Old Southern Berks County photographs and news articles discovered in the former Pottstown Mercury building are being shared on Facebook.
One particular room was home to mostly photos from the “Southern Berks News,” “The Times Dispatch Digest,” Berks-Mont Newspapers and the “Times Dispatch of Birdsboro and Boyertown.”
“We were able to save thousands of newspapers dating back as far as the 1960s all the way up to the mid-2000s. We literally saved the news and photos of our communities from the last 50 years,” said Kevin Keifrider, an Amity resident and a township supervisor, who has been sharing some of these photos and news articles on the Facebook page Amity Township Area History.
“Thousands! We have boxes full of photos and news articles. We still have boxes to go through,” said Todd Peterson of Birdsboro who has been also posting items from this find on his Facebook page Birdsboro of Yesterday. “Very excited; it was like finding lost treasures.”
Peterson believes the significance of this find is that the photos and newspaper archives connect the community to the town’s past.
“People forget, our memories fade and we forget the past. This helps us recall our fond memories of the town we grew up in,” he said.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Keifrider, showing just a portion of his collection from this discovery. “I have several rooms and shelving units with even more boxes of photos.”
Keifrider said he was contacted a couple of months ago by Bill "Corky" Sheeler who was granted permission by the new owners of the building in Pottstown to clean it out. In doing so he was allowed to accept donations for his non-profit, Seniors and Sprouts (www.seniorsandsprouts.org).
“Corky located a room on the second floor that was loaded with pictures. Probably 200,000 plus in random boxes and filing cabinets,” he said.
Since he runs the Amity Township Area History Facebook page, Keifrider contacted Corky and was able to save the photos and then contacted Peterson of the Birdsboro of Yesterday.
“We both have been getting boxes full of pictures over the past several months and spending time sorting through them finding some good treasures,” said Peterson.
Peterson said they obtained so many sports pictures that they started a new Facebook page, SE Berks Sports Photos. Keifrider and Peterson will be sharing sports photos from local high schools including Daniel Boone, Boyertown, Exeter, Twin Valley and Owen J. Roberts, as well as any other photos linked to Southeast Berks County.
Keifrider has been sharing the photos and news articles on Amity Township Area History page which he created in 2019 to promote Amity Township's 300th Anniversary (1719-2019) and later morphed into a full blown history page.
“Initially I only saved the pictures of Amity Township,” said Keifrider. “Corky called me a couple weeks ago and said that everything that was left was headed to the landfill. He asked if he could bring more pictures to me before they were gone forever. He showed up in a pick-up truck completely loaded with more photos.”
Keifrider and his son-in-law have a business in Amity called Lucky Squirrel Printworks.
“Ironically, it is located in the old Merritt's Museum of Pennsylvania History. Once again it now houses local history. I am fortunate to have extra space here to store everything while I try to find time to distribute it all,” he said.
Keifrider still has boxes and boxes of photos that have not even been opened yet.
“Many are from Boyertown and I would love to get these into the hands of someone that can use them,” he said.
A couple of the more interesting items are two leather bound books. One is the corporation records of the Berks-Mont Newspapers. It has about 300 pages of minutes and notes. The other is filled with the original documents from the establishment of the Berks-Mont (original attorney letters, state licenses and so on). This book is from 1968, said Keifrider.
The Amity Township Area History page has increased to about 3,300 followers. Two local Amity historians, Ralph Swoyer and Randy Westley, have helped him with the page and sort through these photographs. One of the pictures that came from the Mercury was a black and white of a lady standing at a MAC Machine in Amity Township.
“I posted the picture making a joke about how I still call ATM's by the name I grew up with, a MAC Machine. I referenced my three daughters who make fun of me because they have no idea what a MAC Machine is,” said Keifrider. “The photo went viral.”
It has reached 170,000 people, has been shared nearly 1,000 times and has 200 plus comments.
Birdsboro of Yesterday has 2,756 followers.
“Followers like Ralph Rapposelli, Mardell Ludwig, Ralph Bascelli, Tony Matassa, and Bruce Hoffman are a wealth of information when it comes to the history of the town,” said Peterson. “Birdsboro has always been a tight-knit close community and it still shows through the love people have for our great town."
A few of the recent photos shared include a 1960s photo at the YMCA, 1973 Birdsboro Street Fair, Mr. and Mrs. Bucci at Bucci’s Restaurant and a 1950s photo of the Birdsboro Library.
“They love it,” Peterson said. “People are always saying thank you, especially when it’s a photo that is of a loved one who has since passed on. People just love going back to the good old days, even if it’s just through a photograph.”
Peterson’s page Birdsboro of Yesterday has been in existence since March 2016. Raised in South Birdsboro, also known as Texas, he explains that at one time, Birdsboro was broken up into sections.
“I still live here, but now on the opposite side of town by the high school, even though my Texan roots are still strong,” said Peterson. “My father was the Texas Clipper, which was the barbershop located on Bird Street.”
Peterson hopes to keep the history and story of Birdsboro alive.
“There is so much history connected to Birdsboro and most people don’t realize it,” he said. “People live in houses today and don’t realize that it was the former jail or a firehouse. Most people aren’t aware of the canal system and where it ran, or that the back of the “Y” (Community Center) use to be the front. Little things like this make this town so interesting.”
Peterson loves history, genealogy and Birdsboro.
“People tend to forget our past, and I just love bringing it back to life for them,” he said. “I just love sharing the past. When someone comments ‘that’s my grandfather or great- grandmother’ it just makes me smile. They may have never seen that picture before. A person may comment and state ‘I live there and never knew it.’ Just sharing information and memories is what it’s all about for me.”
Peterson has not really noticed an increase in followers on his page during the Stay-At-Home order since the page always had a strong following, though, “People may be looking at it more often now since they are stuck at home with nothing to do.”
When asked how his page unites the community during this time, Peterson said, “It reminds us of what is important - our family, our past, our memories. The good times. There is so much depressing news out there today, hopefully someone checks out my page and reflects on a childhood memory and it will make them smile.”