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Letters to the Editor: Two Hundred Years in the Life of an American Town

Letters to the Editor: Two Hundred Years in the Life of an American Town


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The voices of America's past and present live on in this timeless portrayal of small-town America, which, through two hundred years of letters to one town's newspapers, evokes the most memorable moments in our history and the passions they engendered.
Since the days of the Founding Fathers, the citizens of Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, have recorded their impressions of such dramatic events of national significance as the ratification of the Bill of Rights, the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, the rise of Andrew Carnegie, the assassinations of President John F. and Senator Robert Kennedy, and the Clarence Thomas hearings — as well as their opinions on genuinely local concerns like building good schools and roads, seeing the sights at the Bloomsburg Fair, romantic intrigue in a trailer park, and finding a home for a lonely puppy.
By turns hilarious and contemplative, here is a book so genuinely representative of the American experience that each page will bring memories of home and family, friends and neighbors, and our own hometowns sharply — and honestly — into focus. Beneath it all, Letters to the Editor is about how a community negotiates with itself, how it talks and how it listens.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780684848532
Publisher: Touchstone
Publication date: 06/25/1998
Edition description: Original
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 7.38(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Gerard Stropnicky, Tom Byrn, James Goode, and Jerry Matheny are members of the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble, whose stage version of Letters to the Editor provided the impetus for this book. They live and work in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania.

Read an Excerpt


This Gentle Hint


Mr. Ingram,

There are few villages more beautifully located than Bloomsburg, and very few, I imagine, of the same size and population, in which more business is transacted. But what matters the delightful situation, unless the hand of art be employed in giving a cheerful and neat aspect to its streets and dwellings?

There are but few, very few dwellings, whose fronts have been touched with the brush of a painter; and but few also who have the advantage of pavements. This is certainly nothing but sheer neglect. The cost would be trifling to each owner of property, when compared with the advantages; and I sincerely hope that this gentle hint may have the desired effect.


Columbia Democrat

July 22, 1837


What business has Bloom to be continually growing and increasing, and wanting to lay out more lots, and build more houses, and open more streets and alleys? Some people thinks the more the town increases in population, and size, and beauty, and schools, and churches the better it is for the whole county. I don't see it.

It makes us all work a great deal harder to keep the town supplied with provisions than it used to. I know the time when I could hardly sell a bushel of potatoes for forty cents, now I could sell a wagon load of them at two dollars a bushel. I used to sell my butter at eighteen cents, now you pay fifty cents a pound for it. You see we can hardly keep you going now, and if you keep on growing, it will be worse yet.

They say you're going to get a Normal School at Bloomsburg; and that will bring about five hundred more people there to help eat up meat and bread, and potatoes and butter, etc. If we have to keep you all in provisions, I don't know what will happen.

A Countryman

The Columbian

May 8, 1868


Dear Sir:

I recently spent a few days in Bloomsburg, after a long absence. The thing I missed the most was the Magee Carpet whistle. I hope to be in Bloomsburg for the Fair. I was just wondering if the whistle will be in operation for the Fair?

Yours truly,

Franklin Sherman, Cleveland, Ohio

The Morning Press

September 17, 1971


I think the traffic light at Route 487 and Central Road should be timed better. On Dec. 1, 1982, I timed it for 15 minutes, from 1:50 to 2:05 p.m. and again on Jan. 4, 1983, from 12:05 to 12:20 p.m. I was at the same place and used the same watch, which may not keep perfect time, but not too far off.

On Dec. 1, the times varied from three seconds to 17 seconds. Again on Jan. 4, the variation was anywhere from three to 16 seconds. As you can see, the time was nowhere even. I am a local resident who must use this intersection.

J. E., Bloomsburg

Press Enterprise

January 11, 1983

Copyright © 1998 by Gerard Stropnicky

Table of Contents


Foreword by Gerard Stropnicky


1. This Gentle Hint

2. New Nation/New Ideas: 1790-1810

3. Kids and Dogs

4. Setting the Record Straight

5. Flights and Fancy: The 1840s

6. "30 Seconds"

7. Women and Men: Courtship

8. Thanks to the Fair

9. Crime Log

10. Women and Men: Marriage

11. "30 Seconds": Trailer Court

12. The Breaking of the Bounds: 1861-1865

13. Thy Sons and Thy Daughters

14. "30 Seconds": Karaoke

15. Last Act/Last Hope

16. John Q. Timbrell

17. Boss K

18. Happy Holidays

19. Gumption

20. The Constant Tramp of Progress: 1890-1900

21. Citizen Abroad

22. God's Housecleaning

23. The President Is...

24. A Silent Message

25. Standards of Behavior: The 1920s

26. A Town Tour: The 1930s

27. The Out-of-Towner vs. the Farmer

28. The Old Job

29. Women and Men: Sex in Society

30. The Game

31. Happy Days: The 1950s

32. Lost and Found

33. The Fatal Death

34. "30 Seconds": Utterly Fed Up

35. 1970

36. One Million Years Behind

37. Catawissa Galileo

38. Earth Day

39. Mother Nature

40. Faith

41. Human Nature

42. No Harm Is Meant

43. Your Next-Door Neighbor

44. "30 More Seconds"

45. The ABCs

46. Parting Thoughts


Afterword: Letters to the Editor as Theatre of Place by Todd London


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