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Issue Home December 5, 2001 Site Home

Along The Way... With P. Jay
Slices Of Life
100 Years Ago
Straight From Starrucca


Along The Way... With P. Jay

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly!

From the Susquehanna County Jail in South Montrose, Warden Bill Brennan offered us some good words about two of his employees.

Warden Brennan advised us that Diane Barron and Jennifer Joines, two of his correctional officers, did exceptionally well at the state Department of Corrections Training Academy in Elizabethtown. The girls attended a four-week training course at the academy and scored some impressive grades.

"I’m proud of them," the warden said. So are we, Bill, so are we. Congratulations Diane and Jennifer.


I have no problem with people who take exception to this column and write letters to the editor expressing their dislike. For openers, it is comforting to know that people do read what is written here. Then again, it’s the American Way. You know, freedom of speech…the first and fourth amendments…etcetera, etcetera.

What I do have a problem with is name-calling. That is Bad with a capital "B" as in Bill Bayne. Mr. Bayne wrote a response to my column and I could punch more holes in it than you can find in a pound of the best Swiss Cheese on the market. But he is entitled to his opinion and I will not do that because throwing more fuel on the fire is inviting a continuance of the issue and it has already been given too much ink.

However, I will not sit back and let Mr. Bayne compare me to a terrorist. Mr. Bayne wrote: "P. Jay is similar to a terrorist in that he doesn’t care who he hurts or how much of your tax dollars are wasted in answering false accusations." I know the old adage about the pen being mightier than the sword, but terrorism? Absurd! And as for my being responsible for wasting tax dollars, that’s totally and completely ridiculous and reflects the mentality of the letter writer.


The opening paragraph of the State Sunshine Act requires certain meetings to be open to the public.

"There are numerous advantages to having such statutes," the paragraph continues. "Sunshine Laws help curtail misbehavior by government officials, educating the public through greater press coverage of government activities and provide public scrutiny to governmental decision-making. Public officials also are able to gain a better understanding of public opinion on the issues. Moreover, open meetings can enhance public faith in the political process."

The Sunshine Law requires all public agencies to take all official actions and conduct all deliberations leading up to official action at public meetings. The Sunshine Act took effect on Jan. 3, 1987 and replaces the Open Meetings Law of 1957 and 1974. Under the old law, public agencies were required to hold open meetings "only if votes were taken or official policy adopted." This led to the frequent abuse of discussing and deciding issues in work sessions, with the official public meetings being relegated to conducting formal votes on issues already decided in advance. The current Sunshine Act requires that any deliberations leading up to official action must also take place at public meeting.

Last week, the Susquehanna County Commissioners passed a motion that the commissioners "advertise commissioner work sessions will be Monday through Friday beginning at 9 a.m."

On the surface, it appears to comply with the Sunshine Act. But does it? It did until the commissioners said if there is nothing on the agenda at 9 a.m. the work session will either be canceled or convened at whatever time there is an appointment with someone or a topic for discussion. For example, if there is a 1 p.m. appointment the work session will begin at that time. What this means is there is no set starting time for work sessions. It means county taxpayers and the press would have to hang around the courthouse all day in the event the commissioners suddenly find themselves in need of a work session. This, my friends, does not comply with the intent of the law.

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Slices of Life

An Early Christmas

While passing by the spare bedroom yesterday, I glanced in the room and stopped short. You know the sensation you get when something doesn’t look just right, but you’re not sure why? Well, I had that feeling. On closer inspection I figured out what was wrong. While bringing Christmas Department Store things downstairs, I had moved some gift baskets to the spare bed. And I learned to my dismay, that one was a cat lover’s basket, and guess who had smelled the catnip. Mrs. Morris had sliced open the cellophane, taken out the sealed package of catnip, opened it and spread it all over her favorite white bedspread. Then she had pounced on the toy and played with it just enough that it had lost its new look. So Christmas came early for her and now she gets a lump of coal in her stocking.

It reminded me of the year Christmas came early for me. I was about nine, skinny as a rail; all arms and legs. That winter in the 1940’s was desperately cold, with snow already drifted high by early December. Being the youngest of three girls, I was the last to inherit the brown snowsuit which had been pretty with orange embroidery, but that was long gone and now the short jacket and snow pants were drab and scruffy. The sleeves were too short and the legs on the pants stopped above my boots.

On this particular morning, Mom was doing her usual duty of making toast and oatmeal, packing lunches, hustling five kids along and watching for the bus to go up the road where it would turn around, giving us just time to do the long hike to the hard road by the time it came back down.

Out of the corner of her eye, Mom caught sight of me dressed in my short cotton dress, jacket, boots and mittens. "Annie," she said, "Where are your snow pants? You can’t go out dressed like that."

"I’m not wearing them," I said. "They make me look stupid."

She demanded, pleaded, cajoled; but I didn’t budge. My brother, now a sophomore and very authoritative, jumped into the fray. "Don’t be a baby," he said. "Put on your snow pants." As the standoff continued my Dad appeared at the door, ready to sit down at the table where his two fried eggs appeared magically every morning as he hurried from chores to his second job. Mom pleaded her case that I would get sick going off half-dressed, and looked to Dad to uphold her concerns.

A middle child, happy with my books and school, I neither wanted, not received, a lot of undivided attention. I was not a problem child and it was out of character for me to stand facing him in scared determination. In hindsight, I think as Dad looked at me, he was remembering an earlier situation of his being young and embarrassed to being wearing too-small hand-me-downs. He simply said, "Let her go. She’ll be all right."

That afternoon as we tramped our snowy bodies into the dining room where we always deposited books, lunch bags, mittens and the rest of the day’s accumulation on the table, there was that feeling that something was out of place. For there on the table lay a big clothing store box; the kind we only saw at Christmas.

"Open it, Annie," Mom said. "It’s for you." To my astonishment, there among the folded tissue paper was the most beautiful snowsuit I had ever seen. Lush red fabric trimmed in dark green velvet. No jacket, but a knee length coat. Unheard of in our neighborhood.

Over the years I have often wondered where Dad got the money and how he got time off from work on that short notice to make the sixty-mile round trip to Olean and buy me that magnificent gift in just the right size. Christmas certainly came early that year and that skinny, gangly, ugly duckling had suddenly been turned into a swan.

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100 Years Ago – 1900-2000

BROOKLYN: The item in last week's letter relating to Mrs. A.K. Gere's illness should have read, Mrs. A.R. Gere. We regret to say that she is no better at the present writing. Mrs. J.C. Gere is able to be out after a serious illness.

SUSQUEHANNA: After a ten months' labor contention, Susquehanna is once more at rest. The greater portion of the Erie boiler-makers now in town returned to work, Monday and many of the apprentices and laborers will be re-employed at once. For the sake of all concerned, it is sincerely to be hoped that Susquehanna has seen its last strike. The old town can now settle down to enjoy the boom, evidences of which are already in sight. AND: A wooden clock, over 110 years old, is in possession of Ellis Persons, who secured the relic from an aunt in Delaware Co., NY. The clock keeps good time and is at present in Langford's jewelry store.

SPRINGVILLE: People who have been in the habit of trading with Hungerford & Co. are very sorry to have them go away, for it has been a good place to trade and customers were always treated on the square. AND: Mr. & Mrs. Perry Lyman, of Red Lodge, Montana, write they have a family of four now – a son arrived at their home a few days ago.

SILVER LAKE: Ladies visiting Binghamton would do well to lunch with Mrs. Anna Johnson and Miss Mack, formerly of Montrose, at the Women's Exchange, Court street. Besides having a dainty lunch they could see a display of beautiful articles placed there for purchasers. AND: Silver Lake was frozen over Sunday.

AUBURN CENTER: Though a trifle late, we wish to congratulate our worthy friend and subscriber, upon the arrival of a lively young Republican at his home on Nov. 5 (election day). Young Mr. Carter was barred from voting at that time on account of his youth, but time will remedy that, and in years to come he will, following in the footsteps of his father, help roll up rousing Republican majorities in old Auburn.

ST. JOSEPH and vicinity: The 19th anniversary of Rev. J.B. Whelan's pastorate, of St. Patrick's parish, West Scranton, was rounded out on Thanksgiving Day. Fr. Whelan is a native of Friendsville, only a few miles from this place – where his sister, Miss Louisa Whelan, still resides. Last Sunday 450 persons were confirmed in his parish.

HOPBOTTOM: We had a rain and sleet storm Monday night and on Tuesday it snowed to the depth of about 8 inches in the course of the day. Wednesday was clear and cold and the sleigh bells were heard in every direction.

SHANNON HILL: H.L. Lott, of Camptown, has been spending a few days in this place stamping names on the church quilt, which the ladies have been getting up and which will be ready for sale in the near future.

MONTROSE: Prof. Schenck and daughter, of Binghamton, will be here this (Friday) evening to organize a dancing class at Village Hall. AND: On Dec. 12, the D.L. & W. will run an excursion to New York at one fare, plus one dollar for the round trip. Fare from Montrose, $6.40. Tickets good returning Dec. 17.

ARARAT: Willie Thompson, a young lad living near Ararat, in a heavy snow storm the other day, lost his way coming from school. A number of farmers organized a search and the poor little fellow was found but a few rods from his own home, unable to take a step. After constant care he was in his usual health, a few hours later.

FRANKLIN FORKS: Mr. Jerry Banker, a member of the firm of D & J Banker, breeders of Devon cattle, Franklin Forks, is in Chicago this week acting as judge on Devon cattle at the Chicago National Live Stock Show. The appointment is a very complimentary one, as Mr. Banker knew nothing of his selection until he received the notice of his appointment. The directors of the National Live Stock Association could not have made a better selection, for what Mr. Banker does not know about Devon cattle is not worth knowing.

THOMPSON: A novel feature of Messrs. Simrell Brothers' farm is the trained Angora Goat Department, in charge of Mr. George S. Cash. The goats are thoroughly broken to drive single or in a team. They take kindly to their work and present a most pleasing appearance in harness. Recent sales are reported as follows: "Pasha," to Raymond Walker, New York City; "Ashantee," to Mister Paul Theband, Gedney Farm, White Plains, NY; "White Cloud," to Master Henry W. Smith, Cedarvale Farm, Closter, NJ.

HARFORD: F.E. Carpenter, a leading citizen of Harford, is a candidate for county commissioner, subject to the Democratic nominating convention. Mr. Carpenter has been a lifelong Democrat, and having served his party faithfully, deserves the nomination.

BRUSHVILLE: The young people of Brushville have donated a fine new bell to the Baptist church of that place.

FOREST CITY: Michael Petuh, a well-known citizen, recently lost a leg. He was oiling the coal elevators in the new breaker and got caught in one of the iron dippers. The leg was literally cut in two. Three ribs were broken and he was otherwise bruised. Dr. Noble dressed his injuries and completed the amputation of his leg, after which he was taken to the hospital in Carbondale.

EAST DIMOCK: Robbie and George Allen and Ralph Martin are trapping skunks after school hours.

FOREST LAKE: The Republican, Montrose, is in receipt of a letter from one of its oldest subscribers and friends, M.S. Towne, of Unionville, Mo. It will be 52 years since Mr. Towne first subscribed for this paper, which was then the Susquehanna Register; Hon. James W. Chapman was the editor, and Judge Benj. Patch, of Illinois, was then the printer's devil in the Register's office. Mr. Towne was a young man of 20 years, and a schoolteacher, at the time he first subscribed: he is now 72, and through all these years the Republican has been a regular weekly visitor to his western home. There were four years in which Mr. Towne served his country in putting down [the] rebellion, but even in those years the paper continued its weekly visits to his home. We wish to doff our hat and extend our best wishes to our old friend and subscriber "In Old Missouri."

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Straight From Starrucca

Saturday, November 24, was the scene of a lovely wedding held in the Methodist Church when Sarah Malinski exchanged marriage vows with Christopher Geer, officiated by Pastor Brian Lucas. Sarah is the daughter of Sandra Carpenter Malinski and Michael of Hancock. Reception was held in the Community Hall. Congratulations to the young couple.

Very few deer have been harvested as of this writing. Charlie Levchak’s son-in-law, Gary Robidoux, Laura Brownell, and Tim Hall were the only successful hunters. Vaughn Buchanan, Eleanor Buchanan’s grandson, got a bear last week, along with the other two mentioned last week.

June Downton’s grandchildren, Shawna and Todd Hadden, NC, visited her over Thanksgiving and weekend following. They all joined the family Thanksgiving at Joanne and Ray Thomas’ in Deposit, NY.

Wendell Swartz spent the holiday weekend with Sheila and Jim Sullivan, Rochester, NY. He and son Kent, of Waymart also attended a breakfast for Don Sherwood in Beach Lake, Wayne County, recently.

Toni Foy is making a weekly trek to Williamsport on Saturdays for a class in Baptist Theology.

Francis Swartz came home Wednesday from the nursing home in Forest City, news we were glad to hear.

Bridget and Paul D’Agati met up with friends on the holiday and had dinner at a timely restaurant in Honesdale, where the walls were filled with all kinds of clocks ticking away.

A collection was taken at the Spirited Seniors on Wednesday to help defray the costs of candles for the luminaries, which will be lit Christmas Eve.

Cindy Brown, Sunderland, Mass., visited her father, Charles Levchak for the holiday and weekend, and journeyed with her dad to sister Cathy’s in Windsor to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with family.

My sister, Jean and her two daughters, Holly, York, PA and Terry, Euless, Texas, my niece, Rose Smith and daughter, Dana, Mt. Cobb, PA, all met in a restaurant in Carbondale last Monday and were joined by myself and Madeline Thorn. I hadn’t seen my niece from Texas for a few years, and the afternoon went too fast to get our conversations finished. We had a good time.

Douglas and Millie Glover, Camp Hill, PA, spent several days with Roger and Barb Glover. Donna and Gordon Glover visited one day. They were all interested in the Neild genealogy, which was the men’s mother’s maiden name.

Only twenty shopping days ‘til Christmas - thought you should know.


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JULIE (SKINNER) VARGAS visits home of world-famous father, B. F. Skinner – Saturday, November 24, 2001, was a day I, and two other Susquehanna residents will never forget. On that day, Julie (Skinner) Vargas and her husband, Ernest Vargas of Morgantown, West Virginia, made a special trip to Susquehanna, to visit the house in which B. F. Skinner (her father) lived, and later was to become one of the world’s well-known people as he authored books, "Behavioral Psychologist" and "Particulars of My Life." If you did not read "Particulars," you missed a lot concerning Susquehanna and B. F.

The Vargas’ trip to Susquehanna took them to the Phillips’ home, at 433 Grand Street, where they were greeted by the children of the late Murv and Ruth Phillips (original owners of the home), Joyce (Phillips) Roe and Carol Phillips.

Visiting inside the home where B. F. Skinner was born (l-r) are: seated - Mrs. Julie (Skinner) Vargas, E. A. Vargas; standing - Carol Phillips, Lou Parrillo and Joyce (Phillips) Roe.After given a tour of the "old family home," the Vargas’ were really interested in "where and when" B. F. was located in the community and what we knew of his life here.

Several questions by the Vargas’ could not be answered by us, but if any resident can throw any light on B. F.’s life in Susquehanna, fee free to write to the Vargas’ at 519 Park Street, Morgantown, WV 26501, or you can call them at 1-304-292-3125.

After a very enlightening afternoon with the Vargas’, they were escorted around the area by the Phillips sisters.

Many here will remember the TV crew from England that filmed B. F. and others in Susquehanna during February of 1977. Several scenes were filmed in the Transcript office (when I was the owner). Many deemed B. F. "very controversial," but after meeting him and talking to him, he was down to earth just like "us" ordinary people. And after meeting his daughter (and husband), they also came across to me "just like any ordinary people." It was my pleasure to meet them and discuss what we knew about her dad.

The Phillips sisters sure made the Vargas’ feel at home, for this was the first time they ever visited the old homestead.

JEFF ROOD in National Meet – Slippery Rock University was this year’s site for the NCAA II National Cross Country championship, held on Saturday, November 17. Twenty-four teams represented the eight regions from across the nation. Millersville University (where Rood is a student) was one of three teams representing the Eastern Region. Rood, of Susquehanna, along with six of his Marauder teammates advanced into the national meet by placing second at the Eastern Regional Championship. The team ended up their season ranked 20th in the nation. (Not bad, at all.)

Along with making it to the national level of competition on the cross country course, Jeff recently earned recognition of scholar-athlete by the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. He received his award for this at a banquet held at Millersville University, also attended by his parents.

Rood is currently a sophomore, majoring in chemistry. He is a member of the cross country team and also the track team, where he runs in the long distance events.

(NewsBeat note: Jeff, the son of Jack and Judy Rood of Grant Street, Susquehanna, is a 2000 graduate of Susquehanna High School, where he also competed in cross country events, and was valedictorian of his class. I recall watching Little League when Jeff was his team’s catcher and also doubled as a pitcher. You may ask, "Where does Jeff get his stamina to do cross country and track?" If you look closely, more often than not, you will see his dad, Jack, jogging all over the area - from Susquehanna to Oakland and back. Could be it’s rubbing off on young Jeff! Congratulations to the Roods, and Jeff.)

GENE BAKER Writes - Dear Lou (NewsBeat) - Known as "Little U. G.," after his grandfather, Editor U. G. Baker, Gene writes concerning a book written by a former Susquehanna resident. (The book was advertised in the Transcript several weeks ago.)

The book, titled "Coppa Monte" (meaning "Up the Mountain") was written by John Mango, who worked here at "NS" Telegraphy (now known as the Starrucca House), for the Erie Railroad, when I (U. G.) was breaking in on the railroad.

The story recounts the migration of Italians from Moiano, Italy to the Susquehanna area. The story is historical in nature and covers the period spanning the 1880’s to 1945. In the book is a photo of the Sons of Italy lodge members, taken in the 1920’s, in front of the Canawacta Hotel.

John is the son of the late Joe and Madeline Mango, former residents, later moving to California, where John completed his book. Many railroaders will remember John as a dispatcher for the ERR.

The book can be purchased by calling toll-free 1-877-289-2665. Several local residents have copies of the book, believed to be under $20, which includes postage. (Thanks, U. G.)

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