Today I am up in Lehigh Township visiting with Mr.. Sterling Rothrock and daughters Doris and Lorene. It is a privilege to interview Sterling. He is one of the oldest if not the most senior retiree from the Universal Atlas Cement Company. He worked with and was a friend of my father, Anthony Pany.
Mr.. Rothrock was one of a family of cement workers when the Lehigh Valley was the largest Portland Cement manufacturer in the world. His grandfather William, father, Arlo, and brothers Donald and Gordon were all dedicated cement workers.
Sterling was born on March 20, 1921, during an era called "The Golden 20s." He was born in the new Haff Hospital in Northampton. The founder was Dr. Charles Haff, an icon of local medicine whose first hospital was at 2006 Washington Ave. A new hospital was later constructed at 21st Street and Siegfried Avenue. Dr. Peters, of Cementon, brought Sterling into the world. Dr. Peters would be succeeded by Dr. Luther Kline who continued serving Cementon and the Northampton area.
Sterling started his education at the Hill Top School in Cementon.
"Our teacher was Mrs. Cumming, a sister of Dr. Haff," he recalls. "She called me up to her desk with classmates Bob Stout and Will Steckel and said, 'I know your fathers took out a strap and administered a couple of cracks on our back side,' and said, 'I know you boys will behave.'"
"One day we heard a pig squeal. We ran to the window. A neighbor was slaughtering a pig. In those days hogs, chickens and ducks were found in backyard sheds," he says. Another school memory: "Our Christmas program was attended by our parents. There were carols and poems recited by all the students."
The Rothrocks moved to 27th Street in Northampton. Sterling was now a student at the Washington building. Tragedy hit the family when his brother Dale passed away at the age of 3 as a result of meningitis. A bout with measles resulted in a quarantine of the home. Only the family and physician could enter the residence.
"I recall an abscessed tooth. My cheek was swollen like a baseball. Dr. Kline took me to the Haff Hospital, gave me gas and removed the tooth. What a relief!"
Then it was time for another move.
"The owner of the home we rented moved back to Northampton, so once again we were on the move and soon were living in Kreidersville," he says.
Kreidersville was named in honor of Conrad Kreider, a wagonmaster during the Revolutionary War. The village had a hotel, store, Edgar Knerr's farm implements and Warren Wolfe and Sons, distributor of the famous Indian Motorcycles.
Mr. Knerr had some fascinating pets in a tank in his farm implement showroom. He kept two small alligators.
"He would pay us five cents to catch minnows which he fed to the gators," Mr. Rothrock says. "Instead of fishing, we were catching minnows in the Hokendauqua Creek. When the alligators reached a certain size, 'Pet,' as Mr.. Knerr was called, got rid of them. I guess they were the first gators the folks in Kreidersville ever saw."
"As a youth we hung around Knerr's buildings and Wolfe's Motorcycle Shop.
"I was a friend of Pet's daughter Norma. She later married Dr. Carl Newhard who had a medical practice in Hokendauqua and lived in a large white home which was formerly owned by the head of the Ironton Railroad."
Sterling was a student at the Kreidersville School, the present office for Allen Township. Two of the teachers came from Philadelphia and boarded in the village.
One of the early teachers was Beatrice Gougher Santee. A Muhlenberg College graduate, she was very resourceful in her methods of getting to school from Northampton to Kreidersville. She walked and rode with the bakery postman and milkman. During inclement weather she stayed at the Kreidersville Hotel. There she met her husband, George Santee, whose father ran the landmark hotel. Mrs. Santee was an example of determination and fortitude. Her daughter Rosemarie was a classmate of this writer at both Northampton High School and Kutzown State Teachers College.
In two weeks we will be riding an Indian motorcycle. Bring your helmet!