Northampton Press

Monday, October 23, 2017
The site of the former Frable’s General Store in Weaversville The site of the former Frable’s General Store in Weaversville
Above: State hospital farm patients who worked on the farm resided in this dormitory. Left: The site of the former Frable’s General Store in Weaversville Above: State hospital farm patients who worked on the farm resided in this dormitory. Left: The site of the former Frable’s General Store in Weaversville

State hospital farm workers were good country neighbors

Wednesday, June 14, 2017 by The Press in Columns

In this continuing series, I am looking back at the old Allentown State Hospital Farm in Weaversville. As a youngster (that’s a couple years ago) my father and I helped Willie Smith on his Weaversville farm, so I had a firsthand view of the neighboring farm.

The buildings on the 800-acre farm were all painted white and beautifully maintained.

The superintendent of the Allentown State Hospital would make unannounced stops to check on the treatment of the patients who worked there and the condition of the farms.

The acreage covered an area between Route 329 and Bullshead Road, so there was a continuous movement of farm equipment.

At the time, Weaversville Road was not a high-speed traffic nightmare. Farm wagons were a familiar sight, as well as trucks hauling hay and grain or transporting work-clad farm patients to the orchards and fields.

A real treat for the mail patients was when they walked to Conrad Frable’s Weaversville store. Can you imagine walking on the shoulder of that road today? Some were dressed in white clothing, as they helped out in the dairy at the farm. Oh, the happiness on their faces when Mr. Frable filled their order of penny candy, soda and Red Man chewing tobacco. If you wanted a Rockwell painting of happiness, it was in that basic Weaversville store many years ago.

“Coonie” Frable was a beloved store owner who opened the store 5 a.m. to 8 p.m., six days a week. If you needed something on Sunday, just knock on the back door and you were served.

The farm manager at the time was Mr. James McKnight. He was college trained, tall and slender, with a pleasant demeanor. We would visit the farm to see their modern milking parlor, where cows would be milked. The rich milk was untouched by human hands as it flowed into a stainless steel milk tank, was pasteurized and bottled in glass or other sterilized containers and shipped to state hospitals.

Mr. McKnight and the employees were very neighborly. If we had a broken part — and we sure had plenty — they would weld the part or lend us the needed tools.

On Sunday afternoons, you would see the patients sitting on benches in front of the large dormitory on Weaversville Road, enjoying the day. The farm and patients were well-accepted by the village of Weaversville. We never experienced any problems.

They were our neighbors.

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See you in two weeks.