That championship borough
Once a "Hiller" always a "Hiller."
That passion for a sense of place is expected to bear fruit as a book.
Karol Strelecki, a Fountain Hill native, is working on "Fountain Hill," to be published by Arcadia Publishing in its "Images of America" series in time for this year's Christmas holiday season.
"All of the grandchildren live in Fountain Hill," says Strelecki, a retired educator. "That's part of what's getting me back there."
Strelecki and his wife, Patricia, who have lived in Salisbury Township for 30 years, have four children and seven grandchildren. The Streleckis are members of St. John's Lutheran Evangelical Church, Allentown.
Strelecki, 75, is one of the best-known Hillers, the nickname for sports teams at Fountain Hill High School, when the borough had its own school district.
At 6 ft., 6 in., Strelecki was a towering presence on Fountain Hill's 1956 and '57 state championship basketball teams.
"I was considered a giant," says Strelecki, who with Dick Kosman was the Hillers' scoring duo. "He and I were both 1,000-point scorers. We kind of led the team.
"My junior year, we lost one game, to Easton, and then won 30 in a row.
"My senior year, we were 28 and 3. We lost all three games to Bethlehem Catholic.
"I still hold the record for most points in one game at Fountain Hill. It was 43."
Strelecki went on to score in the double figures for four years on Rutgers University Scarlett Knight's basketball team.
Strelecki received a BS in education from Rutgers, a Masters in education from Temple University and did additional work at Lehigh University.
He began his teaching career at Southern Lehigh High School, where he taught English from 1961 -' 71. He also taught at Centennial School at Lehigh University, Pennridge School District, and Lehigh University, The Pennsylvania State University and Muhlenberg College.
There were only 50 students in Strelecki's 1957 Fountain Hill graduation class.
"I ran for school board on the basis of closing the high school and joining with Bethlehem [Area School District] because I realized it was fruitless to try to run a school the size of Fountain Hill."
Strelecki was one of a group of five elected to the Fountain Hill School Board in 1962. "We met one time. Gave the school to Bethlehem. Retired as an undefeated politician."
Fountain Hill High School became Fountain Hill Elementary School in the Bethlehem district.
For the Arcadia book, Strelecki submitted a query letter, sample photographs and writing samples before given the go-ahead. Book sales royalties will be donated to the Borough of Fountain Hill for historic preservation.
Strelecki began researching his book last summer. "I've been serious about it since the end of baseball season." Strelecki is a hospitality usher at The IronPigs AAA baseball team home games at Coca-Cola Park.
Strelecki has used three main sources researching his book.
Earl Bauman, Strelecki's high school history teacher, wrote about the borough's history for a master's thesis at Lehigh University in 1951. "At one point, Bethlehem Steel reproduced it complete with rivets."
Ed Redding wrote a history of the borough, published as a limited edition for the Fountain Hill Centennial in 1993.
Ray Metzgar, who was on the Fountain Hill High School basketball team, collected 10 volumes of newspaper articles and trivia about Fountain Hill that is kept in the Bethlehem Room at the Bethlehem Public Library.
Strelecki "worked his way through Bauman's and Redding's books." Metzgar, an Air Force retiree who lives in Colorado City, Col., titled his project "Once a Hiller ... Always a Hiller."
Says Strelecki, "I've gotten an awful lot of support from Karen Samuels and Ken Raniere, who did the 'South Bethlehem' book for Arcadia."
Strelecki also credits St. Luke's University Hospital, KidsPeace, Cathedral Church of the Nativity, St. Ursula's Catholic Church. St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Unitarian-Universalist Church, and St. John's AME Zion.
"All of those places have been very helpful in providing information about their existence in the borough."
Mostly, though, Strelecki has been "going around knocking on doors.
"I must have contacted 70 borough residents who have offered me help with pictures, stories and background information.
"It really has become a community project. It's not my book anymore."
Strelecki has gathered 425 images. The book will have about 200 images.
He's still looking for stories, material and photographs.
Strelecki plans to develop an archive of Fountain Hill photos. And next, he wants to record people's stories about the borough.
"Put in my phone number 610-797-7563 and email email@example.com and I will show up at their door.
"Nobody can just give you a picture. Everybody has a story to tell."