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Reflections from 2014 Tour:
I had the good fortune of experiencing a full days of these tours last year. It was a delight to walk in the holy spaces where the ancestors of Bethlehem’s rich and diverse culture held their European traditions. Some of the churches on the tours were closed in 2009, so it’s with extraordinary effort that the opportunity is available again for a limited time. Half of the churches on the list are within blocks from campus.
Added benefit to the tours of the churches, are the stories shared by retired steelworkers as the bus roams through the former Bethlehem Steel plant. To hear about the working conditions and the multiple generations of families that dedicated their lives to making the steel that built America is to see the heroism and nostalgia of the place now converted into new community assets with the ArtsQuest arts compound and the Sands Casino/Mall.
What other treats of surprise stories were from my fellow travelers. As we shared a cozy bus ride, I heard many childhood memories of growing up in South Bethlehem. Where they once played, swam (Mohler Lab had a swimming pool when it was a synagog!!), and shopped. The original Banko Beverage was in a little shop in South Bethlehem. This is the same Banko that is now one the area’s generous supporters of the arts and community. There’s so many more delights of knowledge, but I don’t want to take the joy of discovery for the reader. You’ll just have to experience it.
I will dish on lunch; the Steelworker’s Overtime Lunch. Yes, you’ll know what that means – but here’s a picture of what was offered. Can you spy the local tastes of A-Treat soda and Tastykakes in addition to the robust sandwich, hard boiled egg, chips and wedge of cheese? Yummy and filled my up for the second tour (Ok, I saved half of it for dinner!). It was a great day.
The tours start up again this weekend. Few spots left. See you on the bus!
From the Steelworker’s Archive press release:
Guided by the Steelworkers’ Archives, Inc. and the South Bethlehem Historical Society, these mini-bus tours provide historic interpretation of work at the Bethlehem steel mill, the South Side Bethlehem churches, and the connections between steelworkers, their churches, and the South Side’s ethnic, steel working communities.
This is the second year of Steeples and Steel tours. Last year’s tours were very successful. Tourists on last year’s tours commented:
“We three were blown away today by the beauty of the churches and the depth of knowledge we learned about the Steel”,
“We can understand the pride you must all feel in your lovely house of worship. We feel no need to go to Europe to see amazing churches; they are in our own backyard. Thank you.”
“This day provided a rare opportunity to regenerate the Bethlehem cohort of cultures who worked collectively in Bethlehem Steel with a love for faith who built treasured and illuminative churches in Bethlehem.”
The tours are scheduled for Saturdays (see dates below). Tours will leave from St. John’s Windish Church at 9:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. The initial one-hour section of the tour, guided by a representative from the South Bethlehem Historical Society, will tour steelworker neighborhoods and churches on Bethlehem’s South Side. One church will be entered each tour, with a church member guide. This will be followed by a one-hour steelworker-guided tour of the Bethlehem Steel site. A “steelworker’s overtime” bag lunch will be provided to tour participants for take-out or to eat at St. John’s Windish Kaiser Auditorium.
9:30 – St. Michael’s Cemetery <- this is a special link to a short film created by Lehigh faculty Michael Kramp and Stephanie Powell Watts. See description below.
A photo montage of St. Michael’s Cemetery in South Bethlehem shows the current state of disarray and still the the abiding dignity of the space. The cemetary, started in 1867 on land donated by Asa Packer, belongs to the Holy Infancy parish. Overgrown with broken and shifted grave markers, it was made famous by a 1935 photograph by Walker Evans, “Graveyard and Steel Mill.” The film recreates a visual metaphor of the Evan’s photo by scanning over the life of the South Side (where people live), work (the now defunct Bethlehem Steel) and death in the cemetery. Made in part with support from the Southside Film Institute, PBS 39 and Lehigh University.
1:00—Holy Infancy Roman Catholic Church <- link to historical reference page created by the South Bethlehem Historical Society.
Tours will leave from St. John’s Windish Lutheran Church, 617 E. Fourth Street at 9:30 a.m. and 1:00 pm.
A free, public OPEN HOUSE held at St. John’s Windish Church from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. will include table displays of historical materials and artifacts from local community agencies and churches. A free tour of St. John’s Windish Church will be held at 12:15 p.m. Refreshments will be available.
Ticket prices for the mini-bus tours are $15 per person.
Advance reservations are required. Tickets can be ordered through: http://www.steelworkersarchives.com or at 610-861-0600. All ticket sales are final. Special thanks to Northampton County’s Department of Community and Economic Development and Lehigh University’s South Side Initiative for their generous support.