We'll leave what to think about these to you.
"Wild" things on French Creek
Two observations from the 13th Street Bridge looking down on French Creek Monday.
We'll leave what to think about these to you.
Franklin observes Memorial Day
The city of Franklin held its annual Memorial Day Observance in usual fashion, several area veteran's service organizations met on the 13th Street Bridge at 9 a.m., the Franklin Cemetery after that, then marched along Liberty Street for the parade and then a ceremony in Bandstand Park.
Memorial Day, begun as Decoration Day after the Civil War in the mid to late1860s in order to pay tribute to the nation's war dead by taking the time to "decorate" the soldier's graves. In 1971 Memorial was declared a national holiday by congress to be celebrated on the last Monday of May each year.
For many, it is a day of remembrance, for others it's the unofficial start to spring, the date it is safe to plant a garden and a day off from work.
Many towns and cities hold official ceremonies and parades with various levels of community attendance. Though it is is a time to remember those lost in war it has often taken on a patriotic red, white and blue theme similar to the Fourth of July.
Franklin is no acceptation as hundreds lined Liberty Street for the short parade and many then made their way into Bandstand Park for the Memorial Day Observance ceremony.
Below are more photos from Franklin's Memorial Day activities. For an op/ed column about whether or not to say "Happy Memorial Day" click here.
Editor's note: Eight & 322 did not attend the ceremony in Bandstand Park.
No one would have expected anything from the young player other than trying to deal with something that couldn't possibly make sense to him when it doesn't even make sense to the community.
But his coach got a message from him asking if it was ok if he came play on Friday when they faced a Pleasantville team.
D'Mellow Jones' mom was reportedly murdered Wednesday, but he still wanted to be with his team and play baseball on Friday.
"His mom really would've wanted him to," one of his coaches said.
Friday night, the Oil City little league association gathered on the field up on Hasson Heights to support one of their own and honor the memory of April Dunkle, D'Mellow's mom.
A song for anywhere, anytime
More photos from a recent show.
This story was originally written for the Titusville News-Journal
The Titusville area shined this past week in the historic preservation category. Area folks were bringing back hardware, or at least certificates and state representative and senate proclamations in fancy folders.
Oil Region Historic Preservation Awards were presented last week for an old dilapidated bridge that found new life and purpose, an educator extraordinaire who does a pretty fine Ida Tarbell impersonation and a music conservancy restoration at the Christ Episcopal Church in Oil City.
On top of the list was Carole Hall, who has been a Drake Well educator for years and who started the docent program there. She has also, on several occasions, portrayed the famed journalist muckraker Ida Tarbell and started a scholarship in her honor. “She is an energetic, optimistic, and encouraging volunteer who exemplifies dedication to education, civic duty and investment in future generations through her work with the Titusville Historical Society, the Oil Region Alliance, Drake Well and other organizations and efforts,” the blurb in the program said.
Other awardees included the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation District 1 for their work to transform the long forgotten Messerall Truss bridge, that was closed for decades near Titusville, into a historic restoration project with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. They completely moved and restored the historic structure to another part of the county where it will be used by bicyclists and pedestrians for years to come along the trail as they cross a little creek in Linesville. Read more about the project here.
The Rocsato Conservancy of Music was also recognized for its recent renovations.
Other awards were given to the St. Joseph’s Church renovations in Oil City, the Deep Harbor Properties renovations of the Lamberton Building in Franklin, to Chris and Jen Morrison who fixed up the former Salvation Army building in Franklin, Vintage Wings for their efforts with the WWII error plane the “Beach City Baby, and to Bob Billingsley and the late Carolee Michener for their tireless efforts on the World War One memorial in Venango County.
Thank you Nancy
The Venango Chamber Orchestra dedicated their performance Saturday to one of their own, Nancy Simpson who stepped down as concertmistress, but intends to continue playing with the orchestra.
Conductor Terri Wittreich at one point after the announcement of the concert dedication left the stage briefly.
"I was fight back tears," she said, because of the dedication to Nancy and how well the orchestra was playing.
They played their spring concert at the Barrow-Civic Theatre. Below are a few more photos from the early part of the show.
The inaugural Legacy Project Art Collection were unveiled outside the Franklin High School library this week after a brief presentation to the school board.
The school's graduating class of 2023 chose two pieces to begin their collection. "Train" by Amy Ivell and "New Day" by Holly Lee Gibbons will now be a part of what art teacher Darrellyn Freeman hopes will be a forever expanding art collection.
Ivell and Gibbons were on hand for the presentation and unveiling of their work.
Prom in the park
Where are all the great places to take prom photos? Oil City's Pipeline Alley is certainly a big draw. Two Mile is another. Franklin's Fountain Park may be able to boast as the area's GOAT.
Sheer conjecture on that, but evidence over the last few years may prove this as a truism.
Comment where your favorite locales are for prom or other important photos.
Every time we head to Fountain Park we are not disappointed, but we'd love to pay witness to other local moments next time a group of folks decide to don elaborate gowns and fancy suits.
As always we take these pre-prom photos and wish the kids a fun and safe evening.
All photographs in this story are Eight & 322 file photos.
As an educator in the Oil City School District for 28 years, Martha Heise has brought the gift of music to thousands of kids. Add her work at the Barrow-Civic Theatre, her youth theater camps and productions, the creation of the youth singing group HOLeY Jeans, and the number kids and adults she has touched through song goes up exponentially.
So the fact she is now a quarterfinalist for The Music Educator Award from the Recording Academy and Grammy Museum( a Grammy Award special recognition) is really not a surprise - unless you are her.
"I honestly was really shocked," Heise said.
The award recognizes educators who have made a significant contribution and demonstrate a commitment to music education.
She was nominated by Kelly Zerbe and several others.
"Nominating Martha was a no-brainer with everything she does for (the Oil City School District), HOLeY Jeans, and the Barrow," said Zerbe. "She devotes her time to teaching music and inspiring others with music. There are so many students through the years that she has inspired, and many have continued singing, performing and playing music into college and their careers."
Zerbe read about the award on social media, clicked on the link and nominated her friend.
"She is very deserving of this award," Zerbe continued. "She doesn’t do anything for the accolades, she simply loves music and enjoys passing that love of music onto her students."
"I wish they could just interview the kids. It's really about them. They are the ones who deserve the awards." The videos are due in June and semi-finalists will be announced in September. The ultimate winner will be announced during Grammy week in 2024.
Heise is an elementary school music educator at Smedley and Seventh Street elementary schools teaching kindergarten through fourth grade. She earned her bachelor's degree at Mercyhurst University and has a master's degree in Special Education from Edinboro University and another in Administration from California University of Pennsylvania.
There were over 2,000 educators nominated and whittled down to 212. If she makes it to be one of the finalists, she will get prize money to bring back to her schools' music programs. The winner is invited to attend the Grammy Awards as well.
While that all sounds amazing to the longtime educator, her driving force will remain the same regardless of the result. "I want my kids to have music in their lives."
Receiving special honors during the evening were senior high instrumentalists Miranda Garden and RaeLynn Montgomery, junior high students Jayden Miller and Ryder Mitchell, and senior Kaylee Knapp, who assisted with the junior high band.
“Over the last 30 years, a lot of what we have here (is because of Richardson),” theatre executive director Zachary Covington said to the sizable crowd of local businesspeople gathered in the lobby for a celebration co-hosted by four area chambers.
“I love to tell my story,” Richardson said to the group before giving a summary of the history of the theatre and its owner – the Franklin Civic Operetta Association. Richardson traced it back to 1958 when five men and two women, whom she called the “Magnificent Seven”, started a Franklin-based performance group.
Their original production space was a cement slab along Route 8 behind the refinery. “That was our first stage,” she said before recalling how the mosquitoes off the Allegheny River chased them away after only a few shows. “I had the privilege of being in the first two shows,” she said.
The group then moved to a red barn on Route 322. They constructed a stage and borrowed 200 chairs from the local funeral homes. “We built a working theatre,” Richardson said of their effort in the early 1960s.
From there they did summer shows at Franklin High School, the Franklin Club, Rocky Grove High School, “just wherever we could find a stage to perform on,” she said. “Our goal as a board of directors was to have our own theatre.”
In the 1980s the group received the financial boost needed to make that dream a reality. Former Franklin resident Charles Barrow, after talking with Richardson and a few other folks from his hometown, donated $1,750,000 in stocks and bonds to the FCOA. Through that donation and the hard work of theatre volunteers, the building at 1223 Liberty Street was transformed from a space with a leaky roof and a lack of chairs to a full-scale, 497-seat theatre.
“What you see is a beautiful, beautiful state-of-the-art theatre in beautiful downtown Franklin,” Richardson said of her surroundings.
“And that’s how we got the Barrow theatre,” she closed out her initial remarks.
Covington shared his Barrow story as well.
He first saw a show there in 1995, two years after its opening. In 1997, he auditioned to participate in his first production. “I’ve been involved here… ever since,” he said. “During all that time, I continued to perform here because I felt welcome… creative… safe and… important.” Covington estimates that over the years thousands of children, youth and adults have experienced the same, which is the secret to their success.
"Music can be very emotional"
I have been trying to learn how to be a better news writer and less of a blog writer, but tonight I'm going to write blog-style and from the heart.
I was moved tonight.
First by listening to students thanking Steve Johnston for his dedication to them and then learning of the death of Gordon Lightfoot. Two nostalgia moments put lumps in my throat. Maybe it's aging closer to mortality, but boy this night sure made my mind go places only music can take it.
The concert tonight featured a range of music from Bach to the "Looney Tunes Overture" performed by the Franklin High School Black Knight Marching Band. The crowd wasn't huge, which was a shame because this band can really play.
During the show Johnston recognized his seniors and they thanked him with gifts that included an assortment of snacks (gummies and pop.) There was also a big blowup rubber ducky that was part of a yearlong running joke.
There was a rather emotional moment for Johnston when his band helped him honor one of his friends and mentors, Dwight Oltman, who passed away earlier this year. "Music can be very emotional," he told the audience as he choked back tears. "The beauty of music itself and the importance of performing that music at the highest level possible is what he ingrained in me."
"That piece was dedicated to him and quite beautifully," he said.
Teachers, even in this crazy mixed up political world we're in now, still make a difference.
And we should be applauding them instead of making their lives more difficult.
After the concert I learned that the song writer that brought us the "Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald," Gordon Lightfoot had died at age 84.
I remember being little with a small transistor radio going into my "fort" in an upstairs crawl space closet in Scituate, Rhode Island and hearing "Sundown" for the very first time. It was really the first time I knew music could be story telling. It really grabbed me.
And from there I think it shaped where and how music would play a part of my life.
In 2020, smack dab in the middle of the pandemic, I came across a video of what I thought was a homeless guy singing on the steps of some building somewhere. He was singing a song that was familiar but not really. It blew me away. Then this homeless man broke into a "If you could read my mind love," by Gordon Lightfoot and it was better than Gordon Lightfoot.
To my surprise, thinking Gordon Lightfoot died years ago, it was Gordon lightfoot singing both songs.
I must've watched that video five or six times. It was so good.
And tonight, learning that he passed away it was the first thing I went to find and listened again. "I'll tag along" may very well be one of the most beautiful songs ever written. It ranks up there with John Pines "Hello in there, Hello" and Hunter/Garcia's "So many Roads."
His version, as an 80 year old man on the steops alone with his guitar is hauntingly poetic and beautiful. And "If You Can Read My Mind Love" was also much better in his old voice.
You are right Steve, "music can be very emotional" and thank you for that, and thank you for giving that notion to generation after generation.
Up coming events at Franklin High School:
May 9, 7 p.m. the Spring Choir Concert.
May 16, 7 p.m. Elementary and Junior High Band Concert.
May 23, 7 p.m Jazz festival featuring the Franklin High School stage band performing with some special guests.
Johnston also mention the band will perform in the Memorial Day Parade and at the annual Blues and BBQ where they will perform with special guests Max Schang and Miss Freddye.
They learn of a rich old lady, near death, about to leave her fortune to her two long-lost nephews and they hatch a plan to impersonate them and swindle the inheritance. Only one problem - the nephews are actually nieces.
And that's where the real fun (and many intense costume changes) begin.
It opens Thursday at 7:30 p.m. on the Barrow's main stage. There will also be performances at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m.
Tickets can be purchased at the Barrow box office from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, by calling 814-437-3440, or online at https://barrowtheatre.my.salesforce-sites.com/ticket...
Community Playhouse, Inc. is in the midst of an extensive multi-year project with the Colonel Drake Cultural Alliance to renovate the old Lyric Theatre in Oil City. In the meantime, the Community Playhouse players have been performing at different locations throughout the area over years and bring this play to Franklin for a one weekend run.
Below are more photos from Monday's dress rehearsal.
Witherup Fabrication & Erection named Franklin Area Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year
The pair shyly accepted the honor, keeping their remarks short and first directed toward former Venango County Commissioner and Franklin-area businessman Vince Witherup. “Vince we came here for you,” Woolcock joked. Then he addressed all the Witherup family members and employees in the room. “You left us a great opportunity,” he said.
The Business of the Year was the final award of the night. Directly proceeding that announcement, Lucus Kauffman, director of Two Mile Run County Park, was given a Special Recognition for all his work toward increasing attendance at the outdoor facility.
“Luke, for creating ideas outside of the box… for giving of yourself and beyond.., for creating partnerships,” Jodi said when announcing the honor. She noted the highly successful trick-or-treat event that drew 4,000 and the recent post-Easter egg clean-up that had 150 participants as two examples of the park’s events. “You’re appreciated and I want you to know that.”
“The park is a passion of mine,” Kauffman said. “I chose to stay there (when park management changed) and I’m glad that the county chose to keep me there.”
“I’ve been blessed with volunteers, he added. “Jodi, Jodi’s friends, the commissioners, the staff… it makes it a lot easier to make that happen,”
The evening started with remarks by chamber board president Roy Schmoutz, who summarized the events of 2022. “Things started to improve in 2022, especially in the first half,” he said. “The second half was the breath of fresh air we all needed.” He highlighted a 9% increase in chamber memberships, the Innovation Institute moving into the upstairs space, Franklin Moving Forward becoming active again, and the hiring of Kimberly Fish as the new chamber assistant.
Lewis also offered a quick update on Applefest 40. Jim Williams will serve as the chairman of the Core committee again. “It takes hundreds of volunteers to make Applefest happen… and sponsors. We appreciate you.,” she said. “I am blessed with a strong Core committee I couldn’t do without… and the city, it takes a lot of planning on their part.”
PHOTOS: Rocky Grove Choir Concert
Music director Jodi Hoover showcased the work done all year by Rocky Grove students who crafted songs into a night ranging from classical to contemporary to world music for the annual spring concert.
With the help of accompanist Chris Luxbacher they entertained a near full house Thursday.
Both the junior and senior high choruses performed as well as select choir.
Hoover also spent time recognizing her 19 seniors as well as the district and regional qualifiers.
'Tie-ing' life skills together
Job interviews for one, impressing a significant other, being respectful at a funeral or wedding and sometimes just to look a little spiffy, he explained.
The class was offered as part of the "Adulting 101" April class series about clothing basis. Other classes this month focuses of simple sewing, taking measurements, running a clothing boutique and using a laundry mat. Overall, the nearly yearlong "Adulting 101" will touch on a variety of useful, everyday skills.
“The overall goal is to equip teens with a wide array of life skills to take with them into their adult lives while also introducing them to different career options and building relationships between the teens and their community,” said Diadre Green, teen services coordinator for Oil Region Library Association.
Themes for the remainder of the year include the following:
Specific class times, days and locations vary month to month. Contact the library for the details on each month or watch for announcements through their Facebook page.
"Adulting 101" is being funded by a grant from the William and Elizabeth Fund for the Trades, which means all teens, regardless of their library card status, can participate for free in as many workshops as they would like each month. The only requirement, other than age, is that participants preregister for what they would like to attend.
To sign up, complete the form on the ORLA website at www.oilregionlibraries.org/youth/teens.
Community members may volunteer to help teach classes and host field visits by connecting Green at email@example.com.
To read a previous story on the work shops click here:
Franklin's Estella Adams had basketball practice at the same time that Rocky Grove's Joshua Stevenson had a volleyball match. The plan was she would stop out after practice to watch the end of the match. Stevenson and his friends had hatched a plan to surprise Adams right after the match ended.
Stevenson wanted to invite Adams to his school's prom.
The plan was nearly foiled when the Orioles bulldozed passed the Maplewood Tigers in three quick sets. Several texts later Adams was convinced to still come, not admitting the match had ended. Entering the obviously quiet gym, she knew the match was over but still didn't know what was in store for her.
Near center court, Stevenson's friends held up a large, colorful "Up" inspired banner that asked "WILL YOU GO ON AN ADVENTURE AND FLY UP TO PROM WITH ME??"
"Back in my day, we used to just ask a girl a girl to the prom," Coach Mike Steveson, Joshua's dad, said shaking his head as the spectacle unfolded.
She said yes.
Known as a promposal, these types of gestures have become a modern tradition added to the longstanding annual formal high school dance.
Editor's note: This unfolded as we were interviewing Coach Stevenson after Thursday's match. It gave us an unplanned opportunity to be a witness to this modern version of a tradition. We won't pass those up when they are placed in our lap. Congrats!
St. John’s Episcopal and Grace Lutheran churches in Franklin have worked to create an atmosphere of community, first separately, then collaboratively. Their latest efforts will further their mission by increasing accessibility to their main worship space.
“We are blessed to be members of our community and dedicated to bettering the cultural, emotional, relational, and spiritual health of all through in-reach (prayer and service) and outreach (programs which benefit all),” said Rev. Shawn Clerkin. He serves as the leader for the Franklin area Episcopalians and interim pastor of the Lutherans, who both meet at the historic Buffalo Street location. “While we are two churches, we are one congregation,” he said.
This includes their missions to serve to “Love God, Love Your Neighbor, Change the World” and “God’s Work, Our Hands.”
To further those missions, the 150-member congregation is renovating the nave, the central part of the church designed to hold worship services which features a unique and complete set of Tiffany windows.
“The church is a community treasure. They (the windows) belong to the Franklin community as well,” Clerkin said. “You stand in the center of the church and everything is a Tiffany window.”
To make that experience and services more accessible to community members, the pews are being lowered and relocated. Currently, they sit on a 2-inch platform and are spaced closely to each other. This means it is difficult for those with mobility impairments to attend services or for the church to be used for other events.
Clerkin said the current setup would not be approved under current design and construction standards but is permitted because it was built following the 1901 reconstruction of the church. “Being grandfathered doesn’t mean you are being hospitable.”
It will take about $32,000 to remove the platform, place down a new floor that will compliment the existing marble aisle tile, relocate the baptismal font, and remove some of the pews to create more leg move between the remaining sitting. Shorten pews will also be placed throughout the nave to give those using wheelchairs choices as to where to sit. The goal is to make the space welcoming, inclusive and safe that still honors the historic look and feel of the nave.
Work will be done between religious holidays. On the Monday after Easter, Matthews Construction and Painting of Franklin started the work to remove the platforms along both sides of the nave aisle as well as the platform in the choir area at the front of the room. The transformation should be completed in time for the Pentecost observance, 50 days after Easter, Clerkin said.
Raising the funds for the project also happened quickly. Since announcing the project at the start of the year, the congregation received large donations from two groups associated with the church and raised nearly $3,000 from friends, families and members.
Additional donations are being accepted.
Sponsors of Eight & 322
Click ads to make bigger
Follow them on Facebbok.