Looking Back: Perkasie’s bitter fight over Sunday movies

I was doing research today at the Mercer Museum’s library and came across an election certificate from November 1947. It was that piece of paper that played a crucial role in two of the most-contentious elections in Perkasie Borough history.

Perkasie’s Plaza Theater in the 1940s

How Perkasie Got Its Own Roebling-Style Bridge

Tucked away in Perkasie’s Lenape Park is one of Bucks County’s treasures, a footbridge inspired by the classic designs of John A. Roebling’s Sons & Co. How the two-span suspension bridge came to be involved Perkasie Borough Council, the federal government, and the design skills of a WPA engineer in based in New Britain, Pa.

In-Person Memories of Old Perkasie

In February 1954, the Perkasie News-Herald published interviews with Borough residents who were alive in 1879, for the upcoming Perkasie Borough 75th anniversary celebration. Each person remembered Perkasie in its Victorian era. And most grew up in Bridgetown or Benjamin, before it became part of Perkasie in 1899. Here are highlights from those interviews.

J.G. Moyer Building on left

Feb. 18, 1954: Elmer K. Moyer

The Klan’s Brief Stay in the Perkasie Region

On a recent visit to Perkasie’s Treasure Trove, I found a seemingly innocent paper weight with a link to one of Perkasie’s more controversial stories: the brief presence of the Ku Klux Klan’s regional headquarters on Fifth Street.

The day that Perkasie’s Menlo Park officially opened

On May 30, 1892, Perkasie’s new amusement park, Menlo Park, officially opened to the public. Today, its only remaining attraction is the historic Perkasie Carousel. But Menlo Park, in some form, has been a part of Perkasie’s culture since the Victorian era.

The true meaning of Perkasie’s Memorial Day (or Decoration Day) traditions

The occasion of Memorial Day, or Decoration Day as it was once called, is nearly as old as Perkasie Borough itself. While the holiday as evolved over time, its importance remains with us as a solemn reminder of the price paid for our freedoms.

On May 28, 2022, the 130th Memorial Day parade and service will take place in Perkasie, with the Borough taking a lead role in the event. In past even-numbered years, Perkasie Borough supported the Hartzell-Crouthamel Post #280 of the American Legion. In odd-numbered years, Sellersville Borough and American Legion Post #255 leads the parade program. That tradition started in 1950. 

Informal ceremonies to honor the war dead started regionally in America toward the end of the Civil War. Initially called Decoration Day, people made sure the graves of Union and Confederate participants were decorated with flowers on May 30th each year. That was the most-observed date for Memorial Day until 1971, when a federal act moved the federal holiday to the last Monday in May. (Not all states observed the date change and there is still some controversy about it.)

1898parade0006

This 1899 photo is likely the annual Decoration Day parade, based on newspaper accounts

Hats off to Perkasie’s Mrs. Johnson

A question came up recently about one of Perkasie’s first businesswomen, and whatever became of Mrs. W. K. Johnson – the Borough’s first French milliner.

It took a little digital detective work to track down Perkasie’s trendsetter of Victorian fashion, but thanks to the Ancestry.com and Newspapers.com websites, we know a lot more about the women’s hat business in Perkasie when hats and bonnets were a big deal in the Borough.

Introduction To Wooden Treasures, the Story of Bucks County’s Covered Bridges

Here is a special preview of my new book “Wooden Treasures: The Story of Bucks County’s Covered Bridges.” The book is about 222 pages long and includes more than 240 images and drawings, with many published publicly for the first time. For more information about the book “Wooden Treasures,”  go to coveredbridgebook.com.

Introduction

Dr. Anderson M. Scruggs liked to send poems to the New York Times, which featured reader submissions during the 1930s. Dentistry was Scruggs’ paid profession and he taught it at Atlanta Southern Dental College in Georgia. However, Scruggs loved writing poetry about rural life based on his childhood experiences in West Point, Georgia, a small railroad town on the Chattahoochee River.

Horace King and his family built many of the covered bridges on the Chattahoochee. King was a former slave who gained his freedom from money received from his master and bridge-building partner, John Godwin. King used a bridge design patented by New England architect Ithiel Town, which King adapted for use not only over the Chattahoochee River, but throughout Georgia and Alabama. King and his four sons designed and built more than 100 covered bridges in the South. By 1932, many of King’s covered bridges were disappearing as Georgia’s state highway department demolished them and built steel replacements better suited for motor vehicles. That didn’t stop Anderson from questioning why this was happening to King’s bridges in rural Georgia.

Made in Perkasie by A Pennsylvania Dutchman

When the news broke last week that the old Freed Glass facility in Perkasie would get new life, some deserved attention was focused on a key leader in Perkasie’s growth as a modern town: John Melvin Freed.

Mel Freed started his company in 1920 in his family’s basement in Perkasie on Callowhill Street. The J. Melvin Freed Inc. firm was one of Perkasie’s key employers for decades, and it was one of the critical businesses, along with Snyder Cigars, the Beidler and Royal Pants clothing factories, and the U.S. Gauge plant in Sellersville, that helped Perkasie survive losing its cigar trade and the Great Depression.

Freed was born in East Rockhill Township in 1888. He graduated from Perkasie High School in 1906 as one of six senior class members. By 1910, Freed was living with his parents on Callowhill Street. He then attended and graduated from Muhlenberg College and studied for a year at Cornell University. Over the next few years, Freed moved to Allentown to teach high school biology, but his life would change forever after his brief service overseas in World War I.

Freed’s Army enlistment lasted from December 1917 to July 1919, and included duties at a mobile laboratory unit, the ambulance service, Army medical school, and a field hospital. Freed spent seven months in Europe, which as the hub of the microscopic slide business.

A Newspaper Editor’s Candid Story About the Menlo Pool  

In January 1951, Perkasie News-Herald editor John Sprenkel spoke in public about the Menlo Park pool and one of its most controversial policies. 

At the time, Menlo Park and its pool were still privately owned. Perkasie Borough would not acquire the facilities until May 1, 1956, and only after Perkasie residents approved the purchase by a 3 to 1 margin in a referendum. Royal Pants owner Maurice Neinken donated $25,000 toward the $115,000 sale price to make sure local children could access the pool. 

John Sprenkel, 1929

John Sprenkel In1929

Sprenkel also knew of the pool’s history, having written about it back in 1939 when first modern pool was built using money gained by Henry Wilson, the park’s owner, from selling part of his land to Perkasie Borough for Lake Lenape Park. The $30,000 pool investment was part of a plan to restore Menlo Park to its glory days in the Victorian era.