Veterans Day, Bethlehem, 2018

You are a veteran if you spent your entire working career in the Armed Services or if the signature on your papers was barely dry.

And you are deserving of recognition today.

On November 8, 1961, 14 young Bethlehem men (including two brothers), draftees, gathered at the Salvation Army, joined three-score others from various parts of the Lehigh Valley and New Jersey, got on a bus mid-afternoon for Wilkes Barre, where they were formally inducted into the U.S. Army around 5PM, took a plane bound for Fort Jackson, South Carolina, which crashed, and by 9:30PM they were all dead.


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 (?) Yeakel

In all 77 died. Only 2 escaped the crash. Some Bethlehem families learned of the crash and deaths when awakened by 4AM phone calls from reporters. Most of the bodies were burned beyond recognition. It would be 3-4 days before some bodies were identified. One Bethlehem man was identified only from a school ring.

The crash triggered a national investigation of substandard transporting of military personnel. The crash was determined to be a result of shoddy maintenance, human error, and lack of emergency procedure explanations. Many could have survived.

Bethlehem took the tragedy hard. A monument was dedicated exactly seven months later, on June 8, 1962, on what was called Triangle Park or the Hub Tract, the still open space above Perkins at 3rd and Wyandotte streets. The monument was removed for a time in 1986 because of the possible sale of the property but then returned and rededicated November 8, 1986. The monument was relatively recently removed to the Rose Garden when the property was sold to developer Jim Petrucci. The monument is located on Eighth Avenue, just a short distance from Union Boulevard.

The 14 young Bethlehem men never had a chance to wear a uniform but died for their country.


It seems to Gadfly that it is always cold in cemeteries or at monuments for the dead.

His fingers courted frostbite at 9AM this morning just in the short time he ungloved to take a few pictures. The biting wind found ways through woolen layers to find bare skin.

There were two flower arrangements, two flags. Gadfly was able to right one of the arrangements blown over by yesterday’s even more biting wind.

There was one card, “In Loving Memory of Brother Donald Doyle,” from his older brother Richard and Richard’s wife (whose name I am sorry I couldn’t make out).

A touch of warmth that helps one forget the cold.

Gadfly plans to return to this story for the next Bethlehem Moment. Thanks to Dana Grubb.

“First day of school”

The Gadfly invites “local color” creative pieces of this sort. See other examples by clicking “local color” on the sidebar.

Monday. August 27, 2018. 7:45 a.m. Center Street. The bus driver and I locked eyes. Sharing daggers. His eyes flicked to his mirror. Cars disappearing over the hill, stacked maybe to Macada, tires impatiently pawing the asphalt. My eyes flicked to my mirror. Cars back to Dewberry, menacing, growling, like a hungry pride behind a lead lion blocking their way to a fresh Zebra carcass. The bus driver and I locked eyes again, severely slit now. Our fuses blown. The bus finally lurched forward like a carriage on a roller coaster. A split-second later, a snappily dressed boy appeared at the edge of the driveway, fully formed, like a hologram beamed directly from the back-to-school department at Target. Too late. His head corkscrewed in disbelief. No help in sight. Stranded between worlds. The boy and I locked eyes. And my anger mellowed in memories of my own fear-filled first days.

Edward J. Gallagher
Originally appeared in the Bethlehem Press, September 25, 2018.

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!


Calling for Local Colorists!

Local color, a style of artistic expression derived from the presentation of the features and peculiarities of a particular locality and its inhabitants.

Gadfly taught American literature, and one of the movements in 19th century American literary history is called the “local color movement.” There were, for instance, a group of New England writers, a group of mid-western writers, and so forth. These writers drew on local character types, writing the kind of story that, in effect, was instantly recognizable as coming from and helping define a certain area. The kind of writing that, in effect, could not have been written anywhere else.

Gadfly would like to have local color creative contributions as a regular feature of the Gadfly.

A “fun” feature that reminds us that real life happens outside the Town Hall chambers where life is all business and sometimes heated business and even sometimes monkey business.

We are an interesting City filled with interesting stories. There’s real life out there. Bring it to us in whatever form you can.

Like the old tv show used to say,

“there are a thousand stories in the naked city, and this is just one.”

So on our “About” page I describe the local color feature this way:

Local Color: original creative work with recognizably local Bethlehem subjects or connections — art, poems, mini-essays, vignettes, photographs, songs — that help us see or think about our town and townspeople in interesting ways.

Thus far we have two photos from Vicki — one at her home, the other at work — and two Gadfly vignettes — one on Schoenersville Rd, one on Lorain Ave. — as examples.

Let’s hear from you. Tell Gadfly your ideas. Color us up!

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!