The Bells of Christmas Past
MUNCY – For those of you who graduated from Muncy High School prior to 1985, you no doubt remember the tradition of the bell that once adorned the front lawn of the building. “That was just about the time I became assistant principal,” said Bill Ramsey as he recollected his years serving in administration with the Muncy School District.
In 1987, Ramsey became the principal and for the next 15 years served as K-12 principal working from the central district office, known as the Margaret Waldron Building.
During this time he learned much about the history of the school and is perhaps, one of the best resources on the evolving history of the buildings.
He came to Myers Elementary school as principal in 1999, just before Dr. Portia Brandt, because he was the only certified principal for the elementary level at the time. As he was compiling information for the bell, Ramsey explained how Myers Elementary was built and also how the bell got to the front lobby of the high school building.
It started with the original school building built in 1873 on the corner of High Street & South Market Street, directly behind the present Margaret Waldron Building according to Ramsey.
The bell was placed in a tower at the top of the building. It was made in West Troy, New York at the Meneely Bell Foundry, and it was described as “about 27 inches high, 36 inches wide at the mouth, and weighing about a ton.” The old school bell sat in its tower from 1873 to 1932.
52 years later, a new building was erected in 1932. 42 members from the class of 1932 held the last commencement in the old high school building, and it was this class who unanimously decided to memorialize the old school bell. Under the direction of faculty advisor, Mr. Ernest Englehardt, this was also the first class to sponsor a yearbook. A commencement memorial was held May 26, 1932.
Supervising principal, E.P. Bertin, announced the decision of the 1932 senior class to memorialize the bell in the new school building. Their yearbook states, “While the entire audience listened silently, the old school bell was tolled by Mr. J. B. Mincemoyer, janitor, 52 times – once for each of the succeeding 52 classes that graduated under its presence. The reaction to this part of the program was solemn and profound, for there was hardly a person there whose heart had not beaten quicker at some time during his early life at the sound of this old bell.” After the bell ceremony, the sound of Taps could be heard from the landing below the auditorium by Harold Koons and a benediction closed the dedication of the bell.
Ramsey went on to explain how the bell withstood time over the years placed on the front lawn of the new building on Penn Street until 1985. It had to be restored and moved inside due to the vandalism it created from the rival sports teams at Hughesville and Montgomery High Schools. Ramsey showed how the bell was still displayed on the front lawn in several of the yearbooks during the 60’s. “Rival football teams would come and paint it red. It got to the point of concern that someday it wouldn’t be able to be repaired, so it got put into the lobby where it is today,” explained Ramsey.
The current high school building also went through a renovation about the same time.
THE BELLS OF CHRISTMAS PAST
MONTGOMERY – One can’t help but notice the large bell in front of Christ Lutheran Church on Houston Ave. in Montgomery and wonder how it got there. Pastor Gunther Bernhardt was able to reveal its history through a booklet he discovered in the archives from compilations called “Reflections” by Pastor Richard Spratlin who was pastor of the parish in the 1980’s.
Pastor Spratlin wanted to preserve its history and restored the bell in 1981.
The church was originally built in 1892 after 3 lots owned by John Johnson were purchased for $300 in 1889. The cost of the bell which was made at Glenn Burney was purchased for $174.66.
The bell was placed in a wooden steeple and it rang its first melody on Christmas morning of 1892. Pastor Spratln reflects, “It was not decided at first to have a church steeple, but after much thought word was given to include a steeple. There the bell was placed, and it rang for the first time at the Christmas service in 1892. What a joyous sound!”
There the bell remained in its belfry tolling its proclamations to the end of World War I and each week seeking those going to Sunday services until it lost its steeple in a church fire in 1928. It was said that at the time of the fire persons living on Broad Street told how they watched while the steeple was burning. When the bell fell, fortunately the tone was not destroyed.
“This is not the original church anymore,” said current pastor, Gunther Bernhardt. There was a new church dedication in 1952. On March 12, 1928 the original church burned to the ground but not before an addition was dedicated the year before in 1927. “Fortunately, that part remained unharmed by the fire,” said Pastor Bernhardt. The addition was used for services until the new church was built. The bell was put into another bell tower in the addition where it stayed until 1963 when the tower was declared “unsafe.” It then went into storage in a barn owned by Jacob Huff. When the barn was sold, DK Shollenberger stored it in his garage until 1981. At that time, it was rejuvenated and with the help of contributing individuals, the bell’s base was redone.
A new dedication was given to it in November 1981 by Pastor Spratlin and it now rests on display at the entrance of the church on Houston Ave.
A Passage from Pastor Spratlin’s Reflections:
“Uncertain though the future may be, we can find comfort in the certainty of God’s love for us. We go through various passages such as Baptism, first Communion, Confirmation, maybe Marriage, and in our deaths. God is always with us to guide us through and meet us at the end with outstretched arms – the same outstretched arms He had on the cross for us. Let us rejoice not only for our past, but always for the future that God has for us in the years that are to come.”
The First Congregation in 1866 to form the church:
Peter Schick, G.C, Baker, Mr. and Mrs. Aaron Koons, Alfred Burley, Mr. and Mrs. B.F. Bardo, Mr. and Mrs. D.W. Shollenberger, Mr. and Mrs. P.F. Hartranft, Mrs. J.C. Baker, J.W. Smith, Mrs. E. Meyers, John L. Miller, Mary C. Smith, Mrs. Lizzie Smith, and Rev. H. A. Deitterich.