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Take a look back at Franklin County’s history through news and photos that appeared in local newspapers 25, 50, and 100 years ago on Nov. 12th.


November 12, 1994 – Saturday

“Where the heck is Chambersburg?  Chambersburg, Pennsylvania – one – of – a -kind?  Think again”


CHAMBERSBURG — It’s hard to pick a photo out of a stack.

The 13 boys their plain, white basketball jerseys are grinning. The determined coach stands to the side. His boys have done well for him. The tournament trophies in the front row attest to that. 

Old adages aside, a picture like the one of the Chambersburg, 111., High School Basketball team says a lot about a community. It tells a story about values: dedication, teamwork, competition, pride. 

The truth is, in each of America’s seven Chambersburgs – New Jersey, Ohio, North Carolina, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and, of course, Pennsylvania there are photographs of winners. 

Chambersburg 17201 has its own victory images: From the 1994 high school girls softball team celebrating a state championship to the Memorial Square fountain towering into a crystal blue sky. 

But each town, although graced with different names and faces, is remarkably similar. Each town is bounded by the same ideal of small-town America. 

It’s obvious whether you ask 82-year-old Jessie Ham in Chambersburg, 111., or businessman Clifford Zink in Chambersburg, N.J. 

Ham is the amateur historian, a lifelong ‘burgian”, who will talk your ear off about what it was like “in her day” and what it ought to be like today. 

“I want to live in this little town as long as I’m allowed to live,” Ham says of her rural, Illinois home. Zink is the developer, a man guiding a rebirth in the most urban of Chambersburgs.

His goal: To make the neighborhood of Trenton, N.J., known as Chambersburg thrive with theaters and shops and even more Italian restaurants than it already has. 

Zink loves the community where he works, and he believes he, too, knows what it ought to be like. 

“This will be rebuilding the core of the community, ‘ ‘ he says of the multimillion-dollar development project he runs. 

The same values although passed down from different people in different towns drive these two individuals from different walks of life.

Of course, from the Indian Wars in the late 1750s to the Civil War a century later, Chambersburg, Pa., offers quite a history of its own. Just ask Murray Kauffman. 

“Just about everybody is interested in whence they came,” says 

Kauffman, a Franklin County historian.   Today, we don t know  anything about hardships like they did then.” Events such as the Civil War, the burning of Chambersburg and the restoration of the 126- year-old fountain help people here understand the world they live in better,” Kauff man adds. “I just can’t get away from the history,” he offers as the reason he loves the town so much. 

Each town from our own in Franklin County to North Carolina or Missouri has a story just the same.

50 Years Ago

November 12, 1969  –Wednesday

“Fire Destroys Totem Poll Theatre”

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Totem pole
Tote Pole Playhouse was rebuilt across the highway from the original theater after the 1969 fire.

The author of the final act of the Totem Pole Playhouse is anonymous. Its final curtain fell in a shower of flames and sparks as a fire gutted the theater early today. There may be no encore, no curtain call for one of the oldest summer stock theaters in the east. 

Firemen from Fayetteville were called at 12:48 a.m. to the Totem Pole Theater, located atop a knoll with a mountain rising in the background at Caledonia State Park. Fayetteville Fire Chief Carl Kramer said that they could see the fire Igniting the sky when the trucks left Fayetteville. When District Forester Richard Thorpe was called, he said he looked out the window and could see the sky was red. 

No approximate time of the fire’s start has been established. However, employees from South Mountain Restoration Center, working the night shift and traveling Route 30 home, reported no sign of the fire between 11:30 p.m. and midnight. 

According to Kramer, a total of 50 firemen fought the blaze as apparatus from Franklin Fire Co., Chambersburg, Mont Alto and the Fayetteville Company responded to calls. Seven trucks were on the scene. Director William Putch, of Totem Pole, praised the firemen for their work. The report of the fire was given by Kenneth Hoover, 2019. Lincoln Way East. 

The owner-director of Totem Pole was contacted by Lee Walters, who had heard the fire call go out over a short wave radio. 

Putch said this morning that by the time he arrived, the fire had not reached the stage and he, as well as firemen, felt that if the alarm had been sounded earlier, more could have been saved. 

A suspicion of arson looms this morning over the charred remains of the popular stock theater. The state fire marshal’s office has been notified and an investigation will be carried out within the next few days. 

According to Putch and other witnesses to the blaze, the fire started at the front of the building and spread through the log structure. 

Firemen remained on the scene until 7 this morning extinguishing the final smoldering fires in costumes and other props used by the players during the season and stored at Totem Pole. 

Insurance worth $14,500 was carried on the building and the contents. The building was owned by the state, so that Totem Pole was insured strictly on the theatrical properties, which were destroyed.

The firemen in battling the fire for nearly six hours were served coffee and sandwiches by members of the Fayetteville Ladies Auxiliary, the Mont Alto Fire Company Auxiliary and the Salvation Army Emergency unit. 

The only portion of the building still standing today is the cement block portion’ adjacent to the theater. 

This morning the chairs used by the audience were reduced to metal frames laying in disarray among charred timbers still smoldering. The late Oscar Hammerstein II called that  audience “the big black giant.” This morning the giant arena of laughter and tears is no more at the Totem Pole Playhouse at Caledonia. 

Thorpe, called to the fire, put it best by saying that if it was an arsonist who caused the blaze, “he stole laughter and enjoyment for people and that was his biggest crime.” 

Putch said late this morning he is gratified that “everyone is thinking and moving ahead.

To help Totem Pole get started, on the path of reconstruction, donations can be mailed to J. Glenn Benedict’s office in Chambersburg Trust Co. Checks can be made payable to Totem Pole Playhouse Inc.

100 Years Ago

November 12, 1919 -Wednesday         


The undersigned is pleased to inform the citizens of Chambersburg and vicinity that room 411, Chambersburg Trust Building, has been selected for organization headquarters during the six week campaign in forming lo call lodge for the Order Knights of Friendship. All persons interested in the formation of what will prove to be one of the finest lodges of its kind in this section of the state, are heartily welcome to visit our office and literature will be furnished free. 

The Order Knights of Friendship Is a non-sectarian American institution and ranks among the great orders of this country. The ritualistic work is beautiful and elevating. The order has an honorable history of over 60 years and was founded by a native Pennsylvanian, consequently, it is a home institution. Among the membership are judges, congressmen, senators and a great number of. the leading citizens of our state and nation.  All men of good community standing are eligible to membership regardless of occupation or profession. 

The benefits are $7 per week in case of sickness or accident, and $25.0 in case of death. A number of the advantages of the order are enumerated: 

Knights help you in business. They trade with each other. 

Knights furnish social advantages and maintain homes in various cities. 

Knights obtain employment for members. 

Knights take care of orphans and widows. 

Knights care for the distressed and bury the dead. And in addition, Knights of Friendship furnish benefits morally and socially, which money cannot buy.  No regular medical examination or initiation for charter members. 

White male persons admitted from 16 years of age, to 50 for beneficial I membership and from 50 to 65 for social membership. 

The dues are only 75 cents per month. No extra assessments, Join now and avoid the rush.- Become a charter member, fee only $5. After the charter closes the regular ! initiation fee will be $25. 

The office will continually remain open from 8 a. m. to 10 p. m., and ! the undersigned can also be reached on the phone at Hotel Washington.  Messages can be left either at the hotel or at the office. A. A. COHEN

**  EDITOR’S NOTE: The Knights of Friendship was founded in Pennsylvania in 1859 and by 1920 numbered 20,000 members.  It was founded by Mark G. Kerr (1815 – 1883)  to “inculcate good will among all mankind and establish peace and friendship throughout the world.”  The group conferred three degrees: Knight Junior, Knight Bachelor and Knight Errant.  It also offered funeral benefits to its members, as a type of insurance before the widespread availability of the commercial insurance industry.  Kerr taught at the Female Medical College in Philadelphia and is thought to have been both a Freemason and an Odd Fellow.

Local History

Looking Back: Franklin County’s History on Feb. 20th

Take a look back at Franklin County’s history through news and photos that appeared in local newspapers 25, 50, and 100 years ago on Feb. 20th.
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