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Life Around the River - Preserving History & Heritage

Aug 29, 2015 02:06PM ● Published by Erica Shames

Gallery: Life Around the River - Fall 2015 [3 Images] Click any image to expand.

Volunteer fire companies are grappling with numerous issues, ranging from a lack of interest in the profession to a lack of volunteers. According to Pennsylvania state government statistics, a decade ago approximately 300,000 people were volunteer-firefighters; today that number has dwindled to about 50,000.

Volunteer fire companies, therefore, are reluctantly succumbing to the seemingly permanent transition to a fully paid staff, and its financial ramifications.  This ongoing transition has made a considerable impact on fire companies everywhere, including the William Cameron Engine Co. in Lewisburg, which responds to over 2,000 requests for emergency medical, rescue and fire-fighting services annually. Its staff is now comprised of a mix of volunteer and paid employees, and the department recently hired its first paid chief, James J. Blount III. 

Volunteer staff training occurs Tuesday nights at 7 and 10 p.m. Members of the general public or those interested in volunteering are welcome to attend trainings or work details.

Much of the early equipment used to fight fires also faces extinction. The William Cameron Engine Co. created the Liddick-Stephens Museum to preserve its heritage, which dates back to 1831.

Dave Arndt, co-creator of the museum, says people are surprised to learn of the existence of the tiny museum. “Everyone is amazed, including the children who we sometimes let take pictures on the equipment,” he said.

The museum is part of the fire company’s training facility, built in 1999, and it showcases many historical artifacts including its first hand-powered pump, the “Valiant,” and a steam-powered pump, the “William Cameron,” presented to the borough of Lewisburg by William Cameron in 1871.

Admission to the museum, located at 11 Buffalo Rd., Lewisburg, is free. However, visits must be scheduled in advance. Donations are accepted and welcomed. Learn more at www.WCEC-lfd.org or by calling (570) 524-2295. 

Ties to another world

Blair County’s Chimney Rocks is a prominent limestone formation located mountainside in South Hollidaysburg, along Rt. 36, with ties to a local Native American tribe. Tribal members built signal fires against the proective rock wall to communicate with other valley tribes. The tribal chief would lead and observe from a rock pad atop limestone pillars, now known as the “Chief Seat.”

The mountain is an outcrop of fingerlike spires of limestone with rock beds formed from the Tonoloway and Keyser formations, part of the western flank of Catfish Ridge. This abstract wall of rock containing 120 perches offers a picturesque and panoramic view of the township below. 

The Hollidaysburg Borough purchased Chimney Rocks in 1994, and transformed it into a communal park, with handicap-accessible picnic areas and a pavilion available for rental. Public rest room facilities and parking are available.

The park includes a steep, half-mile hiking trail that leads up to Chimney Rocks with lower, middle and upper overlooks. The trail winds up through the woods, and the terrain can be rough in certain areas; benches dotting the trail provide places to rest.  The trail around the main grounds is flat and easy to navigate. More information is available from the Hollidaysburg Borough Manager’s office at (814) 695-7543.

Recycled and reused

Philadelphia’s Magic Garden is not your typical garden. Made of materials collected and salvaged from around the city, it sports bicycle wheels, glass bottles, tiles, broken mirrors and more. The beauty of the garden is that it transforms unappealing “trash” into something of value—a mosaic, visionary art environment, gallery and community arts center that preserves, interprets and provides access to founder Isaiah Zagar’s unique mosaic art environment and public murals.

The garden spans half a block on Philadelphia’s famous South Street, and displays indoor and outdoor distinct arrangements of recycled material. The garden is open daily to visitors and hosts year-round, low- cost public programs that educate the public about folk, mosaics and visionary art.

From October 9 through December 9, beginning with a reception from 6 to 9 p.m., the garden will host a mythological art exhibition, “Fragments of the Soul.” Artist Eager Saner Flores will transform the Magic Garden’s galleries into colorful, mythological and paradoxical rooms containing murals, illustrations, video projections and paintings, all created from reclaimed material from around Philadelphia. Fragments of the Soul is expected to “expose our souls, and examine what we left behind in life.” More information is at phillymagicgardens.org. 

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