The News from Punxsutawney:

Six More Weeks:

Around 20,000 people gathered on Gobbler's Knob for Punxsutawney Phil's annual prediction. Some of the 20,000 were up at Gobbler's Knob all night long. Busses ran from various points around Punxsy to transport bus load after bus load of Groundhog Worshipers up to the knob. There was music and dancing. A crane lifted a member of the inner circle high above the crowd, there was a fireworks display and a hot air balloon took off in the early morning light. Television crews from all around were there and Punxsy Phil was broadcast live on the World Wide Web. Punxsutawney Phil emerged from his burrow at 7:20 and saw his shadow; predicting 6 more weeks of winter.

All weekend there have been activities all over town. The downtown streets have been congested with cars and people. There were very large crowds at local restaurants and business was brisk at local souvenir shops. Most of the people I overheard were having a good time in Punxsutawney this Groundhog Day. 2/2/98

Phil gets Mugged:

Denny Rebuck, who is the Groundhog Festival co-chairman, was wearing a giant groundhog suit on Groundhog Day. He made appearances all over town over the weekend, and posed for many pictures. On Groundhog Day about 6AM about a half dozen college aged men, attacked him as he mingled with the crowds up at Gobbler's Knob. One attacker got down on his hands and knees behind Rebuck and another pushed him and his balky $4000 groundhog suit over the top of the kneeling man. The gang then jumped on him and started beating him. Immediately, the crowd of onlookers attacked the attackers to rescue "Punxsy Phil" from the attacking gang. According to the report in the paper, Rebuck got one of the attackers in a headlock at which point on of the onlookers kicked him (the attacker) so hard that Rebuck lost his grip on him. A woman grabbed another attacker by the shirt and flung him to the ground. One of the attackers stole one of the feet off of the costume, but was chased down by the onlookers and the foot was returned. Rebuck continued through the crowd with no further incidents. Rebuck was not injured badly in the attack. Sadly, this is the second year in a row this has happened. Rebuck plans make an appearance as Punxsy Phil up at the Knob next year, but may have a body guard with him! All in all, however, the police report that Groundhog Day 1998 was pretty quiet. There were very few incidents for the size of the crowd. From where I was standing in the crowd, people were pretty well behaved and were having a very good time.2/3/98

Punxsy Phil clogs the Internet:

My Internet provider, Penncom, experienced trouble due to the many thousands of people surfing the Internet for the "groundhog.org" site maintained by the Groundhog Club Inner Circle. The Chamber of Commerce site had many thousands of "hits" over the several days surrounding Groundhog Day, also. Nancy Puchi of the Chamber estimated that there were 617 hits per hour. I estimate that this site (Historical Society site) saw about 16,000 hits from Saturday to Tuesday. 2/4/98

Man and Woman of the Year:

The 1998 Punxsutawney Man of the Year is Bud Dunkel and the Woman of the Year is Barbara Willar.

Sewers:

Work continues on the sewer project this week. They have been working on Sycamore St. and have torn up that street now. Findley St. is still a mess as they have torn out the sidewalk on the east side of the street to put in the new line. Several cuts were made across the street also and so the ride down Findley St. has become quite a lumpy experience! 2/2/98

Nanny's Kitchen, Etc.:

The restaurant in the former Ruth and Harry's location has closed once again. There have been a couple of different people that have tried to open a restaurant in the formerly popular eatery, but none have achieved the success that Ruth and Harry's enjoyed. McDonald's at the corner of Mahoning and Findley St. probably has a lot to do with that. McDonald's seems to attract customers, though many times when I go by I notice a lot of young people there. Ruth and Harry's seemed to attract an older clientele. Another restaurant that closed recently, Punxsy Phil's Cakes and Steaks that was once in the Punxsy Plaza, is now the location of N.B.O.C Bank. They have a drive-up window now. Punxsy Phil's Cakes and Steaks is building a new building behind where Gibson Bearing was, just on the downtown side of the Indiana Bridge. The building looks like it is nearing completion. Gibson Bearing has moved to what was last a doctors office where the P&N Coal company building is accross the street from the Salvation Army. This is the first that building has been occupied since the July '96 Flood. Other changes? Well, the old library building is just a hole in the ground now, but the Jefferson Theater which was supposed to be torn down is still standing. There is a bunch of rubble in the entranceway on Findley St. 1/31/98

Goodwill Store:

The Goodwill store presently located in the Pantall Hotel building has moved to the old East End (Vinnie's) Comet Market. The Comet never re-opened after the July 1996 flood. This is a much larger location for the Goodwill Store. 1/30/98


Sewer Work Continues:

They've ripped up Findley St. near the post office this week. The sidewalk accross from the post office is gone and there are two big holes in the street further down towards Ragley's True Value. It's a mess. The combined storm and sanitary sewers are being separted to relieve basement and street flooding downtown and the stop the influx of storm water at the sewer plant. This is a much needed improvement and I have high hopes that it relieves the back-up of sewage into my basement whenever there is a heavy rain. During any heavy thunderstorm the sewers back up here on Pine St. and the washtubs down in my basement will fill up with sewer water. In the worst cases, the washtubs will overflow onto the floor because there is so much back pressure. This sewer work is certainly needed! It's left an awful mess behind because there is no asphalt available to patch the roads back up once they are ripped up. We'll have to wait for spring! 1/19/98

Mild Winter Continues:

The last eastern storm the caused all the ice damage and the flooding accross the northeast passed by Punxsutawney leaving only wet soggy ground behind. There was not enough water to cause any serious flooding, but we all cast a wary eye on the creek as it got higher and higher. There was a little bit of ice in higher elevations, but none here in town. So far, we've only had about 3 inches of snow on the ground at any one time. No major snow events are forecast for this week either (so far). Pretty soon, winter will be over before it even gets here! 1/19/98

New Community Center:

The old Junior High, abandoned when the new Middle School opened last fall has re-opened as the Punxsutawney Community Center. Numerous activities are planned at the center and it should be a focus of activity during this years Groundhog Day festivities. The are using the gymnasium for sports activities. They are planning on using the auditorium to show recently released movies. I've got a schedule here for the 1998 Winter Program. Here's a partial list:


New Post Office:

Work has begun on the new post office that will be built in East End in the area of the old Keystone Market. The old Post office on Pine and Findley St. will be abandoned because it does not meet federal handicapped accessibility standards. The old Post Office building is in good condition and it is one of Punxsutawney's architecturally interesting structures. 12/23/97

Mild Winter:

So far the weather has not been very wintry this fall and winter season. The temperatures have been in the 20's and 30's, but there has been very little snow. There has been some ice, but it hasn't lingered. I had my snow shovel out, but the snowblower remains in storage; there just hasn't been enough snow to use it. We are not complaining about that! 12/23/97

Skating Rink Burns:

The old skating rink on Chestnut St. burned on December 22nd. The former "Skate Haven" was currently occupied by the Punxsutawney Casket Co.. The casket company had been located on Pine St. for many years until they moved to the old skating rink last year. The part of the building on Pine St. that housed the Casket Company on Pine St. was torn down last year. (The part of the building near Mitchell Ave. now houses Stello Foods.) The former skating rink was a complete loss. Thick black smoke filled the air and was visible for many miles. The fire is thought to have been caused by an electrical fire; there is no gas service to the building. The loss was estimated to be in access of $500,000. There is still a skating rink in Punxsutawney, Good's Roller Lodge on Rt. 36 north. 12/22/97

Crime Wave:

Scores of automobiles have been broken into lately and radios and other valuable stolen out of them. Most of the theft seems to be occurring in the borough limits. Three juveniles were apprehended and rumour has it that over 80 radios were recovered. The juveniles were in 9th or 10th grade according to the grapevine. Many of the break-ins occurred here on Pine St.. There has also been a rash of break-ins at local businesses. Mostly money was stolen in those burglaries. 12/20/97

Old Library:

The old library on Mahoning St., the old stone building that was once the Fischer home, is now a hole in the ground.

New Police Chief:

William J. Clement was named Chief of Police by Borough Council December 18th. He succeeds Ronald P. Krolick who resigned Oct. 11th.. Clement has served 14 years with the Punxsutawney Police. 12/19/97

Florida Cressley:

Florinda Cressley died December 9th. She was on Borough Council for many years and once served as mayor of Punxsutawney. 12/10/97

Streets Torn Up:

The storm sewer project is moving right along. The streets all over town are torn up and there are detours and slow downs driving from one end of town to the other. According to the news, the work that has been completed so far has already significantly reduced the storm water infiltration into the sewer plant. During heavy rains there has been an overload. The storm sewer project will eliminate the trouble. Since I live on Pine St., which has always been prone to sewer back-up problems, this will be a welcome relief! 12/9/97

Christmas Decorations:

Punxsutawney is lit up for the holidays. The Christmas season opened with the Home for the Holidays parade down Mahoning St.. The parade starts after dark and the parade floats are lit with lights. It rained lightly during this years parade, but many spectators lined the street to watch. On the street light poles there are snowflake lights and many stores downtown have Christmas lights in the windows. The town looks quite festive! 12/3/97

Walmart:

Walmart is in the news again. It was announced that the new Walmart in Punxsutawney will be a super store with over 109,000 square feet of space. Included in the store will be a grocery store. There will be a parking lot for over 850 cars. There are two problems that have to be ironed out. One is the fact that the water pressure at the site is not sufficient, and the other is the traffic problem on the Indiana hill where the store will be located. They are thinking about putting in a water tower for the water pressure, and a traffic signal and turning lane are in the plans for the entranceway. The plan is to have the store open in September of 1998. 11/21/97

Middle School:

The Middle School has been in the news again. The subcontractor has billed the main contractor and the school district for cost overruns. One of the problems cited by the masonary contractor was the fact the school board members disrupted the work site by inspecting the work. The claim states that the additional costs were due to loss of efficiency and productivity because it "had to work in a non-sequential, illogical, and inefficient manner, encumbered by unanticipated project site conditions, and forced to work under the microscope of unqualified school board members who daily inspected and questioned the means and methodology of the work....that were to be at the discretion of the contractor." They are billing the school board over $500,000 for that. The claim also mentions the political controversy surrounding the project, which has most certainly been the case from the very beginning of this Middle School project. One school board member who was named specifically by the subcontractor as causing the disruptions said that he was elected to represent the people and that his questions were directed at the project manager or the architect and did not disrupt the contractor or it's employees. 11/20/97

Rails to Trails:

Punxsutawney Rails-to-Trails Association has received a $20,000 grant to improve the former railroad bridge over Mahoning Creek near the sewer plant. This bridge will link the two sections of the trail, and create a 15 mile trail called the Mahoning Shadow Trail along the former Pennsylvania Railroad right-of-way. This bridge deck is currently in bad condition and consists of railroad ties spaced about one foot apart. There is no railing either. This bridge is difficult to walk accross in it's current condition, but the grant will allow the Association to replace the bridge decking and make the bridge easy to tranverse on bicycle or on foot. 11/20/97

Early Snow:

Punxsy Phil predicted an early spring last winter, but I don't remember him predicting an early snow. There was a winter storm the night of Thursday November 13. It started out as freezing rain and sleet. By Friday morning the roads were slick and covered with ice and snow. School was cancelled. This was the earliest snow day in 25 years. The storm has continued thru the weekend off and on. There are about 3 inches of snow on the ground and the temperature has not been above freezing for several days. The trees are covered with snow and the entire countryside looks like a winter wonderland. 11/16/97

"Lost and Found":

During the last election, Francis Molinaro lost his bid to become mayor of Punxsutawney by only 90 votes. Now, the Borough Council has appointed him to a seat on Council. This seat became available when Councilman Dee Vietz resigned her seat. As they say, "You lose some, you win some!" 11/14/97

Eckerd Drug:

Eckerd Drugs (the former Thrift Drug), currently in the Punxsy Plaza, has shelved a plan that would have meant a big change in the downtown section of Punxsy. Their plan was to tear down most of the buildings on the 100 block of W. Mahoning St. on the south side of the street. There were going to construct a big building for the drug store including a drive-up window. There was a large new parking lot in the plan. It was just annouced that they have abandoned the plan. They still are looking for a way to have a drive-up window. 11/7/97

Freight Office:

One of the last remnants of the railroad's days in Punxsy is gone. The old freight office that sat behind the Groundhog Plaza (on Front St.) was demolished. The abandoned building has been in deteriorated condition for years. 11/7/97

Elections:

John Hallman was re-elected mayor by a narrow margin over Francis Molinaro. This is John Hallman's third four year term. The Borough council race was interesting because only one incumbant got elected. Micheal A. Mumau is that incumbant. James Infantino and Ronald E. Voris are newcomers who both won seats. William Spencer was a write-in candidate; he won over incumbants Peter Pape and Florinda Cressley. 11/5/97

Toilets:

There has been a controversy in town about the new higher sewage rates (see article below). One of the landlords who has been affected by the nearly 300 percent increase in rates is William Spencer. Out in from of his building on Pine St. (which was formerly the site of the Ambulance garage) are about a dozen toilets all lined up. It's his "protest" against the high sewer rates. It appears that he has a lot of support in the community as evidenced by his winning a seat on borough council by write-in vote! Apparently, there have been a lot of visitors to the toilet display, several of whom have stopped to have their pictures taken while seated on one of the "thrones". 11/5/97

More Taxes, Anyone?

There was a proposed 1/2 percent sales tax on the ballot election day. That tax was to fund a new economic initiative that was supposed to benefit regional communities, but most visible was the proposed two new stadiums in Pittsburgh. Several counties around Pittsburgh were asked to vote on this 1/2 pecent sales tax increase (to last 7 years). Indiana and Clarion Counties were included in the proposal. What it boiled down to for most people was adding to the sales tax so they could build a new football stadium AND a new baseball stadium in Pittsburgh. .....And what would you guess people in places like North Point, Smicksburg or Strattanville would say about paying more taxes so they could build stadiums in Pittsburgh? I'll give you ONE guess! ..............(time's up!)..........It lost by about a 4 to one margin around here. Interestingly, it lost in Pittsburgh too by about 58 to 42 percent. 11/5/97


Fall Colors Linger:

The month of October was the most colorfull October in memory. The colors were brilliant for most of the month and even now at the beginning of November the colorful leaves are still on the trees. The tree outside my door, as I sit here writing this, is still green. The weather has cooled down (highs in the 40's and 50's) and we have had a dusting of snow. So far we have been spared from the nasty winter weather the central part of the country has been experiencing. 11/1/97

Rt. 119 Paved:

It's "smooth sailing" now as Rt. 119 north between Punxsy and Dubois has been freshly paved and painted. It's not been this smooth all the way to Dubois since I can remember. ....I was looking thru the photos in our archives at the Punxsy Historical Society when I came accross some photos of Rt. 119 taken in our 1928. The highway had been just improved at that point and the photographer went out to take a dozen or so photos of the beautiful new highway. Looking at the photos I saw several sections that I recognized. Amazingly, the highway has changed very little since those days. The only real difference between 1928 and 1997 appears to be the use of metal guard rails. There are still just two narrow lanes all the way to Dubois and only two (short) passing zones in that distance. There has been talk of making improvements, but during the latest paving project, nothing new was done. For a road with the volume of car and truck traffic that it has, you would think some better passing zones would have been created by now. Our little town is still behind the times in many ways, and the highways to it are an example of that fact. 11/1/97

Sewers:

We are all trying to figure out how to pay our sewer bills these days. While the government agencies are telling us that we have no inflation, our sewer bills went up 300 percent in many cases. The old bill was 25 dollars a month; mine is now about $70 (that's higher than the water bill!). Landlords have been especially hard hit. They have to pay the sewer bill on un-occupied apartments now ...which has them up in arms. Many landlords can not legally raise the rent to cover the costs of the sewer bill increase because they rent to low income people thru a state program (section 8, they tell me). The rest of us wonder how the elderly, who were just making it before, can pay this new bill.

All over town, the mandated sewer improvement project has started. The current sewer system is a combination sanitary and storm sewer. The two systems are being separated. I am hoping this will eliminate the problem we've had down here on Pine St. where our basements will fill up with sewer water when the drains back up during a heavy rain. 11/1/97

Changes:

I haven't been hearing anything about Walmart lately. We have had a couple of changes in local business, however. Charlie Chen's Chinese Restaurant is now gone. He has moved his business to Dubois when his rent went up and better deal came along. A new car wash opened just across the east end bridge where Freas Brothers Garage used to be (which has been an empty lot for several years). The new Punxsy Phil's Cakes and Steaks is supposed to build a new building (very soon) where Gibson Bearing used to be, right near the Indiana St. Bridge. The National Bank of the Commonwealth is moving into the place in the Punxsy Plaza where Punxsy Phil's used to be. They will now have a drive-up window. 11/1/97

Library Amost Gone:

There not much left standing of the old Library build (a.k.a. Fischer Home) on W. Mahoning St.. You can read below in previous articles about the troubles they have had tearing it down, but now only about 10 percent of the building remains. The Jefferson Theater is being torn down also, but we haven't seen much work being done on that project lately. 11/1/97


Fall Colors:

The trees are turning brilliant shades of orange and red in their annual display of color. The colors will reach their peak somewhere between October 5 to Oct. 14th. 10/6/97

Industrial Park:

Martha St. (on the South Side) has been extended with a nice new road ...one of the nicest roads in town! The new road leads to the site of Punxsy's new Industrial Park. So far, only one industry is building at the site and that is BFG Electroplating which has been located at the end of Cherry St. for a number of years. The Industrial Park is big enough to house several new industries, but the "rumor mill" around here has been silent so far about any new industries coming to town and locating there. 10/6/97

Chemical Spill Causes Evacuation:

Friday Sept. 12th in the late afternoon, there was an announcement over WPXZ radio that there was a "possible disaster" near the West End School. There was an Army truck parked at the Army Reserve center that was filled with chemicals, and there was a cloud of some sort coming out of it. One of the many chemicals stored on the truck was leaking, but they could not tell what it was. There was a cardboard box that eventually ignited. Due to the fact that there were so many chemicals on the truck, and the fact that they had no idea which chemical was leaking, they decided to evacuate the area within 1/2 mile of the truck. They didn't think that there was anything on the truck that would be dangerous alone, but they didn't know what would happen if they started to mix together. The West End Comet Market was closed and people were told to leave their homes on Foundry St., Center St. and N. Main St.. This happened about dinner time. It was about 8:30 that night before the gave the okay for residents to return. It was discovered that a bottle of nitric acid had spilled. There was no real danger, but they want to be cautious. A resident of the area that I talked to said he was in sight of the disaster and decided to stay and eat his dinner rather that leave his home. He said the firemen and other people over by the truck were not wearing masks or protective gear, so he figured the situation was not so bad. As of today, people are starting to question why those chemicals were stored on a truck like that and stored so close to a residential area and a school. The Jefferson County disaster people are complaining that they were not notified of the spill until after it was over. I suppose other government agencies will soon be involved and that we have not heard the end of this story! 9/24/97

Wal-Mart:

The proposed Walmart store is still in the planning stages. Currently, the proposed site is on the left side of the road on top of the "Indiana Hill" (Rt. 119 South). Apparently, Walmart is trying to work things out with PennDot at this time. Although some sources say that Walmart is definitely being built, there are many of us who will believe it when we see it!! - 9/19/97

Old Library:

The old library building on W. Mahoning street is almost history at this point. The top two floors are gone now. The stone is being used to build some new homes over on the south side (S. Main St.). I hear that these homes look very nice, especially with the library stone on them. There was a controversy earlier this summer when work had to be halted when OSHA people complained about the Amish workmen not wearing hard hats on the job. The Amish workers will not wear hard hats and are exempt from the rule. It took some time to straighten out the problem. I heard that OSHA wanted to fine the guy in charge of the project, but I haven't heard if they actually did! - 9/17/97

Demolish Downtown?

One interesting proposal we've been hearing lately calls for the demolition of the 100 block of W. Mahoning St. and the construction of a new Eckert Drug store. The latest proposal shows them demolishing all the buildings from the "Arcade" to Gilpin Street, buildings now occupied by Paul's World of Decorating, Punxsy Video, Miller Brother's Furniture and Mack's Automotive (among others). The old building currently on the corner of Findley and Mahoning will be left standing (in the picture I saw). Eckert Drug is the new name for the Thrift Drug Store that has been in the Punxsy Plaza for years. The Punxsy Plaza location would close. This is all in the planning stage. - 9/15/97

Jefferson Theater:

The Jefferson Theater is currently being demolished. Many old time residents remember the beauty of the old theater and are sorry to see it go. There was an auction where some of the old fixtures were sold. Sources tell me that the condition of the building was hopeless since it has been empty for so long. At one time the owner was going to open a Dinner / Theater in the old Jefferson. There was even a notice tacked to the front door that they had applied for a liquor license. For some reason, these plans were never carried out. Soon the Jefferson Theater will be just a memory.

Middle School:

The new Middle School was completed on time and opened for the new school year. The new school is located behind the high school up on N. Findley St. There was a lot of traffic congestion for the first couple of days, but I understand everything is going well now. The old Junior High on Jefferson St. has been abandoned. There is a group hoping to open a new recreation center soon in the old school. The building on the west side of Jefferson Street was sold to the Jefferson County Housing Authority. I'm not sure what they are going to do with it. There was a group that was going to