An Illustrated History of Tamaqua

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Gifford H. Albright and R Thomas Berner are pleased to announce the publication of An Illustrated History of Tamaqua. The 120-page book contains photos and short historical essays about the photos. Albright is a native Tamaquan and Berner grew up there. Albright graduated from Tamaqua High in 1948 and Berner in 1961.

The following comes from the book:

From the Authors

This endeavor has enabled us to reminisce and we hope it will do the same for you. As we were compiling this, we remembered places we had played as children, train rides we had taken to faraway cities, politicians who had come to town on trains to campaign, schools we had attended that no longer exist.

We have benefitted from the work of others and while we list our sources at the end, we happily acknowledge the work of Paul Scherer, whose Musings of a Chronicler were compiled on a CD—with old photographs—by Bob Betz. A third person whose work made our job easy was David Bensinger, who compiled old postcards of Tamaqua, some of which appear here.

We especially salute Bob Betz for taking the time to look at our final manuscript. And we thank Micah Gursky for providing a copy of an old map that we tweaked in Photoshop to create the cover.

We note a certain irony in this compilation. We never set foot in Tamaqua to do any research, but were able to find our sources either online or, in the case of the Scherer collection, on a CD purchased many years ago by one of us. We communicated via e-mail.

We need to emphasize that we are not historians and have not sought out primary sources to confirm what we learned from secondary sources. We also want to emphasize that this in no way is a definitive history. If we did not have a particular image, we did not write an essay. We debated how far afield to go in each essay and decided that for the most part, each essay would focus on the image and that we would seldom update to provide current information. Sometimes we used an image to represent something larger. The Tamaqua Unions allowed us to mention modern championship seasons.

In our selection of photos, we aimed to be representative. We had three times as many photos as we used but wanted to keep the book to a reasonable length and price. In order to hold down the price, the authors are forgoing royalties.


Would Jesus Play Football?

When I was in high school, I used to get a kick whenever a player from the opposing team would step to the foul line, bless himself—and miss. While I was borderline irreligious by then, I suspect my glee came in part from having been raised in an evangelical environment that was decidedly anti-Catholic. My church found a way to campaign against JFK without losing its tax-free status.

Unlike Michael Vick, who claims that abusing dogs was a way of life when he was a child and so he never gave it a second thought when he became an adult, I have reflected on my past and hope that after more than six decades I am an accepting person, that your religion or race or gender doesn’t matter to me. Well, race and gender.

I remain conflicted about religion. I’ve read about the dark side of so many “devout” people that my cynicism has grown exponentially. I still can’t believe that given all the highly religious people in Congress that we would need a code of ethics. I learned my ethics in Sunday school and still practice them.

The latest mixed message occurred recently in a professional football game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Miami Dolphins. In the second half of the game, a Pittsburgh player, in tackling a Miami player, knocked him unconscious. It was immediately evident that something was wrong. The victim wasn’t moving. That’s never good.

Within minutes, if not seconds, a group of Steelers joined in prayer on the field. I understood.

But then I reflected on the situation and it made me wonder.

Would Jesus play football?

Here we have a very violent game in which the object is to stop the opposing team by knocking down the person with the ball—and not gently. (Remember Darryl Stingley?) And so these men participate in this violent game, and when someone is hurt, they pray.

There’s a big contradiction there. The story of Jesus is not one of violence. He was not competitive in any sense of the word. I don’t think he’d even play a friendly game of touch football with the apostles.

Thus, I question the faith of those who would pound their fellow man into unconsciousness—and then pray for his recovery. Doesn’t compute.


Restructure Legislature for Efficacy

(Published in the Santa Fe New Mexican on Jan. 3, 2010.)

Gov. Richardson has made a eminently sensible proposal—a statewide ban on the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. He said he’ll introduce a bill when the Legislature convenes in January.

Why wait?

Well, as everyone knows, New Mexico government is structured in such a way that very little gets done except when the Legislature meets (and some might say very little gets done then anyway). And so everything is crammed into a 30-day or a 60-day session—or isn’t acted on at all.

I’d like to suggest that we hold a constitutional convention and bring New Mexico’s governing structure into the 21st century.

What changes would I propose?

We might have a fulltime legislature, meeting or on call from the day after Labor Day until the day before Memorial Day. That way we don’t have to wait for the annual session to have problems addressed (and solved—or not).

If for some reason, the Legislature must convene beyond Memorial Day, the legislators work for free. There’s no such thing as overtime pay, not even per diem. Get the people’s work done in nine months and go home.

I’d also suggest that the new legislature be unicameral like Nebraska, which has about 200,000 fewer residents than New Mexico and does just fine with a one-house legislature and 49 senators (compared to 112 legislators for New Mexico). Checks and balances will occur naturally, even within a one-party structure. (Think Democrats and health care reform.)

And one more thing: term limits. Eight years is enough. It works at the county level; why can’t it work at the state level?

(R Thomas Berner, a former town councilman in another state, now lives in Santa Fe.)