Ashland Boys' Association to be honored with historical marker
ASHLAND - The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) approved at its Sept. 19 meeting a nomination to honor the Ashland Boys' Association (ABA) with an historical marker.
Ashland Mummers Club's Historical Marker Committee Chairman Adam J. Bernodin III, Ashland, who has been spearheading the marker initiative with James Klock, Ashland, received word of the approval of the nomination resubmission from PHMC Historical Marker Program Coordinator Karen L. Galle.
"When Karen Galle contacted me about the historical marker approval, I had an adrenaline rush to do the Rocky Balboa run up the Mother's Memorial steps," said Bernodin.
Galle commended the dedication and hard work that Bernodin has done in getting the marker approval to honor the ABA.
"I commend Adam's enthusiasm with our PHMC historical marker program," said Galle. "His determination to get this recognition for this organization is exactly what the ABA was all about. Adam is the Ashland Boys' Association legacy."
According to Bernodin, the dedication date is set for the last Saturday in August 2013, the traditional date before Labor Day when the annual ABA parade has been held for decades.
"Everyone is summoned to the magic call of "Come on Home!" to make history," said Bernodin. "Lets all be pumped up for one of the most exciting celebration's in the anthracite coal region. The celebration will be during the day next Labor Day weekend, tentative date Aug. 31, 2013."
Bernodin submitted an application in 2010 for an historical marker to recognize the accomplishments and influence of the organization from the early 1900s, but in April 2011 he was informed that it was rejected.
After the rejection, Galle and Chester Kulesa, site administrator at the Anthracite Heritage Museum in Scranton, provided assistance in making revisions to the application so it could be resubmitted. A nomination for an historical marker may be made three consecutive years, after which an application cannot be resubmitted for another three years.
In April of this year, Bernodin received word that the resubmission was given "provisional approval" following the recommendations of an independent review panel consisting of historians, educators and historical experts from around the commonwealth., and would be reconsidered at the Sept. 19 PHMC panel meeting. At the time, Bernodin was ecstatic about the ABA given another chance at receiving the marker.
The plan is to place the marker at the base of the Mother's Memorial at Hoffman Boulevard and Chestnut Street. Sponsored by the ABA and erected in 1938, the Mother's Memorial statue is a three-dimensional depiction of "Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1," usually identified as "Whistler's Mother," an 1871 oil-on-canvas painting by American-born painter James McNeill Whistler.
The ABA began following an informal get-together on Labor Day in 1899 by a group of men on a hillside north of Ashland. They had grown up in Ashland and attended the Market Street School. Enjoying the day, they decided that the gathering should become an annual event and that an organization should be formed. In doing so, they elected Harry S. Seam of Mount Carmel as president, Frank Hoover of Shamokin as vice president, and Charles Barnhard of Ashland as treasurer. They agreed to invite other Ashland natives to a similar gathering in 1900. The Labor Day weekend reunion led to thousands returning to Ashland, conducting the parade and holding huge outdoor picnics at Washington Park.
The PHMC approval provides an entire year to plan the celebration of the historical marker. Bernodin called the delay in the approval "a blessing in disguise," since 2013 marks the 75th anniversary of the memorial. While the Mother's Memorial is the most visible legacy of ABA and that the historical marker will be placed before it at street level, Bernodin stressed that the approval is about the Ashland Boys' Association historic significance to Ashland, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania and the United States.
"We are honoring the ABA, not the statue. Statues can't get historical markers," said Bernodin. "The Ashland Boys' Association was an archetype of a poignant Pennsylvania story. The sentimental impact of this homecoming was felt throughout Pennsylvania and the USA, and no town in our country had an ABA. This is the reason why I never gave up on this honor."
Since grant funds are no longer available, the local committee is required to pay the $1,800 to $2,000 cost for the marker, which will be owned by the historical commission. Bernodin said the markers are manufactured for the commission by Lake Shore Industries, Erie. There are almost 2,200 blue signs with gold lettering marking historical locations throughout the state.
"I thank the Ashland Public Library for allowing me to use there microfilm machine," said Bernodin. "Local public libraries are often overlooked or taken for granted today. Please support your local library."
Contributions for the historical marker celebration/dedication can be sent to:
Ashland Mummers Club
Treasurer Jim Klock
515 Centre Street
Ashland, Pa. 17921