In this fourth column, I am continuing my visit to the Bath Museum recalling 200 years of local history. In our last column we remember when the cement industry had a great impact on the Lehigh Valley. In 1926 the Penn Allen, Pennsylvania Cement merged with a Tennessee company and changed their name to Penn Dixie Cement. They would now have three plants in the area: Plants 4, 5 and 6.
They became a very large employer in the area and continued in operation until 1978 when Plant 4 would close, ending the Penn Dixie era in Bath. The company had produced cement for many famous projects including the New York City water system.
The railroads hauled most of the cement from our plants; trucks were in the distant future.
Bath also was a part of a trolley system, the long forgotten system transported passengers to Tatamy, Easton, Bangor, Pen Argyl, Wind Gap and Bethlehem. One stop at Penn Allen required passengers to exit the train, walk a few steps and board another trolley. Penn Allen Cement demanded this be done as they controlled the right way; sounds foolish doesn’t it!
In April of 1917 the United States entered the “Great War,” World War I. Seventy men from Bath served in the military. A group of women formed a group named “Needle Guild.” They prepared medical supplies, knitted and made various garments for the soldiers. The organization even adopted a World War I orphan.
After the war a group of veterans met at the Bath Hotel and organized an American Legion Post and named the Post after Eckley Patch, a local veteran who served in World War I. Initially, they met in a store until a legion home was constructed on land donated by Keystone Cement.
The “golden twenties” saw a booming economy; there was employment for everyone. Bath joined the boom. There were football, basketball and baseball teams. For outdoorsmen, the East Bath Rod & Gun Club and the Keystone Gun Club were organized.
The Home News provided readers with hometown news. Some still remember the Halbfoersters stationary store on Main Street with a printing press humming in the back room. The last editor and friend Bill Halbfoerster challenged me over 25 years ago to write a history column, so this so called “writer” picked up his #12 Faber pencil and started writing. I still have an endless supply of the graphite fabers.
The prosperity of the ‘20s collapsed in October of 1929 with the Stock Market crash. Fortunes and savings were lost, ushering in The Great Depression. Locally, our cement plants worked only a few months each year, farm prices fell to all time lows, and unemployment reached 25 percent. What was the future of our country?
In two weeks we’ll discuss WWII.