Bethlehem Moment: Henrietta Benigna opens a girl’s seminary, 1742

(Latest in a series of posts on Bethlehem Moments)

Bethlehem Moment 12
City Council
September 17, 2019

Jim Petrucci
President, J. G. Petrucci Company, Inc., Asbury, N.J.

Read by Joseph Petrucci

Bethlehem Moment: May 4, 1742

On May 4th, 1742, 16-year old Countess Henrietta Benigna, daughter of Count Zinzendorf, opened a girl’s seminary school in Germantown, Pennsylvania. Initially, the school taught 25 pupils and focused on reading, writing, religion, and the household arts. Seven weeks after the school was founded, it was moved to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Three years later, it was moved to Nazareth and then returned permanently to Bethlehem in 1749.

In 1785, the school expanded its charter, began accepting girls from outside the Moravian Church, and changed its name to Moravian Female Seminary. The school itself built a tremendous reputation. In fact, as president, George Washington personally petitioned for the admission of his great-nieces.  Eventually, in 1945, the Seminary was merged with a local boy’s school to form the coeducational institution we now know today as Moravian College.

As the first all-girls boarding school in the New World, the Moravian Female Seminary holds a special place in the history of education in America. Not only was it a school founded by women and for the benefit of women, but it was also one of the first schools in the New World to open itself to Native American children. This is the legacy of Henrietta Benigna. Henrietta founded the school on the basis that all deserve a quality education, and she did it in a time when that wasn’t a popular opinion. As various stakeholders in the City of Bethlehem today, we should feel proud of this moment in history and look to replicate the principles that Henrietta Benigna displayed back in 1742.

The J. G. Petrucci Company has been working in Bethlehem since the early 90’s, completing such projects as the Perkins on the Southside, the Moravian Health and Science Center, and ten projects in LVIPVII – including Curtiss Wright, Cigars International, and Synchronoss.


Another source for Bethlehem history

(Latest in a series of posts on local color and Bethlehem Moments)


The last two weeks there have been the kind of history stories dear to Gadfly’s heart in the Bethlehem Press.

Stories about the little things and people, the overlooked things and people.


That’s Jason Rehm, Bethlehem native, Liberty grad ’07, a history major at Houghton College, whose final essay on Bethlehem history led Karen Samuels to facilitate his writing occasional pieces for the Bethlehem Press.

Which reminds me to encourage you to subscribe to the BP. BP is our community newspaper. And community is magic for Gadfly.

Subscribe to the BP, and be on the lookout for Jason’s essays.

Two very good things to do.

Jason Rehm, “Life during the Great Depression.” Bethlehem Press, August 27, 2019.

My grandfather, Woody Rehm, 88, grew up the sixth of seven children during the Great Depression. Like most families during that time, they were poor. The Rehms moved often, all over town and sometimes just down the street, looking for cheaper rent.

Jason Rehm, “Old Main Street fountain’s history explained.” Bethlehem Press, September 3, 2019.

The Eliza Richardson Fountain on Main Street has long been a mystery. Who was she and why does the fountain bear her name? Answers were hard to come by, but as various records were unearthed, they began to piece together a picture of a fascinating woman deserving to be remembered.

Bethlehem Moment: Puerto Ricans come to Bethlehem

(Latest in a series of posts on Bethlehem Moments)

Bethlehem Moment 12
City Council
September 3, 2019

Olga Negron, Bethlehem City Councilwoman

As we get ready to celebrate “Hispanic Heritage Month,” I challenge everyone to think about the Latino members of our community, what brought us here, and what kind of investment we have in our community.

Bethlehem Moment: 1948

Beginning in 1948, migrants from Puerto Rico came to the Lehigh Valley as seasonal contract farm workers. The orchards and potato fields of the region had depended on a supply of cheap labor that had always been met by the large families of the Pennsylvania German population. In the Depression-era 1930s, there had been plenty of workers.

But in the post-war era, farmers discovered their traditional source of labor was unwilling to work the long hours for the wages they wanted to pay. So Puerto Ricans filled the void, in the garment mills of Allentown and at Bethlehem Steel’s coke works, where they occupied the same rung on the employment ladder that the Mexicans had in the 1920s. The largest number lived on the south side of the Lehigh River near the Bethlehem Steel plant. Others lived in public housing in a project in the northeast corner of the city.

Migrant job seekers, usually young men, came first to look for work. When they found it, they sent word back to their rural home villages, such as Patillas and Corozal, that there was work in Bethlehem.

By 1960, when 56 percent of the Lehigh Valley’s work force was in either the textile or metal industries, Puerto Ricans were well represented.

Most of these early migrants from Puerto Rico were unskilled. At first they were welcomed because they filled the kind of jobs, in a booming economy, that most whites didn’t want.

But by the early 1960s, tensions between Puerto Ricans and south Bethlehem’s older, more settled ethnic European community were rising. The same prejudice and ethnic stereotypes that were directed at the Mexicans “that they should have the hottest jobs because they could stand the heat” were directed at Puerto Ricans.

Yet Puerto Ricans continued to come to south Bethlehem, where they formed such cultural civic groups as the Puerto Rican Beneficial Society and the Council of Spanish Speaking Organizations. In 2003, they made up a large part of the South Side, and more than 33,000 lived in the Lehigh Valley and worked in virtually every facet of the job market.

This is part of an article published by the Morning Call in Dec 10, 2003, titled: Forging America: The History of Bethlehem Steel – Chapter 7.

Bethlehem Moment: A trip to South Bethlehem, 1906

(Latest in a series of posts on Bethlehem Moments)

Bethlehem Moment 11
City Council
July 16, 2019

John Smith, 833 Carlton Ave

Read by Kate McVey, 1221 Lorain Ave.

Video of July 16 City Council meeting, start at min. 33:50.

Bethlehem Moment: Saturday, May 19, 1906

A trip through South Bethlehem’s foreign district last night was a revelation. More than three hours were spent in the residential district of 5000 or more of South Bethlehem’s foreign population. Every type of foreigner — men, women, and children — were observed. Their modes of living were noticed and their methods of recreation after a hard day’s work were specially observed. With the illumination of only the house coal oil lamp the trip grew in interest step by step.

The men were sitting in parties beside beer kegs. Although it was now 9 o’clock many of the women were still doing housework. Some were ironing, other were washing clothes, while others were baking or sewing.  The children were allowed to roam about the yard and entertain themselves as best they could.

An evening party here in a room no more than 6×10 feet, in the midst of all its furnishings including bed, tables, chairs, etc., dancing was indulged in by at least four couples. The music was furnished by members of the party alternatively playing the mouth organ. The making of a “strudl,” a favorite dish, was keenly watched. The housewife makes what appears to be a dough. She then spreads a cloth over a 3×4 table, on which she places the dough and rolls it to the thinness of a drumhead the full length and width of the table. The dough prepared and rolled, she proceeds to place in the dough various kinds of vegetables and rolls, dough and vegetables into the shape of a sausage. This is placed in an oven, baked and served.

It’s beer from morning to night and sometimes from night to morning.  While there are many who have their liquor at their homes, there are still many more who patronize the various saloons. The proprietor of one saloon said he had as high as 700 come into his place in one night, and he only keeps open until 10:30 o’clock.

What appeared singular was the fact that quiet reigned. There was no fuss, not even loud talking notwithstanding that at least a dozen or more nationalities elbowed past one another.

Another fact noticeable last night was the positive evidence that the low or objectionable class of foreigners, the class the public at large hears much about, is not in South Bethlehem to an alarming degree. There seems to be more of the better class that keep to themselves and hustle after the dollar day in and day out.

Edited from an article in the Bethlehem Globe-Times.


Possible topics for Bethlehem Moments

(Latest in a series of posts on Bethlehem Moments)

In the last post in this series, Gadfly published a draft guide to resources on Bethlehem history for people committed to or considering doing a Bethlehem Moment.

Here now for the same purpose is — thanks to Scott Gordon! — a short list of possible topics.

This is only a sample to get you thinking. The topics for the Moments can be big or small, well known or unknown.

Note that several of the Moments so far are about day-to-day activities from the newspaper rather than what one follower called more “hard news” in the list below.  Gadfly can give you the link to where you can browse the Bethlehem sections of the Morning Call. Lots of interesting “history” there!

Anyway, the idea is that it should be your choice.

The founding (1741-1762)

The War and Occupied Bethlehem (1775-1778)

The first bridge (1794)

The canal (1829)

The end of Moravian Bethlehem as an exclusive community (1845/1847)

The railroad (1850s)

Beginnings of industry on the south side (1850s)

The Lehigh River flood (1862)

The Bethlehem Steel Strike (1910)

The unification of the three boroughs (1917)

Prohibition and the rough south side (1920s)

WWII and the Steel (1940s)

Origins of Historic Preservation/Restoration (1950s)

The Lost Neighborhood (early 1960s)

New City Center (1967)

People wishing to do one or hear more about the Bethlehem Moments should contact the Gadfly — Ed Gallagher — through the “Contact” link here or at

It’s an honor to do one of these Bethlehem Moments.

Draft guide to Bethlehem history

(Latest in a series of posts on Bethlehem Moments)

Gadfly needs a list of resources for people interested in doing Bethlehem Moments, but, in general, we simply need a handy guide to resources for studying Bethlehem history.

Here, with a tip o’ the hat to Scott Gordon and Seth Moglen, is Gadfly’s shot at a first draft of such a guide.

Gadfly knows that many followers are much more knowledgeable about Bethlehem history than he is, and thus this is an invitation to contribute suggestions for additions.

One can imagine an eventual version of this guide that is not only beefed up in entries but in annotated entries with full publication data divided into useful subcategories.

But what, for now at least, should be in a basic, preliminary guide?

Help fostering and furthering the knowledge of Bethlehem history greatly appreciated.

As Gadfly is fond of saying, “without a sense of a shared history, we are not really a community.”


Ed Gallagher
July 2019

Guide to Bethlehem History

Craig Atwood, Community of the Cross: Moravian Piety in Colonial Bethlehem (2012)

Bethlehem of Pennsylvania: The First One Hundred Years, 1741 to 1841 (1968)

Bethlehem of Pennsylvania: The Golden Years 1841-1920 (1976)

Kate Carte Engel, Religion and Profit: Moravians in Early America (2009)

Katie Faull, ed., Moravian Women’s Memoirs (1999)

Mark C. Iampietro, “Then & Now” Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Mark C. Iampietro and John Marquette, Tamar Bair’s Bethlehem: The Colonial Industrial Quarter

Joseph Levering, A History of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, 1741-1892 (1903)

Richmond Myers, Lehigh Valley: The Unsuspected (1972)

Richmond Myers, Sketches of Early Bethlehem (1981)

Jeffrey A. Parks, Stronger than Steel: Forging a Rust Belt Renaissance (2018)

Kenneth F. Raniere, Karen M. Samuels, and the South Bethlehem Historical Society, South Bethlehem (2010)

Karen M. Samuels, Legendary Locals of Bethlehem (2013)

Kathleen Stewart, ed. Bethlehem (1997)

John Strohmeyer, Crisis in Bethlehem: Big Steel’s Struggle to Survive (1994)

Chloe Taft, From Steel to Slots: Casino Capitalism in the Postindustrial City (2016)

Kenneth Warren, Bethlehem Steel: Builder and Arsenal of America (2009)

William C. Weiner, Jr. and Karen M. Samuels, Bethlehem (2011)

William C. Weiner, Jr. and Karen M. Samuels, Bethlehem Revisited (2014)

Bethlehem Digital History Project (Bethlehem Area Public Library and Moravian College)

Beyond Steel: An Archive of Lehigh Valley Industry and Culture (Lehigh University)

Local History Timeline (Bethlehem Area Public Library)

Still Looking for You: A Bethlehem Place + Memory Project (Lehigh University)

Globe-Times: Lehigh University

Morning Call: (see Gallagher for log-in)

Bethlehem Area Public Library

Lehigh University

Moravian College

Bethlehem Room (local history), Bethlehem Area Public Library

Moravian Archives, 41 West Locust, Bethlehem, PA 18018

Historical Societies and Organizations:
Historic Bethlehem

Mount Airy Neighborhood Association

South Bethlehem Historical Society

Retail Book Store:
Moravian Book Shop, 428 Main St, Bethlehem, PA 18018

Unofficial historian:
Stephen Antalics:

A tip o’ the hat to Scott Gordon and Seth Moglen.

Bethlehem Moment 10: Gertrude Fox, Committed Environmentalist

(Latest in a series of posts on Bethlehem Moments)

Bethlehem Moment 10
City Council
July 2, 2019

Lynn Rothman, 870 Wafford Ln

Video of July 2 City Council meeting at min. 3:50.

Bethlehem Moment:  March 22, 1965

While walking along Jacksonville Road, Arthur Fox, aged 15, was struck and killed by a motorist. His mother, Gertrude “Gertie” Fox pressed for a walking path and traffic controls — both of which remain today. Yet this was just the beginning of her environmental and political activism. As Gertrude Fox stated in an interview, “I have two big projects: saving parkland and preserving our water resources.”

Graduating high school in 1934, where she excelled in mathematics, Gertrude was denied admittance to MIT because she was a woman. She received a degree from Simmons College in Boston where she studied science and engineering, holding four jobs to pay her way. There she realized that water “was where our next big shortage was going to be.  It won’t be oil, and it won’t be jobs. It’s going to be worse than that, losing our water resources.”

Two years later Gertrude and her husband moved to Bethlehem. She worked as a mathematics instructor in a number of Lehigh Valley schools and as an industrial biologist and metallurgical inspector for Bethlehem Steel, a male-dominated field, from 1945-1947.

In addition (perhaps more importantly!), she was an advocate for the protection of our precious waterways, particularly the Monocacy Creek.

Gertrude Fox had the knowledge and ability to convince developers and property owners to adopt construction practices that would minimize adverse impacts on water quality. She studied plans for proposed developments and then recommended changes to state and local governments, as well as to developers and landowners, to protect the environment.

Gertrude Fox was president of the Monocacy Creek Watershed Association, which is still active today.

In the mid-1980s, she led a group that petitioned to purchase the last remaining tract, 6.5 acres, of the original 500-acre Burnside Farm. Their goal was to save and preserve the heart of this 18th century Moravian farm in Bethlehem City, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1987 the Northampton County Council named a four-acre tract along the Monocacy Creek near the intersection of Routes 22 and 512 the “Gertrude Fox Conservation Area.” Three years later, President George H.W. Bush presented her with the first Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Award.

On January 4, 1995, Gertrude Fox, an educator, ecologist, engineer and avid skier died. Her foresight as to the importance of preserving our natural resources has proven correct, and her legacy is still with us today.

“Struck by Auto, Boy Loses Life,” Morning Call, March 23, 1965, p. 5.


“Gertrude Fox ‘Mrs. Monocacy,’ Is Dead at 78 She was educator, politician, environmentalist, engineer,” Morning Call < > January 5, 1995. Accessed June 24, 2019.

Kranzley, Glenn. “Gertrude Fox was committed environmentalist in Bethlehem,” Morning Call < > October 23, 2014. Accessed June 24, 2019.

Kranzley, Glenn. Still Changing, Still Home: Northampton County Since the 1950s. The Northampton County Historical & Genealogical Society, Easton, PA, 2017.

Terkel, Studs. Coming of Age: The Story of Our Century by Those Who’ve Lived It. New York Press, 1996.

“Bethlehem Moment” status report: One more volunteer needed

(Latest in a series of posts on Bethlehem Moments)

Gadfly has asked President Waldron if we can move the Bethlehem Moment to the top of the meeting after the prayer and the pledge.

Here’s the document I supplied to support the request:

Bethlehem Moment Project
Ed Gallagher
version 1 6/4/19


That beginning July 2, 2019, as a one-year pilot program, Bethlehem City Council add a historical moment – “A Bethlehem Moment” – to its opening meeting protocol immediately following the prayer and the pledge of allegiance and before the body of the meeting starts.

What is a Bethlehem Moment?

  • an historical vignette
  • a scene or event from Bethlehem history between 1741 and the 1960s
  • topic of the author’s choice, approved by the program coordinator
  • short, so as to not unduly delay the business of the meeting
  • entered in the minutes, published on the Gadfly blog and perhaps also on the City website or social media
  • examples can be found at

Why a Bethlehem Moment?

  • we are a town that has made significant history
  • we are a town that values our history
  • we have three historical districts
  • our history completes the triumvirate of God and Country that is the source of our values and the context for our decisions
  • without a sense of our shared history, we can never be a true community
  • by invoking our history at the beginning of the meeting, we would be powerfully signaling our commitment to our history
  • by invoking our history at the beginning of the meeting, we would be encouraging knowledge of that history
  • this addition to our meeting protocol will make us unique among our peers

How will the project be administered?

Ed Gallagher will engage to find readers and arrange the schedule for the year. After which, he will find a successor coordinator. Or City Council could take the project over and line up participants as it does clergy. Or the program could languish, having run its course.

All elements flexible!

A profound Gadfly thanks to these good people who have signed on for the rest of the year. Several people have indicated interest in that last date but no firm commitment yet. So we could use one more “Momentor” to finish off the 2019 line-up.

Volunteer needed, please!  Info here: Bethlehem Moment Information

Ed Gallagher

Bethlehem Moments Schedule 2019

July 2                        Lynn Rothman

July16                       John Smith

August 6                   (Musikfest)

August 20                 Mary Toulouse

September 3             Olga Negron

September 17           Jim Petrucci

October 1                  Johanna Brams

October 15                 Stasia Brown-Pallrand

November 6               Steve Repasch

November 19             Rayah Levy

December 3                Robert Bilheimer

December 17

Looking for Bethlehem Moment volunteers!

(Latest in a series of posts on Bethlehem Moments)

Bethlehem Moment Project
The Bethlehem Gadfly
Version 1

Information for Possible Momentors

1) The “Bethlehem Moment” is a scene or event from Bethlehem history anywhere from 1741 to the 1960s, no more than 20 typed lines, that can be read in approximately 2 minutes, that will be presented at the beginning of City Council meetings. The Moments will be archived in Council minutes and published on the Gadfly blog, as well as perhaps other places.

2) The purpose of the Bethlehem Moment in a town that has been the scene of so much important history and has three historical districts is to encourage everyone to learn more about that history. (For examples, see:

3) Willingness and interest are the most important things. You don’t have to feel you know anything at the beginning. A list of resources will be available. There will be people with whom to consult.

4) Help will be provided finding a topic, researching it, and writing the Moment if needed.

5) The topic is open, but you should clear it with the coordinator.

6) Good topics often start with a question: who? what? when? why?

7) Pick a topic that you know about, or, better yet, one that you want to learn about or feel that it is important that others know about.

8) There is no especial need to pick big topics, obvious topics, well-know topics; aspects of our history that are little-known or hidden, that we might not have even heard of, might be better.

9) Likewise, you should feel no especial need to choose a celebratory, feel-good topic – our dark moments are part of our history too and equally important and illuminating.

10) It’s best if you deliver your Moment at City Council yourself, but others can read it for you if necessary or if you prefer.

11) City Council meets at Town Hall the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of each month.

12) You might not feel that you have anything to say at the beginning, but you will probably struggle to confine yourself to 20 lines/2 minutes after you have done some research.

13) The Bethlehem Moment is a project aimed at fostering a sense of community. You should feel it an honor to do one. We hope you will see it as fun.

14) After, we hope you will be an Ambassador for the project & encourage others to participate.

15) please contact:

Ed Gallagher
Coordinator pro-tem

Bethlehem Moments Schedule 2019

July 2                        Lynn Rothman

July16                       John Smith

August 6                   (Musikfest)

August 20                 Mary Toulouse

September 3             Olga Negron (tentative)

September 17           Jim Petrucci

October 1

October 15

November 6

November 19

December 3

December 17

Bethlehem Moment 9: Supporting Moravian Single Women

Take the “Connecting Bethlehem” survey

Bethlehem Moment 9
City Council
April 2, 2019
Video (start at min. 3:08)

Ed Gallagher, 49 W. Greenwich St.

This Bethlehem Moment was delivered on “Equal Pay Day,” was inspired by Councilman Callahan’s evolving wage discrimination ordinance proposal, and was written with Gadfly’s nine granddaughters firmly in mind.

A Bethlehem Moment: August 13, 1757

“Virtually every woman in 17th and 18th century America eventually married.”
recent textbook

“To whom should the helpless Maiden go?” Penry’s life in America constitutes an answer to that question. If she were lucky, the “helpless Maiden” could “go” to a Moravian single sisters’ house, which offered economic and social, as well as spiritual, asylum.
Scott Gordon

On August 13, 1757, Mary Penry (1735-1804) received communion in the Gemeinhaus chapel, marking her full membership in the Moravian Church. She would live in the Bethlehem Single Sisters’ House till 1762 before moving to the Single Sisters’ House in Lititz for the rest of her life. We mark this moment to value the role that our Sisters’ Houses played for women single either by fate or choice. Penry was born in Wales where her parents lived in “desperate and worrisome circumstances.” At age 9, after the death of her father, Penry moved with her mother to live with a female relative in Philadelphia, only to live a life of “Egyptian bondage” under the roof of the relative’s husband, a “terrible person,” whom after the relative died, impregnated her mother, marrying her only two months after the baby was born, a union Penry describes as “true despair,” for the husband threatened to kill her “daily.” Penry was a vulnerable teen, poor – the wealthy husband died absolutely unfairly leaving her and her mother literally only a few shillings – and she would remark that put a “u” in her name and you get “penury” – Mary Penury — poor and sexual prey herself she was. But at age 19 Penry found the Brethren’s church, had a saving vision of the wounds of Christ, learned of Single Sisters’ House from the famed artist Johann Valentine Haidt, whose portraits can be found in museums around the City, and came to Bethlehem. Penry chose to remain single: “I desire to spend and be spent in the service of the virgin choir,” she said. The Sisters’ Houses gave this single woman family, religious refuge, economic refuge, and a satisfying career. She was bookkeeper, accountant, translator, town guide – she embroidered. She was gainfully employed. She was no grumpy old maid, no silenced cloistered nun – her editor/biographer describes the voice in her letters as devout, yes, but garrulous, witty, plaintive, worldly-wise, curious, heartbroken, joyous, prophetic, bold, irreverent. Sisters’ House gave Mary Penry and other women the choice to remain single. Thus, Sisters’ House gave Mary Penry and other single women life.

Drawn from Scott Paul Gordon, ed., The Letters of Mary Penry: A Single Moravian Woman in Early America (University Park: Pennsylvania State UP, 2018).

A few additional soundbites from Dr. Gordon’s book:

  • Penry may have been an “ordinary” woman, but she is unusual in an important way for historians of early America: she writes, self-consciously as a single woman at a time when singleness was rare.
  • The choice to remain single was made possible by the Moravian communities in which Penry lived. . . . Single women lived together in great stone buildings called “choir” houses. In these choir houses, which still stand, Moravian single sisters lived, worked, and worshiped alongside one another. They also laughed, played music, gossiped, and mourned their dead.
  • Visitors to Bethlehem between 1754 and 1773, for instance, would have found that about 54 percent of the community’s women were single, having never married. . . . The number of those who, like Penry chose to remain single throughout their life was high. In 1758, for instance, Penry lived with ninety-three others in Bethlehem’s single sisters’ house. . . . It was a remarkably diverse group of women. An astonishing 42 percent of these women remained single sisters for their entire life.
  • This arrangement offered an extraordinary amount of authority to women, who . . . were “led and guided by people like themselves, which . . . elsewhere in the whole world is not usual.”
  • None of these Moravian communities relegated single women to the “usual despised State of Old Maids.”
  • The popularity of the single sisters’ choir took Bethlehem’s founders by surprise.
  • Many Moravians, including single sisters such as Penry, also preserved persistent and deeply felt social ties with the world beyond Moravian settlements.
  • Moravian single sisters’ houses embraced women whose circumstances had left them little hope.
  • Penry never worried that she would become destitute. Her community would care for her even if she could no longer contribute economically.

Take the “Connecting Bethlehem” survey

Bethlehem Moment 8: Operation Book Move

Take the “Connecting Bethlehem” survey

Bethlehem Moment 8

BM Beighe
Ed and Eleanor Beighe

City Council
March 19, 2019

Barbara Diamond, 425 Center Street

A Bethlehem Moment: November 11, 1967

For 43 years Bethlehem’s Public Library served the community from its location on the corner of Market and New Streets (currently occupied by Moravian Academy Middle School), but by the mid-1960’s the library had outgrown this circa 1860s home. With the potential for a $500,000 federal library construction grant, Bethlehem Globe-Times publisher Rolland Adams offered a gift of $250,000 provided it was matched by private contributions. City Council also pledged $500,000 if the gifts and other funds were forthcoming. With that the city launched a fundraising drive, and within one month the citizens of Bethlehem pledged over $292,000. Construction of the new library commenced on August 17, 1965, and was completed two years and three months later.

At 9:00 am on Saturday, November 11, 1967, a singular event of civic participation occurred when the community again stepped up to support their library.  “Operation Book Move” was a massive effort to physically move 80,000 books and hundreds of periodicals from the old library at the corner of Market and New Streets to our current library on Church Street.

Students enjoying carrying the books!

The move was planned and coordinated by librarian Amy Preston and the Jaycees under the leadership of committee chairs Ed Beighe and John Horvath. A call went out for volunteers to assist in this massive task; the response was overwhelming. Seven hundred members of the community answered, among them boy scouts and girl scouts, high school students, Lehigh fraternities, Beta Sigma Phi Sorority, Trinity Church Youth, the Bethlehem Woman’s, Sertoma, Key, and MORA Clubs, the Junior League, AAUW, Lehigh and Bethlehem Steel’s Libraries, and many private individuals. Seven crews working four three-hour shifts were planned with the expectation that the move would take 12 hours, but by 4:00 the job was done.

Volunteers, some as young as 12, packed books into cartons. Another crew formed a line to move the cartons down a waxed ramp over the steps into large hampers and then onto a flatbed truck for transport to the new library. Another human chain of Lehigh fraternity men moved cartons of bound periodicals from the basement of the old library to the second floor of the new library. According to librarian Preston, all 30,000 books in the children’s library were moved in two hours, many by the children themselves. “We chose to send the heavy encyclopedias and oversize books, the odd sizes and shapes with the walking groups. Some could carry only one or two books at the most. But everyone was in good humor about it.”

By all accounts, Operation Book Move was an enormous success and a wonderful tribute to the people of Bethlehem who stepped up to support their library. This proud moment of civic engagement says a lot about Bethlehem of that day. When people care about their community they are motivated to participate; to give their time, attention and other support for its benefit. That so many people stepped up to perform this important community task suggests a high level of community cohesion. The nature of the project itself motivated public support. Institutions like the library that broadly benefit the community are unifying forces that can bring people together and enhance cohesion and civic engagement. In this time of partisanship and disengagement, we could use more such opportunities.

Many thanks to Bethlehem Area Public Library for access to resources used in this Bethlehem Moment.


“Library Move Planned to the Last Book,” Morning Call, November 1, 1967.

“Shelves of Public Library are Bare,” Morning Call, November 9, 1967.

“Volunteers Put Muscle into Library Moving Day,” Bethlehem Globe-Times, November 11, 1967.

“Bethlehem Library Ends 43-Year Location,” Morning Call, November 13, 1967.

“Hill to Hill,” Morning Call, November 13, 1967.

“Book Moving Project Ends, More Volunteers Needed,” Bethlehem Gobe-Times, November 13, 1967.

“Bethlehem Library Opened for Public,” Morning Call, November 21, 1967.

“Bethlehem’s New Library Ready For Public,” Morning Call, November 24, 1967.

(Beighe photo credit, Douglas Graves, Bethlehem Press)

Take the “Connecting Bethlehem” survey

Bethlehem Moment 7: H.D. and The Ceremony on Monocacy Creek’s Wunden Eiland

Bethlehem Moment 7
City Council
March 5, 2019

Ed Gallagher 49 W. Greenwich

A Bethlehem Moment: January 17, 1943

On January 17, 1943, Hilda Doolittle (1886-1961), known as H.D., Bethlehem native, whose family home, in fact, was on this very spot, world-famous writer, the Lehigh Valley’s most important literary figure, was living in London when the German Luftwaffe resumed bombing raids after months of inactivity. H.D. had previously endured nearly one hundred straight days of night bombing we now know as The Blitz – a sustained systematic attempt to break the fighting will of England by inflicting abject terror on its civilians. H.D. was then a middle-aged woman “shattered by fear” as the “tidal-wave of terror” swept over her again, ironically, through bombs possibly made before the war by the Bethlehem Steel Corporation. You can imagine what she was thinking. What sense did this brutal war make? Why did she have to go through this bombing again? Hadn’t she endured enough? What madness had gripped her entire world? “I could not visualize civilization other than a Christmas tree that had caught fire,” she felt as the bombs dropped. In this agonized state, H.D. has a vision of a ceremony during the 1740s on Wunden Eiland, the Isle of the Wound, an island in the Monocacy Creek, now gone, down behind the Brethren’s House on Church St. A ceremony of cultural exchange in which the Moravian Anna von Pahlen is initiated into the Native American culture and the Native American Morning Star is baptized Moravian. A ceremony embracing a wisdom that could make “a united brotherhood, a Unitas Fratrum of the whole world” but which the later more conventional Moravians condemned as a scandal and erased from Moravian cultural memory. In H.D.’s vision, though, Anna’s voice is still “pure and silver and clear like a silver trumpet.” The original Moravian possibility of Unitas Fratrum is still there. And H.D.’s subsequent work is marked by the energetic urge to engage and transform world events with a vision of power and peace.


H.D., The Gift, New York: New Directions Press, 1982.

Bethlehem Moment 6: “Whites Only” service on 4th St.

Bethlehem Moment 6
City Council
February 19, 2019

Ed Gallagher 49 W. Greenwich

A Bethlehem Moment: November 13, 1967

Twilight Zone theme

History is time travel. But this particular Bethlehem Moment seems less a journey in time than a wrong turn into the Twilight Zone. For on November 13, 1967, a Bethlehem black man had to argue that he was a human being with equal rights with whites. The Warner 3 Bethlehem black man was Malloy Warner, son of the first black trash hauler in the city, founder and president of the Colored Voters Association, president of the Bethlehem Trash Collectors Association, and member of the historic St. John’s AME Zion Church. In a bar on 4th St. in which I spent many a Friday Happy-Hour around the same period, Warner was several times charged double the white price for a bottle of beer. Bethlehem was not Mississippi or Alabama. Or so I thought. And it was 1967 not ’57 or ’27 or ’97. Or so I thought. Yet the message was clearly “Whites only.” Tension flared. The husband of the bar owner reported a death threat. “Some elements” in the black community were eager to “wreck the place.” But Warner neither turned tail nor turned tiger. He chose the “wiser course” of filing suit with the State Human Relations Commission. It was “humiliating,” Warner said, for a “human being” to be treated in this manner. “I’m not interested in financial reimbursement,” he said, “but I am concerned with the principle involved.” And again: “I personally felt that the injustice had to be brought before a court of law and handled through legal rather than violent means.” Justice was done. The Bethlehem Globe-Times called it a “community victory.” But for this researcher 4th St. will never look quite the same after learning of this uniquely brazen example of racism during this trip to the Twilight Zone.

Twilight Zone theme

“Trashman Wins Right to Fair-Priced Beer,” Bethlehem Globe-Times, November 13, 1967.

“Owner of Bethlehem Taproom Ordered Not to Discriminate,” Morning Call, November 14, 1967.

“A Community Victory,” Bethlehem Globe-Times, November 15, 1967.


Additional notes:

Six months earlier, in his role as president of the Bethlehem Trash Collectors Association (made up of 27 haulers), Warner argued before City Council for private enterprise against a city plan to institute municipal trash collection, in what was described as “the most impassioned debate to happen in the 5 ½ year span of mayor-council form of government,” and for which the citizen-gallery “literally surrounded the council table, reached down the stairway, stood on tables and sat on the floor.”

Warner 2

Warner had a successful hauling company, with such clients as Food Fair, Bethlehem Steel, Dixie Cup, and Air Products. After leaving the business, he owned a bar in Easton.

Some of the language in the news stories is of interest: Warner, for example is described as a “well-spoken Negro,” and the bar owner is described as “blonde.”

“Install Officers,” Morning Call, May 10, 1949.

“Trash Collectors Appeal to Bethlehem Residents,” Morning Call, April 4, 1967.

“Crowd Protests Bethlehem Garbage Collection,” Morning Call, April 5, 1967.

Denise Reaman, “Father was first black refuse collector in city.” Morning Call, February 26, 1995.

Recruiting the developers

(No answer yet. If you know any of these gentlemen, please put in a good word for the Gadfly.)  

49 W. Greenwich St.
Bethlehem PA 18018
February 8, 2019

Dennis E. Benner, Lou Pektor, Michael Perruci, Jim Petrucci, Michael F. Ronca

Good Sirs:

I write you because Bethlehem Councilman Callahan cited you five at a recent Council meeting as developers who have made important contributions to the city. And who will continue to do so.

I have an idea that I ‘m going to pitch to Council soon, and I’d like to invite you to be part of it.

I’m just your average citizen who on retirement from Lehigh University recently as a Professor of American Literature for almost 50 years has been enjoying learning about and commenting on our City government.

One thing I could not help but notice is the importance of our history to the City’s identity.

You folks are instrumental in creating the present and the future of the City, but that work should always grow out of a connection with and feeling for the City’s past.

I’ll bet that you have all attended Council meetings for one reason or another and are aware that each meeting begins in traditional fashion with a prayer and the pledge of allegiance.

I am going to propose to Council that we add a third element to the opening ceremony – a “Bethlehem Moment.” The Bethlehem Moment – literally 1-2 minutes – would be a slice of Bethlehem history. For instance, I did one as part of public comment last meeting on the opening of Memorial Pool in 1957.

I’ll need to suggest to Council who would do these Moments. I have approached the School District about involving students, and I will be contacting Historic Bethlehem and many other organizations and individuals.

I’m wondering if I could count on each of you to do one Moment a year. You might think of it as a charitable contribution of a non-financial kind. I’ll bet that you have never received this kind of request, and I can well imagine you saying, O, my, this is not what I do! But I and others would be available to help you select a Moment and prepare the paragraph of text if needed.

Nothing definite required at this time. All I’m hoping for is a nod of willingness to hear more and to participate once we get organized.

Ed Gallagher

Hitting the pause button on Bethlehem Moments

Gadfly has done 5 “Bethlehem Moments” now.

See the link on the sidebar or under Fun Stuff on the top menu.

Time to reflect a bit.

The idea was for Gadfly to do some to give a sense of what this “Bethlehem Moment” thing was all about.

And then to pitch it to Council to see if they were interested in incorporating it into the opening ceremony after the prayer and the pledge.

It could always continue randomly even as part of public comment without Council involvement.

But if the idea has interest and value at all, it deserves to be at the “top” of the meeting and not in public comment where it would follow, like it just did Tuesday, a guy complaining about neighbor dogs.

If I pitch this idea to Council for consideration, I’ll have to suggest how to staff 24 Moments a year. The idea is no good if it becomes somebody’s hassle to fill out a roster.

I have made very preliminary contact with BASD about students participating. I see a lot of pluses educationally for the students in doing the Moments, and it would bring them and their parents to meetings.

I will be contacting such various organizations as Moravian Archives and Historic Bethlehem to sound out interest, and, a less obvious but intriguing source of Momentors, I’m even asking developers in a letter I will share with you.

But I should ask Gadfly followers. If you personally would like to do a Moment (help available if needed) or if you belong to an organization that would like to participate (help available if needed), perhaps doing a Moment connected to the  nature of the organization, please let me know.

The Bethlehem Moment idea, I know, might seem a bit fluffy, and now that Council meetings are filmed I’ll be able to see if people are yawning, and if it goes bust, so be it. But I’d like to give it a good chance of catching on.

Bethlehem Moment 5: A Handless Hero helps dedicate Memorial Pool, pleading for peace

Bethlehem Moment 5
City Council
February 5, 2019

Ed Gallagher 49 W. Greenwich

A Bethlehem Moment: May 30, 1957

“Amputee Veteran Pleads for Peace in Dedicating Pool as War Memorial,” Morning Call, May 31, 1957.

On Memorial Day May 30, 1957, there were two stars in Bethlehem, one a half-million-dollar pool, the newest addition to our “recreational parade of progress” on Illick’s Mill Rd., and the other an honest-to-goodness movie star. The 75’ x 165’ pool was to be a “living memorial” – a tribute, as the now age-stained plaque to the left of the entrance says, “a tribute to those citizens of Bethlehem whose services to our nation in times of peace and war have preserved our freedom and independence.” Mayor Earl Schaffer touted the pool as the “greatest shot in the arm” to his ambitious recreational plan. ButHarold Russell 1 the fittingly somber tone of a war memorial dedication was set by the daunting appearance and foreboding words of Harold Russell, who won an Academy Award for his portrayal of a disabled World War II veteran returning home in the brutally frank film The Best Years of Our Lives, which is ranked 37th on the American Film Institute’s 100 best films of all time. Both Russell’s hands were blown off in a demolition accident on D-Day, and he bared his stumps as well as exhibited his consummate skill with a pair of prosthetic steel hooks in the 1946 film that had just been re-released in 1954. In a “stirring message” to an audience of 500, Russell, “Mr. Veteran,” as he was called, who enlisted right after Pearl Harbor and went on to become National Commander of AMVETS and a founder of the World Veterans Foundation, cautioned that we find ourselves in a “death struggle” with “international gangsters” led by the “evil” Soviet Union and under the “threat of a dreadful atomic war” — and that the elusive path to peace lay in sincere international brotherhood. It is a sobering and chilling reflection on this “handless hero’s” hopeful words that in 1957 the Vietnam War was already two years old, that the first Bethlehem mortality there was only eight years away, that each of the 32 Bethlehem men killed in that war might have innocently swum in those inviting waters before which Russell spoke and pleaded for peace, and that one or more might even have been there that very day.

“Brotherhood Key to Peace, Pool Dedication Crowd Told.” Bethlehem Globe Times, May 31, 1957.


Further info on the pool:

The pool cost $460,000, a sum, as Mayor Schaffer liked to point out, raised mainly from sale of the Lehigh golf course (now the site of the Lehigh Shopping Center) and a contribution by Bethlehem Steel and only minorly by tax money. Even so, as you can see from the design sketch, a canteen and a wading pool to the east of the adult pool were cut for financial reasons.

Memorial Pool design

Further info on Harold Russell:

Harold Russell 3“Russell received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1947. Earlier in the ceremony, he was awarded an honorary Oscar for ‘bringing hope and courage to his fellow veterans.’ The special award had been created because the Board of Governors very much wanted to salute Russell, a non-professional actor, but assumed he had little chance for a competitive win. It was the only time in Oscar history that the Academy has awarded two Oscars for the same performance.”

Russell was one of only two non-professional actors to win an Academy Award for acting.

Richard Severo, “Harold Russell Dies at 88; Veteran and Oscar Winner.” New York Times, February 1, 2002.

The Army film Diary of a Sergeant (1945) showed Russell cheerfully in his daily Harold Russell 2activities.  He would write, “the human soul, beaten down, overwhelmed, faced by complete failure and ruin, can still rise up against unbearable odds and triumph.”

Moving clips from The Best Years of Our Lives:

“Dependent as a Baby”

“And for what?”


The first Bethlehem soldier to die in the Vietnam War was Robert S. Ruch, October 30, 1965.

Bethlehem Moment 4: Zoning comes to town

Bethlehem Moment 4
City Council
January 2, 2019

Ed Gallagher 49 W. Greenwich

A Bethlehem Moment: February 24, 1926

On February 24, 1926, the Bethlehem version of the open-range Wild West ended. The new sheriff in town, two years in the studying, was Bethlehem’s first zoning ordinance, whose purpose, in the exact same words of our zoning ordinance today, was to “preserve the health, safety, and general welfare of the community.” If the zoning ordinance was Wyatt Earp, the Real Estate Board was the villainous Clanton family. The ordinance was ready to go in November 1925, but the Real Estate Board succeeded in getting it delayed till the next Council took office. If this ordinance becomes law, Bethlehem’s industrial growth is at an end, they said. Commercial interests constitute the life blood of the city, they said. Taxes will rise, they said. “You can sewer us up, but don’t zone us,” they said. The ordinance is so lengthy, complicated, and obscure, it’s utterly impossible for even the most intelligent man to digest, they said. The Real Estate Board generated a large crowd that turned an informational meeting heated. They claimed that 98% of businessmen on the West Side were opposed to zoning. On February 15, the day of the first reading, a petition to abandon the ordinance signed by 114 residents was delivered to City Council. On February 24, the day of the second reading, the Real Estate Board presented a 10-point manifesto climaxing in the claim that the Zoning Board of Appeals was open to favoritism and discrimination. But the ordinance prevailed. As one wise head remarked at the time, “more property values are destroyed for lack of zoning than by fire.”


“City Engineer Tells Real Estate Board of Zoning Ordinance,” Morning Call, December 15, 1925,

“Voices Opposition to Zoning Ordinance,” Morning Call, December 29, 2015.

“Real Estate Board Wants Zoning Plan Further Considered,” Morning Call, January 4, 1926.

“Zoning Ordinance under Discussion, Morning Call, January 13, 1926.

“’Special Interest’ Talk Heard at Zoning Ordinance Hearing,” Morning Call, January 23, 1926.

“Several Banks Join Real Estate Board,’ Morning Call, February 2, 1926.

“Zone Bill Passes the First Reading,” Morning Call, February 16, 1926.

“Zone Bill Passes Second and Final Reading in Council,” Morning Call, February 25, 1926.

“Council Faces Problem in Zone Bill Appeal Board,” Morning Call, March 1,1926.

“Realtors Discuss Multiple Listings, also Fire Final Gun at Zoning Ordinance,” Morning Call, March 2, 1926.

“Permits Refused under Zone Ordinance,” Morning Call, February 7, 1927.

Bethlehem Moment 3: An Aroused City Beats City Hall

Bethlehem Moment 3
City Council
Dec. 4, 2018

Ed Gallagher 49 W. Greenwich

A Bethlehem Moment: November 4, 1958

They say “Ya can’t beat City Hall.” On November 4, 1958, an “aroused city” of Bethlehem did just that. Forty years after the city’s birth, the Bethlehem Junior Chamber of Commerce mounted a campaign to establish a Charter Commission to study and possibly change our form of local government. Our entrenched Democratic City Council at that time, realizing their power was at stake, vigorously fought this challenge to their existence, smelling the hidden hand of an “ivory towered” newspaper editor; raising the spectre of dictatorship; arguing widespread satisfaction with the status quo; meddling by the Jaycees, who may not even be taxpayers; and voting by Commission members who “might not know the difference between forms of government and a groundhog hole.” That editor, the legendary John Strohmeyer, lashed out at this “flagrant abuse of political power” aimed at perpetuating a “spoils system”; the Jaycees worked the public door-to-door; and in a turnout higher in some sections than the 1956 presidential election, the entire non-partisan Jaycee slate was elected to the Commission. On November 4, 1958, “political novices” tapped the power of democracy, reminded “the machine” where the power ultimately lies, took control of their own destiny, and started a process that gave us our current mayor-council form of government.

For the full story, see the attachment to “Fighting City Hall – and Winning, November 4, 1958” under Bethlehem Moments on The Bethlehem Gadfly, December 2, 2018 (

too much like the imperial executive

Breena Holland is an Associate Professor at Lehigh University in the Department of Political Science and the Environmental Initiative. She is a past and current director of Lehigh University’s South Side Initiative.

Gadfly, thanks for this information. It’s fascinating!! Do you have any information about what the “weak Mayor” form of local government would be? That is the form I would be interested in understanding better, especially if it gives more power to the City Council. I think one problem we have is that we need more ideas than just one person — the Mayor — can provide. What would happen if councilmembers were paid a more reasonable wage to help with some of the tasks involved in city governance? Right now the mayor gets all the money and has all the power and all the responsibility. I fear it is too much like the imperial executive. I think the city would benefit from a broader distribution of responsibility, in particular.


Yes, Gadfly can return to this with, especially, some opinion from that time period about how the Commission form was perceived. His sense at this point is that the Commission form was not well liked, was seen as inefficient. But this deserves a closer look at the specific reasons. And Gadfly, ever-the-utopian, wonders whether there is a 4th and even better choice, wonders with Thoreau whether “there is a still more perfect and glorious [form of city government] imagined, but not yet anywhere seen.”


Fighting City Hall: November 4, 1958

This story will be the subject of the next Bethlehem Moment at City Council.

You just never know. Where there’s an interesting – and even inspiring – story for a Bethlehem Moment.

Gadfly, as some of you are aware, is coming up on his first-year anniversary of observing City affairs. It was Christmas-time last year that he resolved to act on his long-time hankerin’ (Gadfly loves and for many years taught the classic Westerns – can you tell?) to attend some City Council meetings.

And he was immediately struck by the “architecture” of the meeting – Council members in judicial-like semicircle at the head of the hall, with the Mayor on the side. What’s with this, Gadfly thought? Isn’t the Mayor top-dawg?  Then hearing the occasional distressed resident addressing his or her distress to a Council that in most instances had no direct powers to redress the distress.  And meetings in which the Mayor seemingly rarely spoke, even in his assigned “report” time on the agenda. It took a while for Gadfly to recognize the Mayor’s voice. At election time, from Gadfly’s sideline seat, the mayoral race seemed the focus. City Council members were faceless to him. Yet here the site of power was the “City Council” meeting, seemingly above the mayor. City Council ran the meeting – did they “run” the City?

Curious to Gadfly. Odd. Puzzling. Intriguing.

How do things get done in the City? Who’s in charge? Where’s the power?

And why do we have this form of city government? And how did we get it?

So Gadfly was happy to use a Bethlehem Moment as the occasion to do a little historical research. You’ll find the long version of a piece of his research on this linked short essay – short but still too long for top billing on a blog like this. Gadfly hopes you will click the link and take a few of your own Bethlehem moments to read:

Fighting City Hall – and Winning, November 4, 1958

The short of this part of Gadfly’s research is that when Bethlehem was born in modern form in 1917, it operated under the state-mandated Commission (so-called Weak Mayor) form of government. In 1957 the state granted cities the voluntary option of staying with that form or choosing between two other forms: the Strong Mayor-City Council form and the City Manager form.

The Democrats ran Bethlehem, and an entrenched element of the Democratic Party fought efforts by the Bethlehem Junior Chamber of Commerce to study the advantages and disadvantages of the three options and provide residents with an opportunity to choose among them. How’s that for democracy – the opportunity to choose your form of government!! The “political novices” successfully fought the “machine,” educated the general populace about the choices they had, and voters ultimately chose our current Strong Mayor-City Council form of government.

gov 4

It’s a pretty amazing and, I say again, inspiring story of the power of the public to fight – and beat – City Hall. Not that every City Hall has to be beaten, mind you.

But this is the kind of story that we need to periodically remind us where the power ultimately lies. With us. Out here in the cheap seats at Town Hall. And beyond.

Please read: Fighting City Hall – and Winning, November 4, 1958

This is a story of Bethlehem residents taking control of their own destiny. Never easy. But doable.

Founding Fathers and Mother

Gadfly is researching the history of the Bethlehem Charter Commission for the next “Bethlehem Moment.”


Here is the newly elected group — November 13, 1958 — that gave us our current Mayor-City Council form of government.

Elaine Meilicke was the top vote-getter.

Not all that long ago — any connections with these folk we should know about?

Charles Donches is not related to our Mayor but is the father of Steve Donches, who was head of the National Museum of History.

An interesting story here, but you’ll have to wait for the “Moment” to hear all about it!

Bethlehem Moments: A Proposal (8)

(8th in a series of posts on Bethlehem Moments)

Taking a break from the big project of organizing the public hearing on 2 W. Market last Tuesday.

Remember that in these 8 posts, Gadfly is kind of drafting a proposal for Council to add a Bethlehem Moment to the opening of each Council meeting. Thinking out loud about all the components of such an addition.

So we have had 2 so far, one on the Hill-to-Hill bridge fund raising as a precursor to the joining of the boroughs that  gave us the single town of Bethlehem, the other on the death of 14 Bethlehem “boy” Army recruits in what was then the greatest air tragedy in Lehigh Valley history.

Too random? The scholar in Gadfly would start at the beginning way back in Europe and work up to the present over the next 50yrs of his life. But that wouldn’t work, would it? But is just bouncing around too random? Gadfly is reading and thinking about Bethlehem history in an unorganized way, and, as long as he is doing the Moments in this trial period, he will just wait to be struck by something interesting.

Gadfly’s Hill-to-Hill Moment came as a result of the billboard controversy (Whatever happened to that? Did Gadfly hear we did get sued?). The plane crash came out of studying Triangle Park and the presentation at Council on plans for the Rose Garden.

So Gadfly’s finding the Moments so far from what seems to be going on now.

Does that feel alright? Or should there be more structure?

So that’s one thing Gadfly is thinking about, Moment-wise.

A second is that he is not sure the Moments will really be meaningful unless they are ultimately incorporated at the very top of the meeting right after the prayer and the pledge.

To do them as part of public comment feels not right at all.

There they lose their isolated and high-lighted significance. There they get mixed in with business. When the meeting starts after the pledge, people go into work mode. The introduction is over, and now we’re focusing on the “meat” of the meeting.

If there is any future for the Bethlehem Moment idea, it has to be as part of the introduction to the meeting.

A third thing Gadfly is wondering about is the title. Would “Bethlehem Remembers” be better?

So that’s what Gadfly has been thinking about in regard to the “Bethlehem Moments.”

Shoot me some ideas, or do one in this trial period. What say?

Ok, back to 2 W.

Bethlehem Moment 2: Bethlehem Mourns

Bethlehem Moment 2
City Council
Nov 20, 2018

Ed Gallagher 49 W. Greenwich

A Bethlehem Moment: November 8, 1961

In Berlin August 1961, the Communists built a wall, and in Bethlehem November 1961 fourteen young men joined a U.S. Army expanding to meet an escalating international crisis. Before these “boys” touched a uniform, much less a weapon, they were dead, incinerated in a tragic plane crash near Richmond on the way to basic training. Their deaths hit the town hard. They were our neighbors, living on Broad St, Center, Brodhead. Though aged 17-22 – yes, one was 17 — they were “boys” to us. Their high school class pictures stared at us from the obituaries. They lived at home with Mom and Dad, had nicknames from cowboy heroes, pets that followed them everywhere, girls they didn’t want to leave, careers on hold. Some had never flown before. We gasped at the terror of the phone that rings in the dead of night. We watched helplessly as hope drained away. We grieved with mothers who ran shrieking from houses, never to be the same again. We shrugged shoulders with fathers who had premonitions of disaster. We were reminded through our shared mourning that we are a town not just a geographically framed collection of individuals. We were reminded that there is no such thing as a “cold” war. Lest we forget these valuable lessons, we erected a monument, which now resides in the Rose Garden.

For a more detailed description of this event, see the “Bethlehem Pays the Price for Freedom 1961” post dated Nov. 18.

Bethlehem Pays the Price for Freedom 1961

See also the “Veterans Day, Bethlehem, 2018” (Nov. 11) and “Developers, leave this park alone” (Nov.16) posts. Gadfly stumbled on to this story while researching Triangle Park. Thanks to Dana Grubb.

On November 8, 1961, 14 Bethlehem “boys” died near Richmond, Virginia, in what was described as the “Lehigh Valley’s worst toll” in a plane crash, as “the greatest single air tragedy ever to affect the Lehigh Valley,” and as “the second worst for a single non-military aircraft in U.S. history.” The 14 boys —  young men, really, ages 17-22 — were part of 29 from the Lehigh Valley and 77 overall who died — new Army inductees and crew members headed to basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

Albert W. Andreas, Robert S. Bedics, Barry A. Brandt, Donald F. Doyle, Thomas D. Gasda, Richard W. Jones, Joseph J. Kobli, Stephen M. Kobli, Leroy Kranch, Jr., Thomas A. Motko, Michael Placotaris. Albert J. Rice, John D. Schuler, Charles D. Yeakel

The “happy-go-lucky” Bethlehem residents gathered early morning at the Salvation Army, bused to Wilkes-Barre where they were inducted in the afternoon, then boarded a plane, which after a stop in Baltimore to pick up more recruits, crashed near Richmond shortly after 9pm. All died in the fire subsequent to the crash except only two crew members. News reports described “the fuselage [of Imperial Airlines’ Lockheed Constellation], looking like a crushed cigar, gaping gash in its top, mired in the muck” on the outskirts of the airport.

The tragedy hit our town hard. There were stories of joking at departure about heading to “warmer southern temperatures,” of promises to be home for Christmas, of last words to mothers like “I love you, Mom.” It was the first plane ride for some. Two brothers and their next-door neighbor – life-long buddies — were among the victims. One victim lived “a few doors away” from Mayor Earl Schaffer. Some had joined the service because “unable to find steady work.” One had two jobs, supporting a struggling family. One was engaged. One had a girl whom he liked a lot and didn’t want to leave. One had a girl who loved him like a sister. One had enormous hands and was nicknamed “Duke” like John Wayne. One had a pet dog, his “pride and joy,” who “cried pitifully all morning” after the news.

The father of the brothers regretted turning down a last drink with his sons: “I would give anything to be able to have one last drink with them.” A grieving mother ran from her house — a doctor had to be called. She was never the same. There were reports of premonitions of disaster among the parents.

Communication about the tragedy was chaotic. Many families were awakened from sleep in the early hours of November 9 by phone calls from reporters. Because of the fire, identification of the incinerated bodies was difficult. One was identified only by a class ring. Telegrams from the Army were slow in coming. After agonizing waits, some families weren’t notified officially till 8am. 6 listed as dead turned out not to be so. They had not made the trip.

These Bethlehem men were victims of our Cold War with the Communists. The Berlin Wall was erected in August 1961. President Kennedy increased the draft in response. The Bethlehem Globe-Times editorial provided the larger political frame around this tragedy:

The lives which these young men gave before they ever donned a uniform is one of the ironic tragedies of the Cold War. While they were headed for duty as part of a tactical military build up which is destined to save us from a hot war, their death is a grim reminder that there is no such thing as a “bloodless war.”

To the families, no words can be written that will ease their pain and suffering. To the rest of us, no incident could illustrate with more impact the price which we as a nation must pay in the protracted struggle between the free world and the Communist world.

In a bitter punctuation to this local tragedy, however, the death of these young un-uniformed soldiers has been described as a “useless sacrifice.” The horror of the crash triggered a national investigation of the way U.S. military were transported on substandard, unregulated private airlines called “supplemental carriers.” The Civil Aeronautics Board soon issued a report that was as devastating as the crash. Time magazine reported, “it seemed a wonder that Imperial’s Constellation had got off the ground in the first place.”

The Time article cited the following problems: the pilot had failed some of his flight tests, and Imperial Airlines planes regularly had so many problems they routinely took up half the time of a Federal Aviation Inspector who reported hydraulic leakages, faulty fuel indicators, improper rigging of fuel mixture controls, bald tires, and fuel seeping out of the plane and onto the ground.  In addition, Time noted the doomed plane’s fuel was contaminated with rust, that the crews couldn’t determine the condition of the plane because the logbooks were not up to date, and the confusion in the cockpit that lead to the loss of the fuel-starved engines.  Perhaps the revelation most indicative of the miserable quality of airplane maintenance was that of the Chief Flight Engineer, who recounted not having a part for a motor on an Imperial Airlines plane and substituted a piece taken from a 1954 Mercury automobile.

It’s small but at least some solace that the “useless” deaths of these Bethlehem residents and others led to useful reforms in military transport operation that would protect the lives of similar young “boys” into our day.

004Our town marked the tragedy with a monument dedicated June 8, 1962, that for a long time resided at Triangle Park, 3rd and Wyandotte, was rededicated June 8, 1986 (State Senator Fred B. Rooney and Mayor Gordon Payrow presided), and now resides on the edge of the Rose Garden near the corner of 8th Avenue and Union Boulevard, and can be readily seen there and, more importantly, reflected on as you drive by.

The monument was meant to serve as a reminder. Sometimes we have to be reminded about the reminder.

This event will be the subject of the next Bethlehem Moment at City Council.

“29 Area Army Recruits Killed in Fiery Virginia Plane Crash.” Bethlehem Globe-Times, November 9, 1961: 1.

“A Few Discrepancies.” Time, December 15, 1961.

Monument Honors 14 Plane Victims.” Bethlehem Globe-Times, June 9, 1962: 13.

Jennifer Rittenour, “25 Years Later, Pain Of Air Crash Lingers.” Morning Call, November 9, 1986.

Frank Whelan, “1961 crash brought regulatory changes.” Morning Call, December 2, 2001.

Daniel Patrick Sheehan, “When the Lehigh Valley lost its youth in a Virginia marsh.” Morning Call, November 7, 2011. 

Kauffman, Louis R. “50 years later, airplane crash stirs memories of best friend.” Morning Call, December 12, 2011.

Seldon Richardson, “Richmond’s Worst Airplane Disaster: Flight 201/8 – November 8, 1961.” The Shockoe Examiner, November 14, 2013. 

David H. Stringer, “Non-Skeds: The Story of America’s Supplemental Airlines Part III.” Airways, May 26, 2016.

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

For the full story, see “The Hill-to-Hill Bridge: A Story of ‘Fraternal Cooperation’” under Bethlehem Moments on The Bethlehem Gadfly, September 16, 2018 (