Don't ask to pet the top hat; it's really old

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

by Diana Nelson Jones/Oct 29

One reason not to leave the family home is the treasures you find in the attic.Postcards of Highland Parkand East Liberty

George Clark grew up in the house in Highland Park that his grandparents raised their children in, and when his grandfather died, his parents moved in to care for his grandmother and George was born into that house. He lives there now with a dining table full of items ready to take to the big history show Sunday.

The East End-East Liberty Historical Society, which is four years shy of its 100th birthday, invites anyone who wants to know more about and share memorabilia from East Liberty, Highland Park and other East End places.

The show is from 2 to 5 p.m. in a vacant store behind Trader Joe's in the Village of East SIde Shopping Center on Penn Avenue, and it's free to all comers. There will be refreshments and live music.

The Society, 50 members strong but aging, wants to build membership and get help planning an East Liberty Festival it wants to hold next year.

Walkabout met George Clark and Al Mann at George's home last night to look at bills and receipts, photos and books and old postcards and, best of all, we got to stroke the sleek beaver fur top hat, circa 1915, that George's grandfather purchased at Aufhammer & Evans, a men's furnishings store in East Liberty from 1875 to 1953. 

George is a board member and Al is president of the society.

Al, a retired chemical engineer, has lived in Highland Park since 1965. He worked for Gulf Oil at its research center, a tenure that bumped up against a rich history: The first commercial oil refinery in the country was in Highland Park in 1861, just years after the discovery of oil in Titusville.

George grew up hearing his grandmother's stories and over time he discovered boxes of reminders of past transactions and activities that "probably would have been thrown out" had the family moved, he said.

"My grandmother talked about changing into ice skates in that boat house and its pot-bellied stove," said George.
Sunday's show will include a photo montage from the grandson of the owner of the former Mansmann's Department Store; memorabilia of Pete Bolanis, the son of the founder of Bolan's Restaurant; and Peggy Spangler's collection, which might include a photo of her father feeding chickens approximately where the police barracks are now, on Washington Boulevard.

Al said the society is discussing offering tours of the area. One stop might be to find the Civil War gun placements on the way up to Morningside.

The society also is looking forward to having space of its own in the East End Cooperative Ministry's new site, to be built at Penn Circle and Collins Street.

"We have no home now," said Al. "When we get this space, we will have classrooms."

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