Sunday, January 7, 2018

a poetry reading at the boyertown area historical society—*rescheduled to wednesday, february 14 at 7 p.m.

the boyertown area historical society is hosting a poetry reading for the recent release of volume three of the labors of our fingertips: poems from manufacturing history in berks county on wednesday, february *14 at 7 p.m. (recently rescheduled from wednesday, february 7 due to expected winter weather) the poetry reading will also be a final recap of volumes 1, 2, an 3 in this project.

the historical society's programming room at the front if their main building is located along 43 south chestnut street, boyertown, pa 19512. for non-members, the cost of attendance for the event is $5.

special featured guests for the event will be alice gerhart from volume one and harold schoenly from volume 3. there's a chance someone from volume 2 may attend as well, but that can be a surprise for now, since it's in limbo.

here is harold's poem, as a hint of what the night's programming will involve.


harold schoenly, douglass township,
montgomery county | born: 1931

after richard yoder checked the documentation to match
my workload, i learned 1968’s fatal gunfire of senator robert
kennedy led to his body joining a casket i’d made with my
own hands. these caskets didn’t sell so often, priced high, not
so profitable. i’d started at the casket factory in boyertown

in 1958, remember hearing that these three-inch thick planks
as mahogany caskets cost around $5,500, even back then. we
called them no. 4900 mahogany. they were heavy—a finished
casket might weigh around 300 pounds. i spent 15 years
making these caskets, but how long it took to do them well

meant you didn’t make much money per hour. i think i still
have my first paystub, $46 typed out across that old piece
of paper. my mortgage cost $36.30 a month back then. i’d left
the u.s. air force in 1957 after carving out three years serving
in germany, glad i knew pennsylvania dutch so i could

understand some of the conversations better. i’d learned
intelligence, tested in, signed off with a top secret clearance,
but you can’t ask me about that. you can try, but it won’t help
you any—history is bound to be hidden sometimes. john
brower did help me get into a casket once, closed that

lid down, didn’t lock it shut on its cart. olive johnson
walked over to push it to the finishing room. when she
went to grab the tag inside, she saw me in it, my eyes open
boldly—jumped back, screamed. the lid bounced back down.
i built houses around town for a while, some before i quit

in 1973. by 1979, boyertown planing mill company hired me.
i did shaper work, a white-knuckled kind of job, especially
with fancy stair railings, elegant, but the pressure in getting
it right made me think i even left fingerprints in the wood
sometimes. a desk at one of the philadelphia television news

stations had known its early changes through my palms.
i retired in 1996. my handrail work is still in an 11-story
hospital in wilmington, delaware. what comes from trees
remembers who touched it, whose eyes know its integrity,
how much it misses the memories of its oldest roots.

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