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Charles Meredith: Memories of Quakertown


Dear Friends,

Good morning. There’s lots to cover today so let’s begin with a smile. Do you remember Bob Newhart, the comedian, who entertained us in the 1960s and ’70s? Well he turned 90 last week and when asked, “You’ve been with your wife [Ginny] for 56 years. what’s the secret to your happy marriage?” He answered … laughter.

Mighty Betsy and I have been together for 59 years and it’s been fabulous. I remember asking my father about the key to a happy marriage, the night before MB and my wedding. I always marveled about how he handled my volatile mother. It didn’t take much to have her passions flare.

I was an only child … spoiled rotten … I must say. But it was extraordinarily fun being spoiled. Because our home was (and still is) only two blocks from the Quakertown Free Press, my father would come home for lunch, as I did since my elementary school was only four blocks distant.

Although mother, father and I were together every day, I never saw my father rattled by my mother’s outbursts. So I was more than curious to discover what his secret was for living such an undisturbed life. His answer?

“Simple obedience is best,” he smiled. And he was right

MB and I’ve sailed though marriage like it’s been a piece of cake. Alas, our son has not been as lucky. Then again, he was never fond of his father’s advice.

Turning to different subjects, last week was the unveiling of the historic marker celebrating the life of Richard Moore, a Quakertown Quaker, educator, businessman and “operator” of one of the “stations” of the Underground Railroad during the first half of the 1800’s. Before the start of the Civil War, Richard Moore helped more than 600 Southern slaves escape to Canada.

It still is unsettling to consider that the American Congress passed several fugitive slave acts before the Civil War. At the time, slave owners had the legal right to pursue their slaves in the Northern states and force their return. That marker on Main Street, Quakertown will serve as a constant reminder of the evils of slavery which our Constitution permitted.

One of Quakertown’s oldest churches has closed its doors forever. St. John’s Lutheran Church at 10th and W. Broad St. held its last service several months ago. Trinity Lutheran Church on Hellertown Avenue is Quakertown Borough’s surviving Lutheran Church. (There are still Lutheran churches in Richlandtown and Trumbauersville, plus the adjacent townships.)

St. John’s Lutheran was a “Union” church in the 1800s. The dominant Protestant denomination in those days was either Lutheran or Reformed (now United Church of Christ). Lutheran and Reformed Churches often shared the same building until the two churches could divide and become economically independent.

In the St. John’s Lutheran steeple is a bell with the inscription of both churches (St. John’s and Quakertown’s Reformed Church). I hope that some day, that bell could be moved to the present UCC at 4th and Park Ave. We’ll see.

In the meantime, there’s activity at the the St. John’s cemetery in the 900 and 1000 block of Juniper Street. This email explains: “Prior to St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church closing, the congregation voted to allocate funds for gravestone resetting and other related cemetery repairs. The restoration was scheduled to start last spring, but was delayed due to all of the rain. Gravestone repairs and pouring of new foundations started in august and is expected to continue into the fall.

“Inquires about the cemetery and arrangements for burials by grave owners may be made to the business office of he Southeastern Pennsylvania Lutheran Synod at 267-323-3754. No graves are available for purchase.”

Finally, my Quakertown High School classmate Larry Grim called me with an update about Haycock Township’s One-Room-School Association. Please don’t be confused. I’ve shared stories about Larry Grim, the Perkasie lawyer. This Larry Grim is not related. He grew up in the village of Thatcher in Haycock Township with his two older brothers … Harry and Barry Grim. Larry Grim is the youngest of the three.

Anyway, Larry told me that last weekend, 22 former students of Haycock’s four, one- room -schools met for their annual meeting. Richard Landgreen is their president. The four schools were: Applebachsville (village); Harrisburg School on Harrisburg School Road; Mt. Airy School on Thatcher Road and Stover’s School on the Old Bethlehem Road.

When I was in elementary school, the children in the townships were educated in one-room schools. When they joined us in the ninth grade, we used to tease them because they had strange Pennsylvania German accents. We should have known better…after all, they were bilingual, and we were not.

If I’m correct, the kids that graduated from the one-room schools after the eighth grade, had to pass an exam that vouched for their knowledge of English, Latin or German, history, geography and math. I wonder how many eighth grade students could pass that exam today?

Sincerely, Charles Meredith