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WOMAN'S WORK: When men went off to fight WWII, she repaired planes at Olmsted AFB

lorraine KOONSSubmitted photo -- Lorraine Koons, while she worked at Olmsted Air Force Base


When war swept across the globe like wildfire for the second time in history, men were shipped off to fight, leaving the women at home. Some brave women took to the men's aviation jobs in their absence. These women were collectively known as "Rosie the Riveter.''

One particular Rosie who stood out was Lorraine Koons. For three years during World War II, Koons worked eight hours a day, six days a week as a riveter for the Olmsted Air Force Base in Middletown.

To get the job, she had to endure a grueling four-hour written exam that she passed with flying colors. After that, she was told to report to the Farm Show in Harrisburg the following Monday to start training for her job as a riveter. The Farm Show wasn't in use during the war, so they used it as a training site for the new riveters.

Life and work were extremely difficult under the abnormal conditions of wartime. Not only were there air raids, blackouts and food rationing, but there was also the heavy feeling of pressure on all of the riveters' shoulders. After all, they were the ones who had to make sure the planes were in mint condition for the war.

Despite the gloominess of wartime looming overhead, the working conditions were swell, Koons said.

She worked alongside four men, but they treated her with respect as their equal. She truly enjoyed her time as a riveter. It seems as though she was fairly good at it, too. "I could walk on the airplanes' wings so easily, but now walking is my biggest problem," she proclaimed with a laugh.

Did she realize how much of an impact she was making on society by accepting the job as a riveter? No, she said – all she wanted to do was help her country during the wartime effort. That was the only thought that ever crossed her mind.

Koons' service to America will live on through the Rosie the Riveter and WWII Home Front National Historical Park museum. Located in Richmond, Calif., the museum houses many memorabilia, stories, documentaries and other items from the war. Koons donated some of her stories and memorabilia to the museum, where they are now among the exhibits in the park's education center.

Since then, Koons has been graced with good karma. She won the Hackman SmartRoof "Shelter From the Storm Giveaway" this past May. The contest grants one family or individual a new roof, free of charge, if they demonstrate a true need for it.  Her roof was installed in August.

 "I never won anything, so it had a major impact on me," Koons said.

Koons may have been moved by winning the contest, but her story and service has truly touched the lives of others.



She was a fictitious character, her image first created in a Norman Rockwell cover for the Saturday Evening Post on May 29, 1943.

     She sat next to a lunch box, a riveting tool on her lap and her foot on Adolph Hitler's "Mein Kampf,'' Rockwell's archetype of the more than 310,000 women who worked for the U.S. aircraft industry in 1943.

     When men went off to World War II, industry and the government wooed women to the jobs their husbands and brothers left behind. The number of women in the work force increased from 27 percent in 1940 to 37 percent in 1945, and one out of every four married women worked.

     The government heavily recruited women by using a second image, one created by artist J. Howard Miller for the U.S. War Production Coordinating Committee – an image so iconic that it is the one associated with Rosie the Riveter today. In Miller's image, she is a  woman in a blue pair of work overalls and red bandanna, her arm raised to show off one of her biceps, beneath the words, "We can do it!''

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 September 2015 16:25

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Can good fences make good neighbors?

signposted9 23 15WEBPress And Journal Photo by Eric Wise -- This homemade sign on the Dauphin Street property of Ron Fisher warns Penn State Harrisburg students against trespassing.

Lower Swatara Twp. residents are unhappy with their new neighbors – Penn State Harrisburg students in off-campus student housing.

Problems with Penn State students have upset residents, who voiced their concerns to the township commissioners in August and September.

The township commissioners want to bring in the developers of two student housing projects, Matt Tunnell and Matt Geneseo, to discuss the issues with the township.


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Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 September 2015 16:05

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Lower Swatara approves signs for safety on North Union Street

When it comes to safety along North Union Street in Lower Swatara Twp., Police Chief Richard Brandt says his officers are not bashful about traffic enforcement.

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 September 2015 16:02

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Elks Theatre Proposal held

ELKS THEATREPIC WEBPress And Journal Photo by Jim Lewis -- The Elks Theatre was closed in April for repairs.


A throng of people may flock to Middletown’s Elks Theatre next July for a community production of a classic play, the inaugural performance in the revitalized theater.

By the following summer, the Elks may be booked for fashion shows, standup comics, video game tournaments, a popular oom-pah band, conferences and a film festival.

It’s even possible that a group could feature a speaker or program at the Elks Theatre followed by a reception at Tattered Flag Brewery and Still Works, slated to open in March in the storefronts of the Elks building along South Union Street.

These new additional uses of the Elks may be scheduled sporadically through the year, drawing crowds to Middletown’s downtown area, while the Elks continues in its familiar role as a first-run movie theater.

Friends of the Elks Theatre, a group that supplanted the Greater Middletown Economic Development Corp., proposed plans to update and revitalize the Elks, allowing it to host a variety of events. GMEDC operated the Elks Theatre up until it was closed in April. The “Friends” are a distinct group from the old GMEDC, focused on the Elks Theatre, according to Gordon Einhorn, a former GMEDC board member and a principal of “Friends.’’

“It’s a community-owned theater, so it will be available to community members,” Einhorn said. The theater will be available for events “any day or evening when it’s not being used for movies,” Einhorn said. He said the Elks Theatre may end up hosting something every week, depending on community interest.

To members of Middletown Borough Council like Benjamin Kapenstein, the proposal sounds great. “The base should be a movie theater, but why not diversify?” he asked. Multiple uses of the theater will bring many people into the downtown area, he said.

Middletown Mayor James H. Curry III said he would like to see the Elks reopen. “It’s historic and a great experience,” Curry said. He said he would like to see the theater focus on operating as a movie theater, although he is open to holding other events.

Einhorn shared the Elks proposal with the Middletown Industrial and Commercial Economic Development Authority during an authority meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 15. The proposal asked for a $370,000 investment from the authority, along with a 10-year lease for a nominal annual rental fee. Einhorn said the investment will restore the Elks former glory while providing modern technology allowing its successful operation for movies and other events.

The authority rebuffed the offer, saying more detail about the Friends’ finances was needed, including how the Friends would repay the investment in the building.

Kapenstein questioned the authority’s reluctance to fund the Friends, although he said their rejection was expected. “It’s ridiculous,” he said. “Will people take family to the trellis or the theater/community center?” he asked, in reference to a proposed trellis that would be built as part of Middletown’s downtown renovation project.

The Elks Theatre suffered in 2014 and 2015 because it lacked digital equipment needed for nearly all new films. This made it difficult to pack the Elks schedule with the top new releases, which affected its ability to attract crowds to keep it going. The theater also offered some special events with classic movies to varying degrees of success.

Proposed improvements
The Friends proposal includes the cost of the $48,000 digital projection system that will allow the theater to have a wider selection of movies while offering a top-quality showing. The digital projection system will allow 3D films.

Other improvements proposed by Friends include an expanded, 17-foot deep stage at $16,000, a retractable movie screen at $10,000, stage lighting at $10,000, a sound system at $60,000, carpeting at $9,500, a historically appropriate theater marquee at $35,000 and exterior lighting at $5,000.

“Our proposal for the Elks is to primarily remain a movie theater,” Einhorn said, although noting that several improvements will provide flexibility not available with the setup in use. “We proposed a package of cosmetic improvements. The proposal is well within a reasonable budget.”

Friends would like to restore the wood floors of the auditorium (except for carpeted aisles), removing 14 layers of paint to bare, refinish and seal the 1911 hardwood.
Finally, Friends suggest two options for replacing the seats that are in poor condition and mismatched to the Elks because they were acquired in used condition some 25 years ago. If the theater uses standard seating for a movie venue, 425 seats will cost $106,000. If vintage style seating is used to match the Elks unique history and pedigree, the cost jumps to about $160,000.

Questions of funding
Chris McNamara, a member of the ICDA board and president of Middletown Borough Council, questioned Friends’ ability to operate as a nonprofit theater. He adamantly urged ICDA members to reject the Friends’ offer and advertise again to find a new theater operator.

McNamara said when they were presented with the plan for Tattered Flag, the owners had risked their own money and received other types of loans to help pay for the venture. The ICDA granted Tattered Flag’s owners a $1.5 million deal with a $1.1 million loan from the authority. When the deal was approved, ICDA chairman Matt Tunnell said the Elks building was in a sorry state, and would need a considerable investment, regardless of the tenant.

The board ultimately decided not to accept the Friends’ proposal. Instead it would empower a panel to negotiate with Friends to see if the group could come up with ways to show its ability to get other funding for the project and ultimately pay the authority back for improvements. Friends must “resubmit the financial component,” McNamara said.

Tunnell said he appreciated the Friends’ efforts in coming up with a proposal, but needed more information regarding these financial parameters – something that was not included in the Request for Qualifications that led to the Friends’ proposal.

“We are more than willing to sit down and negotiate with a committee of ICDA,” Einhorn said.

“We need to move quickly to get the theater moving forward,” Tunnell said. “We’re not going to escape putting a fair amount of dollars into this.”

Meanwhile, ICDA will attempt to woo new theater operators by advertising yet again, this time setting tighter requirements for operators concerning their finances. Phantom Theater Company courted the ICDA during the past year with grander plans for a regional performing arts center, but Phantom bowed out and did not submit a proposal once the ICDA approved the Tattered Flag deal for part of the Elks Building.

Middletown Councilor Mike Bowman was outraged at the notion of investing in the Friends proposal, blaming the group for what he believed was the poor management of the former GMEDC.

“We have been bitten and bitten hard by the GMEDC,” Bowman barked. “These people aren’t fit to run a theater. I am concerned about the GMEDC running anything. Their track record is horrible.”

Bowman challenged the Friends revenue projections based on his own computations of weekly attendance and admission prices. As reported by CNN Money and other sources, theaters typically receive most of their revenue through concession sales, as the industry typically must turn over up to 80 percent of ticket prices to the studio distributor.

Resident Michael Dalton, a former GMEDC board member, bemoaned past political moves that he said stymied the theater operations. Dalton questioned McNamara’s assertions about GMEDC’s stewardship of the theater and his attacks on Einhorn’s proposal.

“They deserve a very solid chance,” Dalton told the board.

Curry said he has faith in the Friends’ ability to operate the theater for years to come. “I believe the Friends of the Elks can do that,” he said.

Mustering support for Friends
Uncertainty about the Elks’ future hampered some of the fundraising efforts, according to Einhorn. However, the Friends proposal identified six sources for grants – sources that are appropriate for the Elks’ situation once the Friends have the requested 10-year agreement in place.

If the Elks does get an agreement in place for its operation, grants are only one source to support the theater – and even its improvements. For instance, if the Friends have a 10-year agreement to operate the theater, they could negotiate an exclusive concession contract.

Perhaps for a multi-year deal, a beverage company would donate the $10,000 screen the theater needs. “We have thought about things like that, including naming rights (for the balcony and lobby),” Einhorn said.

The theater could also generate income through advertising. New projection equipment will make a pre-movie digital slideshow easy to manage and run, featuring ads for local stores, restaurants and other businesses, Einhorn said. Some theaters employ other advertising like installing TV monitors with local ads that are shown as movie patrons line up for snacks and drinks.

Einhorn said he and other members of the Friends have discussed ideas with the owners of Tattered Flag for co-branding, although it is uncertain how it will play out until a lease agreement is reached.



Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 September 2015 15:45

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When I turn 100 I think I'll go fishing


Selcher FISH SLIDESubmitted photo -- Charles “Charlie’’ Selcher, then 100, shows a fish he caught during a fishing trip on the Susquehanna River with one of his sons.

He was the oldest living graduate of Middletown High School, a man who grew up on a farm in Lower Swatara Twp. and loved gardening, fishing, leading his church’s Bible class and eating chicken corn soup every Saturday at the counter at Kuppy’s Diner in Middletown.

Charles P. “Charlie’’ Selcher, of Lower Swatara, died on Tuesday, Sept. 8 at Community General Osteopathic Hospital. He was 102.

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 September 2015 17:05

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