Saturday, August 11, 2018

Insights on war, work, newspapers, hate groups, money and more

Depending on your perspective, this ephemera blog focuses on current events either too much or too little. I'll leave that to the future sociologists and archaeologists at Io & Hera College to decide, as they churn out their mid-term papers on the topic of early 21st century bloggers.

But I am going to post about the present tonight. Because I'm a newspaper journalist/editor battling through the summer of 2018 during the Trump presidency, and that's no simple thing. I'm also, as you know, a historian. And I like to tuck away interesting threads and essays that I come across, before they become Lost Corners. So, with that as the context, here are some things I've read recently on Twitter that are worth sharing and preserving, even if they don't necessarily lead to comfortable conclusions or easy answers. The process of trying to find our way is worth preserving, too.

"We’re not at war; we’re at work"
This first thread is from Jay Rosen, who teaches journalism at NYU. It starts with this tweet.

Here is Rosen's full Twitter thread:
Here I share some thoughts about what has become a famous phrase. It originates with Marty Baron, editor of the Washington Post, whom I regard as the unofficial leader of the American press, the tribal chieftain. His famous phrase is this: "We’re not at war; we're at work." Baron is referring, of course, to Trump's "war" on the press. And he's reacting to statements like Steve Bannon's: “The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States."

I am a doubter as well, but I have a lot of respect for @PostBaron's phrase. “We’re not at war; we’re at work" is a formidable adversary. It's great word smithing, a little gem of English composition. It has compression, rhythm, insight, alliteration. And it is memorable. More impressive is how Baron's phrase, "We’re not at war; we’re at work" captures the consensus in American journalism, striking his colleagues as the very definition of wisdom about how to cover Trump — and respond to his provocations, his insults, his trolling, his attacks.

The latest to express admiration for the drop dead wisdom in Baron's phrase is Todd Purdum, an experienced political reporter, who wrote this in the Atlantic about CNN's Jim Acosta demanding that @PressSec disavow Trump's 'enemy of the people' language.
"Perhaps the best advice for Acosta (and the rest of us) comes from Martin Baron, the executive editor of The Washington Post and one of contemporary America’s most respected journalists, on his acceptance of a leadership award last year. 'The president has said he is at war with the press,' Baron said then. 'I can say this: We are not at war. We are at work—just doing our jobs.'"
In Purdum's disapproving tone toward Acosta a lot is revealed about the culture of the American press. You're supposed to stay cool. Letting your emotions show is unprofessional and unwise. The right pose to strike is unrattled, laconic. Serene and detached when under attack. If we click on it, like an icon on the desktop, "We're not at war; we're at work" displays its contents. He's trying to throw you off your game. Don't take the bait. And do not get caught up in the politics of the moment. You're not a hero of the resistance. Just do your job.

Hard to overstate how seductive "just do your job" is. It combines the myth of taciturn manliness (Gary Cooper) with the appeal of the humble public servant (I'm no hero, ma'am, just doin' my job.) Very difficult to argue against that. Again: "We’re not at war; we’re at work."

The problem, of course, is that there is war on the press being conducted by the president of the United States and his supporters. To say otherwise would violate a different commandment. Yes, it's imperative to keep your cool. It is equally imperative to state what is true.

"We’re not at war; we’re at work" is genius. But its genius is incomplete. It doesn't speak to the problem @Acosta was getting at. If the press is the enemy, that crashes the whole premise of the White House press corps: that we're all trying to inform the American public.

So I will. There is alive in the United States a campaign to discredit the American press and turn as many people as possible against it. It is led from the top. This campaign is succeeding. Before journalists log on in the morning, about 30% of their public is already gone. It is not easy to know what to do under these conditions. I certainly don't. But to say "we're not at war; we're at work" does not speak to the enormity of the problem. Somehow the press has to figure out how to fight back. Making fun of Acosta's emotional plea isn't helping.

Here's the way I put it in @nybooks. "I think our top journalists are correct that if they become the political opposition to Trump, they will lose. And yet, they have to go to war against a political style in which power gets to write its own story."

So what happens if the 30 percent that rejects the mainstream press on principle becomes 40, or 45 because the campaign to discredit the institution is succeeding? Will "we’re not at war; we’re at work" remain as persuasive as it is today? Will it still be drop dead wisdom? Despite what I have said in challenge to it, I think "we’re not at war; we’re at work" conveys an important truth. Don't play his game. Don't get sucked into a tit for tat. Don't get distracted from your task. These are vital reminders. They make sense. They steady the ship.

Finally... In the degree that "we're not at war; we're at work" synchs up with the emotional style preferred within the American newsroom, there is a risk that the wisdom captured in Baron's remark will be over-valued by that room's inhabitants. I write to warn you of that.

* * *

Doomed to repeat history?

Felix Harcourt is an assistant professor at Austin College and the author of Ku Klux Kulture: America and the Klan in the 1920s. Here are excerpts from his short essay, which started with this tweet:
In the wake of the widely criticized [NPR] interview with Jason Kessler, it's probably worth talking about this again...

In Congressional hearings, Imperial Wizard William Joseph Simmons declared "Our plan or custom — it is not a plan — has been that wherever a Klan has been organized, the first announcement is that they will have a parade."

It very much was a plan. The Grand Dragon of Alabama reiterated this in a speech at a national meeting, declaring that "Klansmen throughout your realm should be encouraged in holding public events as often as possible." Why? Because the Klan knew that — especially in the early days of the revival of the 1920s — parading would gain valuable publicity for the organization that it would not otherwise have received.

While it was not the intent of many of the journalists who covered these events, this coverage was a vital factor in the Klan's rapid growth to an estimated four million members, with chapters in virtually every state.

As Klan officials gleefully crowed, "From the press the Klan has received gratis what a million dollars worth of its own advertisements wouldn’t have done."

"Never in the history have shrewd news writers everywhere so materially misjudged the effect of publicity, overshot their mark, and where they sought to destroy, merely built up, and where they tried to annihilate, create a firmer foundation."

Even if the parade went wrong and descended into violence (as they often did), the Klan was often able to rely on local press to condemn the "mob violence" of the anti-Klan protestors, further normalizing the bigoted organization.

Klan officials astutely exploited access journalism and the desire for scoops to garner even greater coverage in print and on radio.

The publicity around a parade through Birmingham, Alabama, in September 1926, for example, was leveraged into having WBRC air Klan speakers as one of the city’s first night broadcasts. Participants in a Klan rally in Boise, Idaho, were directed to speak particularly loudly and clearly "so that press representatives might hear." Of course, this was a privilege granted only to journalists who promised favorable – or at least ostensibly neutral – reporting. Those reporters seen as friendly to the organization would be offered invitations, and often allowed closer access, to large Klan initiation ceremonies. ...

All of these processes came to a head when some forty thousand men and women of the Klan marched through Washington, DC, in August 1925 – a stunt designed in the hopes of sparking new growth in a declining organization. While the Klan's decline in membership was not wholly arrested, the march did succeed in garnering valuable national publicity, as newspapers around the country described the parade in pages of detail. The New York Times, for example, breathlessly described "the greatest demonstration ever staged by the Ku Klux," and claimed that such was "admitted tonight, even by the enemies of the order." The Imperial Wizard, meanwhile, was a "resplendent figure in royal purple robe." The parade saw "Americanism...emphasized at every moment," and was praised for its peacefulness and for the "absence of drunkenness in the crowd." ...

The press repeatedly fell for this nonsense in the 1920s, and in doing so cemented the Ku Klux Klan as a fixture in modern American history. Let's not do it again.

* * *

On the other hand...

Kristian Blom — described in his Twitter biography as "Founder & Chief Investment Officer of Blom Levy & Co. Student of life, markets and the humans" — had a response to Felix Harcourt that is also worth sharing.

Blom's full response:
"There is a fundamental misunderstanding in this thread and in the logic behind the idea that stonewalling abhorrent ideas is the right strategy. Abhorrent ideas are already in people's heads, exposing the ideas to the general public starts a process. Initially, people that are dysfunctional to various degrees will be attracted to the abhorrent ideas because the ideas provide a sense of identity for dysfunctional people that are to various degrees rejected by society at large. Once out in the open, the people embracing abhorrent ideas are exposed to the opinions and cultural norms of the greater, functional society. Shame and persuasion is then applied to the outgroups and if society is in a healthy well functioning state, something which is highly dependent on the diversity of the education system, the outgroups will implode and once again become marginalized. This is an ongoing, cyclical and healing process that must not be interrupted. Problems only arise when the education system (transmission of knowledge) of the society becomes dysfunctional itself."

* * *

Paying for journalism

Intertwined with the news media having its credibility and very livelihood attacked daily by POTUS and most of those who support POTUS, newspapers are still grasping to determine the best model to survive financially, in the wake of a decade of declining print-advertisement revenue. Online subscription models, dubbed paywalls by many, are growing more prevalent, including the one launched here in Lancaster this summer. Subscriptions for web content, however, remain bitterly controversial.

There are many staunch defenders of journalists being paid for their work. For example, my always-passionate friend and former roommate Jason Plotkin wrote this on Facebook late last month:
"Can someone please help a poor, ignorant person like myself understand something? As I read posts on the YDR Facebook page, I'm constantly noticing comments about people offended about having to pay to read articles on their website. Folks, you receive up to date news/photographs and videos on a round the clock basis. Can you walk into a department store and take whatever you want for free? Can you go into a restaurant and not pay for the food that they prepared and served you? People in the newsroom work tirelessly to provide the most accurate, up to date information as they humanly can. I guarantee you one thing: if you continue to not support your local newsrooms, eventually all you will have are national news organizations to lean on. And they sure as hell are not going to do a better job than the people who live and serve this community to provide the news you need. If you don't like how the YDR or any service provides your news, then go somewhere else. But don't begrudge a room of hardworking, talented, dedicated people for wanted to get paid for what they do."
And then there was this tweet, another of many examples...

Emmanuel Martinez responded to Joanna Chadwick's tweet with this twist:
"I understand this argument. The work that other journalists and I do is hard and it takes time, sometimes it takes lots of time. Plus, journalists gotta eat too, and pay bills, and sometimes they have small human beings to feed. And everyone should be compensated for their work. But the argument that news should be or should not be free is more nuanced and complex. Putting news behind paywalls or requiring subscriptions is kinda elitist. It favors those who have enough disposable income to pay for this, those who have privilege. Someone who barely has enough to eat and pay bills isn’t gonna pay for news. Because they can’t. And what happens when the communities we write about don’t have access to news, to the stories that can empower them? In this case, isn’t journalism just perpetuating the same injustices it seeks to uncover by limiting who gets to see information and who doesn’t? And one could make the argument that making news more accessible is more important now than ever before because of the internet, because of social media, because of fake news. After all, you need access to news and media to promote news/media literacy. Saying that all news should be paid for creates barriers to information. But, I also understand that making this stuff free undercuts the work that journalists do. Maybe the answer is libraries. You can get free access to @nytimes , @Forbes (Hahaha), @TheAtlantic , and many other publications with an @SFPL library card, for example. This is a complex problem that requires a lot of thinking because favoring one side over the other has serious consequences either way you look at it."
So, round and round we go. There are no easy agreements or answers on so much of this. One of my former co-workers surprised me earlier today with the way in which he came out strongly against paywalls, writing: "I've never worked in news for a paycheck. It's not that type of business. News is a public service. If it's behind a paywall, it's really not much of a service or a value. ... Writers need a paycheck, but paywalls aren't the way to go ... Especially for local newspapers. ... I honestly feel newspapers should be nonprofit businesses. The for-profit model simply doesnt serve the public as it should and serves its shareholders instead."

Like I said, no easy answers...

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Nifty wooden postcard with fairies via Postcrossing

One of this week's Postcrossing arrivals is this wooden postcard featuring an illustration by Anne Heidsieck. She is a French artist who works on bookmarks, postcards, recipe books and board games, including When I Dream. She writes: "I mostly like fantastic and dreamlike worlds, but I also like challenges, as when I have a lot of researches to do in order to recreate a graphic atmosphere specific to a time, a place or a culture in particular."

The postcard was sent by Catherine, a Russian native who lives in the cultural region of Brittany, France, and describes it as "the mysterious land of ancient celtic legends and subtle everyday magic" in her Postcrossing profile. Catherine writes the following (in cursive):
"Dear Chris, greetings from the region Brittany, France! It seems you have quite an impressing collection of postcards! This one is made of real wood sheet, and comes from a region where magic and magical creatures seem real! I've experienced myself the efficacy of some local ancient rituals (like touch a special stone) although I did not really believe in them =)

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Montoursville 2018: Facebook tangent about Walnut Lane

As I continue with Week 1 of the Montoursville 2018 series, there was coincidentally a super-interesting post related to Montoursville history today on the Lycoming Historical Facebook group.

I'm going to share a lengthy excerpt here, because it fits nicely with the theme, it's not like I'm making any money off this, and I like the idea of giving the content an extra layer of preservation, because who knows how much of Facebook's archives might turn into Lost Corners of the Internet as the decades pass...
From "Lycoming Historical"...
Walnut Lane no longer exists in Montoursville. A half a century ago it was located near the green bridge at the base of Broad Street. In trying to describe it, if you were heading west on Broad Street and as you were approaching the green bridge you decided to take the exit to the right that is the I-180 West on-ramp, the first 50 to 100 yards may have been near Walnut Lane. Or, if you started on the bike path at the green bridge and headed north you may have been covering ground that was once Walnut Lane. I am not positive, I am just trying to give an estimation of its location.

Walnut Lane came to a dead end when it reached a large building. By the early 1970s it was one of just a few buildings that were on the lane. The large building at one time carried the name Cooper Apartments and the Walnut Lane Apartments. That would be all there is to say about this building, except if you were to go back little more than a century ago you may realize that the building housed a company that was once one of the biggest suppliers of feed, wheat, corn, meal, flour and assorted grains to our area. Also, for a little over a decade, it was the State Police Troop D headquarters.

Affectionately known as "The Old Mill" to people who are aware of its history in the Montoursville area, it existed as far back as the 1880s. ... It was known as the The Hayes Mill and the Hayes-Pidcoe Mill. The mill ran alongside the Loyalsock Creek.

The building was used as a mill up into the early part of the 20th century (possibly up until about 1920). The Old Mill was converted to apartments in the mid-1920s. In 1939 the Williamsport city directories began to carry information about Montoursville addresses. In the 1940 directory it shows State Police Troop D listed as being on Walnut Lane, no numeric address, just the street name. None of the residents on Walnut Lane ever showed a numeric address in any of the directories I checked. The police barracks would be listed on Walnut Lane through the 1951 directory. I am fairly sure that the information for the 1951 directory was gathered in 1950.

Carol Bair confirmed this with information she found in the September 1975 issue of the Otstonwakin. In the issue it stated the barracks was on Walnut Lane from 1939 to 1950. Bair also mentioned she recalls that the lane was black-topped at some point and until then it was always a dusty road. One or two other residents are listed in the directories as living on Walnut Lane during the time the police barracks occupied The Old Mill. ...

[big snip]

Question about Loyalsock Creek, Mill Creek and the Old Mill. I'll be honest here, I thought the name Mill Creek referred to the waterway that ran alongside the mills. Perhaps there were more mills that ran along the creek, hence the name Mill Street for the road that runs along the creek south of Broad Street. However, there is also a beautiful postcard of a trolley taking an evening ride over Mill Creek as it heads to Starr Island (the forerunner to Indian Park). Thus Mill Creek must have run near The Old Mill as it was near Starr Island. ...

Other observation to note, in a couple of the pictures are the bridges that crossed into Loyalsock prior to the green bridge. Their location appeared to be along Walnut Lane in sort of a northern turn off of Broad Street as you approached the Loyalsock Creek. The current green bridge is a slight southerly turn as you approach the creek. In one of the pictures, from the mid-1890s, it looks as if the spans that crossed the creek were not uniform in design.
The Lycoming Historical Facebook group also has some cool photographs of Montoursville's 100th anniversary celebration in 1950.

Lineup card of the day

Okay, this is actually from yesterday, not today, but it's an amazing piece of true sports ephemera.

Via a tweet from the team, this is manager Omar Vizquel's lineup card for Tuesday's Winston-Salem Dash baseball game. I feel like there's a bit of Pennsylvania Dutch influence there, don't you? Vizquel has some background as an artist, according to this story from last December.

Meanwhile, you can even have a behind-the-scenes peek at Vizquel decorating his lineup card in this Instagram video.

Now go be creative with something of your own!

Mystery photo: Happy family in the backyard

There is no information on the back of this slightly sepia snapshot, which measures 2¾ inches across.

The time of year would be very early spring or late autumn, don't you think? Era is probably the 1940s, is my hunch.

These kids grew up through the space race, the suburbanization of America, the civil rights movement, shattering assassinations, the Vietnam war, the Nixon presidency, disco and then, as the 1980s dawned, the arrival of those Belgian Smurfs on American television.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Montoursville 2018: Otstonwakin, Madame Montour and modern times

A little bit of history and background before I return to my walk around town...

Montoursville was incorporated as a borough in 1850 and was named after diplomat and interpreter Madame Montour, whose 1700s village of Otstonwakin, along Loyalsock Creek, was a strategic location in the early history and settlement of Lycoming County. The borough sits on the east bank of the creek, a few miles east of Williamsport and not far from the original site of Madame Montour's Otstonwakin. Thus it is considered the successor of that historic village.

(There are some references to Montoursville being named after Andrew Montour, who was Madame Montour's son and a key figure in his own right. But the majority of what I came across states that it is properly named after Madame Montour. She's a fascinating and important figure in Pennsylvania history, and there are still more questions than answers about crucial parts of her life and background. To learn more about her, check out Madame Montour & the Fur Trade (1667-1752), written by Simone Vincens and translated by Ruth Bernstein. See also the bibliography on her Wikipedia page.)

When Montoursville marked the 125th anniversary of its incorporation in 1975 the Otstonwakin heritage was woven deeply into the festivities. Shown at the top of this post is the sepia-toned publication titled The Otstonwakin, a six-page newsletter that provided some borough history and details of the celebration, which was held September 19-21, 1975.

I was 4¾ years old at the time, and Dad served as one of the 125th anniversary organizers. The front page of the newsletter states:
"Mayor [Anthony J. Phil] Rotondi is serving as celebration chairman. Co-chairman is Councilman James Waldman. Committee chairmen are Barbara Nau, Eleanor Burger, Arthur Rehn, Miles Long, J. Henry Goehrig, Betty Farley, Edith Carr, Leon Williams, Joseph Karpinski, James Hofer, Donald Boyles, Dora Pioli, Gene Kiessling, John Mahady, John Otto, Theodore McLaughlin, Lessie Moss, Grover McKee and Dorsey Gilbert."
The festivities on those three days in late September, 43 years ago, included:

  • An "old-fashioned sidewalk sale"
  • A square dance1
  • The roasting of a 600-pound ox
  • A "several hours" parade featuring the borough's two oldest native citizens — 94-year-old Don Strebeigh and 89-year-old Marian Lehman.2
  • A concert by Sammy Ray's "Just for Fun Band"3
  • $1 sandwiches
  • Commemorative quasquicentennial4 plates for $3 and mugs for $2
  • Lincoln-Kennedy pennies for a nickel5
  • A softball game with women serving as the umpires
  • Train rides for the youngsters

The Otstonwakin newsletter is also full of interesting historical tidbits about Montoursville. It's kind of a double history lesson now, because it discusses the borough's past and also describes how things were 43 years ago, during Gerald Ford's presidency. Here are some excerpts:

  • "The automobile dominates as the primary mode of transportation for borough residents as 83.8 per cent of workers from Montoursville travel to work by car. Three per cent use buses while 9.3 per cent walk."
  • "Montoursville has had a number of newspapers over the years — none has survived." Those vanished periodicals, as of 1975, include The Pastoral Visitor, The Echo, The Globe, the Montoursville News, the Montoursville Monitor and the Montoursville Merchandiser.
  • "Montoursville Borough opened its official office for business purposes in November, 1956, at 345 Broad Street. It occupied one room in the Cooper Building which was razed and is now the site of the Rosencrans Bakery."
  • "Some of the major industrial land uses are on tracts of land owned or leased by GTE Sylvania Inc.; Conchemco Inc.; Schnadig Corp.; Marathon Carey-McFall Co. and Allegheny Fabrics Corp."

There are also facts about the school system, library and swimming pool. I'll plug those into some of the upcoming posts in this series.

Final note: Perhaps the best place to turn for a past-to-present overview of the borough is Don King's "History of Montoursville," which is available as a PDF on the school district's website.

1. Full disclosure: I had a square dance class and evening assembly when I attended C.E. McCall Middle School in the early 1980s.
2. Donald Strebeigh (November 5, 1881, to December 19, 1975) died three months after the celebration.
3. Led Zeppelin was on a concert hiatus that lasted from May 1975 to April 1977 and was thus unavailable.
4. Fun fact: "quasquicentennial" is the correct word for the marking of a 125th anniversary. The Oststonwakin newsletter uses the term "Quatra-Centennial."
5. I am totally going to track one of those down. Stay tuned.

Scholastic book cover: "Ginnie and the Mystery Doll"

  • Title: Ginnie and the Mystery Doll
  • Author: Catherine Woolley (1904-2005)
  • Illustrator: Bob Magnusen
  • Publisher: Scholastic Book Services (TX 397)
  • Cover price: 35 cents
  • Year: First printing, September 1962 (originally published in 1960)
  • Pages: 156
  • Format: Paperback
  • Provenance: This copy once belonged to Betsy Horn, whose name is written in cursive on the inside front cover.
  • Back-cover excerpt: What begins for Ginnie as just a pleasant summer at Cape Cod ends up with an exciting mystery to solve.
  • First sentence: On the Mid-Cape Highway the cloudless July sky had arched, blue and dazzling gold, over lakes and woods.
  • Last sentence: It was Ginnie who jumped up, to cross the room and kiss Miss Wade gently on the cheek.
  • Random excerpt from middle: There were the periwinkle blue mussels, intertwined so toughly with the line of seaweed left by the tides. Ginnie loved the many-shaded greens and blues of the stones on the shore. Why was the sand sand-colored, she wondered, when the rocks were blue?
  • Rating on Goodreads: 3.72 stars (out of 5)
  • Goodreads review excerpt #1: In 2013, Allyson wrote: "I bought this book for a dime at my school's Halloween carnival in 1971. I was 7 or 8 and it was one of the first chapter books I read. It was a favorite growing up and I passed it on to my cousins child when she was about the age I was when I first read it. Children's lit has changed a lot since 1960 when this book was published. For the better? Perhaps — but the sweet innocence of the Ginnie and Geneva stories can't harm and may even make a nice change from cynicism."
  • Goodreads review excerpt #2: In 2017, Mumbler wrote: "The writing is just lovely. The depiction of the seashore, seen by a child coming to know and love it, is really exquisite."
  • Rating on Amazon: 4.7 stars (out of 5)
  • Amazon review excerpt: In 2011, FQH wrote: "I'd love to know what today's young girls think about this book. I wonder if the lazy days of summer story telling style would appeal to their busy senses."
  • Notes: The doll on the cover is a bit uncanny, but isn't nearly as spooky as the one in Tale of the Witch Doll. ... This is book #8 in Woolley's ten-book "Ginnie and Geneva Series." ... Prolific author Woolley, who also used the pen name Jane Thayer (her grandmother's name), died just a few weeks short of her 101st birthday. She was the daughter of a newspaperman, and she often drew on her experiences and world travels in her writings, according to her Associated Press obituary. She wrote on a Remington typewriter and never used a computer. ... Woolley's characters appear in 1980s ABC animated specials (and then a series) that started with The Puppy Who Wanted a Boy. You can read more about Woolley on her Find A Grave page.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Montoursville 2018: Preface and listicle on a day around the borough

Yesterday, I introduced the "bones" of my idea for writing from a personal, narrow perspective about Montoursville this month. Today, I present the "map" in the form of this outline of my long walk around the borough on July 13.

I greatly regret not jotting any of this down on July 14 or 15. The memories of that day are already slipping into a bit of haze, so this is the best I can do for 3½ weeks after the fact.

  • Drove into Montoursville from the west, via the "Green Bridge" that spans Loyalsock Creek and takes you straight onto Broad Street. (The bridge was fully covered in tarp that day.)
  • Parked in the lot at the Rite Aid located at 760 Broad Street.
  • Walked a couple blocks eastward on Broad Street, then turned around.
  • Walked westward on Broad Street, making my first stop at the TWA Flight 800 Memorial.
  • Continued westward on Broad Street to Konkle Memorial Library (384 Broad Street), where I spent a half-hour inside.
  • Walked eastward on Broad Street back to my car to drop off some books.
  • Crossed Broad Street and started north on Walnut Street. The first east-west cross street encountered is Mulberry Street, which is also the first street we lived on in the borough.
  • Came to Lyter Elementary School, at the corner of Walnut and Spruce streets.
  • Stopped at a yard sale and bought a cup of lemonade for 50 cents from a young entrepreneur.
  • Wandered a bit through the residential streets. First west, I think, and then I ended up headed east on Weaver Street, which took me to...
  • ... the school tennis courts situated just north of C.E. McCall Middle School, 600 Willow Street.
  • After checking out a cool display at the school's entrance, I circled around the back and then crossed Fairview Drive to Faith Church.
  • Walked northwest along curving Fairview Drive to the corner of Fairview and Willow streets, which is the third house we lived in.
  • Walked south on Willow Street for a short distance and then headed west on Pearl Boulevard.
  • Did a lot of mostly east-west wandering, eventually ending up back on Spruce Street and checking out the second house we lived in.
  • Meandered southward, I think on Arch Street, all the way back to Broad Street.
  • Wandered west to the Turkey Hill, taking snapshots of some of the historic buildings along the way.
  • Got some Gatorade at the Turkey Hill.
  • Walked a few blocks west on Broad Street, toward the creek, then turned around.
  • Headed north on Loyalsock Avenue, on the westward edge of the borough.
  • Headed eastward, back into the neighborhoods. Eventually found what I thought was the first house we lived in, on Mulberry Street.
  • Wandered some more and eventually zig-zagged back to Broad Street.
  • Went into Cellini's Sub Shop, 378 Broad Street, for — to the best of my knowledge — the first time in my life and had a toasted cheese sub plus a lot of hydrating beverages.
  • While eating, learned via a series of text messages with Dad that the house I "discovered" on Mulberry Street was not the first house we lived in. Received from Dad, who has kept his tax forms from the 1970s, the correct address.
  • Headed back to Mulberry Street.
  • Found the actual first house we lived in.
  • Did more wandering as it got to be late in the afternoon. Mostly headed eastward along the southern half of the residential streets, along the likes of Elm, Mulberry and Cherry.
  • Headed back to the car.
  • Drove eastward out of Montoursville, along Broad Street, which becomes Lycoming Mall Drive and takes you toward Muncy.

A pair of cheery Postcrossing arrivals

From my mailbox to your device screen...

This first postcard arrived, via Postcrossing, from a woman in Germany. She writes:
Remscheid, July 23rd, 2018
30° C, [sunny symbol]
Hello Chris,
My name's Alexandra ... and I'm a 46-year-old German secretary living in the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia. This postcard shows St. Bartholomew's Church in Berchtesgaden, Bavaria, at the western shore of the Königssee lake, on Hirschau peninsula. Best wishes from Germany.
So I'll be adding that spot to the travel bucket list...

And this smile-bringing, cat-and-chicken card was from Irina, who lives near the Black Sea, is trying to learn English and loves cats. Her short note states:
+30° C
+27° C [water symbol]
Hello Chris!
My name is Irina. FIFA World Cup took place in my city — Sochi. And visited 2 games in our stadium "Fisht". It was exciting! Good luck!
The back of Irina's card also includes a drawing of an American flag, a purple dinosaur stamp, a sticker of a smiley face with sunglasses, and a 2012 Russian postage stamp that commemorates the 1965 animated film Vovka in a Far Far Away Kingdom, which was directed by Boris Stepantsev.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Montoursville 2018: A foreword on a journey mixing the past and present

Instagram photo by me

On Friday, July 13, of this year I used one of my rare off days to drive 116 miles north so that I could spend the morning and afternoon walking around my childhood hometown of Montoursville, Pennsylvania. I've made this trip several times before, usually with others, since I moved back to Pennsylvania from South Carolina in 2000. Past visits typically involved 90 percent driving slowly around town and 10 percent (or less) walking around. This time, I parked my car in the lot of the downtown Rite Aid mid-morning and didn't return to it until more than 30,000 Fitbit steps later, having spent the day criss-crossing the residential streets, school neighborhoods, and more.

I have an obsession about and a strong love for Montoursville. It's almost entirely due, of course, to how old I was when I lived there — from age 1 to age 7½ (1971 to mid-1978) and again from age 10 to age 12½ (late 1980 to mid-1983). That's a significant chunk of one's young life, and we moved away for good right before I became a teenager [ominous jungle drums] and would have started experiencing the small town in ways that are, as we all know from our own adolesence, so very different from childhood. So my nostalgia for Montoursville is framed by a very specific, and more innocent, period of my life. It's a kind of Proustian trap that I readily acknowledge and embrace. I see it as a gift.

Before July 13, I already had a couple of fresh Montoursville-themed ideas on my Papergreat to-write list. After spending a sunny day there, I had accumulated another half-dozen ideas, most of them unrelated to each other beyond their mutual setting.

So ... I'm going to do a series here on Papergreat: Call it Montoursville 2018.

I suspect many of you will find it narcissistic, overly sentimental, ponderous and entirely nonessential reading. You would be correct in that assessment. I'm writing these mostly for me.

It will definitely be a freeform series, with a lot of bouncing around, personal recollections and odd tangents. Parts of it will likely resemble the "Snapshot & Memories" posts. Even a freeform series, though, has to have some structure. And my OCD will not allow me to forgo planning. So this "foreword" is also serving as an opportunity to get my arms around Montoursville 2018, set out some goals and see if we can't keep this thing contained to August. #BloggerGoals

The posts in this series might look something like this:

  • Preface: A day around town
  • Introduction: Madame Montour, Otstonwakin and Montoursville
  • Dr. W.B. Konkle Memorial Library (and Ruth Manning-Sanders)
  • Childhood schools and memories
  • Three houses we lived in
  • Late lunch at Cellini's
  • Other sites, including the TWA Flight 800 Memorial
  • Hurr's and neighborhood ice cream shops
  • Old postcards and things that have vanished (including restaurants and the pool)
  • Miscellaneous photographs and musings
  • Afterword

The order and contents of the posts are subject to change. And some topics might be split over multiple posts. Plus, I'm sure I'm already forgetting something and/or will find another rabbit hole to tumble down, taking y'all along with me.