There’s an original play premiering in Bethlehem this weekend.
Part of the IceHouse Tonight series.
Gadfly wants to begin to pay more attention in these pages to local arts and artists — the kinds of things that aren’t heavily advertised or covered in the local press and want and deserve our support.
What should he cover? Let him know.
And who is able to post substantively (not just performance info) on such events?
Frankly, the IceHouse Tonight series has not been on Gadfly’s radar. Maybe the same for many of you.
The Ice House is a beautiful venue, local treasure (and let’s take a moment to remember the great Charlie Brown).
Original work by local artist — always beautiful too.
“Jetblack Sunrise” by Michael Fegely 8PM, Jan, 24-26 The Charles A. Brown Ice House 56 River St. (Sand Island)
Allentown’s Michael Fegely has long been fascinated with the poetry of American icon Walt Whitman. His 2016 one-man play “Whitman by Fire” was based on Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass.”
Now Fegely is premiering a new theatrical interpretation of Whitman’s work in “Jetblack Sunrise,” which comes to Bethlehem’s Ice House this weekend and to Easton’s Nurture Nature Center in February.
In Behlehem, “Jetblack Sunrise” is part of the IceHouse Tonight series, and brings to life “the soaring, enigmatic work of America’s greatest poet.”
The intimate hour-long production is staged simply, and tells the story of a former soldier struggling to grasp his place in his country, his place among mankind, and ultimately his place in all of time.
The creators say they have developed a new way to communicate Whitman’s poetry to “unscrew the locks” and “embrace your soul” so that audiences embark on a brief odyssey of the mind — from the smallest blade of grass to the reaches of the cosmos — along the way finding their shared humanity, and awakening our familiar self in its immortality.
Fegely stresses that the performance is not a poetry reading of Whitman’s work. However, every line and word is drawn from an 1855 first edition of the poet’s “Leaves of Grass” and the 1856 poem “Song of the Open Road.” The title comes from a line in “Song of Myself,” one of the poems in “Leaves of Grass.”
Fegely and Amenda used lines and passages from the poetry to create an original active through-line that is brought to life on stage, while remaining absolutely true to the poet’s grand thoughts. They say in this way the audience “shares in the revelation of his vision as it is brought into the present to live among us.”
The Gadfly invites “local color” photos of this sort
Blessed when these creatures appear in the wild. Yes, I speak to them reassuring that I mean them no harm. Dana Grubb
Gadfly is reminded of Robert Frost’s “Two Look at Two”:
Love and forgetting might have carried them
A little further up the mountain side
With night so near, but not much further up.
They must have halted soon in any case
With thoughts of a path back, how rough it was
With rock and washout, and unsafe in darkness;
When they were halted by a tumbled wall
With barbed-wire binding. They stood facing this,
Spending what onward impulse they still had
In one last look the way they must not go,
On up the failing path, where, if a stone
Or earthslide moved at night, it moved itself;
No footstep moved it. ‘This is all,’ they sighed,
Good-night to woods.’ But not so; there was more.
A doe from round a spruce stood looking at them
Across the wall, as near the wall as they.
She saw them in their field, they her in hers.
The difficulty of seeing what stood still,
Like some up-ended boulder split in two,
Was in her clouded eyes; they saw no fear there.
She seemed to think that two thus they were safe.
Then, as if they were something that, though strange,
She could not trouble her mind with too long,
She sighed and passed unscared along the wall.
‘This, then, is all. What more is there to ask?’
. . . . . . . . . . .
It was all. Still they stood,
A great wave from it going over them,
As if the earth in one unlooked-for favour
Had made them certain earth returned their love.
Producer: Touchstone Theatre. “Festival UnBound,” the multimedia project two years in the making, produced some 20 events and ran 10 days in October 2019. The festival took a measure of Bethlehem’s southside 20 years after Touchstone’s landmark “Steelbouund” production when SteelStacks was a twinkle in the Christmas City star. It was a big year for Touchstone Theatre, which also produced a terrific 20th production of “Christmas City Follies.”
Play: “The Secret,” Mock Turtle Marionette Theater. The world premiere about H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), Bethlehem native and poet, during “Festival UnBound” was part of “Finding H.D., A Community Exploration of the Life and Work of Hilda Doolittle,” a year-long series of events organized by the Lehigh University English Department, Bethlehem Area Public Library, the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center and Mock Turtle Marionette Theatre. Doug Roysdon, Artistic Director, Mock Turtle Marionette Theater, was chief writer of the multimedia performance that mixes narrative, song, music, poetry, puppets and actors. Script collaborators were Jennie Gilrain, William Reichard-Flynn, Aidan Gilrain-McKenna, Matilda Snyder, Kalyani Singh and Seth Moglen.
Original Play: “Prometheus/Redux,” Touchstone Theatre. “Prometheus/Redux” was the astounding opening work of “Festival UnBound.” “Prometheus/Redux,” commissioned for “Festival UnBound,” is written by Gerald Stropnicky, a founding member of Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble, and directed by Christopher Shorr, Touchstone ensemble member and director of theater at Moravian College. Music is by Harry Mann. Images and footage from the Steelworkers Archives are incorporated into the work as is an image of the implosion of Martin Tower, former Bethlehem Steel Corp. headquarters.
Ensemble, Play: “Prometheus/Redux,” Touchstone Theatre. Touchstone Theatre cofounder and ensemble member Bill George returned as Prometheus. It’s 20 years after he left The Steel and now, instead of being chained to the ladle, he is bound to a hospital bed, suffering liver failure. The cast included former steelworkers, a county judge and members of previous generations of the Touchstone ensemble.
January 1873, 147 years ago. Lucy Evelyn Packer Linderman is recovering from a serious horse and carriage accident on the ice-covered what is now Packer Avenue – just down the hill from Lehigh University, founded by her father Asa.
She, at 41, and her sister Mary Hannah Packer, at 34, are the two surviving female adults of Asa Packer’s seven children.
Lucy is considered beautiful and an image of her, with her stylish clothes and carefully coiffed and braided hair, show a handsome woman, a leader of Bethlehem society, married to a doctor, Garrett Linderman, who showed up in the cholera epidemic some years before – and is now a Lieutenant in her father’s businesses
An image of young Mary, on the other hand, shows her as short, plump, with coke bottle glasses and plainly dressed. At 34 she would be considered a spinster, dedicated to serving her family’s needs. A contemporary narrative says: “There were suitors . . . who were anxious for the hand of Miss Packer, but she stubbornly avoided all advances in that direction.” Mary was known as somewhat of a recluse, as result of an accident and subsequent eye ailments that had led to her being blind in one eye, and with limited vision in the other.
Lucy survived the accident but dies later that year, in July, of pneumonia – contracted as she attempted rehabilitation in a spa in mountains to the north.
Asa, grief-stricken, builds Linderman Library in Lucy’s honor in 1875, and dies in 1879.
Within five years, by 1884, all the remaining members of the Packer family – two brothers and Asa’s wife – also pass – and Mary Hannah Packer is the only surviving member of the family.
Mary may be reclusive and nearly blind, but she is not stupid. A woman ahead of her time, she recognizes that she cannot inherit the fabulous Packer fortune – built on canal boats and what would become the Pennsylvania Railroad and Bethlehem Steel – in her chosen unmarried status.
In order to take advantage of the then recently passed Women’s Marriage Act – which guaranteed married women the right to inheritance – she enlists Charles Cummings, a former conductor on the railroad and a loyal family friend – to marry her.
She pays him 100,000 dollars – worth about 2 and a half million today — and has him sign one of the first pre-nuptual agreements in the state.
Charles and Mary never live together and are divorced in 1893.
Upon her marriage, Mary Hannah Packer Cummings, as the sole heir to the Packer fortune, inherits 54 and a half million dollars – worth about 1.5 billion today. She becomes the most wealthy woman in the country and second in wealth in the world – to only Queen Victoria.
She travels around the world 17 times.
She becomes a philanthropist and is considered a bit of a Bohemian, a patron of the arts, literature, and music.
She builds Packer Church at Lehigh, and supports the university well and repeatedly over the years.
She also builds All Saints Episcopal Church down the hill from her house in Mauch Chaunk (now Jim Thorpe) in 1906.
Mary Hannah Packer Cummings died in 1912, the only member of her immediate family to see the 20th century.
There are many accounts of sightings of her ghost, still short and plump, plainly dressed and with coke-bottle glasses — as she wanders about – checking on the properties she built.
“Without a shared history, we are not a true community.”
End of the year approaching.
Time to thank those who did Bethlehem Moments in 2019.
We now have done 17 Moments.
2019 was the year that wonderful volunteers took the podium away from the Gadfly.
The Honor Roll for 2019 includes Lynn Rothman, John Smith, Kate McVey, Olga Negron, Jim Petrucci, Joe Petrucci, Barbara Diamond, Stasia Browne Pallrand, Steve Repasch, Rayah Levy, Robert Bilheimer, Alan Lowcher.
COUNT ZINZENDORF + MISSIONARY AND PIONEER, VISITS THE FIRST HOUSE IN THE MORAVIAN COMMUNITY LOCATED ON THE SITE OF HOTEL BETHLEHEM AND AT THE CHRISTMAS EVE VIGIL, 1741 NAMES THE SETTLEMENT BETHLEHEM + +
Bethlehem’s Moravian history is well known and its preserved buildings – the Gemeinhaus, Single Sisters house, Single Brethren house, and the Colonial Industrial Quarter, to name a few — have earned the Moravian Historic District the distinction of consideration as a World Heritage Site. Bethlehem’s place in the Revolution is enshrined in the patriot graves memorialized in the Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier. The Moravians were pacifists in principle – and were recognized as such by the Continental Congress. Most of the men paid a fine rather than fight. During the winters of 1776 – 1777 and 1777 – 1778 Bethlehem’s residents provided care to sick and wounded soldiers. The Sun Inn hosted many Continental Army general officers and members of the Continental Congress.
By the time of the Civil War, attitudes had changed and many a Bethlehem boy – willing to fight against a rebellion against constitutional authority — stepped forward to serve in the Union army. The Synod of the Church passed several resolutions indirectly supporting the Union cause, effectively making it a just war. The firing on Ft. Sumter in April 1861, led to Lincoln’s call for 75,000 volunteers to serve 90 days and Co. “A”, 1st Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, drawn from Bethlehem, was quickly formed and sent to Washington to protect the Capitol. Pennsylvania answered Lincoln’s call for additional troops as the war progressed, and the conflict widened by filling three-year regiments and shorter term nine-month regiments. Among those regiments was the 129th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.
Company “C” of the 129th Regiment was recruited in Northampton County and included many Bethlehem men. The Regiment was organized on August 15th, 1862, to serve for nine months. Politicians wanted to avoid a draft at all costs and calculated that shorter service commitments would be easier to fill than “three years or during the war.” After being hastily armed and equipped, Company “C” entrained to Alexandria, Virginia, arriving on August18th. Two weeks later it was under fire during the battle of Second Bull Run but not really engaged in combat. Two weeks after that, the 129th marched to Sharpsburg, Maryland, arriving on the field along Antietam Creek, but too late to participate in the fighting. At the end of October, the 129th marched into Virginia until it arrived opposite Fredericksburg. On December 13th, the Regiment crossed the Rappahannock River with its division marching through the town to its assault position in full view of an open field. Advancing, the brigade that included the 129th Regiment halted in low, open ground and was ordered to lie down, where it came under artillery fire. Rising up, the division formed in line of battle with the brigade in two lines, and the 129th Regiment on the left front.
This was the Regiment’s trial by fire (experiencing serious action for the first time) as it advanced over open ground, over the bodies of the dead and wounded, in the face of incessant musketry and artillery fire toward an enemy behind a stone wall. In a matter of minutes, the Regiment lost 142 killed and wounded. Among them were the sons of old Bethlehem families such as Benner and Luckenbach. We should pause to consider the courage it took to make that charge knowing full well that the five previous charges were driven back with heavy losses. They went forward with fixed bayonets without waiting to load their muskets, intent on giving the Confederates “the cold steel.” The division succeeded in getting closer to the stone wall than any other Federal assault. Caps from the 129th’Regiment were found within a few yards of that stone wall. Those “Bethlehem Boys” had “seen the elephant” and showed their mettle. Retreating in semidarkness into the town, the Regiment re-crossed the river under fire and went into camp.
After suffering the misery of Burnside’s “Mud March” in January 1863, the 129th took part in the battle of Chancellorsville, fighting on May 1st, 2nd and 3rd, even though the term of service of many of the men had expired. The Regiment’s term of service having fully expired on May 6th, the remnants of Company “C” arrived in Easton on May 18th to the welcoming cheers of its citizens.
Later that summer of 1863, the Federal troops at Gettysburg, crouched behind a stone wall on Cemetery Ridge, cried out “Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg!” as Pickett’s Division advanced across an open field into a storm of bullets and artillery fire. The butcher’s bill was repaid.
Dyer, Frederick H. A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion Compiled and Arranged from Official Records of the Federal and Confederate Armies, Reports of the Adjutant Generals of the Several States, the Army Registers, and Other Reliable Documents and Sources. Des Moines, Iowa: The Dyer Publishing Company, 1908.
Stackpole, Edward J. Drama on the Rappahannock — The Fredericksburg Campaign. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: The Military Service Publishing Company, 1957.
Mr. President, members of City Council, Mr. Mayor, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Robert Bilheimer, and I am general manager of the Industrial Archives & Library, a Private Operating Foundation based here in Bethlehem and organized as an independent institution to collect, organize, conserve and preserve industrial records and to make them available for education and research to historians, scholars, and the public. It’s a pleasure to be here tonight to see so many familiar faces and to present my “Bethlehem Moment.”
I take you back almost exactly 115 years ago. It’s a chilly day in early January 1905. A train from New York City pulling a private railcar, The Loretto, slowly pulls into Union Station in South Bethlehem. And, yes, it’s the borough of South Bethlehem, for Bethlehem is not yet a single unified city. Just the year before in 1904, the Borough of Bethlehem, Northampton County, had annexed the Borough of West Bethlehem, Lehigh County, but Bethlehem and South Bethlehem were still very much separate communities. In time, a man on that train would do much to change that, but that was not why he had come to town.
As the train comes to a stop, out of The Loretto steps Charles M. Schwab, his reputation preceding him – at age 19, chief engineer of the Carnegie Steel Works at Braddock, Pa.; general superintendent of the famous Carnegie Edgar Thompson Works at age 27; president of Carnegie Steel Company at just 35; and the former first president of this nation’s first billion-dollar corporation, United States Steel Corporation. He was a titan of industry, one of America’s most distinguished citizens and one of the wealthiest.
Schwab had had a recent falling out with J. P. Morgan, Judge Elbert Gary and the Board at U.S. Steel, and he had come to town to take the reins of a new entity, the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, the key asset of which was the Bethlehem Steel Company and its single steel plant in South Bethlehem. Just one month before, in December of 1904, Schwab had founded Bethlehem Steel Corporation out of the ashes of the failed United States Shipbuilding Corporation, which had included the Bethlehem Steel Company and a handful of shipyards on the East Coast and the famous Union Iron Works in San Francisco – itself the builder of some of America’s earliest steel warships, including Admiral Dewey’s cruiser U.S.S. Olympia and the battleship Oregon.
Call it a bit of Schwab bravado, one-upmanship, or just Schwab’s typical desire to “do something else, yet,” as he liked to say, Schwab was bound and determined to go out and build a bigger and better U.S. Steel – and Bethlehem was his vehicle. He was very much a man on a mission, and he got started right away.
Concerned that Bethlehem Steel’s fortunes were too closely tied to military contracts – Bethlehem had enjoyed great success as the birthplace of the American defense industry in the late 19th century when it developed America’s first heavy forging complex and supplied all the armor plate, big guns and ordnance for the modern U.S. Navy – Schwab was looking for ways to diversify Bethlehem’s commercial, non-military product line. He found his answer overseas.
Early in 1905, Schwab secured the rights to the Grey Mill Process, a revolutionary but unproven process developed by Englishman Henry Grey for continuously rolling a wide-flange beam, or structural shape. Up to that point, structural shapes were rolled in pieces and bolted together, thus limiting their strength and utility. People in the steel industry said, “Charlie, you’re crazy, it’ll never work.” Schwab, ever ready for a challenge, believed otherwise and literally bet the company on it. He said at the time, “boys, if we are going to go bust, we’re going to go bust big.” Well, it did work, and in 1908, the age of the skyscraper came into its own, right here in Bethlehem. The sky was now the limit and Bethlehem became the “go to” for structural steel and construction engineering expertise for the next 90 years.
Also in the crowd that day to welcome Schwab to Bethlehem was a young engineer and a rising star at Bethlehem Steel, Eugene G. Grace. An 1899 graduate of Lehigh University, Grace joined Bethlehem Steel that year as a crane operator, making $1.80 per day. By the time Schwab arrived in Bethlehem, Grace had advanced to superintendent of yards and transportation. Grace’s abilities quickly caught Schwab’s eye, and like the young Charlie Schwab at Carnegie Steel, Eugene Grace began a meteoric rise at Bethlehem Steel.
After a stint in Cuba reorganizing Bethlehem’s iron ore mines there and successfully directing the development of the Grey Mill project, Grace advanced in rapid succession to general superintendent of the Bethlehem Plant in 1906 and then general manager in 1908. By 1911 he was named a vice president and director of Bethlehem Steel Corporation, president of Bethlehem Steel Company in 1913 and then president of Bethlehem Steel Corporation in 1916, where he effectively ran the corporation for the next 41 years.
Schwab would slowly recede from the day-to-day management of the company and would die in 1939 and Grace would become chairman in 1945. But Schwab and Grace, two of this country’s greatest industrialists would together build one of the most remarkable and significant industrial organizations of the 20th century.
Before he even bought a home here, Schwab spent six months living and working twenty hours a day out of his private railcar to get the new company started. And, with Grace’s help, together they took a single-plant money-losing steel company and built it into the second largest steelmaker in the country and the largest shipbuilder in the world through two World Wars and into the 1950s.
Dubbed “The Arsenal of Democracy” and arguably America’s most important defense contractor through both World Wars, Bethlehem’s industrial output was staggering. Bethlehem built nearly 3,000 ships during that period, including 1,121 alone in World War II in what was the largest and most diverse shipbuilding campaign in world history. Mr. Grace pledged that Bethlehem would build a ship-a-day by the end of the war – and delivered — with an amazing 380 in 1943! Bethlehem’s shipyards also repaired and/or converted an astounding 30,000 other ships during World War II.
Coming out of Bethlehem shipyards in the 20th Century were warships and commercial vessels of every class and size including America’s first aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Lexington and six other Essex Class carriers, six battleships, scores of heavy cruisers, light cruisers, destroyers, destroyer escorts, troopships, auxiliaries, landing craft, tankers and super tankers, America’s first Liberty Ship – the S.S. Patrick Henry, cruise liners, America’s first nuclear-powered surface warship, the U.S.S. Long Beach and eventually, off-shore oil rig platforms.
It was quite a record. But that’s only part of the story! For not only did Bethlehem Steel play a pivotal role in defending this country, but it also helped build the very landscape of our modern world and the infrastructure to transport its citizens. Out of Bethlehem’s mills came such landmark structures — many also fabricated and erected by its diverse workforce – as The Golden Gate Bridge, The George Washington Bridge, The Ben Franklin and Walt Whitman Bridges in Philadelphia, The Chrysler Building, Rockefeller Plaza, Madison Square Garden and The Waldorf-Astoria in New York City, the Merchandise Mart in Chicago, the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington D.C., Los Angeles City Hall and the locks of the Panama Canal.
Mr. Schwab and Bethlehem Steel also played a key role here at home, with Schwab’s instrumental role in merging the two boroughs into our modern City of Bethlehem in 1917 and his leadership in linking the two sides of the river via the Hill-to-Hill Bridge. And you don’t have to look any further than Bethlehem’s magnificent public water system to see one of the many, many large and small ways that the company has touched our community.
Bethlehem was not just another steel company under founder Charles Schwab’s tutelage. Bethlehem Steel was a paragon of American industry that helped touch society and shape our country in many diverse ways, perhaps none grander than playing a central role in winning World War I. Proof is in the words of David Lloyd George, Prime Minister of Great Britain, who after the war said, “Charles Schwab was the first American to help us. He gave us the necessary equipment to continue the war to a successful ending for the Allies.”
And it all started that day, when Mr. Schwab came to Bethlehem.
Established in 2015, the Industrial Archives & Library (IAL), is a 501(c)(3), private operating foundation located in Bethlehem, Pa., organized as an independent institution to collect, organize, conserve and preserve industrial records and to make them available for education and research to historians, scholars, and the public. Current holdings include records relating to banking, slate quarrying, coal mining, silk and textiles, steel, shipbuilding, transportation and railroads. IAL also houses an oral history program and offers repository services for corporate and industrial records.
Gadfly is still culling the treasures in his Festival UnBound files. So much there.
One of the things he was especially pleased with and impressed by during the Festival was the participation of our elected officials and City administrators. He said so during public comment at a Council meeting.
Councilman Reynolds chaired a panel. Councilwoman Van Wirt appeared on one that we just recently highlighted here with a video of her segment.
Darlene Heller was part of the Sustainability Forum that, unfortunately, he couldn’t attend.
Here Gadfly would like to call attention to the participation by Alicia Miller Karner, our Director of Community and Economic Development and Councilwoman Olga Negron.
These very short clips are especially welcome. If we get to hear City administrators speak, it’s usually about “business.” Ugh. Here we get to hear Alicia “as a person.” And CW Negron, well, she’s not one to speak overmuch at Council. She’s not one of those elected officials that Gadfly calls “wind demons.” So it’s good to hear her warm voice more as well.
The participation of all of these people indicates not only their personal commitment to the future of Bethlehem — the ambitious purpose of the Festival — but how that participation was valued by the festival organizers.
A tip o’ the hat!
Be sure to give a listen.
Alicia Miller Karner, Director of Community and Economic Development
“As a community we are continuing to rely on technology, on social media, on different ways of interacting . . . you have to put effort into coming out and interacting.”
“The best is still yet to come.”
“In my job, I spend a lot of time with those questions of how do we not leave them behind.”
“[Responding to the question by another panelist: What am I going to do with my anger?] Honoring the anger stuck with me more.”
“[Responding to a comment about lack of diversity in City Hall] Very male. Many times I am the only female in the room.”
Olga Negron, Bethlehem Councilwoman
We hear that she once made a living sewing for the theater and the return to that in the Prometheus play “grounded” her again.
“It’s up to us. It shouldn’t be up to the Mayor, it shouldn’t be up to the Administration, or even to us in City Council — it’s our community, and to me [the play is] a call to be involved, to be engaged.”
“I’m always looking forward to listen to my emails, my phone calls, conversations . . . we cannot just sit down and watch, we have to be participants.”
“We need to be more humble, learn to embrace, and, you know, encourage us to invite others that might not look like us or speak like us so that we can move forward in the community some of us might be wishing, dreaming of.”
While working on an oral history project titled “Voices from the African Diaspora: The Black Experience of Bethlehem Pa.,” it was essential that I embed myself in the community. Though a newcomer, I became part of the local African American community and gained two aunts. They shared many voices/stories. This essay is a taste of some of the takeaway that has enriched the village of Bethlehem 159 years since the arrival in 1860 of Hiram Bradley, who is said to be the first known Black/Negro man from Virginia.
The families that came during and after the Civil War built churches and organizations to keep themselves grounded. Those that left their footprints in the sands of time in Bethlehem are the Bradleys, Smiths, Grimes’s, Lees, Enixs’s, Tarboros, Butts’, Williams’s, Olivers, Hargroves, Roberts’s, Hemmons. They came from such places as Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Washington DC., New Jersey, and even though I discovered countless stories, I will highlight here just three: J. F. Goodwin, who started the well known Goodwin Scholarship Fund; Bert Tarboro, who started the first Black baseball team; and Vivian Butts, the first Black female police officer.
Black/African American communities coming out of slavery to freedom instilled in their members the importance of education. Bethlehem’s Black population was no exception. Those who paved the way worked as domestic help, chauffeurs, or as laborers in the blast furnace at Bethlehem Steel. Therefore, instilling the importance of an excellent education was constant in their homes. The J. F. Goodwin Scholarship fund is a remembrance of this ideology and continues into the present day.
Dr. Goodwin founded the scholarship organization in 1936. Even though he resided in Reading most of his life, Bethlehem was his home. However, though he made numerous attempts, he was denied work as a doctor while living here, and he had to move to Reading to work in his profession. But these obstacles did not dampen Goodwin’s spirit. His experience of hardship trying to put himself through medical school and establish a practice instilled in him the need to start a scholarship fund for high school students heading off to colleges.
Another pillar in the African American community was Bert Tarboro. According to his daughter Vivian Hungerford, everyone in the neighborhood knew and respected her father. Their family home was always open to anyone, and everyone came and dined at their table. Tarboro began working for Bethlehem Steel in 1926 as a laborer and retired forty-six years later. He was a Deacon and Trustee at St. Paul Baptist Church and Master of the Wyoming Lodge #135, which was chartered in 1927. Tarboro and his family were heavily involved in teaching the youth how to play baseball. In 1961, he formed the Bethlehem Giants of the Blue Mountain Baseball League. The team and their families had picnics and took trips together, and everyone was welcome whether they could afford to attend or not. During one of the Bethlehem Giants banquets, baseball stars Jackie Robinson and Don Newcombe were guests of honor. Mrs. Hungerford notes that when the neighborhood, Blacks and Whites alike, found out that these African American heroes were both at Tarboro’s home, many came knocking at their door.
In 1964 Vivian Butts became the first Black female Police officer, working in the Juvenile Aid Division and retiring twenty-five years later as Sargent Butts. She was the wife of Raymond E. Butts and mother of two, Raymond Jr. and Sharon King. Mrs. Butts was very active in the community. She was involved in the NAACP, the J. F. Goodwin Scholarship, St. Paul Baptist Church, and other organizations. Her steadfast involvement in the city was widely recognized, and she was honored in 1987 for community service at an NAACP banquet at the Bethlehem Hotel.
The Bethlehem NAACP had formed under Theodore Dennis in 1946, one year after Civil Rights activist Roy Wilkins visited the Lehigh Valley. The Bethlehem NAACP invited another prominent activist Ralph Abernathy to their Freedom Banquet in 1975. In his speech to about 350 attendees, Abernathy stated that “God is colorless.” Seventy-four years later, the organization is still active under the direction of Mrs. Esther M. Lee.
The discoveries I made about this small but vibrant African American community of 3.63% of the Bethlehem population at the time of 2000 U.S. Census are gems that must be known to all. What I have shared about this small community is only a ripple. However, if you continue to look, the ripples will go on and on. The families that came during the 1800s came willingly, unlike their mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters who arrived on the shores of Virginia in 1619. Even though they were few in numbers, their sense of family and community are rooted in the earth of Bethlehem like an old oak tree.
The Secret begins one day, in late nineteenth century Bethlehem, when sixteen year-old, Helen Wolle, mother of H.D., entered a Moravian Seminary classroom to rehearse a song she looked forward to performing. Much to her shock and, in fact, trauma, she was roughly told to be quiet, to end “this dreadful noise” by her pastor grandfather, Papalie. And Helen, who loved to sing so much and so well, would never sing again in public. The focus of the panel will be on women in leadership. We will connect the panel to the play via a question that Mamalie (Hilda’s maternal grandmother) asks Hilda in the beginning of the play, and H.D. asks the audience at the end of the play: “Who will follow the music?”
Gadfly is not done with showcasing the outstanding Bethlehem women who participated in the panel that followed a Festival Unbound performance of “The Secret,” the play about H. D.’s life. You will remember from our two previous installments here that moderator Jennie Gilrain gave the eight panelists about five minutes each to talk about their “dreams, hopes, works” and perhaps to recount a time when they were “encouraged or inspired or discouraged and oppressed from following your music.” Short biographies of these women can be found here.
Emily Santana, a woman from a modest household who dreamed of impossible things and, when accepted to college, was told by someone very, very close to her, “O, wow, I didn’t realize you would amount to something” — causing her to think about who decides your value, and about challenging expectations people have, not just of her, but any category of person, especially of our children.
Margaret Kavanagh –who has “a little job,” is “just a custodian” and doesn’t “know why I am here” — tells kids to be kind, help each other out, and if you can’t do random acts of kindness, “just don’t be a jerk.” Margaret beats herself up sometimes but has an awesome therapist. Advice: be a positive influence on people around you.
Executive Director, Bethlehem Authority
Bethlehem Moment: July 26, 1938
It was July 26, 1938, when the Bethlehem City Council created
the Bethlehem Municipal Water Authority, the first one ever
established in the Commonwealth. The first Authority members
included Mayor Pfieffle and the City Council who submitted the
application to the State for use of the waters in the Wild Creek
Watershed. Once that was approved, they applied for and
subsequently received funding from the federal government for
the construction of the Wild Creek Dam and Reservoir and
In April of 1939 construction began, two tunnels were dug
through mountains in the foothills of Poconos, the dam was
built and starting filling, and in October 1941, the Wild Creek
Reservoir was dedicated and water began flowing to the
residents of the City.
And to this day the water still flows from the Wild Creek
Reservoir to the City and eleven surrounding municipalities and
is considered by many to be the best water in the region, if not
the entire state.
The Secret begins one day, in late nineteenth century Bethlehem, when sixteen year-old, Helen Wolle, mother of H.D., entered a Moravian Seminary classroom to rehearse a song she looked forward to performing. Much to her shock and, in fact, trauma, she was roughly told to be quiet, to end “this dreadful noise.” by her pastor grandfather, Papalie. And Helen, who loved to sing so much and so well, would never sing again in public. The focus of the panel will be on women in leadership. We will connect the panel to the play via a question that Mamalie (Hilda’s maternal grandmother) asks Hilda in the beginning of the play, and H.D. asks the audience at the end of the play: “Who will follow the music?’
Gadfly loves the voices, the stories of our residents, and there was no better place to hear them than at the panels that followed Festival Unbound performances, such as after “The Secret,” the play about H. D.’s life.
Moderator Jennie Gilrain gave the eight panelists about five minutes each to talk about their “dreams, hopes, works” and perhaps recount a time when they were “encouraged or inspired or discouraged and oppressed from following your music.”
Here are the first two.
Abriana Ferrari, who’s been laughed at, told she is not smart enough, too innocent, too young to follow her music, that is, becoming an environmental lawyer with a desire to “help heal the scars that we are implanting on our planet.”
Mary C. Foltz talks of finding a group that enabled her to let go of shame and doubt when in college she was struggling with her sexual identity and how now she is most interested in institutional and structural change that will benefit women in our community having to do with reproductive justice: IVF, adoption, childcare for low-paid workers, care for children in general.