Lehigh Valley Then: Jump rope peril; life in a demolition zone

Lehigh Valley Then is a new periodic series that recalls historical headlines from lehighvalleylive.com affiliate The Express-Times and its predecessors from 10, 25, 50, 100 and 150 years ago. These stories were pulled from microfilm at the Easton Area Public Library.

This week in Lehigh Valley history, an Easton mother was reunited with her children from Liberia in 1996 after more than a decade apart, just in time for Mother’s Day.

In 2011, “Lethal Weapon” actor Danny Glover attended a union rally for hospital workers in the Poconos. In 1971, an Easton neighborhood was torn down around a family still waiting to be relocated. A pair of check-forgers wanted in two states were arrested in Warren County in 1921.

And in 1871, The Express warned of the “evils” and deadly perils of … uh, jump rope.

This was the Lehigh Valley then.

The Express-Times front page for May 15, 2011, includes a story on actor Danny Glover attending a union rally for hospital workers in the Poconos.Steve Novak | For lehighvalleylive.com

  • May 15, 2011: Actor Danny Glover provided some star power to a hospital union protest in East Stroudsburg, where service workers had been seven months without a contract.

Original text: Thousands of union workers descended Saturday on East Stroudsburg for a rally attended by “Lethal Weapon” actor Danny Glover in support of Pocono Medical Center’s service workers.

… It’s estimated more than 4,000 attended the gathering held Saturday afternoon in front of East Stroudsburg University, and many made the protest about more than just the ongoing contract fight at the medical center … .

Glover, an actor who has become known for workers’ rights, called Pocono Medical Center “ground zero” for the SEIU employees, some of whom yelled “shut it down” in response.

“There is an injustice here at (Pocono Medical Center), and injustice to all the workers who know they are next on the line,” Glover said Saturday. “When I listen to the men and women of PMC, they are men and women whose jobs are essential to the maintenance of that facility.”

His parents were both members of the San Francisco postal workers union, he said.

Lehigh Valley Then: Jump rope peril; life in a demolition zone

The Express-Times front page for May 12, 1996, includes a feature on a family reunited after 12 years apart and in time for Mother’s Day.Steve Novak | For lehighvalleylive.com

  • May 12, 1996: For the first time in more than a decade, Bernice Bulger, of Easton, got to spend Mother’s Day with her 19-year-old daughter and 17-year-old son, who had remained in Liberia as Bulger tried to secure custody and navigate immigration laws. Another daughter, 4-year-old Toshuah, had died in Liberia shortly after Bernice left, and at the time of this story a 1-year-old son Charles remained there in the care of grandparents.

Original text: Their resemblance is chiefly in the eyes.

But it’s in the nose and chin and cheekbones, too, and certainly in the smile.

“I thought I was looking in a mirror,” Tywanya Nhaway says of the moment last month when she stepped off a plane and glimpsed her mother after 12 years’ separation.

… It makes a nice holiday story, this reunion of mother and children. It was so long in coming everyone started to think it was never going to happen.

Bernice (Bulger), who lives in South Side Easton, didn’t even know if her children were alive anymore. They were in Liberia, after all, where some of the most vicious civil strife on the African continent has killed 150,000 people in six years.

… But it takes hardly any prompting at all to make Tywanya and (her brother) Nuan smile or laugh. Ask them about the day they learned the American consulate in Liberia had contacted their mother. … The family suspects it will remain a mystery why no one had been able to accomplish that before in the 12 years since Bernice fled Liberia and a broken marriage to a husband who had the legal influence to keep the children.

Back home in Easton, Bernice tried repeatedly to win custody of the children and arrange their passage to America. Both are American citizens, born in Easton before the family relocated to Liberia in 1982. But Bernice lost her way in a forest of immigration laws and paperwork, despite the assistance of state and federal governments.

… Today, they will celebrate Mother’s Day, a happier one than Bernice — who also has a 19-month-old son, Aijalon — has ever known.

“Instead of me sitting back and watching all the other mothers, I’m going to have a wonderful Mother’s Day,” she says.

Lehigh Valley Then: Jump rope peril; life in a demolition zone

The Easton Express front page for May 14, 1971, includes a story on an Easton family living in a demolition zone as they away relocation.Steve Novak | For lehighvalleylive.com

  • May 14, 1971: Crews began demolishing an Easton neighborhood while one large family had yet to be relocated. The Easton Redevelopment Authority said it was unaware of the situation and vowed to find the Sullivan family, and their seven kids ages 3 to 15, a home by June 1.

Original text: An Easton family of nine lives amidst din, dirt and rubble, but cannot find other housing.

Mr. and Mrs. Donald Sullivan and their seven children are living at 119 Seitz Court as bulldozers and wrecking cranes level buildings adjacent to their home.

… Officials in the Easton Redevelopment Authority’s Relocation Office said the size of the family has posed difficulties in securing new housing. …

Buildings on Seitz Court and adjacent structures on Front and Ferry streets are being demolished to prepare for construction of the new four-lane Riverside Drive.

… “It’s awfully hard to keep the kids away from the machines,” (Mrs. Sullivan) said. “The man on the bulldozer is always yelling at me to keep them inside.”

… Explaining why the wrecking crews started work while the family was still in the house, (redevelopment authority Executive Director William) Hawkins said, “The problem we find ourselves in is working on a very tight schedule.”

Lehigh Valley Then: Jump rope peril; life in a demolition zone

The Easton Express front page for May 12, 1921, includes a story on check-forgers arrested in Warren County.Steve Novak | For lehighvalleylive.com

  • May 12, 1921: A pair of check-forgers sought in Pennsylvania were arrested across the Delaware River after raising the suspicions of a tobacco salesman.

Original text: Daniel Gallock and William Stackbower, who would claim Phillipsburg, Easton, Alpha or Stroudsburg as their hometowns, are in the Warren County, N.J., jail at Belvidere on charges of forgery … . The men were taken into custody in Warren County for passing forged checks at the stores of Michael Kinney, Chambers and Hudson streets, and Leopold Klein, South Main and Center streets, Phillipsburg.

Gellock and Stackbower are regarded as slick customers by the authorities of both New Jersey and Pennsylvania. …

(Credit) for the arrest of the dangerous men belongs to an agent of the New Jersey Tobacco Company, George Reading, of Easton. Mr. Reading was in the store of Klein when the two men entered Monday afternoon and presented a check for $14.57. They purchased a shirt and necktie and walked away with the package and the change. Mr. Reading was suspicious and when the men departed he asked to be shown the check. He pointed out to the merchant the similarity in the handwriting and at once Klein called James G. Sigafoos whose name had been written on the paper.

Reading went to Washington, Warren County, to continue his business as a salesman yesterday, when we he saw the two men on the streets he notified Marshal Shrope of his suspicions. Shrope took the men into custody and notified Chief of Police Gorgas, of Phillipsburg.

Lehigh Valley Then: Jump rope peril; life in a demolition zone

A brief from The Easton Express on May 10, 1871, warns about jump-roping.Steve Novak | For lehighvalleylive.com

  • May 10, 1871: In this era, local news briefs appeared on page 3. This apparently wasn’t the first time The Express had warned its readers about this particular, and unusual, peril.

Original text: We have frequently spoken of the evil effects of excessive rope jumping. We publish the following as a warning to some of our little girls: A daughter of Dr. Brandt, of Mechanicsburg, Cumberland County, fell dead on Friday evening, from excessive rope jumping. She attempted to jump 200 times, probably on a wager, with the above fatal result. She had been frequently warned and prohibited by her parents against excessive indulgence of the pastime.


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Steve Novak may be reached at [email protected].