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It Took a Village, Part 1: Biglerville’s Sesqui-Centennial Celebration

The year was 1967. The Viet Nam War continued, and race riots erupted in cities across America. In Biglerville, PA, the ladies were busily sewing early 20th century clothing, while the gentlemen discontinued their shaving rituals in an attempt to grow an award-winning beard.

The village of Middletown, now known as Biglerville, was founded in 1917. One hundred and fifty years later, members of the Biglerville Hose and Truck Company directed the preparation for a weeklong celebration to commemorate the anniversary. Mervin Weikert was the chairman of the observance.  Other committee chairs included Bob Baker, Kenneth Cullison, Gene Shaffer, and Gary Wagner.

The Biglerville High School Athletic Field was the site of the opening ceremonies held Monday, August 7. Charles Yost, spoke on the history of Biglerville. Mr. Yost had served as a teacher and musical director at Biglerville High School and was the current principal there. The main speaker was our state senator, George Wade. (If that name sounds familiar, when you cross over the Susquehanna River at Harrisburg on I81, you are travelling on the George N. Wade Memorial Bridge.)

Following the ceremonies, costumes were judged, and the following took first place in their respective categories.

Family group – Mr. and Mrs. Clyde Funt and sons

Couples – Mr. and Mrs. Clyde Funt

Mother and daughter – Mrs. Ross Swartz and daughters

Individual – Jane Lawver (now Feister)

The firemen’s carnival opened on Tuesday, August 8. Dinner platters were available for purchase at a cost of $1.30.    Entertainment this evening was the Al Shade Show.   Al Shade is a country music singer and yodeler from Gratz, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. According to Google, as of December 2021, he was still alive and singing at the age of 94. While my mother was a big fan of Al Shade and country music in general, as a teenager I had no appreciation for that genre of music and would have preferred the Beatles or the Monkees, but no one asked me.

On Wednesday, August 9, the Biglerville Fire Company Queen contest was held. Mary Ann Denisar was chosen as this year’s queen.  A talent show, sponsored by the Biglerville Kitchenettes also took place Wednesday evening. The Kitchenettes were formed around 1950 by our favorite Biglerville characters, Jean Thomas and Marion Harbaugh, along with Mrs. R.C. Walton. This troupe of local ladies fashioned and played instruments from kitchen utensils. Frying pan banjoes, curtain rod trombones, eggbeaters, plungers, and wash tubs were among the “instruments” played. Led by a rolling pin twirling drum majorette, the group entered into a parade in Gettysburg, won a prize, and subsequently received invitations to perform in countless parades and events.

Back at the talent show, many local residents participated with solos, duets, trios, and instrumental selections. The highlight, though, most certainly, was Charles Yost, with his impersonation of Sir Harry Lauder, complete with kilts. (Sir Harry Lauder was a Scottish singer and comedian in the early 1900’s.) Mr. Yost was also presented a plaque for the musical influence he had on countless students throughout the years.

Thursday’s carnival entertainment was the 101 Ranch Boys, another country western band, based in York, PA. (Again, I wasn’t asked what band I would like to hear.) This band had their own radio program on WSBA AM out of York.

On Friday, August 11, the Adams County Fire Queen was selected.  Biglerville was the location for the 1967 Adams County Volunteer Firemen’s convention; hence the queen contest was held here. The winner was Susan Welschonce of Gettysburg. Second runner up was Debra Byers from Abbottstown, and third runner up was our very own Mary Ann Denisar. The ladies were escorted by the Brothers of the Brush, whom you will learn about in Part 2, coming soon.

 

With thanks to The Gettysburg Times via newspaper archives for filling in the blanks of my memory with details.

Brenda

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