The Official Historical Society of Schuylkill County

What’s Happening – April 2019


J.R. Zane, President

My last time travel blog concerning old Gordon Biehl’s store on S. Centre Street was one of the least viewed blogs for some reason, so this month I will devote to the Society happenings.

  • During the winter months the Society was honored by the presence of General George Joulwan, who stopped to visit the museum as well as old childhood places.  He is working on his autobiography and it should be out by the spring of 2020.  Right now, our gift shop has many other books involving the county, so stop in.  Warmer weather also means T shirt time. Gift Shop has them.
  • The World War I Exhibit was taken down.  The historical pieces placed back in storage and the borrowed items returned to the owners.  It was a great exhibit on a troubling war with the lingering question remaining of “what would the world be like today if the U.S. did not get involved?”  Of course, as soon as the last few pieces were removed, two people asked me if it is still up as they wanted to see it.  I told them to mark their calendar for the year 2067 or 2117.  By the way 2019 is the 100th anniversary of the Treaty of Versailles which officially ended the Great War.  Birch Helms, one of the county’s most intriguing individuals, who grew up in Garfield Square, worked on the Treaty.  Birch Helms’ gravesite is in Baber Cemetery.
  • If you go into the library, you will see a few cosmetic changes.  The Library is run by Jean Dellock, Lisa von Ahn, and Cathy Satterwhite.  The oil portrait in the Library is a Wren family member associated with the Washington Iron Works of Pottsville.  I was told it’s Christopher WrenMarty Heffron helped in getting the portrait up.  More importantly, through Marty’s artistic talent he brought back to life an old canal boat stove now on display in the Schuylkill Gallery.  He also is featured in the new edition of Schuylkill Living Magazine.  Dave McSurdy also added a few native American items to the Gallery. 
  • Internally the governing body of the Society changed to become more committee oriented, spreading out tasks to small groups working for the common benefit.  So far, it seems to be working well.  The Finance Committee spent many hours reviewing procedures, accounts, etc., making recommendations for the protection and prudent management of our finances and applies for grants.  Tom Eltringham is the treasurer, Randy Lindenmuth and Dave Derbes are committee members and all need to be thanked for their expertise and dedication.
  •  The Civil War Room Committee under the leadership of Tom Shay is doing a tremendous job in making the exhibit more county-oriented and more visibly attractive with new posters.  It is long process, but the results so far are great.  The committee also has Dave Williams and Al Frantz working in unison.
  • The Building Committee has the responsibility to oversee the preservation and maintenance of the old building.  Bill Van Stone, Al Frantz, Dave Derbes and John Bambrick make up the committee with the responsibility of reviewing heating and air conditioning units, as well as security.  To prevent theft and protect volunteers, Bill recently added some motion detectors and cameras within the building. 
  • Jean Dellock, Dave Williams, John Walsh, Pat McKinney, Lisa von Ahn make up the Programs Committee and they have special programs lined up during 2019.  Look for details on the website under events. 
  • As for Exhibits, this year we have a show stopper.  John Walsh suggested a history of music and it seemed appropriate after the somber WWI exhibit.  Hats off to Diana Prosymchak and Jim Haluska, and Larry for the long hours getting this up and running.  Jim Haluska is “the new kid on the block” as he has been with the Society only since last fall.   His talents and energy are gratefully appreciated, and the Exhibit could not have been completed without him.    Come visit the Society and see this fantastic musical journey into the past. 
  • We are always looking for some dedicated volunteers as well as new acquisitions.  Since the exhibit opened, we have received some interesting photographs such as one of the Polish Band of Minersville.  So, keep the Society in mind when you are doing your spring cleaning and come across some long last remnant of Schuylkill County past. 
  • Bill Webber, our Archivist is back, and he has his work cut out for him.  He recently placed James Roarity’s pistol that fatally shot Tamaqua policeman Benjamin Yost in the Molly Maguire exhibit case. 
  • Does anyone know Lois Berne who led the Lois Berne Orchestra, and who ran dance studios in the late 1950s? She is one of the county’s earliest females to lead a musical group.  If you have any information on Lois Berne, let me know.