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Issue Home March 30, 2004 Site Home

Slices Of Life
100 Years Ago

Straight From Starrucca
Along the Way...With P. Jay
From the Desk Of The DA

Slices of Life

To Be Continued

We’re a cozy trio on the couch. There’s me, the mother who sits here laughing at Erma Bombeck’s genius as I read "Family, The Ties that Bind and Gag," trying to get inspiration for my own column. Then there’s a plush teddy bear dressed in a lace-trimmed velvet hat and dress. And, lastly, the sleeping cat who has not moved for the last four hours.

It is unbelievable how much Mrs. Morris can sleep. After she gets me up in the morning and polishes off her half-a-can of food, she will then go back to bed until about noon, when her appetite summons her from the sunny guest bed. Having eaten again, she naps intermittently until supper time, and spends the times between snoozes following me around yowling for food.

This afternoon I came in the living room to look through the Shopping Guide for bargains too good to pass up, and I heard the padding of little feet following me. That’s when she again made her nest on the couch. But I’m not complaining. At least she’s quiet – and looks adorable turned upside down as only cats can do.

Remember how angelic your small children looked when they were sleeping? After a day’s interaction with the terrible twos, several drinks of water, a few trips to find lost objects and several "good nights," they finally settled down and went to sleep. You’d tip-toe into the room to make sure they were all right, but stay out of sight range just in case an eye opened. With a sigh of relief you’d retreat from the room for some adult conversation, a cup of tea and maybe on to your own projects.

Those are young adult memories for me, but my childhood memories had a different slant. When I was a kid, the whole household went to bed at the same time. That seems so strange to me now, as I look back on those days. After an evening of sitting around in the living room together; playing games, reading aloud, working on homework and handiwork, it would be time for bed. Dad would have his crackers and milk, we kids would usually have a bowl of cereal, and all would head up the stairs. Dad would hoist one of us up on his shoulders, saying "Hitchety, hatchety, little red jackety, and up we go." And riding on his shoulders we’d go off to bed.

There was no down time for my parents. Baby-sitters were unheard of. Mom and Dad were on duty from morning until bedtime and we kids were included in everything; given jobs if we were big enough or just being there making our own entertainment if we were too young to participate. My sister recently sent me a packet of poems she had written for Mom, chronicling some of the highlights of our growing-up years. These included Mom’s wet dishrag, which was her weapon of choice when she needed to break up a fight. Getting swatted with that certainly made one re-think boundaries. She remembered the battles over bobby pins as three girls tried to stretch a minimal number of bobby pins over their nightly pin curls. Then there was our imaginary nemesis, Libby Hanghole, who would not leave us alone when we played house on the front porch. She lived under the big apple tree in the front yard, and appeared every time we went out to play. We are quite sure that Libby was a by-product of a radio program "Don McNeil’s Breakfast Club" (brought to you by Libby, McNeil and Libby). Libby’s last name was a combination of the hole under the apple tree where she lived and the fact that she always hung around. "Get Those Darn Girls Out of Here" was the cry of a younger brother who had too many bosses. Does this sound like your family?

All that past excitement and here I sit with a teddy bear and a sleeping cat. But we’re not writing "the end" to this just yet. We’ll just say, "Life interrupted – to be continued."

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100 Years Ago

GLENWOOD: One Mr. Fisk, living near here, an old man past 80 years, was taken to the hospital, as his bills were running beyond all precedent--care and doctor bills reached nearly $125 since last fall, which has caused the poor masters to levy an extra mill tax to help them out. AND: Maple sugar will soon be on the market again, as there are several fine sugar bushes in this community. Then sugar parties will be all the go.

LITTLE MEADOWS: The men pushing the survey of the Pittsburg, Binghamton & Eastern railway now declare that the road will be built at an early day. This is the road that will pass through Little Meadows. AND: Prominent businessman Frank Palmer died at his home March 20, 1904. Mr. Palmer had mills here and at Aploachin. He was 49 years of age.

FRIENDSVILLE: The people of the vicinity are anxiously watching the progress made in completing the plans for the Binghamton & Southern railroad. The route lies through Forest Lake township, about two miles from this place.

UNIONDALE: Miss Daisy Bronson, retiring librarian, tendered a farewell reception to members of the executive committee. Miss Elizabeth Smith has been elected librarian for the coming year.

FRANKLIN FORKS: Mr. Melvin and Miss Ellen entertained the Webster brothers [and] Cromwell brothers, at their home on Monday evening. Refreshments were served.

SUSQUEHANNA: The Methodist church has given up the idea of a new church edifice for the present. The old one will be repaired. AND: It is feared that a baseball club will be organized here.

LAUREL LAKE, Silver Lake Twp.: J. B. Mahoney sold a big maple tree to John H. Shay, which cut into 18 cords of 16" wood. How is that for a good old Democratic sapling?

JACKSON VALLEY, Middletown Twp.: Our school closed Saturday with an entertainment. The teacher was presented with an Easter Lilly in full bloom, raised by A. Jones.

BIRCHARDVILLE: There was a mad dog passed through this place recently. He bit several dogs on his way from Choconut and there are several dogs that ought to be killed, yet the owners don't think so--they have killed a number up Choconut way. We hope there will be no more mad dogs.

MONTROSE: The uniforms from A. G. Spalding & Brother that will be used by our ball team have arrived and are exhibited in the window of F. D. Morris & Co. The uniform is of pearl gray with jerseys and stockings of black with cardinal stripes. A large old English M adorns the left side of the shirts and if new clothes will win games Montrose will win them all. AND: The ladies of the AME Zion church will give an Easter supper for the benefit of said church. They solicit the patronage of their many friends and public to help them in their endeavor, on Monday and Tuesday evening, April 4th and 5th at 5:30. Menu: Ham and eggs, coffee, bread and butter, scalloped potatoes, pickles. Ice cram and confectionery at moderate prices.

FOREST CITY: About 2 o'clock Monday morning a band of robbers entered the Forest City postoffice and carried away stamps, money, etc., amounting to in the neighborhood of $80. An attempt was made to blow open the safe and the report from the explosive they used could be heard for blocks around, it sounding from a distance like a pistol shot. The burglars left no clue as to their identity.

HALLSTEAD/GREAT BEND: Last Friday evening the north end of the county bridge connecting Hallstead and Great Bend was carried away by the breaking of an ice gorge, or really two gorges. The upper jam was located near Susquehanna and was dislocated by the elements about 3 o'clock. It moved rapidly down the river to Hickory Grove where the second gorge that had formed was encountered. Ice in a river moves with an awful force and the impetus carried away the barrier and thus augmented the moving mass approached the bridge and snapped off the north end as if it were a pipe stem. The shallow water between Great Bend and Kirkwood afforded an opportunity for another jam, and the result was the backing up of the water on the low end in that section. Wm. Hunt had the water in his barn over the heads of his cows but rescued them before the water became too high. Telegraph and telephone poles and wires were destroyed and thousands of dollars were lost in a short space of time. The bridge has recently been repaired and the commissioners have already taken steps to repair the damage that, we understand, will be paid by the State. (The only means of conveyance between Great Bend and Hallstead is by boat and those who own boats are reaping a harvest from those whom necessity compels to cross the river between the two towns. One chap on Monday, when the price demanded reached one dollar the round trip, captured 14 good plunks of the realm. The price on Tuesday dropped to fifty cents, over and back).

LANESBORO/OAKLAND: The ice and water in the river did considerable damage in this vicinity. At Lanesboro, on Friday afternoon, it carried along the dismantled steamer "Idlewild," two barges at the dock, all the property of Fred H. Pride, of Susquehanna. On the Oakland side of the river the main portion of Holdridge's grist mill was carried down stream; the portion torn out was two stores and contained wood working machines; the remainder of the mill is badly wrecked.

UPSONVILLE [Franklin Twp.]: Richard Tobey, Jr. is visiting his relatives in this vicinity. He has been in the employ of J. P. Morgan, a very wealthy New Yorker. In his travels he saw many places worthy of note; he tells us of the exhibit of their fine dogs. They expect to reach the World's Fair at St. Louis, Mo., later on in the season.

HEART LAKE: The Aid Society met on Thursday last at the home of Wm. Goff; about 30 enjoyed the bountiful dinner provided by Mrs. Goff; quilting and sewing carpet rags furnished work for those present. The next meeting will occur April 7 at the home of Mr. and Mrs. E. W. Melhuish and a warm sugar social will be held in the evening, to which all are cordially invited.

NEWS BRIEF: A law was passed in 1797 requiring that each loaf of bread must weigh a full pound--16 ounces. The fact that this law is still in force was brought to light last week when a York county baker was arrested on the charge of selling bread that weighed but 14 ounces to the loaf. Now that they have been warned, the bakers throughout the state will do well hereafter to see that their customers get a pound loaf or they may meet a fate similar to that of the York county man. The public likes light bread, but does not want the lightness to be so pronounced that it is noticeable on the scales.

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Straight From Starrucca

"‘Sing a song of spring,’ cried the pleasant April rain, with a thousand sparkling tones upon the window pane, and the flowers in the ground woke dreamily and stirred from root to root, from seed to seed, crept swiftly the happy word." Celia Thaxter.

The Civic Association has unanimously voted to pay for the candles that light up the luminaries at Christmas time.

This is how the Little League teams are arranged: three teams, ages 9-10; two teams, 11 and 12 years old. The girls, two teams ages 13-16. Practice will begin April 1, weather cooperating, according to Pete Downton, one of the coaches.

June Downton attended a birthday party for her sister-in-law at Walker Valley, NY, last Sunday.

Twelve Uprights, last Thursday, gathered to pay homage to Brent Upright on his birthday.

Last weekend Carl and Virginia Upright, along with Carl’s brother and wife, attended a Broadway show in New York City.

Donna and Dennis Corrigan are moving, expect to be gone by end of month. We shall miss them, but they are leaving behind a legacy of hard work in restoring one of the first houses built in Starrucca.

I returned last Wednesday from a two-week visit to my son, Nelson Dickey and wife, Phyllis. A change of scenery was nice after being holed up all winter.

"April weeps – but o ye hours! Follow with May’s fairest flowers." Percy Bisshe Shelley


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Along the Way...With P. Jay

Insurance Plan Sounds Promising

The Susquehanna County Commissioners are excited about the possibility of a statewide health insurance program that would be made available to all counties through the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP). And with the ever increasing cost of health insurance one can’t help but applaud their enthusiasm.

Commissioner Jeff Loomis said the cost of providing health insurance for county employees should be considerably lower if all 67 counties jump on the bandwagon and opt for CCAP’s program. Mr. Loomis also made an interesting observation in pointing out that the program is focusing more on rural counties because there are fewer insurance claims than the cities.

"This could save us a tremendous amount of money," Mr. Loomis said. "I am sure some private insurers around the county don’t care for it but the fact of the matter is we would be saving the county so much money we could never go with a small local insurer."

"We hope to take advantage of this if we can," Commissioner Roberta Kelly said. "This can be a huge savings if we are able to jump on board with it."

From their web site on the internet we learned that CCAP has partnered with Highmark and Highmark Blue Shield to offer counties and their employees health insurance with unique features.

"The Health Insurance Program is being rolled out in phases," said Richard Brookes, benefits program manager. "We started with the central part of the state in 2003 and have expanded to the western part of the state for 2004 renewals. We are looking to have the entire state covered in the very near future."

A different view

At last week’s meeting of the county commissioners, a woman pointed out to Commissioner MaryAnn Warren that when she was a candidate she said she would not vote for a county Personnel Director. Minutes before it was mentioned, Mrs. Warren did, in fact, vote to create the position.

"We deal with more personnel issues than anything else," Mrs. Warren said. "You change your mind on a lot of things after you get into office."

Wow! I have been a political writer for a lot of years, but I think I can count on one hand how many times I have heard an office holder speak so honest and sincere. And it is so true. I covered municipal governments where the town’s population was less than 500 and large municipalities where the population was in the thousands and I cannot think of a single office holder who did not change his or her mind on an issue at one time or another.

You see my friends, when someone is running for office it is easy to find fault with the administration you are running against. But when you win and now have to put yourself in your opponent’s shoes, it becomes a whole new ballgame. You are no longer on the outside looking in. Nay, you are now on the inside and suddenly the enemy is out there and many office holders will say anything to escape the wrath of an angry taxpayer.

MaryAnn Warren could have invented a reason why she broke a campaign pledge. You learn to respond quickly when the room is anxiously waiting for your response to a criticism. Mrs. Warren could have conjured up an off-the-wall explanation for her actions. But she didn't. Her answer was honest: "You change your mind on a lot of things after you get into office."

How refreshing.

Pump up the volume

Shortly after they took office and moved the meeting room to the basement of the county building on Public Avenue, I asked the commissioners to consider some sort of sound system so everyone could hear what was being said at their meetings.

A couple of weeks later and there they were: microphones, speakers, podium, the whole nine yards. The problem now is Roberta Kelly, chair of the Board of Commissioners, is afraid to ask members of the audience to step forward, state their name, and speak into the microphone.

For openers, I do not know how the chief clerk can be expected to keep accurate minutes if people can stand up and speak without identifying themselves. Then, if a person is too timid to stand up and speak for himself, maybe he/she should send in a designated speaker; and finally, I have yet to hear Mrs. Kelly invite anyone to step forward and speak into the microphone.

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OFFICIALS Defend War! – I can’t believe what I read in a national news release by the Associated Press. Secretary of State Colin Powell and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, along with Condoleeza Rice said they "do not regret that the United States went to war against Iraq." No sense elaborating on all of the article. But Mr. Rumsfeld, when asked about the war, said it was worth it; even with the United States losing close to 600 lives. He answered: "Was it worth 564 lives? Oh, my goodness, yes. 25 million Iraq people are free." I can’t believe that people of such stature would agree that the killing of United States personnel is OK! Does anyone know if the three have kin fighting in Iraq? We all know the answer. No! On the same day this article came out, a group of families of slain troops marched to Dover Air Force Base to protest the lingering war in Iraq. The Bush administration has barred the media from covering the arrival of dead troops at the Air Force Base, to lessen the publicity.

STATE HAS "New Slogan" – The State of Pennsylvania has a new slogan – The State of Independence. The winner of a contest – held recently – to find a catchy new phrase to help the state attract tourists is doctoral student Tristan Mabry. 22,000 entries were submitted, with 17 people coming up with the same idea. In a random drawing, Mabry was the winner.

GUARD YOUR I.D. & S.S. – According to a national magazine the most perfect internet crime has reached epidemic proportions in the US, according to the Federal Trade Commission. The agency reported that recently 3.3 million Americans found within the past year that their names have been used to open fraudulent bank accounts or to commit other crimes. Another 6.6 million reported that unauthorized purchases had been made on their accounts. Guard your cards. Do not give out your SS number unless absolutely necessary. Keep track of your credit cards. Fraud is everywhere today.

IT WAS COLD, 1941 – The Transcript reported low temperatures for the night of February 10, 1941. It was six below at the Erie Station; ten below at Thompson, Deposit and Gulf Summit. Thermometers outside of Thompson Boro reached 16 below. Residents here (Susquehanna) reported 12 below at some places. The mercury in front of Transcript – at 9 a.m., rose to zero. (Brrr.)

DRUG MAKERS SUED – Pennsylvania Attorney General, Jerry Pappert, is suing 13 major pharmaceutical companies and subsidiaries, accusing them of inflating prices in an alleged scheme that cost the government hundreds of millions of dollars. Mr. Pappert said that, "price is often far higher than the actual price and the medical providers pocket the difference."

OLYMPICS ($$$) IN ATHENS – Come August the Olympics will be held in Athens, Greece. Are you planning on attending? If so, here are some prices: swimming events $98; you can stay on the Queen Mary ship which will be docked at the Athens Port, $8,000 for four days; at a modest hotel, six days for $5,000 per person; flights from New York to Athens (not near the events) run from $1,100 to $1,500. You will have to pay more to get to the events. What if your bank account doesn’t match your love for the Olympics? For the rest of us, there’s round-the-clock coverage on NBC and MSNBC. (That’s for me.)


SMART CAT – A man hated his wife’s cat and decided to get rid of it by driving the cat 20 blocks from their home and leaving it at the park. When the man arrived home, he saw the cat walking up the driveway. The next day he decided to drive the cat 40 blocks away. He pulled over, put the cat on the ground and headed home. When he arrived home, the cat again was walking up the driveway. The man continued to take the cat further and further away, and the cat would always beat him home. At last he decided to drive a few miles away, turn right, then left, pass the bridge, then turn right again until he reached what he thought was a safe distance from his home, where he left the cat. Hours later the man called his wife. "Jane, is the cat there?"

"Yes," she answered. "Why do you ask?"

Frustrated, the man said, "Put the thing on the phone. I’m lost and need directions."

A NEW FILE – Bill Gates my father is not. As church treasurer, he had two computer files labeled "St. Mary’s Income" and "St. Mary’s Expenditure." While copying them from a Macintosh to a PC, he had no idea the PC would automatically truncate the file names to ten characters, eliminate spaces and replace apostrophes with periods. Now the church’s income is stored in "StMary.sin" and in ""

LOTS OF WATER – The mini-uprising resulted when the boss threatened to end our weekly delivery of bottled water. She eventually backed down. But in defusing the situation, she caused mass confusion when she announced, "I am happy to report we can retain water."

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From the Desk Of The DA

Last fall our church members decided we needed new siding on our Church. One of our members came forward with a price proposal from a relative. In October/November 2003, we agreed and gave the relative a check for approximately $5,000 to buy materials for the job. Unfortunately, the job has not been completed. In fact, little work at all has been performed. We have received various poor excuses over the past five months, but no results. Do we have any legal recourse in the criminal justice system?


Unfortunately, the Susquehanna County District Attorney’s Office receives similar complaints on a regular basis. While most professionals are required by the state to be licensed, there is no requirement that contractors have any type of license prior to dealing with the public. As such, literally any person with a set of tools can hold himself or herself out as an experienced contractor capable of doing any and all forms of carpentry. In order to protect yourself, you should always obtain and check references prior to entering into any agreement or investing any funds. Without checking references, and in the absence of any state licensing, the potential for poor workmanship and outright thievery is substantial, and both occur.

With respect to the criminal law, the mere failure to perform work as contracted does not necessarily arise to the level of a criminal theft. The potential criminality of any particular act depends upon the actor’s mens rea, which means the actor’s state of mind at the time of the alleged wrongful act. In these "contractual" cases, it is often difficult to differentiate between the inept contractor with good intentions but insufficient skills and the "con artist" with the intent to deceive and defraud. On the one hand, the inept contractor did not intend to steal or commit a wrongful act; rather, he or she simply lacks the necessary skill to adequately perform the work. Although this would create a civil remedy for breach of the contractual agreement, there would be no criminal liability as the contractor lacked the requisite criminal intent. On the other hand, if a "con artist" receives consideration in return for a promised act with no intent to ever perform or fulfill the promise, the "con artist" has the requisite criminal intent, i.e.: the "con artist" took the money under false or deceptive pretenses.

For law enforcement, it is very difficult to differentiate between the inept contractor and the skilled "con artist." Oftentimes, there is no way to know what was running through the proposed contractor’s mind at the time the agreement was made. In order to ascertain the intent, we look to the circumstantial evidence including how much work has been performed, supplies purchased, the communication between the parties, the excuses given for the failure to complete the work, and prior history with other parties encountering similar problems.

In the particular case referenced above, the $5,000 was given for the purpose of purchasing supplies. Given the problems that you have experienced, I would recommend that you demand that the supplies be turned over to the church with the appropriate receipts documenting the purchases, that a reasonable rate of pay be given for the nominal work performed, and that the remaining funds be returned to the church for its use in obtaining a new contractor. If the contractor cannot document the use of the funds or return the remaining funds, then a potential criminal act may have occurred. Unfortunately, the church needs to investigate this matter further before any determination as to criminality may properly be made.

Please submit any questions, concerns, or comments to Susquehanna County District Attorney’s Office, P.O. Box 218, Montrose, Pennsylvania 18801.

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