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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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BlogFest Spring 2012 Edition

By M Davies   /     Mar 28, 2012  /     Events, Hobby-ish, NEPA  /     0 Comment

There's only 2 short days left until NEPA BlogFest. 

I've been working behind the scenes once again to help promote the event.  Before I go an further, here are the details in the event you are interested in attending.

NEPA BLOG FEST (Spring 2012 Edition)

Date: Friday, March 30th, 2012
Time: TBD, but usually at 6pm
Location: Rooney's Irish Pub; 67 South Main Street; Pittston, PA 18640. A menu can be found here.

This is a free event open to local bloggers, lurkers and anyone else interested in hanging out with the "cool kiddies" of the local blogosphere.

***You can RSVP to the Facebook Event Page right here.

Why should you attend NEPA Blog Fest?

There was an entire article in this week's edition of the Weekender that explains it better than I'd ever be able to.  Special thanks to Nikki Mascali for taking time out of her busy schedule to interview me and my blogging partners.  You can read the article online right here…or perhaps, go and pick up a print version of the Weekender.  I will autograph it for you 🙂

You can also read our press release about the event right here. 

For me, NEPA Blog Fest has always been about networking with new people and hanging out with old friends.  You get to know your fellow bloggers intimately through the words of their blogs and then meeting them in person gets to put a face behind the name.  I hope that you'll join us on Friday night.

       

    

 

     

 

     

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We now interrupt this blog post, with a blog post

By M Davies   /     Feb 18, 2012  /     Hobby-ish, Wacky PA Weather  /     0 Comment

I haven't blogged in a few weeks, because I have been semi-busy.  I wouldn't say super crazy busy, like last semester, but busy none-the-less.  I am taking 2 classes at night this semester and I've determined that this semester is a "throw-away".  I did a quick calculation of the amount of classes I'll be missing vs. when I'll be present.  Yeahhhhhh….  When you miss 3-4 classes in a 16 week semester, you may as well call it a throw away – that's a whole month if the class meets once a week.

I will get back to the 2011 year in review, I promise, but I just wanted to share with you the amazing sunrise/fog and light from yesterday morning.  I started a new blog called "Sweet Valley Sunrises" where I upload a photo or two during sunrise if the weather cooperates.  This is the extended version of what was posted yesterday over at Sweet Valley Sunrises.  Enjoy!

(Click little picture to get bigger picture)

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The Mentor Becomes the Mentee (or….a tale of Geocaching)

By M Davies   /     Nov 21, 2011  /     Hobby-ish, NEPA, Wacky PA Weather  /     0 Comment

**WARNING, this blog post is highly link intensive, but I promise you won't be disappointed if you follow them**

Back in the day, when I was knee high to a grasshopper and an awkward teenager just trying to fit in….my mentor was already hard at work changing the world around him.  I have to start out this story by giving a little background first, otherwise the story would only be a shell and not make much sense.  Yes.  I have a mentor.  His name is Frank "Mike" Burnside, although I've been known to call him Sparky and Sideburns.  I give everyone I like nicknames….I don't know why.  I just do it.  Consider it a form of endearment.  Anyway….back to the story…

With one question in a staff meeting, the computing world of Northeastern Pennsylvania was forever changed…

"And then I said, “What about the Internet?”

And soon thereafter, epix Internet Services, one of Northeastern PA's first Internet Service Providers was born.  "epix" by the way, was an acronym.  Eastern Pennsylvania Internet eXchange.  In Mike's words: "Yes, I know, you have to spell exchange as “eXchange” to get the nice acronym “EPIX.”  Every company, at least every Internet company, needs an acronym, and what the hell kind of an acronym is “EPIE”?"  You can read the rest of the story of how NEPA's first ISP came to be here.  That is some history right there, folks.

I started working at epix Internet Services in the spring of 2000, Mike retired/resigned from his post shortly thereafter.  At that time, we were ships passing in the night.  A few years later, after finding a "cache" of Agnes photos from both sets of my Grandparents (which can be viewed here), I decided to create www.agnesinnepa.org, a website all about Agnes and its effects on Northeastern PA.  I'll be honest with you, I haven't really done much with the website in quite a few years.  I'm frustrated because I lost a lot of my archived files from the last format the website was in, which was the PHPNuke CMS.  Anyway, I decided that I needed a "project advisor" of sorts to help me oversee this latest endeavor, and who better to tap then someone who had strong ties to the Luzerne County Historical Society.  I sent Mike an email and soon after had a response, he was interested in helping me!  We exchanged several emails back and forth and eventually exchanged IMs.  The "Spark-ster" was awesome.  He had taken a bunch of photos during the Agnes Flood which he allowed me to scan and use on my website.  I still have a copy of them here.  At the time, he was a VP over at WVIA and allowed me to use footage from the documentary "Remembering Agnes" on my website.  I have screen caps of the movie here. If it wasn't for my little website and Mike's help, I would have never met author Lou Orfanella, and had my poetry and ugly mug published in/on one of his books

A few weeks ago, Trish Hartman from WNEP contacted me about my website and was looking for an angle I couldn't give her.  She wanted to interview someone who had lived through Agnes and the September 2011 floods and talk about the differences between the two.  Sadly, I was born at the tail end of of 1980.  I pointed her in the direction of Dr. Anthony Mussari, who had published the book "Appointment with Disaster", which was all about the lessons learned from Agnes.  I actually found a copy of this book on … I think Ebay … and snagged it up.  You can't find it around any more because it was published in 1974.  From what I gather, Trish setup an interview with Dr. Mussari for her piece.  I didn't get to see it because SOMEONE recorded the WBRE news that night instead of the WNEP news on the DVR.  As an aside, Dr. Mussari had a local human interest show on WBRE/WVIA called "Windsor Park Theater".  You can still view some of the archived episodes here.  He's also involved with the Agnes 1972 Anniversary project here.

Many people ask me what my fascination is with the Agnes floods and weather in general is.  I honestly don't know.  I've been a weather channel addict for as long as I can remember.  I would watch it 24×7 whenever I had the opportunity.  You literally had to pry me away from the TV.  My Grandmother had several books from the flood that she flipped through with me.  I was instantly amazed with the books and eventually found copies of both books that she had online…through EBay.  I have several books and a record from WILK about the flood and the river.  My stupid crappy website was actually mentioned in one of the books, if you can believe that.  [EDIT:  After making approximately 25 trips up and down the steps this evening to my bookshelves, I found the name of this book…it's called  "A Story Runs Through It; Wyoming Valley Levee System".  The Agnes In NEPA reference appears on page 6 in a foreward written by F. Charles Petrillo.]

Wow.  I didn't mean to really go that far off track with this blog post.  I really wanted to discuss Geocaching and how I accidentally introduced Mike to it.  I wish there was a more prolific story behind this.  "Mike, you introduced me to the Internet….now allow me to introduce you to geocaching….", but it didn't happen like that.  It was probably more like "Hey, check this out" as I spammed half of my AIM buddy list with the URL to the website.  Mike read up on it heavily and went to purchase a GPS.  Rich & I already owned a GPS and could easily go anytime we wanted.  What is Geocaching?  Well, the concept behind Geocaching is pretty simple, really.  Its basically an outdoor scavenger hunt in which you use a GPS to encode clues and hide and seek out containers called "caches" or "geocaches".  The cache is usually in a waterproof container, which contains a log book, and toys or other chotchkies.  You sign the logbook, take an item out of the cache and leave one behind.  Another thing I loved about it was the "cache in, trash out" concept.  Basically, as you look for the Geocache, you bring a garbage bag with you to collect any trash that may have accumulated in the wooded area that it is hidden.  Did I ever mention I was an environmental club nerd?  I highly recommend this as a hobby for anyone who is an outdoor enthusiast. 

What made me start to think about writing a blog post about this topic was actually Cheri Sundra's blog post about the Kirby Zoo ruins.  There's actually is (was???) a Geocache hidden there that I wanted to find.  After the flooding in September, I'm not sure that it would still be hidden…it may have been swept away as that area would have been completely inundated with water.  I've tried to seek out only 3 other caches.  I know….call me a slacker if you must.  One was located at the Tubs recreational area along 115.  That one was like trying to find a needle in a haystack.  I think Mike may have located it though.  Also, I've located a Geocache on Public Square with Mike and another in Francis Slocum park with Mike & Rich.  Here's a picture of us after finding it…

This was taken in my blonde hair days, ick poo.

There are two cemeteries that are located pretty close to my house that have Geocaches hidden.  I would love to take some time and try to find them.  One of these days when work and school aren't in the way, I'll try my hand at them.  I know Mike has already found the one in the Bronson cemetery….as a matter of fact, I think Mike has pretty much found every Geocache in this entire valley.  I think he's Geocache obsessed, and its all thanks to me.  I also introduced him to the Tubs and took part in a covert exchange (I still cannot remember the details around this, but I do still have the "IT" magic 8 ball that he gave to me that day). 

Switching gears back to meteorology for the moment….tomorrow I'm attending a SKYWARN Severe Weather Spotter training class somewhere in Lackawanna county.  I'm very excited about this.  I'm all geeked up and ready to go.  I really believe that I was not meant to sit at a cubicle troubleshooting stupid Microsoft Windows crap all day long.  I think that my calling was to become one in tune with the earth sciences…meteorology specifically, I hope its not too late and I haven't missed it. 

I wonder what good ole Sparky would have to say about it?

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It’s my thing.

By M Davies   /     Nov 20, 2011  /     Hobby-ish  /     4 Comments

I'm normally up at the ass-crack of dawn every morning, whether I want to be or not. I get up around 5:30 during the week and my internal clock does not allow me to sleep in on weekends.  In the chaos of the morning grind…i try to find a few moments of zen before starting my day.  My zen is watching and photographing the sun rise.  I like the cloud formations and colors of the sky right before the sun comes up, and the golden beauty in the first few moments that it rises from the eastern horizon.  Call it cheesy, but it's my thing.  Those of you that follow me on Facebook or Twitter know that I try to post pictures (so long as the weather and my schedule cooperate) several times a week.  I'd like to think that they are motivational….at least for me….  How can you be grumpy and pissy when the sky looks like this? 

Here are some of my favorites from the last few weeks….Enjoy!  BTW…These photos were all taken with my iPhone 4.  You can click each picture to expand it to full size.

11/13/11

11/14/11

11/3/11

10/31/11

10/26/11

10/18/11

Last but not least….today (11/20/11).  Kinda cloudy.

I also put together a video of some of my archived pics from last year, which you can watch below:

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