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New exhibit examines “Sayre and World War II”
SAYRE - A new exhibit at the Sayre Historical Society looks back at “Sayre and World War II.” The new display, located in the Ken Bracken Rotating Exhibit Room, features 28-panels examining the pivotal event that changed the world more than 75 years ago.
In the photograph, local recruits wait for a troop train while members of the Red Cross stand ready with food and comfort items at the Sayre station in December 1942. The photograph is from the George and “Babe” Tymoski Collection.
Highlights of the exhibit include the legendary Red Cross Canteen where 831,000 men and women of the armed services were provided food and comfort, the troop trains of the Lehigh Valley Railroad that carried local recruits to training and to war, and the local men and women who served their country as part of the “Greatest Generation.”
The museum is open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Wednesdays from 4 to 6 p.m. Admission to the museum is free. The second story exhibit is barrier-free and accessible by elevator.
A 28-page booklet accompanies the exhibit which is scheduled to be on display until September 2022. The exhibit and booklet were funded in part by a grant from the Bradford County Tourism Promotion Agency.
One of the featured veterans is Orlando (Londy) Latini, a 1942 graduate of Sayre High School who grew up on Sayre’s East Side and served three years as a member of 35th Infantry Regiment. During his recruit training, Latini recognized a fellow Valleyite, John Childs.
In an interview conducted later in his life, Latini told museum volunteer Tom Collins about his experiences.
“We were told that we would be given a demonstration of unarmed hand to hand combat,” Latini recalled. “We assembled and a captain got up to address us. I thought, hey, that's John Childs. He would return to the Valley after the war and become a teacher and legendary football, track, and wrestling coach for Athens, Sayre, and Notre Dame high schools. He gave a speech about how you could defend yourself against an enemy even if you didn't have a weapon. One of our officers, a captain I think, got up and said he felt that a man with a rifle, even if he was out of ammunition, had a tremendous advantage over an unarmed man. So Captain Childs said, ‘Ok, let's find out. Attack me with this rifle.’ Our captain tried. In just a few seconds, John flipped the captain over his head and then stood there holding the rifle with our captain flat on his back with the wind knocked out of him. Everybody howled!”
There’s a story about Captain George Hammond, a 1938 graduate of Sayre, who served as a bombardier with the U.S. Army Air Corps on a daring bombing raid over the Ploesti oil fields in Romania. Hammond’s story was recounted by his son, Andrew Hammond, who is a retired captain in the U.S. Navy.
Glenn Sutton, who was a mechanic in civilian life, found himself a prisoner of war for six months after being captured in Germany. The account of his capture and subsequent liberation is told in a powerful story provided by his daughter, Nancy Fassett.
The war-time exploits of Staff Sgt. Francis (Banny) Cain of Sayre are legendary. After escaping from advancing Japanese troops in the Philippines, Cain spent two years as an American guerilla fighter. According to his Feb. 24, 1974 obituary, “Mr. Cain’s service story during World War II became world-known after the war ended.”
On the home front, employees of the Belle Knitting Corporation were recognized for their “Excellence” in the production of war materials ((Navy shirts and parachutes) in a special ceremony held on September 2, 1942. An estimated 2,000 people attended the ceremony in which a large banner and plaque was presented to the company for their efforts. A letter to the company noted their extraordinary efforts.
“The patriotism that you and your employees have shown by your remarkable production record is helping our country along the road to victory,” stated the letter.
A list of “Men in Service” includes the names of over 50 Belle Knitting employees who served in the war.
A rare 1948 photograph included in the exhibit shows members of the Ukrainian Catholic War Veterans Post 773. The picture was taken on the day of a “Blessing of the Colors” banquet sponsored by the Ball-Skerpon Post in Sayre.
The historical society is a non-profit historic preservation organization located in the Lehigh Valley Railroad passenger station. The museum is supported by members and receives funding from the Bradford County United Way and the Bradford County Tourism Promotion Agency.
Looking Back: Sayre and World War II - New Booklet
In 1939, President Franklin Roosevelt declared that the United States would remain neutral in response to the rise of Nazi German and Adolph Hitler. However, the rise of nationalism around the world including Germany, Italy and the Soviet Union, thrust the U.S. into the struggle with allies England and France. The attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 caused the U.S. to declare war on Japan. Incredible sacrifices, on the battlefield, in factories and at homes, helped turn the tide.
The World War II experiences of people from Sayre and the Penn-York Valley could fill an entire book. Included in this booklet are photographs, stories and inspiring lessons that are part of the huge story of Sayre and World War II.
New booklet focuses on historic “railroad corridor”
A new publication from the Sayre Historical Society titled “Route 220: The Railfan Road in Bradford County” focuses on the fascinating railroad history along Route 220 in Bradford County. The historic corridor includes interesting accounts of the canal and railroad as well as coal mining and lumbering. The booklet was inspired by an October 2019 cover story in Trains magazine by Oren Hoelbok that followed the historic highway through five states and over 680 miles.
CAPTION: The extensive “system shops” of the Lehigh Valley Railroad in Sayre are shown in this photograph from the new publication “Route 220: The Railfan Road in Bradford County.”
The new 28-page booklet was printed by Clare Printing in Sayre and funded by a grant from the Bradford County Tourism Promotion Agency.
“The booklet is intended to serve as a tour of Route 220 in Bradford County with notes and images of the railroad history along the way,” states the publication. “The tour starts at the beginning of Route 220 in Waverly, NY and travels south through South Waverly, Sayre, Athens, Milan, Ulster, N. Towanda, Monroeton and New Albany. Approximate miles points on Route 220 are included.”
More than 25 historic photographs (several in color) and two maps are included in the booklet.
The historical account also includes a list of books and resources used in the publication. These include Robert Archer’s A History of the Lehigh Valley Railroad, Staley Clarke’s “The Romance of Old Barclay,” and Richard Palmer’s “The Coming of the Railroad to Sayre,” among others.
Side tours in the publication include the remote coal mining settlement of Barclay Mountain and the “railroad that never was” called the Pittsburgh, Binghamton & Eastern Railroad. A brief mention of Dushore, also along Route 220 just over the county line in Sullivan County, includes an 1896 photograph of the railroad trestle that ran through town.
The section on Sayre includes mention of railroad founder Asa Packer and his son, Robert, as well as the Southern Central Junction and the “new” railroad shops which opened in 1904.
“All major car and locomotive work was centralized on 70 acres in the Susquehanna Valley (in Sayre), and the scattered smaller shops phased out or reduced to minor repair work,” stated Herbert Harwood, Jr. in an article from the April 1972 issue of the Railway and Locomotive Historical Society Bulletin. “Sayre itself was central – slightly half the way from Jersey City to Buffalo – and was within easy reach of both the coal country and the widespread New York state lines. Sayre was subsequently publicized as the country’s third largest railroad shop and, for the first 22 years of its life, built new locomotives as well as handling normal heavy repairs and rebuilding.”
The member-supported historical society is funded by the Bradford County United Way and the Bradford County Tourism Promotion Agency.
New Exhibits at the Sayre Historical Society
The featured exhibit in the Ken Bracken Rotating Exhibit Room is “Downtown: A History of Sayre’s Business Community” featuring rare images of many of Sayre’s commercial ventures. Among the business establishments recalled are Bolich Hardware, Vail Brothers Café and Restaurant, Union Cigar Store, Teed’s Grocery, Star Theater, Glaser’s Drug Store, Seven Sisters Sweet Shop, Hicks & Collins, W.T. Grants, Lambert Chocolatier, and Albro House, among others. The “Downtown” exhibit is being held over from 2020 due to the closure of the museum last year for Covid. A new exhibit on World War II and Sayre is being planned for the fall.
In the Henry Farley Community Room, an exhibit of paintings and art work by Robert and Gertrude Gauss is on display. Among the original works being shown are a painting of Rev. Albert Greene (former pastor of the Church of the Redeemer) and a pencil drawing of the Sheshequin Church along with a photograph of the Howard Elmer Park bandstand and a sketch of Harry Harford (the “rag, paper, rags” man) on his horse drawn wagon going through downtown Sayre.
In the museum’s model train room, a display of O-scale model trains featuring the famous John Wilkes steam locomotive and cars is currently on display. The impressive collection features the 4-6-2 John Wilkes locomotive and tender, a complete Lehigh Valley coach set (two coach cars, a combination car, baggage car and observation car) an LV map car, along with a separate set of LVRR passenger cars (three passenger cars, a combination car and a Railway Express car). The model train collection was donated to the museum by Richard Poletto of Sayre.
Church of the Redeemer Cub Scout Pack 4019 Sayre
Church of the Redeemer Cub Scout Pack 4019 Sayre, PA recently planted flowers around the sign at the Sayre Historical Society Museum on South Lehigh Avenue. Pictured from left to right: Brandon March, Thomas Dickson, Sam Bailey, Aaron Dickson, Rylynn Chilson, Kim Dickson, Clarkson March, Jamisen Root and Mason Myers.
Spring Quarterly features J.N. Weaver family history
SAYRE – The Spring issue of the Sayre Historical Society Quarterly features a cover story on the family of railroad master mechanic James N. Weaver. Included in the family history provided by Andrew Hammond is a story of legendary “Diamond Jim” Brady and his visit to Sayre.
CAPTION: James N. Weaver and family are pictured in this photograph from 1887. Weaver was a master mechanic for the railroad and Sayre’s first burgess. The photograph is from the Andrew T. Hammond Collection.
“Diamond Jim Brady paid a call on Chief Engineer Weaver one day in 1891 to look at railroad locomotives that Mr. Weaver made for the Lehigh Valley Railroad in Sayre,” according to Hammond’s account. “With James Weaver in his shop that day was his 8-year-old daughter Nellie. Diamond Jim liked her, and, as a gift, gave her a diamond pin and a gold bead necklace.”
According to Hammond the necklace remains in the Hammond family (James N. Weaver to Earl D. Hammond to George E. Hammond to Andrew T. Hammond) and is worn by a member of the family on their wedding day.
Other stories in the issue include an account on the construction of the Sayre tennis courts dating from the 1930’s, the demolition of the “landmark” Railway Express Office in 1975 and an interview with Jim Lathrop, former engineer for the Lehigh Valley Railroad. The center picture of the issue has the 1959 Sayre High School baseball team from the Francis Hunt Collection. A story provided by Jim Nobles recounts the memory of Mrs. Katherine Goodall and the so-called “Foundry Row” of houses on the 600 and 700 block of N. Lehigh Avenue. The account is illustrated by Dana Twigg.
In the cover story, Hammond recounts the interesting life of Weaver, who served as Sayre’s first burgess (or mayor).
“James served in the Union Army during the Civil War and fought Confederate forces in Virginia as a member of the 129th Regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteers,” said Hammond. “James ran away from home at the age of 14, enlisting as a drummer boy and rose through the ranks, fighting for the duration of the war, albeit he was taken prisoner at Kelly’s Ford, Fredericksburg, Virginia at age 18, imprisoned at the infamous Libby Prison, and later released at City Point, Virginia.”
Weaver was master mechanic in the original railroad shops in the 1880’s and was Sayre’s first burgess as well as the first postmaster, according to Hammond.
Included with the story are pictures of the Weaver family in 1897 and a wedding photograph of Nellie Weaver Hammond from 1908.
The story on the tennis courts recounts the efforts of Sayre businessman Sydney Glaser to establish courts at the new Sayre High School. Funds were raised from subscribers including the Sayre Lions Club, the Evening Times newspaper, the First National Bank and the Sayre Land Company. Additional funds were raised by a dance and the sale of membership tickets. A letter from Harry C. Child thanked Glaser for his efforts and asked that the membership be transferred to his teenage daughter.
“I am returning my ticket with the request that you make it out to Catherine Child, 16, in my place, as I am a little careful about taking very violent exercise,” the letter stated.
The article said the site of the football field at the high school was formerly referred to as Mason’s Pond and the tennis courts were built on a site once known as “Frog Hollow.”
The Railway Express office had been a landmark in Sayre for many years, according to the article. Located on S. Lehigh Avenue just south of the Packer Avenue Bridge, it housed the Railway Express Agency for many years after being first constructed as the railroad’s first freight station.
The article includes two photographs taken by railroad historian Chuck Yungkurth, a mechanical engineer whose scale drawings were used by “historians, model manufacturers, model builders and publishers,” according to his 2016 obituary.
Another noted historian, Herbert Trice of Auburn, interviewed Sayre’s Jim Lathrop in 1982. The interview was provided by Richard Palmer of Syracuse.
“Jim Lathrop came to the house in the evening and we spent some time discussing his days on the railroad,” according to Trice. “At that moment, I was researching the milk business. Since the milk trains were discontinued in 1948 and Jim went on the LV in 1937, his experience covered only its latter days and its more modern aspects, i.e. the use of tank cars. However he did remember the business of handling milk cans due to his early exposure to the railroad, and gave the best account of it I have heard so far.”
The issue concludes with a photograph from the Willard Keeler Collection of six men who retired from the Lehigh Valley Railroad in 1956, a timetable for the Pennsylvania & New York Canal and Railroad Company from 1868 and a photograph by the late Robert Gauss of the bandstand in Howard Elmer Park in Sayre.
The Quarterly is a membership benefit and is delivered through the mail four times a year. The current issue and past issues of the Quarterly are available by contacting the museum at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 570-882-8221.
Gauss paintings featured in Winter Quarterly
SAYRE - The donation of art work by the late Gertrude and Robert Gauss of Sayre to the Sayre Historical Society is the featured subject of the Winter issue of the Quarterly history magazine. A variety of stories, including a look back at the 1918 Spanish Flu Epidemic, the first run of the John Wilkes express train in 1939 and Valley Record founder Joseph Murrelle, are included in the latest issue of the Quarterly.
CAPTION: A painting by Gertrude Gauss of the Rev. Albert Greene, former pastor of the Redeemer Episcopal Church, is among several paintings recently donated by the Gauss family to the Sayre Historical Society. A story on Mrs. Gauss and her husband, Robert, is the subject of a cover story in the Quarterly history magazine.
The local history magazine is mailed to all members as part of their membership benefits four times a year. Individual copies are available by calling the museum at (570) 882-8221 or by email at email@example.com.
Rev. Albert Greene was rector of the Redeemer Episcopal Church in Sayre for 23 years. He was one of the officiating clergymen at the funeral of Dr. Donald Guthrie. A winter scene showing a snow-covered barn and creek done by the late Mrs. Gauss is also included in the article. Mr. Gauss, who passed away in 2005, was also an accomplished artist. One of his paintings titled “Clowns” is reproduced in the Quarterly.
According to the June 2, 1954 Sayre Evening Times, the Sayre couple had collaborated on their art work for several years.
“Mrs. Gauss started first, having had both a mother and grandmother with artistic bents, and an oil set of her own when only eight or nine years old,” stated the article. “Mr. Gauss began with pencil sketching and was gradually drawn into painting with oils about three years ago.”
An exhibit of selected paintings by Mr. and Mrs. Gauss is planned for the spring of 2021 in the museum.
Another article in the Winter Quarterly was done in 1995 by the late Beryl Cleary, former staff nurse and nursing instructor at the Robert Packer Hospital. She outlines the history of the infamous Spanish Flu Epidemic which came in three waves over a period of twelve month in 1918-19.
“The State Health Department warned that should the disease became unduly prevalent in the community all places where person congregate in numbers should be closed,” stated Mrs. Cleary. “The Towanda Board of Health closed all public places of amusement, all churches, public and private schools, and Sunday schools. Also closed were theaters, picture shows, saloons, pool rooms and dance hall until further notice. Sayre did the same.”
On Sunday, May 28, 1939, the newly christened John Wilkes Express Train, streamlined in the Sayre Shops with all the latest in travel comforts, was opened for inspection in Sayre.
“Through the eight remodeled cars, sparkling with the latest in decorating ideas from thistle paint to air conditioning, a steady stream of Valley residents filed, and a platform had been constructed so those who wished could get a close-up view of the engineer’s cab in the snub-nosed locomotive that rivals the most modern streamlined engines on the rails today,” stated the May 29, 1939 Sayre Evening Times. Two photographs of the historic occasion from the Joseph Mullen Collection are included with the article.
Another of the articles looks back at the life of a Sayre man who served as Bradford County treasurer in the 1930’s and was a veteran newspaper man for many years. Joseph H. Murrelle was born in Georgia but moved to Pennsylvania when he was 11. He was founder of the Valley Record newspaper which was published between 1905 and 1907. The Murrelle family had previously donated several bound volumes of the newspaper to the Sayre Historical Society and the museum association, under volunteer James Nobles, is in the process of digitizing the volumes to share with the public.
The final story details efforts in the early 1900’s to drain two ponds in Sayre outlined in a letter from Valley surveyor Nathaniel F. Walker. In the 1904 letter to William T. Goodnow, president of the Sayre Land Company, Walker explains how the ponds might be drained. Two historic photographs in the Quarterly show views of the “Packer Pond.”
The Sayre Historical Society is a non-profit historic preservation organization staffed entirely by volunteers. The membership-supported organization receives funding from the United Way of Bradford County and the Bradford County Tourism Promotion Agency.
Sayre museum announces 2021 event schedule
SAYRE – The Sayre Historical Society has a full season of activities planned for 2021 including two new rotating exhibits and the return of several popular events.
CAPTION: A rotating exhibit on businesses in Sayre, including Stein’s Men’s Store on Desmond Street shown above in 1965, will be featured in 2021 at the Sayre Historical Society. Pictured from left are: Fred Baglini, Sam Stein and Bernard Pietro. (Ruth Schwartz collection)
The museum will re-open for the new season on Saturday, May 1st with a display in the Rotating Exhibit Room on “Downtown: A History of Sayre’s Business Community.” The exhibit will feature an overview of some of the many businesses that have called Sayre home including Jump’s Pharmacy, Bolich Hardware, Paluzzi’s Toggery, the Market Basket and the Victorian Dandy Mini-Mart. The exhibit will run until September.
On Saturday, August 7th, the museum will welcome back Antique Appraisal Day along with Trunk Auction. Last year’s inaugural effort was well-received with Barbara Kotasek of the Owego Emporium providing unofficial appraisals and tips on preserving antiques.
In June, the museum will host Railroad Heritage Day on June 26th. A guest speaker and special exhibits will be featured at this event.
History Under the Stars will return in September with a new date scheduled for September 11th and an evening of entertainment being planned.
In October, the historical society will host the second History Trivia Event on Sunday, October 10th.
Model Train Day returns on Saturday, November 27th. This popular event centering on model trains this past year featured a Lionel train exhibit, railroadiana vendors and a special display.
The museum will close for the 2021 season on Wednesday, December 23.
The Sayre Historical Society is a member-supported non-profit supported entirely by volunteers. It receives funding from the Bradford County United Way and the Bradford County Tourism Promotion Agency.
Volunteer opportunities are available ranging from event preparation, groundskeeping, tours, research and collections. Contact the museum at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Early Recollections of the Church of the Redeemer
Volume 1, Number 1
By Louise Bishop Kennedy
When I first went to Sunday School, we did not have a beautiful church building like this, but we did have a lovely little frame chapel which stood where the Town Hall is now located. Mr. Robert Packer, the superintendent of the Lehigh Valley Railroad, was the founder of Sayre, and built his fine home, now known as the old part of the hospital. The next thing he built was the chapel, which though small was complete, and fitted with a suitable altar, lectern, font, etc. There were not many families in Sayre in those early days, so it was large enough for all, and as it was the only place of worship for a number of years, people of different denominations attended service.
The first organist was Mrs. Holly Thomas, whose fine old farm house was on the east side of the track. Mrs. Packer and my mother sand in the choir and Mrs. Percy Lang was one of the quartette. I don’t remember the fourth member.
Now I want to tell you about some of the good times we used to have in Sunday School. Mr. Packer was a devoted churchman, and he was also very fond of children and at Christmas time always planned a treat for the children. For two weeks before Christmas, we children would go to the chapel after school and rehearse the Christmas carols. Our rector then, Mr. Morrow, was a fine musician, as is our present rector, Mr. Walter, so were well drilled on the carols.
During the evenings of those weeks before Christmas, my father and mother, and other older people of the congregation gathered together to wind evergreens to decorate the chapel. Mr. Packer would have loads of ground pine and other evergreens sent to work on, and we children thought it great fun to help by bunching the evergreens and handing to them, and playing around during the evenings. Then on Christmas Eve there was always the big tree beautifully decorated and every child was given a bag of candy, an orange and a gift.
One year, I remember, the Christmas Eve celebration was different. It was in 1881 and the present railroad station had just been completed, so that year the tree was set up on the second floor of the new depot. We gathered at the chapel and marched to the depot and upstairs there was the tree twinkling with candles and gifts. We sang carols and had our service, and then a good play time.
It was not only at Christmas that Mr. Packer thought of the children. For the Fourth of July, he would order a big supply of fireworks, and children and their parents would be invited to gather on the sloping lawn in front of the Packer residence, now the hospital. Then two or three of them, of whom my father was always one, would set off the rockets, red lights, etc.
After a number of years, the congregation grew, with the growth of the town. The building became crowded and they enlarged the chapel by cutting it in two in the middle – moving back the part with the latter and then building a new part in the center.
Another thought that comes to me was about the bell. After the chapel was enlarged, it was decided that we must have a bell for the belfry of the chapel. So the Sunday School children all helped earn money to buy one. I was treasurer of the fund, and was so happy when at last we had enough to buy the bell, and the money was handed over to the church treasurer. Bishop Howe was our dear old Bishop at that time, and for a few years he came for confirmation service, but he became too feeble to travel and had an assistant, Bishop Rulison, who confirmed me. To honor Bishop Howe, a tree was planted in the park, and I hope some time it will be marked so all may know for whom it was planted.
Later, Rev. Dr. Leighton Coleman, and his wife, who was a DuPont of Wilmington, Del., came to Sayre at the request of Mrs. Cummings, formerly Miss Mary Packer, to erect a more suitable church building. Dr. Coleman took a great part in civic affairs, as well as creating great interest in the church. He was elected a school director and offered prizes for excellence in certain subjects. He at once began the work the work of getting the new church building started and consulted with architects and Mrs. Cummings, and was here when the cornerstone was laid. He was then called to the Bishopric of Delaware and had to leave at once. So the Rev. Mr. Carr was called to our parish, and was rector just 50 years ago when the church was consecrated, but Bishop Coleman came back to preach the sermon. My mother played the organ part of the time in the chapel, and was organist when we moved to the new church. Later I was organist for six years. After we moved to the new church, the chapel was used as a parish house, and many entertainments, plays, etc. were given there.
When the services were first held in the little chapel, there were few houses as yet in Sayre. There were fields all around. The Heister Piollet house was one of the first and it was here that Bishop Coleman lived while in Sayre. The park was planned but not laid out; it was nothing but a field and there were paths around it. From my father’s house on the corner of Park Place, there were no buildings in view in the direction of the church until one reached the Hayden property, except the small shanties located where the superintendent of shops now resides. The men who occupied these small houses worked in the brick yard which was located on what is now the far end of the Coleman Memorial Field.