Wednesday, June 21, 2017

anna machmer of virginia, from the second book of poems in this project, passed away this month.

i just heard word from virginia today that anna machamer, whose berkshire knitting mills poem was in my second volume of poetry, passed away on the 10th of june at the age of 98. her obituary ran in the washington post today. 

i interviewed anna by phone in 2016, after emailing the questions for her to read in advance with help from her son ron. she became the first and only person i interviewed from outside of pennsylvania for this project. and her charm even by phone seemed distinct and genuine, like it'd be very easy to love her in-person.

this is a re-posting of the photographs ron sent to me before i interviewed her. in the first, she stands with her husband wellington in some life-minute before their marriage, when they both worked at berkshire knitting mills. the second picture is more recent.

reading about more in anna's life put me in awe. since i only asked her about one job in her life, and in pennsylvania, i had no idea she has such vast experiences and testing out of so many angles of skills. working in a research lab, making anti-aircraft detonator shells, acting as a caretaker for the grandchildren of president eisenhower, and creating a backyard like a small, and beautiful park are just some of the points which stood out so interestingly in reflections of her life. 

i also loved reading that she spent time playing along and probably in the schuylkill river as a child, since i spend as much time by the river as i can and teach my traveling poetry class there, along different sections. rivers are such an important resource to our hearts, more than i think people sometimes realize. but if you do spend some time at them, you see that they change you, and for the better. so i am always grateful when i stumble across people who have known the value of a beloved local river, especially away from the fierce distraction of electronics and and work obligations consuming our lives today.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

upcoming monthly poetry readings from july to october 2017.

finally (phewww, getting up to 25 interviews with seniors has been a unique challenge this year), here is a lineup of monthly poetry readings to share the poems from the third and final book in this project, the labors of our fingertips: poems from manufacturing history of berks county. i'll be sending this info out to those who are on the email list soon, too.

if you are able to attend any of these poetry readings or have any questions about them, please feel free to reach out via email at thelaborsofourfingertips at yahoo dot com. and remember that a handful of volume 1 books are still available. more of volume 2 are available. and volume 3 will be published by august into september 2017. all books are $20, including tax, and can be purchased at poetry readings, a few local shops, the gofundme campaign, or by reaching out here directly.

  • sunday, july 23 @ 1 p.m. at @ studio b in boyertown, 39a east philadelphia avenue, boyertown, pa 19512

  • thursday, september 7 @ 7 p.m. @ the hamburg area high school in its community room via the hamburg area historical society @ 701 windsor street, hamburg, pa 19526

  • sunday, october 8 @ 1 p.m. @ studio b in boyertown, 39a east philadelphia avenue, boyertown, pa 19512

and here are some eye-scenes of people in my final book who i hope may be able to participate as special guests at these events. coordinating efforts for that are in the works.


betty seifrit worked at boyertown auto body works. she built the left-hand side doors of army trucks and later moved into electrical work on truck bodies.

russell copeland worked at the letisse handbag factory in his teenage years and later at continental can in the city of reading. his granddaughter shown in this picture has ties to his can work. but that tidbit is saved for later.

harold schoenly worked at the boyertown casket company and later the boyertown planing company, which is still in business since 1913.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

automotive poetry-- a reading at the boyertown museum of historic vehicles.

in late may, the boyertown museum of historic vehicles hosted a poetry reading from this project during the still slightly new fourth friday art walk in boyertown.

throughout the night, people ventured up to the top of town to visit the museum and hear poems read about the special guests, walter delong, born in 1936, who worked at boyertown auto body works, jerry rothermel, born in 1949, who worked at tung-sol which specialized in headlight production for vehicles, and willie kramer, born in 1932, who did color-matching and leather-cutting work for the seats of automobiles at garden state tanning.

the wives of the guest were also a part of the reading and brought in some of their own reflections about the work from their viewpoints, and some other guests talked about their old jobs, including some allergic reactions to materials in the manufacturing process. oofh. (not cool, but surely useful for the telling.)

some visitors arrived later, wanting to hear jerry's poem, so i sat and vocalized it for them, close so ears would suit well for listening. they were his relatives who'd heard about the event at the museum but couldn't get there earlier in the evening. and jerry is related to walter by marriage. so family ties were weaving through the night a bit.

willie donated a large piece of automotive leather from his former workplace to the museum at the end of the night, too.

thank you to lillee grace hetrick for her assistance with some of the photography for this poetry reading at the museum.

and some museum scenes.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

boyertown museum of historic vehicles-- an automotive industry poetry reading during the friday, may 26 art walk in boyertown.

the boyertown museum of historic vehicles is hosting a poetry reading at the end of this month, specifically focusing on automotive industry poems from the first and second volumes of the labors of our fingertips: poems from manufacturing history in berks county.

the poetry reading is set for friday, may 26 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. during the fourth friday art walk in boyertown. the boyertown museum of historic vehicles is located at 85 south walnut street, boyertown, pa 19512. cost for admission is half of the usual rate during the art walk, $4 per person.

three special guests and their wives will be a part of the reading, and the audience is welcome to ask questions about their memories of these jobs which were such a big part of their lives and the regional economy, in the past. 

the featured guests will be walter delong, born in 1936, who worked at boyertown auto body works, jerry rothermel, born in 1949, who worked at tung-sol which specialized in headlight production for vehicles, and willie kramer, born in 1932, who did color-matching and leather-cutting work for the seats of automobiles at garden state tanning.

in the black shirt in the middle, walter delong sat in a trolley 
he and his co-workers made at boyertown auto body works

jerry rothermel and his mother, lena rothermel, both worked at 
tung-sol in boyertown, in the headlight production industry

willie kramer spent his time at garden state tanning in fleetwood 
in two different departments and saved his cutting tools as well as 
leather samples from not only producing automobiles but also footballs


Monday, May 8, 2017

a poetry reading at the spring township library during april: national poetry month.

at the end of april, celebrating national poetry month, i visited a book club with a great name at the spring township library: novels at night. i love the alliterative lure of the name and how it's literally accurate for when the book club meets, in evenings.

the reading quickly became very conversation-rich, as the library's operations & circulation coordinator, kristine bonfitto, ordered in copies of my first and second volumes from other berks county libraries for book club members to have in advance so they'd have familiarity with the poems ahead of time. she also assisted kindly with photography during the reading.

and one member brought along pieces of history from a hosiery mill which her father owned in oley during her younger years. she even had samples of stockings and the small envelopes which would have held the pay of workers. and even a photograph of her father in the long gone mill joined her pile of artifacts which we loved seeing and passing around the table. everything lasted so nicely and had been maintained with great care, too.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

horse haiku.

this morning, i interviewed a woman named betty seifrit about her job at boyertown auto body works for my poetry project on manufacturing history of berks county. her eventual poem will be a in my third and final book in my volumes which are funded in part by grants from the pennsylvania council on the arts and berks arts council. betty built left-hand side doors of army trucks and later did electrical work with wires and bulbs for trolleys, mail trucks, and other kinds of vehicles.

while interviewing betty, i noticed she had horses in the backyard. she said we could go visit them, and of course, i brought my camera along for that. she has a newly born colt. its momma is eight-years-old. i wrote a haiku for them, grateful for their beautiful contribution in my day. you might smile and let out a light laugh when you find out the baby horse's name.


john wayne the colt stands
with his momma, his bones new
to red corner road

Monday, April 24, 2017

firefly bookstore's author pavilion at kutztown's annual block party.

yesterday, an annual block party in kutztown kept the streets in a good blur of people appreciating bubbles blowing in the air, free haircuts for kids, cotton candy, and plenty more. my favorite part involved a fellow playing johnny cash songs, and he even dressed the part. i am not positive but suspect from some light googling that a man named terry lee goffee may be this performer.

firefly bookstore, which recently relocated to a bigger shop (and it's gorgeously done, to boot) had a local authors' table with several rounds of us there throughout the afternoon. and they took care of us authors so well. we're lucky to have them in berks county.

i also left out and gave away copies of the key's spring 2017 issue, too, to let people know about the community poetry one picture at a time feature which i do, in hopes that we may have a few takers for the opportunity of the next prompt.

a poetry reading at berks history center during april: national poetry month.

berks history center hosted a poetry reading for this project in april as national poetry month. ed jastrzembski tested out his second round of being a special guest now since 2016 in sharing his memories about working at reading [truck] bodies and cartech before retiring. his wife, joan, also joined him again, since his jobs were such a big part of their family life's impacts.

my former french teacher from junior high joined the audience, and one particular point which she made served well to be said: that she once had a teachers' meeting maybe 10 or 20 years ago, where someone said most of our students as adults are going to have maybe 7 or so jobs in their lifetime, across different careers. and that's very different compared to some decades in our culture where people stayed in a single job for long stretches of time, and this was the case for ed, too. yet i realized i hadn't thought about that point in a while, and i've had more than 7 kinds of jobs, but some overlap. it says a lot about the need to be adaptable in surviving the economic landscape of life today.

and thank to alexis campbell of berks history center's staff for helping with the eye-scenes below.

a poetry reading at reading area community college during april: national poetry month.

in early april, i juggled conversations about the old world of berks county and our newer one with students at reading area community college. in a small group, we talked about the differences sometimes seen between those who were young and working decades ago and what they're like today with their personalities, values, and story-sharing, and then the difference of how young people live and labor today but also what they're like interacting with the people around them. it took on the shape of blending good and bad, much like light and dark in life's conversations. and it felt refreshing to notice students being aware of paying attention to the ways of people around them in our world today. communication and how we get along together is so much a part of how this or that pans out. taking the time to understand each other is everything.

zoe hudzik, who assisted with photography for this reading, so she isn't in the eye-scenes, unfortunately, shared how she loves hearing her grandparents' stories as well as just the way they put their thoughts out into the open, and she also feels similarly about seniors she worked with in the past at the highlands. her grandmother also used to work at narrow fabric in west reading, so there's a bit of hope that this woman in her 80s might be willing to be a poem-source for the third and final book in this project. we'll see.

and then we had a semi-official pizza-eating contest, which i won, totaling 5 slices devoured, with some crusts avoided only to eat more slices. a few of us remained for this savvy event.

Monday, February 13, 2017

shirley kohl's poem & story-stirring at the muhlenberg community library.

last monday, shirley kohl of muhlenberg township, born in 1930, kindly made herself available to be the special guest for a poetry reading in her own town's library, through this project. for her age, she's a very busy woman, volunteering at her church to prepare meals for those in need, and she also sometimes runs an exercise class for seniors, on top of now taking care of a fish which her grandson gave her as a recent gift. i'm sure she does a lot more than this, but these are samplings of just some of what she does, which initially meant it took a while to schedule a reading because her schedule is so full. but she admits that she knows that is good for someone her age.

tara ring, the senior library assistant and public relations coordinator helped to coordinate this reading featuring shirley at the muhlenberg community library. and heather moore who handles adult programming at the library assisted with photography, so all eye-scenes below are by her.

with a smaller audience at this poetry reading, plenty of thoughtful questions were aimed toward shirley, including ones like was it warm enough in the mills and factories in winter with the heating offered for workers; if she was a part of a union, what was like that, and how did it pan out later; what hours did she work when she had jobs, in consideration of how much time she spent with her kids as a young mother; and even a robbery of supplies came up as a discussion point to one inquiry or another.

below are heather moore's photographs of the poetry reading, followed by a long excerpt from shirley's poem in volume two from this project.


just for a few months between herbert’s welding jobs, i took
a gig at diener’s underwear mill in leesport. white gloves to fit
women’s hands were something i made at another place too
long ago and briefly for my fingertips to remember where. we
moved to tioga county to care for a herd of jersey cows, but
after that farmer’s wife died, things fell apart. we came back
home. before we left berks county, i’d worked at temple

apparel, inc. at first, herbert and i rented an apartment near
route 625, so sadie remp gave me a ride to our daylight hours
of constructing blouses in 1965. i did anything, everything.
but most of the time, i set sleeves, the collars already in place.
prepping the middles down, button holers and button setters
did their part with the front openings of the finished fabric,
which might have been pre-cut upon arrival. once we bought

our house, i could walk to work, 7/10 of a mile. on tuesdays
after our shift, sadie and i hit the smooth spill of highways
to explore the eatery scenes. at some restaurant on lancaster
avenue, one waitress would see us pull in, set down our drinks
on the table before we stepped foot in the front door—coffee
for sadie, a coke or pepsi for me. our blouse-making ended
by 1986. in not long, i had a job at t.g. faust, inc. in reading,

sewing together the kevlar-thick maps of bulletproof vests
for police officers, their trained dogs, the military. we worked
out of a barn where the horses for the city’s trolley were kept
in departed days; some of the names of the horses still stayed
in paint up on the walls there for a while—dick and sue were