A zest for life, love of family and people, devotion to the town he was born in and pride in his country keeps Nick Hollock going. It is a winning combination and the secret to his indefatigable approach to his many activities. And, now at 90, he has no intention of slowing. His philosophy is simple: “Keeping busy keeps me alive.”
Nick is the son of one of three brothers who came to the new world from Austria in 1918. He was born December 17, 1923 at Solomon Gap, original small hamlet of the now sprawling Mountaintop community. The ranch home on Lehigh Street, where he has lived since 1965, is only a short distance from the one he was born in, and Nick recalls vivid memories from the crowded living conditions, inevitable when a large family occupies a small home.
With all three brothers producing large families, the Hollocks have added to the growth of Mountaintop, jokes Nick. He now has relatives in just about every Mountaintop township along with those family members who have settled in other areas in the country.
On August 30, 1947, Nick married Catherine (Kay) Hudock. The couple has three children: Eileen Hare, Eugene Hollock and Eric Hollock, and seven grandchildren: Amanda, Braden and Kyle Heller, Jeffrey and Nicole Hollock and Nicholas III and Erica Hollock and two great-grandchildren: Emily, 4, and Eisley, 1.
Following his graduation from Fairview High School in 1941, Nick started working for the Lehigh Valley Railroad in 1942 as a fireman on the steam engines. After his return from service in World War II, he worked for the C & J Railroad and in 1957, he became an engineer on the Lehigh Valley Railroad until his retirement in 1985.
In 1944, Nick was drafted into the U. S. Navy, where he served as a gunner in the armed guard in the Atlantic and Pacific. Returning home from the war in 1946, Nick continued to devote much time to his family and community activities.
When Mountaintop area residents hear the name Nick Hollock, they make an instant connection with the Mountaintop Area Community Ambulance Association.
On March 5, 1952, the idea of a Mountaintop Ambulance Association came into being at the Triangle restaurant in Fairview Township when four friends, Dr. Joseph Buckey, Mountaintop’s then only physician, the late funeral director George Yeager, police chief Burton Kneal and Nick met for a cup of coffee. Yeager complained that it wasn’t good business for him to transport patients to the hospital in his black windowless van, nicknamed the “Black Mariah”. At other times, Dr. Buckey would take patients down to the hospital himself. Right then and there, the four men decided: Mountaintop needed an ambulance service.
With humble beginnings, the Mountaintop Ambulance Association was born, steadily growing over the years. A $300 donation from the Lyons Club allowed the founders to purchase a used 1938 Buick ambulance. A few hours later, they had their first patient, but no license. “Don’t worry,” said the chief of police, “nobody wants to hold up an ambulance”. Soon, they replaced their vehicle with a new 1955 limousine type ambulance. The price tag jumped to $5,000.
Today, the association owns and operates 3 fully equipped state-of-the-art ambulances. Two are housed in Fairview, one in Rice Township. There is also a helicopter pad next to the ambulance’s Fairview building.
The association maintained a volunteer crew but in recent years hired paid drivers and E. M. T. s. A charter member for 62 years, Nick still serves on the association’s board of directors as its secretary. For 40 years, he served as driver and attendant responding to over 3,300 calls. In 1991, in recognition for his dedicated service to the people of Mountaintop, Nick received the prestigious Benjamin Rush award from the Luzerne County Medical Society.
His lifelong service to the community in many capacities has earned him a sizable collection of awards. Nick also found time for serving on the Mountaintop Hose Company which he joined in 1941. He was instrumental in securing the property where the firehouse is still located in Fairview Township, and he raised funds for the construction of the facility. He served as president of the volunteer fire company for over 23 years, and he chaired the first and the following eight of what has remained a tradition: the fire company’s annual picnic as its largest fundraiser.
For 10 years, Nick also served as a Luzerne County forest fire inspector. He received a certificate for 40 years of service as a forest fire warden from the Department of Environmental Resources.
A devout Catholic, Nick served Mountaintop’s St. Jude’s Church as caretaker of the “Mother Church”, St. Catherine’s, where he was a picnic volunteer for over 20 years. He was a member of the Holy Name Society, the Knights of Columbus 4th degree and a Mountaintop Council 6440.
His backyard is a veritable feeding ground for wildlife. He has welcomed many creatures into his yard, including a bear!
Hunting is a sport he loves and still pursues. He hunts deer in the wooded areas behind his home and he hunted for pheasants in Bowers, near Kutztown in Pennsylvania’s Dutch Country. Although he no longer hunts for pheasants, he heads down to Bowers every Saturday to take a Mennonite family shopping. “It would take them so much longer in their horse and buggy,” he explains. He met them during his pheasant hunting excursions, and they have become life-long friends.
“I love it down there,” he says, his voice expressing deep emotion, ”I am so lucky to be around these people, “they live such a happy and peaceful life. They look after each other. They are like one big family.”
In addition to a home brimming with memorabilia and awards, Nick is well known having goodies on hand for the “kids”, those belonging to his own family, and those visiting. They all know where to find lollipops, candies and tootsie rolls. Nick always carries ample supplies of them in his pockets. In Nick’s home, it’s Halloween every day. Then there is a kitchen corner shelf loaded with plush toys, awaiting the visit of the next child. Nick wins stuffed dolls and animals from restaurant and store bins.
Nick enjoys travelling down memory lane, indulging in the nostalgia of bygone days in the budding hamlet he grew up in, the transformation he has seen from the colossal building expansion, people’s changing lifestyles and— unavoidably--resulting in changed priorities.
And looking back at all his accomplishments, what is he most proud of? There’s no hesitation when he answers with pride, joy and gratitude in his voice, “that I am living to see my great-granddaughters.”
And his advice to combat the aging process? “Never slow down, keep busy.” For Nick, it means to continue what he cherishes so much, “I want to go on taking care of the people of
Mountaintop. I love people.”