Jul 31, 2011

History of The Boat Landing

The feature shown in the photo, from the Mack Truck Magazine of 1943, shows a beautiful stone masonry structure in Lehigh Parkway that was allowed to go to ruin. We kids of the Parkway called this the "boat landing". It is located near the end of the park near Regency Apartments. I use the present tense because remnants of this edifice still exist, buried under dirt and debris. Other attractions lost in that section of the park include the Spring Pond near the Robin Hood parking lot, and the bridge to the "Island", plus the mosaic inlaid benches which were on the island. ( Island halfway between parking lot and boat landing). Neither the Mayor or the Park Director knows that these centerpieces ever existed. These are irreplaceable architectural treasures well worth restoring.

reprinted from May, 2009. First in a series of reprints documenting the uncovering of this treasure after 50 years.

Jul 29, 2011

Have Gun- Will Travel

Richard Boone played Paladin, a sophisticated hired gun who lived in an upscale San Francisco Hotel between assignments. According to Samantha Marcus of The Morning Call, Paul Blunt is an Easton lawyer who will negotiate for a fee, for both school boards and teacher unions. Zahorchak has hired Paladin, I mean Blunt, to negotiate with the Allentown Teachers Union for the next contract. Considering all the financial consequences of a contract, I can't fault the hire per se. With all the questionable, new full time administrative positions Zahorchak has created, it's good to see this important task outsourced to a true professional.
Perhaps when it's time to hire a new superintendent, the school board should consider outsourcing that decision.

Jul 28, 2011

The Debt Crisis

When Eisenhower was President, I think he addressed the public about three times a year, on one of three networks. Media historians view the Nixon-Kennedy Debate as the beginning of politics as an audio visual experience. On a parallel track, at the same time our candidates needed to sell better to a visually literate audience, our news has become much more tabloid. Today, we actually have comedians and disk jockeys providing analysis on dozens of networks. Although our President addresses the nation about once a week, the level of public comprehension is debatable. The only sure conclusion is that we have been successfully polarized. The box, which now is a flat screen, has us conditioned to contrived drama on reality shows. The current one is called the debt crisis.

Jul 27, 2011

Allentown Post Office 1934

In the 1930's, the "New Deal" was good to Allentown. As I noted on earlier posts, our park system was enriched by monumental stone construction under the WPA. We also received one of the architectural gems of our area, the magnificent art deco post office. Constructed during 1933-34, no detail was spared in making the lobby an ageless classic. The floor is adorned with handmade Mercer tiles from Doylestown. Muralist Gifford Reynolds Beal worked thru 1939 portraying the Valley's cultural and industrial history. This incredible 74 year old photograph is the contractor's documentation of the project's progress. The back of the photo states; Taken Sept 1 - 34 showing lobby, floor, screens, desks, completed & fixtures hung

UPDATE: I have reinstalled the photograph with a version that will enlarge when clicked.

Reprinted from Jan.15, 2010

Jul 26, 2011

Catasauqua and Fogelsville Railroad

The "Iron Bridge" was opened in 1857, was 1165 feet long, and 104 feet above the Jordan Creek. In WWI, weight restrictions caused the P&R (the owner of the line at that time) to start filling over the bridge. Tunnels were constructed for Iron Bridge Rd., the former Slatington Trolley (using the same bore as Iron Bridge Rd.), and the Jordan Creek (2 bores). The result today is a large tree covered fill to the west of Cedar Crest Boulevard. John G Frantz
The Catasauqua and Fogelsville Railroad began in the mid 1850's, to haul iron ore from western Lehigh County to the furnaces along the Lehigh River near Catasauqua. Remnants of the line exist from Seiple to Alburtis, where it connects with the East Penn Line. Active spurs of today's C&F, operated by Norfolk Southern, serve the warehouses west on Tilghman Street, and Route 78. Until 1935, a passenger train operated on the line between Alburtis and West Catasauqua.

Jul 25, 2011

19th Street Pride

The merchants of the 19th Street area, aka West End Theater District, have refurbished the WW2 Monument on the corner of 19th and Allen Streets. The tarnished brass plates shown here have been removed, professionally polished, and reinstalled. The background has been painted a dark battle ship gray, providing more contrast to the bottom dedication plaque. New landscaping had been completed earlier in the summer. How this monument came to be placed on private property was still a mystery last month. While West Park houses several war memorials, other scattered site memorials also exist. My West End is a blog dedicated to news and plans for that neighborhood.
photo from My West End blog

Jul 24, 2011

Stairway To Shame

In the mid 1930's, Allentown, and especially it's park system, was endowed with magnificent stone edifices, courtesy of the WPA; Works Progress Administration. This was a New Deal program designed to provide employment during the aftermath of the depression. Stone masons from all over the country converged on this city and built structures which are irreplaceable. The walls and step structures in Lehigh Parkway, as the Union Terrace amphitheater, are legacies which must be protected. Pictured above is the grand stairway from Lawrence Street (Martin Luther King Drive) up to Union Street, built in 1936. The steps are in a state of disrepair. They lead to the great Union Street Retaining Wall, fifty feet high and two blocks long, which was completed in 1937. I call upon the Trexler Trust and Allentownians of memory, to insist these steps are re-pointed and preserved. The current Administration knows nothing of our past, and really has no commitment to our future. Save the things in Allentown that matter.

UPDATE: This Post first appeared September 18th, 2008. Although $Millions of dollars have been spent on the Park System since then, and new attractions have been built, the WPA monumental stone structures go unattended.

Jul 21, 2011

Thursday July 21, 2011

Looking at today's Morning Call, I thought of the Crocodile Dundee movie. He's in a hotel room and looks at a television for one second, seeing I Love Lucy. He says yep, saw that before. What he meant was last time he saw a television, I Love Lucy was also on. He thought the machine only shows I Love Lucy. Back to today's paper. Headline was someone charged with murder in Allentown. Alan Jennings was crying that he may have to lay off a few people from his Poverty Is A Business programs, and grants and city employees were helping Fegley's Brew Pub reduce their garbage fees. I didn't even know that Allentown has a Sustainability Coordinator. Needless to say that not everyone will read these stories the way I do, but we didn't turn into the Allentown we are today by accident.

comments will appear tomorrow, best one wins a burger at the BrewWorks.

UPDATE: Bernie O'Hare reports that Northampton County taxpayers will fund Jenning's Only Suckers Make Their Own Mortgage Payment Program

Jul 20, 2011

Supermarket Comes To Boom Town

The concrete monolith still stands five stories above Lehigh Street at the Parkway Shopping Center. Currently it sports a clock and a sign for St. Luke's medical offices. It was built in 1953 as the modernistic sign tower for Food Fair supermarket, which then was a stand alone store. Behind it, on South 12th Street was the Black and Decker Factory. The shopping center would not be built to decades later, connecting the former supermarket to the bowling alley built in the 60's. Food Fair was started in the 1920's by Russian immigrant Samuel Friedland in Harrisburg. By 1957 he had 275 stores. 1953 was a rough year for the butcher, baker and candle stick maker; the huge supermarkets were too much competition, even for the bigger independent markets, such as Lehigh Street Superette; it was further east on Lehigh, now the site of a Turkey Hill Market. The sign tower also remains at the 15th and Allen Shopping center, which was another stand alone Food Fair. That parcel remains an independent supermarket. Food Fair would eventually absorb Penn Fruit, which had a market on N. 7th Street, then turn into Pantry Pride. When the Food Fair was built, there was as yet no 15th Street Bridge. Allentown only connected to the south side by the 8th Street Bridge and the Lehigh/Union Street hill. (stone arch bridge, near Regency Tower, was route to West End) Allentown was booming and Mack Trucks were rolling off the line, a block east off Lehigh Street, as fast as they could build them. The factories on S. 12th st. are now flea markets. Mack Headquarters is being sold to a real estate developer. Perhaps those concrete monoliths are the monuments to better times, by those of us who remember.

reprinted from June 14, 2009

Jul 19, 2011

The Sunday Drive by Cedar Beach

The Sunday ride took us past SportsFest at Cedar Beach. Although the event is very successful this year, it's been a rough summer on the park. Mayfair, Stellar and Sportsfest turn the grass into a virtual parking lot. The Rose and Old Fashion Gardens looked well tended, but with less flower beds and variety. The return of the paddle boats indicate no will to remove the land bridge, which helps stagnate Muhlenberg Lake. Although some homage has been paid to environmental concerns by allowing the stream banks to grow al naturale, recreation is now clearly king.

Jul 18, 2011

Saving the Queen City Airport

When I grew up on Liberator Ave., I would walk up Catalina Ave. toward school, which was at the end of Coronado. The streets were named for the Vultee-Consolidated WW2 planes, and the neighborhood was next to the airport built as part of the war effort. Vultee Street was built to connect the hangers with the Mack 5C plant, which was given over to Vultee-Consolidated for plane part manufacturing. Today this small airport is known as Queen City, and is threatened by Mayor Ed Pawlowski.
1944 was the first full year of the operation for the company's Allentown, Pennsylvania factory. Consolidated Vultee handled over $100M in wartime contracts at their Allentown plant where they produced TBY-2 Sea Wolves, components parts for B-24 Liberator bombers and other essential armaments and products for the war effort.
Pawlowski covets this unique part of our history to expand the tax base. What he doesn't understand is that more housing or commercial space is not in Allentown's best long term interest. Unfortunately, long term interest is not a term understood by our current leadership. There is a whole development of started houses off S. 12th St. and Mack Blvd. which were never completed. There are filled in foundations on 8th Street, also never completed. More housing is the last thing both the real estate market and school system need. Likewise, the existing commercial sector has been struggling to maintain an acceptable occupancy rate. Queen City airport is an unique asset to Allentown. If LVIA does successfully expand, a separate airport for small planes is very desirable for safety. Considering Pawlowski's predetermined objective, I question whether he should have been appointed to the LVIA Board.

Dennis Pearson, long time community activist from the East Side Rittersville area, reports last night(Sept. 23, 2010) that a portion of the State Hospital grounds had been given to the Allentown Commercial and Industrial Development Corporation. Just last week, Dennis requested that the City inform him of any plans concerning that land. Although representatives of the Administration were present, nobody had the consideration to response to Pearson's statement. These open spaces in Allentown, both Queen City and the State Hospital, are too important to let Pawlowski and Cunningham squander them for a short term, politically expedient, tax fix.

Malcolm Gross, an associate of Pawlowski, was just appointed by the court to overseer the $16million dollar payment due to the Fuller family by the Lehigh Valley Airport. The Airport Authority should sell the Fuller land that it never used, and retain Queen City.

portions reprinted from September 23, 2010

Jul 15, 2011

Slow Learning in the Valley

We're slow learners here in Lehigh Valley. When you read what they call a paper, the local news needs no date. We decided to make our airport even less competitive, by charging more for parking and flights. They need the money to pay for the land they never needed or used. They are once again remodeling the airport to make it nicer for people who don't use it. Over in Easton, Sal Panto marches ahead with his Al Bundy Museum of High School Sports. He also is still pushing his brew pub idea. If he combines them, we'll have the real Bundy experience. On the other side of the Valley, Allentown picked it's official bird as part of becoming a Bird City. There was a time when Allentown was full of robins; Now we have robbers. Just remember, we're just one project and speech away from turning everything around. Time to increase parking meter fees in Allentown.

Under Construction, Temporary Inconvenience, Permanent Improvement

Jul 14, 2011

Allentown's Double Standard

I've always maintained that the City Planners couldn't organize a children's birthday party, much less real urban planning. I have evidence to make my point. Take 7th Street for example. Those familiar with that venue know how many times the city has changed the bricks, sidewalks and street lights. The Hispanic business district that developed there was in spite of the city, not because of it. When I attended a meeting with Allentown's new Community Development Director, Sarah Hailstone, and the affected merchants of the hockey arena, I snickered when she said that the city would help the merchants. I actually uttered my birthday party line. Olgie Moreno-Prosper, of New Generation Learning Center, is finding out exactly how helpful the City can be. She has 13 years invested in her current location. Her application to move her daycare center to another location has been denied by city zoning. Allentown's a small place. The zoning board member who spoke against her center, because of traffic concerns, is well connected with the city. His wife is on the Allentown Parking Authority. The Authority is allowed to rent space for a daycare center in the bottom of their parking deck on Linden Street (the old Hess Brothers Deck), with an entrance on the corner of the alley which runs under the deck. Between the traffic and fumes, what could be a worse location than that? Gotta love Allentown.

A comment placed on The Morning Call website, about the article, pretty much sums up the mentality of both the City and many citizens against the displaced merchants.
FutureDowntownArenaAttendee at 1:09 AM July 14, 2011
"So they're telling us 'Take your little day care and move it out of the city of Allentown because we don't want it,' " she said Wednesday. "That's the message I got." (day care owner)

link to Morning Call article by Elizabeth Murphy, photograph by Kevin Mingora

Jul 13, 2011

Turning Out The Light

The train tower on Union Street was demolished in 1971. It survived years beyond need because the gates were never automated, and the remaining track was used for switching freight cars. The junction yard behind the State Hospital property, near the border with Bethlehem, is still active. The freight trains travel south Allentown toward Emmaus several times a day. In the quiet of early morning, you can still hear that whistle almost everywhere in the city.

photograph by Dave Latshaw is part of the Mark Rabenold Collection

Jul 12, 2011

Union Street Slowdown

By the early 1960's, things had slowed for Allentown's manufacturing base and the rail freight cars that served them. Train lines had consolidated, and tracks and spurs had been removed. Remaining plants were supplied by trucks, and people traveled by bus and car. The remaining train station would soon close, but the term rustbelt had not yet entered the vocabulary. Western Electric (AT&T) on Union Blvd. was now making transistors, and there was still confidence in the new economy. Allentown was the All American City.

Jul 11, 2011

The Union Street Train Tower

The Union Street crossing was a busy place. It was located between the Jordan Creek and south 3th Street. Virtually all the train lines serving Allentown converged here. The Lehigh Valley Railroad's old main line also crossed Union Street further east, toward the Lehigh River. Allentown was at this time served by two train stations, the Lehigh Valley Railroad Station which was built over the Jordan Creek, and the New Jersey Central, which still stands as a closed restaurant and bar. This photograph, from 1930, is first in a series which will chronicle both the demise of our railroad era, and manufacturing base. Today, the tower is long gone and only one track survives. It is used by a private short line operator.

photograph from the Collection of Mark Rabenold

Jul 10, 2011

The World of Mirth

Allentown at one time had two very productive railroad branch lines; The West End, and the Barber Quarry. The Barber Quarry, for the most part, ran along the Little Lehigh Creek. It serviced the Mack Truck plants on South 10th, and continued west until it turned north along Union Terrace, ending at Wenz's tombstone at 20th and Hamilton Streets. The West End, for the most part, ran along Sumner Avenue, turning south and looping past 17th and Liberty Streets.

The Allentown Economic and Development Corporation has received a $1.8 million grant, toward a $4 million dollar project, to restore a portion of the Barber Quarry branch to service it's industrial building on South 10th Street. This building housed Traylor Engineering, which was a giant back in the day. Recently it housed a fabricator who President Obama visited on his Allentown photo opportunity mission. The business has since closed, but let's not have that reality stand in the way of grants. Last summer, I fought against Allentown's Trail Network Plan, which catered to the spandex cyclist crowd. The new trail was to be built on the Barber Quarry track line. Not only didn't the AEDC oppose the plan, it's director was an advocate. Now they will be funded to develop that which they wanted to destroy. Where do I begin in Allentown's World of Mirth?

The wonderful photograph above shows the World of Mirth train at 17th and Liberty. World of Mirth was the midway operator at the Allentown Fair during the 40's and 50's. In the background is Trexler Lumber Yard, which burnt down in the early 1970's. The B'nai B'rith Apartment houses now occupy the location.
photograph from the collection of Mark Rabenold

UPDATE: The Barber Quarry branch was not the primary railroad access to the Mack plants on South 10th Street. The branch only provided service to Mack Plant #2 on South 10th and Mack Plant #1 on 7th and Mill Streets which both closed for manufacturing in 1924 in favor of Mack #3,3A,4 and 4A on South 10th. These were served by the Reading Railroad Mack Branch. There was a switchback that connected the Barber Quarry to the Reading west of Traylor Engineering and Manufacturing Co. Yet, that was built by the Reading to serve Traylor and did not provide access for the LVRR to Mack #3,3A, 4 and 4A.

Also the western terminus was not wenz's on Hamliton Street. The branch crossed Hamilton and served several businesses including Yeager Fuel on North St Elmo, several silk mills and Pepsi Bottling at 2100 Linden Street. The bottling plant closed in 1963 which then became a city parks department building. The LVRR sold and removed the track north of Hamilton street in 1969. Accordingly, in 1970, the Wenz company became the western most shipper and receiver on the branch. update information from anonymous comment in November of 2010

reprinted from November 29, 2010

Jul 8, 2011

Boxing Eggs

When I was a little boy, I would work at my father's meat market, boxing eggs. The job was pretty straightforward. I would take eggs from a big box, and put them in small boxes with folding lids, each of which held a dozen. If I did a whole crate without breaking an egg, I did a good job. The real adventure was the drive to the shop. We lived just off Lehigh Street, and would take it all the way to Union Street. The many landmarks are now gone forever, only remaining in my camera of the past. Shown above in 1952, is the portion of Lehigh Street near the Acorn Hotel, which is not visible in the photograph. Before reaching the Acorn, you drove under The Reading Railroad bridge overpass, which recently has been dismantled and removed. That line served the Mack Plant on S. 10th Street. Just beyond the area pictured, the Quarry Barber railroad spur also crossed Lehigh Street, at the bridge over the Little Lehigh Creek. That line also crossed S. 10th, and served Traylor Engineering, now known as the closed Allentown Metal Works. Just last week Mitt Romney was there, to rebuke Obama's former visit to the site. Mayor Pawlowski is now rebuking Romney, but none of them really know anything about it's past. A half block away, on overgrown steps built by Roosevelt's WPA, a thousand men would climb home everyday, after working at Mack and Traylor. Freight trains, on parallel tracks, from two different railroads, were needed to supply those industrial giants.

After my father rounded the second curve on Lehigh Street, we would head up the steep Lehigh Street hill. It was packed with houses and people. At the top of the hill, we would turn right on to Union Street. Going down Union Street, Grammes Metal was built on the next big curve. Grammes made a large assortment of finished decorative metal products. Beyond Grammes were numerous railroad crossings. The Lehigh Valley Railroad tracks crossed Union, as did the Jersey Central and several spurs, near Basin Street. It was not unusual to wait twenty-five minutes for the endless freight trains to pass. A two plus story tower gave the railroad men view and control of the busy crossing. A few more blocks and we were at the meat market, in time for me to break some eggs.

Jul 7, 2011

Raw Cookie Dough

I had told City Council that the Arena plan was half baked, it's actually more like raw dough. Yesterday, board members of the Allentown Parking Authority wrote one of the most unconvincing letters I have ever read. Referring to the parking deck by City Hall; They can choose to leisurely walk the three blocks to their destination or, perhaps, jump on a trolley that could be traversing the city's business district ferrying customers from one end of town to the other...Visitors from northern suburbs can park in our lot located between Turner and Chew Streets on North Ninth.... Numerous other such examples exist of ample, convenient off-street parking... Would you believe the title of this letter was Parking, traffic no problem for arena.

Elsewhere, in yesterday's paper, we learned that viewers trying to exit the fireworks from Bethlehem's Steelstacks caused a massive traffic jam. Here in Allentown our plan is to attract a 1.5million people a year to one way streets in center city, with parking conveniently four blocks away. Some Old Allentown people think that this project will be their saving grace, good luck with that.

Jul 6, 2011

My Missing Chip

There seems to be much outrage over the jury verdict concerning the Florida murder case. I may know less about it than anybody else in America. I know that a young mother was accused of killing her daughter; that's all I know. I haven't watched or listened to one minute of the case, or one minute of the other tragic cases that have dominated our media for the last decade. I don't understand our preoccupation with these tragedies; I'm missing the chip. Today, and in the next month, that jury decision will be the topic of endless speculation. Television is dominated by crime shows, especially with autopsies. I can only hope that those fascinated by all those things, never have it visit upon their real life. For this post, I choose no photograph. Please restrict comments to the psychology of the public fascination, not particulars of this tragedy.

Jul 5, 2011

Israel Must Defend

The world loves to read about a Jew bashing Israel. Al Jazeera routinely uses Jewish writers for that purpose. They're not that hard to find, the far left and Jews go together, like pastrami and rye bread. Recently, The Morning Call dug up a good one for their Another View Column. A former Marine, whose mother's relatives died in the Holocaust, was joining a new flotilla to Gaza. Although the writer, Ken Meyers, draped himself in a partial Jewish heritage and military service, he left out a few details about himself. He parted with the Marines in opposition to United States military policies. He believes any attack against Iran should be an impeachable offense. Meyer's editorial is full of adverbs of distortion. The Israeli blockage of Gaza is not illegal. Nor is Gaza a killing field or Ghetto. Everyday, hundreds of truckloads of food enter Gaza from Israel. Many of the thousands of missiles fired at Israel by Hamas came aboard ships to Gaza. That is the purpose of the blockade, and numerous weapons have been seized from boarded ships. In Meyer's portrayal, Israel attacked the previous flotilla and killed nine peace activists. According to international law, Israel legally boarded a ship, and nine provocateurs were killed by Israeli soldiers defending themselves.

Mr. Meyers is welcome to try and break Israel's naval blockade of Gaza. However, he should remember, unlike himself, Israeli Marines support their government, and will do what is necessary to defend their fellow citizens.

UPDATE:Meanwhile in Haiti and Sudan for example, the people are desperate for need and for such "Humanitarian Flotillas" that never seem to come. Where are these so-called "Humanitarians" when people actually need them?

photo of Gaza City

Jul 3, 2011

Growing up Parkway

I'm a baby boomer. I was born in December of 1946. As soon as my mother climbed out of the hospital bed, another woman climbed in. I grew up in the neighborhood now called Little Lehigh Manor, wedged between Lehigh Street and the top of the ravine above Lehigh Parkway. That's me on our lawn at the intersection of Catalina and Liberator Avenues, named after airplanes made by Vultee Corporation for the War. We had our own elementary school, our own grocery store, and the park to play in. On Saturdays, older kids would take us along on the trolley, and later the bus, over the 8TH Street Bridge to Hamilton Street. There were far too many stores to see everything. After a matinee of cartoons or Flash Gordon, and a banana split at one of the five and dimes, we would take the bus back over the bridge to Lehigh Street.

Not that many people know where Lehigh Parkway Elementary School is. It's tucked up at the back of the development of twin homes on a dead end street, but I won't say exactly where. I do want to talk about the photograph. It's May Day, around 1952-53. May Day was big then, so were the unions; Most of the fathers worked at the Steel, Mack, Black and Decker, and a hundred other factories going full tilt after the war. The houses were about 8 years old, and there were no fences yet. Hundreds of kids would migrate from one yard to another, and every mother would assume some responsibility for the herd when it was in her yard. Laundry was hung out to dry. If you notice, most of the "audience" are mothers, dads mostly were at work. I'm at the front, right of center, with a light shirt and long belt tail. Don't remember the girl, but see the boy in front of me with the big head? His father had the whole basement setup year round with a huge model train layout. There were so many kid's, the school only went up to second grade. We would then be bused to Jefferson School for third through sixth grade. The neighborhood had its own Halloween Parade and Easter egg hunt. We all walked to school, no one being more than four blocks away. Years ago when I met my significant other, she told me she taught at an elementary school on the south side, but that I would have no idea where it was.

compilation of two posts from June 2008

reproduced and retitled from Dec. 21, 2009

Jul 1, 2011

The Stumble Bum called Allentown

Allentown wakes up today to more mediocrity by our unimaginative leaders. Although the school budget passed, and less teachers were laid off than feared, Zahorchak's Pathway to Failure is evident. Teacher Union leader Debbie Tretter was amazed by the final figure of 112 furloughs. Her union would have actually granted wage concessions if Zahorchak would have agreed to less than 120 layoffs. Positions restored in art and social studies demonstrate how his plan only caused unnecessary anguish, as illustrated by a 10th grade student, Holli Bossons, in an editorial today. In another editorial we learn that the Fegley family looks forward to the arena. Isn't that grand, after they received 99.9% of all incentives and grants given in Allentown. Wonder how the pizza guy feels in the 700 Block, he's getting the boot after building up his lunch trade for a decade. Yesterday, was a full day here in Allentown. Mitt Romney visited the closed Metal shop, which Obama had touted as a symbol of hope. Mayor Pawlowski called Romney's visit a cheap shot, while he gushed gratitude to Obama two years ago for honoring us. I heard a rumor that the Fegley's are going to get another grant, for a pizza oven....

under construction, links and lies to be added.