Hometown Views: Libraries

Today Erin from Still Life, With Cracker Crumbs and I are debuting a feature we are calling Hometown Views. Every other week we will focus on a different aspects, locations, or landmarks of our differing towns (or city in Erin’s case).

This week we are sharing photos and thoughts about our local libraries. Erin lives in a more urban area, and I live in a smaller, more rural area. We both have a few different libraries we can choose from that we have visited, but we both have one library that means more to us than others.

The library building in the town we lived in prior to moving to our current home, was a beautiful facility and like most of the seven libraries in the county I grew up in, was built in the late 1800s, specifically to be a library.

Spalding Memorial Library, Athens, Pa.

It has three stories filled with books and a fourth story which houses the local museum. The museum features artifacts from Native Americans who originally settled the area, various historical objects from the area, uniforms and weapons from a variety of wars, and old photographs. It’s a small space but packed full of fascinating items.

I didn’t take a lot of books out there over the years, but we did attend various events there and I was at the library a lot covering events when I worked at the newspaper. I also let my children jump in mud puddles outside of that library one rainy day while patrons gawked at me like I had three heads. Good times.

Another library in a beautiful building sits next to the newspaper building (now abandoned, sadly) where I used to work. The library features two or three levels of bookshelves, accessible by metal stairs and ladders. There used to be a children’s section in the back. A few years ago, the library purchased an old carriage house behind the library building, and converted it into children’s wing, opening up the rest of the library for computers and more rows of adult or reference books.

While there is a good selection of libraries in our little rural area, for me, the library that means the most to me is in the town I now live in.

This library is actually in the county next to the county where I grew up, however, I lived only about five miles outside of this town up until I was about 25. I then married and moved 45 minutes north, where I lived for 18 years.

I remember coming home from the library with plastic library bags full of books. Mom would have one or two bags and I had one. We’d walk into the house and Dad would say, “More books? How will you even have time to read all of those?”

Well, Dad, not having a ton of friends helps with that. My friends were inside the books. Okay, not totally. I did have friends, but my friends liked to read too so there were times we didn’t hang out and during those times we read.

The library was and is small. There are three or four aisles with books on either side and then a small children’s room.

A recent program in the children’s room of the Sullivan County Library, Dushore, Pa.

All on one floor. Yes, that’s it, but when I was a kid, it was enough for me. I actually don’t remember ever picking books out of the children’s room. I read books that were probably too old for me, in some ways, but not inappropriate in any way, so I chose from the main shelves.

The rows of books are off to the right and back.

I was in love with The Cat Who books, which I, of course, still talk about on here (I finished reading one just this past weekend and have a blog post in the works about my love for the series). I also signed out quite a few Beverly Cleary books. Christian Fiction was another genre that caught my attention there.

I loved walking the aisles, running my fingertips over the spines of the books, picking them up and opening them, breathing in deep the smell of ink and paper, knowing that soon I’d be transported away from my sometimes boring life and into a world fresh and new to me.

My kid at the library in the town we currently live in. Excuse the cellphone quality.

I was so excited to move to this town and be able to go to the library again. But then I remembered my recent phobia of signing out library books and worrying about damaging them, which makes me take them back before I’ve even finished them. The phobia started in our previous hometown, because if I forgot to return a book that library would call, then text, then call, then text and so on until I returned it. I felt like a criminal. It was just easier to order books on Kindle or buy them at library sales.

The last straw was when I ran into a member of the library staff and mentioned to her I was bringing a replacement for a book I’d lost to the library. She told me not to worry but then let me know that if people don’t return books, the library has been known to send a report to the local district magistrate’s office. Gulp. That return book was in their hands the very next day after that and I never signed out another book from them. (But, no, I do not really believe she was threatening me. She was just sharing the libary’s new policies.)

You Know What didn’t help with my excitement about the little library here last year since I couldn’t peruse the shelves for almost a year. Then I became annoyed at our local library a few weeks ago because they continued to advertise their summer reading program, as if new people could join, but it was full. I had missed the deadline by a few days, but I called the library and asked if I could slide my daughter in. They never returned my call, so I called again. Still no call. When I finally was able to catch up to someone, they told me the program was full and my daughter could not attend.

It was fine that they had capped the program because they don’t have a lot of space but what was annoying was that they would advertise the program in the local newspaper as if children could attend, even though they couldn’t. So, I was a bit snitty with the lovely ladies who volunteer there and even though I apologized profusely for being jerky, I still feel super shy about going back in again. That’s why some of the photos I will share here are from my cellphone a couple years ago and from their website. That’s right, I’m a big scaredy cat to go there right now, even though they forgave me and said it was totally understandable that I had been annoyed. When I do go in, I will take them a big box of baked goods from the local bakery. A bakery called — I love this — The Mad Bakers.

I do love the library and I do love what they do for the community so I feel super, super guilty about being a jerk. I make sure to donate them or promote them whenever I can.

For a tiny library, they really do have a lot of variety of books. They have a great deal of Christian Fiction, which is popular in our area, but they also have a great deal of mysteries, popular books, and this month they added 65 new titles of tons of genres to their shelves. They hold a variety of programs throughout the year for all ages, but especially children and families.

We loved this magic show we attended there at the beginning of June.

In many ways, they are the center of the tiny community here (of 600 people in the entire town).

Another library I want to mention is one I visited once or twice as a child and teenager. That library, located in the little town of New Albany, Pa. was completely destroyed in 2018 when it was knocked of it’s foundation by rising flood waters. Quite a few people in our state have heard about the library because it was washed off it’s foundation and came to rest in the middle of a major highway. Or at least part of it came to rest there.

The New Albany Library before a flash flood knocked it off it’s foundation and into the middle of a highway. It was a surreal scene!

It was hit by flooding the week before it was knocked off it’s foundation, but I don’t think anyone thought that whole building, with a concrete foundation, would go down.

There was an apartment upstairs and the people who lived there were rescued by a member of the fire department who lived next door and whose home also was damaged. His home was again damaged last week in flooding.

Some of the damage from the library’s Facebook page in August 2018.
The library after it was pushed back off the highway so traffic could go through town. The highway is a major highway for truck traffic, etc.

The rest of the library, including books and documents, were scattered across the street, down the street, and downstream.

The library is still gone. The funding the governor (who came to inspect the site) and the state promised would come to replace it was never provided. The funding the county mentioned they might be able to obtain to rebuild it, also never came. Land has been donated to build a new library building, but so far there are no funds to complete the project. The state will also not allow the borough to go into the creek behind the space to clean it out and keep flooding from happening again so the residents of the borough again suffered damage last week when they, again, had flash flooding.

Following the Pennsylvania governor when he toured the site. I took photographs for the paper my husband was working for at the time.

There is a small little library-like set up in town, in front of the church, far away from where it normally floods. Books are placed in a structure that resembles an old British phone booth and patrons can take a book and replace it with another book.

Growing up I only visited the library a few times, but it was cozy and housed a great deal of local history. Its loss was a huge hit to a small town that has already taken many hits over the years.

Thanks for joining me for a tour of the libraries in my area. Now I hope you will hop over to Erin’s blog and check out her post about the libraries she attends and enjoys.

Covered bridges, old general stores and getting lost in the boonies

One way to keep your marriage fun and spontaneous is to suggest a restaurant for your anniversary dinner that’s in the middle of nowhere, has no WiFi or cell service and then forget your wallet.

My husband and I usually take our children with us or eat a family meal at home because our life is void of a reliable babysitter roster. We also usually eat somewhere in the Finger Lakes region, which is lovely, but this year I decided we should travel another direction and see what the wilds of Pennsylvania might offer us.

The location I chose (also unusual because I’ve never picked the restaurant for our anniversary) was near my parents, free babysitters who don’t usually travel to our house because of my mom’s various health issues, and a diner I had been reading about through their entertaining Facebook posts. It had been a busy week with mornings full of Vacation Bible School and afternoons of traveling to zoos 2- hours away or a nearby campground pool where we spent four hours jumping in the heated pool and we left for my parents after the final VBS and a birthday party for my husband’s great aunt.

“Are you telling her you’re leaving or are sneaking out and letting us deal with the tears?” My Dad asked, referring to our rather clingy 3-year old daughter, right before we walked out the door.

I told him “good luck” and we snuck out while my daughter was falling in love with a baby toad our son and her grandfather brought her earlier in the day. We headed out into what we call the boondocks and outsiders may call simply “the middle of nowhere” of Sullivan County, Pa., twisting and winding around roads with more curves in them than Shirley Temple’s hair. Trees and mountains shot up around us almost directly against the car window until we finally arrived in the little community of Forksville, in search of the covered bridge and nationally recognized Philadelphia cheesesteaks at the Forksville General Store. In our “neck of the woods” we don’t say “cheesesteak” without Philadelphia in front of it because in our minds no one else makes cheesesteaks.

I’m sure General Store owner, Big Mike, who runs the cash register himself, understands why we feel that way since he’s originally from Philadelphia himself and the crux of his menu is their famous original cheesesteak, a recipe he brought from Philly in 1999, and recognized as one of the top ten cheesesteaks by the USA Today.

IMG_6041I’ve been to Forksville a couple times in my life but it had been years and I almost forgot how to find the store and bridge, which is a bit humorous considering there are only about 20 houses in the village.

It wasn’t until we parked out front of the restaurant that I realized I’d left my wallet at home. This wouldn’t have been an issue except we have two checking accounts, one was empty because of bills, and we’d forgot to move money from one checking account (which acts as our savings) to the other and my husband only had the card for the account we had forgot to move money into. The card we needed was in my wallet and my wallet was 50 miles North at our house. Though we had a gift check from my parents in my purse, we had decided not to cash it on the way through the tiny town of Dushore (which used to be the only town in the county with a stoplight) because, hey, I had a card in my wallet. Only I didn’t. Because I didn’t even have a wallet with me.


A quick inquiry inside of the man at the front counter, who we later learned was Big Mike, the owner, revealed there was no WiFi “around here” so transferring money from one account to another via our bank’s ap, wasn’t about to happen. Disappointed we almost decided to head back the 13 miles to semi-civilization where Dushore may not have had a Starbucks but it did at least have an ATM, but then I said “no! We will find a high spot somewhere in this cell service void world and transfer to that account.” This was our plan and I wasn’t about to diverge from it, no matter how high I had to hold the phone up over my head to get it.

IMG_6008When we passed a place that rented apartments and I saw three men outside, all looking at their phones, I knew they either had WiFi or were just sadly looking at their phones wishing they had WiFi. I urged my husband to pull in so we could hopefully steal off their WiFi and transfer the money. After a lot of lifting, tilting and shifting, mainly from my husband who was nervous the property manager was going to think we were there to rob the place, I was able to hook up to their open WiFi and — then get kicked off again and again and again until finally EUREKA! (Like the show because it was creepy cool) we struck gold and the connection worked.

Then it was back to the only tiny gas station in a 15 mile radius to utilize the ATM and hopefully get back to the diner before it’s kitchen closed. The only problem was I apparently moved the wrong amount of money but luckily this station also had open WiFi, which made me think maybe Big Mike should research more about the availability of WiFi in his small village a little better before he says it doesn’t exist there.

After all that drama, I had a sinking feeling we might get inside the diner and find out all the news of great food and atmosphere might have exaggerated, but no, the food did indeed live up to the hoopla. I should have known it would, since there was a photo of Big Mike with Dale Jr. on the wall in the front, next to a framed copy of a front page article on the restaurant in the Philadelphia Inquirer. If you’re reading this and you need a last name to go with Dale Jr.,

first, I shake my head at you in disappointment but second, I offer you the last name of Earnhardt. Seeing a photo of Dale with anyone in Sullivan County isn’t a total shock, really, since his sister is married to a Sullivan County native and they visit from time to time still.

The inside of the diner features a deli counter like you might see in a Philadelphia butcher and then a small dining room lit with fairy lights stretched across the ceiling and filled with tables and booths to sit about 50.

IMG_6018In the end, neither one of us actually had one of the famous Philly Cheesesteaks. Shame on us. The covered bridge hamburger sans the bun, with fries and topped with melted Mozerella cheese and the diner’s own slab bacon was my choice while the husband ordered the buffalo chicken cheesesteak. Our dinner ended in an embarrassing way when the owner came to our table with a complimentary Philadelphia style cheesecake, drizzled in plenty of chocolate, and announced to the entire dining room, with a little song, that it was our anniversary.

Only two people knew we were going to be there at that time so, of course, when we arrived back at my parents later we pretended the singing never happened, laying a trap for my mom, who I knew couldn’t resist asking “wait. The owner didn’t say anything else to you?” At that comment, the mysterious tattle teller was revealed and we knew we had her and my dad (who had actually made the call) to blame for our blushing but thank for an amazing slice of cheesecake.


The store, built in 1841, has been revamped over the years, of course, but still sits directly next to the covered bridge, one of only a three original wooden covered bridges left in the county and now a historic landmark. The bridge is one lane only and when we sat under it after dinner my husband remarked that it reminded him of the bridge in Sleepy Hollow, which wasn’t very comforting to me.

Despite stepping in a hole the size of a woodchuck while we looked at the famous bridge, we survived the adventure and our children enjoyed roasting hot dogs and marshmallows with grandpa and shooting off fireworks my Mom shook her head at the cost of. Incidentally, if a man tells you to watch your step, realize men often skip details, details like “watch your step. There is a HOLE THE SIZE OF A WOODCHUCK IN FRONT OF YOU.”

Also, if you’re going to travel to the Forksville General Store bring your appetite and a camera but leave any devices that require WiFi at home.