Bucks County Herald

Charles Meredith:

New library in Quakertown

Dear Friends,

Good morning. People in the education field know Dr. Robert Leight, the former Quakertown School District chairman of the school board.

I saw him twice last week. First he was at the annual meeting of the Richland Library Company where we visited the new $1 million building under construction. Then, he hosted the annual meeting of the Quakertown Community Education Foundation. There we met with about 100 students who were treated to a retired Lehigh University professor who spoke about China and the religions that shape its historical and political landscape. More in a moment.

Let’s begin with the Richland Library. We couldn’t meet at the library on Main Street because the construction project is underway. You don’t see the addition on Main Street because it’s behind the old building. Instead, we met at the Richland Meeting (Quaker), a few hundred yards to the south. The addition is impressive.

The Richland Library was founded as a lending library in1788. I believe it’s the oldest library in Bucks County and one of the oldest in the state. “Over the past 200 years, the Richland Library has received many local historical items, family trees, mementos, photographs and other items,” its website tells us. “Today the Richland Library Company is no longer a lending library, but rather a respected research facility for preserving items of local history and culture, while maintaining these items to promote and facilitate genealogical and historical research.”

The new addition more than doubles the space of the old library and has three floors plus an elevator. The addition was paid through the generosity of Calvin Ruth who died several years ago. He was a celebrated artist and teacher. I expect that the construction will be completed by summer’s end.

Librarian Thomas Moll reported that the library had more than 5,000 visits via its website. Treasurer Rodney Henry told the members that the library’s “Juniper Street” book was a success. Copies are still available at $21.20 plus postage.

Henry introduced Karina Rilling who is searching for fellow Latvians who emigrated to America during the 1940s and ’50s. Richland Library will publish their stories. I’ve read her account. It’s well-documented and filled with photographs.

Richland Library President Ann Hellman reported that she’s beginning to collect stories about people who’ve lived on Main Street, Quakertown’s oldest street, which connected Bethlehem to Philadelphia.

I enjoyed attending the annual meeting. It’s always droll and charming. All of the 60 members and visitors were glad they showed up.

And speaking about “charming,” Bob Leight steered me straight when he urged me to hear Norman Girardot speak to members of the Quakertown Senior High School a few days later. Dr. Girardot was the distinguished professor emeritus in the Arts and Sciences College at Lehigh University. For more than one hour he told stories about his experiences during his 37 years at Lehigh and his travels to China.

Girardot’s research areas were broadly comparative and involved Chinese religious traditions, particularly Daoism (or Taoism) and the intellectual history of the study of Chinese religions. He told the students that the hot topic in China today is religion, particularly evangelical Christianity. Girardot worries that public schools emphasise the importance of STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math) but do not equally stress the humanities such as writing, art, history and music.

He led Lehigh University in the construction of an ancient Chinese woven timber bridge on the Lehigh campus and a traditional Chinese pavilion on Bethlehem’s south side. Neither project used metal but relied on wooden structural pieces just as the ancient Chinese did. Visitors to Lehigh University and Bethlehem’s south side can see them.

Most recently, Girardot is working with the Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts to create an adult education program called the Venture Academy. He remains committed to the importance of inter-disciplinary liberal arts, science, technology and cross-cultural approaches to learning.

Each year, the Quakertown Community Education Foundation honors someone who has made a difference to mankind. The annual award is named for Anna Neamand who taught social studies for 44 years.

The leaders of the foundation chose well when they picked Norman Girardot to honor.

Sincerely, Charles Meredith

Finally, when I read the obituary of Peter Pagano in the Inquirer April 27, I thought of my happy days as a Penn undergraduate. Pagano's Restaurant was a landmark for us. Situated on the Penn campus, Peter Pagano was the son of Mary and Charles Pagano who started the restaurant in the 1950s. It opened at 3614 Walnut St. My roommates and I lived one block away at 3637 Locust Walk.

If you needed a short-term loan to tide you over the weekend, Charlie Pagano would lend money to students and never required a loan document. A simple handshake was the only “collateral” that Charlie needed.

I remember calling Pagano’s when Mighty Betsy delivered our son in the University of Pennsylvania Hospital in 1961. Would Pagano’s please deliver a ground-beef pizza to her hospital room? Yes they would and there would be no charge for the pizza.

I thought of Pagano’s as MB and I celebrated our 60th reunion last weekend. Ah, the good old days!

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