In this fifth column, I am speaking to Governor Hans Niessel of Burgenland, Austria, and a delegation of officials in the Atlas Cement Company Memorial Museum. We are discussing Burgenland heritage in the Lehigh Valley.
In my last column, we continued to look at the American experience of Mr. Frank Wolfer, who came to America in 1922. At age 14, he was hired by the Atlas Portland Cement Company in the cooper shop at 26-1/2 cents an hour.
In this fourth column, I am speaking to the governor of Burgenland, Austria, Mr. Hans Niessl, at the Atlas Cement Company Memorial Museum about the Burgenland heritage in Northampton, Coplay and the Lehigh Valley.
In previous columns, I wrote about local residents who left Burgenland to work in local cement plants.
Today, I remember my father’s cousin and my godfather, Mr. Frank Wolfer, who came to America in 1922 from Burgenland. His father, also named Frank, came to America in 1907 because their farm of 35 acres could barely support the family.
It is May 1941. I am sitting in the kitchen reading the old Cement News. We are a nation at war, and in Pennsylvania, 12,000 people have enrolled in Pa. defense classes; some people are from our area. The State Employment Agency is referring applicants to defense training courses. The nation needs skilled workers, as the draft has taken many young men away from their jobs.
My first column in the Northampton Press was published in 1998. Since that first column, hundreds have been written with my trusty No. 2 Farber pencil.
I have always regarded the many people I have had the privilege to interview as not just columns, but friends.
Today, we go back and have memories from the birth of the Northampton Press. On this 20-year journey, my good friend Larry Oberly has taken thousands of photographs, a catalog of local history.
Volunteer fire companies are comprised of dedicated men and women who provide valuable services to our communities. They spend countless hours in training, preparing to protect our citizens from fire and natural disasters.
I was given some rare photographs of the Alliance Fire Company from one of my fine former students, Ruth Miller. Ruth, for years, has owned a well-known Northampton insurance agency. Both her father and mother were active in the Alliance Fire Company and the ladies auxiliary.
The Coplay Cement Company had a long and prestigious history. Founded by David Saylor, it operated in the Borough of Coplay from 1866 to 1978. As the years passed, the plant’s equipment slowly became obsolete. The company had to make a serious decision: Should they modernize, should they construct a new plant or should they sell to a company that could resurrect the aging facility?
In this eighth column, I continue to recall the days when the Allentown State Hospital Farm graced 800 acres in East Allen Township.
One of the former employees was the late Mr. Harold Yohn, of Walnut Street in Weaversville. Harold was a close friend of this writer. His daughters, Nancy Eberts of East Allen Township, and Edith, were fine students over at Northampton High School.
In today’s column, Mr. John McDevitt, former assistant manager of the Allentown State Hospital Farm in Weaversville, recalls its sad closing:
Today, I am continuing to look back over 25 years ago, when the Allentown State Hospital operated an 800-acre farm in East Allen Township. Mr. John McDevitt, the former assistant manager, is sharing information from an article he wrote years ago.
The farm started in 1919 to supply food and milk to a number of state institutions. It also provided therapy for a number of patients. But slowly, change brought an end to the farm operation — beginning with the Institutional Peonage Abolishment Act.
In this column, I am continuing to “remember” the Allentown State Hospital farm in Weaversville with Mr. John McDevitt, the former assistant manager.
In 1981, I placed my United States history book in the corner and worked with my former students Gary Krill and Bernie Cesanek on the farm, planting and harvesting during the spring and summer seasons.
Residents know John as a longtime, dedicated East Allen Township firemen.
John shared this history of the farm with me for my readers.