Interview of Jim Burgess by Deborah Sweaney on August 5, 2015. The interview focuses on Burgess' early life growing up in Mount Holly Springs and touches on his later career as a school teacher and principal in the Carlisle School District.
Summary of Interview
Introduction by Susan Meehan. Early life in Dauphin and New Cumberland, Cumberland County including birth in 1948 and move to New Cumberland in 1949. Early education including Mrs. Byrd’s Kindergarten in New Cumberland, the 5th Street or Green Hill Elementary School where he skipped a grade due to driving his 2nd grade teacher crazy, the New Cumberland Junior High School on 7th and Reno streets, and the New Cumberland High School.
Parents debated over where he should attend High School. Overview of the New Cumberland High School. Did not attend a one room schoolhouse as did the kids in Fairview Township. Elementary school in New Cumberland advanced grade by grade. Stone provides an overview of his teachers in the various grades. Ms. Reed was the sixth grade teacher who was the principal. She believed in physical punishment in the school. Athletic program at the elementary school consisted of a bean bag for the boys and two jump ropes for the girls including a short one and a long one. School yard paved.
Not allowed at recess to buy candy across the alley for a penny had to go afterwards. Discusses remaining faculty. Music teachers taught the scale and other basic musical skills. Walter Damrosch on AM radio came on during the music class and taught class about classical composers and played their music for school children. Stone can play the piano but not able to sing. Martha Carol was the art teacher and she brought in Picasso and Salvador Dali reproductions into the class and told the class that this was what was going on in the world of art and they should be aware of it.
Stone had little artistic ability and was not able to copy paintings using watercolors. Boy scouting was popular in New Cumberland there were several active troops but not mentioned during school. Early history of New Cumberland including founding by Peter Chartier and Jacob Haldeman. Following World War II there was a large growth in the population due to the GI Bill. Present size of the town filled up during the fifties and the sixties. Founding of the New Cumberland High School in 1928 and the debt taken on by the town as well as the contentious vote to join with Lemoyne High School and others to form the West Shore School District in 1958. Junior High School was seventh and eighth grade taught Mary Kirkpatrick who taught proper English.
Certain sins were unpardonable for Kirkpatrick with the comma splice being one of the most egregious. She cared and was a tough lady. Roy Sutton made sure students knew how a blast furnace worked. Taught biology in the high school. Mr. Straley taught history. Blaine Seitz taught math. Mary Kirkpatrick was probably the principal. Four rooms and four teachers. Athletic program expanded to a volleyball, softballs, and a couple of bats. At Phys Ed, Mr. Seitz also doubled as the phys ed teacher tried to teach students to spike a volleyball and in the spring the school district used a vacant lot for softball where the outfield was lower than the rest of the field. Tennis courts in disrepair, no football, and perhaps a basic track program. Carol continued to teach art and there was also a music teacher. Student class size were about 20-30 students all throughout the New Cumberland educational system. Graduating class size in high school was 106.
The dropout rate was very small. Parents debated about sending Stone to Lawrenceville or Mercersburg but father did not think it was a good idea. Went to New Cumberland High School which at that time was 9-12. School was only ten years old in 1941 and in the middle of 9th grade Pearl Harbor happened and there was an assembly with the superintendent of schools Mr. Gemmil where he said that this is bad news and some people say it might last 15 years. High School experience begins with America stumbling into war and graduation with the Germans surrendered and the Japanese still fighting. Boys expected to go to war. High School experience surrounded by war. Heard about Pearl Harbor when listening to the New York Philharmonic on the radio when the program was interrupted to say something terrible had happened and then the program went on. Then rationing came. To go to places you had to find someone who had enough gas to get you there.
Boy Scout troop went around town collecting fat from housewives in their express wagons. Did not recycle newspapers in those days or metal or glass. Transportation to school consisted of walking from elementary to high school. All were within a mile. Everyone did that in elementary school. Difficult for the country kids to get to high school because there was no school bus yet in Pennsylvania. Some took the train. The New Cumberland school district included all of Fairview Township and part of Newberry. Nearest other high school was in Dillsburg which later became the Northern District. The trolley car came to New Cumberland early in the 20th century and disappeared in the 1930s and they had wicker seats. Buses came and you could go to Harrisburg on the bus. The most popular kid in high school were those with cars. Limited in what you could do because of gas rations.
Mother came from Harrisburg and therefore shopping was Harrisburg-centric. She never learned to drive so she often took the bus. The first movie theatre in New Cumberland was on the northwestern corner of the market. The movie theatre Stone remembers was on Market Street that eventually became a bowling alley before becoming a restaurant. The West Shore Theatre on Ridge Street likely built in 1940 in Art Deco style by the Freistak family from Slovakia. Sold the theatre to Fred Bollen whose son is currently running the theatre. The Stone family box factory at that time was located at 119 Bridge Street and was built above the 1902 flood line. Built high enough that the previous owner was told water would never reach that high. In 1936, Stone’s father called the local weatherman and was told that the storm would not amount to much and to not worry. He was wrong and the flood caused everything in the factory to be under water but they were able to clean everything and restart the factory in seven days.
New Cumberland was flooded badly in 1936 with Stone being in a row boat to look at a property and being issued wading boots. The schools were not flooded and they were not closed. There was another flood in 1941 and the biggest in 1972 caused by Tropical Storm Agnes in June. Unusual as most floods in New Cumberland were spring floods caused by melting snow. The box factory did not recover from the 1972 flood. Stone’s grandfather Hiram Davis Stone (born in 1865) met Stone’s grandmother at a Sunday School or Grange picnic where she had fallen and he had picked her up. Stone’s father Charles born in 1893 raised as a farm boy along with his brother Jerry Stone. Common school with six readers and no high school. Boys orphaned at the age of 13 and 9 when their father was dragged by mules and died three days later due to infection. Their mother used her savings to buy a house in New Cumberland and Charles Stone went to work at a mill for fifty cents a day.
Stone then went to work at a steel mill across the river for ninety cents a day. At the age of nineteen decided to go to the Harrisburg School of Business. By 1912 gets a job at the Harrisburg Trust Company. In 1917 he joins the navy in Chicago and becomes a bandmaster in the Navy. Fought the Kaiser by taking his Trombone around the Midwest playing at Liberty Bond Rallies. After the war he returned to Harrisburg and met Stone’s father. Not a match that was approved due differences in background. After returning he also was asked to take a wage cut so he decided to take over a bankrupt box factory. The factory made paper boxes of all kinds in three dimensions including shirt boxes, handkerchief boxes, ladies hosiery boxes, and candy boxes with a nice paper wrapping.
Factory continued to grow in the 1930s and began to produce cigar boxes. Making 10 million boxes a year through the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. Stone’s father hoped he would take over the factory business but the first year out of Princeton did not go well when the Korean War saw him drafted in 1950 and he decided to go to law school after the war. Although he stayed with the business through 1986 when they sold the business. Stone’s father lived until 1978. Customers disappeared. Only one customer from sixties years still exists and the style of packaging no longer exists either including the style of cigar boxes and ladies hosiery boxes. Stone’s father did not make a better box but a cheaper cigar box in 1931 that caused a seven year lawsuit. In the Army Stone’s friends were either lawyers or about to be lawyers. Stone is a solicitor involved with transactional matters and estate planning among items.
Practice that his son continues today. Pennsylvania lawyers used to belong to County bars with Stone originally belonging to the Dauphin County bar before he started a practice in Cumberland County. Judge Dale Shughart in Cumberland County required a Cumberland County lawyer to introduce out of County lawyers and stay with them. Discouraged crossing county lines. Married to wife Elizabeth in 1952 while he was in the Army. Never went overseas but was stationed at various locations in the United States. Went to Harvard Law School and lived three years in Cambridge while attending law school. Better prepared for Princeton if he had attended private school.
Law office close to both Dauphin and York counties. Many more from York county as the river is wider than the creek. Ride circuit visiting three counties. Got to know people in all three counties. Daughter who has a family law practice has a similar practice. Automobile changed everything. Over 100 years ago lawyers would take a train once a week to Carlisle to file papers. Always took the Turnpike to Carlisle and I-83 to York. Roads have gotten busier. What has changed is electronic filing. No longer record deeds by driving to the courthouse and talking with the recording office. File everything electronically in the federal office. In the State not everything is electronically but it is getting close. Troubling because Stone was able to meet a number of people but this is no longer required.
Alone in the midst of noise. Made the right decision in not getting mixed up in a large firm. Similar to his father. Stone’s children are also running their own law firms or businesses. Interest in history developed in part by 10th grade World History teacher in high school Mr. Fasick who had a timeline from Sumerians to Enlightenment. Had students thinking about how everything fit together. Stone’s father was a great storyteller and would often tell stories at the dinner table. Mother attended a private school for young ladies in Harrisburg and then she went to an Episcopal Boarding School despite being Lutheran.
Parents unluckily matched. Became involved in the Masons which is also a family tradition. Father became a Mason at the age of 22. Important in those days because you were able to meet or find out about everyone in town. In a town like Harrisburg you knew everyone involved. Harrisburg now is completely different and no one knows anyone anymore. All of the local business owners have disappeared and no longer 400 people eating lunch together at Zembo Luncheon Club. Working in the bank also able to hear the news. Parents would talk about this at the dinner table with Stone hearing about it. Now businesses run by people who do not live here. Stone joined the Masons at the age of 21 years old. Join before you had enemies and people knew who you are. Played piano for the Harrisburg Consistory Orchestra the Scottish Right Orchestra for over fifty years and the pianist Zembo Dance band and string band as well. More self-taught as a pianist. Became involved with the Cumberland County Historical Society due to Bob Crist and keeps bringing stuff from his boundless attic. Also has given items to the York County Heritage Society and the Dauphin County Historical Society.