Tuesday, April 13, 2010

One Hundred

Welcome to the 100th episode of Just Sayin’ – enough for syndication! It’s rainy and grey outside, so we’ll just stay home in old New Cumberland today.

From The Evening News for August 26, 1918:

“A very serious accident was narrowly averted at Fourth and Reno Streets Saturday when an automobile came up Fourth Street with a woman at the steering wheel. She lost control of the car when she went to make the turn onto Reno Street. The auto ran into the porch at the residence of George Zimmerman, who resides at that corner. The railing of the porch was broken and several boards torn off. Mrs. Zimmerman with her little children were sitting on the porch, but all fortunately escaped injury. The fender of the car was broken. The names of the occupants could not be learned.

(The porch today)

“William King, 40 years old, of Pittsburgh, is the name of the man struck and killed by a Valley Railways trolley car at New Cumberland, late Saturday afternoon. The body was identified by friends here and is now being held by Undertaker Mauk awaiting more information from Pittsburgh. King had asked several residents of New Cumberland the direction to the Government plant at Marsh Run. After being directed, it is said, that he became bewildered and in crossing the street, he stopped in front of the eastbound car and the motorman didn’t have time to stop. It was necessary to raise the car from the tracks to remove the body.”

(Valley Railways trolleys)

That was one rough Saturday.

The people are gone (Mr. King a bit prematurely), but some of the places that were here in 1918 still are. Several pretty much the same, the rest transformed. The sturdy brick building on Second Street in which the Wright automobile was manufactured (for less than two years) stands with few changes; the train station which (I think) was a few blocks east on that street, at the river, is long gone. That depot was the life of a much more vital community 100 years ago, with substantial manufacturing and retail establishments, facing Harrisburg much like New Jersey faces New York, with busy rail lines hugging the river bank. There were four sets of tracks then; only one remains.

The fire station has seen continuous use, converted into a short-lived (and much missed) brewpub and then morphing into Neato Burrito, a local chain of which we are very fond. If you hiked the Appalachian Trail with only one of their huge creations in your pack, you’d be good all day.

(The Wright factory, the vanished train station, and the old

firehouse/new Neato)

The vanished Railroad Hotel adjacent to the train station was busy hosting and feeding the many arriving and departing passengers back in the early 1900s, as was the Iroquois Hotel two blocks over at Third Street. The county redevelopment authority is rebuilding it after years of neglect into 10 senior apartments – and it had looked like its only likely fate was pretty grim. There is a 1909 photo of the Iroquois fully decked out in bunting for Old Home Week (not online, unfortunately). The old gal was full of life back then, and may be again.

(Location of the RR Hotel? / The Iroquois under renovation)

The West Shore Theater opened in 1940 and was recently refurbished outside. It still sports the art deco doors, ceiling mural, and 1960s prices. The Shore Drive-In a few blocks south across the creek bridge has been replaced by a strip mall, but one light tower remains, largely obscured by many years’ growth of vines. A new town clock graces the neatly re-landscaped front of the post office. Who knew someone still made town clocks?

One place not to re-visit is the basement of Pete’s Café: the site of a mortuary at one time, it’s said to be actively haunted.

Was that where poor Mr. King was taken?



  1. I'll visit Pete's any day (or night).

  2. Every little town or big city has a history. There was a story on PBS the other night about a mayor trying to save a little steel town from fading away. The only hospital was about to close and the mayor was talking about bring artist into the city to revitalize it. Interesting approach.