Catasauqua Press

Tuesday, September 17, 2019
PRESS PHOTOS COURTESY OF STERLING ROTHROCK, LERCH FAMILY AND LARRY OBERLY Sterling, Gordon and Donald Rothrock, in 1944 PRESS PHOTOS COURTESY OF STERLING ROTHROCK, LERCH FAMILY AND LARRY OBERLY Sterling, Gordon and Donald Rothrock, in 1944
Twin County Fair Twin County Fair
Rothrock farm Rothrock farm
Universal Atlas Cement Company, in 1948 Universal Atlas Cement Company, in 1948

Remembering column

Thursday, October 31, 2013 by ED PANY, Curator Special to The Press in Columns

Farming was essential work during the war years

In this fourth column, I am speaking to Mr. Sterling Rothrock and his daughters, Doris and Lorene, up in Lehigh Township. Sterling is one of the senior retirees of the former Universal Atlas Cement Company in Northampton. The hardy Pennsylvania Dutchmen was born in 1921.

Both Sterling and his father, Arlo, were employed at the Lawrence Cement Company in Northampton. World War II transformed America. Many employees moved to industries vital to the war effort. Arlo now joined thousands of new employees at Bethlehem Steel.

Sterling, with all his agriculture experience, was back on the farm with the Fulmer family, who operated a large operation in Northampton County named Green Acres Farms. In those days there were a number of farms operating hay drying facilities. Agriculture was very important to the war effort, as millions of tons of food were required to feed our men and women serving in the Armed Forces.

"I was paid 55 cents an hour. That was five cents more than the other hay dryers were paying," Sterling said. "During the alfalfa harvest, we worked 12 hours daily, seven days a week. The dryer operated 24 hours daily."

He drove tractor there for seven years.

"The alfalfal was cut and blown into trucks which hauled the crop to the dryer," he said. "The alfalfa was processed into various feed for the livestock market."

During the war, meat and many essentials, like butter and soap, were rationed. The government used a stamp system to limit distribution to the public. The war was the major priority. Sterling worked year around at Green Acres, maintaining equipment during the winter months. Spare parts were difficult to obtain so the men had to improvise to keep the equipment in running order.

Sterling and his wife resided with his in-laws on Gilbert Farm for seven years.

Sterling's daughter related an interesting story concerning Mary Gilbert. As a young lady she immigrated to America and was processed at Ellis Island. Tragedy occurred when her grandmother died on the voyage, never to see the new land of opportunity.

Mr. Rothrock also recalled the Twin-County Fair which was held on the grounds of the Lappawinzo Fish and Game Protective Association in Allen Township. The small community fair had livestock, garden, flower and implement displays.

Students in Northampton were given a half day off to attend the fair. Many walked up to the "Lapp" to hear the Northampton band perform. Sterling and his father hauled farm equipment from Edgar Knerr's business in Kreidersville to the fair.

After the war, Sterling and his father applied for employment at the new Universal Atlas Cement Plant in Northampton. Named Plant 5, it would be the last Atlas plant to be constructed in the borough.

"My grandfather William worked at Plant 4 of the Atlas Portland Cement Company," Sterling said. "As a youth, he took me to the giant plant. He worked in the powerhouse and I still recall the massive machinery, brass clock and rails. They say he was the first foreman to use a typewriter to schedule the men."

The manager was L.J. "Butch" Boucher, a mining engineer who was highly respected.

"I started on the labor gang, drove truck, worked on the repair gang and finally on the electrical gang in the turbine building," Sterling said. "The plant was modern. We used kiln heat and steam to turn two Westinghouse turbines which produced much of our electric needs. Our foreman "Buster" Fritzinger was a well known Whitehall Township resident. Another boss was Elwood Hawk."

His father Arlo and brother Donald, a top-notch electrician, also worked at the plant.

"In 1947 I decided I wanted to purchase my own farm, so I started a search for one," Sterling said.

***

We'll be farming with Sterling in two weeks!