Life in the ’20s and ’30s in Northampton, Coplay, Cementon, Catasauqua and our neighboring communities involved many of our families working in the cement, steel and silk industries. In Northampton, many residents were employed at the Atlas Portland Cement Company.
When Bill Heberling was a young man, his father said he should “dress up because he was going for a job.” They walked out to the Atlas and sat in the employment office. Coplay, Whitehall and Lehigh Cement were hiring in 1922.
In this sixth column, I am speaking to the governor of Burgenland, Austria, and a delegation on the Burgenland heritage in the Lehigh Valley. Many men who immigrated here worked in our cement plants. When they were hired at the plants, the Burgenlanders were working with many nationalities. For example, there were Hungarians, Slovaks, Croatians, Ukrainians, Poles, Russians and a majority of Pennsylvania Germans. The Atlas even had a group of Portuguese employees, who later moved to Palmerton and became key employees at the New Jersey Zinc complex.
Mr. Roark Grammes was born in Hudson, N.Y. His father, Donald, was a chemist with Lone Star Cement. Roark moved with his family when his father was transferred to Greencastle, Ind.; Trumbull, Conn.; Roanoke, Va.; Shawnee, Kan., where he graduated from Shawnee Mission High School in 1980; and finally to Allentown in 1981.
After graduating from Lehigh County Community College, he followed in his father’s footsteps and was hired as a lab technician at Lone Star in Nazareth, the landmark company that later became Essroc.
In this third column, I am speaking to the governor of Burgenland, Austria, officials and media about the Burgenlanders who emigrated to Northampton, Coplay and the Lehigh Valley. In my last column, we spoke about Mr. Paul Eberhart’s American experience. His former neighbor on 10th Street, Northampton, Mr. Frank Spitzer, had a similar experience.
Frank was born in Austria July 13,1904, on a 50-acre Burgenland farm.
He recalled, “My brothers were in World War I. Austria-Hungary, in those years, was a member of the Triple Alliance with Germany.”
A recent visit by the governor of Burgenland, Austria, to Atlas Cement Company Memorial Museum made me recall some interviews I had with former Burgenland natives who immigrated to the United States. Today, I continue part 2 of my interview with Mr. Paul Eberhardt, who set foot on American soil March 3, 1923.
When he came, Paul said, “I want to stay here my whole life and work like my brother.”
Mr. David Sonon was reared in Windsor Township, Berks County. As a youth, he worked on the neighbor’s farm, helping to milk and harvest crops. He attended Hamburg High School and was hired by Boscov’s to work in its warehouse at $3 an hour.
He recalled, “After later working in construction, I was hired by Ogden-Allied as a laborer to work for them at Allentown Cement in Evansville, now Lehigh Heidelberg. I was given a full-time job at the cement company in 1990.”
Mr. Sonon has worked as a lab sampler, miller, material handler, truck driver and shift repairman.
Recently, the Atlas Cement Company Memorial Museum had the honor to welcome Mayor Hans Niessel, governor of Burgenland, Austria, and a delegation of officials and Austrian media.
Many residents of Northampton, Coplay, Whitehall Township, Bath, Nazareth and other Lehigh Valley communities have family roots in Burgenland.
Today, we are taking you back to Aug. 15, 1941. The world and the United States were concerned about the war that was raging in Europe. Would the United States be able to maintain a policy of neutrality? National defense now became a concern. American Legion posts joined the Interceptor Command located at Mitchel Field in New York to improve our air defense.
Today, I am reading the Sept. 3, 1998, first copy of the Northampton Press — a day when my first Remembering column appeared in the newspaper. Publisher Fred Masenheimer and first editor Marcia White were in Northampton hoping The Press would receive a warm welcome from the community. We all know the positive answer!
The Northampton police chief was Richard Fenstermaker, and Carole Simcoe opened a business in the old Lyric Theatre on Main Street. The Lyric in the past was a vaudeville theater, tavern, luncheonette, billiard room and bowling alley.
Mr. Dean Haftl was raised on the family farm in Moore Township. The entire family was active with 4-H Clubs. He graduated from Northampton High School in 1978, saying, “I was given a good educational foundation for life.”
Starting at Keystone in 1978, Dean was hired by manager Franklin Silfies.
He said, “I am proud to say our family — my grandfather, father and sister — have proudly worked at Keystone for over 100 years. Old-timers John Flamisch, Harold Newton and Tom Yost have also shared their work experiences with me.”