Living through History

When I was a kid, learning about history in class, I always wondered if the common people living through the events we were studying had any idea of the significance of what they were living through. How did they feel about it? Were they afraid? To them, it was an uncertain time, but many trudged about their everyday lives anyway. What was the alternative? To us, it’s history. We are safe from the distance of time. Its just a story on pages we are supposed to learn from. A story we know the ending to. But what happens when the story is ours and its still being written?

Jan 1st 1919 Reading Eagle

Coronavirus; its the last word you probably want to hear right now, I know. It’s infiltrated every aspect of our daily lives. If you have a television or smart phone you can’t escape it. Everyone has an opinion on it. The vocal population seems to be in two camps; “it’s no big deal” or “run for the hills!”. Here at Berks Nostalgia we stand on neither soap box. Our goal is to be an impartial observer of the effects this is having on our society as it’s happening. After all this can go one of two ways; remembered in a cheeky, Y2K-esqe “WOW remember how crazy everyone got?” way, or something that changes the very fabric of our society. Hopefully it’s the former.

Everything seems to have escalated so quickly its left us feeling surreal. Just over a week ago the first confirmed case of the virus in Pennsylvania surfaced and business was as usual. As of today there are documented 70+ cases, mostly right next door in Montgomery County. Public schools are closed. Colleges are going completely online classes. Events are cancelled. Companies are making people work remotely. International travel to many countries is banned. Entire national sports leagues are pausing their seasons. “Non-essential” businesses are being ordered to close. People are hoarding supplies. This level of disruption to every day life and business has never really been experienced before. No one alive today has ever experienced anything like what our society is now experiencing on a country-wide level.

The past few days, occasionally my chest will feel tight and I’ll find it hard to take a breath. For a split second I worry that I’m infected. Then I realize it’s likely just my anxiety spiking again. How can it not? Every second I’m being bombarded by the next doomsday headline. There is an air of uncertainty. The information floating around is conflicting and confusing. Unlike everyone else on the internet I’m not an expert, just a regular schmuck who cares about her family and friends and doesn’t want to see anyone suffer.

To be honest I have no idea how this will pan out. I don’t have any medical advice or tips to get through it that you haven’t already heard a thousand times. I think back to my adolescent empathy to people who lived through other scary situations in the past. I come to realization that kids will be learning about this too someday in history class. Maybe one of them will think of people like you and me. It’s the human condition, after all.

I went outside yesterday. It was a beautiful late-winter Sunday. Around 60 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. The birds are chirping, trees are growing buds, daffodils are poking through the ground. Life is starting anew again, as it does every spring. As I stood there basking in the warm sun I took a deep breath of fresh air and thought, “how can the world possibly be ending on such a perfect day?”.

Oct 27th, 1918 Reading Eagle

On this day March 11th 1962

Above the fold in the March 11th, 1962, Reading Eagle.

Berkshire Knitting Mills Building 202 – better known perhaps as the “clock building” – has been sold to Schoener Candies, Inc., 216 Buttonwood St., it was announced yesterday by BKM. The building faces Reading Avenue in West Reading and will be occupied by the Schoener firm in mid-summer, with more than 200 persons being employed there, it was disclosed. BKM said that since seamless hosiery knitting machinery requires less space than full-fashioned machinery, the building has not been needed by Berkshire for several years. It had been leased previously by Hershey Chocolate Corp – Eagle Photo

Mrs. Albert J. Lauter Jr. of Five Points, Reading, Den Mother to Den No. 5 of Mount Penn Pack No. 158, reviews a scouting achievement book with two of her Cubs, Daniel J. Essig, left, and Daniel F. Metzler. She is one of 630 housewives who serve as Den Mothers to 3,642 Cub Scouts in the city and county.

Al Paris gained national fame when footage of him directing traffic at 4th and Penn aired on Candid Camera on March 11th, 1962.

The Glockenspiel Restaurant – Rt. 222 – Richmond Township

The Glockenspiel was landmark Pennsylvania Dutch restaurant in northern Berks County. It originally dated back to 1751, built as a two-story farmhouse and later added on dining facilities and offices. It was located along Route 222 between Fleetwood and Kutztown. The restaurant specialized in Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine, and served a famed fruit & cheese tray with dinner. It also had a gift shop and the “Dutch Tavern” which was a bar area.

1971 Aerial Shot

Above, an aerial photo of the Glockenspiel Restaurant along 222 in 1971. Below, the famous fruit and cheese platter served with every meal.

The French Room

View of the French Room and waitress with a cheese tray, in the 1950s. Source

The “French Room” pictured on both above Postcards, was located in the basement of the building. The Glockenspiel was described in a 1984 Morning Call article as, “Decidedly colonial with traditional antiques, barn wood paneling, stone walls, and open beamed ceilings, the restaurant’s atmosphere helps diners lose track of cares and concerns of the everyday world. “

On the above image: Dutch Tavern on top right, Gift shop on bottom right.

Some fondly remember warm cider was served from the pot at this large fireplace just inside the entrance to the restaurant.


The Glockenspiel Restaurant had financial troubles starting in 1981 and was pulled out of bankruptcy in 1983.

It was closed briefly in 1981 by a state police task force when a previous owner, American Leisure Services Inc. of Austin, Texas, was cited for failure to pay sales taxes.

In 1982, problems with back taxes prompted state agents and deputies from the Berks County sheriff’s office to seize financial records at the restaurant.

The Glockenspiel was brought out of bankruptcy proceedings in 1983.

After renovations it reopened that year by the Glockenspiel Management Corp.

1986 Fire

Smoke billows from one of three adjoining structures destroyed Tuesday night in a blaze at the Glockenspiel Restaurant complex on Route 222 in Richmond Township -Eagle Photo
Blair Eakin, an assistant manager of the Glockenspiel Restaurantm escaped the flames by leaping from a second-floor window of this building. – Eagle Photo

More than 150 firefighters battled the multi-alarm blaze that destroyed the historic Glockenspiel Restaurant along Route 222 southwest of Kutztown Tuesday night. The damage, including many antique furnishings, was estimated at more than $2 million.

The Glockenspiel Restaurant was a total loss, and the owner stated initially that there were intentions to rebuild and add a motel with other facilities on the site. This never came to fruition.

1992 aerial showing the remains of the Glockenspiel. It would decay for another 13 years before the property was redeveloped. -Google Earth

The ruins remained standing until nature took course and slowly covered them. In 2005 the property was sold and redeveloped; a Shed Manufacturer built a new building on the property and has remained there since.

Sources: Morning Call, Reading Eagle

The Sheraton Motor Inn

The Sheraton Motor Inn was built in 1973, located at Woodland Ave and then Van Reed Road (now Paper Mill Road).

Pictured in 1975
Restaurant inside

In the year 2000, the Sheraton Inn received higher status and was able to refer to itself as a hotel instead of “Inn”.

In 2002 in underwent $7.5 million dollars in renovations. There was also an incident where the pool chemical system malfunctioned, sending 13 people to the hospital.

From the April 2, 2002 Reading Eagle

In 2009, the Sheraton Reading Hotel again underwent a 10 million dollar renovationas it rebranded itself as the Crowne Plaza.

Those renovations included a new facade; an upgrade of all computer systems, which is complete; room renovations, which will include new bedding, carpeting, wall coverings, televisions, art, and bathroom tiling; guest hallways, which also will feature new artwork, carpeting and wall coverings; renovation of the fifth-floor executive lounge and the ballroom; a new fitness center; and a complete facelift of the pool area. – Reading Eagle

It is still the Crowne Plaza today.

Sturgis Pretzel Co – Portland Ave – Then and Now

Pictured in 1975

Victor Brand Sturgis Pretzel Company – There were Sturgis Pretzel Bakeries located in Lititz, Wyomissing and West Wyomissing (the above pictured location) opened under the Sturgis Pretzel Co. name, but these were opened and ran by sons and grandsons of the original Tom Sturgis. Source