Cocalico Corner: A Shearer degree of separation

By on August 19, 2015

It was 21 years ago that the actor Kevin Bacon noted in an interview that he believed he’d worked with everyone in Hollywood or somebody who worked with them.

A trio of students at Albright College in my hometown of Reading, during a 1994 snowstorm, created a news thread called “Kevin Bacon is the Center of the Universe.”

http://readingeagle.com/news/article/after-more-than-20-years-six-degrees-of-kevin-bacon-endures

It morphed into a parlor game, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. It is based on the “six degrees of separation” theory. That reasons any two individuals are six or fewer acquaintance links apart.

Photo by Donna Reed The Solomon Shearer farmhouse at Shearers and Fritztown roads, Spring Township, Berks County, just north of the Lancaster/West Cocalico line.

Photo by Donna Reed
The Solomon Shearer farmhouse at Shearers and Fritztown roads, Spring Township, Berks County, just north of the Lancaster/West Cocalico line.

The game garnered the attention of then talk show host Jon Stewart. The trio appeared with him and then shock jock Howard Stern to explain it. The students ultimately wrote a book and Bacon, who initially disliked the whole gig, bought in. Today the acclaimed actor heads a charitable organization named SixDegrees.org.

OK, so let’s come back to Cocalico. As a native of Berks County and one very immersed in the culture, history, and people of Greater Reading, I really felt like a fish out of water here in northern Lancaster County.

Other than that odd friend or two I have in the Reinholds/South Mountain/Wernersville area, I’m really not much connected here.

But then, on my way to cover West Cocalico a year ago, it struck me I was connected in a very bricks and mortar manner.

Driving along the Fritztown Road, I noticed an expansive brick Victorian-styled farmhouse at the corner of Shearers Road, less than two miles from the Lancaster County/West Cocalico line. Ding, ding, ding!

I knew of that house and, in very oblique way, was connected to it.

The house was built in the 1880s by a man named Solomon Shearer. It was the same guy who built, in the early 1850s, the farmhouse in Muhlenberg Township, Berks County, in which I was raised.

Solomon was quite the guy. At the farm in Muhlenberg, he planted orchards experimenting with hybrid species of apples, pears, peaches, and cherries. He also ordered the first Pekin ducks to be imported from China and won national recognition when he showed them in exhibitions.

Photo courtesy Reed family The original Solomon Shearer farmhouse in Muhlenberg Township, Berks County.  This photo was snapped Sept. 18, 1910.

Photo courtesy Reed family
The original Solomon Shearer farmhouse in Muhlenberg Township, Berks County. This photo was snapped Sept. 18, 1910.

In time, the Tuckerton farm proved too small for him and he passed it to a son around the same time he moved onto to far southwestern Berks where he purchased a couple hundred acres, growing many of the same crops as well as establishing vineyards.

Does the name Vinemont ring a bell? Credit Solomon’s interest in grapes and wine for that!

At any rate, these two houses and that long ago man — as well as one of his many descendants, M. Catherine Shearer, a longtime friend — pretty much connect me to the outskirts of Cocalico.

So, what’s my link to Kevin Bacon, once or twice or six times removed? Well, the odds say there must be one.

I’ll start here: I’m Facebook friends with the actress Kelly McGillis, a former resident of Mohnton, Berks County, just over the Lancaster line, and the star of “Witness,” the 1985 movie filmed in the Intercourse area of the county. Is Kevin Bacon a friend of hers? Did they ever perform together?

But, alas, that doesn’t look likely, according to Google, FB, and other sources.

But a Reading Eagle colleague of mine interviewed the guys who created the game and they have met Bacon. So, I guess my link to Bacon falls within that six-degree range.

And, when it comes to old Solomon Shearer, it’s more like a four- or five-generation degree of separation. But, hey, I’ll take the connection to that nearby Cocalico corner all the same.

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