On this day, 1985 – Downtown Pomeroy’s Closes it’s Doors for Good

On this day in 1985 – Pomeroy’s Department Store in Downtown Reading closes after 109 years in business.

On this day, 1985 - Downtown Pomeroy's Closes it's Doors for Good
A crush of shopper prepares for the final charge into Pomeroy’s downtown store Saturday. The department store closed shortly after 5 p.m., ending 109 years of operations as one of the anchors of Penn Square. 
Downtown Pomeroy's Closes it's Doors for Good

 

Downtown Pomeroy's Closes it's Doors for Good
Downtown Pomeroy's Closes it's Doors for Good

The future remained uncertain for the historical building for many years, with renovation plans falling through. Eventually it was demolished to make way for new construction.

Downtown Pomeroy's Closes it's Doors for Good

Gadgets at the Berkshire Mall

From 1982-1984 there was a cutting edge restaurant called “Gadget’s” upstairs at the Berkshire Mall. It featured animatronic singing robots as entertainment. For kids, Looney Tunes was the featured presentation. It was also targeted to adults, featuring a LaBARatory bar and evening shows as well. Below is the only footage online of the restaurant, though at a location in New York.

The idea was fairly short lived. After brief expansion to roughly 6 locations in the US, the idea proved too costly to make a profit, and ultimately closed down. According to a comment on this website, the location at the Berkshire Mall was rumored to have a particularly shady end:

Does anyone remember the shady Gadgets disappearing story? They were behind on rent (owed 10s of thousands) and just packed up and took off in the middle of the night, leaving behind lots of the fixtures in the restaurant.

Menu pictures courtesy of Matt Heffelfinger

Do you remember Gadgets? Do you have any images or stories to share? Can you validate the rumor of how it left? What happened to all of the animatronic pieces left behind?

Bon-Ton / Pomeroy’s at the Berkshire Mall

Everyone has heard that Bon-Ton had declared bankruptcy and was subsequently closing all of it’s stores back in April. Liquidation began immediately, and finally after 4 months of sales the location at the Berkshire Mall is closing for the final time today, August 28th 2018 at 5:00 pm.

Bon-Ton occupied the center anchor at the Berkshire Mall since 1987, when it bought out the local department store, Pomeroy’s. The change was gradual, and the store only started touting just the Bon-Ton name in 1990, three years after the purchase. Pomeroy’s had been in the space since 1976. The mall opened in 1970, and for the first 6 years it housed a Philadelphia store called Lit Brothers. So, the majority of the mall’s life it has been the Bon-Ton. This will be the first time the space will be vacant for any amount of time, though Mall Management is looking for a tenant.

Pomeroy's Grand opening Berkshire Mall 1976
Pomeroy’s Grand opening Berkshire Mall 1976

Pomeroy’s / Bon-Ton has employed many Berks Countian’s over the years. My own Mother worked at Pomeroy’s in the late 70s/early 80s in the Junior Sportswear department during high school and college. Many are sad to see the memories go.

Pomeroy's fire May 1990
Pomeroy’s fire May 1990

Pomeroy's is now The Bon-Ton 1990
Pomeroy’s is now The Bon-Ton August 1990

Malls in general are not doing well these days. Many department stores, like Bon-Ton, are going out of business, and do not draw the crowds they once did in the Mall’s heydays of decades past. One would only need to look a few miles north to the Fairgrounds Square Mall to see the fate that awaits most malls. However Berkshire still seems to do a good business, and has minimal vacancies…though one mall couldn’t keep a giant like Bon-Ton alive, a new tenant should jump at the opportunity to join an active mall like the Berkshire.

 

Blue Marsh Ski Area

Blue Marsh Ski Area was a small ski area located in Bernville, just 10 miles north of Reading, PA. The ski complex opened in 1968 as the North Heidelberg Ski Slope by a man named John H. Guenther Jr.. In 1986 Joseph M. Aichholz Jr. and four partners leased the ski area, and in 1987 they renamed it Blue Marsh Ski Area. In the mid-80s, the equipment rental office, retail store, chairlifts and snow-making system were built. In 1992, the restaurant Wings & Swings opened at the site. Joseph would continue to run the ski area until its closure in 2005.

Blue Marsh offered skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing with seven lifts and tows, including a triple, a double, a T-Bar, and four handle tows. The area included a Half Pipe and All Terrain Park, the Big Tube Park, the Kinder Tube Park, and the Wolverine Raft Park. Night skiing was offered every day except Sunday. Blue Marsh had a vertical of 315 feet and about a dozen trails, the longest being 2,600 feet long. Blue Marsh marketed itself as being a great place to learn how to ski or snowboard, with reasonable lift ticket prices. In 2003, Blue Marsh offered an all-day (9 a.m. to 10 p.m.) weekday lift ticket for $25.

Snowboarding began in the 80s, and quickly became a trend at the detest of skiers. Many mountains didn’t allow snowboarding on their slopes until well into the 1990s. Blue Marsh Ski Area was one of the pioneering ski areas that allowed them beginning in 1987. In 1992, Doe Mountain (now Bear Creek) allowed snowboarders as well, but only on Mondays.

Blue Marsh Ski Area’s first tubing slopes were built in 1993, and that tubing area was expanded in 1999. The area fell into some hard times in 1995, when they went delinquent on a loan. It appears they figured it out, because the area went on to serve the general public for another decade.

The owners of Blue Marsh decided to shut down the ski area in 2005. On October 29, 2005, Blue Marsh held a public auction, selling ski equipment including Piston Bully Snow Cats, T-Bars, snow tubes, snowmobiles, lighting equipment, rental equipment, and china and glassware. -Source

Joseph M. Aichholz Jr., president of Blue Marsh Ski Area in North Heidelberg Township, blames warmer weather, property taxes and the increasing cost of ski equipment for a decision to close.

The property never ended up being developed, and rezoning has been a point of contention in Bernville since the ski slope closed. The hillside is still there untouched, though the buildings and lifts are long gone.

There had been rumors in the early 2010’s that the park was going to be reopened, but so far that has not happened. Does anyone have any pictures of the park while it was in use? We would love to see them. contact@berksnostalgia.com

On this Day – September 8th 1987

On this day 30 years ago – September 8th, 1987,  a storm causes major flooding in Berks.

According this Reading Eagle article,

It was a Tuesday, Sept. 8, in 1987 when the deluge came.

It was known as TD Nine. The meandering area of tropical moisture formed near the Bahamas – it never even qualified to have a name – drained its wrath over eastern Pennsylvania, hitting southeastern Berks County particularly hard.

Birdsboro was ground zero for this major flooding of 30 years ago from the Hay Creek. The borough was crippled with homes flooded, bridges out, ruptured water mains and shattered pavements. The situation there was critical for days, the residents boiled water for weeks and the cleanup went on for months. The damage was pegged at $5 million to roads and other public property in and near the borough.

According to newspaper reports at the time: In Robeson Township, bridges over Hay Creek at White Bear Road, Furnace Road and Moyer Road were rendered impassible. Monocacy Hill Road between Route 422 and Limekiln Road in Amity Township was impassible for days. Ditto for Shelbourne Road in Exeter Township. As the waters receded, tales of trapped motorists and heroic rescues also emerged. Reports indicated that six motorists in Berks had been rescued from cars or trees after being trapped in rising floodwaters. In Kutztown, Kutztown Foundry was on minimal operations for a few days because of the heavy load it placed on power sources.

Saucony Creek, which runs through the borough, was nearly 7 feet above normal, with flooding. Other areas left reeling were the Colebrookdale Landfill, Earl Township, where 6,000 to 8,000 gallons of leachate spilled into Furnace Creek after a holding tank ruptured, and the FR&S Sanitary Landfill Inc., Exeter Township, where the backwash caused a foul-smelling liquid to spill into the Schuylkill River at a 100-gallon-per-minute clip.

The Schuylkill River at the Penn Street Bridge rose 7 feet in 24 hours. Eventually Berks, Carbon, Lancaster, Lehigh and Northampton counties were declared disaster areas. The UGI Gas Distribution Center in Ontelaunee Township was the official National Weather Service station in Berks.

The station recorded 6.25 inches on Sept. 8, 1987. That 6.25 is the fourth highest daily total in the 148-year Berks County precipitation database behind 6.75 inches, Oct. 8, 2005, tropical moisture; 6.73, Oct. 3, 1869, Saxby Gale; and 6.49, June 23, 1972 Tropical Storm Agnes.Most Berks Area Rainfall Network stations and trained weather service observers recorded 3 to 7 inches on Sept. 8, 1987. These were a few of the even more extreme measurements: Eastern Cumru Township, 13 inches; Gibraltar, 8.7; Elverson, 8.3; Morgantown wastewater treatment plant, 8; and St. Lawrence, 7.35.”

The system had plenty of tropical moisture, and this slug of moisture ran the Piedmont zones from Virginia to eastern Pennsylvania, even right over eastern Berks County during the early evening of Tuesday 8 September,” said Jeffrey R. Stoudt, Berks weather historian.

 

Reading Eagle | A Geigertown Fire Company truck fell into Hay Creek after a section of Route 82 in Birdsboro collapsed during the deluge of tropical moisture on Sept. 8, 1987. Three firefighters escaped without injury.