On Centre: Bald Eagle Area | Milesburg man unearths a badge, and a mystery

November 6, 2013 

Like Joe Friday, the “Dragnet” cop of old, Ron Martin carries a badge.

It’s a heavy piece, solid bronze probably. A stern-looking eagle graces the top. But this shield bestows no power, except to spark Martin’s imagination.

Somebody else carried it long ago.

Martin wants to know who.

Last month, the Milesburg resident found the badge locally while using his metal detector. Initially, his detector settings indicated a silver dollar lay beneath his feet.

That would have been his second notable coin discovery of the year. During the summer, he came across a 1775 English halfpenny near Spring Creek.

Instead, Martin dug down after his latest hit and pulled out a crusty badge, its features obscured. At home, he cleaned it up with diluted muriatic acid.

What emerged took him by surprise.

Martin had thought it might be a police badge. But there before him were the engraved words “United States,” “Federal Works Agency” and “Public Building Administration.”

He had a security guard’s badge — and a mystery on his hands.

Who wore badge No. 1103? How did it end up 8 inches underground near a creek? Where had its owner worked?

“I was amazed,” Martin said. “The more I kept cleaning it off, the eagle appeared on the top and I could see the stars, and I just kept going with it. I thought, ‘Wow, this is something different here.’ To come across a federal badge, I mean, that’s something out of the ordinary.”

This much he knows: The Federal Works Agency, formed in 1939 and lasting for 10 years, brought together several New Deal agencies to administer public construction, building maintenance and public works relief functions. It became the present-day General Services Administration.

For more answers, Martin turned to U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson’s office. Staff members, he said, told him they would request a search of federal records for anyone assigned badge No. 1103 in the Public Building Administration.

Anyone with information also can reach him at 355-3127 or rlm30@psu.edu.

Martin hopes at least one name turns up. While it’s unlikely an original owner is still alive, maybe Martin could track down a descendant and present the badge as a long-lost heirloom.

“I probably would do that,” he said. “I probably would try to find the family.”

He may get a story in return. Was it a badge of courage? Of honor? Or is it a clue, perhaps to an old missing person case?

He’ll just have to keep digging.

Mountaintop group plans fundraiser

The Mountaintop Activity Center, a nonprofit organization renovating the former Clarence Elementary School into a community center and gym at 105 Birch Run Road, will hold a fundraiser bake sale/flea market on Saturday.

Items will be for sale at the center from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Vendors can reserve a table by contacting Joan Stewart at joanstewart@hotmail.com.

Chris Rosenblum writes a weekly column about news in the Upper and Lower Bald Eagle valleys. If you have news to share, email crosenbl@centredaily.com or call 231-4620.

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