Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Archive for the ‘Pennsylvania’ Category

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.

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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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