Looking for Ephrata PD’s blue light

By on November 8, 2017


Ethan Brubaker, loves local history and is ON A MISSION TO FIND THE OLD POLICE LIGHT that once radiated above the Ephrata Police Station on State Street. Perhaps someone in Ephrata still has it?   The blue light when lit outside the Ephrata Police station on Main Street in the 1940s alerted police to come back to the station for details about a call received before the advancement to walkie-talkies and police radios.

Local history intrigues Ethan Brubaker.

He spends spare time poring over old documents and articles at his local library and the Historical Society.

“I believe it’s vital in truly understanding and appreciating the evolution of society and the reason why we are the way we are.” he says.

Arguable, it’s an impressive mindset in our fast forward society. And it is heartening for many to hear about those left in the world who believe in the lessons of the past.

What makes this history buff unique?

Ethan Brubaker and Dawsen Miller stand at display case in the Ephrata Police Station.

Brubaker just finished his junior year at Ephrata High School.

Ethan has been investing in his community throughout grade school, having joined the Cub Scouts in the first grade and several years later becoming a Boy Scout.

He is a member of Boy Scout Troop 48 in New Holland and for his Eagle Scout project, he has designed a display case for the lobby of the Ephrata Police Department. The display houses all manner of historical artifacts dating from the early 20th century to present day — from documents and photographs to caps, uniforms and patches. He received approval for the project in December of 2016, after which he hit the ground running.

Starting out, he wanted feedback on the project, so he handed out surveys to retired police officers as well as his fellow scouts. There was a great deal of interest in featuring uniforms and patches, so Ethan dug in and got to work. And then, he saw the light. Literally speaking.

Before the use of radios, a police light was lit in order to notify officers that they were needed. Brubaker discovered a photograph from the 1940’s which shows the light used to communicate with members of Ephrata’s police department. Ethan was instantly taken by this local artifact and so began his pursuit. “Lt. Shumaker brought up the street light during one of our first meetings and I thought it was a really great idea. I think having that (the street light) be a part of the project would be fascinating and unique.” The whereabouts of this light are a mystery thus far. All they have to go on is the old photograph, and the hope that someone out there might have an idea as to where the light is currently residing. Everyone involved in the project is in agreement that this particular piece of local history would be an amazing find; and while Ethan is confident they are creating a rich and quite thorough tapestry of the town and its police department, he says that finding the light “would definitely be a major bonus”.

Ethan is the project leader, which means he is in charge of design and assembly while also devoting countless hours to historical research. He is quick to mention the invaluable contributions of the men whose opinions he values most. “Lt. Shumaker of the Ephrata Police Department has been integral to this process, as a mentor and advisor.”

Ethan Brubaker gets congratulated by Lt.Shumaker for his display case in the Ephrata Police Station.

His father Dale is a Scout leader whom Ethan credits with helping to keep things running smoothly by lending his time and expertise. Dad knows full well that a big picture outlook is only as good as the details it provides. “My father has been a very important figure in helping to develop this project; giving advice, reading over emails and handling all the subtleties that are involved” in this kind of undertaking. The women in his life have left indelible impressions as well. His mother Lynn drives him to Boy Scout meetings and activities, and her organizational skills help bring everything together. Big sister Madison, who just graduated from George Washington University this spring, was a much-needed voice of support and encouragement throughout.

This past school year, Ethan took Advanced Placement US History with Wendolen Mellinger, whom he refers to as a ‘phenomenal’ teacher. This is really when things started to fall into place. “One of the cornerstones of the AP class was looking at trends. I garnered a lot more respect for history by seeing the influence it had and how it isn’t confined to any one area. Just being able to help preserve it at the local level and to share it with others was a great experience for me.”

He has taken those lessons learned in Mellinger’s classroom and applied them to his project. “Prior to this school year, I enjoyed history, but I never really delved into it so to say. To be able to work with it first hand and to be able to show people these smaller parts of history that they normally don’t think about and the value in them, I’m very excited.”

This summer, he has a lot on his plate. While working hard to complete the project, he also has his schoolwork to attend to. And he just got back from the Pennsylvania American Legion Keystone Boys State — a week long summer program which basically serves as a real-world model for its young community leaders. In July, Ethan will be traveling to Washington D.C. on a missions trip. As far as college, Ethan says he is considering several schools; most notably American University and Georgetown. He wishes to pursue Government or Public Policy as a major.

Ethan is proud of the work he has put into making this historical display a reality. He is grateful to his family and neighbors for all their help and support, and most of all he’s excited. Excited by the prospect that a photograph taken more than three quarters of a century ago might actually lead to its discovery. Because it wouldn’t just be about the project if this were to happen, it would be about the community it belongs to. And really, history is like any other living thing; when you dedicate yourself to it, the returns are infinite. It just takes a few people who care enough to put in the time and make something old, new again.

You have to wonder if Ethan Brubaker chose this project, or if it chose him.


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