Area History, Introduction, by Beverley Bittner [guest post]

From Beverley Bittner:


From 1977 to 1979, I co-edited and wrote for the Reminiscence magazine, a popular 12-page publication of local history. I also wrote on history for Steppin’ Out magazine and newspapers.

I found a box of clippings from these writings recently in an unused closet. What fun I had reading those old narratives! I went to bed with visions of brave pioneer women like Harriet Blakeslee and Hannah Wilson. I think I dreamed of Michael Hare, his nimble fingers weaving an intricate bag for grain, telling tales of his war adventures to awestruck boys. I could almost see Colonel William Crawford tied to a stake while fires were ignited around him. I saw in my mind the almost impenetrable forests surveyor George Burges described at Fort LeBouf as “a great wilderness … with Indians hooping and halloing and begging for whisky.”

History is about the people who lived it. These wonderful old stories must be told to every generation. Most of the articles in this book appeared under my by-line in the 1970s. In some instances, I have added information not available to me then.

Dear reader, history isn’t only about the people who live it, after all. It’s about buildings, newspapers, books, well-traveled roads, hard work, dreams – and memories. Enjoy these glimpses back in time. Then put the book aside for your children and grandchildren. History is – timeless.

Beverley Bittner
Corry, PA, 1999

Editor’s Note:

The history from Beverley’s book pertains to the northwest section of Pennsylvania, commonly called “the chimney” by local schoolchildren.

About Beverley:

bevBeverley Bittner (1930–2006) was born in Dunkirk, NY, a daughter of Paul and Doris Blakeslee. She was raised and educated in Spartansburg, Pennsylvania where she graduated from Spartansburg High School in 1948. She moved to Corry, Pennsylvania in 1960, and resided there until 1979 when she moved to Cleveland, Ohio, for several years. She was the Associate Editor for the Union Gospel Press in Cleveland, and was a free-lance writer for various religious publications. She had a special interest in history, wrote about veterans of World War II, and wrote and published a series of five novels about the history of western Pennsylvania and the origins of the local oil industry. She founded the Writer’s Block in 1999 after moving back to Corry and served as a mentor to other writers until her death in 2006.

Corry Writer’s Block

I joined the Writer’s Block writing group in Corry, PA in 2002, three years after Corry author and newspaper columnist Beverley Bittner founded the  group.

A quick shout-out to those of you who remember us.

Above is the group’s official logo.

For historical reasons, I decided to post some the group’s old news columns and stories here at my website. Our group didn’t have an official historian, so I will use old notes and files from the nine years I was president and webmaster. I lack many newsletters and website archives from the earlier three years, so contact me if you have any 1999–2002 newsletters and any photos of the group in action.

Random Things About Me

Tomorrow is my birthday. I was born on the day and year Laura Ingalls Wilder died. She was 90. She was the author of the best-selling “Little House” series of children’s novels. A friend who believes in reincarnation says that her soul returned on the day I was born, which is why I became a writer. Unlike Wilder, I am a struggling author of paranormal tales set in fictional Ridgewood, Pennsylvania. If reincarnation is real, I will probably return as a snack food copywriter … or something just as boring. 😀

When I was 13, I met baseball legend Ted Williams. Our town’s boat manufacturer made a line of fishing boats that he endorsed. Whenever he came to inspect the boats, he always made time to visit with the neighborhood kids. And since I was one of those kids, I was fortunate enough to hear him talk about baseball. He gave us kids batting tips that helped me become a better hitter. I even used a Ted Williams autographed bat to hit with.

My father was a licensed disc jockey for my hometown radio station. He worked weekends and taught me enough that I became a licensed Deejay/radio announcer when I was 18. I went to Jacksonville, Florida for the horrible wintry winter of 1975–76 (it even snowed there, too) and met Ronnie Van Zant of Lynyrd Skynyrd who was with the band and promoting their album Nuthin’ Fancy for their hometown fans. According to Wikipedia, the group “originally formed in 1964 as My Backyard in Jacksonville, Florida[.] [T]he band used various names such as The Noble Five and One Percent, before coming up with Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1969.” I remember Ronnie talking about their beginnings, but it meant nothing to me then. At 18, I had the world ahead of me and I was itching to explore it.

I joined the Navy and moved to Gaeta, Italy when I was 19. The 2 years I lived there, I discovered that there are Great White Sharks in the Mediterranean Sea. Luckily, that discovery was made on land where fishermen displayed their catches. I traveled a lot while I lived in Gaeta, and I almost always traveled to places by train. But my lack of understanding Italian caused me to often board the wrong trains during my first year there. Several times after touring Naples, I boarded the wrong train and ended up in Rome. This wasn’t a big deal since I was traveling alone. But I boarded the wrong train at Rome once while traveling with a group of friends and ended up in Verona instead of Naples. It took me several months to understand the language and to board the right trains. All in all, it made traveling fun and adventurous.

Ted was the first celebrity I met; Ronnie the second. The third was actor George Peppard during a visit to Cannes, France and the French Riviera when I was 20. I’m not sure how tall he was, but he seemed to stand a foot shorter than my 6-feet 2-inches. I was surprised that he looked taller on TV, notably Banacek (1972–74), part of the NBC Mystery Movie series. (This was before The A-Team.) He told me during our meeting that the angle of the cameras made him look taller. He also shared that he was a pilot and a proud veteran of the Marine Corps. Before we parted, he told me to always strive for and do my best, no matter what I did in life. Great advice that I have never forgotten.

My favorite pastime is reading. It began with children’s books and carried over to comic books and eventually novels. My favorite comic book character was Peter Parker and his alter ego, Spider-Man. I once owned Amazing Fantasy, issue #15 of Amazing Adult Fantasy, August 1962, the first comic book that Spider-Man appeared in. My mom threw it away when she redecorated my bedroom while I was in the Navy.

As an avid reader of fantasy and horror—especially vampires (when they were still cool), I discovered the first Stephen King paperbacks when I was 19 and bought ’Salem’s Lot and Carrie. Though he wrote Carrie first, I read ’Salem’s Lot before I read Carrie. SL was and probably will always be my favorite King book, not because of the vampire in it, but because it really painted the small town atmosphere akin to my hometown.

My other favorite pastime is watching baseball games. I played the game a lot when I was a kid, and I went on to play men’s softball when I became an adult. There’s nothing more thrilling than the one-on-one competition between a pitcher and a batter. Though I saw many great pitchers over the years, the fastest pitcher I ever faced was a woman. She struck out every batter on my softball team and pitched a no-hitter game. That was the only year the league I was on allowed women teams to compete in tournaments. Too bad. Those ladies put us to shame. I hope my athletic granddaughter is reading this and will take to heart that girls can do just as well as boys … even better. It just takes work.

My hour allotted to write this blog is over, so I’ll stop reminiscing and try to figure out what I want for my birthday. My family keeps asking me. But I feel I have everything I ever wanted: To have a good and healthy life, and to have fun living it.

Macroscopic Death [poetry]

Faces fading like new literature,
soft and pale,
sink into the quicksand of poverty.
Their government turned their dollars into pennies.
One hundred George Washingtons won’t buy a fistfight today.
But a hundred Ben Franklins can get you murdered…
Franklin kicks Washington’s ass every time.

But whose city park does big Ben stand in?
Tiananmen Square?
DC, where the crackle of old flesh inside the White House
grows loud above the vomiting whispers from a Chinese whorehouse
fronting the CCP,
and WTO?

Washington’s carved face remains proud and noble
in his green erection
where he stands alone in the town park I sit at.
Alabaster pigeon poop covers his broad shoulders.
Cell phones twitter at his feet with news that does not educate;
a horror brought about by the theft of a billion gold Franklins
when our infected financiers sold America at the First World War
for a hero’s seat at Versailles.

Washington died the day Franklin was fitted as bridegroom
for the multiple marriage of our country to the World Bank,
to OPEC,
to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development,
to the World Economic Forum,
to the World Council of Churches,
to the World Health Organization,
for unity by assimilation
for control by one government worldwide.

Devil Music [fiction]

Author’s Note

I started this story in 1987, got halfway through it, then shelved it and moved on to other projects. I found it earlier this year and decided to breathe new life into it. It is not a style of story I usually write.

Although the original story held a lot of autobiographical material, I threw it out and made it as close to 99.99% fiction as I could. However, I based many of the events that happened in the 1960s and 70s on news reports, as well as material I collected from researching books, magazines, and documentary film.

Dana did not go to the heavy-metal rock concert with her friends. Her church believed the concert would exhort the crowd to rape and murder. Rock and roll music had always been the catalyst of evil; her mother and grandmother had told her this repeatedly over the years.

Even the innocent-looking Beatles of the early 1960s were spawned from satanic cults entwined in international drug trade. They—those dapper lads from Liverpool—were the beginning of a larger scheme, immersed in drugs and controlled by mob-connected promoters to eliminate Judeo-Christian civilization.

Dana’s grandmother Evelyn, or Eve to her friends, had worked in jazz clubs in England and West Germany during the 1950s and 60s, in the seediest part of the cities, among prostitution and drug use. Eve—barely a teenager when she ran away from home—worked as a stripper behind red-lit windows where sex was plentiful … and easy to purchase. She knew The Beatles in Hamburg, knew their music, took their pills and drank their best alcohol. She followed them to London where prostitution was not as easy. She dated a musician, Axel Ziegler—a Teddy Boy and ex-Nazi Party member who gave her drugs and the clap and introduced her to witchcraft and Satanism.

Axel was not rich but he managed several dance clubs and had money. He knew The Rolling Stones and liked their brash appearance. The Stones were “disgraceful, long-haired lummoxes” as opposed in comparison to the well-groomed Beatles. But both groups were part of a Satanic movement set to destroy the very fabric of a stable society and its divine institutions.

By 1966, John Lennon had claimed The Beatles “more popular than Jesus now.” He said, “Christianity will go, it will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that. I’m right and will be proved right.” By December 1967, Eve wondered in her diary if it was true. The following Sunday, she took her seven-year-old daughter Rebekka to the neighborhood Catholic Church for Christmas mass. Her friends and Axel attended the Process Church, a satanic cult that Axel called “Acid In The Grass.” The name came from Stones member Bill Wyman’s song, “In Another Land” from the recently released album, Their Satanic Majesties Request. That night, Axel had a pipped-out drug trip. It began with whiskey at the local pub before he turned to LSD with some friends. He went home high and injected his body with heroin. He died around 4 a.m.

During the following year, Eve and Rebekka lived with a dee-jay/musician named Aldrid Little. Aldrid had befriended Axel in Hamburg and became a partner member of dance clubs in Hamburg and London. When Aldrid was at Hamburg and Eve was not stoned on pot, the calling of Christ weighed heavily on her mind. In her diary, she wondered why Jesus would want an English whore—one who practiced witchcraft—to be in his flock.

She wrote on her birthday that she was ashamed of her naked appearance in an issue of The Process Magazine for the church against God, having orgies with devoted disciple, Kenneth Anger, and participating in a Black Mass. She also wrote that she’d had a disagreement with Anger about Aleister Crowley: the proclaimed founding father of modern Satanism.

“I hate myself,” she wrote later that year. She never revealed why. But getting high and having sex, it seems, buried her self-hatred. For a while.

By the early 1970s, the world outside of Eve’s flat was still a mess. The Beatles had disbanded, “Kenny” as she called Anger, was filming shorts about satanic rituals, and one of his actors and homosexual lover, Bobby Beausoleil, was serving a life sentence in prison along with Charles Manson for a series of murders that included model/actress Sharon Tate. The police were cracking down on drug users and had arrested Aldrid twice in 1973 for possession of marijuana.

In 1974, fifteen-year-old Rebekka ran away from home. Eve frantically searched for her only child for five months. During that time, she vowed to become a devout Chritian if Rebekka was found alive. She was, though pregnant. She would lose the baby in a miscarriage. Eve kept her promise to God. She left Aldrid and England and moved Rebekka to Chicago. The following year, Rebekka also found salvation.

Years later, Rebekka married a minister and had a daughter of her own.

“I don’t want you going to that rock concert,” Rebekka told Dana. “If your friends jumped off a cliff, would you follow them?”

Dana did not argue. She went to her bedroom and listened to music on her iPod. The music was Christian Rock. The praises were to God. But as Grandma Eve insisted, the music came from Satan. All rock music did.

She took some ecstasy tablets kept hidden with the bundle of others behind her bed’s headboard, and washed them down with a Red Bull. Then she called her boyfriend Kevin. His parents had ordered him too to stay away from the concert.

“Come over. I need you to be here when I crash. Sneak in through my window. It’s unlocked. Then meet me in the attic. You know where.”

Kevin hurried to be with Dana during her time of need. She really wanted to quit her drug habit. But what good was life if it meant being depressed and irritable most of the time. Besides, if he timed it right and “rode the wave” with her during her heightened sexual arousal, having sex with her would make his night one to remember.

Naming the Days [guest post]

(From The Coven Avalon.)

The Greeks named the days week after the sun, the moon and the five known planets, which were in turn named after the Gods Ares, Hermes, Zeus, Aphrodite, and Cronus. The Greeks called the days of the week the Theon hemerai “days of the Gods”. The Romans substituted their equivalent gods for the Greek Gods, Mars, Mercury, Jove (Jupiter), Venus, and Saturn. (The two pantheons are very similar.) The Germanic peoples generally substituted roughly similar gods for the Roman gods, Tiu (Twia), Woden, Thor, Freya (Fria), but did not substitute Saturn.

* Sunday — Sun’s day
Middle English sone(n)day or sun(nen)day
Old English sunnandæg “day of the sun”
Germanic sunnon-dagaz “day of the sun”
Latin dies solis “day of the sun”
Ancient Greek hemera heli(o)u, “day of the sun”

* Monday — Moon’s day
Middle English monday or mone(n)day
Old English mon(an)dæg “day of the moon”
Latin dies lunae “day of the moon”
Ancient Greek hemera selenes “day of the moon”

* Tuesday — Tiu’s day
Middle English tiwesday or tewesday
Old English tiwesdæg “Tiw’s (Tiu’s) day”
Latin dies Martis “day of Mars”
Ancient Greek hemera Areos “day of Ares”

Tiu (Twia) is the English/Germanic God of war and the sky. He is identified with the Norse God Tyr.

Mars is the Roman God of war.

Ares is the Greek God of war.

* Wednesday — Woden’s day
Middle English wodnesday, wednesday, or wednesdai
Old English wodnesdæg “Woden’s day”
Latin dies Mercurii “day of Mercury”
Ancient Greek hemera Hermu “day of Hermes”

Woden is the chief Anglo-Saxon/Teutonic God. Woden is the leader of the Wild Hunt. Woden is from wod “violently insane” + -en “headship”. He is identified with the Norse Odin.

Mercury is the Roman God of commerce, travel, thievery, eloquence and science. He is the messenger of the other Gods.

Hermes is the Greek god of commerce, invention, cunning, and theft. He is the messenger and herald of the other Gods. He serves as patron of travelers and rogues, and as the conductor of the dead to Hades.

* Thursday — Thor’s day
Middle English thur(e)sday
Old English thursdæg
Old Norse thorsdagr “Thor’s day”
Old English thunresdæg “thunder’s day”
Latin dies Jovis “day of Jupiter”
Ancient Greek hemera Dios “day of Zeus”

Thor is the Norse God of thunder. He is represented as riding a chariot drawn by goats and wielding the hammer Miölnir. He is the defender of the Aesir, destined to kill and be killed by the Midgard Serpent.

Jupiter (Jove) is the supreme Roman God and patron of the Roman state. He is noted for creating thunder and lightning.

Zeus is Greek God of the heavens and the supreme Greek God.

* Friday — Freya’s day
Middle English fridai
Old English frigedæg “Freya’s day”
composed of Frige (genetive singular of Freo) + dæg “day” (most likely)
or composed of Frig “Frigg” + dæg “day” (least likely)
Germanic frije-dagaz “Freya’s (or Frigg’s) day”
Latin dies Veneris “Venus’s day”
Ancient Greek hemera Aphrodites “day of Aphrodite”

Freo is identical with freo, meaning free. It is from the Germanic frijaz meaning “beloved, belonging to the loved ones, not in bondage, free”.

Freya (Fria) is the Teutonic Goddess of love, beauty, and fecundity (prolific procreation). She is identified with the Norse God Freya. She is leader of the Valkyries and one of the Vanir. She is confused in Germany with Frigg.

Frigg (Frigga) is the Teutonic Goddess of clouds, the sky, and conjugal (married) love. She is identified with Frigg, the Norse Goddess of love and the heavens and the wife of Odin. She is one of the Aesir. She is confused in Germany with Freya.

Venus is the Roman Goddess of love and beauty.

Aphrodite (Cytherea) is the Greek Goddess of love and beauty.

* Saturday — Saturn’s day
Middle English saterday
Old English sæter(nes)dæg “Saturn’s day”
Latin dies Saturni “day of Saturn”
Ancient Greek hemera Khronu “day of Cronus”

Saturn is the Roman and Italic God of agriculture and the consort of Ops. He is believed to have ruled the earth during an age of happiness and virtue.

Cronus (Kronos, Cronos) is the Greek God (Titan) who ruled the universe until dethroned by his son Zeus.

Ravenwood, Chapter 3 [fiction]

Official Town History:

In 1702, French fur hunters and trappers who traded with Native Americans and settlers migrating west along the Allegheny valley constructed a trading post in Pennsylvania called Amity. The village remained a trading post until 1747.

On March 12, 1800, the state formed Myers County from parts of Allegheny County. Frank Wood renamed Amity to Raven Wood in 1829 after his mother’s lineage: Raven and his father’s lineage: Wood.

Raven Wood grew into a sizable railroad town soon after the discovery of oil in northwestern Pennsylvania in 1859. On May 27, 1861, tracks owned by the Atlantic and Great Western Railroad intersected with those of the Sunbury and Erie Railroad and called the “Atlantic and Erie Junction.” Frank Wood owned land at the junction and sold a portion to the Atlantic and Great Western in October 1861. The railroad constructed a ticket office at the junction and named it for Raven Wood, but through a misspelling, it became Ravenwood.

The combination of railroad growth and the discovery of oil in northwestern Pennsylvania contributed greatly to Ravenwood’s development. The town went from a population of six hundred in 1861 to nine thousand in less than six months. Many surrounding forests were stripped of almost all of their valuable hardwood. Mills and farms sprang up on almost every conceivable spot.

The state recognized the boomtown as a borough in 1863 and designated it as a city in 1865.

Ravenwood’s Strange Lights:

Small, airborne green and yellow bumblebee-type creatures appeared in 1745, back when the town was  Amity. On the night of July 7, the glowing creatures swarmed over the town, hovered in the sky for an hour, then turned into thick, black ash that fell and settled on the town like tarry soot.

During cleanup, fever, madness and death seized most of the three-hundred-and-fifty townspeople. For five days, many of the afflicted suffered slow, agonizing deaths. Of the few who lived outside of town and were not afflicted, one was 19-year-old Ezekiel Wood. He recorded a grisly account about a fur trader who murdered his wife and two children while they slept, and then stuffed their corpses inside the belly of a slaughtered cow. Ezekiel also wrote of lunatics setting fire to the town. Nearly all the homes had both dead and living inside. Ezekiel, who was attending the sick, managed to escape the inferno by submerging himself in the local river. He was the only known survivor of the blaze, and he became great-grandfather to Ravenwood founder, Frank Wood.

No one has seen the lights again.

Every town has its urban legends and Ravenwood is no exception. There are the fabled cries of help from dead school kids who were on a bus that sank to the bottom of Three Mile Swamp, the lunatic with a hook for a hand who escaped from the prison at nearby New Cambridge, and Norman Myers’s ghost on Myers Ridge.

These stories and more crop up every Halloween.

Coming soon: More about Vree and other Ravenwood characters.