A 100 Year Review of Berks – Happy New Year 2020!

Happy New Year Berks County! Not only is it a new year but also the beginning of a new decade. As we leave behind the 2010s, let’s look back on the beginning of the last 10 decades, and some of the events that we experienced together as a community during them. The past is important and sometimes comforting, but it is also important to look forward. There is so much more nostalgia yet to be made!

1920

Notable Events from this Decade

1930

Notable Events from this Decade

1940

Notable Events from this Decade

1950

Notable Events from this Decade

1960

Notable Events from this Decade

1970

Notable Events from this Decade

1980

Notable Events from this Decade

1990

Notable Events from this Decade

2000

Notable Events from this Decade

2010

Notable Events from this Decade

Miracle Mart – 2101 Centre Ave

Miracle Mart - Reading

Miracle Mart was a 50,000 square foot department store on Route 61/Centre Ave in North Reading. There is very little information online about Miracle Mart or its origins, besides that there was a more well-documented and unrelated Canadian department store chain by the same name. Looking at aerial photos of the area leads me to believe this location in Reading, Pennsylvania was opened in 1959.

October 1958 Aerial

The aerial photograph above was from October 1958, and it appears the building in the location of Miracle Mart is much smaller and shaped differently than the aerial below from July 1971. Perhaps it was under construction or it is another building entirely. Also cropped in the above photograph is Reading Municipal Stadium, which sits diagonally across Route 61 from the department store.

July 1971 Aerial

The newspaper ads below are from the November 1959 Reading Eagle. So its fairly safe to assume the store was built and opened at some point in the year between the aerial and ad.

1959 Reading Eagle Ad

Miracle Mart was just another face in the sea of discount stores that exploded into popularity in the mid-century. The market became over-saturated and like many others, Miracle Mart was eventually consumed by a bigger fish. In 1973 Miracle Mart was bought out by King’s Discount Department store, which operated over 100 other stores across the country at the time.

July 1973 Ad from Reading Eagle

Aside: These ads from 1973 have King’s listed at the junction of Routes 61 & 422, but surely they meant route 61 and route 12/Warren St Bypass? I’m not sure why the bypass there would have ever been considered 422. Even before the Schuylkill bypass 422 business ran East – West through Reading on Penn Street. If you know what’s up with this, feel free to drop it in the comments.

August 1973 Ad from Reading Eagle

Completing the circle of retail life; King’s Department Store filed for bankruptcy in 1982 after it reached a pinnacle of 190 stores nationwide and went defunct by 1984. Eventually this location was converted into office space.

2101 Centre Ave

Currently, the building is occupied by Berks County Intermediate Unit.

Another Company located in this office park is Fromm Electric. I found this Retro signage from Google street view in 2015. It looks like they recently updated the sign and covered their old logo up. Bit of a shame, the cursive “Fromm” is in a lovely mid-century style.

Fromm Electric Retro Sign

On this day Nov 18th, 1959

Future site of Western Electric purchased in Muhlenberg Township

Nov 18th, 1959 Reading Eagle

TV Stereo Advertisement from Pomeroys

Dance to your favorite records plated on the 4-speed automatic record changer or simple add the space-saving stereo amplifier unit and enjoy life-like realism of stereophonic sound. Or just relax and enjoy this big-screen TV. Yours now for the first time at this low, low price.

Costa Rican Group Visits Textile

Harry Swartz, atop stairway, apprentice supervisor for the Textile Machine Works, points out the working of a machine to a Costa Rican apprenticeship team that visited the local plant today. Left to right, are: Manuel Maria Granados, labor inspector II, Ministry of Labor; Roberto Fernandez, manager of the Rupublic Tobacco Co. in Curridabat, office, Ministry of Labor; Antonio Gonzalez, cheif vocation education secretary, Ministry of Education; Shwartz; Adolfo Bagnarello, chief mechanic I, Ministry of Public Works; Alfredo Rodriguez, director general, Ministry of Labor, and John Moyer, an employee of Textile. (Eagle Staff Photo)

White House Market Ad

On this Day – October 16th, 1959

Above the fold in the Oct 16th 1959 Reading Eagle:

Goodbye, Tower Hotel

Outside razing work by city workmen is now under way on the Tower Hotel on the crest of Mt. Penn. All usable wood and stone from the historic structure will be stored for future city use. A pavilion is scheduled to be built on the site, when razing work is completed. This coming winter, city carpenters will build picnic tables at the site. (Eagle Photo – Oct 16th, 1959 Reading Eagle)

Well, that’s a problem

Charles Danta examines the well opening into which he descended 30 feet yesterday afternoon to rescue Michael Evans, 5, Boyertown R.D. 3, after the boy had fallen through rotten planking into five feet of water. Michael, shown in inset, was unhurt. The well planking will be replaced. (Eagle staff photo)

Ads

Brown’s Diner
DeLuca’s Camera Center
Reading Premium Beer

At the drive in…

Berkenstock Store – “Berky’s” – Sinking Spring

If you grew up in Sinking Spring during the 50, 60s, or 70s you probably remember Berkenstock’s Store, or just called it, “Berky’s” or “Fern’s”*. The people who have mentioned it to me specifically remember it being a candy store and calling it Berky’s. There is absolutely no information about this place on the web, but I did some sleuthing to find some information about who ran this store. What I had was a last name, location and an idea of a timeframe of when this store was in operation.

*Apparently some called it Fern’s, I have added this info after the original release of the article

It was located on the corner of Columbia and Hull Street, 101 S. Hull Street. Just caddy-corner from the Sinking Spring School grounds, making it easy for students to walk there for candy. I found record in the 1940 census of a Berkenstock Family who lived at that address. I knew it was a lady who ran this store, so I figured it had to be one of the daughters. It ended up being Fern Berkenstock.

At first I thought it might be Ethel but my sources said it was definitely Fern. I found Ethel in her 1946 senior yearbook from Sinking Spring High. I wasn’t able to find Fern in any of the mid-late 30s Sinking Spring yearbooks. Perhaps she didn’t go to high school, not surprising or out of the ordinary, many in that time didn’t.

I was able to find that Fern passed away in 2000. Her obituary was in the April 1st, 2000 Reading Eagle. It mentions her owning the store and gave the definitive time of operations, from 1940-1986. She was married at some point and her last name changed to Eyrich.

I would love to see and share some images of Berky’s if anyone has them. Any added info would also be appreciated. People remember this place fondly and I would love to bring it back to them. If you have any memories of the store please share them in the comments.

1958 Aerial of Columbia Ave and Hull St Intersection where Berky’s operated