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Sayre museum hosting annual Caboose Day June 24

SAYRE – All things Lehigh Valley Railroad will take center stage on Saturday, June 24 at Caboose Day featuring railroad historians Mike Bednar and Bruce Tracy. The free event at the Sayre Historical Society will also feature tours of the 1941 Sayre-built caboose and a photographic display of the 1976 Bicentennial Caboose painted in patriotic colors by painters from the Lehigh Valley Railroad shops in Sayre.

CAPTION: Caboose Day will be held at the Sayre Historical Society on Saturday, June 24 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. featuring a unique program by two railroad historians – Mike Bednar and Bruce Tracy – starting at 1 p.m. The image above shows a sketch of the museum’s 1941 Sayre-built caboose created for last year’s event by railroad artist James Mann.

The annual event will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with the history program scheduled for 1 p.m. in the Henry Farley Community Room. The museum, located in the historic Lehigh Valley Railroad passenger station in downtown Sayre, is air-conditioned and handicap-accessible.

A series of prints and notecards of the museum’s caboose No. 95011 created for the event last year by railroad artist James Mann will be available for purchase in the Burkhart Gift Shop. An informative exhibit on a history of Sayre firefighting titled “Answering the Call” is on display in the museum’s Rotating Exhibit Room until September 1. An amazing scale model of Lehigh Valley steam locomotive No. 218 on loan by the Gorman and Koons family of Waverly is also being featured.

The event’s history program will be presented by two prominent railroad historians, each of whom has a unique perspective on the coal hauling railroad called by many “The Route of the Black Diamond.”

Mike Bednar grew up in Hokendauqua, Pa., with the Lehigh Valley Railroad literally in his backyard. In the early 1960’s Mike and his brothers became friends with the flagmen in the Lehigh Valley cabooses that stopped behind his home. It wasn’t long before they were riding with the Cementon drill crew and spending time at the Biery yard office located a short distance from their home.

Mike then hired out with the Lehigh Valley Railroad following high school and ended up working every tower job between South Plainfield, N.J. and Penn Haven Junction.

He then worked as yardmaster at Richards, Florence, Bethlehem and Allentown. After Conrail was formed in 1976 from the merging of several eastern railroads including the LV, Mike worked as a yardmaster, block operator, agent and train dispatcher until 1991. He then hired out as an engineer of a new regional railroad called the Reading & Northern until retiring as an engineer in 2007.

He has written 14 books about railroading in the cement and anthracite regions of Pennsylvania and over 55 articles in Trains & Railroads of the Past (TRP) magazine about his unique experiences in railroading.

Bruce Tracy, who co-authored the book When the Railroads Went to the Beach, said he was strongly influenced by his friend and mentor Herb Trice.

Tracy recently presented a program at the Cornell Railroad Historical Society on the Lehigh Valley observation trains that followed crew races on Cayuga Lake in Ithaca from 1898 to 1935.

Tracy has a collection of rare postcards and photographs as well as memorabilia and information he has uncovered over many years of interest in railroading.

In his friendship with his late mentor, Mr. Trice, Tracy spent time with the Auburn, NY man who wrote numerous articles as well as the book The Gangly Country Cousin about the Lehigh Valley Railroad’s Auburn Division. The book was published by the DeWitt Historical Society in 2004.

“(Herb) had written the text when he was younger but had let other authors use his best photos and had given up on it,” said Tracy. “I was a post card collector and had pictures to illustrate his text in many cases. So I was pleased to help and encourage him.” Mr. Trice passed away in 2013.

The book on Sylvan Beach, which Tracy co-authored with John Taibi, deals with the resort community on Oneida Lake, where the Lehigh Valley Railroad crossed the Ontario & Western Railroad. The book, now out of print and coveted by railroad fans, includes well-produced photographs, maps and track diagrams.

Tracy said his collection of rare railroad postcards and photographs will form the basis of his presentation at the Sayre museum.

The Sayre Historical Society is a non-profit historic preservation organization staffed by volunteers and a recipient of funding from the United Way and the Bradford County Tourism Promotion Agency.

The museum is open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Wednesdays from 5 to 7 p.m.

A genealogy workshop program is scheduled for Saturday, July 22 from 1 to 4 p.m.

Visit the museum website or Facebook for more information.

Late Sayre man worked as a Hollywood make-up artist

SAYRE – Sayre native Charles Blackman made a long journey to Hollywood and along the way met movie stars, presidents and the Rev. Billy Graham.

CAPTION: Hollywood make-up artist Charles Blackman, a Sayre native, and his wife Gloria are the subject of a feature story in the Sayre Historical Society spring Quarterly.

His story, based on a 1993 interview recorded just after he retired, appears in the spring issue of the Sayre Historical Society Quarterly. Blackman passed away on March 7, 2016.

Other items in the Spring Quarterly include a story and photograph of a Fourth of July parade in Sayre featuring a scale model of a Lehigh Valley Railroad steam locomotive, a 1975 photograph of the Robert Packer Hospital, an account of Dr. Donald Guthrie on the occasion of his 30th anniversary in Sayre, and a photograph showing World War I Red Cross volunteers in Sayre.

The Quarterly, published four times a year, is mailed to historical society members as part of their membership benefits. Individual copies are available at Carl’s News Stand in Sayre and the historical society museum located in the former Lehigh Valley Railroad Passenger Station in downtown Sayre. The museum is open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Wednesdays from 5 to 7. A new exhibit titled “Answering the Call: A History of Firefighting in Sayre” opened April 1 and will run until September 6. Admission is free.

The illustrated feature story covers the life of the former Sayre resident who entered a “Draw Me” contest in the local newspaper and moved to California.

“I won the contest so I thought we were going to right to Hollywood but I got there and it was all filled up and I couldn’t possibly start until maybe six months to a year,” Blackman said. He then attended UCLA and following graduation started working as an apprentice under legendary Columbia Pictures make-up Clay Campbell. Blackman’s career as a Hollywood make-up artist covered 50 years.

While he worked on movies with such stars as Clark Gable, Charleton Heston and Marilyn Monroe, Blackman also was introduced to President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Rev. Billy Graham at a golf tournament in Palm Springs. Over the years, Blackman attended annual Crusades that featured over the years ten American presidents.

“It was really something for me and I enjoyed being with Billy because I stayed with him for 25 years,” Blackman said. “Whenever he would go on a Crusade, he’d call and ask me to go. The Crusade probably would run 10 days and he would do maybe three Crusades a year, so no matter what I was doing, I’d always make time.”

Blackman, whose wife Gloria was also a make-up artist, worked on television shows and commercials as well as movies. Photographs included with the story show Blackman with actors James Garner and Charlton Heston. The pictures were provided courtesy of Chris Shaffer of S. Waverly, who is related to Blackman’s wife. Blackman’s father was Fred Blackman, an electrician with the Lehigh Valley Railroad and his mother was the former Helen Shaffer whose four brothers included Charlie, Clarence, Bob and Diddie Shaffer.

The Fourth of July parade story includes a 1908 photograph showing the model steam locomotive numbered 1776. The story, provided courtesy of Richard Palmer of Syracuse, N.Y., said the engine and floats were inspired by shop superintendent A.W. Whitford.

“The miniature engine was the one big hit of the parade,” the article stated. “It was numbered 1776, and was an exact model of the 1552 of J-25 class passenger engines. The engine was connected to the back wheel of the wagon with a belt and for every turn of the wagon the engine drivers revolved twice.”

The Robert Packer Hospital photograph is pictured in the center section of the Quarterly and is from the collection of the late Harry (Bud) Patterson, a former Sayre resident.

Dr. Donald Guthrie is recalled in an article that appeared in the Oct. 2, 1941 issue of the Valley Recorder newspaper.

“A strict adherent to the code of medical ethics, Dr. Guthrie has sometimes been a stumbling block for newspapermen in search of human interest stories,” the article stated. “During his many years that he has headed the Robert Packer Hospital there have been countless cases that could furnish material to give the limelight to any news hawk. But Dr. Guthrie has consistently held that, in most of these cases, the facts should be made to the medical profession and the medical profession only.”

A 1932 four-page program on George Washington staged by Sayre High School students is also reproduced in the Quarterly. The program was donated by James Nobles of Sayre.

The Sayre Canteen photograph, donated by Sarah Harrington of Cranford, N.J., includes Mrs. Harrington’s maternal grandmother, Sarah (Lennon) McMahon and other Red Cross volunteers. Mrs. Harrington also donated a Red Cross uniform worn by her grandmother and a 1919 booklet containing the names of local World War I veterans.

The Sayre Historical Society is a non-profit organization staffed by volunteers and a recipient of United Way funding.

Sayre museum reopening with “Answering the Call!”
The Sayre Historical Society will open for the 2017 season on Saturday, April 1 with a new exhibit on “A History of Firefighting in Sayre” and a stunning restoration of the Sayre Theater’s old marquee.

   The hours are Saturdays from 10 to 4 and Wednesdays from 5 to 7 starting April 1. Admission is free and the museum, located in the historic Lehigh Valley Railroad station in downtown Sayre, is handicap-accessible.

   The newest rotating exhibit, titled “Answering the Call,” focuses on the long history of firefighting in Sayre. A treasury of historic photographs from the collection of the Sayre Fire Department and longtime Sayre historian James Nobles documents the entire history of the department.

   Rare images of the Robert Packer Hose Company, which was organized in 1885, as well as a collection of firemen’s convention ribbons dating back to the late 1800’s are included in the display. Other topics include the E.P. Wilbur Hook & Ladder Company, Milltown’s J. E Wheelock Hose Company, the Howard Elmer Hose Company and the Robert Sayre Hose Company. 

   Historic fires in the borough are also recounted including the 1933 fire at Robert Packer Hospital, the 1948 fire at the Lehigh Valley Railroad’s coaling station and the Bond Jewelry Store fire on Desmond Street in 1957, among others. Signature photographs of Stanley Stark, teenage mascot of the Wilbur Hook & Ladder Company, as well as volunteer “Smokey Joe” Kennedy are also included in the exhibit.

   The exhibit, running from April 1 to September 6, will feature a 28-page illustrated booklet available for sale at the museum in the Burkhart Gift Shop. 
   The newest artifact in the museum, a restored section of the Sayre Theater marquee, will also be premiered on April 1. Painstakingly reconditioned by museum volunteer Chuck DeRose, the section of the marquee, repainted and illuminated by lights, has been relocated to the museum’s lobby. An exhibit on the rich history of the community’s movie theater history will also be on display in the lobby. 
   For more information, visit the museum’s website at or go to the museum’s Facebook page.
   The Sayre Historical Society is a non-profit historic preservation organization staffed by volunteers and funded in part by the Bradford County United Way. The organization also receives funding from the Bradford County Tourism Promotion Agency which helped fund the new exhibit and the marketing efforts of the museum.

PHOTO CAPTION:   A 1916 photograph shows Sayre’s first motorized fire engine known as “Old Huldy.” Individuals from left are: Chief of Police Steve Evans, Council President J.E. Anderson, Burgess John Umpleby, Claude Nicholson (driver), Fred Curtis, Fritz Himmick, Jean Umpleby, William Grogan, Arthur Hickey and Dan Tierney. (Sayre Fire Department Collection)

Answering the Call - April 1 to September 1, 2017