The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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July 14, 2013

Industrial history tour sparks interest

JOHNSTOWN — More than 50 people learned Saturday how the Johnstown region became the power it was during the days when coal and steel reigned.

The group was given a full-day tour of industrial sites where employers and workers used muscle and knowledge to shape the region.

The first Industrial Heritage Bus Tour was hosted by the Johnstown Area Heritage Association and the National Park Service.

The daylong tour began and ended at the Heritage Discovery Center in Johns­­town’s Cambria City neighborhood.

Costumed interpreters gave the group a more complete understanding of the area’s industrial history from the early 19th century through the 1940s.

Sites visited included the former Bethlehem Steel Corp.’s Blacksmith Shop in Johnstown and the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site near Cresson.

Sandy Wojcik, whose husband, Walt, had worked near the blacksmith shop, said the tour was terrific.

“It was educational and a lot of fun,” the Cairnbrook woman said.

Carolyn Thompson, from the Mount Hope area of Adams Township, said the tour really brings history alive.

Judy Hildebrand of Clermont, Fla., whose husband, Floyd, is a Johnstown area native, said they saw promotions for the tour and decided to take part.

“I loved it,” Judy Hildebrand said. “I thought it was very entertaining and informative. I loved Rosie (the Riveter). She’s so cute.”

The Hildebrands are staying in Johnstown for the summer.

Don Rayner of Menoher Heights, who had worked next to the blacksmith shop and often went inside the building, said the visit brought back memories of his days in the mill.

“It was great,” he said of the tour.

Renee Ahlstrom of Johnstown said the tour was magnificent.

“It was an excellent idea,” she said. “It should be expanded so that you can learn even more about the (area’s) industrial history.”

Jennie Baughman, a Pitt-Johnstown student with an internship at JAHA, led the tour of the blacksmith shop.

“It was exciting to have so many people on the first-ever tour,” she said. “They were so interested in the history and future of the blacksmith shop.”

Rachel Zaborowski, who as a volunteer interpreter for the National Park Service portrayed Rosie the Riveter, said she was able to show the group the important role that women played in industry by filling in for the men who left their jobs to fight in World War II.

Mary Anne Davis, a retired National Park Service ranger who now volunteers for the agency, dressed in 1880s garb to help explain that period.

“We keep it historically accurate, but at the same time make it entertaining,” Davis said. “That’s easy to do. History is entertaining.”


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