Monday, February 9, 2015

There's always a surprise...

...when I get my monthly hometown magazine.  I've had my subscription to this magazine for about a year now and I've become very fond of it.  I thought I knew a great deal about my hometown, but each month there is always a surprise.  I learn something new, something fascinating, something intriguing.

This month is no exception.  On the very last page there is a department called Looking Back, generally the article written here is the one in which I learn something new about my hometown. This month the article title is African-American History Month.  And, the author, Kaytlin Sumner, a curator at Johnstown Area Heritage Association taught me some pretty shocking things about the town in which I grew up.

It seems it had its share of racial tension and discrimination.  She talks about an incident in the 1920's when the mayor at the time "ordered all African-Americans who lived in Johnstown less than seven years to 'pack up his belongings and get out'. The order also called for a ban on any future African-American or Mexican workers (from coming) into Johnstown and, that visitors were required to register with the mayor or the chief of police."

In addition, All social gatherings, except for church were prohibited until further notice...and..."the mayor also ordered police to search homes of African-Americans for weapons, guns, hammers and kitchen knives."

How deplorable!  I never knew!  Oh, I wasn't even born at the time, but I had no idea my sweet, rustic, so culturally diverse hometown could have behaved in such a despicable a manner.

To make matters even worse, Ms. Sumner's article goes on to state "On the evening
of September 6, the Ku Klux Klan displayed 12 lighted crosses in and around Johnstown",  coupled with a picture of Klansmen standing on Bedford street in the mid 1920's. I had no idea the Klan was active in my hometown.  This whole thing sends shivers down my spine.

However, according to the article the mayor's outburst received national attention and did not sit well with the majority that "largely condemning his actions."  Well, hallelujah!

In the end, I confess I appreciate Sumner's article, and the effort she put in to help set straight the view I have of my hometown. I guess every town has some sort of skeletons in the basement of their City Hall.  Thank goodness there are written records of these events, because "we must never be allowed to forget".

(Ms Kaytlin Sumner concluded her article giving credit to Randy Whittle's Johnstown, Pennsylvania, Part One, 1895--1936 for some of the information in her article.  I thank both of them for the information provided in mine.) 

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