The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


June 23, 2013

Westmont woman answers call by volunteering

JOHNSTOWN — Sally Taylor of Westmont might seem familiar to those who frequent the Greater Johnstown Cambria County Convention and Visitors Bureau and Johnstown Area Heritage Association.

At age 80, Taylor volunteers at those locations on Mondays, Tuesdays and Saturdays.

She has volunteered once a week at the convention and visitors bureau’s downtown welcome center for 24 years and went right along when the office moved to Roosevelt Boulevard.

The convention and visitors bureau has published a new visitor’s guide. Taylor answers phones and handles questions from walk-ins on Saturdays.

“When someone asks about getting a visitor’s guide, I fill out a form, taking down their name and address, who wants it and where they got our phone number,” Taylor said.

Taylor usually works Tuesdays at the Inclined Plane visitor center, but has been out of a job since the City View Restaurant closed.

“They’re in the same building,” she said. “One of the fringe benefits was getting to order a meal and take it home.”

In this volunteer position, Taylor talked to people more than answering the telephone.

“They would come on the Incline and go to eat in the restaurant and come to the visitors center,” Taylor said.

There is a possibility that Taylor will once again fill her post when the new restaurant opens.

When Johnstown Flood Museum sent out an SOS for a tour guide, Taylor answered the call.

“I called and said I was interested, and they said to come in Monday to see a tour and see what they do,” she said.

When Taylor arrived, the person she had spoken with was taking inventory and told Taylor to hang around and see how things were done.

“The tour was an hour late,” she said. “They had a video show, and the people in the gift shop said I could run it and answer questions. I told them about my grandmother’s flood story. It was my first experience as a tour guide.”

Taylor has done walking tours of the downtown and Westmont for JAHA as well as bus tours to local historic sites.

She even did a bus tour to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater.

Taylor works at the flood museum on Mondays, showing the movie and enjoying it when visitors ask questions about the flood.

“I’ve had some interesting conversations with those wanting to share their disaster stories,” Taylor said.

“A man from San Francisco told me about being in an earthquake. I just like to talk to people.”

Taylor has been a member of Johnstown Symphony Auxiliary since she was teaching, and serves as an usher at Johnstown Symphony Orchestra concerts.

She also sang in the symphony chorus in the 1970s and 1980s.

Taylor taught kindergarten for 30 years in the Greater Johnstown School District, spending her first six years as an educator in Bedford teaching first grade.

She retired in 1989, the 100th anniversary of the 1889 Johnstown Flood, and started working with the anniversary committee.

“I would meet people and take them around the city to see the sites,” Taylor said.

“They would have a picture, and I would take them to where it was.”

Taylor got her love for being a tour guide from times she would travel with her family to historic sites.

“When I found a tour guide who was good, I thought I’d like to do that some time,” she said.

Taylor has had a love of horses since she was young  and rode her first horse at an Army camp where her father was stationed in the Texas Panhandle during World War II.

“There was gas rationing during the war, so they used horses and wagons,” Taylor said.

“I always had an interest in horses, but had never rode. An officer let me ride his horse and gave me         lessons.”

While living at home with her parents and earning her own money teaching, Taylor bought her first horse.

“A friend of my mother’s found a horse I could share with another girl,” she said.

“Then we decided we wanted to ride together, so I bought another horse.”

Taylor kept her horse at a stable on Coon Ridge Road and rode with her friend through the nearby woods and also went on longer trail rides.

She was a member of Johnstown Saddle Club.

For a short period, she had two horses, but her days in the saddle have ended.

“It was two or three years ago when my last horse died,” she said.

“I wasn’t riding anymore because my balance was off.”

Taylor is a longtime member of Moxham Lutheran Church, where she served on church council.

These days she sings in the choir and serves on the worship and music committee, choosing the hymns for Sunday services.

Taylor also helps put together the pages for the Parish Visitor, her church’s newsletter, once a month.

She also belongs to Johns-town Art League, which meets monthly from March through October.

The group was founded before the 1889 Johnstown Flood, and at each meeting, a program is presented.

“We discuss art, theater and literature,” Taylor said.

“We’ve reviewed books whose authors were from Johnstown. We did musical comedy as a theme last year and will do the art of healing this year.”

When it comes to hobbies, Taylor enjoys knitting and reading.

She enjoys reading historical novels and history books and has knitted crib blankets and lap robes for her church.

“I like to go to church and sometimes to concerts with a friend,” Taylor said.

“I don’t drive at night anymore.”

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