Letters presents readers' comments and reactions to specific articles in Pennsylvania Heritage, the initiatives of PHMC, and other developments in the historical, cultural and museum communities of Pennsylvania.

Member of the Crew

I found the piece about the SS United States quite interesting [see “Lost & Found,” Spring 2003]. I am privileged to have sailed on her as a member of the crew in 1962. In my Coast Guard Mer­chant Seaman’s papers, I was designated an “ordinary seaman.” This voyage was from New York to Newport News, Virginia, and back. The ship went into dry dock for repairs. She was an impressive sight out of water – very sleek. Perhaps my fascina­tion with steamships arose from my first trans-Atlantic voyage in 1952 on the HMS Queen Mary when my family and I trav­eled from Cherbourg, France, to New York as immigrants to this great country. I sailed on many merchant ships from 1956 to 1967, but none quite as impressive as the Queen and the United States.

Michel R. Lefevre
Harrisburg, Pa.

Michel R. Lefevre, Harrisburg, serves as chief of preservation planning and education out­reach for the PHMC’s Bureau for Historic Preservation.

Okay, who’s the psychic on your maga­zine? Just days after reacting about the SS United States, I read newspaper accounts that the ship is being purchased and will once again ply the ocean waters. Neat scoop!

Jack Barron
Philadelphia, Pa.

Norwegian Cruise Lines recently announced that it had purchased the SS United States, the largest and fastest ocean liner ever built in this country. The vessel carried many celebri­ties in more than eight hundred ocean cross­ings, among them Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Tay­lor, President John F. Kennedy, and England’s King Edward VIII. The company plans to refurbish the ship and return it to service.


Not Lost on Me

The article on the Friendship and Merci Trains in the Spring 2003 issue [see “Trainloads of Goodwill and Gratitude” by Dorothy R. Scheele] was not lost on me. Publication of this article may have been purely coincidental, but its timeli­ness is extraordinary. How a half-century changes things, and how soon people forget. To think that France and the United States were once so close and now, with the war in Iraq, so how the passage of time can change everything. I can’t help but think that someday histori­ans of the future will be able to look back and explain what is transpiring around us. Thank you, Pennsylvania Heritage, for making me remember.

Marion L. Kempfer
Waverly, Pa.

The article on the Friendship Train deliv­ering food for France after World War II and France’s response to the United States, including the “40 and 8” boxcars brought back memories of my ride in one as a young infantryman of the 42nd Divi­sion from Marseille to the front in north­eastern France in December 1944. Of course the one I rode in bore little resem­blance to the nicely restored boxcar in the article as mine was decrepit, dirty, and the roof leaked, but it did its duty and got us to our destination. While the cars present­ed to the United States might have been narrow gauge from some obscure rail­road, the ones used on the regular rail system were standard gauge, the same used in most of Europe, Great Britain, Canada, and the United States. In any event, their crude link and hook cou­plings, as well as lack of airbrakes, would preclude their use on American rails.

Robert J. Calhoun
Zionsville, Pa.


Rybak Redux

On page 12 of your Spring 2003 issue, you have a picture of William C. Rybak of Pittsburgh [see “Keeping the Torch of Justice Burning Brightly: William P. Young“]. I think you should double­-check that one for he represented Bethlehem in the state legislature for awhile from the South Bethlehem area.

James H. Wagner
Bethlehem, Pa.

In the last issue of Pennsylvania Heritage there is a picture of William P. Young with William C. Rybak, recipient of the Penn­sylvania Handicapped Worker of the Year award. Mr. Rybak is identified in the accompanying caption as a resident of Pittsburgh. He was not from Pittsburgh. He was born, raised, and lived in Bethle­hem, Northampton County, his entire life. He was an attorney and represented his district in the General Assembly of Penn­sylvania for several terms. Bethlehem, founded and named in 1741 by Mora­vians, has been a distinctively noteworthy cultural, historical, and industrial center of Pennsylvania. Bethlehem’s historic preservation initiatives make it a model of achievement – the result of the highly commendable effort of many volunteers and the Moravian Church. The efforts have resulted an attractive downtown area with a flourishing Main Street. Those who value Pennsylvania’s history and heritage would do well to note the significant contribution that historic preserva­tion has made to the commercial success and the quality of life we enjoy here!

Charles G. Hafner
Bethlehem, Pa.

William C. Rybak, of Bethlehem, represented the 135th District, comprised of Lehigh and Northampton Counties, in Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives, from 1967 to 1972 and from 1981 to 1990. He received the Penn­sylvania Handicapped Citizen of the Year Award in 1966 in Pittsburgh.