A New Book Joins the Local Landscape: One Day at a Time: A Social History of Boyertown, Pennsylvania

One Day at a Time: A Social History of Boyertown, Pennsylvania
By Guest Writer Victoria Noelle Wagner

A new book about Boyertown, One Day at a Time: A Social History of Boyertown, Pennsylvania, has evolved from a challenge offered to Margaret Harner to find an event in Boyertown history for each day of the year, 366 accounts of local happenings spanning from colonial times to the present, such as the Rhoads Opera House fire that had a major impact on national fire safety laws and stories about Boyertown residents and heroes—involving major world events and significant leaders as well as tidbits about local lives. It is a portrait of small-town America, its antics, mishaps, joys, successes, and tragedies. The book features more than one hundred illustrations and an index for easy reference to specific topics.

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Proving that Boyertown is a “special place,” Harner has discovered achievements made by Boyertonians on the international stage that have been forgotten by history, including the exploits of Col. Thomas Leidy Rhoads, Four Star General Carl A. Spaatz, track stars Gerald T. Karver and Gene Venzke, medical missionary Dr. Carl K. Becker, and a myriad of more recent heroes. The birth and death of significant local industries, like the Boyertown Burial Casket Company, are detailed, and visits to Boyertown from such notables as Thomas A. Edison have been unearthed. Scholastic championships and successes are also recounted.

Boyertown Publishing Company, one of the oldest businesses in the borough, opening in 1857, printed Harner’s history-driven book.

“I can’t say enough for the help I received from them—the courtesy and speed with which everything was handled,” Harner says about the local publishing firm. “They were great people to work with.”

A retired social studies teacher in the Boyertown Area School District, her research into Boyertown history dates back to 1973 when she co-authored A Walk Through Turn of the Century Boyertown and its update in 2014, Walking Historic Boyertown. She and her late husband Carl collaborated to document The History of the National Bank of Boyertown: A Century of Progress in 1974. She also wrote a history of Boyertown for Boyertown’s Sesquicentennial: A Year of Celebration in 2016 as well as the 200th anniversary history of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Boyertown in 2011, and contributed articles for the Berks County Historical Review and the Reading Eagle.

A charter member of the Boyertown Area Historical Society, Harner has served on its board of directors since 2010. She and her husband Carl created Haunted Boyertown as a way to help fundraise for the society through ghost-oriented activities.

All profits from the sale of the book will be donated to local charities. Copies of the book are $15 each and available for sale at Chestnut Knoll, Studio B, the office of Reinhart and Company, or by contacting Harner directly at 610.367.0630 or carljharnercomcast.net.

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Early Morning Moon in Boyertown: March 31st, 2018.

moon in boyertown - march 2018

Timestamp: 6.50 a.m.

Early morning moon in Boyertown on the last day of March in the cunningly weather-persuasive month of spring 2018 snowstorms.

 

Snowy, Historic Hill Church in Boyertown This March

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While downtown Boyertown absolutely has its charms, so do rural sweeps of our area. Below are some eye-scenes from yesterday in our ever-snowy March in 2018. These are views from the history-rich Hill Church section of Boyertown: seasoned gravestones of those whose lives mattered just as much as ours in their own days of taking in sun on this earth, fruit orchard trees tipped in red hues, peaceful-demeanored horses, farm buildings, heart-welcoming hillsides, and winding roads. It is definitely a visual and feel-specific gift as balance in appreciating the value across the diversity of what’s beautiful in our local landscape.

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Haiku & Photography—Hoagie Haiku at Mario’s Pizza

Italian hoagie

Haiku is a Japanese form of poem which has three lines. The first and third lines use five syllables across their language-throwing, while the second line uses seven syllables in total. These poems are typically very imagery-driven. They are also just straight-up plain fun. These brief poems are always shared at the end of features, before the eye-scenes.

Mario’s Pizza at 159 South Reading Avenue in Boyertown opened in 1985, and while it’s a go-to place for dough-ready slices, hoagies are understandably a big seller there as well as literally big, too.

Joe Romano opened the restaurant more than three decades ago; born in Sicily, he first moved to our country from Italy in 1970, living in Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island before the family opened a pizza shop in Allentown. Into the mid-1980s, he found his way to Boyertown, calling our area his home since then. My family sometimes meets at Mario’s Pizza for meals after a long day of work, and in recent years, I’ve come to understand just how hardworking and caring of a soul Joe is—and how well he means for our community from the good of his heart. And the same for his employee Oscar whose first name is all I know, but he is one of the kindest people who I am happy to see by the smile he always offers.

During one of my traveling poetry classes, we read Richard Blanco’s poems as well as our own inside Mario’s Pizza, and my student Sam Traten ordered a hoagie. I used this as an opportunity to find out his food-thoughts to share here from an outside perspective. I tend to be a bit pickier when it comes to what goes on a hoagie, anyway.

Here is Sam-Speak in the world of Hoagieland, followed by one of my haiku-children:

In our region, a few foods stand out as favorites known only to us. It’s not so much we take pride in them, more as though they are us.

In Philly and its surrounding towns and suburbs, one standout example is the hoagie. Here in Boyertown, you can find a version that represents the Philadelphia Hoagie and is very close to its original meaning—a large, tasty, filling, meal for a worker that uses their body in a physical way. Hard work requiring strength, calories meant to be burnt to keep that strength up, nutrition for health and stamina, portable enough carry to work and not require cooking or special handling.

I found exactly that at Mario’s. The Hog Island ship-builders, iron-workers, longshoreman’s legendary hoagie. Not fancy, not trendy, not suburbanite expensive, just real. My upbringing in an old North Philadelphia neighborhood full of working-class, blue-collar Italians but also Irish, Polish, and German families should give me some authority to speak. Most of us had someone in our row-house home, a grandmother or uncle that still spoke mostly in the mother tongue.

I ordered a medium Italian hoagie. Joe smiled and replied, “It’s very big.”

I thought about that, then told him, “OK, I’ll take some home with me.”

Joe was right. It was two feet long. Hefting and pumping it in my hands, judging the weight (that’s how we did it when I was a kid), I knew I was in for a treat. Made with ham and Italian salami, provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato, and onions plus my requested pickled hot peppers, it was everything I had wanted and dreamed about. At our table was the best assortment of condiments and spices a trencherman could dress with. A salt-black pepper mix, powdered garlic, dried oregano, and all the usual stuff, like catsup and others I don’t remember. My mind was on my hoagie and diet Pepsi. Rudely, I even forgot for the moment that I was with friends.

And once at home and into leftovers mode days later, I skillet-toasted the naked bread, then reinserting the contents, wrapping it in tinfoil, and heating it up lid-covered for five or ten minutes. My, My.

hoagie haiku

two feet to eat, one
lengthy hoagie full of meat—
a meal for the week

Italian hoagie

Mario's Pizza

pepperoni pizza

hamburger

*

(The final two eye-scenes here are by Sam Traten when he moved into leftovers mode with his hoagie.)

Crisping a Soft Roll

Hoagie Contents from Mario's Pizza

Library Haiku in Celebrating Boyertown Community Library’s Move

Haiku is a Japanese form of poem which has three lines. The first and third lines use five syllables across their language-throwing, while the second line uses seven syllables in total.

These poems are typically very imagery-driven. They are also just straight-up plain fun.

The Boyertown Community Library re-opened today in its new location after a brief shutdown to get the books and all else into the new space at 24 North Reading Avenue.

It is now housed in a historic firehouse building in Boyertown, the Keystone Steam Fire Engine Company No. 1, marked at the top with its 1914 origin.

The library’s move means it now has a considerable amount of parking as well as more rooms and square footage.

I use the library instead of Netflix or any other rental option; DVDs are free to rent and are due a week after you take them out. I often order in DVDs from the 20+ libraries in Berks County if ours doesn’t have what I want to watch. This ordering in and access to the circulation of so many other libraries through our library is free across books, books on CD, DVDs, and other kinds of borrowable materials. Yet when I tell people about this, many don’t realize that it’s an option. So I am a big advocate of this route, especially with my strongly evident Pennsylvania Dutch cheap gene. And every time I see people appreciating the library, I am always stirred happily heart-wise.

Here is a haiku to celebrate our library’s new location and all of the employees and volunteers who likely work diligently all of the time but probably labored extra hard in the past half-month.

library haiku

shelves and books spanning
a new-yet-old set of rooms:
library comfort

 

 

Burger Mania Haiku at CD’s Place

Haiku is a Japanese form of poem which has three lines. The first and third lines use five syllables across their language-throwing, while the second line uses seven syllables in total. These poems are typically very imagery-driven. They are also just straight-up plain fun.

CD’s Place has become a meal-must mainstay at the edge of Boyertown where New Berlinville begins. Recently featured in a full-length article in Berks County Living Magazine by a good food writer friend of mine, Marian Wolbers, CD’s Place brims with charisma, as it has a 1950s feel to it and plenty of music memorabilia for reminders of good sounds via old radio play.

I love any time I notice people appreciating how hard owner Chris Dietz works back in his tiny kitchen in this ice cream-cup shaped restaurant spot which perked many local smiles long ago and has a dedicated and growing following today.

While the usual dishes and specials are very worth ordering at CD’s Place, it’s Burger Mania which I love most. Standard toppings are available, but having the option of fried egg, hot sauce, pork roll, sweet or hot peppers, pizza sauce, fried salami, and other less expected add-ons means you can enjoy your classic choice or test out new ones. It’s almost like a fun game in the realm of culinary-exploring.

burger mania haiku

between one bun and
another: burger for your
thoughts—savoring chomps

The Gateway to Greatness

Jerry Karver

Gerald “Jerry” T. Karver a Boyertown native was a premier long distance runner in the nation, with an astonishing career. Jerry graduated from Boyertown Area High School and participated in Cross Country and Track from 1937-1941. During his time at Boyertown Area High School Jerry set several records including state titles in the mile, half mile and cross country in two consecutive years, setting records in all three events. He also led Boyertown High School distance medley relay team to victory in the Championship of America at the 1941 Penn Relays. After graduating from High School Jerry continued to set records winning the two time NCAA champion at Penn State and winning all major collegiate titles in the mile, the IC4A, NCAA and NAAU in 1947. In 1948 Jerry became a member of the U.S. Olympic team.

Jerry continued to distinguish himself well beyond his athletics as a WWII veteran, a Boyertown business owner and a great supporter of community organizations. Jerry was a mentor and an inspiration for generations of track teams and all athletes. He lived his entire life with zest, love and compassion, approaching each day with a bright outlook. “He had Heart!” Jerry Passed away on August 1, 2016, after collapsing on the very track he had loved with such fever. The Boyertown High School Track will now be dedicated to his name and legacy.

About the Gateway to Greatness

The Memorial Stadium at the Boyertown Area Senior High School was re-constructed in 1986. With major support by the Boyertown Area Education Association, the original cinder track was rebuilt at that time. The All Weather Tract of today was the work of the “Victory Mile Committee.” Sponsored by the Wellness Council of Boyertown, co-chairs Don Grim, Jerry Karver and Barb Furman worked with the Community, raising over $400,000 to fund the work! The new tract was dedicated in October of 2006.

The Gateway to Greatness project seeks to honor distinguished alumni Gerald Karver for his achievements as an athlete, and as a long-time community leader and mentor, but also to inspire generations of athletes to come!

This beautiful gateway and wall will  replace approximately 80 feet of existing fencing near the track’s Start/Finish line, complimenting the design of the existing grandstand. “Story plaques” along the wall will tell Jerry’s story, and future plaques will honor other great Boyertown achievements! The Wellness Council of Boyertown is sponsoring the Gateway and the design and project management has been graciously offered by alumnus Dave Horn and his company, Architerra, pc.

Your Support is Needed!

Donations are still needed to make the Gateway to Greatness a reality! Gifts made through the Wellness Council, a 501 (c)3 charitable organization, are tax deductible. For more information go to http://www.boyertownwellness.com/jerry-karver.html

Fried Pickles Haiku at Dan’s Deli

Haiku is a Japanese form of poem which has three lines. The first and third lines use five syllables across their language-throwing, while the second line uses seven syllables in total.

Haiku are often about the natural world and reflective feelings. And they are typically very imagery-driven. I find haiku to be a great way to promote not only poetry (which I teach) but also the good going on around us locally. So I pair haiku with photography and a little background information on businesses and community events as a route to bringing out the best in the life-minutes we share in Boyertown and beyond.

I am thrilled to introduce the fried pickles of the longstanding Dan’s Deli at 1371 West Philadelphia Avenue as a first feature of Haiku & Photography. I hunt for fried pickles on any menu I see, and the ones at this family-owned and run restaurant are my go-to choice. I sometimes even call in an order for them by phone right before the deli closes so I can get this nom nom nommm-ish appetizer literally before it is too darn late. It helps that they serve a spicy ranch for dipping. I am a rare type who is wary of ranch dressing, but anytime hot sauce is involved, like with this sauce, I’m in. Very much so innnn.

fried pickles haiku

fried pickles meet tongues
with a sour-bite persuasion:
crave-worthy, delish

Friday June 23! In Boyertown Fourth Friday Art Walks

Boyertown, PA—Berks County—an established small town in rural PA, but up-and-coming as a 21st-century Destination for the Arts community! Come and join the parties around Boyertown each fourth Friday of the month. We want to have fun!

Enjoy a watercolor sundae, live music, student musical and dance performances, a meditation experience, and gong bath!

Create doodle art or an acrylic painting under the direction of professional artists. Learn the techniques of wood art; chat with a local children’s book author; and meet crafters and fine artists who paint, draw, create cartoons, comics, fantasy art, jewelry, and sculptures.

Then, stay for dinner at one of several eateries in the community and, in upcoming months, enjoy a show at the newly-renovated State Theatre.

Beginning on April 28, 2017, Boyertown, PA, Berks County, will continue in its mission to brand itself as a “Destination for the Arts” in its latest monthly initiative entitled “Fourth Friday Art Walks.” Each fourth Friday of the month between 5:00 and 8:00 p.m., businesses in the community will host visual artists, writers, jewelers, musicians, and crafters—introducing them to the community and showcasing their art inside their businesses. The Art Walk is free and open to the public.

To the right is a map to guide folks to participating businesses.

The artists themselves will be on location to demonstrate or answer questions about their work. And, of course, if you fall in love with something they’ve created, they will be happy to facilitate a sale!

The Fourth Friday Art Walk was coordinated by Boyertown’s newly-formed Merchants Committee, dedicated to bringing folks into Boyertown in support of local businesses.

Some History
Boyertown has been the home of fine artists and artisans throughout its history. The allure that the area has offered to creative people is found in the beauty of its rolling hills, working farms, lush meadows and forests, creeks, and streams that provide the beauty of Nature as inspiration along with freedom from the distractions of big city life.

Proximity to Philadelphia and New York allowed many artists opportunities to earn a living—often as illustrators for publishing houses. The practicality, rugged work ethic, and attention to detail of the Pennsylvania German culture provided fine craft artisans with creative outlets for decorative and functional fine crafts.

Taylor Backes Glass Studio has been a favorite venue for buying art glass, taking glass blowing classes, and/or watching the artists perform their magic.

In 2005, Boyertown caught Bear Fever, (www.bearfever.org) a community art project that has resulted in featuring 70+ life-sized bear sculptures installed in and around the community sponsored by local businesses and decorated by local artists. The project is on-going; new bears appear each year to commemorate an event, to act as mascot to a business, or to attract “bear hunters” from around the country.

In 2007, the Arts and Activities Alliance (A&AA) was organized. The A&AA operated as a committee of Building a Better Boyertown (BBB) and offered art exhibits, classes and workshops, activities and a Progressive Art Walk before establishing Studio B Fine Art Gallery and Teaching Studio (www.studiobbb.org) in 2008.

Since its opening, Studio B has staged over 100 exhibits and offered art and writing classes, workshops, summer camps, and art activities to hundreds of children and adults. Most third Fridays Studio B hosts an exhibit-opening reception. We art lovers like to party!

BBB is the community’s non-profit organization formed in 2002 as part of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development to focus on downtown revitalization.

Local businesses like Dancing Tree Creations and Artisans Studio, Patsy’s Potpourri, and the Book Nook arrived in recent years and feature hundreds of fine crafters, writers, and artisans from around the country, many from the Boyertown area.

When Common Just Won’t Do” serves as the motto for Dancing Tree Creations featuring high-quality 3D art for sale, workshops by area artisans, and opportunities for young artists to introduce themselves and showcase their work.

There is no doubt! Boyertown, PA is fast becoming a Destination for the Arts. This small community has a big heart determined to make their love of the arts one of your loves too! Come on! Let’s party!

~jane stahl april 25, 2017

Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles Reopens May 27th!

The Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles will be opening up full-time beginning Saturday, May 6th after its recent construction project. The major construction project greatly improved and enhanced the guest experience at the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles. It was closed for approximately 6-7 weeks.

On Saturday, May 27th, the Museum will host a Grand Re-Opening from 9:30 AM-4:00 PM
85 S. Walnut Street, Boyertown, PA 19512

As always, check their website and Facebook for updates.