Sunday, November 18, 2018

Montoursville 2018: A glimpse into the past via postcards

Montoursville isn't big or notable enough for there to be large numbers of postcards featuring the borough over the past century or so. I suspect the total number (not including one-shot real photo postcards) is so modest (200?) that an enterprising historian or collector could put together a near-complete checklist. I'm not a "completeist" – not even with Ruth Manning-Sanders material; that's just too much pressure and attention to detail. So I won't be making any Montoursville postcard checklists. For this series' penultimate post, I just wanted to present a handful of postcards of the area that I've picked up over time.

"Loyalsock Creek, Near Williamsport, Pa." Loyalsock Creek forms Montoursville's northern and western municipal borders. The "Haystacks," not far from Montoursville in Sullivan County, are an area of Loyalsock Creek that we visited at least once on a Webelos or Boy Scout field trip in the early 1980s. This postcard was mailed in 1908 and the rambling written message discusses making a coat, working too hard, going to the doctor and heart pains.

"Birdseye View of Montoursville, Pa." This shows a bridge over the Loyalsock Creek into Montoursville. But it's not the one that today is known as both the Broad Street Bridge and the Green Bridge. This postcard is from the 1910s, and the Green Bridge was built in 1931. According to an excellent history of Montoursville by Don King, "Montoursville was one of the earliest towns in this area to have a bridge crossing a major stream. A possible reason for the erection of our first structure was to provide an efficient means to move troops in the event of an invasion of Canada during the War of 1812. For a brief time there were two bridges spanning the creek." This card was postmarked in Montoursville and mailed to Endicott, New York, with the following note: "We are having a nice visit. Leave for Jersey Shore this P.M. Expect to come home Sunday."

"At Indian Amusement Park, Montoursville, Pa." I believe this card, published by C.A.R., is from 1910, but I can't be sure of the final number (0) on the postmark. If my guess is correct, though, it was postmarked on August 27, 1910, in Montoursville. The writer mentions a "very large crowd here." King writes extensively of Indian Park in his history. Electricity and, most importantly, a trolley line made it an extremely popular attraction in the first two decades of the 20th century. There was even a roller coaster. The theater had a capacity of 1,000 persons. Relatively speaking, though, Indian Park's heyday (in that iteration) was short-lived. When the trolley line was closed in 1924, it spelled doom.

"People's Bank, Montoursville, Pa." Here's a look at this Broad Street building before it became Dr. W.B. Konkle Memorial Library, which I wrote about in two earlier posts (1, 2). As I wrote, "in 1964, the old bank building at the corner of Broad and Washington was purchased following a $35,000 fund-raising campaign. This became the library's new home, and that is why the library building today resembles an early 20th century bank." This postcard, made by The Tecraft Company of Tenafly, New Jersey, was never mailed.

"High School, Montoursville, Pa." This postcard was never mailed, either, and has no date. It was published by J.B. Weaver of Montoursville, and it calls for a one-cent stamp. As I have said, we moved away before I would have attended Montoursville High School, so I was only in that building, as it was in the early 1980s, a couple times.

Moving into more modern times, this is a rare and unused photo showcasing the Wagon Wheel Motel, which also featured a bar and restaurant and was located at 1130 Broad Street. The back of the postcard states: "Four miles east of Williamsport, Penna., on U.S Route 220 ... all units with electric heat, air-conditioning, telephones, television and wall-to-wall carpeting ... Phone 368-2436 (717). Arnold and Amber Shook, Proprietors." Amber Shook died in 2007 at age 84. According to her obituary, she moved to Florida in 1971, so the Shooks were either out-of-state owners of the Wagon Wheel after 1971, or new owners came onto the scene. I have many memories of the Wagon Wheel restaurant. Our family went there often when we were living on Willow Street. Sometimes we'd have dinner there. I would get a Howdy Doody to drink and Adriane would get a Shirley Temple; they were both the same thing — 7 Up with grenadine, I believe. What I remember most are the arcade games and the jukebox. After we ate, Mom and Dad would hang out with friends at the bar and give my sister and I a supply of quarters for the small game room. I specifically remember a tabletop version of Missile Command and Battlezone, with its periscope viewfinder. I think there were a couple other arcade games, but can't recall specifically which ones. There was also a dart board and the aforementioned jukebox. Songs I played included "Upside Down" by Diana Ross and "The Gambler" by Kenny Rogers.

"Montoursville — 1963." And, to wrap up, here's an aerial view of the borough from 55 years ago. This one is compliments of First National Bank of Montoursville ("A good bank in a good town"). That's the airport at the bottom of the image. Moving north, you get to Broad Street and then the residential area of town, which I wandered back and forth across all day on July 13, racking up some serious Fitbit mileage.

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