The grown-up ‘Show and Tell’

By on February 22, 2017
Walter Hackman from Schoeneck displays and discusses this unique baseball sign. Photo by Gary Klinger

Walter Hackman from Schoeneck displays and discusses this unique baseball sign. Photo by Gary Klinger

The Historical Society of the Cocalico Valley started the new year off with one of its most popular events, the annual “Show and Tell” program. Held each January, the program invites members to bring unique or meaningful artifacts from their own collections to share with those in attendance.

This year’s event was well-attended and had something for everyone. From Charlie Messner’s opium scale to a handmade cedar chest which has traveled the world, each artifact had a story and seemed to keep the crowd enthralled.

Walter Hackman has spent his entire life in Schoeneck, living just 200 yards from where he was born. But what Hackman had to show the crowd harkened back to a time when the small rural town of Schoeneck was a major stop on the journey to baseball stardom.

Displaying a poster from 1929, as well as an old jersey, Hackman told of a time nearly a hundred years ago when the small town was home to a professional baseball team which drew crowds from all across the country. The local team competed against other professional teams from Reading, Schaefferstown and Philadelphia. Teams would come from all over spending the entire weekend in the area and overflow cars from spectators would crowd the roads surrounding the field. Players on that field played with the high hopes of making the big leagues.

By the time Hurricane Hazel demolished what was left of the old grandstands in October 1954, professional baseball was all but a thing of the past in Schoeneck, leaving artifacts like Hackman’s a reminder of a different era.

John Klopp’s item had a much different story to tell. It was a handmade cedar chest measuring approximately 18 inches square. On the front of the chest the name “Mary” was carefully inlaid by the craftsman, Baron Klopp.

John Klopp told the story of being called by his 92-year-old Aunt Mary to come pick up a piece of furniture she wanted to give to him. She explained it had been made for her by her uncle when she was still quite small. In fact, she said, Baron had made a piece of furniture of some kind for all 11 of his nieces and nephews.

Klopp, not knowing exactly what to expect, recruited a friend with a truck to go pick it up. Imagine his surprise when he arrived to find that piece of furniture was this small chest. Baron Klopp was John Klopp’s grandfather, and his Aunt Mary, who was married to a military officer, carried it with her as she moved around the world with her husband.

One of the most remarkable pieces of the evening was something which might have been missed had it not been for Lewis Leid.

Leid pointed out the detail on a door he rescued when a homeowner hired him to paint in a historic home and gave it (the door) to him. The door presumably had been used as a basement door to the outside since the house was built in 1836. But, in the name of progress and a better insulated door, the door had to be removed.

Leid saw the value in the old door, which not only had the date on it, but the initials of what is believed to be the home’s original owner: Abraham Weaver. Both sides of the simple pine board door are hand painted with folk art designs.

Leid, as a member of the Swiss Pioneers Association, arranged to have it stored in the Association’s museum near Blue Ball.

Few alive today can remember the days when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt sat in the White House, often accompanied by his pet Scotty dog, Fala. Curtis Hare, chairman of the 2017 HSCV program committee, believes his cast iron portrayal of FDR’s dog, Fala, was made at the Ephrata Foundry.

Hare told of how, when FDR came under attack for running for an unprecedented fourth term as president, he delivered his famous Fala Speech. In that speech, he used a bit of humor about how the Republicans had drawn even his dog into their attacks on him. He said he and his family did not resent such attacks; however, his dog Fala did. Hare believes the cast dog was made in the late 1940’s to commemorate the president’s dog.

HSCV’s own President Lowell Haws shared a very rare display of early baseball cards. But while Haws’ collection was neatly framed, none of his cards depicted baseball players but Native American women instead.

Haws explained that cardboard stiffeners were used to maintain the shape of cigar and cigarette packages in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Later, in the spirit of “good marketing,” these stiffeners were used to print ads and later the popular baseball cards we know today. The cards in Haws’ display also show how much larger the cards of old used to be compared to today’s cards, now being sold with bubblegum instead of cigarettes.

Denver tinsmith Charlie Messner shared a treasure he brought back from World War II: an opium scale he purchased with Hershey’s candy bars. He explained how for U.S. Servicemen, Hershey bars served as much as currency in Japan as they did a sweet treat. In one case, one of his fellow servicemen actually bought an entire accordion for a box of Hershey bars. Messner’s small scale features turquoise scales made from the shells of turtles.

The Historical Society of the Cocalico Valley has a full slate of programs planned for 2017, including the opening of a new exhibit in March, “The Many Faces of the Cocalico Valley” and the second annual Church Tour April 22.

For more information, visit their website at cocalicovalleyhs.org. Gary P. Klinger is in his second decade as a free-lance journalist, welcoming your comments and feedback at klingerglobal@gmail.com.

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