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Letters to the Editor

Two Hundred Years in the Life of an American Town

About The Book

The voices of America's past and present live on in this timeless portrayal of small-town America, which, through two hundred years of letters to one town's newspapers, evokes the most memorable moments in our history and the passions they engendered.
Since the days of the Founding Fathers, the citizens of Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, have recorded their impressions of such dramatic events of national significance as the ratification of the Bill of Rights, the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, the rise of Andrew Carnegie, the assassinations of President John F. and Senator Robert Kennedy, and the Clarence Thomas hearings -- as well as their opinions on genuinely local concerns like building good schools and roads, seeing the sights at the Bloomsburg Fair, romantic intrigue in a trailer park, and finding a home for a lonely puppy.
By turns hilarious and contemplative, here is a book so genuinely representative of the American experience that each page will bring memories of home and family, friends and neighbors, and our own hometowns sharply -- and honestly -- into focus. Beneath it all, Letters to the Editor is about how a community negotiates with itself, how it talks and how it listens.



This Gentle Hint


Mr. Ingram,

There are few villages more beautifully located than Bloomsburg, and very few, I imagine, of the same size and population, in which more business is transacted. But what matters the delightful situation, unless the hand of art be employed in giving a cheerful and neat aspect to its streets and dwellings?

There are but few, very few dwellings, whose fronts have been touched with the brush of a painter; and but few also who have the advantage of pavements. This is certainly nothing but sheer neglect. The cost would be trifling to each owner of property, when compared with the advantages; and I sincerely hope that this gentle hint may have the desired effect.


Columbia Democrat

July 22, 1837


What business has Bloom to be continually growing and increasing, and wanting to lay out more lots, and build more houses, and open more streets and alleys? Some people thinks the more the town increases in population, and size, and beauty, and schools, and churches the better it is for the whole county. I don't see it.

It makes us all work a great deal harder to keep the town supplied with provisions than it used to. I know the time when I could hardly sell a bushel of potatoes for forty cents, now I could sell a wagon load of them at two dollars a bushel. I used to sell my butter at eighteen cents, now you pay fifty cents a pound for it. You see we can hardly keep you going now, and if you keep on growing, it will be worse yet.

They say you're going to get a Normal School at Bloomsburg; and that will bring about five hundred more people there to help eat up meat and bread, and potatoes and butter, etc. If we have to keep you all in provisions, I don't know what will happen.

A Countryman

The Columbian

May 8, 1868


Dear Sir:

I recently spent a few days in Bloomsburg, after a long absence. The thing I missed the most was the Magee Carpet whistle. I hope to be in Bloomsburg for the Fair. I was just wondering if the whistle will be in operation for the Fair?

Yours truly,

Franklin Sherman, Cleveland, Ohio

The Morning Press

September 17, 1971


I think the traffic light at Route 487 and Central Road should be timed better. On Dec. 1, 1982, I timed it for 15 minutes, from 1:50 to 2:05 p.m. and again on Jan. 4, 1983, from 12:05 to 12:20 p.m. I was at the same place and used the same watch, which may not keep perfect time, but not too far off.

On Dec. 1, the times varied from three seconds to 17 seconds. Again on Jan. 4, the variation was anywhere from three to 16 seconds. As you can see, the time was nowhere even. I am a local resident who must use this intersection.

J. E., Bloomsburg

Press Enterprise

January 11, 1983

Copyright © 1998 by Gerard Stropnicky

About The Authors

Product Details

  • Publisher: Touchstone (June 25, 1998)
  • Length: 272 pages
  • ISBN13: 9780684848532

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Raves and Reviews

Robert Coles Harvard University, winner of the Pulitzer Prize Here is history in the daily making: a wonderful chronicle of a democracy's life as experienced by its citizens -- who have been lucky indeed to live in a country where their ideas can be publicly shared.

Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, on the stage version of Letters to the Editor It doesn't matter where you live...Letters to the Editor is a rich portrait of your neighbors and your town, a living love letter to the spirit of community.

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More books from this author: James Goode