The year is 1934, I am visiting the Lehigh Portland Cement Co. plant in Mason City, Iowa. 1934 is a Depression year, the city is surrounded by agriculture areas and cement plants, so it was slightly better financially than neighboring communities.
An event occurred there, bringing national attention to the Midwestern community.
Mr. Michael Hammer was born in St. Louis. His father, Robert, was a civil engineer who moved with his family to many construction projects.
Michael would reside in Virginia, South Dakota and finally in Bethlehem. He graduated from Freedom High School in 1975. While attending Northampton Community College, he was hired by Keystone Cement Company as a lab technician.
"I always wanted to be a cement chemist and was fortunate to be hired by Hercules now Buzzi Unicem in 1985 and earn a chemistry degree from Muhlenberg College," he said.
In this second column, I am speaking to Mr. Kevin Reichel, Northampton Funeral Home owner, about his family's roots in an area of Nazareth called Phoenix. Named after the Phoenix Portland Cement Company, it was the home to many ethnic cement workers. Joining in the interview were two Nazareth men with Phoenix connections, Mr. Dale Kocher and Ron Keppel.
They recalled that Wood Street was kind of a dividing line between Nazareth and Phoenix. Many years ago, they said, the police rarely came to Phoenix. They left the people settle their own issues.
In today's column, I take you back to July 13, 1978. The Times, a weekly newspaper, was serving readers in Northampton and Catasauqua, at a cost of 10 cents per copy. The paper's feature story was the groundbreaking for the Hampton House on Lincoln Avenue in Northampton.
A large sign on the property stated the project was designated as housing for the elderly for Northampton by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Today I am visiting Eberhardt Motors in Egypt, Whitehall Township, they are celebrating their 90th anniversary in the automobile business. My friend, Mr. Eric Eberhardt, asked if I would write a series on the history of the business. I agreed, and am hoping my many loyal readers in Northampton, Whitehall-Coplay, Catasauqua and Parkland enjoy the series!
Mr. Karl Mickley, whose ancestors aided in the rescue of the Liberty Bell in 1777, shared with me the book "The Liberty Bell in Allentown," printed in connection with the 150th anniversary of bringing the bell to Allentown.
Did you know? Bethlehem was considered as a place for the meeting of the Continental Congress and General Washington was thinking about bringing his Army into the Lehigh Valley for winter quarters. The great general sent Baron de Kalb to Bethlehem with a corp of French engineers to survey the landscape for constructing possible fortications.
In this third column I am speaking to Mr. Karl Mickley on his family's relationship to Hokendauqua's most famous industrial memory, the Thomas Iron Company. The new industry flourished on both banks of the Lehigh River after David Thomas constructed the first blast furnace in Catasauqua, using anthracite to produce iron.
Karl's great grandfather was Edwin Mickley, a very interesting gentleman.
Mr. George Cowitch graduated from Northampton Area High School in 1976 where he was a member of the track team. Upon graduation, he was employed at Lehigh Valley Dairy in the ice cream department and later, at Durkee Foods, making their tasty mustard. Unfortunately, both companies closed their local operations.
In 1990 he started his cement career at Coplay Cement, which constructed an ultra-modern plant in Nazareth, now Essroc.
In this second column, we will be sharing some rare photographs from the 1920's. They take us back to Willow Brook Golf Course and Fuller Farms now Willow Brook Farms in Catasauqua. The Fuller family were actively included in the railroad and cement industry and also had a keen interest in agriculture.
The photographs were given to this writer by my friend Mr. Larry Tait, a graduate of Catasauqua High School and an active local historian. The photographs were taken a long time ago by H. A. Strohmeyer, Jr., 215 Fourth Avenue, New York.
Recently, I received 40 years of Cement Workers Union memorabilia from Mr. James Roth of Nazareth who, with his father, Roland, was active in the old United Cement, Lime and Gympsum Workers International Union.
As a college student, I was a member of this union with my father, almost 60 years ago. We were proud members of Local #115 U.S.L.G.W. at the Universal Atlas Portland Cement Company in Northampton.
One of the first Cement Workers organizers was Mr. Roland Roth. I asked Jim about his father's youth.