The Ones That Got Away

Throughout the entire three-year term of the NEH funded USNP project in Central Pennsylvania, we enjoyed astonishingly good cooperation, luck and success. Almost everyone we met was courteous, helpful, and for the most part very interested in the work we were doing. Many fully appreciated its historical importance and the need to locate and preserve local newspapers.

But, there were some exceptions. A few folks with collections eluded us despite our best efforts. We didn’t take rejection with as much grace as we should have.

Here are their stories…

1. Our first story takes place in Montour County. The trip was fairly uneventful except for the one episode described below.

Source: April 1986 Monthly Report

In the course of planning our visit to Montour County we ran across a private collector in Danville who was somewhat reluctant to participate in the project. Not to be deterred, we called a second time and explained the project carefully and enthusiastically, and finally, Mrs. Dyer agreed to let us schedule a visit. We felt pleased with our efforts.

We arrived promptly at 2 p.m., as arranged, and found the general location of the Red Lane Antiques shop which she owned. There was no sign, so we stopped to ask an elderly gentleman for specific directions.

Excuse me, sir, can you direct us to Red Lane Antiques?

This here is Red Lane, he said.

We’re looking for Mrs. Dyer.

Well, I’m Mr. Dyer. He continued raking leaves.

We got out of the car and introduced ourselves, explaining we were the newspaper people from Penn State.

Well, now, Mr. Dyer began, you aren’t gonna believe this! Today is Wednesday and on Monday, just two days ago, danged if we didn’t go and sell all our newspapers to some guy in Williamsport.

He was right. We didn’t believe him.

Beck: Did you really!? Was it Tim Hughes? He’s a well-known dealer in the Williamsport area.

Read more on Timothy Hughes Rare & Early Newspapers

Mr. Dyer: Don’t know. It was two fellas in a beat-up ole truck. Didn’t even ask their names. They just handed me cold cash. We had a water pipe break in the yard the other day and I used the money from the sale to hire someone to come and replace the pipe. He pointed to a mound of freshly dug earth.

Beck: You must have had quite a collection. Newspapers don’t usually sell for that much.

Mr. Dyer: Well, the wife and I just decided to get rid of the whole mess. Besides, if everybody knows we got ‘em, sure enough they’d get stolen. In fact, that happened to a friend of mine who collected Montour County whiskey bottles. The local paper did a story on him and next thing you know, all his bottles were stolen.

We chatted for a few more minutes, lamenting the fact that we were two days too late, then turned to leave Mr. Dyer, knowing full well that his papers were in his tomb-like home which we could see in the distance. From where we had been standing, we had noticed the locked doors, closed windows, pulled shades and sealed garage.

It seemed as though his fear of strangers would not permit him to let two unknown people in to see his wares.

We drove away, disappointed.

Wonder what titles he had? We’ll never know.


2. Our second story happened in Salemville, Bedford County. On our way to Blair County, we took a detour to inventory the holdings of Mr. King, a private citizen.


Tuesday, Nov. 19, 1986

Left Huntingdon at 7:50 am for Martinsburg, Blair County. Our last trip, finishing our 21st county.

Arrived at the Morrisons Cove Herald Office at 8:45am. Went thru backfile and found 4 title changes. By 11:00 am we finished and since we were early decided to travel to Salemville to visit Mr. King.

Arrived at Mr. King’s home at 11:35 am. He said he had the backfile or several issues of the Advocate and Herald (Bedford Co. title).

For some strange reason, he wanted to take us to Bedford Village to see the old press the paper was printed on.

Well, I wasn’t about to travel ½ hour out of our way — so Beck talked and talked, actually, Mr. King talked and talked. He didn’t hear a thing Beck or I were saying to him.

So frustrating!!! Beck was getting very pissed off!

Well – Mr. King really had zero intentions of showing us his papers – so by 12:45 we left.

What a jerk!!!

Beck was still frustrated, so we talked about how we could have handled it better as we drove to the Martinsburg Community Library…


3. Our third story is set in Blair County and concerns a Rental Library…..

Source: October 1986 Monthly Report

Just when we had begun to think we’d seen it all, we ran into a unique situation. There is a rental library in Hollidaysburg, Blair County that charges patrons an hourly rate to use its collections. It’s called the Hoenstine Rental Library, and we were unable to gain access to it because we are not in a position to pay for such access.

Even after explaining what the project was attempting to do, we were denied admission.

“I run a business here. Do you intend to pay me to use the Library”?

Having no such intention we had to relinquish all hope of cataloging this Library’s treasures.



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