Your Society has been hopping lately. The World War I Exhibit is getting great reviews. Mary Ann Lubinsky, the Society’s social media czarina, had a photo of the WWI exhibit outdoor sign gain about 50 shares on Facebook. Please stop in. If you have WW I memorabilia to add or lend then please do. Pottsville city councilman Joe Devine stopped in recently to view the exhibit and made an addition. The Mollie Maguire nook is taking shape under the leadership of Girardville’s Tom Dempsey and the Schuylkill Gallery Room is finally getting its make-over. Visitors have stopped in from Arizona, Colorado and elsewhere. New lighting has brightened up the whole building thanks to the financial support of the Schuylkill Area Community Foundation.
I was requested to post a “summer-read” blog; that is, a blog that one could read on a kindle while sitting next to a swimming pool, all lathered up with number 30 (or above) sunscreen, while sipping an iced-cold margarita….something light and witty. Since it is now July, I stumbled across this article that originally appeared in Pottsville’s short-lived, underground newspaper, “The Pottsville Free Press” published by Joshua Sophy. I hope you enjoy. It is summer-time; time to sit back and relax. If you like the article, then please share on Facebook. It is an article that is classified as satirical. My last blog on the Mollie Maguires seemed to have flopped as it only had two shares on Facebook. The Day of the Rope was a heavy topic, so time for something light for the summer.
The Summer of Love: Schuylkill-style
b.b. trout, July 2004
This summer of 2004 marks the thirtieth anniversary of one of the greatest events in Schuylkill County history. Many of us will gather together to commemorate what has become known as “the summer of love.” That is when over 418,000 bedraggled fans of German food and music descended on a little known area referred to as Barnesville and entered the gates to consume tons of schnitzel and barrels of brew. Most of these participants were escaping from the news of the day – the Rest Haven scandal that had erupted which destroyed what little confidence the locals had left in their ruling oligarchy.
It was billed as seventeen days of “frieden und liebe” and it lived up to its name. As Mammy Trout repeatedly told me, “It was the best of times and the wurst of times.” The amount of food devoured that summer baffled gastroenterologists at the Good Samaritan Hospital. The staggering quantity of beer and cabbage consumed in such a short amount of time has never been surpassed to this day, despite many numerous attempts.
Word of the festival spread throughout the county and a massive traffic jam formed on Route 54 all heading to Lakewood Park. When I heard about it on WPPA, I quickly shoved my lederhosen in my knapsack, grabbed my sleeping bag and hitched a ride over to Barnesville. It didn’t take long before I got a lift in a VW bus that was carrying the Stadkappelle Marching Band. What a trip! We yodeled all the way to Lakewood Park. I thought I was in heaven.
Many of the people who tell you that they were at “Bavarian Festival ’74” are just plain liars. I was one of the lucky ones who were there for the entire duration. I remember the rain, the mud, the frauleins and the strudel. You are fortunate that I have a memory like an elephant. I actually rubbed elbows with scientist Werner Von Braun, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, UN Secretary Kurt Waldheim, composer Oscar Hammerstein, and Grace Kelly in the main beer hall. I remember watching the elegant Princess of Monaco do the “chicken dance” with Secretary of State Kissinger, while Waldheim balanced a huge stack of beer cups in one hand. I also remember one long table being converted into a “slip and slide” with all of them taking turns diving down the table head first, accompanied by the song 99 Luftballoons. Yes, sir…I have a memory like a steel trap!
The festival lasted for seventeen days and nights, all filled with groovy music! The Rhinelanders, The Heimtklaenge Band, and The Walter Groller Orchestra were just a few of the big names that played there. I was utterly astounded by the power, talent and magic of “The Mischief Makers” as they wandered throughout the fairgrounds, captivating everyone with their hypnotic tunes. This German drinking music was hard-edged, boisterous, raucous, and almost religious in its fervor. Beer hall culture requires you to slam your mugs first on the table, then against other mugs. A lot of noise and a little spilled beer is the way to show your spirit. All of the while, the sweet scent of sauerkraut was everywhere. Over the loudspeaker, announcements about bad pepper cabbage could be heard. And then there were the fun-loving frauleins!! I will always have fond memories of Ulrika, who became my festival soul mate, after serving me a plate of hot potato salad in the main beer hall. She remained my “old lady” for seventeen days and taught me the ways of the glockenspiel.
For one brief shining moment, a cosmic dream enveloped Schuylkill County. It was a dawning of a new age, yet many young people have no knowledge of this event. To us boomers who attended the festival, the phrase, ein sommer der liebe, has special meaning. It was a gathering of the tribes. They came from all over, Hegins, Sacramento, Pine Grove, Ravine and Hecla. Everyone dressed in quaint clothing. Men were in bundhosen and vests, and the women wore colorful dirndls and blouses. Everyone did their own thing.
While the music heard at that festival is legendary, the debate about its historical significance still rages today. True believers still call Bavarian Festival ’74 the capstone of an era devoted to human advancement. Cynics say it was a ridiculous excess of gemütlichkeit – whatever the heck that means. Then there are those of us, (me included) that say it was just one heck of a party. However no one should consume so much kraut and ale in such a short time span! The Festival, like only a handful of other historical events, has become a part of the cultural lexicon of Schuylkill County. As the Rest Haven Scandal and Sportsmen’s Complex are code words for corruption, “Bavarian Festival ’74” has now unfortunately become an adjective denoting Teutonic hedonism. Kermit Deitrick, who created the Festival ( as well as its well-known logo of a pigeon perched on a tuba), reportedly described it this way, “something was tapped, a nerve, in this county, as well as a beer keg of course. Everyone just danced, ate kraut and shared a drink with one another. We were all brothers and sisters. It was seventeen days of peace, love and music. It was far-out, man. It was fun. It was groovy. It was oomp-pah. It was the summer of love.”