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A story to tell

  • DAVID WARGO/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Local author Lee Mantz holds an advanced copy of his newly published book "Summit Hill" released today by Arcadia Publishing. Inspired by his collection and involvement with the Summit Hill Historical Society,…
    DAVID WARGO/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Local author Lee Mantz holds an advanced copy of his newly published book "Summit Hill" released today by Arcadia Publishing. Inspired by his collection and involvement with the Summit Hill Historical Society, hundreds of photographs and postcards relate the early history of the hilltop community. The book will be available in local bookstores and the Summit Hill Historical Society Museum.
Published October 26. 2009 05:00PM

In the words of Summit Hill author Lee Mantz, his new book "SUMMIT HILL" was written because "there is a story to tell and a history here that was dying off."

"I wanted to tell the story of the people, the coal and the businesses," Mantz said with regard to his book published by Arcadia Publishing and available in bookstores and the Summit Hill Historical Society effective today.

Mantz, a lifelong resident of the town and an active member of the Summit Hill Historical Society for several years, began his journey to create a book with an innocent search of the web auction site, eBay soon after its inception in the 1990s.

"I was surfing the auction site and for fun, I entered Summit Hill in the search engine. There were three postcards for sale. I bid on them and won and that started my collection. When the Summit Hill Historical Society opened the museum, I never realized there were so many postcards and collectible items," he said.

Mantz said that the collection of three postcards has grown to over 100 pieces of ephemera about Summit Hill and the surrounding area. A treasured part of his collection are 70 stereo views that depict scenes from the area.

His book is dedicated in memory of his best friend Robert Fritzinger, and also his father, the late Lyle Mantz. Mantz said his father told him shortly after he started his collection of postcards that "if you keep collecting postcards, you will probably be able to write a book." Mantz said that while his father's words were not a direct influence on his decision, the comment came back to him after he finished the project.

"When I was done, I realized he probably helped in some way to inspire me to do it," he said, adding that he really did it to preserve the heritage of the town and to help the Summit Hill Historical Society and its museum.

His direct influence that started him in writing a book was assisting another local author, Rebecca Finsel with a chapter in her own volume "Carbon County." "After helping with that project, I was interested in doing a book on Summit Hill so I got in touch with Arcadia," he said. Arcadia Publishing specializes in recording local and regional history. According to their material, Arcadia's mission is to make history accessible and meaningful through the publication of books on the heritage of America's people and places.

"I wrote the proposal in 2008 and it was accepted last summer. Although the concept was years in the making, I only had about eight months to write it after the proposal was accepted," he said.

Mantz said although he used a computer to scan and lay out the photographs on the pages, he wrote out the captions and text of the book in a notebook. "I wrote the initial draft longhand and then typed it into the computer." He said the layout was the most challenging part of the process. He followed the pattern of other sample books provided to him by the publisher. The book contains an overview of the town then continues to specific segments including street views, businesses, schools and specific areas.

Each page contains one or more photographs and captions. Most of the research Mantz said was done primarily at the Dimmick Memorial Library and the Summit Hill Historical Society Museum using their history books and newspapers. The photographs came from Mantz's collection and the museum, however a few also came from local residents Craig Walters, John Drury owner of the Mauch Chunk Museum, Joe Slakoper and the Hope Presbyterian Church as well as St. Paul's UCC Church.

He said the most interesting part of the process was learning about how self sufficient Summit Hill and other local towns were in the highpoint of the coal mining days. "There were tailors, lumber mills, hardware stores, pharmacies, supermarkets, hotels and all kinds of businesses in every town," he said. "That's what was amazing to me. Now you have to have a car and drive to get anything, but in those days, it was all literally down the street, and every town was like that back then." Mantz pointed out life might have been harder, but the towns were self-sufficient as were most of the people.

Another point that Mantz said surprised him was when he wrote to Jefferson Medical College regarding two local pharmacists from that time period, Dr. David and Dr. Thompson. "I really didn't expect an answer to my e-mail, but soon after I received an answer. Someone went out of their way to do the research finding their graduation dates and general information."

Besides being an active member of the Summit Hill Historical Society, Mantz is a board member of the Grand Army of the Republic Association of Summit Hill and a past board member of the Summit Hill Switchback Foundation. When not pursuing historical interests or maintaining his website,, Mantz enjoys spending time with his daughter Kassandra, an eighth grader at St. Joseph's Regional Academy, hiking and biking local trails and pursuing his second passion, astronomy.

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