole life.
Everybody remembers the story about Joe Namath being heckled at a Pre-Super Bowl III press conference. A Baltimore Colts fan yelled some smack about the New York Jets, Namath’s team, at him from the back of the room, and Joe responded, “We’re going to win the game. I guarantee it.” And he was right. The Jets won. During his football career, he famously wore a fur coat on the field, and he did pantyhose commercials. He owned a nightclub called Bachelors III in New York, much to the dismay of NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle. I spent some time with Rozelle in 1989, and we talked about Namath. Rozelle seemed to like him by that point. Namath had swagger as a player, and he has swagger now, at age 74.
While I love Joe Namath most of all football players, I just love football. I told Mary Ann a story recently about meeting another of my favorite football players…totally by chance…and I said to him, “You’re from *****! I worked for the newspaper there for a while when I was in college!” Mary Ann said he probably thought I was a stalker, because a 50-yr-old woman shouldn’t have such knowledge. Well, I do have the knowledge, and I’m not a stalker. It’s just the kind of useless information I tend to remember about people.
In fact, just this week, Mary Ann called me, saying, “Don’t fail me now. My son and I have a bet.” Then she put me on speaker phone and asked, “What town is John Mellencamp from?” I immediately responded, “John Mellencamp is from Seymour, Indiana.”I heard her son groan in the background. She had bet him I would remember, and that crazy kid doubted me. (We visited Seymour earlier in the same road trip.) Bahahaha! Again, I am a walking wealth of useless information.
It was raining when we arrived in downtown Beaver Falls (for more about Beaver Falls, click here). It was gray and dreary, and while a city doesn’t show as well in the rain, we could tell Beaver falls was a quaint, charming town. It’s a beautiful, historic town on the Beaver River. Lots of very nice people live there.
Joe Namath lived here.
It was easy to find the Carnegie Free Library (for info, click here). Mary Ann had put it into the navigation system, but it was right on what seemed to be the main street through town, Seventh Avenue.
We pulled up in front of the library, and the rain was not letting up. We parallel parked (I have mad parallel parking skills)right in front of the library, hoping the rain would pass over.
After a while, we knew it wasn’t going to clear up. Mary Ann and I took turns getting out of the car to take selfies with the plaque honoring Joe Namath in the pouring rain… but we got the selfies! We had driven to Beaver Falls just for Broadway Joe! In case you don’t know this about me, Joe Namath is on my short list of people I want to meet. If you’ve met him, don’t tell me. If you meet him, you can tell him about the crazy lady who drove to Beaver Falls just to get a selfie with the plaque honoring him.
As for the photos, Mary Ann and I laughed at how terrible we looked and got ready to drive back to Charlotte. I don’t remember what Mary Ann looked like, but in my selfie, I look like a mom who has been on a ten day road trip with four kids…standing in the rain.
We turned around to go back through town, and as we drove, we noticed Oram’s Donuts. Mary Ann and I wanted to stop and get some donuts, but the children were ready to get home. To this day, we regret not going into Oram’s. As we drove past, we caught a glimpse of a woman ordering a doughnut…the same woman had asked me for bus fare a few minutes earlier. I guess she decided she didn’t need a ride more than she needed a doughnut. I regularly look at the Oram’s website just to torture myself. According to their website, they have been in business for 77 years, and they make their donuts “the old-fashioned way, concentrating on quality and taste.” You can see their website here. While you can’t order donuts for shipping, you can torture yourself with the pictures. You can purchase Oram’s coffee mugs. Mary Ann and I have declared we will return to Oram’s in Beaver Falls.
I’m guessing Joe Namath knows all about Oram’s.
We stopped at Sheetz in downtown to fill up with gas, and according to the computer, we could drive 530 miles on that tank of gas. According to the navigation system, we had 490 miles to travel to Charlotte. I planned to make it without stopping again, unless someone needed a bathroom break.
We passed to the west of Pittsburgh and headed south. Darkness fell while we were in West Virginia, with hours to go. At some point, Mary Ann was getting sleepy, and we all sang a rousing rendition of “99 Bottles of Beer” from beginning to end…the kids thought it was hilarious to sing about beer…inappropriate, of course, but funny.
I was driving, and I wasn’t remotely tired. The kids dozed off while we were in Virginia, and Mary Ann made it to the North Carolina state line before nodding off.
We made it home on that tank of gas and pulled into the driveway at about 2:30am.
If I ever get to meet Joe Namath, I’ll have to tell him about the detour we made just to get selfies with his plaque beside the Carnegie Free Library in Beaver Falls. And who knows? Maybe one day, Mary Ann and I will make it to Oram’s. When we do, I’ll post lots of photos and reviews of every doughnut flavor they have!
Till then, we’ll have to keep torturing ourselves with the pictures on the website.
And Joe Namath…well, I’ll just have to keep crushing on him.
Eastvale Bridge over the Beaver River, Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania
To read about other parts of the road trip, see previous posts.