The decade of the 1970s was a busy time for this journalist. The events covered over that period of time help to set the agenda for the remainder of the 20th century and the two decades that followed in the new century. Many of the “breaking news stories” of that era have come full circle while the results of other narratives are still pending.
Work continues by local leaders to attract industry to the Broad Top area with considerable progress having already taken place at Saxton. Tourism development remains a big staple in the area’s economy as planning for the restoration of the historic East Broad Top Railroad enters another decade.
During the 1970s, this reporter covered the controversial debate over retaining three elementary schools vs. one central school at Saxton (an example of a news-making event that has come full circle), a bitter teachers strike, the “Flood of 1972,” the celebration of America’s 200th birthday in 1976 that involved 14 Broad Top area municipalities (the late Broad Top Bulletin publisher Jon Baughman and I chaired the busy planning committee), the expansion of the Broad Top Area Medical Center and so much more.
The “Flood of 1972” was one of my most memorable assignments. I recall of spending several evenings sleeping in the Saxton Fire Hall as the volunteers stood by for the next call for assistance. Because most of the area highways had been inundated by flooding waters, I also spent a few nights “camped out” in the DN’s Saxton office. The same sleeping arrangements also applied during several heavy snowstorms which forced the temporary closing of many Broad Top area highways.
The area’s volunteer fire companies (Saxton, Six Mile Run and Robertsdale, Wood & Broad Top) saw major improvements to their fire halls including the ribbon cutting for a new $85,000 firehall at Robertsdale in spring 1972 (after relocating from the old Robertsdale “company store”).
At Saxton, the new Dr. Chester L. Isenberg Tennis Courts” were dedicated Sept. 8, 1979, while the long-awaited Saxton Community Swimming Pool opened in August 1980.
The old First National Bank of Saxton opened in a new and larger location at 909 Church St. in May 1972, and a new bank, the Union National Bank and Trust Co,. opened a branch office at 729 Main St. in Saxton in November 1974. Several decades later, a branch office of the Community State Bank opened at the corner of Seventh and Main streets in a structure patterned after the H&BT roundhouse.
Eight miles east of Saxton, the First National Bank of Mapleton conducted open house ceremonies in October 1975 in a new branch office on the site of the historic Broad Top City Mountain House Hotel (today the location of the Curtis A. Heath Funeral Home).
New community centers, senior citizens facilities, new churches (and/or additions) have captured the headlines of the area newspapers over the past 50 years throughout the Broad Top while numerous, time-honored businesses closed their doors including the Aldine Theatre in Saxton, the Crawford (Foster) Theatre in Six Mile Run and the Reality Theatre in Robertsdale which was transformed into the Broad Top Area Coal Miners Museum in 1990 and today houses the Reality Church of God.
At Saxton, the site of the old H&BT Roundhouse was occupied by new structures including the Saxton A&P Store (later the home of Ken Dixon’s Food Rite Store, Dollar General Store and today the Saxton Sportsmen’s Club).
Later on, the popular Masood’s IGA Foodliner (also located on the old roundhouse site) relocated to the site of the H&BT Railroad repair shops (today, Saxton Market) and a new Dollar General Store was erected where the Masood Foodliner once stood. Also erected on the property was the Original Italian Pizza shop.
Other stores along Saxton’s downtown business district would expand, close or become the subject of demolition, the result of the community’s ongoing revitalization efforts.
On Nov. 25, 1974, a major employer at Saxton, the Pennsylvania Electric Company’s coal-fired power generating plant closed while the next-door Saxton Nuclear Experimental Corporation (SNEC) plant close the same year after a decade of operation (because of safety and health concerns over the plant’s decommissioning, it would take two more decades to write the final chapter in SNEC’s decommissioning).
Over the past four decades, the Saxton Community Library would move several times eventually opening its new complex next door to the Tussey Mountain High School, as well as the construction of several senior housing structures in the Saxton area, replacement of numerous bridges in the Saxton area, Hopewell, Coalmont, Riddlesburg, Wood and Robertsdale, the start-up of long-overdue abandoned mine reclamation activities on the Broad Top Coal Field as well as the establishment of the tri-county Broad Top Conservation Project in 1980. Also making environmental news were numerous controversial stories about changes in ownership of the Sandy Run Landfill situated in Broad Top Township.
As this writer entered his second decade of a 50-year news reporting career, coverage also focused on tourism development including a longtime association with the former Huntingdon County Tourist Promotion Agency (TPA) (today, the Huntingdon County Visitors Bureau), the defunct Southern Alleghenies Travel Council during the 1980s and coverage of the former Southern Alleghenies Resource, Conservation and Development (RC&D) Council in the 1990s.
It will come as no surprise that this reporter devoted (and continues to be involved in) newspaper coverage of heritage preservation activities in the three-county area including Huntingdon County and the Broad Top with a big focus on the defunct America’s Industrial Heritage Project (AIHP), county heritage committees, the East Broad Top Railroad and so on.
Coming up: the conclusion of this special series focusing on 50 years of newspaper coverage with The Daily News along with additional personal observations.