Monthly Archives: October 2016
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Every year we gather with friends and family on Thanksgiving for a feast that leaves most on a couch somewhere taking a power nap within sixty minutes of dinner’s end. Mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberries and of course turkey. Chestnut stuffing has become one of my favorites over the years. I started wondering with the diversity of cultures in the state of Pennsylvania and large amount of German settlers if everyone ate this type of dinner.
The answer is “no.”
Among the variety of cultures found in Pennsylvania, one stands out as having a very strong heritage for the types of food served on Thanksgiving, the Pennsylvania Dutch.
The Pennsylvania Dutch is a cultural group formed by early German-speaking immigrants to Pennsylvania and their descendants. This early wave of settlers began in the late 17th century and concluded in the late 18th century. The Pennsylvania Dutch maintained numerous religious affiliations, with the greatest number being Lutheran or Reformed, but with many Anabaptists as well. The Anabaptist religions promoted a simple lifestyle, and their adherents were known as “Plain people” or “Plain Dutch.” This was in contrast to the Fancy Dutch, who tended to assimilate more easily into the American mainstream.
Over time, the various dialects spoken by these immigrants fused into a unique dialect known as Pennsylvania German or Pennsylvania “Dutch” (Deutsch). At one time, more than one-third of Pennsylvania’s population spoke this language, which also had an effect on the local dialect of English.
After the Second World War, use of Pennsylvania German died out in favor of English, except among the more insular and tradition-bound Anabaptists, such as the Old Order Amish and Old Order Mennonites. A number of German cultural practices continue to this day, and German Americans remain the largest ancestry group claimed in Pennsylvania by people in the census.
They live an agrarian society (agricultural) and their economy is based mainly on producing and maintaining crops and farmland. They acknowledge other means of income, but agriculture is their main bread and butter. With all of this in mind, I wondered what a typical Pennsylvania Dutch Thanksgiving is comprised of and how it differs from the traditional American.
The main course of turkey may or may not be at the center of the table. If the turkey has been grain fed, free ranged and raised by the farmer, there’s a good chance it will be. Goose is also another option. The rest of the dinner will be a combination of what is termed ‘sweets and sours.’ Oyster cocktails with vinegar, cranberry sauce, bread and butter pickles, cottage cheese, apple butter and pumpkin nut bread are common. There’s also potato and bread stuffing, sauerkraut braised with apples and onions, buttered lima beans, stewed dried corn (a specialty) and of course, pumpkin pie. One item that appeared on almost all menus was something called ‘chow-chow.’ Chow-Chow is a pickled vegetable mix of beans, peppers, celery and onions. As I mentioned, dried corn is a specialty and can show up in several different varieties of dishes.
Personally, the thing I found as a potential addition to my Thanksgiving is ‘Church Spread.’ It’s made from molasses, marshmallow cream and peanut butter. Yum!
Hopefully you will try a few of these out and integrate some of our historic Pennsylvania cooking into your Thanksgiving feast!
Editor’s Note: Want to try the delectable “Church Spread” mentioned by Assistant Editor, Fred Terling? Take 1/2 cup of creamy peanut butter, 1/4 cup of marshmallow creme and one cup of light corn syrup. Combine all ingredients in mixing bowl and stir well. Store in refrigerator in a covered container. Serve at room temperature with bread or ice cream. Recipe yields about 1 1/2 cups. Source – Pennsylvania Dutch Cookbook (online).
Story by Fred Terling for Pennsylvania Bridges
The Bentwoth Community Center Building Fund Committee is planning an antique fashion show entitled “From Dust to Dreams”. The event will take place on Saturday, November 5, 2016 at 7:00 pm at the Bentworth Senior High School, Bearcat Drive in Bentleyville. Tickets cost $10.00 and are available at the library, from members of the Board of Trustees and Friends of the Library and will be available at the door. Models for the evening will be members of the National Honor Society, the Bentworth Band, the Bentworth Cheerleaders, the LEO club and other school students.
The evening will provide you with clothing from the early 1800’s including the historical background of the styles and eras modeled.
All Proceeds will benefit the building fund for the renovation of the new community center that will house the Bentleyville Public Library, the Bentworth Senior Citizens Center and the Bentleyville Historical Society. The library was temporarily located to the former Fairpoint Telephone Company building on Main Street so construction can begin on the new facility.
Photo: Pictured in their vintage clothing that will be worn for the “Dust to Dreams” antique fashion show are Sage Sneith modeling an early 1800 two piece suit and Michael Vittone wearing a WW II Army uniform.
Past District Governor Ed Gursky presented a check in the amount of $8,812 from the Lions of Pennsylvania Foundation. This money was donated as a Lions Humanitarian Service Grant to be used towards the installation of an elevator system in the Bentworth Community Center Building Project. The Bentworth Community Center houses the library, the senior center, and the Bentleyville Area Historical Society. The elevator system will provide easy access between the two floors of the building for disabled individuals and for the senior population. This accessibility will enable all three community organizations to function, not only independently, but with greater interaction, thus helping them to grow, solidify and enhance their programs.
I’ve lived in the Pittsburgh area for nearly 30 years, and, though I’ve visited many of the area attractions and landmarks, I’d overlooked and missed the Allegheny Observatory. Somehow, it slipped off my radar until a visit to Brownsville reminded me that John Brashear, one of the observatory’s early directors, was from that Mon River town.
Surfing the site’s website on the Internet, I discovered that public tours of the observatory are offered twice a week, on Thursday and Friday evenings, April through the end of October. A quick phone call later, I made a reservation for one of the public tours.
Located in Riverview Park just four miles north of Downtown Pittsburgh, the observatory is actually a part of the University of Pittsburgh, located eight miles away in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood. My 8 p.m. Thursday evening tour took me to a part of the city I’d never before visited, and I was impressed by the large size of Riverview Park and the attractiveness of the surrounding neighborhood.
The observatory dates back to February 15, 1859 when a group of prominent industrialists formed the Allegheny Telescope Association (ATA). The group got interested in astronomy the previous year with the arrival of the Great Comet of 1858, also known as Donati’s Comet. The bright object, the first comet ever to be photographed, got the attention of the world, so much so that sales of telescopes and binoculars skyrocketed worldwide.
The ATA joined in on the astronomical craze, purchased a 13-inch refracting telescope and made its first skyward gaze with the new instrument on November 27, 1861. From the start the group decided to use the telescope for entertaining its members and for public education rather than for research.
By 1867, interest among the members had waned, and the group decided to donate the facility to the Western University of Pennsylvania, now the University of Pittsburgh. Following the appointment of Samuel Pierpont Langley as its first director, the observatory began studying sun spots. Langley also used a new transit telescope to accurately measure time and began servicing, for a fee, railroads who were in desperate need for uniform time over the web of rails that then crisscrossed the nation.
At noon on November 18, 1883, the first day railroad standard time took effect in North America, the observatory sent a telegraph signal to railroads across the continent, which synchronized their schedules to the signal.
Langley also experimented with heavier-than-air craft on the grounds in front of the first observatory, built ¾ of a mile down the hill from the current observatory in Riverview Park. After assuming the post of secretary of the Smithsonian Institute in 1888, Langley continued his aviation work in the nation’s capital.
His renown in scientific circles eventually led to naming numerous structures and places after him both in Pittsburgh and the capital region. Today, a hall at the University of Pittsburgh and a Pittsburgh high school as well as a mountain in the Sierra Nevada and an Air Force base in Virginia all bear his name.
On my tour of the observatory, which began with a detailed talk by Eric Canali in the lecture hall, the audience learned about other scientific giants who served as observatory director. These included James Keeler, whose observations of the rings of Saturn proved they were particulate rather than solid, as was believed at that time, and John Brashear, whose company made the lenses for two of the observatory’s main telescopes.
Following the lecture, we were led to a rotunda where bronze statue of the seated Brashear is sited next to a large stained glass window of Urania, the muse of astronomy. The flight up a steep set of stairs led to a space under the site’s largest dome, dominated by a Thaw 30-inch refractor. Forty-seven feet long with a moving mass of 8,000 pounds, the Thaw was designed and built by the Brashear Company for photographic use. From its start in 1914, the observatory photographic program has amassed more than 110,000 exposures on glass plates, making it one of the oldest and largest collections of its kind in the world.
Under the dome, Canali demonstrated how the telescope is moved to focus on a particular object in the cosmos. Surprisingly, the floor underneath the telescope also conveniently lowers and rises mechanically, a demonstration of which is included on the tour. I won’t spoil your tour experience by giving you the answer why the floor moves upward and down.
Further on, after entering the smallest dome, tour-goers get a look at the 13-inch Fitz-Clark Refractor, constructed in 1861.One interesting anecdote heard on the tour is the story of the theft of the telescope lens, held for ransom by the perpetrator in 1872. Langley refused to pay the blackmail money, and the identity of the lens-napper has never been discovered. The lens however, was recovered from a waste paper basket in a hotel in Beaver Falls.
Scratched and useless, the lens was reground, and, when reinstalled, proved to have better clarity than the original. On clear nights, tour-takers get to see whatever celestial objects are in range of the telescope.
The tour ends on an eerie note in the basement crypt where the ashes of James Keeler and John Brashear and his wife, Phoebe, are interned under the pier of one of the telescopes Brashear’s company produced.
The cornerstone for the current tan brick and white terra cotta observatory complex was laid in 1900, and the building was completed in 1912. Current research work is focusing on detection of extrasolar planets using photometry to measure the brightness of stars as a way to discover orbiting planets.
The Allegheny Observatory is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is designated a Pennsylvania state and Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation historic landmark.
Tours of the Observatory, located at 159 Riverview Avenue in Pittsburgh, are offered at 8 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays from April through late October. The tours are free of charge, but reservations are required by phoning 412-321-2400 between 1 and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Every third Friday of the month (except December) the Observatory offers a public lecture beginning at 7 p.m. with free refreshments. The one-hour long lectures begin at 7:30 p.m., followed by a tour. For more information, phone 412-321-2400 or visit website www.pitt.edu/~aobsvtry.
Story by Dave Zuchowski for Pennsylvania Bridges
FINDING NEVERLAND premieres at the Benedum Center, 237 7th Street, Pittsburgh, Oct. 18-23. Performances are Tuesday through Thursday evenings at 7:30 p.m., Friday evening at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. On Wednesday, Oct. 19, at 6:30 p.m. PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh patrons are invited to join us for a free pre-show talk, Know The Show Before You Go, held at the Trust Arts Education Center, 805-807 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh.
Based on the Academy Award-winning Miramax motion picture by David Magee, and the play The Man Who Was Peter Pan by Allan Knee, FINDING NEVERLAND follows the relationship between playwright J.M. Barrie and the family that inspired Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up – one of the most beloved stories of all time. This new musical, packed with mesmerizing visuals, irresistible songs and plenty of laughs, is a timeless story about the power of imagination… and spectacular proof that you never really have to grow up.
Tickets ($26-$80) to FINDING NEVERLAND at the Benedum Center are available at these Pittsburgh Cultural Trust official ticket sources: www.TrustArts.org, by calling 412-456-4800 or in person at Theater Square Box Office, 655 Penn Avenue. For information about the PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh subscription series, visit TrustArts.org or call 412-456-1390.
Photo: Finding Neverland. Sawyer Nunes and Aidan Gemme of the Original Broadway Cast. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
This year marks the 19th year of the Monongahela Historical Society’s Ghost Walk. I spoke with Susan Bowers and Carol Frye, who are the president and treasurer of the Historical Society and serve as guides for the annual tour.
This year, the number of house on the tour has decreased. Participants used to visit 13 homes but now that number has dropped to seven or eight.
Although the majority of the ghost stories are modern, the homes are not. The Longwell House site by the railroad tracks has a rich history, even though the house itself was torn down in the 1980s. It was the first home of local Captain Longwell, who sailed the rivers and Lake Erie, and dates to the pre-Civil War Era.
The tour also visits the Wickerham house which was the home of John Blythe, a local but somewhat famous architect. He designed the majority of the houses and churches in town and is believed to be one of the spirits that have remained in one of the houses.
This year, tour organizers will also host a VIP tour for those that return every year and want something different, or those who just want an in-depth view of one of the historical homes. The VIP tour will allow you to wander through the halls of the Acheson house while enjoying food and beverages. Acheson was one of Thomas Edison’s protégés and was also known worldwide as an inventor, mostly of carborundum.
I asked Susan and Carol about the Historical Society’s background and also to name some of their favorite homes on the tour.
The Historical Society originally formed in 1969 as the Friday Conversation Club and met in Chess Park, and after opening up the museum in the 1980s for a homecoming celebration, finally gained 501c3 status and has remained open.
Susan has been a member of the Monongahela Historical Society for at least 22 years, and currently serves as the president, while Carol has been a member for about 20 years and serves as the treasurer.
Susan’s favorite stop on the ghost tour is Main Street Antiques, where there are said to be the ghosts of a young girl, a lady, and a man in the front room. Carol greatly enjoys the Wickerham House.
If you are interested in the ghost walk, reservations and prepayment are required. To make reservations, visit monongahelahistoricalsociety.com or call 724-258-6432. The original ghost walk is $10 per person and will be held on October 7-8 and 14-15. The VIP tour is October 8 and 15 and is $25 per person. The tour leaves from Chess Park at 7:15 p.m.
If you’re interested in becoming a member of the Historical Society, visit their website and fill out the application.
The Historical Society also assists the Aquatorium Committee with a multitude of events year round. The next is the first annual Witch Fest on October 29. This is a free, adults only, paranormal themed event including food, vendors, psychics, and seers.
Have a question about the paranormal? Email Reanna Roberts at PABridges.Reanna@comcast.net
Explore. Rescue. Protect! Starting in San Diego next week, the Octonauts’ first ever, action-packed, interactive theatre show to tour the U.S. will head coast-to-coast visiting more than 60 cities including Greensburg’s The Palace Theatre on November 1 at 6 p.m. The Octonauts and the Deep Sea Volcano Adventure invites audiences on an exciting underwater quest through a world full of adventure and surprises and features brand new and fan favorite songs led by the entire Octonauts eight-member crew including Captain Barnacles, Lieutenant Kwazii and Medic Peso. The high-tech production features costume characters, animated projections on a huge screen and a brand new storyline and script.
“The live show brings these charismatic characters to life in a way children never thought possible, stretching their imagination and bringing them directly into their favorite character’s world for the day,” says Jonathan Shank, executive producer at Red Light Management. “Seeing the reactions of kids and their parents when the characters are on stage is one of the most amazing and rewarding parts about producing live family shows.”
Daniel Hersh, who plays the role of Captain Barnacles, is a Southern California native who graduated from American Musical and Dramatic Academy with a BFA in musical theatre. “We’re calling all cadets and their families to assist our dynamic adventure heroes on their fast-paced and exciting underwater adventure,” says Hersh.
The Octonauts live show consists of two acts each running about 30 minutes, plus a brief intermission. For more information, visit www.octonautsliveus.com, www.facebook.com/octonautslive or search on social media using #octonautslive.
Tickets are $29.50, $39.50 and $49.50, on sale now and available at The Palace Theatre box office (thepalacetheatre.org) and ticketfly.com. VIP packages are available through CID entertainment and include a meet and greet with the characters and premium seating.
The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust announces photography exhibit by Martha Rial, IN UGANDA, A SCHOOL TO CALL HOME will be on view through Sunday, November 13, at 937 Liberty Gallery, 2nd floor, located at 937 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. This photography exhibition is free and open to the public. 937 Liberty Gallery is a project of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.
Martha Rial’s photography exhibit, IN UGANDA, A SCHOOL TO CALL HOME, depicts the efforts by two extraordinary individuals Medi Bugembe and Victoria Nalongo Namusisi to empower children living in poverty through education in Uganda. Victoria Nalongo Namusisi adopted Medi Bugembe and saved him from a life in the streets. Medi is now giving back, running The Great Kings and Queens Children’s Center, which harbors more than 400 students. He has turned his own pain into a positive outcome, helping to empower children living in extreme poverty. Victoria Nalongo Namusisi is the co-founder of Bright Kids Uganda whose mission is to rescue vulnerable and economically disadvantaged children from the dire circumstances in which they are currently living, by providing housing, their basic necessities, and education. For more information, visit brightkidsuganda.net.
“Victoria Nalongo Namusisi and Medi Bugembe are extraordinary human beings. I am honored to share their story with Pittsburgh audiences. I believe viewers will be inspired by their message of healing and how one person can make a difference in our world,” shared Martha Rial.
While researching this project, Rial learned Uganda, an East African nation, is considered to be among the poorest and most politically corrupt countries in the world. In this nation of almost 39 million people, an infamous civil war waged by the Lord’s Resistance Army has resulted in tens of thousands of casualties, extreme torture and atrocities, and the dislocation of more than a million people. Nearly half the population is under the age of 15, and an estimated 2 million children have been orphaned.
Martha Rial has received international acclaim, including a Pulitzer Prize, among other awards for her work. She specializes in documentary, editorial and portrait photography.
For more information about Martha Rial, martharial.com.
Photo: Orphans at the Great Kings and Queens Children’s Centre outside of Kampala, Uganda. © Martha Rial 2015