Thirty years in Lock Haven

It’s hard to believe it’s been 30 years.

I’ve lived in Lock Haven for 30 years now. I first moved here from Slatington three decades ago, on Labor Day Weekend in 1990. At the time, I was in a small moving van that my dad was driving. It had everything I owned in the back. I had recently turned 21, and if the whole thing had been destroyed on I-80, I’d have been out maybe 15 bucks. You don’t have much in the way of important possessions when you’re 21.

We unpacked and I moved into my new apartment, the first time I’d really been on my own.

Amusingly, even though I’ve lived here over half my life, people still seem to want to differentiate me, often making a little note that I’m not from around here. This can be either negative or positive.

I’ve received comments on my articles to the effect of, “Well, this guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about, he’s not from here.”

I’ve also been introduced when I’m giving a speech with comments like, “And he moved here from Lehigh County, and we’re lucky to have him.”

When I die and get buried in Highland Cemetery, my gravestone will say something like “LOU BERNARD 1969 – 2054, Husband, Father, Historian. (Originally from Slatington, Pa.)”

I moved into an apartment building on the east end of Water Street. At the time, I didn’t know it was the site of an old hospital that was active during the Jerry Church days. Hell, I didn’t know Lock Haven was founded by Jerry Church. It was just home, temporarily.

Yes, temporarily. I didn’t plan to stay in Lock Haven, not at first. I was going to graduate and then move back to Slatington, and today I can’t remember why I ever thought that was a good idea. It was sometime around the four-year mark when I began to realize that I loved Lock Haven, and I couldn’t even envision myself living anyplace else.

I didn’t know I was living very near the site of the Irish-German Canal Riot of 1833, or that it happened around the same time of year I’d moved in. I didn’t realize that the Hunt-Jefferis Cemetery had once been practically around the corner from my place. I never learned any of that until later.

My first night in Lock Haven, I walked up Water Street along the Susquehanna. The levee wasn’t there yet, and wouldn’t be completed for a couple of years. I didn’t know that the Susquehanna had been used to lumbering, and that sightings of a water monster called the Susquehanna Seal had been reported in the 1890s. (I’d have loved that, but I didn’t know.)

I looked at the courthouse. I didn’t know that it had been built in the 1860s, or that it was the second courthouse. (The fourth if you count the John Moorhead building, which was intended to be a courthouse and never used, or the Barker’s Tavern courthouse, which was a temporary measure.)

I walked out on the Jay Street Bridge, unaware that it had once been a covered bridge, or that it had burned down in 1919, likely the casualty of a jealous wife with kerosene. And I stood and looked out at the river.

As school opened, I attended classes (I wound up only doing two semesters at LHU) and I wasn’t aware that the school had been chartered in 1870, but construction didn’t begin until 1873 and classes didn’t start until years later. I’d not yet heard the story of December 1888, when the college burned to the ground. It was just my school, for a brief time.

And I remember at one point stopping in the library to look at a map of Pennsylvania that hung on the wall. I picked out Slatington, and Lock Haven, and observed how far I’d come.

And I thought, I am so far from home.

And then I thought, “Well, but it’s okay.”

It’s become my home, here in Clinton County. Thirty years later, I’m the guy who knows the history here. (Even though I’m not from here, as someone is sure to note.) I don’t ever see myself living anywhere else.

Lock Haven is my home.

I just had to discover it.


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 loulhpa@gmail.com or 570-660-4463.


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