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Palmerton Jr. Rifle and Pistol Club is a hidden local gem

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    Members of the Palmerton Jr. Rifle and Pistol team practice. From front to rear are Parker Nelson, Kristi Stien and Hailey Hatzis. LISA PRICE/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS

Published September 30. 2017 01:45AM

Darn kids, Willard Steigerwalt thought as he hung up the phone. He was growing weary of the complaints. He thought that there was only one way to stop the repeated calls – he’d have to catch the local boys who were using BB guns to shoot out streetlights in Palmerton.

Steigerwalt did catch the offenders, but he had a change of heart. Instead of filing official charges against the boys, he told them to stop shooting at the streetlights and instead, do their target shooting in an area out beyond the town’s pool.

Darn kids, Steigerwalt thought as he hung up the phone. Now, farmers were complaining that some boys were shooting at their chickens with BB guns. Still reluctant to file charges, Steigerwalk rounded up the young offenders and helped them organize into a BB gun shooting club. They made targets by filling two boxes with newspaper, and got permission to set up the targets in the basement of the Franklin school building.

It didn’t take long before the boys were bored with shooting the boxes at the BB gun range. Steigerwalt, an Army Warrant Officer, knew of a program sponsored by the Department of Civilian Marksmanship (DCM) through the Army.

The Army had developed the program so that youngsters could learn to shoot – with the hopes of preparing them for future military service. First, the boys needed a better place to shoot, and Steigerwalt convinced Palmerton supervisors to have the boys clean out the town hall basement and set up a shooting range. He also enrolled the club in the National Rifle Association and the DCM program.

That was 1954. The club exists today, and the club officers are hoping to encourage more people to take advantage of what they offer. The shooting area is located in the basement of Palmerton Boro Hall, located at 443 Delaware Avenue.

Mike Loftus, who’s also a hunter education instructor for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, has been involved with the club for about thirty years. He currently serves as secretary/treasurer. Delbert Hauk is president and Ed Barna is vice-president. Russ Cordell is another club officer.

“Shooting is obviously something that youngsters enjoy doing,” Loftus said. “It’s a good club, with good organization and an emphasis on safety – everyone enjoys their time with us.”

Here’s the schedule: Monday, .22 rifle for people aged 11-18, 6:30-8:30 p.m.; Tuesday, BB gun for people 8-15, 6:30-8 p.m.; Wednesday, Ladies Night, .22 handgun, 7-9 p.m.; Thursday, Men’s Night, .22 handgun, 7-9 p.m. For more information, call 610-900-4139.

“We try to keep our costs down and we rely on donations from the community, especially the Palmerton Area Car Enthusiasts, which donated to us to support youth activities in the community,” Loftus said. “There is a charge for adult pistol classes, to help us cover the costs for the kids.”

“All someone needs to do is show up, come down and we’ll show you what to do,” he added. “If you like it, sign up for the club.”

Comments
Back in the late 1940s when I was attending S.S. Palmer High School we also had a gun club.
It met after school hours in the building between Franklin & Delaware Avenues on Third St. Second floor of the building which at one time held the printing facility for the local newspaper. Remember carrying my .22 rifle to school and placing it in my locker so it would be available for the shooting after school. Never shot anyone or thought about shooting someone.
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