On Centre: Bald Eagle Area | A memento from Moshannon, and a mystery

March 11, 2014 

Murray Barger traveled all over the world during his 21 years in the Navy.

Wherever his career took him, he brought along a special keepsake.

Tucked into his footlockers was a gift from his grandfather. As a boy in Moshannon, he treasured the 5-inch high glass creamer. It wasn’t any ordinary gift. For starters, it sported an ornate, etched bottom.

Then there was the flowing, gold lettering on the side: “Souvenir of Moshannon, Pa.”

Barger, a retired postal worker now 76 and living in Lewes, Del., has been curious for years. Even in his childhood, Moshannon was sleepy, with fewer than 100 people. Coal trains visited it, not tourists.

What led to the creation of an unlikely memento?

“It’s the only one I’ve ever seen,” Barger said.

He wonders if any others exist.

“I still have relatives in Clearfield, and everybody I’ve asked about it, nobody has ever seen one,” Barger said.

His grandfather, Harry Yeager, a lumberman born and raised in Moshannon, gave it to him in the early 1950s.

Yeager told his 10-year-old grandson tales of Moshannon’s heyday in the late 1800s and early 1900s as a timber and coal town. But the boy learned nothing of the creamer’s history — its origins, when and where his grandfather acquired it.

Time passed. Barger graduated from Snow Shoe High School in 1956 and enlisted. After serving on several ships, his last the guided missile destroyer, USS Cochrane, he worked for the U.S. Postal Service in Minneapolis until 1997.

By then, Yeager had been dead for 40 years, possibly taking knowledge about the creamer’s provenance with him.

In December, Barger set out to find his own answers.

He found the number of the Plaza Centre Antiques mall in Bellefonte and made a call. Plaza employees directed him to Ken Ertley, a Hublersburg antiques dealer, bottle collector and one of the mall dealers.

Ertley, 78, grew up in Marion Township. Talking with Barger, he soon discovered they had played baseball against some of the same people.

“As fast as I would name them, he knew them,” Ertley said.

Ertley’s search for information about the creamer proved less rewarding. Time and again, when he called around the Mountaintop, he also struck out.

“Nobody can seem to come up with anything,” Ertley said.

But now, he’s intrigued.

He judges the creamer to be at least 80 to 90 years old, and suspects it might have been made for a festival or commemorative event.

“I keep thinking, well, if they had this big doing in Moshannon back then, there could have been stuff brought in to be sold,” Ertley said. “But where did it come from?”

Ertley vows to continue his research. In the meantime, Barger hopes to hear from anyone who can shed light on a mysterious artifact’s past.

He can be reached at 302-644-2102 or by mail at 34049 Mulberry Lane, Lewes, DE 19958-4760.

Scout’s honor

Congratulations are in order for Bryce Dieterle, a Milesburg resident, Bald Eagle Area High School sophomore and, now, proud Eagle Scout.

Dieterle, 17, was honored Saturday at a ceremony at the Milesburg Community Center for his Eagle Scout service project, a wheelchair-accessible ramp/awards podium for the Special Olympics.

Several dignitaries attended the celebration, including Centre County Commissioner Steve Dershem, Centre County Sheriff Denny Nau and Bald Eagle Area School District Superintendent Jeff Miles.

Ashley Harter and Micah Heckathorne, both 14 and Special Olympian gold medalists, spoke in praise of the podium, thanking Dieterle. Another gold medal Special Olympian, Brooke Fisher, sang the national anthem.

Dieterle, who earned 25 merit badges to become an Eagle Scout, now serves as the Troop 45 junior assistant scoutmaster.

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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