PENNSYLVANIA'S #1 WEEKLY NEWSPAPER • locally owned since 1854

HIA exhibit on Middletown history has ‘Micky’ Mouse; Penn State, Olmsted also featured for travelers

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 8/7/19

Each day, more than 1,000 people walk by Delta airlines Gate A1 across from the Phillips Seafood restaurant in the Harrisburg International Airport terminal.

Those 1,000-plus travelers, from all …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

HIA exhibit on Middletown history has ‘Micky’ Mouse; Penn State, Olmsted also featured for travelers

Posted

Each day, more than 1,000 people walk by Delta airlines Gate A1 across from the Phillips Seafood restaurant in the Harrisburg International Airport terminal.

Those 1,000-plus travelers, from all over the country and globe, are now a captive audience for the Middletown Area Historical Society.

Since July 19, a society exhibit placed inside a glass case next to the gate provides the historical highlights of Dauphin County’s oldest town.

Visitors to the region can learn about businesses that existed in Middletown long ago. They can learn about Penn State Harrisburg and the airport itself, and how both came into being thanks to the closing of the former Olmsted Air Force Base.

They can learn about Three Mile Island.

Perhaps most fascinating of all, they can learn of Middletown’s claim that Walt Disney based his Mickey Mouse on a toy that Disney bought in New York City, made by Middletown resident Rene Grove at his Performo-Toy Co. on North Spring Street.

For the record, a history of Mickey Mouse posted on The Walt Disney Family Museum website does not mention Grove or Middletown.

The Middletown claim was investigated for an episode of the PBS TV show “History Detectives,” which could not find any legal evidence to back up the claim.

Be that as it may, Grove’s patented “Micky” toy that now sits in the glass case at the airport is “priceless” to the society, said Augis Spadone, a society trustee and volunteer who helped prepare the exhibit.

The airport reached out to the society with the opportunity to put the exhibit in the terminal, said Jenny Miller, also a society trustee.

“For years we’ve had on again off again conversations with the historical society saying if you have something you ever want to put in the airport, we have space,” HIA spokesman Scott Miller told the Press & Journal.

The airport makes the glass cases available for lease to companies that want to put promotional materials inside to be seen by the thousands of travelers coming through the terminal each day.

The airport doesn’t like the cases to sit empty, Miller said. The historical society exhibit can remain here until the airport decides to lease the case to another company.

“It could be here a month, it could be here three months, it could be here six months. Until it is sold, it is (the society’s),” Miller said of the glass case.

The airport does not charge a fee for nonprofit organizations such as the society to occupy the case.

One recent weekday morning, the glass case drew the interest of a young man from Mexico, who declined to give his name. He said he had never heard of Three Mile Island.

The exhibit is a huge opportunity for the society, not just for people to learn about Middletown, but for people being made aware of the society itself.

“You never know who’s going to see it. It just adds a lot of exposure for us, which is something the museum needs,” Jenny Miller said, referring to the museum on East Main Street in Middletown that is the society’s home.

The increased exposure from the exhibit being at the airport could lead to more people visiting the museum, and to more donations to support the museum and the society.

The society has posted information about itself on the glass case for people who want to know more, such as the society web site https://middletownareahistoricalsociety.org/. The society is also publishing new pamphlets that will be placed at the exhibit.

“It’s a nice feather in our cap,” Spadone said of the exhibit at the airport. “We’re proud of it.”