The Berks-Mont News (http://www.berksmontnews.com)

A Look Back – Recollections of Morgantown with Marie Witman Verville


By Jere Brady, Special to the Tri County Record

Monday, February 11, 2013

Walter Amos and Edna (Glass) -1991] Witman moved from a place west of Morgantown to the Village of Morgantown with their two children Marie and Frank in 1927. Marie and Frank were three years old at this time. They were twins and did many things together. Marie recalls the generosity of her mother as she would always feed the bums who would come by and ask for a meal. Edna Witman moved in her slow but stately gate and one rude bum complained that it took her too long and that he was hungry and didn’t wish to wait for his food. He said, “It’s not nice to make a man wait so long.”
Marie and Frank attended the Caernarvon School located at on the south side of Main Street in Morgantown just west of Chestnut Street which wasn’t even a street at that point in time. The Morgantown/Caernarvon School was built in 1905. That building, sometimes nicknamed, “The Alamo” because of its Spanish style architecture with its two grand staircases - one to the right and one to the left as you entered the foyer. There were two large classrooms on the first floor and two on the second. This had become an elementary school in 1928 when another building was built one block farther west for the high school on the same side of the street. The old building now housed grades one through eight.
Marie and Frank’s teachers were Miss Dora Stoltzfus - grades one and two; Miss Florence Jacobs - grades three and four; Mrs. Anna May (Berstler) Peck - grades five and six and Arthur Sigman - grades seven and eight. Shortly after Marie had Miss Jacobs, Miss Jacobs married Joseph Zeiders of Geigertown and became Mrs. Zeiders. Marie remembers that the two years that she had Mr. Sigman, that each year on November 11 - Armistice Day, he would have the students rise and bow their heads for a few moments of silence to honor those who served the country in World War I. Mr. Sigman was a veteran and would hold his students spellbound as he related his memories in the service. To encourage attendance, he told them that whoever would have perfect attendance, he would take on a trip to Philadelphia. Katherine Dodd, Suzanne Beam, Marie and Frank Witman all had perfect attendance. Mr. Sigman was true to his word and took them all to Valley Forge, the zoo and other areas of Philadelphia. They ascended as far as the sculpture of William Penn on top of City Hall.
Some of their recess games were Red Light, Green Light and Crack the Whip. She recalls many times being on the end and ended up with torn stockings and skinned knees. There were no crossing guards or art or gym teachers. During her third and fourth years, Marie recalls a music teacher starting a harmonica band. They looked forward to her coming and enjoyed being in that band. Marie still has that harmonica.
Frank delivered the Reading Eagle throughout Morgantown for a number of years. When Frank couldn’t, Marie took his place. Marie remembers awaking to the sounds at Ames Blacksmith Shop across the street. - iron being struck on the anvil, the sound of hoof beats and the whinnying of the horses awaiting to be shod and the roar of the flaming forge and the bellows. At that time, Sands Richard (pronounced rye-kard) did the blacksmithing. Their father Walter was a carpenter until the economy slowed down and he needed to find more work elsewhere. He and Edna started an antique shop in their home on Morgantown’s Main Street in the late 1930’s. Marie’s grandparents lived on the east side of the house and Marie’s family on the west side. At times, they would display some furniture and artifacts on their porch. They realized that if they wanted to put antiques safely on the porch, they should enclose the porch, which they did with huge plate glass windows. Edna made beautiful dolls and the clothing for them. Some of the dolls were baby dolls, Holly Hobby dolls and cornhusk dolls.
There was one house between them and the brown stone Methodist Church to the West. Marie and Frank would attend Sunday school there on Sunday mornings and then attend church at Center Lutheran Church along Route 625 not far from Bowmansville. Marie and her brother participated in the Christmas Eve service pageants at the Methodist Church. She recalls one Christmas Eve when she was an angel that the tinsel around her head kept scratching her. But she pleasantly remembers the Christmas Eve when it was snowing and how beautiful it looked as the congregation left the Methodist Church as they descended the steps in the falling snow and the lights reflecting on the snow.
Marie recalls her good friend Dorothy Ames who lived where today is Cafe 110. Marie and Dorothy would walk to school together. They would sometimes stop at David Kurtz Garage. There would be an ice chest with sodas and Dixie cups of ice cream. When you would lift the lid off the ice cream you would lick off the ice cream, peel back the wax paper and look at the picture of a celebrity. Ice cream could also be purchased at the Morgantown Hotel for five cents a cone. Mrs. Hoffmaster would heap high the ice cream on that cone. If they would drop by the Blacksmith Shop and Dorothy would wink at Sands Richard, he would give her a nickel.
When Marie married Arthur Verville in 1949 they moved away, but returned and purchased the home that her father built for her brother Frank and his wife Marilyn at the corner of Main Street and Third Avenue. Their move was during a snowstorm in February 1964. A friend of theirs used their horse trailer to haul their belongings. Frank and Marilyn built a fine colonial home just up the street from Marie. Marie taught second grade across the street until that village school was closed and the children shipped off to other places. Then Marie was moved to teach second grade in the Honey Brook Elementary Building on the main street of Honey Brook.
Marie still lives in her charming home at Third Avenue and Main Street in Morgantown.
“A Look Back” is a new feature to the Tri County Record where guest columnists with knowledge of the history of our area share accounts of the people, places, and things which have made our area into what it is today.
This author of this article is Morgantown’s own Jere Brady, a local historian and a member of the Tri-County Heritage Society. Visit the Tri-County Heritage Society at www.tricountyheritage.org.