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Gazette writer discusses favorite works of the past decade

by on February 20, 2020 1:47 PM
September 2019 marked my tenth year of writing for The Centre County Gazette. I’ve submitted nearly 1,000 stories in that time. They have been interesting stories, and I would like to share a few that were my favorites. In 2012, I interviewed Bruce Moyer of Centre Hall for a Veterans Day article. Moyer entered the U.S. Army in 1943 and wanted to be a fighter pilot. He spent three months in each of the army’s three-tiered flight trainings consisting of primary, basic and advanced levels. After graduating, Moyer became part of a fighter pilot group stationed at Matagorda Island, off the Gulf coast of Texas, where he flew patrols over the Gulf of Mexico in a Curtiss P-40 fighter. He later was assigned to a P-51D Mustang, which was the most advanced, state-of-the-art fighter plane of its time. “If you flew an hour or two flight in a P-40, you were played out,” said Moyer. “The Mustang was like a toy by comparison — the ease of control and the responsiveness.” Moyer liked the horsepower, too. “There was about 1,200 horsepower out there. It was one sweet airplane,” he said. After the war, First Lieutenant Moyer wanted to stay in the service. “I was young, and I was flying, which is what I wanted to do,” he said. He got his wish by being assigned to a newly formed flight demonstration team, which traveled all around the United States putting on flying demonstrations, complete with close formation flying and aerobatics. “We didn’t have a name, we were just a tactical flying group,” said Moyer. After the U.S. Air Force became an independent service the group was named the Thunderbirds. Yes, those Thunderbirds, are the now world famous air show team.

Moyer was in that group for about one year, and then was discharged in September of 1946. I thought it was pretty cool that an original member of that team was a guy from Centre Hall.

Grange Fair has been a tradition in Penns Valley for 145 years. Being a Centre Hall native, I have attended the fair for all of my 70 years. I enjoy reporting the many events of the fair each year. It’s fun to see the occupants of the 1,000 tents moving in, and talking to tenters whose families have been tenting for four or five generations. The grandstand shows, animal shows, exhibits, rides, tractor pulls, float parade, and of course, the food, all add up to a great event that keeps me happily busy for the entire duration of the fair.

Following close on the heels of Grange Fair are the Nittany Antique Machinery Association fall shows. These shows are some of the largest of their kind in the country. Seeing a sea of nearly 700 antique tractors, including some steam-powered units more than 100 years old, is very gratifying and provides a great history lesson about what life on a farm was like “back in the day.”

Watching them parade around the grounds, many of them lovingly restored to like-new condition, and some still in their “barn find” condition, puffing, chuffing and smoking is just plain fun for me and the thousands of other spectators.

I have reported on several alternative energy projects in Penns Valley over the years. Gregg and Mary Kay Williams operate the Happy Valley Soup Company in Penn Hall. They erected a large solar electric array on their property which powers their company building while generating zero pollution. On sunny days, it makes enough power to send some of it back into the grid for others’ use.

A little further down route 45, Burkholder’s Market, near Millheim, built a carport which provides shaded parking for customers and is equipped with a bank of solar cells which produce power for the store with zero pollution. It’s the largest solar carport in the state and also features two charging stations for electric cars. Millheim Borough is currently working on a solar electric installation to power the borough building. When the sun shines on Penns Valley, we make pollution-free electricity.

In 2011, the Penns Valley School District installed a biomass boiler to provide heat for the high school and the elementary/intermediate school. A biomass furnace burns fuels such as wood chips, wood pellets, switch grasses and other relatively inexpensive, non-petroleum fuels with very high efficiency, producing almost no smoke and only a small fraction of the emissions produced by comparable oil-fired units. These factors are saving the district about $150,000 per year, depending on fuel prices. As an old mechanical engineer, I found this project very interesting, although it did bring back some bad memories of my tough thermodynamics classes at Penn State.

Although my writing is focused on Penns Valley, I have done many stories outside the valley. One of my favorites comes from Snow Shoe. In the summer of 2011, the Mountaintop swimming pool did not open for the first time in 42 years. The pool needed repairs and the pool board was out of money. I reported their plight and shortly thereafter, the Mountaintop community embarked on a fundraising drive, consisting of a car show and craft fair, chicken barbecues, dances, bingo and several other events.

Private donations rolled in from the Mountaintop area, and all over Centre County. A government grant of nearly $19,000 from the Centre County Board of Commissioners and the Central PA Convention and Visitors Bureau was secured, as well as a grant of $7,500 from The Centre County Foundation.

When all the money was counted, the pool’s board of directors was holding the staggering sum of $62,000, all obtained in about nine months. The repairs and refurbishing were done, and in 2012, the pool reopened for business. Reporting on the reopening was very uplifting for me. It was a shining example of community spirit at its best. The pool lives on, providing aquatic recreation for several generations of Mountaintop area residents.

I’m a car guy. I love antique and classic cars and hot rods. I like to report on car shows in the area, and my favorite is the Bellefonte Cruise. This show started small, but has grown to be a major event in Centre County, attracting hundreds of entrants whose vehicles line Allegheny and High streets every June. All types of vehicles show up — antiques, muscle cars, sports cars, hot rods, motorcycles and trucks.

Every vehicle there has a story, which owners like to tell about finding their cars abandoned in old garages, or handed down from parents or grandparents and how they restored them to pristine condition. The cars are history on wheels, and they provide a wave of nostalgia for spectators who drove similar cars in their youth.

These stories are just a few of my favorites. There are many more, but we’ll save them for another time.

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