Posts By Scott Bomboy

Perkasie’s Long Tradition as a Baseball Town

Since its early days, Perkasie Borough has always been a town crazy about baseball. Its love for the game dates back to the 1880s, and it includes some incredible stories.

In Perkasie’s early days, the game was actually discouraged. In the Perkasie Central News of March 16, 1882, it was noted that mothers did not like the broken fingers and smashed noses brought home by their sons. The newspaper’s young editor, Samuel R. Kramer, wondered if the “rage for baseball” in Perkasie would ever go away. One of the first captains of Perkasie’s baseball club was Charles Baum, the future owner of the Perkasie Central News.

The sport of baseball played a prominent role in Victorian culture, as groups including churches, cigar factories, fraternal organizations, and Menlo Park fielded their own teams. In 1887, Perkasie sent a baseball team to Sellersville to challenge their more experienced opponents, losing 10-5 when the Perkasie side committed 17 errors and struggled to hit curve balls. Perkasie had other teams in the 1890s and organized a town squad managed by attorney Harry Grim in 1897.

Baseball games featuring regional teams soon became an attraction at Menlo Park, with Perkasie’s best players also playing for Menlo Park’s team. The Perkasie club improved greatly, and it took on regional African American teams such as the Ambler Giants, which the Perkasie team shut out 9-0 in July 1906 in a featured game at Menlo Park.

Perkasie Takes on the Philadelphia Athletics

In 1906, the Perkasie baseball team organized under the Perkasie Athletic Association’s sponsorship, with Cornelius F. Hendricks’ as its president. Hendricks had been a catcher on Norristown’s Fairmount team until he moved to Perkasie. By 1900, Hendricks started going blind after the early onset of glaucoma. But he had tremendous knowledge of the local baseball scene. Hendricks helped raise $2,000 for a new baseball park near Menlo Park, and the town’s leaders became shareholders in the Perkasie club. Perkasie had a strong team in the short-lived original North Penn League.

Perkasie’s old baseball field was on West Fifth Street near Menlo Park

On October 7, 1909, the Perkasie club challenged Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics in an exhibition game in Perkasie. The Athletics had a 12-1 lead after five innings. Four Athletics players hit home runs, including Chief Bender. The final score was 16-3. But it didn’t matter to the players and residents.  “To say that the country folk were mighty pleased with the Mackmen’s visit is putting it mildly,” said the Philadelphia Inquirer. The original North Penn League disbanded by 1912, and Perkasie would join the Montgomery County League a decade later, with Cornelius F. Hendricks as Perkasie’s biggest fan. By then, Perkasie had a regional reputation as a hotbed for amateur baseball.

Baseballs Made in Perkasie

Perkasie gained a baseball reputation outside of Bucks County by the 1920s. Edward and Walt Hubbert started the South Perkasie Baseball Factory in 1920 in the family’s house on Main Street. They advertised for remote workers, including children and the aged, to sew covers on baseballs sent to the Hubberts from their employers in Philadelphia.  In 1936, the Hubbert baseball plant, in association with the A.J. Reach Company, extended its operations from South Perkasie to the former Leon Schwenk clothing factory on Chestnut Street. “The firm is nationally known and produces virtually the entire output of the higher grade of baseballs used in his country,” said the Central News.

Hank Eisenhart

“Hank” Eisenhart

Through the World War II period, E. Hubbert & Son sewed the covers on baseballs used in the major leagues, after receiving the cores from Chicopee, Massachusetts. By 1947, Spaulding was their customer, and the business was featured in the Saturday Evening Post and the Sporting News. In July 1947, Edward Hubbert Sr. caused a good deal of publicity in his Sporting News interview when he revealed there was no physical difference between the balls used in the American and National Leagues, despite claims made by players and fans.

While Perkasie made most of the baseballs used in the major leagues until the late 1940s, only one Perkasie Borough native appeared in a major league game. Local sports star Jacob Henry “Hank” Eisenhart from Fourth Street, a left-handed pitcher, was on a 30-day contract with the Cincinnati Reds and got the final out in their 18-0 loss to the Cardinals on June 10, 1944. He replaced 15-year-old Joe Nuxhall, the youngest player in major league history, who struggled in his debut.

The Pennridge Little League

Perkasie jumped into its current tradition of community Little League play in the early 1950s. Perkasie had a successful Junior Legion program dating back to the early 1930s and a strong Church League softball circuit.

In August 1951, the Perkasie News-Herald challenged the local community to sponsor teams. Former Junior Legion players also helped form the Pennridge Little League program.

By 1953, local businessman Samuel Peirce built a Little League field in Silverdale. A year later, the call went out for youngsters between 8 and 12 years of age to report to the Perkasie Borough playground. Perkasie residents James Groff, Russ Hollenbach, Jim Hackett, and Paul Snyder were the Borough’s representatives in the new venture. Perkasie hoped to field two teams, but 200 youngsters showed up for tryouts. In 1954, the Pennridge Little League started with four teams, sponsored by the Renner Brothers, the Jaycees, the Rotary and Samuel Pierce.

Opening Ceremonies for the Little League Field, 1958

In September 1957, arrangements were made for the Pennridge Little League to use the former Bux-Mont Riding Club grounds on Walnut Street as a permanent facility, with Perkasie Borough as its partner. On June 14, 1958, Foundation Day was celebrated at the new Walnut Street baseball field’s opening. In May 1960, the annual Little League parade was added to the opening day ceremonies.

When the Pennridge Little League celebrated its 30th anniversary in 1984, it had 500 participants, with 9 T-ball teams, 6 intermediate teams, and 8 teams of the Minor, Major, and Senior divisions.

A Perkasie Business Bounces Back

One of the most remarkable stories in the late 1960s was the resurgence of the baseball and softball business in Perkasie and the Pennridge region led by David W. Hubbert. Edward Hubbert Jr. died at the age of 33 after a brief illness in December 1947. He was a technical expert on baseball manufacturing. A year later, his father, Edward Hubbert Sr., passed away at the age of 61. In May 1949, Spaulding ended its contract with the Hubbert family and moved its stitching operation to Chicopee.

David W. Hubbert, the nephew of Edward Hubbert Sr., had been working at the baseball factory and he was experimenting with improvements in the construction of softballs as an extension of the family business. In 1950, David Hubbert met Mr. and Mrs. George Dudley Full, who were sports marketers. Over time, David Hubbert started his own small manufacturing company on Walnut Street in Perkasie, where local workers stitched balls. His big breakthrough was the development of a superior core for softballs, which changed the business by making the ball more durable.

During the 1960s, David Hubbert made many more improvements to his revolutionary softball, which was sold by Dudley Sports. In December 1968, the two businesses merged, and a year later Athlone Industries of New York bought Dudley Sports, with David Hubbert named as president of the Perkasie Division of Dudley Sports. By that time, Hubbert employed 100 workers in his Perkasie facilities, and Dudley Sports controlled 60 percent of the softball market, selling one million balls a year.

Perkasie Park Historic District to Hold 10th Annual Founders’ Day in August

Victorian camp meeting is a National Historic District

 
PERKASIE, Pa. (July 1, 2023) The privately owned Historic Perkasie Park Camp Meeting will open its Victorian grounds and cottages once again to the public this August, as the Association celebrates its 141st year with its 10th annual Founders Day event.The free event is from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., rain or shine, on Saturday, August 5, 2023. Parking is very limited, so visitors are asked to park on 200 South Ninth Street if able to do so.“We look forward to seeing friends, neighbors, and visitors at our National Historic District,” said Frank Pezzanite, president of the Perkasie Park Historical Foundation. “We also will have a special announcement for visitors about a new event this fall at the Park.”

On Founders Day, visitors can take part in a self-guided tour of the Park using a pre-printed map and visit selected cottages that have been opened by park residents.

Perkasie Park Founders Played a Big Role in Borough’s Early Success

The old camp meeting on Perkasie’s Ninth Street holds many memories for many families. But few people today know its vital role in creating Perkasie Borough.

Two men, John Schwartz and Henry G. Moyer, were a primary force in forming the Perkasie Park Association in 1882, even though the men were members of rival political parties during a contentious time.

John Schwartz and Henry G. Moyer

The Perkasie Park Camp Meeting soon became the borough’s primary attraction during the 1880s and into the 1890s.  Moyer and Schwartz also played a big role in providing affordable housing during Perkasie’s cigar boom into the 1920s. At that point, Perkasie’s home ownership rate was nearly the same as today’s rate, thanks to Moyer and Schwartz.

Looking Back at Perkasie’s Great Fire of 1988

On a windy Sunday afternoon 35 years today, part of Perkasie’s town center burned in one of the borough’s defining moments. Today, the Great Fire is still a topic of discussion.

For the past seven years, I have done research on Perkasie in two academic programs and also written two books about the borough. In my many conversations about Perkasie with various people, the Great Fire comes up as a remarkable event in their lives.

Perkasie fire damage

Aerial photo by the News-Herald’s Dave Moyer, from the Perkasie Fire Company #1 Anniversary Book, 1990

The story of Perkasie’s Ice Cream Age

There once was a time when Perkasie had two active wholesale ice cream factories in town. Both creameries were lost in disasters in the 1920s and their owners experienced hardships after their ice cream businesses shut down.

Fred B. Neff and Irwin P. Mensch ran the two factories on or near Chestnut Street, within one block of each other from 1902 to 1926, with a brief period of inactivity. Neff’s Ice Cream and Crescent Ice Cream were local staples and served at the finest locations in Perkasie and neighboring towns. However, they were not in business at the same time. The tragic end of Neff’s Ice Cream in 1926 closed out the borough’s Ice Cream era.

A Brief History of Perkasie’s Block Houses

One of downtown Perkasie’s defining features is its collection of Victorian row homes, which were called “block houses” during their construction period. The homes played an important role in the borough’s growth during the Perkasie’s boom years from 1898 to 1920.

The First Block Houses on Fourth Street

Mystery Solved: Perkasie’s First Row Homes

One of the unanswered questions about Perkasie Village’s early history was the construction date of the row homes on Eighth Street above the train tracks. The homes appear in J.D. Scott’s 1876 map of Perkasie. But now we know the year they were built.

The Eighth Street Row Homes

The Lansdale Historical Society has digitized its newspapers from 1870 and 1926, and they appear on Newspapers.com. The iconic Eighth Street row homes were built during the summer of 1874 and owned by the original town founders of Perkasie.

“Among the improvements in contemplation at Perkasie on the North Pennsylvania Railroad during the coming summer are new dwellings to be erected by Enos Kulp, Abraham Benner and Josiah Diehl on the upper side of the railroad. Joseph A. Hendricks and Henry Moyer intend to build two new houses each and Joseph Moyer and John Harr each one new house all in one block,” said the Lansdale Reporter in April 1874

J.D. Scott’s map from 1876 shows that the Moyer Brothers (Joseph G. and Henry G.) had partnered with town founder Joseph A. Hendricks and John Harr, the owner of the Perkasie Hotel, to build the block. These were probably early rental properties in Perkasie.

The row homes, with their steep gables, are unique and one of the borough’s architectural treasures.

 

A Brief History of Perkasie’s Callowhill Street Bridge

As some of you may know, Bucks County is rehabilitating its bridge on Callowhill Street in Perkasie and East Rockhill until early November 2023. But did you know the bridge had another name when the first version was built in 1881?

 

New Book Excerpt: Perkasie and the Baby Boom

My new book, Perkasie and the Baby Boom: Times of Progress, Times of Change (1946—1971), is now available online and will soon be available at several local outlets. The book has two sections. The first is a series of short stories about major developments, top news stories, and key local leaders. The second section is a monthly chronology of headlines over a 25-year period. The combination shows how quickly big changes happened, and the trends that still influence us today.

Featured below is an edited version of the Introduction. More ordering information about the book is at perkasiebook.com. The book should be available at the finest Perkasie locations in about two weeks, where you can get a signed copy and save on shipping costs!

Perkasie’s Most Famous Person During the 1920s and 1930s

Kate Cressman Smith may be a footnote today in our local history, but she was Perkasie’s most-famous person for a generation. Smith was as a source of community inspiration as she battled an incredibly painful disease for 23 years.

Kate Smith and Her Nurse Miss Grace (Photo: Jane Strohm)

On February 24, 1938, the Perkasie Central News announced that Mrs. Smith had passed away a few months short of her 51st birthday at the family’s modest home at 519 Vine Street. “Death, shortly after 9 o’clock on Tuesday evening, claimed Kate Smith, Perkasie’s most widely known resident,” the newspaper said. That wasn’t a boastful claim. Katie Smith kept a list of people who visited her after she was confined to her sickbed in 1918. Her last visitor, Mrs. O.B. Sellers, was visitor 49,364 in her bedside guest book.