Tuesday, April 01, 2008

1960's Newspaper Nuggets

(News-Herald, February 2004) There’s nothing like reading newspapers to give you a sense of historical perspective. For example, I recently read a series of articles about middle-eastern troubles. Seems the Kuwaitis deployed soldiers because Iraq claimed that Kuwait belonged to them.

I read that in newspapers published in June of 1961.

In my continuing efforts to reconstruct the history of the Franklin Silver Cornet Band, I’ve read through miles of newspapers on microfilm. I’ve recently been working through the early 1960’s. There are plenty of other interesting non-band items that turn up.

For instance, I never really appreciated just how controversial the moving of Franklin High School was at the time.

The early sixties were a big time for building in the area. Venango Campus of Clarion, Venango Christian High School, the airport expansion, and numerous elementary schools were built in that time, all with great fanfare about moving Venango County forward.

There was even a major push to raise money for a Fort Franklin reconstruction. An editorial in the News-Herald said of that project “This project will succeed or fail in 1961. It may well mark the turning point in the future of this city and this area.”

But when the joint board for the area school districts proposed that a new Franklin High School be built out on Pone Lane, there was massive squawking.

A Citizens’ Committee was formed to oppose the move. It addressed the Chamber of Commerce, and even took out a full page ad in the paper, listing all the school directors by name. Oddly enough, none of the coverage that I read of this group’s activities lists names associated with this opposition group.

Letters to the editor were frequent and spirited. Writers insisted that the move would be bad for the city, that having the school in the middle of town was an essential part of life in Franklin. One writer claimed that the children would be at risk going up “that treacherous hill.” Another pointed out the school’s proximity to the newly expanded airport “poses a real threat.”

Other writers replied that the school was a joint project, and that many of the rural students already had to ride buses and that the wimpy city folk should stop whining (I’m paraphrasing a little here).

This was all accomplished before the various school districts were merged. That merger vote came in the spring of 1963. Those figures were fun to stumble across as well. Canal and Mineral township actually rejected the merger (Canal voted 109-39 against, Mineral 39-37), while in downtown Utica, they went for it by 74-16. Polk joined up with a 106-16 vote while Sandycreek hopped on board 213-49. The City of Franklin itself was less enthusiastic—merger passed in town by 1179-817.

But nothing I stumbled across regarding the school system could top the fun of finding a full-sized feature story about the Warren Light Center. Out on Creek Road (aka the back way to Utica), the WLC has long been a source of myth and mystery.

According to the article, the Warren Light Center, headquartered in Newton Falls, Ohio, bought the 130 acres in 1954. In covering their seventh annual solstice, the paper noted that it was a “new thought religious group” that based its studies “on astrophysics and cosmic science.” Members studied “archaeology, religious philosophy, magnetic currents, and a variety of other fields.”

Writing about the 1962 solstice observance, the paper continued: “ Last Saturday night a campfire meeting was highlighted along with the sky watch. Several groups scattered to different parts of the property to watch for spacecraft. They reported seeing several such craft, describing them as ‘friendly forces.’” Inspired, I checked the internet for WLC references to spacecraft, but found only someone’s childhood memories of watching fairies dance near French Creek.

People had come from Ohio, Sharon, Miami, and Los Angeles for the celebration. 170 were present for a dinner at the Elks Club to hear an Egyptian Coptic Master speak.

Said one of the local leaders, “There is nothing prescribed—we take truth wherever it’s found.” Asked how he determines what is truth, he stated that it can be sought out by going directly “to the root of the matter.” Oh. Well, that explains it. The group anticipated a golden age on Earth in about the year 2000. Allowing a fair margin for error, it might be too early to declare them wrong.


Dittman said...

That's incredibly cool. Are they still around?

Dittman said...

The Warren Light Center as far as I know the airport and the rest are still there...

LazyTcrochet said...

That is an eerie coincidence, growing up in Venango county and yet now living 5 miles from Newton Falls, Ohio. Interesting! I wonder if the group still exists.

Ron eTech n Stuff said...

Yes the Warren Light Center is still around. They had their summer solstice gathering this past weekend. I just talked with one the people that was there.
Ron eTech n Stuff

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