Our Street Names Are Memorials

It’s always great when we come into deeper contact with the life and history of the place we live. That happened last year with a column for Town & Gown about a project cataloging the CBICC historical archive:

Vince Verbeke, immediate past president of the Mount Nittany Conservancy, left a comment on the article that included some pretty cool information on the origins of State College’s many unique street names. I think it’s great to have that knowledge in the back of your head as you’re out navigating around town, because it helps remind of its unique character and history and enhances the experience of the place. It’s a little thing, of course; but those often are the very details that enrich our lives, no?

Vince comments: “Did you know that Fairmount Ave is so named because of its higher location gave it the best view of Mt. Nittany from town?”

He then adds the following, which is drawn from the History of State College, 1896-1946:

“Our Street Names Are Memorials”

Frequently asked by newcomers to the town, and occasionally by “oldtimers,” is the question, “From what source were such unusual street names derived?” State College streets are in a sense memorials to outstanding residents and faculty members. For instance, the name “Foster” has always been prominent in the history of the town. At one time, there were nine Mrs. Fosters in the village! Today there are seven telephones listed under that name. The inclusion, here, of a list of street names and their sources may prove interesting. Several of those listed are not yet within the borough limits. A, part of this list is included in Mr. Ferree’s thesis. (Name of street is given first and for whom named follows.)

Allen street – Dr. William Allen, president of the College, 1864 – 1866.
Atherton street – Dr. George W. Atherton, pres. f the College, 1882 – 1906.
Barnard street – Prof. L. H. Barnard, professor of civil engineering.
Beaver Ave – Gen. James A. Beaver, early landowner, influential in gaining aid for College; president of Board of Trustees, 1873 – 1881 and 1897 – 1915.
Buckhout street – W. A. Buckhout, professor of botany and a prominent citizen.
Burrowes street – Dr. T. H. Burrowes, president of the College, 1868 – 1871.
Butz street – George C. Butz, professor of horticulture, first president of borough council.
Calder Alley – Dr. James Calder, president, 1871 – 1880.
College Ave – Proximity to College.
Corl street – Several Corl families of the town.
Fairmount Ave – View of Mount Nittany.
Fairway Road – Named for J. T. McCormick’s first wife, Anna Maria Fair.
Foster Ave – Named for many Foster families who featured in the town’s history.
Frazier street – Gen. John Fraser, president of the College, 1866 – 1868.
Garner street – Samuel Garner, former landowner and farmer of State College.
Gill street – Rev. Benjamin Gill, D.D., chaplain for many years.
Glenn Road – For the Dr. W. S. Glenn Sr. family.
Hamilton Ave – John Hamilton, former landowner and for 37 years treasurer of the College.
Hartswick Ave – Henry Hartswick, son – in – law of John Neidigh, early settler.
Heister street – Gabriel Heister, one of the first trustees of the College.
Hetzel Place – Ralph Dorn Hetzel, president of the College, 1927 – 1947.
High street – Because of its location on high ground.
Highland Ave – Named for home of Prof. John Hamilton, “The Highlands.”
Hillcrest Ave – Named for its location on a ridge.
Holmes street – Holmes family, active in the borough organization.
Hoy street – W. A. Hoy, fourth burgess of the borough.
Irvin Ave – Gen. James Irvin, once part owner of Centre Furnace Lands, and donor of 200 acres of land for College.
Jackson street and Ave – Josiah P. Jackson, professor of mathematics, 1880 – 1893; and his son, John Price Jackson, dean of the School of Engineering, 1909 – 1915.
James Place – James T. Aikens estate.
Keller street – The Keller family of State College.
Krumrine Ave – Fred and John C. Krumrine families.
Locust Lane – Named from trees bordering the street.
Lytle street – Andrew Lytle, supervisor of roads in College township at time borough was formed.
Markle street – “Abe” Markle, early landowner and town’s first butcher.
McAllister street – Hugh N. McAllister, promoter of the College and designer of the original Old Main.
McCormick Ave – John T. McCormick, who helped organize the First National Bank.
McKee street – James Y. McKee, acting president, 1881 – 1882. Also vice – president for many years.
Miles street – Col. Samuel Miles, part owner of Centre Furnace ore furnace until 1832.
Mitchell Ave – Judge H. Walton Mitchell, president of the Board of Trustees, 1915 – 1930.
Nittany Ave – Nittany Valley and mountain.
Osman street – David Ozman, first blacksmith.
Park Ave – Formerly called “Lovers Lane,” changed to Park because its many trees resembled a park.
Patterson street – W. C. Patterson, the second burgess of State College.
Pugh street – Dr. Evan Pugh, first president of the College, 1859 – 1864.
Ridge Ave – Because it is higher than Park Ave.
Sauers street – John Sauers, first shoemaker.
Shattuck Drive – Professor Shattuck, first borough engineer, appointed 1907.
Sparks street – Dr. Edwin E. Sparks, president of the College, 1907 – 1920.
Sunset Road – Because it runs directly toward the sunset.
Thomas street – Dr. John M. Thomas, president of the College, 1920 – 1925.
Thompson street – Named for Moses Thompson whose early aid helped establish the College here.
Waring Ave – William G. Waring, first agricultural superintendent of the Farm School.
Woodland Drive – Location in a natural woodlot.

Ghosts of Blue/White Past: 1994

By Chris Buchignani, April 7, 2014

Thanks to the quirks of this year’s calendar, Penn State’s annual intra-squad scrimmage will be upon us earlier than usual and is now just a week away (let’s hope to avoid a repeat of last year’s wind and snow). Much has changed for the program since the Lions last capped off Spring practice with a Blue-White Game, from reductions in the stifling NCAA sanctions to the departure and replacement of Bill O’Brien. The excitement surrounding Coach Franklin and his staff has been palpable around the region, and I fully expect that energy will draw a large, vibrant crowd from across Nittany Nation on Saturday.

Last year I revisited the The Daily Collegian’s coverage of the 1982 Blue-White Game. For 2014, I chose to look back at what people were saying in the months leading up to the Fall of 1994, a year in which Penn State would showcase one of the most potent offenses in the history of modern college football and earn a trip to the Rose Bowl.

Penn State football stood on the cusp of a new era entering 1994, having just completed its first season as a member of the Big Ten following decades as an independent Eastern powerhouse. Many analysts and fans (and perhaps more than a few rival athletic directors and coaches) thought it was simply a matter of time before the Nittany Lions overwhelmed their venerable brethren in pursuit of conference and national titles. History records that things did not go exactly as planned on that score, but during Old State’s second year of league play, the era of Blue and White dominance appeared to be right on schedule. The ’94 Lions, still mentioned in reverent tones far beyond Happy Valley, unleashed a virtually unstoppable offense that featured over a dozen future NFL players, including multiple first-round selections in the 1995 Draft. The ’94 team triumphed in some of the program’s most memorable contests ever on the way to an unblemished record, yet was inexplicably denied a deserved share of the championship awarded to Tom Osborne’s undefeated Nebraska Cornhuskers. For the most part, it doesn’t feel like 20 years; although in some respects of course, it seems far longer.

A few points that stood out from The Daily Collegian‘s preview of the 1994 Spring Game:

  • Unlike many special seasons, including the 1982 title run I profiled last year, fans seemed to have a strong sense of what might be in store. Most of the concern focused – appropriately – on the defense, a group that was understandably overshadowed by their counterparts and probably underappreciated as a result, but who also fell a few notches short of the units on other great Penn State teams. Meanwhile, the offensive forecast was downright optimistic, though I’m not sure anyone expected the juggernaut-level output to come. Kyle Brady openly dreams of an undefeated season and national championship!
  • Speaking of Brady, the legendary tight end almost left school before the ’94 season – twice. As Ryan Jones, senior editor of The Penn Stater and then-Collegian sports writer, reports, Brady, a highly-touted recruit, flirted with the idea of transfer early in his career after an injury allowed former walk-on (and future NFLer) Troy Drayton to supplant him in the lineup. After choosing to stick it out, Brady came close to passing on his senior campaign to join the pros. While he pondered the wisdom of his choice at the time, we know now that it paved the way for his place in Penn State lore and rise to the ninth overall pick in the following year’s draft.

The Daily Collegian – 1994 Blue-White Preview

The Daily Collegian – 1994 Blue-White Coverage

Read and enjoy these articles as you count down the hours before you pack up the car for the trip back “home” or open your door to returning friends and family. You’ll no doubt smile more than once, at those little details that are different today and the bigger things that are virtually unchanged. Looking back into Old State’s past fosters a special appreciation for ways in which the Nittany Valley is at once dynamic and timeless.

‘I see Penn State!’

By Chris Buchignani, March 26, 2014

I had lunch today with John Patishnock, an employee of the Penn State Alumni Association and freelance writer who will be working with NVS on an upcoming project. John is a local who recently returned home after several years living away from Pennsylvania, and he writes a regular column for the Centre County Gazette on his experiences “Re-discovering Happy Valley.”

His introductory piece recounts a family hike up Mount Nittany, fulfillment of a long-delayed requirement for any legitimate “Penn State bucket list.” Of course, we have a soft spot for Mount Nittany memories and the like, as evidenced by our release of “Conserving Mount Nittany”. One passage in particular caught my attention, because it speaks to the distinctive Spirit of the Valley we seek to conserve. John and his hiking party have reached the famed Mike Lynch overlook and are admiring the view of town and campus…

Then something unexpected transpires, something I doubt I forget for the rest of my life. A group, which includes a young boy and girl, join us on the overlook, which is overrun with stones and tree branches and stumps creating unofficial paths.

“I see Penn State!” the young girl screams, extending her arm and pointing her finger toward the horizon. The euphoria is loud and excitement-filled, the kind of outburst that’s rarely seen in everyday life that all too often seems mundane and predictable.

But that’s the type of joy that Penn State continually provides, no matter what may happen to alter the perception of a university that for so long has and continues to be a worldwide leader in so many areas.

One of the best aspects of our work so far has been the opportunity to discover and connect with so many people who share our love and loyalty for the Nittany Valley. I enjoyed reading John’s piece and look forward to working with him on an exciting publishing and multimedia project that we have in development. We’ll be working to surface some of the most remarkable untold stories of a place where ordinary people do extraordinary things.

The ‘Magic of Simplicity’ at the Nittany Lion Shrine

By Chris Buchignani

The Nittany Lion Shrine was reopened this week after a summer of renovation. Kevin Horne, Managing Editor of Onward State, shares his perspective on the iconic symbol of the campus:

I grew up only an hour away in Williamsport, so this campus was no stranger to me when I enrolled at Penn State three years ago. Consequently, neither was the Lion Shrine. (Proof: Flat Stanley and myself, circa 1999. I was a lot cooler back then, as you can see.) I didn’t realize it then of course, but there was something magical about the simplicity of the whole thing. When Heinz Warneke sculpted the Shrine 73 years ago, I don’t think he could have imagined the landmark — some might even call it sacred ground — that it would become. Indeed, you would hard pressed to find ANY Penn Stater who hasn’t snapped a photo with their arm around the thing.

It was, in a phrase, a true “symbol of our best.” It wasn’t much, of course — just a statue on top of an eroding mountain of mulch — but isn’t there an endearing quality about something like that? Isn’t that sort of modesty something Penn Staters have always held close to the heart, much like the basic blue uniforms our football team will run out of the tunnel wearing on Saturday?

I still get chills when I walk by the Lion Shrine. I would map out my nightly runs accordingly so I’d be able to pass the shrine with no one else around, looking stately as ever under the single spotlight. It was an emotion I couldn’t control, not because of how it looked or the landscape surrounding it, but because of what it symbolizes to generations of Penn Staters. A student today could talk to a student who graduated 50 years ago and the Lion Shrine is one symbol they share in common. In today’s thirst for modernity, that timelessness is difficult to find.

I walked over the new Lion Shrine yesterday morning and I just couldn’t shake the pit in my stomach no matter how hard I tried. Don’t get me wrong — the place looks fine. Aside from the base of the statue, which clashes with the actual Shrine and sticks out like a sore thumb, it’s an aesthetic improvement for certain. It’s also important to have a ramp for handicap access. But I don’t think it will ever be the same for me. The area just feels so scripted and manmade — almost like there should be a gift shop peddling Lion Shrine postcards and coffee mugs off to the side somewhere (don’t get any ideas, Old Main). It has lost the magic of simplicity. In this era of change, that magic is hard to come by.

I’m sure I’ll get over it. It is, after all, an impressive display. But I know that I’ll always miss that modest mountain of mulch. And I know that when my kids come to Penn State and I take their first Lion Shrine picture, something will be missing. At least to me, anyway.

Photo credit: Penn State University

The Initiation—A Parable of the Mifflin Streak

A Parable of the Mifflin Streak

I have often climbed Mount Nittany and spent afternoons and sometimes all night gazing at the valley and the campus. In my mind I would wander, trying to find a deeper meaning in the commonplace things which are often dismissed as unimportant. One day I was sitting on Mount Nittany thinking of what had happened last spring at the “Mifflin Streak.” That was when the idea of this poem came to me.

The poem is not set on campus, but begins at the foot of a mountain as an initiation ceremony. The poem would seem to have no connection to the Mifflin Streak, except in the wandering mind of a poet.

The initiation described has no counterpart in fact except that I freely admit to borrowing from newspaper accounts of initiations at other colleges at other times.

These verses were not written to be skimmed with the eyes, but to be read aloud, several times, moving the lips, giving a chance for the rhythm to be physically felt and for the images to take sensual form. The goal is not to convey information, nor to make a point, but to break through the crust of everyday experience. For poetry is, in its best sense, our deepest longings taking form in our imagination, bringing our senses into congruence with the deepest felt experiences of our civilization.

The Initiation

I. 

Assembled under ancient trees
On paths once strode by Indian Braves
Initiates of a noble order
Waking spirits from their graves.

Eyes enfolded in a kerchief
Cannot see to walk or stand
Up the Mountain blindly climbing
Hand on shoulder, hand in hand.

Footsteps groping through the forest
Feeling for each stone and leaf
Crossing logs and brooks and gullies
Hearing whispered ancient beliefs.

Trusting blindly to tradition
To those who walked where they now tread
Beating hearts must trust in friendship
To someday lead where they’re now led.

Past the ledge where ancient fires
Warmed the hunters, cooked their kill
Spirits of brave men long ago
Still take away the dark night’s chill.

II.

At a pool of deep still water
Guides remove the kerchief blind
The young boys stare at stars reflected
In the pool and in their minds.

At the spring they taste the water
Which anoints them deep inside
Makes them part of past primeval
Awakening what they thought had died.

Now it lives! And they’re the vessels
Bodies with new lives to wear
Dreams unfolding, visions rising
From depths they did not know were there.

They sense within them spirits moving
They hear old cries of victory
They feel the deaths — and births — of heroes
And lose their fear of agony.

III.

Then on they walk in wonder waiting
Each mind reeling, then at peace
Blindly following ever upward
Led to unknown mysteries.

Walking through the forest primeval
Under vaults of ancient trees
‘Til they feel they’re in an opening
Their blinds removed so they can see.

In the clearing men stand naked
Sons of fathers, sons of sons
Leaping flames and blazing fires
Beckon to the chosen ones.

Light illumines awe-struck faces
Unexpected shock appears
Dismay, concern at what will happen
‘Til the voices calm their fears:

“You do not live in just this moment
Others before you faced it, too
You will stand here naked next year
Feeling the fear we felt from you.

“The nakedness you see before you
Is not for you to touch or feel
Pleasure is not what man was made for
Higher goals will be your seal.

“For the beauty of the gods in heaven
Is not their flesh, it’s not their youth
That’s only the visage of their spirit
To be a man is to seek the truth.

“But truth’s alarming, truth’s unsettling
Truth does frighten, truth is spurned
That’s the reason for this baring
This the lesson to be learned:

“Never fear the naked body
Never fear the naked soul
Never avoid the naked truth
And never reject the naked role.

“Never fear humiliation
Don’t fear suffering, pain or tears
The mark of a man is never flinching
The only thing to fear — is fear.

“If you have courage and heart and honor
You’ll stand naked before all men
You’ll follow your heart where ere it leads you
Into the flames or the lion’s den.

“So learn this lesson, learn it well, boys,
On this our brotherhood depends:
Having guts is all that matters
When that is lost, our brotherhood ends.”

This is how the bond is fashioned
Naked truth becomes a trust
Fear transformed by faithful listening
Words can now break through the crust.

IV.

The men now dress in sacred clothing
Cloaks of honor, caps of care
Naked truth, a source of loathing
Now is something they can bear.

Now they circle round the camp fire
Each one sits to form a ring
Then the elders rise to face them
Each in turn to speak and sing.

Now are told the ancient stories
Here the secrets are revealed
Now the spirit’s incarnated
Here the fellowship is sealed.

Then silence. The fire dies to embers
And in the dark, stars reappear
The men in cloaks resume their journey
Young men follow without fear.

V.

As they walk they see the stars are
Growing closer, step by step,
The earth recedes, the ground grows farther
They’d enter heaven if they leapt.

They walk until they reach the summit
Of the sacred Mount they climb
Here occurs the last experience
Which must break the bonds of time.

For time corrupts and time effaces
Time’s the enemy of man
Unless it’s formed in timeless places
A bond can shift like shifting sand.

When they reach the highest point
Where the Mountain touches sky
Here each man beholds his brother
Stares him sternly in the eye.

Hands reach out to pluck the stars
And place them where his brother sees
From this night on his brother’s eyes
Will be his mark of loyalty.

When stars replace the eyes they glisten
Streams of diamonds flood the face
Stars are the eyes of gods and angels
The beauty seen by the oldest race.

Nothing can efface this moment
Can’t erase this time or place
Each man sees within his brother
The starry eyes of all the race.

At that moment every man
Who has ever lived or ever died
Is still alive and sees them seeing
And gazes right back through their eyes.

Then the gaze is quickly broken
Resurgent time has healed the breach
Timelessness has no duration
The stars are once more out of reach.

VI.

In silence they begin descending
And wonder if they’ve dreamed it all
‘Til tears they see on their brothers’ cheeks
In the light of stars like diamonds fall.

Now they know the sacred meaning
Understand why time was breached
Their eyes now see down through the ages
Farther than they’ve ever reached.

The ancient wisdom’s been transmitted
As it’s always been from age to age
The light of the world is in their eyes
As was foretold by the ancient sage.

VII.

They’ll never talk of what has happened
Never say what they have seen
But they’re now men of deeper courage
Deeper strength and deeper dreams.

And each evening they remember
The time they climbed that Mountain top,
Recall the naked truth they learned there
And the time when time was made to stop.

Something happens on that Mountain
Something to do with faith and stars
It’s easy to know just who’s been up there
Look for the men whose eyes see far:

Naked truth becomes their passion
And they seek stars most men don’t seek
And timeless eyes watch o’er their sons
And diamonds glisten on their cheeks.

Epilogue
An Imaginary Student’s Response

“And if this hasn’t happened to us
Why has it not? I’d like to know
The stars in the sky seem far away
Where di the men of courage go?

“Let’s climb that Mountain, pluck the stars
Two for your eyes, two for mine
Brothers and guts we know we need
We’ve got to stretch the bonds of time.

“We’ll learn the secrets on our own
Like all such things, they’re plain to see
We’ll search the wisdom in old books
Until we’ve found the ancient key.

“Such a quest is worth all efforts
Nothing else will suit my eyes
Until I find the men of courage
And see the watchers in the skies.

“And if you won’t go, I’ll go alone
I’ve got to overcome my fear
Damn it! There is more to life
Than textbooks, classes, parties, beer.”