The Haven wears nada

Getting my son dressed in the morning has become quite the fiasco in our house.

It’s not shirts; Paul Matthew has developed a fondness for shirts. No matter which shirt I suggest, it’s his favorite. We do this every morning: “How about the Superman shirt?” “My favorite!” “I have one with a Stegosaurus on it.” “My favorite!” “Baseball shirt?” “My favorite!”

No, the problem comes because Paul, now 2, has designed a very strict no-pants policy. He’s decided he doesn’t much like pants, and began insisting, “No pants! No pants EVER!”

Paul has recently chosen to escalate his stance. On his second day of refusing to wear pants, Paul informed me solemnly, “Pants evil.”

I have tried to explain that this is probably something of an over-reaction, but Paul is sticking firmly to his policy. And, I have to admit, history is on his side.

Paul doesn’t know it, but 80 years before he was born, there was some historical precedent for this.

It began with a letter. This letter arrived and was read by city council on a morning with historic temperature lows. With the weather dropping to 16 below, city council reviewed a letter from a nudist colony in Chicago, requesting permission to move to Lock Haven.

The Express reported on this gleefully in an article on March 3, 1934. “Believe it or not, the cult that regards clothes as a mistake wants to come here,” the article said before commenting on the chill. “Most of us were not thinking of discarding the clothes we had on but of scaring up new and warmer ones.”

Speaking of warmer things, the mayor wasn’t available for this discussion. Mayor Edward Earl Shoemaker was on vacation in Florida at the time. So all of this fell into the lap (so to speak) of Vice Mayor I. Torrance Parsons. (He must have done okay with it, because he was later elected to a term as mayor himself.)

The letter declared that the nudist colony wanted to leave Chicago for a better place, and had selected Lock Haven due to its position in the center of Pennsylvania. They asked if courtesies would be extended, should they try to move here.

Parsons suggested that, its being March, the weather wasn’t exactly receptive to nudist colonies, and that they might be risking frostbite at best. Admittedly, it had to be better than Chicago; Eskimos frequently join unions and move comfortably to Chicago.

Parsons suggested they revisit the issue later, when the weather had warmed up, and they could write again or even send a representative to tour Lock Haven. In the meantime, he said, city council could discuss it further.

City council was said to have shown “great agitation” about the whole thing, which is in character. City council has been known to show “great agitation” about sidewalk cracks.

Typically, The Express had a field day with the whole thing. An article was headlined “Nudists Would Locate Here: Vice Mayor Advises ‘Wait’,” which I’m sure did wonders for the day’s circulation numbers.

They pointed out that the clothing shops wouldn’t benefit from a local nudist colony, but some other businesses might. “On the other hand,” the article said, “the nudist colony might well bring a great stimulus in trade for those merchants selling mosquito lotion, sunburn remedies, medicaments with which one relieves ivy poisoning and other emollients for the perils of the season. A brisk business in field glasses might be another result of the colony.”

As far as I can tell, there was no further discussion of the nudist colony. If another inquiry was ever received, I have no documentation on it. (Maybe Parsons left the letter in his other pants.) Obviously, the nudist colony didn’t establish here in Lock Haven — I think we’d have noticed — so if you happen to see someone running by without clothes, it’s probably just an LHU student who’s had way too much to drink.

It’s an interesting footnote to the local tourism industry; we were almost a nudist colony. I’ll have to look into it further when I get a chance. Right now, though, I’m going to get Paul Matthew and see if he’ll put on his shirt with the truck on it. It’s his favorite.


Lou Bernard is a Lock Haven resident with a keen interest in the history of this area. He is adult services coordinator at Ross Library and may be reached at or 570-748-3321.