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Susquehanna Life

Episode 4: Fall 2020 - The Past Will Guide Us

Show Notes

Autumn is a reflective time for many people. The smells of the season, the aroma of pumpkin spice treats or the earthy smell of leaf pile, immediately stir up memories. In speaking to residents about what they remember of the fall of 1972, Andrew Stuhl, a professor of environmental studies and sciences at Bucknell University, learned about the powerful smell of flood mud. This was the pungent odor throughout the Susquehana Valley after Hurricane Agnes brought historic rainfalls and a massive flood which upended lives and reshaped towns and waterways. 

“It reminds me of the connection between smell and memory, and how quickly a memory can come back to you if you smell something in the present day,” Andrew tells podcast co-host, Peterson Toscano. "I like to think about that as a metaphor for the importance of history and the importance of moments like Hurricane Agnes. They’re always with us, and sometimes they don’t come to our immediate senses, but they can be triggered, and they can be brought up really quickly. I like to believe in the power of memory and history, to mine those experiences, to reflect on them, and recognize and regard them, so we that can walk today in the difficult moments, and get through them.” 

Andrew talks about his community-based research, the Agnes Flood Project. You will learn why this one storm is still so important, not just for the region, but for the entire country. Lessons drawn from 1972 and the resiliency modeled by local residents during and after the storm will help us in coping and caring for each other during the Coronavirus Pandemic and with the growing risks of climate change. 

If you or someone you know have Hurricane Agnes stories to share for the Agnes Flood project, contact Andrew Stuhl and the team. They are also looking for pictures from the hurricane and its aftermath. Email 

Elizabeth Wislar lived in Williamsport for five years. She recently moved, but finds herself thinking a lot about the city and its inhabitants—the current ones along with those who lived here long ago. These include the lumber barons and the indigenous people who once lived along the river. Elizabeth is mixed blood—Lenape and Choctaw, and she is a registered member of the Cherokee Nation. She hopes the curiosity she has about Native history in the region will be contagious. 

Looking over the Susquehanna River at Williamsport, she kept wondering about the original inhabitants and the history too often hidden from view. She says, “I just couldn’t help but feel an absolute absence and erasure every time I walked on the River Walk. I would really like more people to understand what happened there—to the land, to the trees, to the people. An enormous amount of trauma happened in that area.”

Elizabeth shares what she has discovered about the Susquehannock and the Lenape who inhabited the region. She speaks about the violence the European settlers and the leaders of the newly formed United States perpetuated against the people and the land. She unearths for us stories of the lumber barons who made and then lost fortunes in the city. She also invites current residents to join in on the conversation about this history. Elizabeth believes it will be a healing process, one filled with essential lessons needed to keep us from repeating history. 

Also in this episode, Erica Shames, founder and publisher of Susquehanna Life Magazine, shares a delicious socially distanced lunch with co-host Peterson Toscano. They meet up in the new outdoor patio at Elizabeth’s An American Bistro. Ease drop on their conversation to discover what all the buzz is about. 

Plus Peterson shares new features in the magazine and the perfect treat to bake this fall. 

You will hear all this and more in the latest episode of Susquehanna Life Out Loud.  

Dig Deeper

Susquehanna Life Out Loud is the companion podcast to Susquehanna Life Magazine. You will find a full transcript of this episode and listings of previous episodes on our show notes page. You can hear our podcast on Podbean, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, and Stitcher Radio. Let us know where you hear podcasts, and we will submit our show to that platform. 

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Peterson Toscano  (00:03):

Welcome to Susquehanna Life Out Loud, the companion podcast to Susquehanna Life magazine. I'm Peterson Toscano. And in this episode, we're talking about the fall 2020 issue of Susquehanna Life magazine. 

Andrew Stuhl: (:16)

Those are lessons that are really important for us to remember today because it is a really difficult moment right now in the global pandemic, as we experienced it in the Susquehanna Valley. Our past teaches us that there are ways that we can actually get back a stronger community if we're able to work together and share these things together. 

Peterson Toscano: (:35)

That's Andrew Stuhl, a Bucknell University professor. Andrew and his team are interviewing residents who remember the historic 1972 flood, brought on by a storm called Agnes, By looking at the ways people coped during and after the flood, Andrew hopes we can learn important lessons that will help us navigate the challenges we face today.

Peterson Toscano (01:01):

And if you, or someone you know, has an Agnes story to share, you will learn how to contribute to the Agnes flood project. In this episode, as always, we talk about food. Co-host Erica Shames and I had lunch together, something that seems rare and downright exotic in this time of coronavirus pandemic. We will let you eavesdrop on us as we had our socially distant lunch. It was at a brand new outdoor dining patio in Lewisburg. Oh, and I will tell you about an easy to make and absolutely delicious sounding Greek honey Walnut cake. Plus, you will learn about new features that appear in this issue of Susquehanna Life magazine.

Peterson Toscano (01:56):

Right now, it is difficult to travel in the world. Still, we have the ability to travel to the past. In the fall 2020 issue of Susquehanna Life magazine, Elizabeth Wislar reveals local history that many residents never hear about. She wants to change that; she shares her candid thoughts in the Tell us Your Story feature. 

Elizabeth Wislar recently moved away from the Susquehanna Valley to Virginia, where she continues her artistic career. 

Elizabeth Wislar: (2:32)

I am an artist and instructor, a creator, a theater professional, and unapologetically political. I do large scale textile installations. So I mainly I'm focused on fabrics. 

Peterson Toscano: (2:45)

Elizabeth lived in Williamsport for five years where she was active in the theater and art scene. Today, she finds herself mentally revisiting Williamsport. She has strong feelings about the legends and myths around the city’s celebrated past. She's especially curious about the history of people too often hidden from view.

Elizabeth Wislar (03:06):

The Riverwalk is a big part of Williamsport, and it's a moment of pride for them as well. And I just couldn't help but feel an absolute absence, an erasure, every time I walked on the Riverwalk. I would really like more people to understand what happened there to the land, to the trees, to the people. An enormous amount of trauma happened in that area.

Peterson Toscano (03:36):

In her article, “Williamsport, We Have to Talk,” Elizabeth Wislar points to the original inhabitants of the region, the Susquehannock and the Lenni Lenape. For Elizabeth, It's more than history. It's personal.

Elizabeth Wislar (03:51):

I am mixed blood Lenape/Choctaw registered member of the Cherokee nation. We still exist. There's this narrative of the sparsely populated lands. And there's this narrative that whoever was here that, you know, disease took them out. And that's a really lovely way of putting it, but yes, disease was one part of it, but you're completely whitewashing the idea that many were enslaved, many were massacred, many were forcefully removed from their families as children. Disease is one small part of it. What I'm trying to do is be part of that conversation. And I am not Susquehannock. And I am not, you know, entirely a Lenape.  But I do feel strongly attracted and motivated by the idea of reminding people that they were there. They were there for thousands of years and they still are.

Peterson Toscano (04:49):

Elizabeth wants Williamsport residents to know about the original inhabitants who lived along the shores of the river. She also wants to help current residents see how even the history Williamsport celebrates does not tell the whole story.

Elizabeth Wislar (05:08):

It's always delivered to us on this silver platter of amazingness surrounding the millionaires, the barons—the logging barons—without really, truly recognizing what it took for them to have that enormous amount of wealth. And then most of them to die penniless. That's kind of a footnote and it's not really out in the front.

Peterson Toscano (05:34):

Elizabeth invites the current inhabitants of the Susquehanna Valley to be curious about this land and the people who lived here before Europeans arrived.

Elizabeth Wislar (05:45):

All this time we've been told the colonization story, the story of these brave people that sailed across the ocean and founded this, you know, almost uninhabited space. And it's just not true. So it's time to really take a look at things and figure out what happened, why it happened, and then have people be reconnected to the land. 

Learning is part of healing and healing is part of learning. And so doing that learning and participating in the healing, but then also when you find yourself connected to the land, there's a lot more respect for the land and the resources and the water, and all of these things that are in danger right now.

Peterson Toscano (06:29):

While we can never know everything about the original inhabitants of the Susquehanna Valley, archeologists, historians and stories passed down through the generations give us a snapshot of their lives.

Elizabeth Wislar (06:42):

They lived in long houses. They lived, they had these, um, kind of guarded communities. And by guarded communities, I mean that they had some, some walls that they built around them. When you see it described by the white historians, they talk about, you know, they have these walls to keep out warring nations and all that kind of stuff. And that's just not true. The walls would have never kept out a war, but if you've ever tried to plant a garden in the middle of a forest where bears and deer and rabbits and squirrels, you know, for a fact that you're going to have to put a wall around it. And so that's what they were doing. They were gardening. And so those walls were there for, for that purpose and, you know, to have a safe kind of community, and then also to protect your food source.

Peterson Toscano (07:30):

We actually don't know for sure how the people colonists called the Susquehannock referred to themselves. Elizabeth explains how naming sometimes occurred.

Elizabeth Wislar (07:40):

Lenni Lenape in itself means first people. And that that's not a way of them claiming the absolute original DNA. What it is is when you get off the boat, we're the first people you're going to run into. And so that was an introduction and it was taken on as a name. And I think a lot of the names that we have currently for it, for these tribal communities, are based on introductions, more than they are on this is what we call ourselves.

Peterson Toscano (08:05):

Many of the original inhabitants created cultures that centered around hunting and gathering.

Elizabeth Wislar (08:11):

The hunter can go out pretty much anywhere and, and survive. But the gatherer needs their garden. Their gathering needs their prairie, the gatherer needs their desert, the gatherer needs their place where they find their food resources. And a lot of that was cultivated and they did really controlled forest burnings and stuff. And so the land wasn't forest that you could barely get through because of the thickness of it, no, it was actually very shaped.

Peterson Toscano (08:40):

Conflicts over the land, land rights and access to it increased as Europeans claimed property starting on the Eastern seaboard. The Lenni Lenape lived closer to the coast and the colonists forced them to move west into what is now known as the Susquehanna Valley. Historians have different theories about what happened to the Susquehannock, but they may have moved south as the colonists settled in the region. The colonial powers, and then the newly formed United States, continually undermined indigenous communities by destroying the land that supported them. Elizabeth reads a letter written by President George Washington.

Elizabeth Wislar (09:25):

“The immediate objects are the total destruction and devastation of their settlements and the capture of as many prisoners of every age and sex as possible. It will be essential to ruin their crops now in the ground and prevent there planting more.”

Elizabeth Wislar: (9:44) 

 And that was George Washington. He wrote that in 1779. And he was speaking specifically about the region of Pennsylvania where you are. And the settlements, he was talking about the six nations at the time of Seneca, Oneida, Mohawk, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Tuscarora. What he was talking about was— he's talking about the women. He was talking about destroying what they had, because it was absolutely a matrilineal society—or at very least a very matched and equal society. When you remove the women's power, and you take their land and you take their food source, you then are forcing that community into a patriarchy because the hunters are now the ones that are providing. And then you force-march them thousands of miles out West. Hunting is the only way you're going to survive that; you can't stop and make a garden on a walk.

Peterson Toscano (10:34):

In our conversation, and in her article published in the fall issue of Susquehanna Life magazine, Elizabeth Wislar returns, again and again, to this one theme—the destruction of the land. This destruction continued after the European settlers and American citizens killed or expelled many of the original inhabitants. Elizabeth reads for us an excerpt from her article.

Elizabeth Wislar (11:05):

“From 1838 to 1898, all of the mighty and majestic trees in the millions of acres along the Susquehanna River were felled, cut up and sold, creating enormous profits and power for a few white men. The natural habitat was destroyed for all flora, fauna and humans. Disastrous weather patterns were created as a result;  flooding happened more often and at greater levels. Tornadoes, historically uncommon, ran down Fourth Street in Williamsport. Depleted of all sources of income, and in debt to greedy investments, many of the millionaires declared bankruptcy. Their mansions were abandoned. Not one tree in this area is older than 120 years. Photos from 1898 show the mountains completely bare to the soil and the river swollen with the last of the mighty trees, stripped of their bark. The logging barons and their crews built up, ravished, destroyed and then abandoned Williamsport—all in under 100 years. Williamsport, why are we still celebrating them?

“The Susquehannock people remain a small footnote in the accounts of this area, and in the basement of the Curtin Elementary School is a series of large inelegant paintings on the walls depicting everyday life of the Susquehannock.  I was startled the first time I saw them; I was not prepared to see these crude caricatures of the first inhabitants. However, this is quite fitting: millionaires, as the mascot, with symbols of white male refinement as the logo; crude depictions of natives in the basement, painted by a white man. I was also startled by the crudely carved large male indian head, part of a national series called ‘Whispering Giants,’ on the back alley entrance to the bus terminal downtown—also created by a white man. Williamsport, you need to do better.”

Peterson Toscano (12:51):

In pointing out historical wrongs, and current misrepresentations and misunderstandings of native people today, it may feel to some white inhabitants that Elizabeth is attacking them.

Elizabeth Wislar (13:02):

I'm not trying with this article to point a finger at one, two, 10, 20 people. I'm trying to invite everybody into an open conversation about how we can never do that again. When I was growing up, one of the popular books was The Lorax, of course by Dr. Seuss.  Williamsport, when you look at what happened, it is the Lorax, and it can happen again. You know, we have to be really careful. And it may not happen with the trees this time, but it could happen with the pipelines, it could happen with the water sources. And when you take away your, your water, you take away your life.

Peterson Toscano (13:44):

Hearing Elizabeth Wislar speak about the region and revealing so much about the region I did not know, it makes me curious to learn more. And in our show notes, you will find a list of resources. Visit SusquehannaLife dot com. Oh, and Elizabeth has another recommendation for us. 

Elizabeth Wislar (14:02):

There's a really wonderful podcast called “All My Relations.” That's a good, easy way to kind of dip your toe in and listen to two wonderful people speak, and then they have guests come in and speak.

Peterson Toscano (14:14):

That is the podcast called “All My Relations.” You'll find a link to it and more on our show notes over at SusquehannaLife dot com. And if you want to follow Elizabeth Wislar, well, normally I would point you to her social media, but Elizabeth wants to point you in another direction

Elizabeth Wislar (14:35):

Instead of following me, follow the clues in your own town. There's names that are clearly from indigenous people, like the roads, the waterways, the hills, the mounds, the land has these names. And so, like the Susquehanna River, that's a very unique name. And so where did that come from? And so just doing the research on where you live—just type names into Google. Type the name and then type Native American, and it'll take you on a path towards finding out the truth of where you are. That to me would be more of a gift than anybody trying to find out more about me.

Peterson Toscano (15:12):

You will definitely want to read Elizabeth Wislar’s article, “Williamsport, We Need to Talk.” It's available in the fall 2020 issue of Susquehanna Life magazine. 

Peterson Toscano (15:28)

Coming up, Professor Andrew Stuhl explains how a devastating storm that disrupted lives almost 50 years ago holds important lessons for us today. Plus, Erica Shames and I have a lively socially distanced lunch in a brand new outdoor dining area. Stay tuned.

Peterson Toscano (15:51):

Andrew Stuhl is a professor of environmental studies and sciences at Bucknell University. Hearing him speak, though, he sounds more like a philosopher, a historian or an inspirational speaker. 

Andrew Stuhl (16:08)

Yeah, as a professor, I take the view that I'm not a Pez dispenser of knowledge, right? I'm not standing up there giving little bits of information to people, hoping they digest them and then become something different. My view is more of a facilitator of important conversations. So I work really hard to try to create a classroom that is a community where students feel like they want to explore because they're committed to the other people in the room. They want to learn different perspectives and they want to take those perspectives into making themselves better people and their communities better places.

Peterson Toscano (16:48):

Andrew is not originally from the Susquehanna Valley, but he has a keen interest in our local history. Strangely enough, though, it was his research in the American and Canadian Arctic that helped him prepare for his current research project here in Central Pennsylvania. 

Andrew Stuhl (17:04)

I lived in a small town in the Canadian Arctic called a New Vic Northwest territories for two years. And it was a really transformative moment in my life. And I came to see that that region of the world was actually changing rapidly. People's communities were changing, economies were changing, but the physical environment—the river, the Tundra, the ice sheets were changing so quickly. And I wanted to learn more about why that was happening and how we could adapt—how people of the Arctic could adapt. My angle on this is a little different though. I looked to the past to the study of history to understand where we should go in the future.

And when I looked into the past through archives and written records and interviews with people, I found a lot of different examples over the last 150 years of similar rapid changes. And so I thought, wow, these would be really interesting lessons and case studies to draw from.

Peterson Toscano (18:00)

His research in the Susquehanna Valley all centers on a major weather event in 1972, a giant storm called Agnes. 

Andrew Stuhl (18:15)

Tropical storm Agnes. When you look at the numbers, it's really hard to keep in your head—over $3 billion of damage just in the Susquehanna Valley. Fifty people lost their lives; 200,000 people were rendered homeless for at least a year. And in today's numbers, if you want to just think about the finances, that's over $15 billion. So that's trying to index or quantify a lot of loss.

Andrew Stuhl (18:46):

Now, this project on Hurricane Agnes and tropical storm Agnes in the Susquehanna Valley, obviously very different place, completely different region, different histories, different landscapes, different communities and cultures, but the method and the approach is actually, I think pretty similar. The big overall question is, how can we understand the past to help us in the future or even the present day. 

Peterson Toscano (19:20)

Andrew and his team have begun speaking with residents about their own experiences during and after Agnes.

Andrew Stuhl (19:28)

I love learning about what makes people who they are—their stories and their life's journeys. When you ask someone about themselves, they light up just because they like to be recognized and heard and regarded. And so in some of the interactions I've had with people about tropical storm Agnes, I can sense an element of that—that they're happy to talk about something that was really important to them.

Peterson Toscano (19:49):

In a moment, Andrew will share how people with stories can connect with him. It's important though, for us to understand just how massive, historic and important Agnes was for its time and for today. 

Andrew Stuhl (20:05)

So tropical storm Agnes is a particularly historic storm just for the scale of the storm and the impact, in Pennsylvania in particular. It wasn't a category five hurricane. It wasn't the most intense hurricane, but it stalled over top of Pennsylvania because of other weather patterns. And it dropped an incredible amount of rain—20 inches over three days. So if you think about the annual rainfall that the Susquehanna River basin would get in any one year—in three days in 1972, he got half of that rainfall. And so across its entire track, there were $3.1 billion worth of damage. And in Pennsylvania, it was $2.1 billion of that. So it's a uniquely Susquehanna story of this really remarkable storm.

Peterson Toscano (20:57):

There was a lot of history stored up in the people who survived Agnes. The sights, sounds, and even the smells are still fresh in local residents’ memories. 

Andrew Stuhl (21:10)

We are seeing a lot of stories about the smell of Agnes, which really surprised me as a researcher. I'm used to dealing with history and the written word and analyzing why someone wrote a letter to another person, or tracking how an idea or a historical event happens through correspondence or newspaper clippings. But when talking with people about Agnes, they remember the smell of the mud that was left on their belongings and in their homes and their clothes. It's called flood mud. And if you talk with people who lived through Hurricane Agnes, it's something that is very, very close to top of mind: flood mud, smell of decay, smell of dirt. It reminds me of the importance of the connection between smell and memory—how quickly a memory can come back to you if you smell something in the present day. And I like to think about that as just a metaphor for the importance of history and the importance of moments like Hurricane Agnes:  they're always with us. And sometimes they don't come to our immediate senses, but they can be triggered and they can be brought up really quickly.

Andrew Stuhl  (22:26):

Maybe it's seems kind of small to say this, but people will often hang their grief on to really concrete things, particular things. And for some reason, there's a lot of stories about pianos with Hurricane Agnes.  I think it's because they are so hard to move. They knew the storm was coming. The news was talking about it. Hey, this tropical storm is moving up the coast of the Atlantic. It's stalling over Pennsylvania. We are seeing lots of rainfall, you know, flood warning. All the systems were in place then, in the 1970s: please, you know, move or get ready. And so people had, you know, experiences in our towns of previous floods in the thirties and the fifties. They knew to move appliances, to move belongings up to high ground or the second levels of homes, if they could.

Andrew Stuhl  (23:17):

But they couldn't move pianos, right?

Andrew Stuhl (23:20):

Pictures after the storm of broken pianos, pianos on the curb. People saying, I remember sitting with my grandmother at this piano and now it's in pieces and molded and we can't use it again. And for some reason I think those kinds of physical items that they can remember so vividly being destroyed are a place where they kind of hang their grief and think, I lost something then.

Peterson Toscano (24:05):

Andrew’s project design was simple: spend time in various Susquehanna River towns and chat face to face with residents who experienced Agnes in 1972. But then in early 2020 disaster struck. 

Andrew Stuhl (24:26)

Right in the middle of planning this research, where we're going to speak with our neighbors about Hurricane Agnes, we have a global pandemic. And we learned that coronavirus spreads through droplets by talking with people, and that there are certain populations—like the older populations above 60 years old—that are particularly at risk. So immediately the research that we had planned to kind of be in community with people in small groups and talk with them, felt like it was not right to do. So that threw a major wrench in our plans.

We've adapted. And we've been trying to find ways we can talk with people remotely. And turns out there's a really active segment of people who live through Agnes that are on Facebook. There's actually a Facebook group with over 18,000 people on it that lived through Agnes or that are related to people who lived through Agnes, just in Pennsylvania, and they're very eager to share their stories. And so in a way, coronavirus interrupted our work and it was frustrating. But also I think it provides a really relevant contemporary context:  the present moment of crisis and how we respond in crisis that helps us draw back to the past and see the relevance of it. I think that Facebook group in particular is helping me learn something about the importance of the move between our private pain and our private suffering and sharing it in community.

You read through some of the comments, pictures that are posted there. You can see people really kind of recognizing each other's personhood because they went through it together. And they might've actually been in completely different towns—Wilkes Barre to Lock Haven, to Sunbury to Lewisburg. But they remember the difficulty of it. They're glad that someone else can honor the suffering and the difficulty. And then there's this other real sense of pride—that they got through, that everyone chipped in. And that for a moment, actually, they worked side by side. They didn't give it to the desperation and the difficulty of the moment.

Peterson Toscano (26:45):

This history seems more relevant today than ever, as we rapidly adapt during the global pandemic. These times call on us to look after each other because we can't get through this alone. Hearing Andrew speak reminds me, this is not our first rodeo. Our community is jammed full of deep wisdom and insight about resiliency during Agnes. That wisdom is vital for us today.

Andrew Stuhl (27:16):

The interesting thing about Agnes and the Agnes recovery, as it relates to coronavirus today, is that there was, there was politics and bureaucracy and differing opinions back then too. In the memory that people have, they often go back to the moments of the flood when the waters really streamed down through those creeks, into the river. And floods really, they are kind of isolated in time. They're three or four days, and then the flood waters recede. But there are also memories of months after, several months, maybe even a year after Hurricane Agnes, June 24th, 1972, when they're dealing with FEMA and the federal government and the state government, temporary trailers, flood zone regulations, and very technical, bureaucratic things that now occupy the center of their lives. What's interesting in terms of the present day, Agnes is a case study we really ought to pay attention to. Because we're seeing more and more of these very damaging, long lasting rain events, intense rain events. So Hurricane Harvey in 2017, it dropped over 60 inches of rain and caused $120 billion in damage. It's ranked as the second most costly disaster, just in terms of numbers of dollars of damage. So I'm hoping, in a way, the Pennsylvania story with Agnes can help us understand how people cope with these very intense rain events and how we learned to live with the floods.

Peterson Toscano (28:46):

In chatting with Andrew, I learned that even though I have no memories of Agnes, the storm itself resonates today. There are reminders in our towns and in the land.

Andrew Stuhl (29:01):

There's kind of a ghost landscape that was written by Agnes. Parks, like Hufnagle Park in Lewisburg. That used to be uh several, several businesses and residences. Now it's empty of buildings and Hufnagle is the surname of an officer, Gordon Hufnagle, who lost their lives trying to save others in the flood waters rushing through Bull Run, right through the heart of Lewisburg. There are other ways our towns commemorate Agnes that might not be super visible, but are plainly there. If you walk into the Milton Moose Lodge, on the right hand side, as you get about 10 feet in, there's a marker that basically says, Agnes Was Here. But it's the flood waters, the height of the flood waters for Hurricane Agnes, and it's above my head—I'm about six feet tall—and that's as you walk into the building. And so Agnes is all around us today. And not just in people's memory, but in the layout of the towns and the shape of the creeks, how waters move, the wall in Sunbury, uh, as a cherished item that really protected the town. Agnes is, is still very present, even though it's almost 50 years since the storm. 

Peterson Toscano (30:15)

If you, or someone you know, has Hurricane Agnes stories to share for the Agnes Flood Project, contact Andrew Stuhl and the team. They are also looking for pictures from the hurricane and the flood. Andrew is working with a research assistant, Bethany Finch, a Bucknell student who graduates in 2023. So she will be around for a while still. Also assisting is Julie Louisa Hagenbuch, founder of Stories on Tap. 

Andrew Stuhl (30:45)

Right now, the best way to get in touch with us is to drop an email to our email address. And it's easy to remember. It's Agnes That's Agnes And we will set up a time to talk with you on the phone, or if it's possible, to do a remote video call.  

Peterson Toscano (31:06)

Email Agnes To learn more about the Agnes Flood Project and see photos from 1972, check out the fall 2020 issue of Susquehanna Life magazine. Visit to learn about how you can get a physical or digital copy of the magazine. That website again is

Peterson Toscano  (31:36):

Stay tuned to hear about the perfect outdoor bistro, where you can socially distance while enjoying excellent food. Plus a Greek classic honey Walnut cake, easy to make, and a perfect autumn treat.

Peterson Toscano (32:05):

After weeks of dry, intense heat in the valley, I made plans to meet up for lunch with Erica Shames, the founder and publisher of Susquehanna Life magazine. We decided upon Elizabeth’s An American Bistro, in downtown Lewisburg. In response to the global coronavirus pandemic, proprietor Elizabeth Long Furia created a spacious yet cozy outdoor seating area directly behind the restaurant. With thunder rumbling in the nearby hills, and a heavy ominous sky filled with dark clouds forming over our heads, Erica and I safely sat over six feet apart. It turned out to be the perfect day to sample Elizabeth’s An American Bistro in this new outdoor setting.

Peterson Toscano (33:03)

Well, Erica, it's not exactly the day to be outside. 

Erica Shames (33:05)

No, but here we are.

Peterson Toscano (33:11)

We are al fresco at Elisabeth's, which is now serving food outside. And you told me about it and here we are for lunch. What has happened here? And how has it been received? 

Erica Shames (33:22)

There was some frustration at not being able to seat people indoors, obviously. Certainly not to full capacity and not even to half capacity. Liz is really good as a business person at looking at other precedents. Like what else are people doing around the country? And as I'm sure you know, in big cities, they're closing off roads, doing a lot of things to make room for tables. And I think for the restaurant industry nationwide, and certainly worldwide, this has been something of a saving grace. So Liz, you know, looked at that, thought about how she could replicate that here. And I think you would agree, it's done very nicely. There's greenery, there's music. 

Peterson Toscano (34:09)

There's some nice canopy over it so that if it's sunny or there's some little fairy lights for nighttime, that would look lovely, I think. 

Erica Shames (34:18)

And I think what makes me feel most comfortable is ample space between each table. I mean, that to me, I can just breathe a sign of relieve. You and I lucked out. This is a nice, cool day. It is so perfect. Just perfect. 

Peterson Toscano (34:35)

And I like that it's behind the restaurant off the alley, so it's very quiet back here. You don't have any other car traffic or people walking by. Sometimes when I in New York City eating al fresco, you know, you have kind of interactions with people on the street that you really didn't sign up for. (Erica: Exactly. And perhaps are unwanted) Usually colorful and interesting, but it’s not what I went out for!

Peterson Toscano (35:01):

So yeah, this is nice. It sort of feels hidden, behind the scenes place and the greenery sets it nicely, frames the space. And there is plenty of room. You can eat great food at a wonderful social distance. (Erica: Yes, absolutely.)

 You even see where they're growing their herbs they use in their food and drinks.  (Erica: Very charming.)  And here comes our server actually with some ice tea and a beautiful mask on, I like the flowers and the bumblebee. Do you mind saying your name and Kate? Kate? How long have you worked at Elisabeth's? Just over two years now. And what's it been like this al fresco dining experience, for you and for the customers? 

Kate (35:48)

Well, the employees, we really like it. We like to get outside and Liz usually has some good tunes goin’, so it's some older music and it's fun. It's groovy. The people seem to like it. There was a woman here, two nights in a row this way out back. She, she said it was a place to be, so. The weather's a little hit or miss, but you know, it's good. 

Peterson Toscano (36:11)

And what's been the summer hit, of what people have been ordering a lot this summer that you've noticed? It's just often a trend, right? 

Kate (36:20)

Honestly, that bistro sushi roll, the crispy 412 roll.

Peterson Toscano (36:22)

What's in that? 

Kate (36:23)

There is a spicy crab mixture and avocado, and then the rice and the wrapper. And then we have the tempura batter—she's actually making right now. And it's deep fried. Comes with our own sweet, hot, like a soy sauce, but we spruce it up a little bit. So yeah, it's pretty good stuff. People have been loving that and the salads are always good too, real nice for lighter options.

People have been enjoying the outdoors here though. I mean, you all are braving the dark clouds a little bit of thunder in the background. Yeah. But yeah, it's been, people have been really enjoying it. Everything tastes better outside.

Peterson Toscano (37:12)

It does. And I can imagine, as the fall comes, you know, there are all sorts of outdoor heaters that can extend the season. 

Kate (37:18)

There are. I don’t know that Liz has really gotten that far. I'm sure she's thought about it, but we'll probably we'll try and do something. I think it could be a pretty cool. That's great. Yeah. We're enjoying it out here, right? It is a little bit better. Everything's better outside. Yeah. Definitely outdoors. And it is the new trend – it feels so European. Oh yeah. Which is what we're doing. 

Peterson Toscano (37:48)

Thanks so much. And what did you order today?

Erica Shames (37:54)

Well, I ordered what I always order: the Caesar salad with grilled salmon. I just have a thing for Caesar salads and it's difficult to find one with really good dressing. So this is my go-to place for that. 

Peterson Toscano (38:09)

And we're going to have that bistro roll too, because you know, it's just the thing.

Peterson Toscano (38:20):

It did finally rain, but the big umbrella kept us dry and yes, the crispy 412 roll was absolutely delicious. 

Elizabeth’s An American Bistro is located at 412 Market Street in downtown Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. Visit the website,, to see the most current menus available and the operating hours. When dining inside or outside, they recommend you make a reservation by phone or email. New at Elizabeth’s you will find seasonal bistro box lunches to go, meal kits and special family menus. You can order these online or simply call (570) 523-8088. For hours, menus, reservation details, and more just visit In the fall 2020 issue, you will find the Susquehanna Life dining guide. It includes a listing of places for food and drink and readers’ restaurant picks.

Every autumn, we are inundated with pumpkin spice, drinks and treats, but maybe you want to try something a little different this fall. I have the perfect, easy to make cake for you. In the fall 2020 issue of Susquehanna Life magazine, there is a recipe that I absolutely have to try. It is a Greek honey walnut cake. A lot of people may know about baklava—the Mediterranean pastry made with filo dough, chopped nuts and lots of honey, but there's a little known treat that comes out of Greece. The honey cake there is about as common as America's apple pie, and it's the perfect autumn treat. Now I'm not much of a baker, but this not only looks delicious, but super easy to make. It also has simple ingredients that most people already have in their pantry. The batter is easy to assemble. Once baked, you're going to cool the cake in the pan for about 30 minutes. Then you're going to prepare a honey syrup, which is made of honey, sugar, water and a little lemon juice. Cut the top of the cake into diamond patterns. Then pour the syrup evenly over the cake and let it soak in, right? It sounds amazing. You will find the complete recipe and a photograph to tempt you in the fall 2020 issue of Susquehanna Life magazine.

Before we end our show, I want to share with you some highlights from the fall 2020 issue. You will want to check out a brand new regular feature called Hiking Havens. Jeff Mitchell tells you everything you need to enjoy an easy to moderate hike. This hike leads you to spectacular mountaintop meadows and beautiful views across the Hammersley Wild area. You'll find the trailhead in Austin, Pa. Jeff even provides the exact coordinates on where to park and where to begin the hike. He also shares photos and a map. 

In this issue, you will learn about creative outlets for kids. Jennifer Pencek writes about an innovative nature-based program for children designed to challenge the senses and inspire creativity, imagination, and independent play outdoors. You will also find book reviews for new fiction and nonfiction about the region. And if you are looking for a wildlife adventure, you will want to read Dani Crossley's award-winning essay, “Destination Africa.” Also check out Erica Shames’ article about birding. The pandemic has left us with fewer leisure time options. Birdwatching can open up a whole new world for you. If you ever thought about bird watching and wondered where to go or how to identify a bird, this article is the perfect place to start.

Peterson Toscano (42:24):

Thank you for listening to Susquehanna Life Out Loud. Our podcast is available on Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher Radio and Apple Podcast. Since we're a new podcast, giving us a rating and a review will definitely help increase our visibility. And if you like what you hear, please share this podcast with your friends.

Many special thanks to my guests, Elizabeth Wislar and Andrew Stuhl. 

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Susquehanna Life Out Loud is written and produced by me, Peterson Toscano. Erica Shames is our cohost and executive producer.

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