WILKES-BARRE — There was a lot of business being conducted at Friday’s meeting of the Downtown Wilkes-Barre Business Association.
And it was all good stuff.
So much so, that this reporter was having a tough time keeping up.
The main news came from Larry Newman, executive director of the Diamond City Partnership, which acts as the steward of downtown economic development. Newman revealed a few interesting nuggets gleaned from the 2018 Downtown Perception & Use Survey.
Newman said the early returns show that downtown workers, residents and visitors like what’s going on downtown and want it to continue. And attendance at recent downtown events bears that out, such as shows at the Kirby Center, the St. Pat’s Parade, the Fine Arts Fiesta, the Easter egg hunt and the ever-popular Farmers Market.
The downtown has a lot going for it: great restaurants, awesome retail shops, a huge department store in Boscov’s, a movie theater, a Barnes & Noble and two terrific colleges.
The future really does look bright, so make sure to wear your sunglasses.
But never forget to widen your perception. Take a look around at the history throughout the city — it glares at you on almost every street.
That’s why my ears perked when I heard Aimee Newell, executive director of the Luzerne County Historical Society, talk about an upcoming fundraising event. There will be a tour of the Frederick Stegmaier Mansion and its Victorian-era decor and a discussion will follow about those elegant years of the 1890s and early 1900s. It will end with a dinner at the Mary Stegmaier Mansion on South Franklin Street.
This is really cool stuff. It’s another feature that goes perfectly with the history walking tours done by Councilman Tony Brooks and other historic discussions that are held at Wilkes and King’s that remind us of where we came from and how great those days were.
And we still have many historic buildings to marvel at, despite some of them deteriorating and in need of serious repair — see the Irem Temple on North Franklin Street.
History has always intrigued me. I wish somebody with an inventor’s mind and spirit will invent a computer program or some type of machine that would allow us to input an address or name and see it come to life. It would immediately take us back to those wonderful times to show us what the building looked like and who was around.
There are so many remnants of greatness all across the landscape that we have learned were once great and beautiful and magnificent, yet all we can do is listen to the stories or look at old pictures and use our imaginations to paint a more vivid picture in our minds.
My teachers would never describe me as an excellent history student. But as Seinfeld’s George Costanza once said, “I wish I was a buff” — a history buff at that.
I want to learn as much as I can about those old buildings and locations. Feed me everything you have to make me appreciate even more each and every one of them.
I would love to return to Little Big Horn and stand next to Gen. George Custer just to verify what someone once told me were a few of his last words: “Maybe those Indians are friendly.”
I would guess that isn’t true, but man I would like to see what was about to happen — to see the bravery of those soldiers and all soldiers who stared death in the face to preserve our freedom.
Same with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the tragic death of Mary Jo Kopechne. I want to listen when The Beatles discussed how they were going to change music, fashion and culture. I want to see that beach where my father ran up a hill and stepped on a land mine. Like I said, bravery beyond words in a book.
There are so many historical people and events that I would want to witness — from the Roman gladiators, to the Founding Fathers debates, to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, to Einstein, Edison, Bell and more.
I want to be in Forbes Field in 1960 to tell Casey to walk Mazeroski.
History has shaped us. History has laid our foundation. History is everything we have. Embrace it, learn about it, value it.
It’s all we have.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle, or email at [email protected]