Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Railroad Rumblings

    During the Civil War there was talk about building a railroad from Port Trevorton to Mifflintown connecting the Susquehanna River with the Juniata River. Iron ore was being mined in Trevorton, PA on the east side of the Susquehanna River. Why not build a railroad - the most modern form of transportation of their day? Canals business was fading and trains were becoming a thriving business. Canals were too expensive to maintain with the frequent flooding along the Susquehanna and Juniata Rivers.
    By the early 1870's the idea became a plan, then a contract, then a project. How exciting!  Wealthy businessmen in Selinsgrove supplied funds and dreamed of prosperous times ahead. The costly war was behind them. Times looked promising as the United States moved forward as one nation again. The Reading Railroad jumped on the band wagon and supplied additional funding for the new narrow gauge Selinsgrove-North Branch Railroad. All along the route from the Susquehanna to the Juniata River, men worked with picks and shovels to create a raised bed for the proposed railway. A bridge was built across the creek near Freeburg, PA. The work continued near the villages of Mt Pleasant Mills, Richfield, Evendale, Bunkertown, McAlisterville and on to Mifflintown. By May 1874, six miles of the railroad bed had been already graded.
    One man who lived in Evendale built a large three-story-building with intentions to be able to open a hotel just in time for the opening of the new railroad. He probably dreamed of the bustle and business he would enjoy. This would surely put the tiny hamlet of Evendale on the map! A railroad station house was built in Heister Valley near Richfield, PA.
    But before the railroad bed was completed, things began to go south! For one thing the wooden railroad bridge across the Susquehanna River at Port Trevorton was declared to be unsafe. The project would need to find additional funding for a new bridge across the nearly mile wide Susquehanna River. Then in October 1874 the "great fire" in Selinsgrove gutted more than 50 buildings in the heart of town and ruined several wealthy business men who were great supporters of the new railroad. This fire was a lot more devastating than the fire of 1872 in their town. The final blow came when the Reading Railroad withdrew their support.
   What can I learn from the unfinished story of the railroad?
1. Jesus said, " For which of you, intending to build a tower (or a railroad- paraphrased) sitteth not down first , and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?" Luke 14:28
2. Don't count your chicks before they hatch!
3. Careful planning does not guarantee success.  Our course may be changed by the unexpected- fire, flood, eathquake, cancer, job loss, illness or handicap, financial loss or death can bring life-changing circumstances beyond our control.
    Today you can drive through Snyder and Juniata County and see the "hump" at various places where the "stillborn railroad" was intended to rumble.  The unfinished railroad stands as a monument to unfufilled dreams. Only God can write the final chapter of our unfinished stories.

Monday, July 9, 2012

"The Green Thing"

    We did not have this "Green thing" earlier in my life. Did our parents not care enough for the environment and save resources for the future generation? Fortunately, the current generation has recognized the need to conserve our resources!
    Back then they returned milk bottles and soda bottles to the store. The glass bottles went back to the company to be washed, sterilized and refilled. The same bottles were used over and over. But they did not have the "green thing" in those days.
    Grocery stores bagged the groceries in brown paper bags which were used for numerous things. Besides being used for storage, the brown bags were cut up to made book covers to protect school books so they could be used over and over from one year to the next. A brown paper bag was cut up to wrap a (recycled) shoe box for a parcel post package instead of buying a box at the post office. They packaged a fragile item  for shipping with wadded up old newspaper to cushion it. They did not use Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.  But they did not do the green thing!
    They walked up stairs because they did not have an elevator or an escalator in the store. They walked to the grocery store for a small item. They did not climb into a 300 horse power machine every time they needed to go two blocks for a five pound bag of sugar. But they did not do the green thing!
   Back then, they washed the baby's diaper because they  did not have the throw away kind. They dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling-machine burning 220 volts. Wind and solar power really did dry their clothes back in those days -(and is still my preference)! Children wore hand-me-down clothes from their brothers and sisters, not new brand name clothes. But they did not have the green thing.
    In the kitchen they used a hand egg beater or a can opener.  They did not have electric gadgets to do everything for them. They had one electrical outlet per room- not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. They did not buy pretty vinyl drawer liner but used old newspapers for shelf and drawer liner.  But they did not do the green thing!
    They did not fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the grass in the lawn. They used a push mower that ran on human power.They exercised by working so they did not need to drive to the health club or use  a treadmill that operates on electricity. But they did not do the green thing!
    They drank from the water faucet or a fountain when they were thirsty. They did not use a plastic cup or bottle every time they wanted a drink of water. They refilled writing pens with ink instead of throwing the old pen away and buying a new one. They replaced razor blades instead of throwing the old razor away just because the razor was dull.  But they did not do the green thing!
    Back then people walked, took the bike or bus to school instead of turning their Mom into a 24-hour-taxi service. They did not need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles away in order to find the nearest burger joint. But they  did not do the green thing!
    Isn't it sad how wasteful our parents were just because they did not do the green thing?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Friends are a blessing!

      On Sunday we visited a Netherlands friend (front center of photo) at her host home in southeastern PA. She has come to live abroad for a year of voluntary service before she trains for a profession. We first met the Netherlands family when her parents hosted our tour group in their home. We enjoyed learning to know this family with two young children in 1997. Two years later her father planned a special service in the Pingium Church for our1999  tour group.  We have enjoyed continued contact and their visit to PA about eight years ago. We look forward to another  visit from the family later this summer. They live in the area where Menno Simons lived in the 1500's. Her father is a history teacher who is most interested in Mennonite/Anabaptist history.
     In the photo you will also see a historian friend, John L. Ruth and his wife, Roma. Our young friend was pleased to have all of us on one picture!
    Our world has been broadened and we are privileged to have the blessing of old friends and new friends, close  neighbors and friends from afar!

Family ties...

Recently my family had a mini-reunion at my sister's house. These photos are part of the day's activities. My brother, Merle was in the area with his wife Edith and daughter Bethanie. That was a good reason to get together!
I remember as my mother and her siblings aged, they would pose for a picture when her brother Frank visited from Phoenix, AZ. They did not know when it would be the last time- neither do we.
Yours truly has now out-lived both of our parents and the others are on my heels....

Left to right: Marvin & Betty Ann, Leroy & Romaine, Lester & Martha, Merle & Edith, Carol.
I am privileged to be related to this lovely bunch of people!