Columns

Welcome to my World: Pennsylvania honors Stephen Foster |Aug 28, 2015

On the campus of the University of Pittsburgh is the only museum, concert hall and library dedicated to an American composer, Stephen Foster. His hometown memorialized him, even though he didn’t write our state song, but Florida and Kentucky adopted his tunes as their state songs.

The Historian: Early Cattle and ‘Watered Meadows’ |Aug 27, 2015

In 1683, William Penn reported to friends in England, “Here is plenty of cow cattle.” Cattle, together with all other farm livestock, were brought to the Delaware Valley from Europe by the Swedes, Finns and Dutch in the 17th century.

Welcome to my World: Uncovering the Christman Farmstead History |Aug 21, 2015

At home on the Christman farm, as a kid, I often daydreamed about who lived there before us. Did anyone famous, like George Washington, sleep in the bedroom I now occupied? Were there Indian raids? Barn dances? Quilting parties?

PERSON TO PERSON - IMPACT: Differences in Dentists are Distinct |Aug 19, 2015

During one’s life, one will be treated by a number of dentists, all of whom are different in one way or another. Some of them, I remember, were rather normal and others not quite! When I was in junior high school, I could walk to my dentist because his office was a block away.

The Historian: As Dutch as Sauerkraut, Part II |Aug 18, 2015

Last week’s “Historian” noted that cabbage, often eaten in the form of sauerkraut, was undoubtedly the primary vegetable crop cultivated by the early Germanic immigrants of this area.

Felicia Fisher’s Slice of Life: Lemon Pound Cake |Aug 14, 2015

I wouldn’t take offense if you didn’t want to bake this recipe. In fact, I don’t want to bake it lately on account of the ridiculous price of eggs. Each year, I read about a scare of some baking commodity, with chocolate and pecans being the most recent items that were deemed scarce to justify the price increases.

Welcome to my World: The Customs I Grew Up With |Aug 14, 2015

I grew up with some customs that I didn’t know much about, so I decided to do some research.

A Look Back in History: Sacred Oak Tree of Oley Valley in poor condition |Aug 12, 2015

On Monday, July 20 at the regular board meeting of the Oley Valley Heritage Association, President Kelly Spatz remarked that the historic Sacred Oak Tree that was beloved and worshipped by the Native Americans of the Oley Valley (on the property of Mr.

Ask Esther: When to buy and sell to get the most for your home |Aug 12, 2015

DEAR ESTHER >> We have been working all summer to prepare our home to sell and plan to list it sometime in the fall. However, my sister told me we should wait until the spring because that’s the time most people buy.

The Historian: So Dutch as Sauerkraut |Aug 10, 2015

Perhaps it was the humble cabbage, as much as anything else, that made survival possible in the early local farms and settlements. Cabbage in the form of sauerkraut was one of the few vegetables that could be preserved for winter.

PERSON TO PERSON - IMPACT: A race for Izzy, a boy beating the odds |Aug 10, 2015

I am lucky enough to have a wife to bounce my thoughts off of. Many times I get what I think are “brilliant” ideas, and when I check with Barb, she sort of throws a wet blanket over the project.

The Historian: Thatched roofs and rye straw |Aug 7, 2015

The Germanic immigrants to this area brought with them the custom of rye straw roof thatching. Rye is a cereal grain similar to wheat, but with a habit of growth yielding stalks almost twice as high as wheat.

A Look Back in History: Kutztown University, a college town whose professors master the uniqueness of Americana and PA Dutch culture |Aug 6, 2015

Having graduated Kutztown State in 1960, I did not fully understand how lucky I was meeting professors who taught me the uniqueness of the Americana culture of the Pennsylvania Dutch people. Their true-grit livelihood stood for our Americana civilization, in art, education and American agriculture, as well as religion.

Through My Kitchen Window: Egg free chocolate cupcakes, take two |Aug 6, 2015

I wanted to retry an egg free chocolate cupcake recipe but this time include the vinegar. As I have been learning from my research online and from talking to other bakers, eggs can serve three purposes, for rising, for moisture or for binding.

Welcome to my World: The Older I Get |Aug 6, 2015

The older I get, 74 now, I’ve come to the conclusion there’s both good and not so good in all of this new technology we are bombarded with.

PERSON TO PERSON - IMPACT: “Road Calm” - When apology is in order |Aug 5, 2015

The year was 1971. I was honorably discharged from the Army, and my wife and I visited the fiance of a friend that was still serving in Vietnam. Several months later, Barb and I were invited to their wedding.

The Historian: The Window Pane Tax of 1798 |Aug 3, 2015

The Federal Direct Tax of 1798, popularly called “the window pane tax,” precipitated an event called Fries (pronounced “freeze”) Rebellion, which has been described as “a sort of comic opera that provided excitement here in Montgomery County for some months in 1798 and 1799.

Through my eyes: Legal blindness and an unlikely hobby |Jul 28, 2015

As a new addition to Berks-Mont News, I figured I would use these early columns to give the readers a chance to learn more about me. I stated in a previous column that I struggle with being legally blind.

A Look Back in History: Architectural fashion in randomly laid fieldstone |Jul 27, 2015

America’s early hinterland houses built of native stone are more than well constructed abodes. They reveal the desire of the frontier inhabitants to be part of the architectural fashion of the day.

Felicia Fisher’s Slice of Life: Pineapple Peach Pops |Jul 23, 2015

We all have things we hate. For two of my children, the squeaking of Styrofoam sends them into a tizzy and, coincidentally, both my husband and I detest those wooden spoons that accompany Italian ices.

The Historian: A most interesting diary, conclusion (Part III) |Jul 21, 2015

For the last two weeks this column dealt with the 1839-1845 diary of Norristown resident Mary Markley Boyer (1802-1858). Found by historian Nancy Roan some years ago, the diary pages are interleaved into The Lady’s Annual Register, a publication which included monthly almanac pages.

The Historian: A Most Interesting Diary, continued (Part II) |Jul 21, 2015

Last week’s column dealt with the 1839-1845 diary of Norristown resident Mary Markley Boyer (1802-1858). Found by historian Nancy Roan some years ago, the diary pages are interleaved into The Lady’s Annual Register, a publication which included monthly almanac pages.

Felicia Fisher’s Slice of Life: For the love of coffee and not baking… |Jul 21, 2015

I had the most surreal food experience yesterday. I opted to go inside my local Starbuck’s to peruse the coffee menu. I usually use the drive through although oftentimes I simply drive by rather than wait behind a line of six to seven cars.

The Historian: A Most Interesting Diary |Jul 7, 2015

A most interesting diary has come to light. Found by historian Nancy Roan, it was created by Norristown resident Mary Markley Boyer from 1839-1845. Diaries and journals, called “primary source documents,” are the gold standard in historical research.

For what it’s worth: My personal food challenge |Jun 26, 2015

I’ve had the house to myself for about a week, and I have another week to go. When there’s only one person—it’s easy to downsize a bit. And I decided to downsize in regards to hastily purchasing food.

A Look Back in History: American Wisdom and Good Natured Dutch Folklore |Jun 3, 2015

Almost since the founding of America, there have been many illiterate peasants who have followed the lead of Ministers and educated citizens whose wisdom has helped them survive farming in the North American wilderness.

A Look Back in History: The Butcher, Baker, and Candlestick Maker: Our Kutztown Folk Festival Craftsman |May 19, 2015

Among the iconic craftsman that have always made up our Colonial ethnic natives of the Pennsylvania people, have been the historic tradesmen that have been long remembered for their craftsmanship, enabling immigrant natives to survive in a somewhat hostile pioneer environment.

The Historian: The Curious ‘Klingelbeutel’ |Apr 26, 2015

Another detail in the local life of yesteryear which is now totally gone from all but historical reference is the German Klingelbeutel — Glingelsock in the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect, literally, “bellpocket.

Part 5 Vietnam 1970 - 1971: Meet Private Beetle Bailey’s Protégé |Apr 22, 2015

Shortly after taking up residence in base camp, I established a routine of going to a Vietnamese barber on a weekly basis. Each customer received the works: haircut, shave, shoulder massage and the unexpected neck crack, accomplished by the barber grabbing each side of your head firmly and giving it a quick 90 degree sharp turn.

The Historian: Early school houses were used as Sunday schools |Apr 21, 2015

Since by tradition and custom the first schools were operated by the churches, it is easy to see why the early township school boards saw no problem with allowing Sunday schools to meet in the one-room school houses.

The Historian: The stormy beginning of Sunday school |Apr 6, 2015

In the old days, Sunday school was a big deal. Typical of the larger town churches was Pottstown’s Emmanuel Lutheran.

The Historian: A Curious Old Deed |Mar 30, 2015

A curious old deed has come to light. The well preserved parchment says that in 1789, the Rev. Johannes Christophe Kunze, D. D. (John Christopher Kunze) “of the City of New York” bought of Peter Richards, shopkeeper, and his wife Magdalena, a parcel containing 58 acres in New Hanover Township.

The Historian: Clover, Part II |Mar 23, 2015

During most of the 18th Century, Germanic immigrants continued the centuries-old agricultural practices with which they were familiar. The paramount need of the settlers was grain.

Guest editorial: Take ‘It can wait’ pledge to save lives |Mar 16, 2015

“LOL” turns into “RIP” more and more every day in the United States.

Meet Private Beetle Bailey’s Protege |Mar 10, 2015

Just wait a minute! Uncle Sam wants to send ME to Vietnam for 12 months? I am the one who went to camp the summer after fourth grade and was so homesick that I actually ended up in the infirmary for a few days but was fine once I reached home.

A Look Back in History: Colonial Trade with the Port of Philadelphia |Mar 6, 2015

Before the 1862 Oley Valley Turnpike was opened from Pikeville to Black Bear Tavern, facilitating later trade with the town of Reading, many Colonial styled Conestoga wagons, like the surviving 1803 Sternbergh wagon, hauled wheat grain to the Port of Philadelphia from the Oley Valley during harvest grain rushes.

The Historian: Himmelsbriefen were in most homes |Mar 2, 2015

Movable type was invented in 15th Century Germany, and the consequences were world-changing, allowing literacy and the Reformation to spread with previously unimagined speed.

For what it’s worth: York County’s Live Eagle Camera has my attention |Feb 26, 2015

I’m not sure why it’s so interesting to me—but it is. Since I discovered it, I cannot seem to stop watching York County’s live feed of an eagle nest.

The Historian: Fraktur, the folk art of the Pa. Germans |Feb 25, 2015

During the 100 years between 1720 and 1820, well over 100,000 German-speaking immigrants entered Pennsylvania, most of them through the port of Philadelphia. In just the five years between 1749 and 1754 nearly 37,000 Germans came through that port and spread throughout Pennsylvania and beyond.

The Historian: Fences and the Antes Garden |Feb 11, 2015

In the 18th and 19th centuries, winter was the ideal time for many tasks not directly related to the planting, cultivating and harvesting of crops that took up all available time during the more temperate months.

PERSON TO PERSON – IMPACT: Valentine’s Day should be every day! |Feb 10, 2015

One of the many things that impressed me in my recent BOOK BEAT - IMPACT report on 41 – A Portrait of My Father, is how President George H. W. Bush made new friends, but at the same time was faithful in keeping in contact with his old friends.

The Historian: Spring Houses - valuable additions to the farmstead |Feb 9, 2015

A spring house was a valuable addition to the early farmstead. A good, year-round spring on a property often influenced the location of the dwelling house and barn. The spring house usually was built directly over the spring and served as a cover, protecting it from dirt, leaves, livestock and other foreign material, but it also served as food storage area and sometimes work area.

The Historian: Baking Practices among the Dutchmen, part 2 |Feb 3, 2015

Most Germanic houses built in Southeastern Pennsylvania in the 18th and 19th centuries had bake ovens; it was almost a requisite for Pennsylvnia Dutch dwellings.

Ask Steve: How important is installing a carbon monoxide detector in a new home? |Jan 27, 2015

As a service to you and our community, I want to answer your questions so you can make educated and more informed decisions when it comes to your energy, comfort needs and saving money.

The Historian: Baking Practices among the Dutchmen |Jan 27, 2015

Most Germanic houses built in Southeastern Pennsylvania in the 18th and 19th centuries had bake ovens; it was almost a requisite for Pennsylvnia Dutch dwellings.

Thrivent Financial: You bought the policy…now what? Knowing your policies supports healthy financial strategies |Jan 27, 2015

Purchasing proper insurance coverage is an important part of a healthy financial picture. However, with many policies, staying engaged ensures you have adequate coverage as your life changes.

Book Beat - Impact: ‘A Portrait Of My Father’ shows 41st President took the less travelled path |Jan 27, 2015

Review of “A Portrait Of My Father” by George W. Bush

A Look Back in History: Salem Church windows depict purple stained Iris colored flowers, a French “Fleurdelis” folk symbol |Jan 23, 2015

Last month a Community Christmas Cantata was held under the musical direction of choir director Kathy Snyder to a packed audience at Salem Church on historic Covered Bridge Road, on a Sunday afternoon, a unique presentation of Oley area churches, whereby old timers would not have to drive home in the dark.

Focus on the Family: Daughter’s lies catching up with her at school |Jan 21, 2015

Q: How can I get my teenage daughter to stop lying? I’ve caught her telling “tall tales,” and now she’s complaining that the kids at school don’t believe anything she says.

The Historian: The Tag-Team Preachers from New Hanover |Jan 19, 2015

Sometime around 1720, John Philip Boehm and a group following the German Reformed faith settled closely together in Swamp, New Hanover, and built a church. The congregation exists today, Falkner Swamp UCC, the earliest German Reformed church in America.