Recently, Mr. Stanley and Beatrice Christoff gave my good friend Larry Oberly a Northampton High School Amptennian yearbook from 1931.
This “so-called” writer was fascinated with the contents. Two graduates became well-known Lehigh Valley personalities. One had a connection with the president of the United States. Another gained fame on the gridiron.
A number of years ago, I wrote a series on Betty Seidel. She resided in a historical building, a pre-Revolutionary hotel and later Ms. Seidel’s gift shop. Sadly, the sturdy Cherryville structure was demolished, destroyed to make way for a highway project.
Betty graduated from Northampton High School in 1931. She was one of the art editors. Betty painted the inside and back covers of the Amptennian. The theme of the yearbook was Japanese literature. The school was visited in the fall of 1929 by the head of Normal Course North Japan College, Sendai, Japan, so the art theme of the book in Japanese literature is followed throughout the Amptennian.
Our next column will reveal to our readers a student who is well known for football but not his skill in art. He also was an art editor.
Let’s continue with Ms. Seidel. Upon graduation, she spent one year in the art world in New York City, returning to Northampton to open an art and gift shop on Main Street. Her parents, Harry and Helen Seidel, owned the popular Cherryville Hotel. Betty’s Pennsylvania Dutch art graced the hotel walls.
I hope our readers remember 1931. It was a difficult era. We were plunging into the Great Depression, and there was massive unemployment.
When the hotel closed, she transformed the hotel into a gift shop. Her collection of art, prized first lady dolls and unique gifts attracted numerous celebrities, such as Tony Bennett, Burl Ives and others. The shop also had a brisk mail-order business.
One bright winter afternoon, a representative from the administration of President Dwight Eisenhower visited the shop. He requested Ms. Seidel paint a birthday plate for President Eisenhower’s birthday.
Ms. Seidel said, “I was humbled and stunned by the request. I agreed and hoped my work would meet presidential standards.”
The birthday celebration was held in Harrisburg. On the day of the celebration, a government limousine picked up Betty in Cherryville. I doubt it will ever happen again! Ms. Seidel was a guest at the event.
She told this writer, “It was a great honor, but I was happy to return to my Cherryville home.”
I was thrilled to be invited to her gift shop and interview her and thankful that she allowed Mr. Oberly to take whatever photographs we needed. I will always remember how gracious and candid she was with me as she related her life story.
In two weeks, we will visit Seidel’s Cherryville Hotel and share some Cherryville history with you. Please join us!