Bethlehem Moment 1: “Fraternal Cooperation” Spurs the Greater Bethlehem Movement, 1916

Bethlehem Moment 1
City Council
Nov 7, 2018


I’m Riley Gallagher, 1605 Chelsea

Good Evening Council President Waldron, Council Members, Mayor Donchez

A Bethlehem Moment: October 2 to October 8, 1916

Within a whirlwind one-week period in October 1916, citizens of the two Bethlehems worked intensely together to raise the final financial piece in funding the Hill-to-Hill Bridge. Large clocks were mounted on the Bethlehem Trust Company north of the river and the E.P. Wilbur Trust Company on the south, where crowds of people gathered at lunch each day singing songs and making speeches while watching the new funding total posted. In the end, in an awesome display of ground-roots civic power, individuals raised over $200,000 towards providing a long-awaited secure and stable link between the two Bethlehems. The Hill-to-Hill Bridge — with its eight approaches plus crossing a river, a canal, and four railroads — was an engineering marvel of its day, and the “fraternal cooperation” of the final campaign to build it spurred the Greater Bethlehem movement. One year later the two Bethlehems would be one.

See R. R. Keim, The Hill-to-Hill Bridge, 1924

Bethlehem Moments: A Proposal (7)

(7th in a series of posts on Bethlehem Moments)

So the inaugural “Bethlehem Moment” should come to pass tonight!

Remember that the Momentor will be Gadfly granddaughter Riley Gallagher. Riley will read the Moment during public comment so that Gadfly can buzz on about other things.

Please make Riley feel welcome.

Remember too that this is the beginning of a try-out before a proposal to Council to formally add a Bethlehem Moment to the prayer and the pledge as part of the ritual opening of Council meetings.

For good or for bad, let’s remember who we are as Bethlehem residents.

We’ll see how it goes for a while and see if it’s worth a formal proposal to Council.

Anyone interested in participating in this trial run should contact Gadfly.

Over the past several posts, Gadfly has filled in details about and his thinking about these “Moments.”

Some additions.

Gadfly’s thinking the Moments should be approx. 1 minute in length. To give you an idea what that looks like, for Gadfly’s speaking pace that’s about 10 lines of type in a normal 12pt. font size.

Gadfly thinks all Momentors should bring a clean copy (with your name and date ) to give to city clerk Louise Kelchner for the minutes and perhaps for collection purposes or other uses in the future.

Gadfly was thinking a bit more about the subjects of the minutes.

Gadfly doesn’t think they should be about recent history. He would say topics anywhere from the colonial period through the 1950s or so.

And Gadfly’d also say that the topics don’t have to be the big, obvious events and obvious people. The Bethlehem Moments should for sure focus as well on the “little guy” and the “little noticed” that also go a long way to displaying the character and the quality of our town. As a matter of fact, we should try to discover and uncover previously unknown or little regarded aspects of our history.

History isn’t always made in the headlines.

At some point, too, we should build a small bibliography of resources of use to potential Momentors.

Ok, Onward into the Past tonight!


Bethlehem Moments: A Proposal (6)

(6th in a series of posts about Bethlehem Moments)

Ok, Ok, Gadfly has to explain himself. He promised the “inaugural Bethlehem Moment” would be last Tuesday’s Council meeting.

Some of you were watching, waiting.

Have mercy.

You saw Gadfly sweating out those 7 “Exhibits” supporting his rather negative view of the Bethlehem Parking Authority.  I mean, it’s obvious (right?) that Gadfly just doesn’t toss off (right?) those tightly argued (right?) and finely crafted (right?) mini-essays .

And he had the runs all Tuesday anticipating the parking issue at the Council meeting.

So Gadfly didn’t have time to pull together a “Moment.”

But we’ll do it next time: Wednesday, Nov. 7. A Wednesday because of elections on the regularly scheduled Tuesday.

And granddaughter Riley, apprentice Gadfly, will do the reading (wave hello to the good Gadfly followers, Riley!) so Gadfly can use his public comment time for something to scorch in his usual fashion.

But I said last time that there was “One more thing to chew on.”

In bits and pieces over the last several posts on this theme, I have actually been writing a proposal to Council for incorporation of a “Bethlehem Moment” into the opening meeting ritual. There is one piece left: the content and purpose.

What should the moments be about and why?

Let’s just talk about that.

Look at Peter’s tough comment on my #2 post. And look at Barbara’s #4 post. Not everybody agrees that even opening with a prayer and the pledge is a good thing.

And I do believe that I have used the active verb “celebrate” to describe the “Moments” — that we would celebrate Bethlehem history.

I may need to put an asterisk wherever I may have used that verb.

If I know anything about history from my professional life, I know it is controversial, in fact, should be controversial. Once again, note that my last major project was called History on Trial.” If I have done anything of value in my professional life, I have encouraged, demanded critiquing history.

Open up any one of those projects, and take a look. For instance, go to the “episodes” page of the Jefferson-Hemings Controversy.  A profoundly meaningful issue in our history brilliantly represented recently in this painting by Titus Kaphar entitled “Behind the Myth of Benevolence.” Browse down the chapter headings. Note the wonderful images done by one of my students — click in and get them in larger size.

We must celebrate the good, the great things in our history.

But I do not believe in mindless, thoughtless allegiance and patriotism. I do not believe in history as a collection of pious genuflections.

We must also “celebrate” the darker moments in our history.

They are formative too.

If history doesn’t make you think, it is not doing its job.

So I see the “Moments” as varied in content (as varied as the nature of the possible Momentors” I outlined last time) but unified in purpose: to help us know where we came from, where we are, and where we might be heading.

That’s the way I see this project.

So let me try out a few so you can see what you think. And what suggestions you have.

One thing: Ha! I’m finding 30-seconds is tough!

Bethlehem Moments: A Proposal (5)

(5th in a series of posts on Bethlehem Moments)

So how might the addition of a 1-minute “Bethlehem Moment” (is there a better name for this?) to the prayer and pledge at the beginning of City Council meetings work?

Who would deliver the moments? Who will be the “Momentors”?

Brainstorm with Gadfly a bit

  • In that fit of spontaneous passion at the April 17 meeting in which this idea was conceived, Gadfly suggested school kids. Is Bethlehem history taught in the district? Gadfly doesn’t know, and all he remembers from his own kids was that they visited City Hall and so forth. If there is a curricular element, there might be an easy transition to have kids prepare and deliver Moments. If there is no curricular element, maybe we (whatch you mean “we,” Kemosabe?) could approach the school district and find a teacher or a rotating team of teachers who might see this as a great educational project. Having kids involved might have the side benefit of planting the seeds for civic participation later on. School Board president Mike Faccinetto follows us on Gadfly, but maybe the Superintendent would be the more appropriate first contact.
  • One resident – a volunteer – could be informally assigned either to do the Moments or to recruit a team of Momentors. Good resident involvement.
  • We have a cluster of Historical groups and organizations; they could collaborate on a schedule and take their turns.
  • Council members each could take a turn.
  • The Mayor and/or Dept heads could each take a turn.
  • Members of the Historical Boards and Commissions could each take a turn.
  • Candidates for office – ha! – could each take a turn. (A rite of passage)
  • Developers and prospective developers could each take a turn (O, Gadfly, you sweet devil, you!).
  • What’s your idea?
  • What’s your idea?
  • This space reserved for your idea.

The Moment texts should be collected and preserved, and one could imagine a nice volume at some point comprising, in effect, a citizen history of Bethlehem.

The delivered Moments are short, but a fuller written version (but still short) from which the Moment is drawn could be published on Gadfly, like the one on the Hill-to-Hill bridge and “fraternal cooperation” now on Gadfly that will be the source of the inaugural try-out Moment next Tuesday.

One more thing to chew on. Hang in there.

Bethlehem Moments: A Proposal (4)

(4th in a series of posts on Bethlehem Moments)

C’mon, Gadfly, get to it.

Ok, ok — Gadfly suggests that we add a historical moment, a “Bethlehem Moment,” to our opening meeting protocol following the prayer and the pledge.

The Moment should be short, meaningful, and often kinda fun.

We don’t want to interfere with business, no, no.

Let’s say one minute.

Discipline needed.

Now Council won’t take a pig-in-a-poke (what in hell does that mean anyway?). So Gadfly proposes to do a try out for Council, using public comment for a period of time to show how it works — well, to see if it works. (Others are welcome to share the try out stage with me!) After all, it could knit President Waldron’s eyebrows so tightly together the twins won’t recognize him.

Gadfly has said that he likes Bethlehem unique.

It’s unique that we have so many elected officials, so many heads from headquarters, paying attention along with the public to a blog in which ideas, issues, dreams, proposals, irritations, problems, and the rest of the kitchen sink (where did that phrase come from?) can be shared in a collegial way.

The “Bethlehem Moment” would be unique too. Allentown and Easton do the prayer and the pledge, Nazareth only the pledge.

I like Bethlehem unique.

Now after experimenting, gaining feedback, listening to suggestions and criticisms, if the try out is deemed successful, well, then, Council might formally take up the idea of incorporating a “Bethlehem Moment” into our meeting practice.

Gadfly not done yet. He’d like to brainstorm some interesting ideas about structure. As well as consider some contrary or verging on contrary ideas suggested by Peter and Barbara in reference to Gadfly’s previous posts on this topic.

So chew on this. And come back later.

I am not a native Bethlehemite, but . . . (4)

(4th in a series of posts about Bethlehem Moments)

Barbara Diamond enjoys retirement as Lehigh University Director of Foundation Relations by engaging in various activities and organizations hopefully for the betterment of the community. Her particular interests at the moment are preventing gun violence, local government ethics reform, and Bethlehem Democratic Committee work.

Dear Gadfly, I think taking a moment to celebrate our city’s history especially some event of great civic engagement like funding the Hill to Hill Bridge is a splendid idea. As we know, some issues before Council can be quite contentious. Recounting a Bethlehem moment can remind all of us that when we work together on a common goal we can achieve great things. I was recently involved with some of my neighbors in two projects that exposed me to Bethlehem’s history, digitizing Historic Bethlehem Museum & Site’s photo collections and capturing oral histories of long-standing residents of my neighborhood. I am not a native Bethlehemite, but I appreciate this city’s rich history and cultural heritage. I believe a brief Bethlehem moment would be a fitting way to start a City Council meeting by setting a tone of unity of purpose. Despite the great partisan divide out there, we can accomplish great things when we work together on a common goal. BTW one of the captivating stories I learned from doing the oral histories was the citizen brigade that moved the books hand to hand from the old to the new library. Like Peter, I am not a fan of the prayer and pledge but recognize that others do.


Bethlehem Moments: A Proposal (3)

(3rd in a series of posts about Bethlehem Moments)

Ok, are you with me?

(Be sure to see Peter’s cautionary comment on my Proposal (2) post. One bad thing about WordPress is that the comment space is barely visible and thus easy to miss. Not good. Please check out Peter’s comment.)

So what’s so special about history?

Gadfly’s had to answer that question many times in his life as a (literary) historian.

(To gain a sense of his work, followers might want to drift for a moment to Gadfly’s “History on Trial” project where he engaged students on the impact and power of history on our lives through controversies over the representation of that history in various media.)

I answered that question in as many ways.

But here are two of my favorite and easy-to-understand sound-bite answers:

“History is our mother”

“History is our cultural memory”

History is our mother:

Our mothers give us life, physical life, but they also give us the first values by which we live.

You know the old saying:

“Mothers write on the hearts of their children what the world’s rough hand cannot erase.”


Bethlehem is our mother and has written on our hearts in ways we don’t even realize.

History is our cultural memory:

You don’t realize how important memory is till you get to Gadfly’s age and some lights go out or till you have to advance or defend a sexual assault charge from 36 years ago.

The stark horror of some of the Edgar Allan Poe classic stories you might know (if only from movie versions) that at least some students still read came from memory loss. “The Pit and the Pendulum.” “The Premature Burial.” Characters who find themselves in catastrophic situations without the least notion of how they got there no matter how hard they strain. The memory box is empty.

Poe is fiction. Dementia and Alzheimer’s are real. What family does not have a member so struck? Some gradually slipping in to a living death. Blank-faced. Memoryless.

Meaningful life is not possible without memory.

Cities (countries!) can shamble into Dementia and Alzheimer’s too.

History tells us culturally where we came from, where we are, and points us to where we are going.

That’s why leaders with memory and vision are so important, reminding us where we came from, where we are, where we are going.

Ha! I’m trying to make the case for the utility of “history,” if you haven’t noticed.

Chew on this for a while. More to come. Soon.