By JIM ZBICK
You can't fault the Tamaqua Courier for not trying to hype the old home town.
In his 1912 opinion titled "Loyalty to one's Bread and Butter," a Courier writer said the welfare and prosperity of individuals – as well as families – are tied to "our fellow citizens in the place we call home."
He said a great majority of people owe their livelihood and whatever success they've achieved to their own home town.
"If we work for someone else, we depend on the enterprise and efficiency of our employer for our own advancement," he wrote. "If we are selling goods to our fellow townsman, we depend on their good will for our success. If we are producing some commodity that is sold elsewhere, we are still dependent on the energy and fidelity of those of our townspeople who work for us."
He said there were some, however, who struggled with this kind of close arrangement – the ties of kinship and sentiment of affection for the home town – even to the point of denigrating their home town.
"They seem to think they establish their own superiority by picking flaws in their surroundings," he explained.
This, he said, is the worst possible attitude one could show and broke it down with an example of family intimacy.
"Sneering at the town that gives you your bread and butter, that offers its gifts of comradeship, civic protection, and education, is a little like sneering at your mother in order to show your neighbors how much superior you are to her," he wrote. "Those of us who are affected only by more selfish considerations should consider what a suicidal business policy it is to decry our own home town."
He urged readers to watch what they say to others – especially outside visitors – when discussing the qualities of living in a small town environment.
"Slighting remarks cast at our enterprises discourage our people from making improvements and hinder growth by detracting from the general reputation of the places," he explained. "Even if we think so, let us never admit that our bread and butter is not fully equal to metropolitan cake and pie."
Two years earlier, in an editorial titled "Hands Across the Valley," a Courier writer stressed the need for towns in the Panther Valley to bury the "spirit of rivalry" that existed and instead, begin promoting and applauding each other's accomplishments.
"If Lansford does something commendable, let us cheer her," he urged.
As an example, he pointed out that Lansford was in the process of paving its streets, a project for which town officials should have been commended since it was managed much more efficiently than in Tamaqua's case.
"It does not give us any pleasure to say, but we are mighty glad to see Lansford profiting from our mistakes," he joked. "And we should all feel this way, in all things."
The writer said this positive attitude bodes well for the future prospects of Tamaqua and the Panther Valley, which he said "is brighter than any other section of the state."
"We want to make all the towns the very best possible places to live in," he said. "We want to make Tamaqua a city some day and that day is not very far removed.
"She lacks a good many things today but we are going to keep boosting her along until we get her where we want her. And while we are doing this, we know Lansford and the other Panther Creek Valley towns will do the same."
He said that even though Lansford was recently able to win out over Tamaqua in attracting a new silk mill to its town, that kind of rivalry was a good thing since it benefitted the entire region.
"That's just what we want – every town striving to set the pace for the other," he said. "We're neighbors, brethren, close neighbors, and so let us be neighborly neighbors."
Just a month earlier, in October 1909, the Courier wrote about the surge in Tamaqua's population, which grew from 7,284 in 1900 to almost 12,000 in just under a decade. During that same stretch, the number of residences increased from 1,200 to 1,700.
The writer expected greater increases to come since the town was fast becoming a railroad center of "more and more consequence" and that translated to a slight improvement in manufacturing. But he said this was insignificant to "what could be done."
He pointed to the idle Vulcan Iron Company shops which, he said, could employ up to 200 men and boys. He blamed the "money men" in town for not investing in the community to keep pace with the population boom.
"They invest little money in Tamaqua," he said. "Broad Street is in need of a half dozen modern business buildings and the town is sadly in need of a modern hotel."
Also, he said Tamaqua was the only town in the state with a population over 10,000 that did not have an opera house.
He also made an example of the Tamaqua and Lansford Street Railway, which local businessmen "looked on with distrust and which ended up being funded by outside capital." He said the venture quickly paid for itself and the railway was later sold at a "stupendous" profit.
"Little of the profit realized came to Tamaqua because Tamaqua men did not have faith in Tamaqua. And mark you, history is going to go right on repeating itself," he warned.