Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Archive for the ‘Pennsylvania’ Category

Perry Como Honored in Hometown of Canonsburg, PA

McD Perry

Mr. C at the height of his career.

Small towns love their heroes, especially when they’re a big star like Perry Como. Canonsburg, PA has never forgotten Perry Como, although the younger generation might not be familiar with his name.

Como statue

This statue of Perry Como can be found at City Hall in Canonsburg.

   At the center of town in front of their City Hall, you’ll find a statue of Perry Como. When it was placed there it sang 24/7 but now it just sings sporadically. Como is dressed casually in his traditional style with slacks and sweater. Just down the street, you’ll find a two million dollar McDonald’s packed with memorabilia from locals who went on to stardom.

   Coming from a large family of ten children, Como was the first to be born in America to his immigrant parents, Pietro and Lucia Como.  He never spoke English until he was in first grade because his parents only spoke their native Italian at home.

   Italians love music so his father purchased an organ for $3 for their home. By the time Perry was three years old, he could play songs on the organ by ear. Pietro had all of his ten children take music lessons even if he could barely afford them since he made a living by working in the mill.

McD Perry the barber

This picture of the young Perry as a barber was found at McDonald’s.

   By the age of ten, young Perry tried to help his family by working after school at Steve Fragapane’s barbershop for fifty cents a week.  By thirteen, he had his own chair at the barbershop even though he had to stand on a box to cut people’s hair.

Como Church

This is the church the Comos were said to have attended.

   At the same time, Perry played trombone in the town’s brass band, played guitar, sang at weddings and was an organist at church. He also was a member of the Canonsburg Italian Band. Throughout his career, “Ava Maria” was his most requested song.

   When he was fourteen, his father had a severe heart condition, and Perry opened his own barbershop.  His goal was to be the best barber in Canonsburg. When customers would marry, they would use every treatment Perry had available in his shop while he sang romantic songs to entertain them.

Como_family_at_home_1955 TV Radio Mirror

This picture of the Como family at home shows a happy family.

   By the time he was twenty, he moved to work in his uncle’s barbershop at Meadville, PA, which was not too far from Cleveland. He went with friends to the Silver Slipper Ballroom, where they asked if anyone would like to come up on stage and perform. His friends urged him to try and director Freddy Carlone offered Perry a contract on the spot.

   But he wanted to talk it over with his father first. Since his father was an amateur baritone, he told Perry to take the chance or he would never know if he could be a professional singer or not. Financially, this was not a good move as his barbershop earned him $125 a week while the singing contract was for $28 a week.

Perry_como_1939_ Ted Weems Orchestra by Bloom

This young Perry Como is pictured when he joined Ted Weem’s Orchestra.

   He received his big break in the 1930s on a popular radio show, Beat the Band. His first recording with Ted Weem’s Orchestra on this show was the song, “You Can’t Pull the Wool Over My Eyes”.

McD Perry's bust

A bronze bust of Mr. C can be found at Canonsburg’s McDonald’s.

In 1943, he signed with RCA Victor and remained with them throughout his career. While in Canonsburg, a stop at McDonald’s is also a ‘star’ event. Here you will find memories of local stars including Perry Como, Bobby Vinton, and The Four Coins. When you pass by Mr. C’s bust,  “Catch a Falling Star” will automatically start playing.

Como golf

Pictures of Perry Como and his love for golf can be found at McDonald’s.

Perry Como loved the game of golf and in 1955 was Golfing Champion of the Garden City Golfing Club in New York. MacGregor even has a Perry Como Putter. When he wasn’t with his family or working, Perry was on the golf course enjoying his favorite hobby and passion.

McD Hit Parade

Inside the front door of McDonald’s, you will find this list of songs made popular by Canonsburg artists.

   Mr. C, as he was nicknamed, sold millions of records and had his own television show. Canonsburg keeps his memory alive through the statue erected in 1999 and McDonald’s memorabilia. If you’re ever in the area and enjoy hearing about the stars, Canonsburg is the place!

Canonsburg, Pennsylvania is located off I-79 at Exit 45 – PA 980/ Canonsburg. Watch for signs to direct you to the various attractions.

Canonsburg PA McDonald’s Honors Musical Stars

McDonaldsWhen friends suggested a stop at McDonald’s during our visit to Canonsburg, PA, it was difficult to figure out why they insisted on eating here this evening. But once we entered the doors, the sound of popular songs of Perry Como, Bobby Vinton, and The Four Coins filled the air.

   All these local men, who had gone on to become musical legends, were honored here by owner and operator, Ron Galiano. When the old McDonald’s on Bobby Vinton Boulevard needed to be replaced, Galiano wanted the new building to have a local connection. The new two million dollar home-town themed restaurant did just that.

McD Hit Parade

This Hit Parade listing just inside the front door lists the popular singles recorded by Canonsburg artists since 1944.

   Inside the front entrance, they proudly display “The Canonsburg Hit Parade”, which lists songs that have been released by Canonsburg artists from 1944 to 2006.  This is just a sample of over 400 songs that fit that description. This was and still is a musical town.

   Major focus began on Canonsburg’s native sons Perry Como, Bobby Vinton and The Four Coins. Together they had 196 top hits. Canonsburg was proud. The most recent addition has been Jason Walker, who is climbing the pop-dance charts.

McD Perry Photo

Several photos of Perry Como at all ages can be found throughout the restaurant.

   Pierino Ronald Como came from a large family and early in life became a prominent local barber. In the 1940s he joined the popular radio show, Chesterfield Supper Club as a vocalist.

McD Painting by Perry's wife

Perry Como’s wife painted this picture for him.

   Perry had his own television variety show and also appeared in several movies. During his career, he sold over 100 million records. His first big hit, “Till the End of Time”, stayed number one in the charts for eleven weeks in 1945. One of my favorites was “Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes”.

 

McD Bobby Vinton

Bobby’s version of “Blue Velvet” hit the charts at No. 1 in 1963

Bobby Vinton was born Stanley Vinton, namesake of his father who was a popular bandleader. When Bobby was 16, he formed his first band. After attending Duquesne University and a short time in the Army, Bobby took his band to Guy Lombardo’s “Talent Scouts”, where he was awarded a contract with Epic Records.

   In the mid- 60s, Bobby even outsold Elvis Presley and therefore has been called the most successful male vocalist of the rock era by Billboard Magazine. His first No. 1 hit was “Roses Are Red”  and later recorded one of my favorites, “My Melody of Love”, which Bobby recorded partially in Polish.  The Polish Prince stopped by McDonald’s to sign autographs on a recent visit to Morgantown, WV.

 

McD Four Coins

In 2003 the group reunited and continue to perform at Doo Wop shows around the country.

   The Four Coins all grew up in Canonsburg as well. They formed a high school band and combined with Bobby Vinton to form the “Band of Tomorrow” orchestra. They were of Greek heritage and began singing as The Four Keys until they discovered that name was already being used by another group.

   They were known for their great harmonies and Doo Wop sound. Their biggest hit was “Shangri-La”, which earned a gold record. They appeared on numerous television shows, movies and toured the world with song.

 

McD Perry's bust

Perry Como received a Grammy Award and five Emmys. He has three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

   Bronze busts of Perry Como and Bobby Vinton are situated within. They automatically play songs like “Catch a Falling Star” and “Roses are Red” when customers walk by. There’s a large number of memorabilia on the walls or in showcases donated by or purchased from local residents, collectors, and auctions.

 

McD Bobby Vinton

Billboard Magazine called Bobby Vinton the “all-time most successful love singer of the Rock Era” from 1962 to 1972.

   There’s so much interesting information that it might take several visits to enjoy it all. Check out the many photos, albums, yearbooks, clothing and instruments on display. They have discovered so much memorabilia that exhibits have to be rotated periodically.

 

McD Vinton favorite tux and highschool sax

Bobby’s favorite tux is featured in an enclosed case along with his high school saxophone and a red rose.

   This popular restaurant is located near I-79 so has a lot of traffic in their double-laned drive-thru. But you’ll want to head inside to view this special collection. It’s one of the few McDonald’s where after you place your order, they actually bring the food to your table.

   Sit back and relax over a Big Mac and your favorite soft drink while checking out the memorabilia that will take you on a journey back in time.

McDonald’s in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania can be reached off I-79 at Exit 45 – PA 980/Canonsburg. You are sure to spot the McDonald’s sign off the interstate.  The restaurant is located at  100 Bobby Vinton Blvd.

 

 

Sarris Candies Chocolate Factory and Ice Cream Parlour

Made By Our Family Just For Yours

Sarris Store

Sarris Chocolate Factory occupies an entire city block.

Visiting the Sarris Candies Chocolate Factory is a candy lover’s dream come true. Most adults feel like a kid again in this total candy atmosphere from the ceiling chandeliers to walls covered with candylike themes. Even their handrails look like pieces of licorice.

Frank and Athena Sarris

Athena and Frank Sarris

   Frank Sarris developed this dream after trying to find the perfect gift for his sweetheart, Athena. Frank presented her with a gift to match her sweetness – a box of chocolates. The box he purchased just wasn’t the quality he expected so Frank began making his own chocolates.

Castle

Their 12′ high Chocolate Castle contains 2600 pounds of sweetness at a cost of $130,000.

   Sarris Candies has been on the scene since 1960 when Frank started making chocolates in the basement of their Washington County, Pennsylvania home.  He learned the secret of producing chocolate from a lifelong friend John Macris, the founder of Philadelphia Candies.

Sarris Bear

A friendly bear greets you inside the front door.

   It wasn’t long before the business outgrew their basement and he built a small candy shop next door to their house. Over the years, this company has grown to over 350 employees and $16 million in annual sales.

Sarris Ice Cream

Their Ice Cream Parlour offers all combinations of cool ice cream treats.

Licorice Handrails

Licorice handrails led to their busy ice cream parlour.

    Frank never forgot going to the soda shop or buying penny candy and wanted to incorporate those items into his candy store. In 1982, his son, Bill, helped him create his very own old-fashioned ice cream parlor complete with red and brass booths and crystal chandeliers.

Sarris Odd Fellow Sundae

Sarris’ Odd Fellow Sundae has a chocolate topping, of course.

   People come from miles around to sample homemade Sarris Ice Cream with wonderful toppings. You can select one of their many favorites or design your own sundae.

Sarris Frank's orchid

A painting of Frank’s candy-striped orchid can be found near the Chocolate Castle.

   As a philanthropist, Frank donated to many local organizations and causes. After Frank’s kidney transplant in 2002, their family established the Frank Sarris Outpatient Clinic, which provides pre and post-surgical care to transplant patients. There’s a library named for him and even a candy-striped orchid at the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.

Sarris Candy Counter

Their candy counter is the perfect place to select your favorite piece of chocolate.

Sarris lights

Even their ceiling is decorated with Candy Land scenery.

   Before Frank’s death in 2010, he arose early each morning, seven days a week, to greet his employees and customers. He cared about his hometown and returned the rewards of his success and good fortune to make it a better place to live. His love for every piece of candy will continue to make the world a sweeter place for years to come.

Sarris Pretzel

Their chocolate covered pretzel is a hometown favorite. Shelves were a little bare when stopping just after Valentines Day.

    Today his son, Bill, continues the legacy of fine chocolates with the help of his mother, Athena, his sister and brother-in-law, and his two daughters. The family chocolate tradition continues with customer favorites being the peanut butter meltaway and their chocolate covered pretzels.

Sarris Lion

Life-sized stuffed animals can be found throughout the store.

   Now the Sarris Chocolate Factory and Ice Cream Parlour in Canonsburg take up the length of a football field. That’s 100 yards of chocolate,  penny candy, ice cream, gifts for every holiday and lifelike plush toys. It’s always great to find a place that contains products made in the USA.

Sarris Candy Truck 2

Their trucks are always ready to deliver products for a fundraiser to your school or organization.

   But it doesn’t stop there, as now Sarris has expanded to over 1,200 locations in over ten states. Their mail order business is very popular as well as their fundraising opportunities for schools and churches.

Sarris Perry Como Statue

This singing statue of Perry Como had laryngitis during a recent visit. Nice to see the town still remembers musical legends from Canonsburg.

   While in town visit the statue of home-town singing barber Perry Como. Stop by McDonald’s where you’ll find walls covered with a tribute to local musical artists Perry Como, Bobby Vinton and the Four Coins.

Sarris stained glass

Decorative stained glass marks the entrance to the Ice Cream Shoppe.

   Be sure to stop at Sarris Candies on your next trip through Canonsburg and surround yourself with the smell and taste of chocolate. It’s more than a candy store!

   The love story of Frank and Athena continues through their candy stores. After one taste, you too will fall in love with Sarris Chocolates.

Sarris Chocolate Factory and Ice Cream Parlour are located just a couple blocks off I-79 at Exit 45 – Canonsburg.  The street address is 511 Adams Avenue. There’s plenty of parking very handy to the store.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leonard Thomas – Born to Perform

Len Salt Fork Bash 2

When a piano’s not available, a keyboard will do.

When Leonard Thomas enters a room with a piano, you want to pull out the piano bench and have him tickle the ivories as he bursts into song.

While Len was born in Cambridge in 1927 and now lives there, he has traveled extensively using his musical talents not only at the piano or with his vibrant voice, but also in composing and directing. This man overflows with musical talent.

Len Note from Fred Waring

Fred Waring showed his appreciation to Len in this keepsake note.

He credits his success to the wonderful upbringing he received from his parents and siblings. Their support and encouragement make him feel lucky to have such a special family. He learned the importance of hard work from being a paperboy and soda jerk to conductor and performer.

The first time he sang in public happened at the First Christian Church when he was twenty-four months old. He entertained the crowd downstairs by singing “Bow Wow Blues” to the amazement of all. Len still calls this church home.

Len going places

Even as a youngster, Lenny had plans for going places.

When Lenny was only three years old, he went to visit with the family. A niece was just starting to take piano lessons and he asked her to show him what she was learning. She first  played the notes with her right hand, and Lenny played them back by ear. Next she played the left hand. Again Lenny played them back by ear. He asked her how you put them together and she said she had never done that yet. So Lenny said, “Do it like this.” and played them both.

By the time he was four, his parents thought he should have piano lessons, but they couldn’t afford it. Lenny went to see a lady across the street who gave piano lessons and told her he would like to take lessons but didn’t have any money to pay her.

She asked him if he would mow her yard for fifty cents a week. Lenny asked her how much the lessons would be. “Fifty cents a week.” It worked perfectly.

Len Fred, Ann and Len

Fred Waring and Len’s one-room school teacher, Anna Priaulx, visit with Len after a concert.

Lenny attended Rock Hill School, a one-room school near Center.  This provided a great learning atmosphere for him as he learned from all the classes. Everything fascinated him under the guidance of a very special teacher, Anna Priaulx.

By the age of ten, this young boy could play nearly all the classicals from great composers from memory.  He didn’t however forget the songs that were popular during that era.

Len Trio (2)

At Cambridge High School in 1947, Len played for this trio of  Carol, Barbara and Donna, who he said could harmonize as well as the Andrew Sisters.

At Cambridge High School, his musical talent has never been forgotten. His choice of a band instrument became a sousaphone, but he also sang in many groups as well as served as accompanist. No wonder he was voted the boy most likely to succeed as well as the most talented.

Len Muskingum Sr

Len graduated from Muskingum College and after retirement came back to assist with their music program.

Leonard graduated from Muskingum College with a B.S. in Music Education, but he never intended to use it. He wanted a career in performing so headed to Boston University, where he studied with great success.

But when he got home from Boston, his mother told him there was a letter waiting for him. It was his draft call from the Army. Len got lucky again as he was assigned to a base with a band. Now he could use his sousaphone experience from high school to participate in the Army band.

With this band, he headed to Germany, where they spent their time performing, participating in parades and singing at the chapel and in a barbershop quartet. Why he even had his own apartment and gave piano lessons.

Upon his return home, the hand of God guided him to the minister of the Central Presbyterian Church in Zanesville. There he had his first real job as choral director for five choirs among other assignment.

Along came someone from the court system and suggested that Len become a probation officer since he worked so well with young people. Now he had two jobs, so decided to buy his first car – a black ’57 Sunliner convertible.

Len with Steinbach

He still plays the piano he purchased in New York City in 1964, when he lived in a townhouse on the 19th floor.

Three years later, Len again decided to further his education and headed back to Boston to pursue his doctorate. Since all the schools were closed for the summer, he contacted an Army buddy in New York City and moved there for a while to a Central Park Townhouse.

Enjoying city life, Len began looking for a teaching job in the area.  He found one in Brooklyn at McKinley Jr. High School. Here he directed their choirs and led them in performing outstanding concerts. For eleven and a half years, this was his life.

Len Pennsylvanians

An attractive program design highlights Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians.

Well, except for summers!  Those last six summers he attended Fred Waring’s Workshops, where he learned more about performing. One of the students asked Len to play for their audition. It was Len that landed the job to play with the Pennsylvanians with his keyboard talent.

Len Young Pennsylvanians

Teaching young people is something he has always enjoyed. Here he is conductor for the Young Pennsylvanians.

For many years, Leonard performed with Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians. During the 40s and early 50s, Waring produced a string of hits, selling millions of records. Breezin’ Along with the Breeze was his signature tune. Waring’s often called The Man Who Taught America to Sing. Len Thomas was one of those he helped along the way.

Len and Fred at last performance

Pennsylvanians perform for the final time with Len and Fred Waring, only twelve days before Waring’ passed away.

When Fred Waring died in 1984, Len was asked to work as editor and arranger for Shawnee Press, which was founded by Fred Waring. Shawnee Press has been instrumental in providing quality musical arrangements to high schools, colleges, and orchestras.

Len Shawnee Press Business card

Len’s business card with Shawnee Press carried Waring’s logo at the top.

After working for Shawnee Press for seventeen years, it was sold and moved to another state. At the same time, Len had an offer to purchase his beautiful home in Pennsylvania. His heart and mind said it was time to return home.

Len Distinguished Service Award at Muskingum

Len received the Distinguished Service Award at Muskingum University.

When he returned, Muskingum College requested that he direct their concert choir. Frequently, he gave piano lessons, where he explained to students that playing the piano isn’t just done with the fingers, but with the wrists, arms and elbows. Your entire body feels the music.

Len at Salt Fork Festival Chorus

He still loves to perform and assists with many community musical events, such as the Salt Fork Festival Chorus.

The community feels lucky to have him return to the Cambridge area. Now he plays in the Muskingum Jazz Group, for numerous groups including the Cambridge Singers, and provides background music for many banquets, parties, funerals and weddings.  Let’s face it, Len loves to perform.

Preservation Dixieland All Stars

Preservation Dixieland All Stars will be performing at the Salt Fork Festival BASH. Members include: Jerry Weaver, Len Thomas, Don Kason, and Dave Jacobs.

Today at the age of 86, he has no problem remembering all those songs from years gone by. No matter what song is requested, Len’s fingers respond perfect. “The Lord’s been good to me,” smiled Len, as he’s fulfilled all his dreams.

His twilight years have been both enjoyable and fulfilling. Now it the time when he can give back to the community where he grew up. “When you spend time helping others, you find the happiness you seek.”

 

Rural 1890 Village at Meadowcroft Rockshelter

Blacksmith at work in his shop

Blacksmith at work in his shop

Peace and charm of living in a small rural community, previously the Miller family homestead, came to life at the 1890s Rural Village at Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village. Set at the far end of the complex, a visit here provided a relaxing spot in the day.

The village blacksmith demonstrated making a hook for a Dutch oven. Heat for the red-hot forge was produced by coal or coke. “Fanning the flame” provided the hottest heat needed for the perfect hook.

Miller home with garden

Miller home with garden

Betty Lamp

Betty Lamp was originally called the Better Lamp because it burned all night long using animal fat with a wick of twisted cloth.

The Miller Log House, constructed in 1795 by their great-great-grandfather, has been moved to the village. A garden planted nearby gave easy access to fresh vegetables.

While the children’s bedroom was upstairs, parents slept downstairs to protect them and keep the fire going through the night. All the furniture in the large downstairs’ room sat against the walls. That made it possible to come in the front door and walk straight to the fireplace on those cold winter days.

The guide explained that a second frame for a bed usually existed under the other beds so unexpected company could easily be handled. Their beds were made of straw and tightened with ropes to give them shape. Sometimes insects would get in the straw during the night, thus the saying: Good night, Sleep tight, Don’t let the bedbugs bite.

Desks with slates in old schoolhouse

Desks with slates in old schoolhouse

Bancroft Schoolhouse served as a one-room school for 10-20 students from 1834-1921. At that time, there were seven schools in a given mile radius. During the visit, a schoolmarm presented lessons of long ago to those in attendance. Original signatures of Bancroft students covered the blackboard while pictures of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln decorated the walls. Atop the double desks, two slates provided a place for students to write their lessons.

Entering the Methodist Episcopal Church from 1870 provided a glimpse back to the bare essentials of the church. Floors were bare with little ornate decorations around the church. A buggy, which brought the minister to the church service, waited outside.

Methodist Church

Methodist Episcopal Church with minister’s buggy outside

The Rural Village is just one part of the Meadowcroft Historical Complex, which also contains the famous Rockshelter archaeological site and Indian Village. Bring a picnic lunch and spend the day exploring, when they reopen in May.

Meadowcroft Rockshelter is found near Avella, PA off the beaten path. Your easiest bet might be to have your GPS guide you to 401 Meadowcroft Road in Avella, PA.

Peaceful Hindu Temple near Pittsburgh

Sri Venkateswara Hindu Temple

Sri Venkateswara Hindu Temple

High atop a hill east of Pittsburgh, PA sets a beautiful Hindu temple, Sri Venkateswara. In such a far-off corner, you really wouldn’t expect many people on a winter day, but the temple was crowded with devotees of all ages worshipping God in their own way through prayer and meditation.

Beautiful Child dressed for worship service.

Beautiful Child dressed for worship service.

Sri Venkateswara is one of the earliest traditional Hindu temples built in the United States back in 1976. Their service involves much ceremony with many statues of their different Gods and Goddesses forming visual images of the invisible divine entities. Diwa lamps burning butter, or ghee provided by the sacred cows, passed through the people assembled. All wished to gather the light to be blessed with spiritual energy. Fruit and nuts were given by temple priests to bless and nourish the body, as worship nourished the soul.

In the small sanctuary, people showed humility by prostrating themselves before God as the bells rang out their invitation to join in the ceremony. This vast congregation of worshippers showed extreme dedication to their beliefs. Children also enjoyed the day swirling and dancing with smiles and laughter. One small girl captured my heart as she twirled happily in a beautiful yellow dress with embroidered vest and red scarf. Her smile lit up the room.

Women dressed in the most beautiful saris, and walked with grace and dignity. They attend temple services to give honor to their Hindu traditions, while receiving peace and energy from being there.

Car Puja

Car Puja

This beautiful building had three floors, two used for worship, while one was for social purposes. After the worship service, which was basically a time of honoring the dieties, as well as meditation, most adjourned to the dining hall for a light vegetarian lunch.

As we were leaving, smashed lemons appeared in the parking lot. Why would they be there? This area was designated as Car Puja, where new cars are blessed to rid the car of any bad influences. The tradition claims that if you run over lemons with all four tires, your car will be blessed and safe.

A long flight of steps led to the temple.

A long flight of steps led to the temple.

On the way home, a stop for a friend at India Bazaar completed the day with the purchase of chapati atta (whole wheat flour), jasmine rice, haldi (tumeric), and til (sesame seed) for them to use in future meal preparations. An extremely polite shopkeeper carried the purchases to our car.

India Bazaar was the perfect stop for Indian food.

India Bazaar was the perfect stop for Indian food.

Never say no to an adventure! You might be surprised at the interesting things found along the way. The beautiful day lifted my spirits because those attending were very kind and understanding to visitors, even if I was the only blond in attendance.

Sri Venkateswara Temple can be found on the east side of Pittsburgh, PA from I-376, Exit 80. Head to Route 22, Old William Penn Highway, and drive about three miles to Old Thompson Run Road. From there, follow the blue and white Temple signs as they are clearly marked.

Monongahela Indian Village at Meadowcroft

Indian Wigwams

Indian Wigwams

Inside the wigwam centers around a fireplace.

The wigwam centers around a fireplace.

If you want to see how Indians lived over 500 years ago, take a peek inside the walls of the Monongahela Indian village. Located at Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village near Avella, Pennsylvania, the village provides a place to see what Indian life was like back in 1590. Tall branches, placed so close together that nothing could get through, surround the village. Only a narrow opening permitted entrance to the inside, making the village well protected and easily defended.

Home was a wigwam constructed over a frame of flexible young saplings. Bark woven with cattails covered the outside, while the inside was lined with bark. Furnishings were sparse. A raised platform, which served as a place to sit during the day and a place to sleep during the night, rested against a wall. Quite often a family of nine would live here.

Hunting camp with tools for hunting and fishing

Hunting camp with tools for hunting and fishing

Their hunting camp displayed several of the tools used for hunting and fishing. The guides passed around various animal skins so their softness could be felt.  The silky fur of a river otter felt the softest of all.

Three Sisters Garden

Three Sisters Garden

Gardens played an extremely important role in their life, with women being the gardeners. Their three main crops carried the name “The Three Sisters”. These three crops: corn, beans, and squash, depended on each other. The corn provided a stalk for the beans to wrap around, while the large leaves of the squash gave needed shade to keep the soil moist.

Being in charge of gardens by clearing the land of trees became the first order of business for the Indian woman. They killed the trees by hitting them with stones. Then pulled up the weeds as they loosened the soil with sharp stones. After planting the seeds, each hill of corn would be fertilized with one fish.

Protecting the garden was vital so they built an 8′-10′ fence with a lookout tower. Women and children took turns watching so neither man not beast could take their vegetables.

Atlatl Practice Area

Atlatl Practice Area

Hunting became the man’s contribution. Early hunting parties used an atlatl, which consisted of a handle with a hook or notch that propelled a spear with a swinging motion. Its pointed arrowhead succeeded in killing animals needed for food.

With the use of the atlatl,  hunters could throw the spear farther with more force than a regular arm motion. It took practice to hit the mark. Later bows and arrows became common.

A visit to Meadowcroft ensures a look into the past. The Smithsonian Institution has named it one of the  “Five Great Places to See Evidence of First Americans.”  Start your day at the Visitors’ Center to watch a film about the complex. Then visit each of the four special areas: Meadowcroft Rockshelter, Monogahela Indian Village, Frontier Area, and a Rural Village. Step back in time and enjoy the day.

Meadowcroft Rockshelter is found near Avella, PA off the beaten path. Your easiest bet might be to have your GPS guide you to 401 Meadowcroft Road in Avella, PA.

Meadowcroft Rockshelter Holds Early American History

Meadowcroft Welcome Center

Meadowcroft Welcome Center

This is no ordinary tourist spot! Near Avella, PA, hidden away in the mountains, stands a welcome center for the Meadowcroft Rockshelter. Go inside and watch a short video to hear the beginning of this 16,000 year old story. One visitor commented, “We wanted to see one of the oldest spots of human habitation in the United States.”

The site was first discovered back in 1950 by owner of the ground, Albert Miller. He had found some projectile points on his farm while taking a walk, but one day noticed a small artifact by a groundhog hole and decided to dig there. When Albert found bits of pottery and arrowheads buried, he felt like he was tearing pages out of a book, so the proper history could be read.

Dr. J.M. Adovasio from the University of Pittsburgh became interested and conducted the first professional research at the site.  More recent digs have been conducted by Adovasio at Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute using state-of-the-art equipment. It is considered to be one of the most carefully excavated sites in North America.

This rockshelter overhang provided shelter, as well as a vantage point, for early inhabitants from the time of George Washington back to 16,000 years ago. Archaeologists are studying traces of what those early cultures left behind so we can perhaps better understand those early people who lived in America.

Rockshelf Shelter

Stairs to Rockshelf Shelter

Getting out of your car at the Rockshelter, your eyes climb upward to the observation deck that has been built so visitors can get a closer look at the archaeological work being done. While today there is a long stairway for easy access, about ten years ago anyone wishing to climb to the rockshelter had to use a rope to help pull themselves up.

Archaeological Dig Site

Archaeological Dig Site

After a long climb to the top, visitors can see evidence of tools and campfires made by those early inhabitants thousands of years ago. The deck allows visitors to witness “Deep Hole”, where the oldest evidence exists. Rocks fell from the cliff above to cover many of the pieces of the past that are being uncovered today.

At the center of the dig, a fireplace was carefully excavated showing layers to make you smile. Starting at the top there was a layer of plastic bottles, then cans, beer and whiskey bottles, and finally clay bottles. This fireplace area was obviously used for relaxation purposes for generations.

These layers coincided with the people who stayed under this shelter for various reasons. Starting today and going back to George Washington’s time describes the most recent layers. Those deep layers describe life 16,000 years ago. While there is some skepticism over dates, they all admit that it was thousands of years ago.

View of Tags in Dig Site

View of Tags in Dig Site

Each find has been carefully tagged from spear points and arrowheads to bone fragments. This is one of the first sites that used computers in the archaeological field.  It is easy to see that much patience is needed in order to conduct this type of investigation. Sometimes they might work for months with a single-edge razor blade to scrape the rock from a piece of history.

Cross Creek

Cross Creek

After the climb back down, now the look at the Rockshelter gives you an idea of its purpose. The top seems a perfect place for a lookout to watch for approaching enemies, while under the rock cliff would be the perfect shelter for camping. Cross Creek cuts through the valley, and most likely cut through the sandstone surface of the rockcliff to help make it what it is today.

Searching for the past, helps us better understand the present.

Meadowcroft Rockshelter is found near Avella, PA off the beaten path. Your easiest bet might be to have your GPS guide you to 401 Meadowcroft Road in Avella, PA.

Or you can  take exit 17, Jefferson Ave (old exit 6) off I-70 West in Washington, PA. At the bottom of the ramp turn right. At the second light turn right onto Jefferson Ave. At the next light bear left onto 844. Follow 844 for 11 1/2 miles to the junction of 844 and 231 (just past Breezy Heights restaurant and driving range). Turn right onto 231 North. Go 1 1/2 miles to junction of 231 and 50. Turn left onto 50 West. Proceed 1 9/10 miles and turn right onto Fallen Timber Road. Go 1 3/10 miles and turn left onto Meadowcroft Road. Proceed 9/10 of a mile to Meadowcroft entrance on right. 

 

 

 

Glimpse Out of This World at MUFON Conference

In the mountain of Pennsylvania, MUFON enthusiasts gathered at Westmoreland Community College in Youngwood for their annual conference recently. MUFON (Mutual UFO Network) is an organization investigating all reports of Unidentified Flying Objects throughout the world. Lectures were presented throughout the day, authors signed books, and visitors shared experiences.

UFOs vs Paranormal was the first lecture of the day given by Karyn Dolan. The public perception varies on these two topics as ghosts are an acceptable belief, while UFOs usually require a cover-up.  No one really likes to admit they believe in UFOs, but most people do…they just don’t want people to think they do.

If you do believe in UFOs, you have to change the way you see the whole world. The earth is no longer the only important heavenly body. People, who had been abducted, increased their psychic abilities and through meditation began to receive contact with other beings. While contact with alien life seems to change emotional levels, we all know people who are psychic vampires and drain away our energy!

The lobby was an interesting collection of author signings, literature, Bigfoot information as well as UFO memorabilia. Bigfoot enthusiasts were also at this gathering and the history of Bigfoot legends was explained. As far back as the Native Americans, their legends discussed similar creatures in the woods. Newspaper archives were a frequent point of reference as far back as 1837 when  the first documented story in Bridgewater Bangor Daily Whig & Courier reported a hairy creature was heard whistling in the woods. Today there are many names for this hairy creature around the world:  Sasquatch, Abominable Snowman, Almasty, and Bigfoot. Researchers feel they have lots of proof…just no physical specimen! That’s a big missing link.

An interesting afternoon presentation showed slides of art throughout history that included strange objects in the sky…many of them shaped similar to those people classify as UFOs today. These included cave drawings, petroglyphs, Renaissance Art, and the Myans.  The oldest documentation was from The Vedic’s of India nearly 8,000 years ago.  Speaker, John Ventre, summarized, “No matter how far back in art history you go, unidentified flying objects show up.”

Ufology in 21st Century was the topic discussed by Richard Dolan, one of the world’s most prominent researcher and historian of UFOs.  His most recent book, A.D. (After Disclosure) When the Government Finally Reveals the Truth About Alien Contact, discusses the deep impact that would be brought about by the end of UFO secrecy. Many feel that governments maintain secrecy to prevent people from panicking from fear of the unknown. Perhaps aliens exist in our world today so keep an eye on some of those strange people you encounter that seem to be a bit psychic or telepathic. Contact appears to be on an intuitive level making it spiritual vs scientific. But don’t analyze too much!

Over 1100 volunteers take accounts and investigate all reported sightings. There are 3000 MUFON members world-wide in 39 countries and that is constantly expanding. In 2011 there were close to 700 sightings a month.  That number is up slightly in 2012.

While talking with Karyn later in the day, we were exchanging ghost stories. I casually remarked that perhaps my story might make her think I was a little odd. She laughingly remarked, “You’re at a UFO conference; everyone here is strange”…but all very interesting creatures!

MUFON is always looking for new members interested in the scientific study of UFOs for the benefit of humanity. There is a study guide to be completed, exam, background check and then field time with an experienced investigator. Maybe you would like to join those curious minds.

Try Hershey’s Chocolate World The Sweetest Place on Earth

Give them quality. That’s the best kind of advertising in the world.”                             ~Milton Hershey

The smell of chocolate drifting through the breeze is one of the fond memories of Hershey, Pennsylvania. There’s no doubt about being in the popular chocolate town, because the shapes of Hershey kisses serve as street lights down Chocolate Avenue. Naming the town Hershey was one of the best advertising schemes a candy company could devise.

Upon arrival at Hershey Chocolate World, take the Great American Chocolate Tour Ride.  Seated in moving cars, the tour follows the trail of the cocoa beans from their original home in the tropical rain forest. Then upon their arrival at Hershey, they are transformed into that delectable chocolate that we have enjoyed throughout our lives. All five senses are treated as visitors see the displays, hear the stories, and smell the chocolate as they travel to the Sweetest Place on Earth. Finally tourists get a taste of Hershey’s, as they give everyone a free piece of candy at the end of the tour. Of course, chocolate always makes you feel good.

Their gift shop is filled with chocolate in every form and combination. The walls are covered with everything from apparel to household items with popular candy bar logos. Nearby shelves hold all the chocolate products including the Hershey Kisses and Hershey Bars, which have been around for over a hundred years.  My Christmas tree now has a Hershey Kiss ornament, while a Hershey milk bottle holds candy treats on my coffee table.  Sweet memories!

It’s just a short walk to the Hershey Story, a museum telling the history of the Hershey family.  Milton S Hershey, the man who revolutionized the way to make milk chocolate back in 1894, left his fortune to the Milton Hershey School’s orphan boys. Since Milton and his wife had no children of their own, they developed a real concern for less fortunate children and founded the school in 1909.  His legacy is an inspiration to many, as his life was a rags to riches story.

Here visitors also learn of Hershey’s inspiration for creating the town of Hershey. Seems it was patterned after another chocolate maker, Cadbury in England, who also built their factory in what was considered a workers’ paradise. Wanting his employees to be as content as the cows who gave the milk for the chocolate, Milton included an amusement park, community center for family activities, and low cost housing for his employees.  Today some of these same items are enjoyed by tourists.

A popular spot in the museum was the Apostolic Clock, which tells more than the time, as it tells phases of the moon, zodiac signs, months, dates and days of the week. Its main attraction, however, is telling the story of the betrayal of Christ.  The Twelve Apostles and Christ appear at a quarter to each hour and begin telling the story of the betrayal. Every fifteen minutes Father Time strikes a bell and the center figure changes.  It is quite an amazing performance to watch.

Built by John Fenner in 1878, the clock was taken on a tour of Pennsylvania where ten cents was charged to view its story. This  clock was purchased by Milton Hershey back in 1936 when he placed it in the museum for the enjoyment of the local community. During past visits, the clock performed on an hourly basis, but today it is limited to a special calendar, so you need to check ahead to see when performances are scheduled. Having been built in the 1880’s, it is understandable that the clock would now be in delicate condition.

What started out as a Rose Garden has expanded over the years to a twenty-three acre botanical bonanza. Every day is a beautiful day for a walk in the gardens and their Butterfly House is a favorite of youngsters especially. Lucky there are benches along the way, as most people want to sit for a while and take in the quiet and majesty that surrounds the gardens.

High Point, Hershey family’s home, was given in 1930 to Hershey Country Club as their clubhouse, with Milton retaining room for his private office. In 1977 it was renovated again to be used as Hershey Company headquarters through the efforts of WIlliam Dearden.  Being a student of the Milton Hershey School, William became CEO of Hershey Foods and had a passion for the beautiful old home, and wanted to save it from destruction.

No visit would be complete without checking out the source of the tantalizing chocolate smell that permeates this town. The smokestacks of the old Hershey Chocolate Company, a chocolate brown brick building, can be easily spotted as its lawn has hedges cut into the words HERSHEY COCOA. There’s no doubt that you’re in the right place!

But times change and the Hershey Company has moved its plant this last year to the outskirts of town.  Haven’t been back to see the new plant, but the modern equipment couldn’t be accommodated into the old plant with its low ceiling and columns throughout.  Some say Milton would be upset with the changes, while others feel he was a businessman who understood that things must change.

Even though times change, chocolate bars are still a favorite for many. Imagine reading this Hershey Chocolate quote the next time you bite into your favorite bar:

Put a smile on your face, make the world a better place

Leaving town down Chocolate Avenue with its Hershey kisses, memories of this chocolate world will hang around for years to come, much like the cocoa goodness has covered Hershey, Pennsylvania for over a hundred years.

Hershey, Pennsylvania is just off I-70 / I-76, part of which is a toll road. Take exit 247 to PA 283 at Elizabethtown.  Hershey is directly North of Elizabethtown as you follow Hershey Road.  The town is well marked for signs to the various attractions. Enjoy a chocolate experience!

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