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Issue Home February 22, 2005 Site Home

Slices Of Life
100 Years Ago
Along the Way...With P. Jay

From the Desk of the D.A.

Straight From Starrucca
Earth Talk
Thinking Allowed

Slices of Life

Visiting My Hometown

I go back quite regularly to the area I called home. Not to the farmhouse that I lived in, but to the town where we did our shopping, banking, bought the cow feed, and went to high school. When I return, I spend a night with my husband’s aged relatives, eat at the local corner restaurant, and visit with some of my siblings and their families, if time permits. But my last trip had a more specific purpose. I was there on assignment to do an interview for a magazine.

One might ask what there would be in a small town that would pique the interest of a national magazine. The answer is a family-owned 5 and 10 cent store that has been in existence for over fifty years, and has not changed appreciably as the rest of the country has gone to mega-stores.

I love to go into that familiar building and wander through the two floors of sundry dry goods. It takes me back to my childhood and teenage years, and the excitement we would feel when we knew we were going to Lindgren’s. The father and mother owned and operated it then. Now their son, in his seventies, is holding on to a way of life that has vanished from most places. Dollar Stores and Dollar Generals, Walmarts and other mega-stores have pushed out most of the variety stores.

The Diner also remains on Main Street, but a large dining room has been added to the back of the building. When I worked there it was just a dining car with a long counter and maybe eight booths along the walls; each big enough to hold four people. Rotund, bald, cigar-chomping Fred Milroy presided over this kingdom; and we’d better not forget who was in charge. I tested the ranks one day by changing shifts with someone else, and he told me in no uncertain terms that he was in charge of scheduling! Needless to say, I did not try that again.

Main Street is still the home of The Christmas Store, which is a good tourist attraction. I haven’t been in there in years, so I don’t know if all their inventory now comes from China, but when it first opened in the 1950’s, large outdoor displays were just coming on the market and they were handmade there. They were shipped to celebrities all over the world. My boyfriend of that time, spent his summer days crating these expensive pieces for shipping. The workshop was very near the Sweet Shop where I was then working as a waitress, and I would wait eagerly for two o’clock to arrive when he would get a short break and appear at the counter for a Coke.

The cavernous GLF feed store is long gone, but the building still remains and has housed many different businesses through the years. As a child, I made numerous trips to that store with my Dad. It was a chance to get off the farm once in awhile, and he invariably stopped at the Dairy Bar on the way home and bought us kids ice cream cones. It was a wondrous treat on a hot summer afternoon.

On this last trip “home,” I filled my gas tank at the station that used to belong to another friend of mine. When I dated him in high school, he worked at this station for the money that allowed him to own an old car and fill it with gasoline, take me to the movies and for something to eat afterward. Later he bought the station and ran it until his retirement. After which, he went back to work at a dealership. Some people just can’t get away from cars.

Driving by the Tastee Freeze brought back memories of my husband, because that’s where I was working when I met him. Lots of good memories in a trip back home.

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100 Years Ago

SUSQUEHANNA: Hatch’s Moving Picture Company appeared in the opera house Saturday evening to good business. AND: On Sunday evening, in Christ Episcopal church, the rector delivered an appropriate sermon on the life of George Washington.

BROOKLYN: The framework of the new butter factory has been raised and the building will be rapidly pushed to completion.

BIRCHARDVILLE: The fine sleighing has made lively times with lumbermen drawing logs to mill. The mill is running every day, and those wanting sawing, plaining, turning shingles made, or grinding done, can have it done without delay. AND: The new bell for the church is hung, and such a fine tone – no country church can boast of a better one. Its sound can be heard from three to four miles. May it be a means to the call of a preacher for the people.

GREAT BEND: One of the old landmarks on Main St., an old oak tree, standing at the corner of the Hill block, was cut down Monday afternoon.

SILVER LAKE: The road to Binghamton is reported as impassable, on account of the high drifts melting so as to let a horse break through. AND: Many of the young people of this place attended the dance given by the Red Men, at Franklin Forks, Wednesday night.

LATHROP: A.G.C. Deacon, of England, and Miss Emily Purkiss, of Lathrop, were united in matrimony, Saturday, Feb. 11th, at the bride’s home, by Rev. H. T. Purkiss, James A. Decker acting as best man and Mrs. R.A. Squires as bridesmaid. Miss Grace States rendered a beautiful march. After congratulations they repaired to the dining room where a sumptuous repast was served. The bride received six dollars in cash as a gift from the following: Mr. and Mrs. S. Quick, Mr. and Mrs. Will Kerr, Miss Grace Johnson, Mr. and Mrs. R.A. Squires, Mr. and Mrs. James A. Decker, Rev. and Mrs. H.T. Purkiss.

HOPBOTTOM: A sleighride party attended a party at Archie Pratt’s last Monday.

ELK LAKE: Our supervisor has been a busy man lately, shoveling snow. The Dimock and Rush mail failed to go through Monday night.

SPRINGVILLE: Elias Titman is getting well along in years, and yet many days this winter he has trudged down to Lynn and done his day’s work and walked back home at night. Young men might benefit by his example. AND: The Odd Fellows made a bee for Bro. Chas. A. Thomas last Saturday and hauled and cut a good sized pile of wood, and also took along a ton of coal. And yet a few see-so-good-in-ems are not satisfied.

MONTROSE: Several people have contracted the bad habit of burning waste paper in the main streets of the borough, and it should cease. The burning paper flies in all directions and while there is not a great deal of danger in starting a conflagration, the filmy residue swirls into business places with each gust of wind when doors are ajar, making it very disagreeable to occupants and unsightly to customers. It is against the ordinances of the borough. “Cut it out.”

EAST BRIDGEWATER: A largely attended and enjoyable social was held at the home of H.W. Jameson, Friday evening. Three four-in-hand sleigh loads from Montrose and one from Brooklyn, besides many single teams, gathered at the Jameson domicile and a fair estimate places the number in attendance at 150. The drifted roads made the journey spicily exciting and many were the narrow escapes from a “spill.” Notwithstanding the bitter cold on returning the beautiful moonlit night and thoughts of the preceding pleasures made even this not a disagreeable experience, while taken as a whole it will be an event long to be remembered with pleasant thoughts.

UNIONDALE: Frank Westgate and his men cut and shipped about 12,000 tons of ice the past month; two large orders going to Deposit. It is 27” thick and is cut into 500-pound blocks. It looks nice but we think it will look nicer next July. Mr. Westgate has ordered four carloads of wagons to be shipped in March; also two cars of farm implements for spring trade, and says he is going to handle the high grade M.E. Wheeler fertilizer. He also has the agency for the Eastern part of Susquehanna county and part of Wayne county for the well-known Oliver Chilled plow. That is right, Frank, something to please the farmers, for they are the main stay in the family.

GLENWOOD: John Rulyea, of Kingsley, gave a performance in the Glenwood school house on Saturday evening, consisting of sleight of hand and fire eating, then the graphophone did the rest.

DIMOCK: Some of the Democrats from Dimock were in town yesterday and were feeling good as to the result of the election, the Democratic ticket having swept everything clean in Dimock—a clean sweep, they said, no matter whether or not the broom was put out as an emblem of the clean sweeping.

ARARAT: Wm. Leach is a candidate for sheriff.

CLIFFORD: John Hunter has been keeping company with a nice large carbuncle for the past week.

KINGSLEY: The Kingsley concert band gave a pleasing program at Alford, Thursday evening, for the benefit of the band recently organized in that place.

PLEASANT VALLEY, Auburn Twp.: Marion Griffis, the “Picture Man” of Montrose, passed through this vicinity delivering crayons [drawings], which are exceeding good. By the way, this county has been canvassed several times during the past year by slick talking picture agents representing Chicago and New York firms. Most people who gave them orders have found to their sorrow that they bought cheap, inferior work, at high prices.

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Along the Way...With P. Jay

Blue Ridge Board Offer Is Unbelievable

It has been called “The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of Tax Collectors” and most people I have contacted really find it difficult to believe. It may not have been as shocking as the first St. Valentine’s Day Massacre when seven men were gunned down in Chicago on February 14, 1929, but it is certainly worthy of a challenge and a camera review for a low blow.

It happened on February 14, 2005 in the Blue Ridge Regional School District. In its effort to hold the line on taxes, the Board of Education voted to reduce the commissions paid to the district tax collectors by a whopping 80 percent. If the first “massacre” of this century holds up, the commission for collecting real estate taxes and occupation taxes will be reduced from three dollars and $2.75 respectively per tax bill to 60 cents per tax bill.

Just exactly how big a cut does 80 percent represent? One tax collector in the school district told me her gross commissions for collecting school taxes would drop from $1,600 to $295. There are also some expenses incurred by the collectors that are not reimbursable.

The terms of all six tax collectors in the district are up this year and obviously the board’s move is designed to discourage them from seeking reelection. Pennsylvania’s Public School Code allows for the appointment of tax collectors in certain cases.

Section 683 of the code reads: “The board of school directors in each school district of the second, third, or fourth class, where a tax collector is not elected to collect school taxes, or where there is a vacancy, or where any tax collector elected refuses to qualify or furnish a bond as herein provided, shall, annually, on or before the first day of June in each year, appoint one or more suitable persons as tax collectors in said school districts. The board of school directors in any school district, appointing any tax collector or tax collectors, may authorize and direct any one tax collector to collect the school taxes in any one or more wards or other property divisions in such school district.”

Board members believe the district can save about $25,000 a year in commissions by hiring a part-time tax collector of their own.

Laura Conarton, president of the Susquehanna County Tax Collectors Association and a tax collector in the Blue Ridge School District, said all six tax collectors will seek reelection. Mrs. Conarton said the directors will file a letter with their nominating petitions stating that they are not satisfied with the compensation plan proposed by the Blue Ridge School District. She also said the six tax collectors are looking into other possible action they could take without finding themselves in default of their tax collecting duties.

Mrs. Conarton said it just does not pay for the tax collectors to be paid 60 cents a bill when postage required in a number of instances would cost the collectors 37 cents a stamp.

From what I have been told, last October the tax collectors in the school district presented the Board of Education with a schedule of what they would like to be paid during their next term in office. The collectors heard nothing from the board until February 11, when each of them received an unsigned letter outlining the 80 percent cutback to 60 cents per tax bill. The letter was unsigned and was printed on plain paper.

“We have not been treated fairly,” Mrs. Conarton said. “We really do a good job. Offering us an 80 percent reduction in pay kind of forces us out.”

From here, the thought that came to mind almost immediately after I heard about this is how would these school directors feel if their bosses offered them an 80 percent pay cut. I can accept reasonable cutbacks for the sake of a balanced budget that would not reflect too high a tax increase. But 80 percent? These school directors must have nerves of steel to be able to show their faces at a public meeting and support such a ridiculous proposal.

If the tax collectors in the Blue Ridge School District resign rather than accept the proposed 80 percent pay cut, a number of questions come to mind immediately. Can they resign one-third of their elected responsibilities and still be collectors for the county and municipal taxes? Or, if they resign must it be a total separation from all collection duties? Do school boards have the right to replace an elected tax collector with one that is appointed by the board? If a tax collector resigns, doesn’t the county judge have the authority to appoint a replacement as he has done when vacancies occurred on the Board of Commissioners? Technically, aren't tax collectors county employees?

By the way, in case you are not familiar with the Blue Ridge Regional School District, the facilities include an elementary school, a middle school and a high school on a sprawling campus in New Milford Township. Sending municipalities include New Milford Borough and Township, Great Bend Borough and Township, Hallstead Borough, and Jackson Township.

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From the Desk of the D.A.

What is obscene material? Can the government regulate its possession or its dissemination? Where does law enforcement fit in terms of policing what pictures, videos, and other items a person may lawfully possess? Obviously, you will receive different responses to these questions depending upon your personal beliefs and/or politics. Does a small, rural county ever encounter these types of cases?

In terms of prosecution, in Susquehanna County, we have only seen a few cases involving child pornography that have resulted in actual arrests and convictions. These cases are always inherently difficult from an evidentiary standpoint, especially when dealing with computer images. The government not only must prove that the material itself is unlawful, but that the material was knowingly possessed, and not inadvertently downloaded or saved to a computer file without the user’s explicit knowledge.

As to the first component, i.e.: that the material was unlawful, the United States Supreme Court has made the possession of computer animated or generated “children” lawful, whereas the possession of lewd and obscene photographs of “real” children is criminal. How does one try to prove that the material located on a computer hard drive is a “real” as opposed to a computer generated, child? First, law enforcement attempts to determine whether the material depicts a “known victim,” i.e.: an actual child. There are databases maintained throughout the country containing photographs of children who have been victims of child pornography. A law enforcement officer can submit the seized material for forensic review to determine whether the material involves a “known victim.”

If law enforcement cannot verify that the child is a “known victim,” then it becomes necessary to hire an expert for digital imaging testimony. In essence, the expert will attempt to determine whether the material involves computer-generated images, as opposed to real children. The expert will also review the computer hard drive for embedded data, which may easily identify whether the material is an actual digital photograph, and could include such information as the make of the camera used to take the picture.

A prosecutor may also be required to obtain the medical testimony for purposes of establishing proportions, body fat distribution, and the skin tone of the children in the material is consistent with those of real children. Finally, the courts have also indicated that a jury can simply consider the material to determine whether the material depicts a “real” child. In short, the courts have made it difficult to prosecute individuals for the possession of child pornography, and, with the continued technological advance, it is unlikely that prosecutions will become any easier.

Recently, the Justice Department attempted to crack down on violent adult obscenity by arresting a husband and wife who were selling obscene videos of women being sexually abused, including depictions of women being gang raped, defecated upon, and having their throats slit. In response, a federal judge threw out the criminal case in its entirety, finding that “the federal obscenity statutes burden an individual’s fundamental right to possess, read, observe and think about what he chooses in the privacy of his own home by completely banning the distribution of obscene materials.” Although the case did not involve child pornography, it also helps to demonstrate the difficulties that prosecutors face in prosecuting obscenity crimes.

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

quehanna County District Attorney’s Office, P.O. Box 218, Montrose, Pennsylvania 18801.

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Straight From Starrucca

Charles Levchak doesn’t have to wonder what to do with his time, at least for a couple months. He is absorbed putting together a five-thousand piece jigsaw puzzle measuring sixty by forty inches, that he has laid out on the floor. His daughter, Carole Robideaux, Tunkhannock comes over once a week or so to help him out. Says he should have it together in another month.

Saturday night, the twelfth, Charlie, accompanied by Virginia Upright, Ruth and Bob Lunt, thoroughly enjoyed a play at the Windsor United Methodist Church in which Charlie’s daughter, Cathy starred.

About two weeks ago, Virginia Upright couldn’t believe her eyes when she looked out the window and saw a whole flock of robins. They must have flown the wrong thermal wave. Have heard of several sightings of the confused birds.

Gina and husband, Carl visited Floren Racht, his 89-year old uncle who is hospitalized in Carbondale. They also visited Shirley and Wyland Clift in Waymart, who stood up for them when married fifty-four years ago. Gina also tells me her brother, Ray Kopp has written a book about sailing. Also, she shares a Valentine birthday with brother, Art Kopp, an item I forgot in last week’s news.

Jeffrey Rhone and Danielle Jump, Delhi, NY, were weekenders at home of his parents, Alice and Kirk Rhone.

Last Saturday night, the Baptist Ladies’ Aid served a buffet spaghetti supper, the proceeds of which went to help the tsunami victims. Inclement weather kept the Baptist Ladies’ Aid from meeting until last Wednesday night.

Bob and Ruth Lunt, Penn Hill, spent several weeks in Florida this summer.

I had a surprise visit on Monday from an old friend, Beverly Beers Hindley, and her eleven-month old granddaughter, who is a charming little imp. Beverly has a sabbatical from teaching French at Western Wayne High School.

On Monday, Madeline Thorn came up for the afternoon and we played “Quiddler,” a word game where one is dealt cards with letters on them and we try to make a word out of the letters. Some fun!

Madeline also brought me a sizable piece of king cake, sent to her from Louisiana, decorated with all the colors of the Mardi Gras – purple, gold and green. Inside the dough is a plastic doll. Whoever gets it is obligated to have a party and serve king cake. More next week.


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Dear EarthTalk: What is “acid rain” and what causes it?

Jeff Ohmberger, Lincoln, NE

“Acid rain,” also known as acid precipitation and acid deposition, is a broad term used to describe the nitric and sulfuric acids that fall to Earth during rain, snow or fog. These chemicals form in our atmosphere to begin with when pollutants released into the air through the burning of fossil fuels blend with other substances, including water vapor. When it storms, these substances return to the Earth’s surface where they get into rivers, streams and groundwater, literally making these waters more acidic.

This acidity, in turn, damages trees and other plant life and makes it difficult for wildlife – especially aquatic life – to thrive and reproduce. The consequences of acid rain can also be seen in the cracks and discoloration on some building surfaces and on the smoothed and faded facial features on outdoor statues.

Emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) are primarily to blame. While volcanoes and other natural sources produce these chemicals, too, as much as 95 percent of the SO2 and NOx emitted in North America comes from industrial sources and the tailpipes of cars and trucks.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Acid Rain Program, the highest concentrations of acid rain in the U.S. are in western Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Prevailing winds move large masses of pollutants there from the smokestacks of the many coal-fired and other kinds of power plants dotting the banks of the Ohio River.

Meanwhile, the National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP), which monitors the chemistry of precipitation at some 200 locations around the United States, reports high levels of acid rain throughout the entire Northeast, extending from Indiana all the way to the Atlantic coast. NADP’s website features interactive maps detailing acid rain concentrations nationwide.

During the 1980s, public outcry over acid rain resulted in Congress amending the Clean Air Act to impose limits on industrial emissions of SO2 and NOx. While the regulations have helped, many environmentalists think more needs to be done in order to protect plants, wildlife and water throughout the northeastern U.S. and southeastern Canada. “A growing body of evidence shows that without significant additional cuts in acid rain-forming emissions, many of the problems associated with acid rain will persist for many decades,” says Ellen Baum, ecosystem expert at the Boston-based nonprofit organization, Clean Air Task Force.

Since the burning of fossil fuels accounts for most of the troublesome SO2 and NOx emissions, individuals can make a difference by reducing their energy consumption at home and by driving fewer miles in their internal combustion vehicles. Businesses can take similar steps by increasing energy efficiency at the workplace and encouraging employees to carpool or take public transit.

CONTACTS: U.S. EPA Acid Rain Program,; National Atmospheric Deposition Program, (217) 244.5459,; Clean Air Task Force, (617) 624-0234,

Dear EarthTalk: How can I recycle my old propane gas tank that can no longer be refilled?

Bruce Krasnow, Santa Fe, NM

If you have an older propane gas tank that has been denied refilling by a retailer, it is probably because it lacks an Overfilling Prevention Device (OPD). As of April 2002, the National Fire Protection Agency’s (NFPA) safety code requires an OPD on every propane tank that holds between four and 40 pounds of the gas, which includes tanks normally used for grills, RVs and other devices. An OPD is part of the valve and is designed to prevent the release of gas from overfilling which can lead to fires and injuries.

The NFPA says you can easily check to see if your tank has an OPD by examining the shape of the valve wheel. Most cylinders with a triangular valve wheel have an OPD, and will be marked accordingly. Cylinders with a round or star-shaped valve wheel usually do not have an OPD.

For a fee, you can take your old tank to a local propane dealer for retrofitting with a new valve. You can also sometimes pay a fee and exchange your old tank for a newer model. If you’ve already purchased a new unit, or don’t need to use propane anymore, many dealers will take them, usually for a small fee, repaint them, re-certify them, install an OPD and resell them.

If you have a 20-pound propane cylinder, the Blue Rhino Company, which claims thousand of retailers nationwide, will accept your old tank and provide an upgrade, usually for an upgrade fee and provided your old tank can be refurbished. Then that upgrade can be repeatedly returned empty and exchanged for a full tank. The company reuses and refills the tanks, so this arrangement both eliminates the wait of refilling and maintains a pattern of re-use.

If Blue Rhino cannot refurbish your tank and all else fails, propane cylinders can be recycled at household hazardous waste collection sites. The website provides a free zip code-based directory with information on where to recycle old propane tanks, among other household items, in your local region. Most state departments of environmental protection also include lists of locations that will refurbish or recycle old tanks.

Homeowners should keep in mind that old propane tanks pose an environmental hazard if simply abandoned outside and an explosion risk if thrown into a dumpster or garbage truck trash compactor. Also, cylinders should always be stored and transported upright to prevent potentially dangerous leakage, even if they are on their way to the recycling center or the refill station.

CONTACTS: National Fire Protection Agency,; Blue Rhino,; Earth 911,

GOT AN ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTION? Send it to: EarthTalk, c/o E/The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; submit your question at:, or e-mail us at:


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Thinking Allowed

I received a letter from Santa the other day. Now the reader might consider that fact a little unusual. It’s not. Those that know me well know I’m close to Santa and in fact I correspond with him quite often. Anyhow, Santa wanted me to express his gratitude to everyone who participated in the recent Thompson Toddlers Christmas Campaign.

For those of you not familiar with Thompson Toddlers, it is an organization dedicated to bringing happiness to children at Christmas.

Santa says everything is well up there at the North Pole. Mrs. Claus patched up his red suit and all the Elves are very busy getting ready for next Christmas. Donner had a little territorial dispute with Comet but relations are back to normal now. It seems Comet had a bigger stall in the Reindeer barn. The issue was resolved when Donner got new “Royal Blue” carpeting in his stall.

It seems the folks who helped Santa at Thompson Toddlers raised $2,500 by donations from community businesses and private citizens in a campaign, which included the collection of small change in Soda bottles stationed around the town.

And, a special community dinner was held at which time folks brought wrapped gifts, which were included in the distribution on Christmas Eve. The “Free” dinner, held at Freedom Hall included Roast Beef and Ham and finished off with a fine dessert. Many of the attendees, (kids of all ages) sat on Santa’s knee while photographs were taken. Santa checked his list and many promises were made regarding the proximity of the Christmas tree.

Santa’s letter is four and a half pages long. He thanks the group of people who spent hours organizing the gifts and writing names on them for Santa to see in the dark. He also wants everyone to know how wonderful he felt seeing the Joy in the eyes of the helpers when a youngster jumped up and down or when “hugs” became the “thank you” expression of Christmas Eve. Santa’s helpers devoted most of the day delivering gifts to unsuspecting children. I’m sure the helpers received a lot more than they gave.

To the National Guardsmen who have been stationed in Iraq, Thompson Toddlers will be there again next Christmas. Santa, too!

You know, Christmas is right around the corner. Time is a flying. Thompson Toddlers is already working on next Christmas. If you think you would like to help or contribute money for this wonderful program, stop by and see Lester Zimmerman (organizer), Chuck Welch (Hobbs’ Market) or Jim Delaney (Mayor). There’s much to be done. The reward is much more than anyone can realize.

Santa wants everyone to know that he’s making a list and checking it twice.

He also said thanks for the cookies and milk. Oh, and one other thing. Santa wants all of you non-singers to practice up because there’s “high expectations” for next year’s parties.

I’ll be writing to Santa pretty soon. Merry Christmas!


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