Slatington borough officially kicked off its 150th anniversary on Saturday.
The memorabilia table was crowded as people who came early to the event looked at shirts and books. Ninety-year-old Charles Rowlands was signing his book of memories from a lifetime of living in Slatington: "Slatington: Do you remember when …"
Orders were being taken for the history book, which was put together by the committee.
A CD of a song written especially for the celebration, "The Road Home," about returning to Slatington, was being sold by the composer, Daimon Price.
Master of ceremonies Ed Hartman welcomed the audience and said next year is the actual birthday, and there will be events throughout the year.
"We honor a great country and people and the borough of Slatington," he said.
He introduced Rep. Julie Harhart (183rd) who presented a citation "to formalize your kickoff. I hope the borough will remain in place another 150 years."
She read some of the "whereas" sections of the citation: Nicholas Kern settled in the Heidelberg District of Bucks County in 1737, the first quarry was begun in 1845 and first slate factory in 1847. Slatington had the largest slate industry in the United States. The post office was opened after railroads provided service in 1851 and the borough was incorporated in 1864. Harhart presented the citation to committee chairs Ed Bechtel and Christy Haydt on behalf of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and herself.
Slatington Mayor Walter Niedermeyer presented a citation.
Niedermeyer also presented a citation from U.S. Sen. Patrick Toomey.
Haydt said he was 11 years old in 1964 when the centennial was celebrated. There was something every weekend during that year. Main Street was shut down for a block party, he recalled.
"I have great memories that started my interest in local history," Haydt remarked. "Kern's log cabin was at Diamond and Main streets."
He added that the people were mostly millers and farmers until slate was found on Ken Papay's property by two Welshmen. Salesmen would come from all over the East Coast to make deals with the slate companies.
A 1917 book claimed the area was one of the most picturesque in the Lehigh Valley and there was no place like it for industry. During World War I slate was considered nonessential so when veterans returned there were no jobs for them.
He said the small-town charm remained until the late 1980s when Keystone Lamp, the paint mill and Zinc Company all closed. There are still too many empty lots in the business district, he said.
"When we celebrate 175 we hope there will have been a turn around," he commented.
The borough has many social organizations that benefit the area.
"We have one of the finest trailheads and it is always filled. We have to give them a reason to come uptown," said Haydt.
Bechtel said the borough looks forward to the next 150 years.
"Volunteerism is alive and well," Bechtel said.
Hartman introduced members of borough council, and the main speaker, Judge James Anthony, a former Marine. He was the recipient of a bronze metal and retired in 2009. His next career is as a Lehigh County judge.
Before there was Slatington, Indians lived in the area for hundreds of years, he said. Kern began Trockener's mill, usually mispronounced "truckers." During the Revolutionary War Kern's son was a soldier.
Anthony said Slatington was originally named Kerns. Many other small areas were named after a tavern which was used as a meeting house. He added that his great, great, great-grandfather built canal boats.
Welsh settlers came when there was a slate industry. The Pennsylvania German farmers moved into the towns. Catholics arrived in the late 19th century, increasing the size of the labor pool.
The railroads brought the town into the 20th century.
One of the biggest honors for members of Allen O. Delke Post 16 is to replace flags on veterans' graves.
Anthony said General Thomas Morgan held the second highest rank in the Marine Corps. The Route 873 bridge is named for him.
Bechtel and Haydt presented charters to the 23 charter members, whose efforts will help make the yearlong celebration a success. Haydt said more charter members are expected.
Bechtel gave special praise to the Slatington Lions Club for its assistance.