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The Lee Park Honor Roll

By M Davies   /     May 29, 2017  /     Family, Hobby-ish, Into the Void  /     2 Comments

Some of my favorite memories from childhood go back to spending time with my Grandparents. Whether it was taking walks, shopping trips or simply spending time together, we always seemed to have a good time. At least early on in my childhood, my Grandparents would usually have us over for Memorial Day for a sleepover and somewhat of a cookout. This was probably about 20 years ago, so I don’t remember all of the details clearly, but I do remember very vividly that my Grandfather would walk us down to the end of their road to watch an annual ceremony that would take place each “Decoration Day” at the site of a memorial wall. After the ceremony ended, there was normally a short parade. Later in the morning, my cousins always found it a trip to look for the spent bullet shells in the gun salute that happened during the earlier ceremony.

To give you a little background, Memorial Day was initially called “Decoration Day” because it is customary to decorate a soldier’s grave with flowers – dating back to ancient times. I won’t get too preachy about the background of the holiday, but there is a lot of good information about it on the Wikipedia page with sources cited. One thing that seems to be a pet peeve among my media friends is the confusion between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. To clear it up, Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving, while Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans. I think it’s always a good idea to honor the memories who served or died for our freedoms regardless of the day of the year, but especially on those two days. I’m going to write a bit about the memorial wall where we would observe the annual ceremony each year with my grandfather. His name, as well of a few of his brothers appear on the wall and I always wanted to know more about it. Thanks to newspapers.com, I found a WEALTH of information. I definitely recommend getting a subscription if you are trying to research any genealogy or history topics. You won’t be disappointed.

Here’s a look at the “wall” which is called The Lee Park Honor Roll on a bright day in 2012:

There are a few other memorials setup on the site.

The area where the memorial sits is in Hanover Township on Lee Park Avenue. It is directly next to the old Lee Park Hose Company #4 (which will eventually close, if it hasn’t already, when the fire stations consolidate into their new building on the Sans Souci Parkway), it is across the street from Grace Assembly International Church and the Lee Park Elementary building, and caddy corner in either direction from the Lee Park Towers (High Rise) and Regina Street. It overlooks a recreational park below. The land that the memorial and the park sit on used to be owned by the Glen Alden Coal Company and bordered land owned by the Jersey Central Railroad. Allegedly, this area was named “American Legion Park” after the Lee Park American Legion Post 609-320, according to old newspapers, but I cannot find any other source to back this up as Hanover Township removed the section of their website regarding the area parks. If you happen to know the details, shoot me an email or leave me a message in the comments and I will add it in.

The memorial movement was just starting to gain traction in early 1943 as a committee was formed and meetings were held to raise funds for the granite statue. Women were urged to take an active role in the fundraising and many of them went door to door collecting goods and monetary donations.

By April 1943, the funds raised by the community exceeded 1,000 dollars. 1k doesn’t seem like it would go far these days, but of course this prior to a buttload of inflation that happened over the years. A quick check of the US Inflation Calculator shows that 1k would equal roughly $14,000 now. If you consider that most of the people in this community were the working poor — housewives and general laborers (most coal miners) that is pretty impressive.

Lists were posted in local businesses to collect the names of men and women who served in the various ranks of the military. Initially, around 500 names of men and women who served were collected in the districts that represent “Lee Park Proper.” After later meetings of the committees, it was agreed that the Marion Terrace, Carey Terrace and Inman Park sections of Hanover Twp. would also be included. You could just guess that there was going to be some hurt feelings and controversy over people who may have been left off the memorial. The committee agreed to make it right, but not until 1944 as noted below.

Reverse the clock to 1943 for a moment. A ground breaking celebration was held in July followed by a 10 day Bazaar to raise funds for the sandblasting of names to go on the granite memorial.

As a comparison, here’s the same angle the above photo was taken, present day (albeit slightly further back from the original spot…I wanted to get the entire church and school in the shot)…

The plan was to have the wall unveiling ceremony/dedication in time for Labor Day, but the Lee Park Honor Roll Association ran into some snags with the vendors providing the granite. The initial company that the Association entered into a contract with – Summit Hill Marble and Granite Company – wasn’t the one that they ended up going with in the end (July 1943).  Summit Hill grossly under-estimated their price quote and withdrew the bid. Later in July, the Association took bids from another organizations and decided upon the Green Valley Marble Company located in Vermont.

While having a vendor back out was controversial enough, It turns out the the Green Valley Marble Company had some issues of their own. The dedication ceremony of the wall was pushed back yet again due to issues with cutting the granite to the specification provided by the Association. The article below was posted to a local paper in November of 1943.

 

FINALLY at long last, on December 12, 1943, the wall was dedicated at approximately 1:30 in the afternoon. There was a parade around Lee Park comprised of 5 divisions before heading back over to the park for the dedication service. The local school’s band and chorus played music and sang before the wall was dedicated. Initially 500 names were placed on the wall, but there were room for an additional 200 or so to be sandblasted on after the fact.

If you compare the above photo to the one I originally posted of the wall, you’ll notice that it is missing a few sections. They were added after the fact. My grandfather’s name appears in one of the add-on sections (spelled wrong, because of course)…”Russel Hrevnack.” The truth is that my Grandfather’s family came to America speaking no English, so whoever was taking their paper work at the port they came in on or the census workers probably had NO IDEA how to spell it properly, nor did my ancestors know how to communicate with them to spell it correctly.

My Grandfather’s two brothers appeared in the original sections of the wall – John and Peter.

As of 2001, there are now over 850 names on the wall. If you look closely at some of the names on the wall, you may notice a star or an O before their name. The O signifies that they were a prisoner of war, the star indicates that they were killed in the line of duty. Here are a few of the panels of the wall showing examples of each. Source

One particularly interesting story, is that of Margaret A. Nash. I specifically came to the wall this afternoon looking for her name because I believed she was the only woman on the wall that was held as a prisoner of war – I was right. There are very few names of women on the wall, but she’s the only POW that I was able to see. I’ve visited this wall probably a zillion times and I never knew or noticed the markers before the name. Of course when I found this little nugget, I was down another Google wormhole and researched all about Margaret A. Nash. Without getting too far off topic, Margaret was a Navy nurse. She was captured and held as a prisoner of war by the Japanese during World War II, she neglected her own health to nurse hundreds of her fellow prisoners suffering from disease and near-starvation in the Philippine Islands. She was still struggling to survive when the camp was finally liberated by US forces three years later. This woman came from your backyard NEPA…how truly incredible.

Below is a quick article snippet from when she was well enough to come back home in 1945. Margaret has since passed away, but not before moving to California and teaching an entire new generation of nurses at the University of California in Berkley.

After the wall was built, the Lee Park Honor Roll Association continued to raise funds through community picnics, bingos, dances, and other events to build the park and pavilion that exists between the Hose Company and the Lee Park Towers. I know they eventually turned their attention to creating recreational parks in other areas of Hanover Township. It continued to remain a civic minded organization throughout the years.

So what now?

Well the last time I visited the wall, It wasn’t in the best of shape landscaping-wise, but to be fair, it was a fall day when most lawn care equipment has been packed up and stored for the season in preparation of the cold weather.

As I mentioned earlier, the Lee Park Honor Roll Association still seems to exist and may be headed up by members of the Lee Park Hose Company or the American Legion. The caretakers are probably getting up there in age – and the younger folks will likely be moving away when the Fire Departments consolidate. Some of the things in the memorial park have been removed, such as a memorial bench. I am unable to find any reasons why this may have happened, but can only imagine that it was because of decay and age. I know that the wall has been hit by graffiti vandals at least once, but I’m sure it’s probably happened more than just that one occasion and that hurts my heart. Why would you destroy a piece of history?

The parades and memorial services that would be held at the site (the ones that I remembered from my childhood) no longer happen. I do know there are neighboring communities (such as Ashley for example) that observe the holiday. Still in all, I wish that even if for just one more time, the site could be honored in some kind of way because it is truly special and the history behind it is fascinating. Maybe I will send this blog post along to some local community leaders to see what can be done, but I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes. Just based on the Margaret Nash story, I believe it should be fair came for a PA historical marker, but I’m not sure what the application process would be for something like that.

At any rate, whatever your plans are today, take the time to remember the men and women that sacrificed so much for your freedoms.

Have a safe and healthy Memorial Day weekend.

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Rigby on the Swarm

By M Davies   /     Jan 26, 2015  /     Family  /     4 Comments

It’s been over a year since my dog Trumpy and the neighbor’s horse was put down and I’m still not right about it.  I’m not sure that losing a pet is something you ever completely get over.

 

I really don’t know how this conversation started, but my husband started looking into new pets over the late summer…mainly cats.  We talked about Bengal cats before in passing, mainly because my friend/pen pal Jacqui has two rescue Bengals.  I talked about the funny antics they get into and their intelligence level (a.k.a. basically Gabby in feline form).  I guess at some point, this sold my husband and he began researching them and looking into breeders.  Really, I’m not sure how this whole process got started.  I just know, one day we had no pets in the house (besides a guppy fish tank) and the next we had put down a payment at a breeder for a cat.

 

My daughter always wanted a cat.  I secretly always wanted a cat too, however, I am HIGHLY allergic to cats to the point that my throat closes when I’m around them.  For this reason, cats were never a pet I seriously considered.  I don’t want to die, thankyouverymuch.  I was also extremely worried about my son who has been plagued with breathing and skin issues since he was 6 months old.

 

Well first of all, and this is all based completely on my Internet research*, there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic cat.  They all have saliva and they all have dander.  Dander and saliva are the two biggest things that humans can develop an allergy to.  And no, I’m not sitting here and spending 8 bazillionty hours researching why.  You have Google.  Use it.  I’m not a cat scientist or veterinarian.  At any rate, after spending several weeks with this cat, we haven’t had any MAJOR medical reactions to him.**

 

At his first vet appointment, the front office spelled our cat’s name as “Rugby”.  STOP THE PRESSES.  He’s a Davies!  The cat’s name is actually “Rigby” based on the Regular Show character, but based on the track record of misspellings with our names, this makes him fit right in.

 

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(Rigby, Regular Show)

 

Many people spell my name with one L.  Wrong.  It’s always been two.  Many people call Gabrielle “GABRIEL” or “Gabriella”.  Also wrong.  All of us have been called “DAVIS” at one point or another.  Again.  Wrong.  It’s Davies.  There’s an E in there, please don’t ignore it.

 

Alright, I’ll shut up and show you the thing the Internet was truly invented for….CAT PICTURES.***

 

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(Five seconds before I snapped this photo he was dive bombing my slipper)

 

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(He’s on the hunt for my foot, however, I’m a terrible cat mom…I gave him a plastic bag to play with)

 

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(The damn thing only likes sleeping on my desk)

 

You can find more obnoxious cat photos and videos on my Instagram, Youtube and Flickr.  See you there!  If you want to learn more about Bengal cats and their bratty behavior, check out Bengals Illustrated.

 

 

*Alert:  Take this with a grain of salt.

**I’ve broken out in hives and have swollen up after he’s scratched me.

***With apologies to Al Gore and Mike Burnside.

 

 

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Cruel Summer

By M Davies   /     Aug 17, 2013  /     Family, Into the Void  /     3 Comments

To quote Bananarama, it’s been a “Cruel Cruel Summer”.  I’ve been on an an emotional roller coaster since May.  It all started back in May, which may have only been 3 months ago, but feels like it was 3 years ago.  I was invited to my Aunt’s 85th birthday party.  It was also the weekend of Mother’s Day, when my car’s tire decided to blow up miles from home in Blakeslee.  I went to my Aunt’s birthday party Saturday and then worked on my Mother’s computer and took it back up her house on Sunday.  With the tire blowing up, I ended up having issues getting to work on Monday because I had to get it patched.  It was not a fun time at all.  A few weeks later, the tire got a huge bubble:

 

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This was also the weekend I found out that my car doesn’t have a spare, the emergency road kit provided by Fiat does jackshit for a tire bubble, and the road side assistance package only covers tows to the dealership…which by the way doesn’t deal with tires.  Like at all.  I ended up taking the car to Firestone in Wilkes-Barre and having 4 new tires put on, along with them getting mounted, balanced and whatever other services they managed to con me into at the time.  How did I get a bubble in my tire you ask?  Well, it’s pretty much because Old Rte 115 and Hillside Road were in such disrepair that there’s no way to avoid potholes.  I attempted to call Lehman Township to complain about this, but they told me that these are county roads.  Great.  Basically, good luck talking to anyone at the Courthouse.  I don’t have that type time of to waste.  So I took to a letter writing campaign with my state representative Karen Boback and received this response back:

 

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And within the last two weeks, all of the problem areas were patched/paved in Lehman Twp.  Bitches get stuff done.

 

In June, exactly 1 month to the day after my aunt’s birthday party, she was in hospice and died.  It was very upsetting for me because she was the last living member of that side of the family.  She called me every Christmas to catch up.  I’ve been missing those call in recent years because of work, plus she’d call my home phone which I never monitor.  She was there trying to comfort us when my Grandmother passed away.  The thing that kills me, is that she was found in almost the same way that my Grandmother was.  A relative came over to the house and she was found unresponsive.  It’s no secret that heart/stroke issues happen on that side of the family, but it doesn’t make it any easier to swallow either.  My aunt, who would give you the shirt off of her back, donated her body to science.  Hopefully, new medical students and the science community can use her to help find a cure for heart disease or something like that.  We didn’t have a memorial service for her at first because my cousin was in Afghanistan.  When he returned in July, we had the memorial service.

 

Here are some photos from the birthday party that I will cherish forever:

 

 

Also, on the same day that my aunt died in June, my neighbors had one of their horses put down.

 

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The other horse was taken to a nearby farm.  So…no more horses next door.  It definitely smells better, but it’s upsetting not seeing them every morning.  The neighbors are working on taking down their electric fence and cleaning up the yard.

 

Last week, I visited Allentown to tape an episode of “Save the Kales” a vegan cooking show that airs in the Lehigh Valley on RCN cable.  The host, Jaime Karpovich, was one of the presenters at last year’s NEPA BlogCon, and she will be presenting again this year with Christina Hitchcock of “It’s a Keeper“.  Speaking of NEPA BlogCon, TICKET SALES OPEN IN 3 DAYS.  OMG.  I am going to be infinitely busy for the next 8 weeks doing the conference planning thing.  Please forgive me in advance if you find me in a corner rocking back and forth whispering the names of blogging platforms to myself.

 

Here’s a picture behind the scenes at Save the Kales:

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Also last week, I went to the Raising the Roof Rooftop Party in downtown Wilkes-Barre with Karla and Stewie.  We made the Electric City.

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Also, we had to put my dog down.  He was 13 years old and was having trouble with arthritis and controlling his bladder.  It was upsetting.  I still have a hard time thinking about it without tearing up.  Many people have asked me if there will be a new dog.  I just can’t even think of that right now.  It doesn’t seem right.

 

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Last week, I was given a new responsibility at work of tweeting from the @WNEP twitter account.  It’s been an interesting experience so far.  We had an Amber Alert go out for a girl taken from Schuylkill county.  As information was coming out about the kidnapper, I was tweeting about it and also live tweeting the update when she was found.  I even got to use “BREAKING” in a tweet and have it be about a real thing.  My tweets were retweeted by many and I have no doubt that getting the information to go viral assisted in getting the girl returned safely home.  It’s amazing to see the power of social media in action.

 

Wednesday evening, after working two 10 hour days, I was contacted by a long lost relative.  “The missing link” if you will. My grandfather’s family has always been hard to trace because of the last name being spelled six different ways – so I turned to Facebook – and I found someone that’s spells it Hryvniak and sent them a message for the hell of it. Guess. What. His great-grandfather and my great-grandfather were brothers. Alex and Dmytro have been reunited at long last from beyond the grave! I cannot believe it.  I called John on Thursday night, and we decided that we are cousins based on what his Dad has told him so far.  He’s digging through his house to find more information about the family tree.  I am planning on writing an extended blog post about all of this very soon.  Stay tuned!

 

I’m ready for the summer to be over and for the roller coaster ride to end.  It’s just all been too much to cope with.  Here’s to more peaceful times.

 

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Cabbage Patch Riot: The Original Black Friday

By M Davies   /     Nov 26, 2012  /     Family, NEPA  /     3 Comments

**EDIT** Due to what has happened since I have published this post, I reneg my original stance. Looking back, a cabbage patch kid made me happy as a child, and if anything Elf on the Shelf has taught me that.  I appreciate all that the Mericle family has done to bring happiness to children in NEPA despite/inspite of what happened during KFC. I just want world peace.  Make love not war, children.  My family lived close to Main Hardware in my youth and it was always like visiting Disneyland.  Thank you for making my childhood slightly brighter.

 

Normally, I post an extended Black Friday recap to talk about the shopping experience with my family, but there isn’t much to tell that hasn’t already been said on Twitter.  I figured I’d try something different this year and flashback to a time in the Wyoming Valley’s history when there was a run on a must-have toy….the cabbage patch doll.

 

In 1983, I was a bald-headed 2 year old living in Hanover Township with just my Mom and Dad.  My brother wasn’t born until 1986.  For whatever reason, my Mom decided that a cabbage patch doll was the perfect gift for me to open on Christmas morning.  My mother had mentioned this to my Grandparents and my Grandfather (bless his soul) decided he would be the one to pick up the goods.

 

November 27 of that same year was actually the Sunday after Thanksgiving.  My Grandfather jumped in his car and headed over to the local Zayre’s department store.  If you are not from the area or not familiar, Zayre’s was along the same line as a K-Mart department store.  In the late 1980s, Zayre’s was sold off to the Ames Department store chain which eventually met it’s demise in 2002.

 

 

I would make an educated guess and say that the store most likely opened up at 10 or 11 am in the morning, as that is the normal hours of retail operation around here on Sundays.  When my grandfather arrived the parking lot of Zayre’s (which is now where current day Raymour and Flannigan is in Wilkes-Barre Township) he could not find a parking spot anywhere.  After driving around for several minutes, he eventually found somewhere to pull over.  He walked up to the store and there was a long line of people waiting to get in.  My Grandfather struck up a conversation with the people in front of him.  He didn’t understand what the line was for.  They told him it was for a cabbage patch doll.  My Grandfather then exclaimed that was what he was there for too!

 

After standing in line for a couple of minutes, my Grandfather ventured up to the front of the store to see what was going on.  Someone (an employee?) told him that they were giving out tickets for the dolls and there were only so many that they had – 200 I believe.  With that information in the back of his mind, my Grandfather knew he was not getting a doll.  He went back to the end of the line and decided to tell the people what was going on before he left.  Needless to say, they were EXTREMELY upset.  I don’t know whether or not this caused the riot, but I’m sure it did not help matters.

 

Last week, I started talking to a few co-workers that remembered the riot well.  I told them my story and they started teasing me that my Grandfather started the riot.  Rest assured, that didn’t happen.  My Grandfather is the most laid back, mild mannered person you’d ever meet.  He was only sharing information with people so that they wouldn’t stand in the freezing cold line only to leave empty handed.

 

Here is a video that I found on Ebaumsworld that includes some WNEP footage:

 

 

To sum up what is happening here…A Store Employee stood on a counter swinging a baseball bat to try to regain order of the crowd which included roughly 1000 people.  Eventually, as you can see from the video, he started tossing the dolls into the crowd.  This made national newspapers, magazines, and TV news shows.  If you are wondering, my Grandparents ended up finding me a Cabbage Patch doll elsewhere a few weeks later and no one was hurt in the purchase of the doll.

 

Even though this box says 1985 – I swear this is the doll I received (as disturbing as it looks):

 

 

Did I mention that my head was as bald as this doll’s was until I was about 3 years old?  I’ll have to dig up a picture of that somewhere.

 

Anyway, holding this discussion with my fellow co-workers caused me to be late to class last Monday night.  My teacher/former manager was not pleased with me as we had a test that night.  I started to explain to him why and he recalled what he remembered about the riot, mainly, how the Cabbage Patch dolls supply stayed stocked in the valley.  The Mericles!

 

From the CV:  Robert Mericle capitalized on 1983’s Cabbage Patch Kid craze while studying economics at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. After witnessing a customer free-for-all at a city department store that received a shipment of the sought-after but understocked dolls in November 1983, Mericle ordered 10,000 on credit and sold certificates promising post-Christmas delivery. After the Cabbage Patch coup, he formed a toy-distribution company that he operated through his college years.

Mericle then went into real estate, transforming a crumbling, abandoned shoe factory in Wilkes-Barre into the first local headquarters for student-loan processor Sallie Mae. He found a niche buying lots in the local industrial parks owned by chambers of commerce, building on them and wooing local and national firms to purchase or lease, often using government tax incentives as bait.

 

You may remember Robert Mericle in recent years for his participation in sweetheart deals in the courthouse/kids for cash corruption scandals.  You may also know his parents.  They own Main Hardware on South Main Street in Wilkes-Barre, home of Christmasland.

 

After all of the trouble my family went to for this oh-so-perfect Christmas gift for me, would you believe that I never played with it?  Growing up, I was more of a Tomboy and I didn’t play with dolls.  At all.  No barbies, no cabbage patch, no babies.  The closest I came to playing with dolls was She-Ra, and those were more of action figures than anything else.  My mother at one point questioned if I would ever have kids.  I guess we all know how that turned out.

 

After learning about these riots years later, I couldn’t help but feel guilty that I didn’t play with the doll more knowing how much trouble everyone went though to get it.  Oh well.  I guess it would have been sold at an flea market or the Salvation Army at some point as I grew up.  I hope someone gave the little tyke a good home.

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Blogiversary

By M Davies   /     Jun 26, 2012  /     Family, Into the Void  /     3 Comments

Today is my 7th Blogiversary, controversy not withstanding.  I was nearly dooced halfway through this journey, by my employer at the time (Big Red Telephone Company).  My first post can be found here.  I’ve blogged for much longer than 7 years, but I deleted the content from my first Diaryland journal.  However, I never deleted the journal itself.  I keep it active to redirect previous readers to my new URL.  I’ve owned my own domain for even longer than that.  My first few posts talk about my journey with pregnancy and being a first time mother.  My daughter is now 7 bratty years of age and I have a son who will be 6 next month.

 

I have had 9 different jobs since I started this blog, not including the labor of love I perform on NEPA Blogs as one of the contributors.

 

I’ve had 3 different vehicles since I started this blog.

 

I moved to another house while authoring this blog.

 

This blog and I have been through some serious shit together, and with any luck, we’ll be through more.  I have no intention of stopping any time soon, despite my recent silences.

 

 

You only get one ride on this Merry Go Round of life, make the most of it.

 

Just blog.

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