Tyrone elementary students take historical walking tour of Tyrone

“The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see”- Winston Churchill.
There are some local residents who believe there isn’t much history in Tyrone. Others remember the 150th anniversary of the town, and assume that Tyrone’s history began 150 years ago. If you would talk to a local third grader, you may find both statements wrong, thanks in part to Mrs. Elizabeth (Lou) Beringer.
Mrs. Beringer is a former elementary teacher and member of the Tyrone Historical Society. Combining these two attributes, she heads a program to teach third graders in both Tyrone Elementary and St. Mathew’s Elementary about the history of their town. Mrs. Beringer has been leading this program since 1996, and for this work she received the Individual Achievement Award from the Pennsylvania Federation of Museums and Historical Organizations in 2001.
She starts with a fifty-five minute assembly where she talks about the scientifically accepted model of Tyrone 500 million years ago; what will be our community is under a shallow sea, giving us the sea shell fossils found in the area. From there she talks about the mountains, valleys, and the streams that made Tyrone an attractive place to settle, both for Indians and settlers. Then she talked about the history of Tyrone in the last 150+ years, with local iron furnaces, the Burley’s building the first house, trains, and the Paper Mill. Then the talk zeroed in on what the children could expect to see on the walking tour the next day: the old buildings in downtown Tyrone.
If the walking tour had a theme, it would have to be: “Look Up!”. “Look up” is what Mrs. Beringer kept telling the children to do. The tour started at the new Tyrone Train Station, and started down Pennsylvania Avenue. Some of the children immediately recognized the old wooden structure known as the Ward Building, the second oldest structure in Tyrone. Sadly enough, the Ward Building is slated for demolition soon.
Looking up the children were able to see the years many of the downtown buildings were built, as these years are bricked onto the top of many of the buildings in the downtown area. The children also noted a variety of interesting window styles in the old buildings. They also noted the “IOOF” on the side of the building above Finks’ Hardware. They learned what that stood for, and why.
Mrs. Beringer lead the group further downtown, pointing out items of interest in the downtown area, including the former Jones Building that will soon house the new library, the Merchants Bank Building, and the Post Office. The students learned why you have to step up into the downtown businesses (to keep the floor above flood stages) and why there are bricks in the sidewalk downtown. The group swung up to Logan Avenue and headed for the Municipal Building. There they met in Council Chambers with Mayor Pat Stoner, where they learned a little about city government. Chief of Police Joe Beachem was there, too, to reinforce the anti drug message.
The next stop was at the YMCA where director Amy Hampton talked about the history of the “Y,” and its role in Tyrone today. Again the children were amazed at the local history, which in the “Y” included a bowling alley, and a glass sidewalk to look down into a swimming pool, and a theater that was cooled with blocks of ice.
The next stop was the most popular, a visit to Gardners for ice cream. Legs were rested and the events of the day were discussed. After a brief respite, the tour continued past the National Guard Armory and the old power company building to the Juniata River. Again the children were impressed as they were told about the floods of ‘36 and ‘72, and how the river flowed over the wall above the Moose Lodge. Across the bridge they went, back to the train station and the end of the walking tour.
The children were most impressed with their little town. Most of the children were very surprised that Tyrone was so historic, and what an interesting place it is if you take the time to look. The teachers were also pleased with the tour, as it helped give the children a look at local history that can be augmented in the classroom. The tour will also will be used as a springboard for writing assignments.
Residents of the Tyrone area should also be pleased, as our local schools use resources available (in this case the Tyrone Historical Society and Mrs. Beringer) help our children to learn about our history so they are better equipped to lead Tyrone into the future.
(For those curious, the IOOF stood for International Order of Odd Fellows, one of several social groups active in Tyrone before the days of TV.)