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.

From China to the Civil War

I very much enjoyed the article by Willis L. Shirk Jr. in the Winter 2013 issue [“Woo Hong Neok: A Chinese American Soldier in the Civil War“]. What a fascinating story of one Chinese person in Lancaster and Pennsylvania history and his association with the Episcopal Church.

As a lay person of the Episcopal Church, I served for forty-two years as a missionary in Japan in the Provincial Office of the Nippon Sei Ko Kai (NSKK), where I also had occasion to be a caretaker of the gravesite of Bishop Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky and a close associate of NSKK’s historical commission regarding Bishop Channing Moore Williams. Bishop Williams was at one time Bishop of China and Japan before settling in Japan as Bishop of Yedo. Both bishops were part of the life of Woo Hong Neok.

Thank you for such an interesting article in Pennsylvania Heritage. I usually read each issue from cover to cover.

William F. Honaman
Lititz, Pa.

The article on Woo Hong Neok was fascinating. I am a high school student and shared it with my classmates. I am glad your magazine does not overlook any nationalities in Pennsylvania. Your publication is also an important educational resource for learning about our state.

Jackie Wheeler
Philadelphia, Pa.


Pennsylvania Memories

I want to thank you for the photograph of the Sand Beach Covered Bridge in the Winter 2013 edition [“Pictures From Roads Less Traveled” by Judy Thomas]. We have a bit of family history at that bridge and I had never seen a photo of it before. [The author’s grandfather Fred M. Yenerall photographed the bridge in Dauphin County in 1965; the following year it was destroyed by arsonists.] I’d like to share an excerpt from a biography I wrote about my grandparents. Vera was my granny.

“Living in Hershey the way they did, the girls often made friends with the boys from the Hershey Industrial School. One of the homes where some of the boys lived was very near Vera’s home. One summer afternoon, Mary and Vera were down at the Sand Beach Covered Bridge with some of the Hershey boys. One of the boys said, ‘Hey Vera, let’s go swimming.’ She said, ‘No, I can’t swim!’ The boy kept taunting her, and when she wouldn’t jump in herself, he pushed her in. She floundered in the water, thrashing around, trying to keep her head up to no avail. Down she went. She fought back up, sputtering for air, only to go down again. She managed to get back up one more time, and gasp for air. She went down a third time. They boy who pushed her watched horrified as she thrashed around. He jumped in, dragging her to the surface. He helped her over to the edge of the creek. This had scared the boy something awful, and had scared Vera so much that she never did learn to swim.”

I hope you enjoy this snippet of local and family history.

Tonya Clifford
Gallatin, Tenn.

Judy Thomas updates the Fred Yenerall Collection, online at www.fmyphotos.com.


History of Motorsports

I am a licensed racing car driver and have had a National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) competition license for eight years, running mostly in the ET, Nostalgia ET, Pro, and Super Pro classes. My friends jokingly refer to me as “The World’s Fastest Historian.” I was incredibly interested when the Winter 2013 issue of Pennsylvania Heritage arrived and immediately devoured “A Century of Motorsports: ‘Gentlemen, Start Your Engines’” by Rae Tyson. However, I am disappointed. The article contained a number of errors, which while small, are glaring to someone “in the business.” This is not to nitpick Mr. Tyson’s work; overall the article was very good and it’s great the sport of auto racing has been introduced to a new audience.

The most noticeable errors include:

Maple Grove is not the only Pennsylvania drag strip relevant on a national level. Numidia Dragway in Columbia County is hosting the NHRA Division 1 Finals for the next three years. Beaver Springs Dragway in Snyder County hosts the Nostalgia Nationals each year and in 2012 attracted more than seven hundred drivers from across the country, including yours truly.

No car has ever covered Maple Grove’s 1/4-mile in less than four seconds; the absolute track record is 4.441 seconds.

Joe Amato of Old Forge, a five-time NHRA Top Fuel National Champion, one of NHRA’s 50 Greatest Drivers, and a member of the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, is overlooked.

Sprint Cars are not the class of car that run at the Indy 500; Championship Cars, or “Champ Cars” is the official classification dating to 1909.

The Reading Motorcycle Club was not the first to organize motorcycle hillclimbs sometime around 1915; the distinction belongs to the Giant’s Despair Hillclimb, begun in 1906 and is Pennsylvania’s oldest continuing motorsports and one of the oldest in the world.

Mark J. Riccetti Jr.
Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

Mark J. Riccetti Jr. is the director of operations for the Luzerne County Historical Society, Wilkes-Barre. He is chronicling the history of the Giant’s Despair Hillclimb especially for Pennsylvania Heritage.


The article on motorsports was good, but it failed to mention Giant’s Despair Hillclimb in Wilkes-Barre, which has been around for more than one hundred years. Granted, it’s a public highway 363 days a year, but in late June it draws a large crowd and competitors from many states.

Vance Packard
Thornhurst, Pa.

Vance Packard devoted most of his professional career to PHMC as an archaeologist, curator, museum director, and division chief until his retirement in 1997.