The Day I Met Albert Einstein

With the opening of the newly completed Franklin Institute building on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadel­phia, I joined the Institute as a student member. This entitled me to the general membership privileges, such as visits to the museum and planetarium at any time, and the use of the library. It also entitled me to attend the monthly evening science lectures in the Institute’s...
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Cook Forest

I was about four years old when the first cabins were rented out at Cook Forest, only one to a family, because there were only four or five. My parents decided to rent one of the cabins and a tent for a week for our family of six. My memories of this cabin are that it was very small and dark and that I was afraid to go to sleep at night, although I knew my parents were right outside the cabin....
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Fighting Fires in the Capital City

City fires were a big deal in my house. In addition to his fulltime job on the railroad, my father, Harry W. Peifer, was a volunteer firefighter for the Camp Curtin Fire Company in Harrisburg. He began volunteering long before I was born in 1946, and eventually was awarded a fifty-year pin for his service. One of his favorite stories was about a horse that was used to pull the old fire...
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“Thank God there are only three McCormicks”

The McCormick boys arrived at St. Michael’s Home for Boys in July 1939. Art was seventeen, I was fourteen, and Mike was seven – a trio of orphans who would now live with two hundred and fifty hard-knock boys at this Catholic orphanage in Hoban Heights, near Pittston in Luzerne County. Those were hard times, and many boys at St. Mike’s came from rough backgrounds. They came from...
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Becoming a Journeyman Machinist

I graduated from a four-year vocational machine shop program at Liberty High School in Bethlehem in June 1923, just before my seventeenth birthday on June 14. My father had been deceased since 1918, my mother was very ill, and it was necessary that I go to work. At that time, the Bethlehem Steel Company and the Bethlehem School District had formed an agreement providing that a graduate of this...
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War of Another Kind

By the summer of 1941, war had been raging in Europe for nearly two years. As a child of twelve, in an age of much slower communications, I was not keenly aware of what was going on. I cannot remember being fearful or even apprehensive that the events in Europe were going to affect my life in Adams County. For me, as for most farm children of the forties, summer was a busy, exciting time of...
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Mr. Hershey’s Advice

Boys, if you ever make any money, for God’s sake, keep it!” I remember the advice given by candymaker Milton S. Hershey at the depth of the Great Depression in the 1930s to his “white, male orphans” at a Hershey Industrial School assembly. For more than sixty years I have remembered and tried, although not always successfully, to follow his rec­ommendation. On another...
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Revisiting Valley Forge

I will never forget the Bicentennial of 1976. The year before I had volunteered to work at Valley Forge State Park after seeing a notice asking for people to staff the buildings. We were given paper patterns with which to make our outfits, hopefully resembling those from the eighteenth century. Mine was comprised of a knee-length white shift, long skirt, lace-up vest, and a “mob”...
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My Summer in the Mill

I was born in the fall of 1960 into a steel mill family in Beaver County. My father worked as a rigger for the Jones and Laughlin Steel Corporation O&L) in Aliquippa for thirty-two years. As a young girl I listened to his stories of work and always wondered what it was like inside the mill. I never got any farther than the mill’s main gate where we would wait for him at the end of his...
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Attending a One-Room School in the 1930s

In the midst of the economic depression of the 1930s, my father, Hal Cornell, was a “furloughed” railroad locomo­tive foreman living with his wife and five school-aged children in a ten-dollar-a-month rented house in Burrell Town­ship, adjacent to Blairsville, in Indiana County. During two school years, my three brothers, a sister, and I attended the one­-room...
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