Friday, July 3, 2015

Biblical Marriage: One man and one thousand women

If you give me a debate topic and 25 minutes to research and find snippets (verses) of the Bible I can successfully defend either side of the argument.

If, as we are told by religious “experts” that Biblical marriage is only between one man and one woman then can you please explain to me King Solomon’s 300 wives and 700 concubines.  God wasn’t bothered enough by that arrangement to keep Solomon from building the temple at Jerusalem as he had done to his father David for his transgressions.

And speaking of King David, what about his adultery with Bathsheba the wife of General Uriah?  When David got her pregnant he had Uriah killed so that he could add her to his stable of at least six wives.  According to the Bible, God was upset only that he had killed another Jew—an out-of-wedlock child and adultery were not even mentioned.

Lot’s incestuous relationship with his daughters was never punished by a God who had just wiped out two major cities and turned his wife into a pillar of salt.  In fact, it is from Lot’s blood line that Jesus Christ was born.  It is often incorrectly said that Sodom was destroyed because of homosexuality.  In the book of Ezekiel is this explanation:  “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.”

In Genesis we find that both Esau and Lamech took multiple wives.  And among the laws given in Exodus for the treatment of slaves is the admonition that if a man takes a second wife the two wives are to be treated equally.  Not surprisingly that same law appears in the Quran.

One man, one woman was most assuredly an option in the Bible, but it was in no way the only option.  If we are discussing the same sex implications of marriage some people point out that among all the forms of acceptable marriage, homosexual unions were never mentioned.  Of course not because in Biblical times there was no word for homosexual in Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic—it is a modern word suggesting that in those days it was not a noteworthy concept.  We know that homosexuality existed and without a specific word for it the concept was just a regular part of life.

I am no fan of same sex marriage.  But I don’t think that I should judge the choices of others.  In Hebrews we find specifically that “God will judge the adulterer and the sexually immoral.”  Jesus told us not to judge lest we also be judged by the same rules and given the same punishments as those we judge.

I am absolutely certain that when it comes to someone else’s bedroom God wants me to mind my own business and Jesus wants me to love them unconditionally.  God will do the judging and until then lets just get along.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Alleys of Lititz

This was originally published in the Lititz Record-Express in my column named "On Second Thought."  Hope you enjoy the reprise.

What happened to the Alleys?  Not the bowling alley (it was torn down to make more parking space for the Warwick House—now the Tin Soldier—that’s another column), but the street wannabes that ran between the streets?  I grew up in an alley.

The alley between Lincoln Ave. and Market Street was my domain.  I prowled it like a tiger cub learning the predatory ways.  What, at the time, were my best friends were on the other side of the alley.  Mike Long, Yvonne Yeagley, Marcia Male (and her brothers) and Ed Wiker (who lived in the converted warehouse along Liberty St) were the main contributors to youthful crime and childhood warfare.

It was this alley where I was first shot in the head.  Explains a lot, doesn’t it?  I was shot by a BB gun and it did, “almost put my eye out”.  I never did find out who fired the shot [UPDATE:  After this appeared in the local newspaper the perp confessed but I choose not to make this information public.], I just know I was hurt and bleeding and my mother was going to pour hydrogen peroxide into the gaping wound (slight exaggeration for effect).  The scar eventually joined the one I got while living at Poplar Grove when “Timmy Tokes hit me with a wock”.  Jim Stokes is all grown up now and doesn’t even remember inflicting the pain—but he sure does know how to split wood (and the price is pretty good).

Go west on this alley and you eventually end up on Broad St.  But before you get there, there is another small alley that runs north and along it was my first Disneyland.  Snavely’s Auction was a barn along Market St. and a covered area in which items to be sold at the next weekly auction would be stacked.  I believe that it was at Snavely’s auction that my grandmother got me my hobby horse which passed down to my son Christopher and is now in the possession of Cole Aspen Knight, who enters his second year in March [UPDATE:  He's a teenager now and will probably be angry with me if he reads this].  It’s still in Lititz.

It was also at Snavely’s that I picked up (for $2.50) a cordless record player.  It stood four feet high and had to be carted home on my red Radio FlyerÔ wagon.  It required no electricity and all you had to do was crank it up to play a record.  I loved the auctions, partly because I could get a complete meal for 15 cents (a 10 cent half pint glass bottle of chocolate milk and a 5 cent bag of Burkholder’s Potato Chips).

Bruce Smith was the bully of Lincoln and Liberty and was the reason I would cut through the Klopp walkway (across Lincoln) and into the alleys behind, on my way to school.  Passing Lincoln and Liberty would get me beat up (I never was beat up but I sure was intimidated).

The alleys south of Lincoln Ave. were fantastic.  Coming out the back gate at the Klopp house you entered onto an alley that curved south to butt up against another alley and intersect with yet another that heads toward Five Points (and Clair’s Store), but curves west again at the church (now an apartment building) to meet up with Liberty.  It was my own personal labyrinth but contrary to the myth, my Minotaur was at Lincoln and Liberty.

One of the alleys in this maze was named Rodney and would get you to Annie Hershey’s Store on New (or Apple or New whichever it was that year) St.  Along the way you would pass one of Lititz’ nascent industries, operating out of a garage.  Oehme Bros. began baking pies and inventing pie-baking equipment in a garage that was just down the alley from their home, which was sort of the center of my meandering alleys.  There were days that on my way to school I would pass by the bakery and smell apple pie in the offing while at the same time get a whiff of chocolate from the Wilbur-Suchard plant.

Alleys conjure up many scenes of youthful days in Lititz.  Lanes?  Well, lanes just sort of sit there keeping streets from banging into one another.  This, apparently, is progress.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Obama the lawless President

“I wish Obama would obey the Constitution.”

A good friend who is intelligent, level headed and fair in his dealings made that comment over breakfast this morning.  It is a very prevalent thought and it highlights just how little the great mass of U. S. citizens knows about their form of government.

We are a representative democracy guided by the outline of the Constitution and under those constraints President Obama is well within the parameters of his office.  There has never been a government like this in the history of the world and after two and a half centuries we are still trying to figure it out and make it continue to work.

Under Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, the President, as the chief executive, “. . .shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed. . .”  Another way of saying that is he shall “prosecute” the laws.  That means he must do what he feels must be done to make the laws work.  Congress is notoriously vague when it writes laws and when they don’t do it right there are two avenues to correct a law and make it work.  The first is for the executive to interpret the law and issue orders on how it is to be implemented and the second is for the Supreme Court to order how the law is to be implemented.

The courts have called the executive’s prerogatives “prosecutorial discretion” and absent laws or court rulings that specifically prohibit an action the President has unlimited prosecutorial discretion.  President Obama has used Executive Orders to explain his decisions.  Yes, in the past Barack Obama has said that some of what he has done, he thought, would be in violation of the Constitution.  After all, he is a Constitutional scholar.  Theoretically that is correct but in reality, there is no law or court opinion prohibiting what he has done, lacking action by the Congress, so he has not violated the Constitution even though he once thought that it might, and in fact still might feel that way.

If, for instance, President Obama has stretched beyond his prosecutorial discretion in stopping some actions on immigrants, there are two ways to turn it around.  One is for someone—with standing--to bring suit in a federal court which may eventually end up being decided by the Supreme Court.  If the Supreme Court declines to take up the case it is declaring that the President’s actions fall within the Constitution.  If they take up the case they will decide either way.

A much easier and quicker solution is for the Congress of the United States to pass a law on the subject.  The law may well be vetoed by the President but the veto can be overridden by a two thirds vote and it becomes law without the President’s signature.  That law would have precedence over prosecutorial discretion and the Executive Orders become null and void.  The only thing that could change it is a Supreme Court decision.  President Obama cannot be criminally charged for those excesses but a future President who did the same would then be in violation of the Constitution.  Prosecutorial discretion does not apply to settled law.

Our Constitution of the United States of America is a living, breathing document.  It can change from day to day but so far everyone in our current government is operating well within the parameters of their offices.  President Obama is out on a Constitutional limb because Congress will not act.  He may well be proven wrong but for now he is simply doing his job.  It is up to Congress to do its job and if it doesn’t like the President’s perfectly legal Executive Orders, change them with a law that defines the parameters.

My advice to everyone calling President Obama a lawless executive is to shut up until Congress does its job.  But lately it has been a lot easier for Congress to lie and stir up discontent than it is for them to actually do the job we elected them to do—govern.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Telephones in Lititz

“Mr. Watson, come here.  I want you,” were the first words spoken into a device that has become the telephone.  That was in 1876 and inventor Alexander Graham Bell gave birth to an industry and launched the communication revolution.  Telephones of one description or another popped up around the world and networks were the vogue at the start of the 20th Century.

In Lititz, phone wires were strung between buildings or on farms connecting two devices.  Nascent networks popped up in Ephrata, Brunnerville, Denver, Earl and eventually Lititz until the borough was served by Bell Telephone Company and the Penn State Network.  Early proponents of telephony locally included Martin & Muth, coal and lumber, whose telephone number, Independent Phone No. 184, was one of the first to be published in an advertisement locally.  Their advertisement in John G. Zook’s “Historical and Pictorial Lititz”, published in 1905 used the “Independent” label while others would refer to “Enterprise” numbers indicating the two competing exchanges.  Some businessmen eventually went so far as to advertise phone numbers on each system.  And at this time the installation of a telephone machine was front page news in the Lititz Record-Express.

Lititz Lithographing Company’s full page advertisement in the same book just stated at the very bottom, “INDEPENDENT TELEPHONE.”  At that time it really wasn’t necessary to know the telephone number as a caller would lift the receiver and turn a crank that would ring a bell to get the attendant’s (about this time attendants—mostly boys—were becoming operators—mostly women) attention.  He, or she would physically connect the two phones by plugging one line into the other.  But you had to be on the correct network—there was no option to cross networks.

One of the first advertisements in the Lititz Record-Express to include a phone number was R. N. Wolle, dry goods, his business was known as the Bee Hive Store and he had telephone number 58 in 1907.

Over in Red Run, a hamlet in Brecknock Township, farmer William F. Brossman stood at his telephone device spinning and spinning the dial without success and with every turn his frustration grew.  It was 4 o’clock in the morning and his wife Jemima was in the kitchen preparing breakfast for the Brossman brood in advance of the up-coming day of farm work.  In addition to the 100 acre farm, Brossman sold fertilizer to his neighbors.  The fertilizer had been delivered on one of the overnight trains of the Reading and Columbia Railroad to the Denver station and needed to be picked up by its new owners.

One morning it is reported that Mrs. Brossman said to her husband, “William Brossman, you are going to give that poor woman a heart attack!  Come eat your breakfast.  Land sakes, you start bothering that operator before the sun comes up!”
“Now Mima,” responded William, “if I can’t get hold of my fertilizer customers before they get busy milking the cows and working the fields, I’ll never be able to tell them that their shipments of fertilizer are down at the Denver railroad station.  I have half a mind to start my own phone company!”  And the rest is, as they say, history.  That history is well recorded in John Ward Willson Loose’s book “The Denver and Ephrata Telephone and Telegraph Company.”

In addition to multiple telephone companies there was also no standard for telephone numbers.  A review of advertisements up until 1949 produce a gross diversity of number sets.  In 1910 Wilson Hacker, grocer, had the number Ind. Phone 72X.  Even after 1926 when the growing Denver and Ephrata Telephone and Telegraph Company purchase both exchanges in Lititz (Penn State and Bell) the numbering system remained random.  Grocer Ed Heidrick advertised his phone as 321-R-3.  The 1929 purchase of the Brunnerville Rural Telephone Company was also not cause to organize the numbering.

As late as November 27, 1946 the newspaper announcement for the grand opening of Koehler’s Grocery Store at 26 S. Spruce St. advertised free delivery on orders of one dollar or more, prizes and the phone number 439-J.  Christ Koehler learned quickly that he couldn’t run a grocery and respond to fire calls without the full support of a partner or cooperative spouse (he had neither—Grandma Koehler didn’t want the store and let him know) the store closed the following January.  But he always told people he was in the grocery business for two years.

With the purchase of the two local exchanges by Denver & Ephrata Tel. and Tel. the company purchased property at 104 E. Main Street and installed a state-of-the-art “common battery switchboard” which they connected to the Ephrata switchboard with underground conduits.  Dial service was established in Adamstown and spread throughout the D & E system starting in 1934, eliminating forever the operator connected telephone call.  While operators continued in the system they were there to resolve problems, respond to emergencies and handle long distance—new technology that was just then beginning to emerge.

World War II and the death of the D & E founder William Brossman kept the enhancements from reaching Lititz until 1949 when dial service required the numbering system to be standardized.  Lititz subscribers were assigned 4-digit numbers for their telephone and the exchange was assigned the prefix 6.  So while the phone number was for instance 6-2249 the phone could be reached from within the Lititz exchange by dialing only the last four numbers.  At the same time the Manheim exchange was assigned the 5 prefix.

Starting in 1949 you could reach Leed’s Locker Service at 6-9287 by dialing from any telephone in Lititz.  You could also purchase a dedicated line freeing yourself or your company from the problems associated with a party line.  It was expensive but most businesses found it worth the cost and eventually individual subscribers paid the surcharge for the privacy.  With a party line each subscriber had a specific ring consisting of long and short bells.  If the longest ring on your party line was four long rings you had to give the phone time to ring four times before you answered your phone even if your ring was only one long ring.  Picking up the phone to dial out you first listened to make sure no one was on the line before dialing.  In urgent or emergency situations you politely asked whoever was talking to please relinquish the line.  Party lines in Lititz are reported to have continued to exist into the 1980s.
Calling someone on your own line required you to pick up, listen to see if the line was in use, dial a special number, hang up, let it ring and try to guess when or if the other party answered.  Then, and only then, could you pick up your receiver and begin your conversation.

By 1950 Christian Eaby was running D & E and the company boasted 10,000 subscribers.  Eaby had married the boss’ daughter Bertha.  When he died in 1956 there were 15,000 telephones and Bertha took over the company.

That same year all of the D & E exchanges were merged into the nationwide toll dialing network.  This necessitated adding two letters in front of each exchange number—Lititz became MA6- with the last four numbers identifying the specific telephone.  MA was written as MAdison.  Other exchange names were ULysses for Akron; HUxley for Adamstown; ANdrew for Denver; REpublic for Ephrata and MOhawk for Manheim.  Lancaster was large enough for two exchanges EXpress and LOwell.

Starting in the 1940s collaboration between American Telephone and Telegraph Company and Bell Labs created the North American Numbering Plan that went into effect in 1947.  It was better known as the Area Code.  Most of us knew nothing about it because if we needed to call outside our area it would be handled by a human operator.

The original Area Code system gave three digit numbers to areas.  If an entire state was covered by one area code the middle digit was a 0.  In states with multiple area codes the middle number was 1.  Since the touch tone had yet to be invented consideration was given to how far the dial had to travel in certain areas so the first and third digits were assigned based on population density.  Lititz was in a state with multiple area codes and was rural in nature, thus the area was assigned 717 while Philadelphia was given 215.  Connecticut was 203.  New York City was 212 while its suburbs received 914.

Starting in 1963 exchange names were being dropped in favor of a 3-digit exchange number.  Lititz’ MA6 became 626.  You were now able to make some long-distance calls by appending the number 1 to the number you were calling all without operator assistance.  Within area code 717 you called a long distance number by dialing 1 followed by the 7-digit exchange plus phone number.  Outside the local area code you dialed 1 followed by the area code and the 7-digit number. And yes, you were dialing those numbers because touch tone™ was not even available until 1966 and was not available throughout the whole D & E system until 1978.  With touch tone™ in 1966 came toll-free calls to Lancaster, mobile telephone services (about the size of a small suitcase) and cable television.

A good example of the telephone numbering system is my grandfather, Christ Koehler who had the same telephone his whole life but his number kept changing.  In 1946 his phone number was 439-J but in 1949 it was changed to 6-2249.  In 1957 it became MA6-2249 and in 1963 626-2249.  About ten years later it became 717 626-2249.  That’s a far cry from “Mr. Watson, come here.  I want you.”

Friday, February 20, 2015

A Lancaster County Winter Scene

Today I watched an Amishman in a straw hat and a short coat shoveling snow from the end of his driveway in a wind chill of about -17°.  He was shoveling the snow into a wheelbarrow and moving it to the side of the driveway.

Apparently the township plow came through, broke through the drifts and deposited snow at close to 4 feet high across the entrance to his farm drive.  I would guess that today is milk pick up day and the milk truck drivers will not cross large piles of snow to get to the milk house.  If the pile is still there when the milk truck driver arrives he will just drive on to his next stop.  The farmer will then be left with but one option for the milk that does not fit in the storage tank—dump it.

That’s just one of the many cruel points at which Amish farmers and the English world come together.

For the uninitiated, to an Amishman, anyone who is not Amish is English.

A non-Amish farmer would simply slip the shovel on the front of a tractor and widen the drive in about four swipes from inside a heated cab.  A non-Amish farmer would also have some help to get the job done while on the Amish farm everyone else was probably engaged in a time-sensitive chore.

I had the briefest of urges to stop and help until reality hit me.  Had I stopped I would have been in his way, I would have had no shovel and I would have slowed down his progress.  In very many ways the Amish are to be admired for their “simple life” and their industry.

Now I am wondering why the township snow plow driver couldn't have taken five minutes and pushed that pile out of the way?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Silk Stocking Murder

Nearly every boy or girl Scout who sat around a campfire at one of the camps along the Horseshoe Trail in the Furnace Hills above Lititz, Pennsylvania has heard the tales of murder and of bodies dumped along the Seglock Creek.  One of them was a real story that, for a time, captured national attention for our little community.

Lucille Smith was a Virginia girl who married a night foreman in the mould department of the Wilbur-Suchard plant, and moved to Lititz. The mother of two was considered attractive.

On Thursday, Aug. 31, 1939 her husband, Elwood Smith, arrived home from work to find their children alone and his wife nowhere to be found. All of her clothes and her purse were left undisturbed. She had told her husband that she planned to take in the late movie. The children were left playing on the porch and when they went inside their mother was missing.

Elwood Smith was convinced that his wife had been captured by "white slavers" but Lititz Police Chief Clarence "Bosh" Kreider had another theory. He was aware of the rumor that Mrs. Smith and her husband's best friend, Earl Steely, had been carrying on an affair while her husband was at work.  Steely and Smith had grown up together and remained friends even after both had married and started families. Steely worked in Ralph Binkley's quarry, about two miles out of town and lived in a small shack on the rim of the quarry.

By Labor Day, Kreider had called in the Pennsylvania Motor Police and about the only person in town not convinced of Steely's guilt was his long-time friend, the husband of the missing woman. "I don't think Earl had anything to do with Lucille's going away," Smith reportedly told Chief Kreider.

Kreider had been to the Steely house a number of times in the preceding days and each trip left him a little more convinced of his theory--but what was lacking was evidence. Even the fact that Steely had missed work on Thursday with the alibi that he was "just driving around," was insufficient.  Steely's note to his boss that morning that he won't be in to work and that his "happy days" were over, wasn't enough to hold him on suspicion. When Steely returned home late Thursday night, the idea that he and Mrs. Smith had run off together was put to rest.

On one trip to the Steely home Kreider learned from the suspect's wife that he was carrying dynamite and a detonator battery in his car, that the car had been giving him trouble and, according to his wife, "He had a mind to blow it up." He had also been drinking.

Labor Day started early for Chief Kreider as he drove to Brickerville to interview a witness in a recent tire theft. By noon he was having lunch and smoking a cigar at Jim Enck's filling station in the crossroad village when a white-suited ice cream truck driver arrived with startling news.

That morning (Labor Day, 1939) Paul Nessinger had been out training his hunting dogs in the hills above Hopeland when he stumbled upon what he thought was a dead fox about a hundred yards up the Horseshoe Trail off of Seglock Road (which runs along Seglock Creek).  On recognizing it as a badly decomposed human body he walked to the home of Deputy Sheriff Abe Lane to report his discovery. Lane called Cpl. Styles Smith at the Ephrata State Police Sub-Station who joined the investigation.

From Brickerville, Chief Kreider, on learning of the find from an ice-cream truck driver, first called State Police investigators Thomas Lawson and Roy Radcliffe who had originally been brought into the investigation just two days earlier. Then he called Spacht's Funeral Home in Lititz where the body had been taken. The undertaker was able to identify the badly decomposed body, which was first thought to have been a man. Harold Cootes, brother of the missing lady, had recognized the clothing and a ring that was on a finger. When asked how long she had been dead the undertaker estimated about a week but went on to state flatly that it was a murder.

At the funeral home, Lititz Burgess Victor Wagner joined the investigative team and they were briefed by Deputy County Coroner Dr. Mahlon H. Yoder. It was Yoder, who had a family practice on Main Street, who pointed out that the left stocking had been rolled down to her ankle and the right had been ripped off and tied in a knot around her neck, where it remained.

The investigators gathered a plaster casting of a tire track, which turned out to be a Goodrich tread and pieces of enamel paint that broke off when the driver backed into a tree chipping paint from the right rear fender.

Nessinger had seen the tracks leading off the road to the trail and knowing that a couple of hundred yards up the trail were large boulders placed there to restrict use of the trail to hikers and horses. On finding the body he was first concerned that it might be one of the gangster murders that were then prevalent around Reading (as Reading had become a vacation haven for the mobsters getting away from both Chicago and New York).

Also found at the scene, about 15  feet from the body and hidden in the undergrowth, was a burlap bag containing five woodsman's hand saws that had been stolen from Eberly's grist mill on Aug.  25.  Investigator Lowson noted, "If we can tie these saws in with the case we'll have a first degree murder." Cpl. Smith also held a chip of rubber from a tire that had struck a rock as the driver backed down the trail.

The crime team returned to Lititz about 5 p.m. and concluded that Steely was most probably the culprit and that an investigation of his automobile would prove his guilt. They decided to go home for supper and meet at the fire house at 8 p.m. to stake-out the Steely homestead.

Four investigators, Lititz Police Chief Kreider, State Police investigators Lowson and Radcliffe and Lititz Burgess Wagner huddled in a ramshackle shed on the edge of the quarry to watch for Steely's return. They had become concerned when they realized that the newspapers had reported the finding of the body, that Steely had been drinking a lot lately and that his wife's report of dynamite in his car had yet to be challenged.

The moonless night was lit only by flashes of distant lightning and the rumbles of thunder were becoming louder by the moment. At about midnight the storm had reached the quarry and the shack in which they were hiding did little to keep out the downpour--they were soaked to the skin. The chill was only made more difficult by a second storm an hour later.

"It's 3:30 a.m.," announced Lowson, "I feel like I have been here for a month." A quick confab brought them to the agreement that Steely probably saw the papers and skipped out. Lowson, an acknowledged sharpshooter, drew his gun and inspected it for moisture before suggesting that they check the house before leaving.

On approaching the Steely cabin they spied his car under a lean-to attached to a  small barn. They gathered cautiously around the car to find a damaged rear right fender and the back seat torn up. The battery was visible but the dynamite couldn't be seen. "Steely's our man," proclaimed the Chief.

Sending the burgess and the chief to watch the back of the house, the two State Police investigators knocked loudly on the front door, alarming Steely's 19 year-old wife and elderly mother.  They professed no knowledge of the wanted man's whereabouts and were soon joined by the other tenants of the building, Steely's younger brother and sisters and his four year-old daughter. A search of the house revealed that they were telling the truth and, in fact, were surprised to know that the car was on the property.

Outside the house the posse determined to check the shed behind the house before leaving the premises. Entering the shed they found it deserted and Radcliffe mounted a rickety ladder to a trap door. Gun drawn he stuck his head above the floor and Kreider asked if he found anything.  The response, "Not yet. Wait a minute until I. . .throw up your hands or I'll shoot!"

Steely was found sitting on a cot across the room with his hands up. Lowson gingerly kicked a small metal tank away from the cot as Kreider cuffed the up-stretched hands. The tank contained "condensed gas."

After two hours of interrogation at the fire house, Steely admitted the crime saying that he and Lucille had been out on their third date, driving around in his car and then parking.  He was drunk and wanted sex. She was not in the mood.  At one point she got out of the car and ran down the trail. Steely caught up with her and talked her back into the car. After about an hour of talking and arguing he grabbed her around the throat and strangled her. He then tore off her right stocking and tied it around her neck.

After tossing the body out of the car he drove down the road about a quarter of a mile and slept until morning. He then drove to the quarry and stole some dynamite, intent upon blowing himself up. It was then that he wrote the note to his boss and drove away. He couldn't convince himself to go through with the suicide and a couple of days later, returned the explosives.

Kreider felt the story a bit suspicious as there was no mention of Mrs. Smith's glasses or girdle, both of which are missing. He deduced that the murder happened somewhere else and that the culprit drove the body to the place where it was found. Kreider also asked about the saws and Steely swore that he knew nothing about them. The chief's theory may well have been correct but it didn't matter, Steely had admitted to the murder.

The saws, it turned out, were most likely just a strange coincidence where two crimes came together at the same scene. The bottle of "condensed gas" was another botched attempt at suicide.

On the advice of his attorneys Steely entered a plea of guilty and a two-judge panel, Oliver S. Sheaffer and C. V. Hardy, determined that it was, indeed, first degree murder. The fact that he removed the stocking and tied it around her neck was a premeditated act. Earl Steely was committed to Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia for the remainder of his life. He was twenty four years old.

The crime made Lititz infamous as it was covered by most of the dime detective magazines of the day. Chief Kreider remained head of the one-man police department for decades, finally handing off the mantle of leadership to Officer Lloyd Hoffman. But during his last years on the force, Kreider became famous locally for giving up his driver's license and administering police justice standing on the square stopping speeders with a thrill from his police whistle.

Hikers and campers, including Scouts at nearby reservations, are often regaled by stories of murder so foul by silk stockings within these very Furnace Hills. There is a large nugget of truth to the campfire tales. So, beware…………

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Lititz Was Cool Even in 1959

This originally ran in the Lititz Record-Express in 2005.  It has been updated and where known, [the current, 2013 occupants of buildings or businesses are shown in brackets]

It’s the summer of 1959. Take a walk with me from my home at 111 E. Lincoln Ave., west toward Broad Street and the Lincoln Avenue Garage [Lincoln Avenue Garage].  The International trucks parked on either side of the ramp leading up into the garage are for sale and in a few years they would be Scouts, the first vehicle to compete with the storied Jeep. Further down the avenue at the corner with Broad Street we find Bart Sharp, just returning from a birdwatching trip to White Oak, and his wife opening the photo shop [For Lease] for the day.

Further west on Lincoln Avenue would take us past one of the five shoe companies [Outback Toys] then operating in town (I never could remember if it was Badorf,  B-G,  Lititz,  Alsam or A. J. Beford Shoe Company), and Travis Mills [Cargill (Wilbur)] before getting to the brand new Lambert-Hudnut [Johnson & Johnson] Pharmaceutical plant. But we are not going that way today.

Turning left we pass the American Legion [American Legion] and their brand new “air conditioned bar” and at Front Street we encounter Zartman’s Dry Goods and Grocery Store [Shear Sensations]. They had a novelty selection that rivaled  Gearhardt’s 5 cent to $1 store [Hess Clothing] further south on Broad at Juniper Alley, or the Jos. Harris Variety store [Cherry Acres] on East Main Street. Behind Zartman’s, in the alley, is Flory Distributing [Apartments] where you can pick up your “Beer, Ale, Porter, Soft Drinks” by the case.

Directly across Broad Street are the Lititz Lanes [GONE} and all eight lanes now, in 1959, have new A.M.F. automatic pin spotters. The bowling alleys sit back off Broad Street and just to the south of the Warwick House [Toy Soldier], which has been there as long as the town of Warwick has been part of Lititz. South of the Lititz Lanes is another one of the shoe factories [Subway].

The pug-nosed delivery truck for Cream Top Dairy drives by just having finished morning deliveries to its home clients in Lititz. Penn Dairies and Queen Dairy were the other Lancaster dairies that delivered locally. Graybill’s Dairy in Halfville and Spruce Villa Dairy on Brunnerville Road at Newport Road rounded out the options for home delivery of milk and other dairy products. At the time most homes also had bread delivered by Manbeck’s, Holsum, Wright’s or Harting’s bakery.

Crossing Front Street and continuing south we stop and peer into the window of Vernon Ranck’s meat market [Savory Gourmet]. The meat was fresh since Vernon butchered in the building behind the shop a couple of times a week. But then so did the other butchers in the area:  Lutz at the Farmer’s Market on Main Street; Emerson Knight in Penryn; Markley’s in Lexington; and Greenawalt & Keck at Stauffer’s on Kissel Hill.

Adjacent to Ranck’s is Leaman’s Grocery Store [Uncle Funky's], one of perhaps a dozen neighborhood groceries in town. Acme Market [Tiger's Eye], next to the LITITZ Theater [Teddy Bear Imporium] on Main Street is now closed but Hiestand’s [ELA Group] has just opened a gigantic super market on the south end of town at the foot of Kissel Hill (eventually selling out to Weis [Weis] who then built an even bigger store across the street).

After picking up a bologna sample from Vernon we continue south toward the creek where we pause to take in the “air pollution” from the Wilbur Chocolate [Wilbur Division of Cargill International] factory. They had just recently dropped the Suchard from their name.

Now we will cross the Reading Railroad [Norfolk Southern] tracks and the creek and pause for a soft drink at Weaver’s Restaurant [GONE}.

Finding a place to eat in Lititz is not a great challenge in 1959. Irvin’s Restaurant [Sturgis Haus] is just next to the LITITZ Theater on Main Street in the Sturgis Hotel. The Warwick House and the General Sutter [General Sutter] both offer lunch and dinner. Die Brickerville Scheier is one of our favorite restaurants along US Route 322 in Brickerville and there was the new Brickerville Snackette directly across the road. For fast food there is Twin Kiss (better known as the TK) [GONE] on the north edge of town and the Dairy Queen [Lititz Service Center] near the southern border of the borough. The DQ didn’t last long and was soon replaced by a gas station.

You can also get a meal at Al Weber’s White Swan Hotel [White Swan] in Rothsville as well as the Brunnerville Hotel [Brunnerville Hotel]. Another favorite eatery is Gert’s Place [Private Residence] in Rothsville.

Weaver’s will eventually become famous as Bingeman’s Restaurant, another favorite haunt for the mysterious writer of “Mid the Turmoil” in the Lititz Record-Express. In 1959 Les and Mary Bingeman are still honing their skills as restaurateurs at the Penn Dairies Restaurant in Neffsville—known by most as “the purple wall.”

On the wall inside Weaver’s is a clock advertising Rosey’s Ice Cream. The treats were made in a garage behind the Front Street home (near Oak Street) of the Rosenberg family. They had been selling ice cream treats street-by-street from a big ice chest mounted on the back of a yellow Jeep. Earlier it had been a full sized truck with the sides cut out to serve the neighborhood denizens. This is the same Rosey who would get up early and park his truck near the square on North Broad Street each Saturday and sell Roseyburgers—one of the longest standing traditions in Lititz.

Next to Weaver’s cum Bingeman’s was an empty storefront that had recently housed the Western Auto Store and before that one of the two movie theaters in Lititz. The restaurant and empty store will eventually be torn down leaving the side of the Park View Hotel exposed.

Floyd Hagy moved the Western Auto into a new brick building [Days Gone By] on Main Street between Benner’s Pharmacy [Cafe' Chocolate] and Sturgis Alley, next to Doster’s Grocery Store [Matthew 25] which was across the street from the LITITZ Theater. Doster’s is unique in that it has doors that open automatically when you step on the rubber mat, freeing your hands to carry the bags of groceries. Downtown Lititz was a flourishing center of trade and innovation in 1959.

The Park View Hotel wins the all time award for appropriately named buildings in Lititz as sitting on the full front porch or balcony you had a perfect view of Lititz Springs Park. The view wasn’t really all that great until 1957 as the park entry was pretty well grown over with aging trees and vines and the two large columns that held the wrought-iron gates in place were cracked and crumbling. In 1956, the fellow who brought the Lambert-Hudnut pharmaceutical factory to Lititz would give the park board the money to completely rebuild the entry, adding the large pool, and spruce up most of the park, opening the Elmer Holmes Brobst era of Lititz history.  By 1959 the park is beautiful and inviting.

In 1959 we are looking into Lititz Springs Park and down a narrow lane next to the park. On the left is the Lititz Springs Pretzel Factory [GONE]. The smell of baking pretzels (the old-timers still call them bretzels) competes with the odor of coca beans roasting at the Wilbur Chocolate Company which is on the north side of the park.

Having been baked commercially in Lititz before anywhere else, the pretzel had become an established snack food by the end of the decade of the 1950s. Lititz was still a major manufacturer of pretzels with the original Sturgis Pretzel Bakery [Sturgis Pretzel Bakery] cranking out bags of pretzels on East Main Street across from Linden Hall. In these days the girls attending Linden Hall all had their “pretzel boxes” which they would take to the factory and get free or very inexpensive broken pretzels to keep as snacks in their rooms.

P. L. Kofroth, operating as “Old-Tyme, Hand-Made Lititz Pretzels” [GONE} had his bakery a block east of Sturgis’ on Main Street.

Major manufacturing and distribution of pretzels had shifted to Reading and in these days before the mechanical twisters have taken over, most pretzels were still twisted by hand. The story is told that it was one of the Sturgis brothers who moved to Reading and founded the industry there. The unique part is that this brother was left-handed and taught the people in Reading to twist pretzels left handed. People in the pretzel business can actually tell a left-handed pretzel from a right-handed pretzel. Machines would eventually make this little quirk disappear.

Next to the pretzel factory near the park is the warehouse building that the Spacht family has given to the community to serve as a “community center.” It sits at the end of North Spruce Street and directly up against the Lititz Springs Park. Inside is a ballroom, a soda fountain (that was seldom used) and meeting rooms for clubs and groups. “The Rec” is THE place to be on Saturday nights in the summer time if you are a teenager. This is the place that I took my first date, Yvonne Yeagley, for an evening of dancing and socializing.

The Rec and the pretzel factory will soon be torn town and the Rev. I. Walton Brobst Recreation Center will be built in their place. It would be the virtual end to the pretzel industry in Lititz and would change the nature of the Rec Center forever. The new building with it’s linoleum dance floor will never replace the wooden plank floor of the old rec and it would never be as inviting. Eventually, it too, will be replaced by a more modern facility and renamed Lititz Community Center.  Many locals took the letters LCC and started calling it the Lititz Country Club.  In 2013 it is the Lititz Rec and if affiliated with other similar operations in this part of the county.

Rock and Roll is in the main stream by 1959, Elvis is still king but he is serving in the Army leaving people like Bobby Darin and Paul Anka along with Bobby Rydell and the media concoction called Fabian to fill the void. We spent our allowances or earnings at Reedy’s Philco [Candy Ology or Glitz, I can't remember] across from the Post Office buying 45 rpm records and our week-ends going from community to community in search of dances and midnight drags and submarine races.

So now, lets walk south past Glassmyer's into the Lititz financial district.

Glassmyer's [Tomato Pie Cafe] in 1959 is a drug store and soda fountain, one of three in town at the time. I seldom went to Glassmyer’s, preferring instead McElroy’s [McElroy's], with it’s door directly on the corner of Main and Cedar Streets. The high backed, dark wooden booths and the long fountain with its round stools on pedestals is still my prototype of a soda fountain all the way into the next century. Some of my friends worked for Glenn McElroy as soda jerks dispensing, among other concoctions, my favorite, the cherry phosphate.

But it was the bank of green-headed Hamilton-Beach mixers that made the best milkshake in the universe.

The third soda fountain was at Benners Pharmacy [Cafe' Chocolat] in the first block of Main St. but it catered to an older crowd and I don’t remember even entering the place until much later to get a, then famous, nickel cup of coffee.

Going south across North Alley (that was before Alleys were banned from Lititz and they were all made into “Lanes.”) we come upon the imposing architecture of the Lititz Springs National  Bank.

Lititz Springs Bank [Citizen's Bank] was celebrating 50 years of service to the community having started in 1909 with $7,494 in deposits and total resources of $36,994. By May of 1959 deposits had grown to $7,215,182 with total resources in excess of eight million dollars. But none of it was mine.

My little savings account and the Christmas Club accounts that my grandmother set up for my sister and me were in the Farmers National Bank [Susquehanna Bank] next door on Broad Street. They were boasting the newest banking craze—branch offices. You could then deal with Farmers Bank in downtown Lititz or at their branch in the new Lancaster Shopping Center, just south of US 30 between the Lititz and Oregon Pikes.

Across Broad Street from the banks was a row of Victorian houses that may have made up the most classically beautiful block of homes in Lititz. They would soon be torn down in a melee that included a gas station, Lititz Springs Park and moving a street that I will get into at some other time.

And that brings us to “the square” which is actually a triangle. In 1959 it is much the same as it will be in 2005 [and 2013]. It was here in 1957 where the community gathered spontaneously to celebrate the victorious Warwick Union High School basketball squad—perhaps still the most successful in the history of the school. Coach Dean Miller and his assistant Leroy Troupe dismounted from the yellow school busses after winning the Lancaster County championship on March 1. They again addressed the crowd after defeating Manchester High School, York County on March 12 to advance to the District 3, Class “B” PIAA finals.

Having won the county championship the thinclads went on to defeat York County’s Manchester High School by a heart stopping score of 56 to 54. They had previously defeated the Biglerville and Camp Hill teams as county champs.

The Warriors (who started the season unofficially as “the Pretzels”) had amassed 1,518 points in the season, besting their opponents by 380 points. They grabbed 448 more rebounds than those they faced. But in the District 3, Class “B” PIAA finals they ran into the Palmyra Palms and were soundly trounced 61 to 37.

When the yellow school busses holding the dejected Warriors pulled up to the square the crowd was, if anything, larger than the ones previous that were celebrating victories.

Coaches Miller and Troupe introduced team captain Ed Harnley and the coaches brought every member of the team onto the trampled flower beds to raucous applause. One by one:  Ed Larkins, Dick Allebach, Glenn “Shorty” Martin, Ken Keener, Johnny Gibbel, Ron Roth, Nev Weit, Sam Nuss and Jere Long were treated to cheers.  Even managers Dan Sheffy and Gerry Kemper got their share.

The other sports didn’t fare as well as the basketballers but the new Warwick Union School District showed up in baseball, football, field hockey, boys (called varsity) and girls tennis as well as a winning girls’ basketball team.

Coach Joanne Smith and her managers Alice Gundrum and Theresa Cuccio supported a 7-3 winning season. The seniors were Captain Sue Myers, Mary Alice Diehm, Marilyn Zartman, Susie Beck, Sally Sue Templeton, Pat Binkley and my grandparents’ neighbor on Cedar St., Lucy Hall.

But now it is time to cross the other leg of Main Street, pass the General Sutter Hotel [General Sutter Hotel] and pop in on the firemen, enjoying a chat and a cigar sitting next to the fire trucks with tires, in 1959, nearly as tall as I.

Hess Cleaners [Hess Clothing and Cleaners], “the only dry cleaner in Lititz,” was next to the fire house [Lititz Borough and Police Department] and Gearhart’s Self-Service 5cent to $1 Store [Hess Clothing and Cleaners] was next to Juniper Alley (not then “Lane”).

The Gearhart family were great people but I never made friends with them because their store was the scene of my own personal crime spree. Some years earlier I was putting up my train set just before Christmas and the Plasticville log cabin was situated behind a plastic log fence that was one section shy of being complete. Soon thereafter I was in Gearhart’s, saw a section of fence in a 5 cent bin. I put it in my pocket and walked out the door. It still bothers me, some six decades later and I often wonder what would have happened to me had I been found out.

Most likely I would have been reported to my parents and punishment would have been swift and sure. Today kids get locked up for offences that, in my day, were parental problems. I wonder if we are better off?

Sitting at the fire house on South Broad Street in 1959 on folding wooden slat chairs, the cigar smoke is pretty thick.

The fire house was still the social hub of the community with it’s Springtime Strawberry Festival and the Chicken Corn Soup Festival in the Fall. Santa handed each child in Lititz an orange from Stauffers ON Kissel Hill and a box of Wilbur-Suchard chocolates from the decorated arch door to the fire house kitchen.

Even in those days the battle raged over the Chicken Corn Soup—to add the skin or not add the skin to the recipe. Some years it even went so far that the pro-skin crowd would grind up the skin and dump it into the mix when no one was watching. My grandfather was proud to have been the official Lititz Fire Company soup dipper for more than 50 years until they came to an end soon after the new firehouse (which was dedicated to him and Paul Diehm) was constructed.

I remember attending my first Lititz Sportsmen’s Club “Smoker” at the fire house. It was one of the all male events of the day, was bawdy and raucous and, indeed, culminated with everyone (except me and the few other teenagers in attendance) lighting up and puffing on a Phillies Cheroot.

The second floor of the fire house contained a social room for smoking, chewing, playing cards and shooting pool. Behind it was the Borough Office—one room that the Council used for their meetings.  The basement was the police department and the “lock up.” One of the town’s Boy Scout troops met there (the other two, as I recall, met in the house next to the Lutheran Church at Broad and Orange Streets, and in the Brothers House on the Moravian Church campus).

Perhaps the greatest mystery that Lititz ever held was viewable to me as I sat on that folding chair in 1959 in the front of the fire house and looked across the street. The great mystery was a house that was owned by a club. My grandfather belonged to the club and he would go there regularly to play Hasenpfeffer or Euchre. I never went inside it and no one ever talked about it. The Lititz Record Express never wrote about it (that I could recall) and I don’t remember ever seeing a sign.

The Lititz Young Men’s Business League (“The League”) is as much a mystery today as it was then.  But now, there is hope for future disclosure—our esteemed editor, Steven Seeber, it is reported, has been inducted into membership. I wonder, did he get a membership card?  [At the age of 68 this year I, too, became a member of the League].