August 2, 2008

BRAMBLES (Brief RAMBLES) 1-7 July 15, 2008


BRAMBLES (Brief RAMBLES) 1-7  July 15, 2008






      It’s always sad to have a popular social site destroyed, and it’s a double whammy when that site is also a landmark with historical significance.

      The Hollow Tavern, located between Latrobe and Ligonier on the Lincoln Highway (RT. 30, PA, near Arthur St. Clair’s homestead), burned on February 23. It wasn’t in operation for the previous few months, becausethe owner was charged with serving alcohol without a license. Several days before it closed, a New York building contractor, Fred Haeflein, lunched at the Hollow Inn. He is a native of this area.
       Increasing the sadness of the loss was the discovery that it burned due to arson. Authorities report that the fire was set by a man to avenge the firing of his girlfriend from the restaurant. Damages are reported to be $450,000.  

     The structure was constructed in the Loyalhanna Gorge in 1939. An early postcard (in the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor archives) describes the restaurant, originally named The Sleepy Hollow Tavern, as a place “Where old friends meet” at the “Gateway to the Mountains.”

     Passers-by are now watching as the fire-gutted building is being razed.

     Then came the good news. In June it was announced that Haeflein, a principal of Phoenix Builders and Contractors, Inc. (in Victor, N. Y.), will lead a seven-member crew in rebuilding the log-cabin type structure to its original appearance. The difficult restoration will use six of the eighteen framed dormers. However, the integrity of the structure that remains after all the loose and other dangerous debris is removed will be incorporated into a clean slate, using drawings depicting a version of the building drawn by an unidentified artist that appeared on an early post card.

     And thus, from the ashes the eagle shall rise.



     I wonder if Scotland has dealt with a certain problem caused by ashes, published in the Saturday Essay in the Tribune-Review newspaper, December 4, 2006.

     It seems that the craggy wasteland of the Scottish Highlands was being damaged by human debris—of the ash category. Mourners indiscriminately scattering cremated ashes of their loved ones throughout the near-barren mountains were creating an ecological disaster caused by the nutrient-rich remains fertilizing the typically acidic mineral-challenged soil. According to Scottish mountaineers who consider themselves Mother Nature’s protectors, the resultant luxuriant growth of vegetation is a threat to the environment.

     Hmmm…is this strange new twist the reverse of the situation where there is a fear that the Amazonian forests will turn to desert-land due to over lumbering? Is it a result of overpopulation, and the number of human bodies to be disposed of after death?

     Ashes to ashes, dust to dust…but take care, don’t let your remains change the environment!



     The phone rang shortly after 8:00 a.m. on December 18, 1995. The church was burning! My husband, Monte, pastor of the church, looked out the bathroom window and saw smoke filling the sky with clouds of black. The police were unable to decide if an improperly extinguished candle caused the fire, or if it was arson. It cost two million dollars to restore the church.

     Having just moved from a community where I covered accidents, fires and other emergencies for the local newspaper, I knew to grab my camera. I used all my film and then convinced the owner of the corner store to supply me with more on credit.

     I stood next to a hippy-looking young fellow taking pictures of the fire.

     “Isn’t it beautiful?” he commented to me.

     I knew this comment would be made either because he was artistic, and saw the beauty in the tragedy, or—could he be an arsonist? I slipped aside and took his picture as he photographed more. Then I sought out a police officer, explained the situation, and pointed out the culprit.

     Two years later the police asked me for copies of my fire pictures. I headed to the local coffee shop, a fairly new business owned by three brothers. While drinking my coffee I sorted through the photos, and showed them to the brother who was on duty.

     “I remember the fire. Some old biddy reported my brother to the police for taking pictures that day,” he said. My hand rose to cover my laugh as he continued. “And the police came to our house to question him.”

     I couldn’t help myself. “Be careful whom you are calling an old biddy,” I said to him.

     Fortunately, the brothers saw the humor in the situation. I explained that I had been trained to watch for suspects, sometimes directed to take pictures of them, and so I followed those guidelines that day. The owner who waited on me said that his brother, the photographer, was an art student.

     And so…arsonist he was not. I was just happy he was good natured.







 BRAMBLES (Brief RAMBLES) 1-5 June 15, 2008



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