Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Troxell-Steckel House, Whitehall, Lehigh County

I had hoped to be starting this post with the announcement that I've got a new podcast episode ready to roll. As it happens, however, I'm still waiting on YouTube's account verification and a couple other details. (I'm trying to clean up the audio quality.) So instead we're just getting straight into the blogging.

This will be a slightly odd blog post, at least by my own standards. I have two markers for the location, because the wording is just a little different on each, but I won't be sharing pictures of the actual farmhouse. That's not to say that I don't have pictures - I do. Quite a few, in fact, and I would love to share them. But it's a peculiar quirk of the Lehigh County Historical Society that you can't publish photographs of either the Troxell-Steckel House in Whitehall or Trout Hall in Allentown without their explicit written permission, and I just never got around to requesting the permission. Maybe they wouldn't mind, but then again, maybe they would, and I don't feel like dealing with any possible legal fallout. I'd rather play by the rules. Eventually I'll remember to write and ask for permission at a time when I'm actually able to do it, and I'll come back and add my photos to the post.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

The Banana Split, Latrobe, Westmoreland County

My apologies to anyone who missed a post last week. We had two and a half days of rain around here, and as my longtime readers know, my body does not take kindly to that sort of thing. I was hurting pretty badly and I just couldn't focus. But I'm back this week, and I hope to have more podcast fun available within the next few days as well.

Pennsylvania, among its many claims to fame, is known as the snack food capital of the United States. It's not hard to see why, either. We're the home of Hershey, Tastykake, Middleswarth chips, Sturgis pretzels (both Julius and Tom), and a whole bunch of other companies that make many of our favorite snackies. This includes ice cream products, from outfits like Yuengling. 

There's apparently something of a mild debate about the origin of the banana split. It seems that a number of communities across the country like to claim to be where the famous sundae was invented. However, our own Latrobe has the earliest claim, and has been certified as the birthplace of the banana split by the National Ice Cream Retailers Association. My sister Liza and I visited Latrobe last autumn to pay homage to Mister Rogers, and the marker for the banana split isn't far from his.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Isaac Charles Mishler, Altoona, Blair County

I'm back from Zenkaikon and feeling very good about the whole thing! Also a bit melancholy, but that's nothing unusual - con weekend is one of the highlights of my year. All three of my historical presentations were very well attended and my jokes landed well, which always helps; the Celtic mythology presentation is the only one that's going to be available to watch online, though, and it'll take a little time because they have a lot to upload and YouTube only allows so much at once. So hopefully I'll have a link to share within a few weeks. But it was a wonderful experience and I honestly don't think I could be more pleased with how it all went.

For this week's quest, we're heading back out to Blair County, where a magnificent theater stands as a monument to one man's civic-minded spirit.

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Bellefonte Air Mail Field, Bellefonte, Centre County

It's crunch time for Zenkaikon. We leave tomorrow and spend three and a quarter lovely days in beautiful downtown Lancaster, hobnobbing with other weirdos (most of them in costume). I'll be doing two presentations about Lancaster history and one about Celtic mythology. I'm not sure which ones will be available to watch via Zenkaikon Online, but they did make it free for everyone this year - so if and when I have links to share, I'll provide them for anyone who might care to watch me babble about history. I'll also return to uploading podcast episodes next week when it's over, I want to do a little fine-tuning.

For today, you just get to read my babbling. We're going to skip back in time just a little over a century, back to when air mail was a relatively new thing and somewhat dangerous to boot. A little community in central Pennsylvania was key to the success of the endeavor.

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

James Lick, Fredericksburg, Lebanon County

About this time next week I expect to be in my usual pre-convention frenzy. All the things in the world to do, no time in the world to do them. It happens every year.

But for today, I'm bringing you a blog post that turned out to be much more complex and intriguing than I initially expected. It's my first post from Lebanon County in well over a year, and it's a bit longer than usual because there was just so much to tell you. I can honestly say that it's the first time I've ever started a blog post by saying that almost everything you're about to read was the result of a young man's quest to be able to marry the woman he loved.

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Union Church, Mechanicsburg, Cumberland County

Again, I really want to say how much I appreciate all the support I've received for the podcast. I haven't gotten a ton of feedback, but every single scrap I've been given has been very positive. Some of it even came from people I don't know personally! If you haven't checked it out already, please investigate this page for all the details. I posted a new episode yesterday featuring a surprise cameo by one of my cats; he's taking his newfound fame in stride.

We're coming down to the wire for Zenkaikon, at which I'll be doing three history-related presentations - two about Lancaster, where the con takes place, and one about Celtic mythology and its relationship with modern media. It's crunch time and the panic is starting to set in, because my to-do list for the two weeks remaining is out of control. I think I picked a bad year to give up soda for Lent, because I desperately need some caffeine!

Well, in the interest of getting at least one thing checked off of that list, let's have a blog post, shall we? This week I'm taking you back to beautiful Cumberland County to learn about the oldest public building in Mechanicsburg, and the many ways it has served the community for nearly two hundred years. Please note that the images in this post turned out inexplicably large, so I had to shrink them in order to make the page readable; just click on them if you'd like to see bigger versions.

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Charming Forge, Womelsdorf, Berks County

First of all, I want to express my appreciation to everyone who has checked out the podcast so far! I genuinely had my doubts about it, despite what my friends said, but it's been very reassuring to get so much positive feedback. I anticipate uploading the next episode tomorrow, and it's my hope that I will have all of 'season one' (that is, the blog posts from 2018) recorded and uploaded by the end of May.

Meanwhile, for this week's quest we're going to visit an allegedly haunted house in Berks County. I say 'allegedly' mostly because I can't verify either way, but the stories persist.