Take a look back at Franklin County’s history through news and photos that appeared in local newspapers 25, 50, and 100 years ago on May 21st.
25 Years Ago
May 21, 1995 – Sunday
“She Keeps Going and Going”
Esther Wagner gets her own way in Chambersburg
She’s been a volunteer at Chambersburg Hospital since 1949.
She was the first female elder at Zion Reformed Church.
She has taught Sunday school at the church for 44 years, and can claim perfect attendance for the last 42 years.
She is, perhaps, Chambersburg’s biggest Baltimore Orioles fan.
At 71 years old, she still walks two to three miles a day with her husband, roller skates twice a year and has a bookcase full of bowling trophies.
And she hasn’t missed an election since she was old enough to vote.
Esther Wagner finally had her day May 2. That was the day set aside by Chambersburg Mayor Robert Morris as Esther Wagner Day.
“Believe me, I was very humbled,” she said, “because I do these things because I enjoy them.”
What sets Esther Wagner apart from others is her boundless energy, generosity and humility.
Her daily agenda is full of volunteer activities. She sat down to be interviewed last week, but watched the clock the whole time, anxious to return to the church. She doesn’t walk down the stairs in her home she skips, two steps at a time.
Friends and associates have compared her to the Energizer bunny, that pink, drum-pounding wind-up toy that keeps going and going and . . . .
“I’m exhausted when I look at her,” said Peggy Barnhart, Sunday school teacher at Zion Reformed Church.
“I don’t know where all the energy comes from,” said her brother, William K. Leonard. “She has more than the rest of us have combined.”
“I’ve got all this energy and all this vitality,” Wagner agreed. “I’d burst if I kept it all bottled up.”
Esther Wagner was born Esther Leonard in Greenvillage. She was the middle child of three. Her younger brother, William, lives in Greenvillage. Her older sister, Marie Freshman, died.
Her mother worked at Stanley Company (now J. Schoeneman) and her father worked at T.B. Woods. Esther was an energetic young girl.
She played second base for the Greenvillage Hornets softball team.
When the weather was nice, she rode her bicycle to Chambersburg High School a five-mile trip each way.
She also kept busy with chores around the house and on her family’s small farm.
“She even played football. She was quite a tomboy,” said Leonard. “She’d always get the best of me when we were wrestling around.”
Once, Esther pinned her younger brother and stuffed flowers in his mouth.
Her parents taught her to be honest and to work for what she gets.
“We were raised by the golden rule: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,'” she said.
One of her teachers also instilled an important lesson in her. It’s a lesson she still lives by today.
“My public speaking teacher in high school told me long ago,- ‘Do the best you can in whatever you do,’ ” she said. “If that isn’t satisfactory, then I feel I did my best.”
“Whatever she does, she does it well,” said Bob Gonder, who nominated Wagner to be the first female elder at the church. “I don’t know how the woman finds time to do what she does. She’s just one super lady.”
Wagner married Robert A. Wagner 53 years ago. They have one son, Robert L. Wagner.
She is a die-hard Democrat and loves politics. She voted for the first time 50 years ago, and hasn’t missed an election. She served on the board of elections for 40 years and is currently a judge of elections for her precinct.
Wagner puts a positive spin on everything, but is concerned about Americans’ apathy toward the right to vote.
“We have 1,300 voters in (precinct) 5.-2. We’re the biggest precinct in Chambersburg. We had 442 votes (last week). That’s sad,” she said.
Norman Epstein, Chambersburg Hospital president, estimates Wagner has volunteered more than 10,000 hours at the hospital since she began in 1949. Until recently, she refused to record the hours she gave to the hospital.
“She feels she needs to give,” Epstein said. “She doesn’t need to get in return.”
Wagner sees it differently.
“I really think I get back more than I give,” she said. “Sometimes you go in those rooms and you’re the only smile they see.”
50 Years Ago
May 21, 1970 – Wednesday
“Rotary Clubs Mark 50th Year”
A front page story in the Franklin Repository in 1920 heralded the founding of the Chambersburg Rotary Club. A brass band greeted dignitaries in government and industry, the Repository said.
Thursday night a band with more “swinging” notes greeted Rotarians as they met and celebrated their golden anniversary at Laird Hall on Wilson College campus.
The Chambersburg Area Senior High School stage band performed at the Laird Hall entrance for the members and guests during a social hour. About 200 Rotarians and guests later heard David Peacock, deputy Under Secretary of Com-
merce for the United States speak on inflation, population explosion, and directing young people toward the business community.
Peacock, discussing the turmoil on college campuses and demonstrations throughout the country, said “We owe a great debt to Spiro Agnew for what he has done.” He said that he was a staunch supporter of the vice-president.
“It gives me great concern that 90 percent of the noise is coming from 10 percent of the people,” the federal official said. Speaking to the business and professional men and their wives he said that the silent majority works hard to build schools, churches and businesses, “they are the backbone of the country.”
Peacock echoed the stance of Vice-President Agnew when he said, “the noisy majority is led by professionals in revolt. These people I refer to lack experience, they would like to destroy the system.
“Part of the trouble is that in this very rich, very affluent country, the young do not participate in making a living. They enjoy spending the money. Young people feel that the system is automatic. Dad brings home the money and that’s that.”
He told the gathering that the system could be improved, but should be allowed to function while those improvements were taking place.
Peacock pointed to some articles about the housing problems in New York City and steps tenants have taken to demand that the banks and government take over housing projects.
He also read an article on the Soviet Union where a communal farm was operated under the incentive system. Farmers on the incentive farms earned more than double the farmers who worked under the system, the article stated.
Peacock then said “If the United States cannot make it work and the Soviets could make it work in their way, it is becoming a sad state of affairs.”
On the subject of inflation and the reported threat of a recession, the deputy under secretary said, ‘Talk about a recession is exaggerated. This is a strong economy, this is a strong country.”
He said the Nixon anti-inflation measures were taking hold, and the rate of price increase has slowed down. Some effects, he said, can be seen. He admitted that it was a “painful process” for the country.
Peacock said that the future looked brighter and that estimates of the Gross National Product by the administration and Secretary of Commerce Maurice Stans were holding true.
He said that the increase in purchasing power through the cut in the federal surcharge tax and its eventual elimination on June 30 of this year, coupled with $3 billion in federal wages increases, increased social security payments, and tax laws to reduce liabilities for low income families outweighed the threat of a recession.
The Rotary meeting was dedicated to the late Horace A. Kottcamp, the first president of the local service club. Mrs. Kottcamp was the honored guest at the banquet.
District Governor David G. Nuzum presented the Rotarians with a plaque. Club President Robert S. Harrison Jr., introduced a number of local dignitaries and Rotary officials. Harrison also paid tribute to Charles E. Duffield for they songs he has written for Rotary. Duffield led the gathering in the singing of four of his Rotary songs.
President Judge George C. Eppinger, serving as toast-master, introduced Peacock to the audience.
100 Years Ago
May 21, 1920 – Friday
“Governmen moves to guide sugar to domestic users Washington”
As a means of aiding the government to control the distribution of sugar, representatives of importers and brokers in conference with department of justice officials today agreed to furnish the government with details of transactions and sales.
With this as a basis Assistant Attorney General Garvan said the department hoped to trace “every pound of sugar and seek means of directing it into channels where domestic consumers can get it.”
(The following information is taken from the “History Channel” on line – You can look for more information at this link: https://www.history.com/news/food-rationing-in-wartime-america )
World War I
Following nearly three years of intense combat since the onset of World War I, America’s allies in Europe were facing starvation. Farms had either been transformed into battlefields or had been left to languish as agricultural workers were forced into warfare, and disruptions in transportation made the distribution of imported food extremely challenging.
On August 10, 1917, shortly after the United States entered the war, the U.S. Food Administration was established to manage the wartime supply, conservation, distribution and transportation of food.Appointed head of the administration by President Woodrow Wilson, future-President Herbert Hoover developed a voluntary program that relied on Americans’ compassion and sense of patriotism to support the larger war effort.
In order to provide U.S. troops and allies with the sustenance required to maintain their strength and vitality, posters urging citizens to reduce their personal consumption of meat, wheat, fats and sugar were plastered throughout communities. Slogans such as “Food will win the war” compelled people to avoid wasting precious groceries and encouraged them to eat a multitude of fresh fruits and vegetables, which were too difficult to transport overseas. Likewise, promotions such as “Meatless Tuesdays” and “Wheatless Wednesdays” implored Americans to voluntarily modify their eating habits in order to increase shipments to the valiant soldiers defending our freedom.
To help families prepare meals without these former staples, local food boards were established to offer guidance, canning demonstrations and recipes with suitable replacements for the provisions that had become so limited. As a result of these conservation efforts, food shipments to Europe were doubled within a year, while consumption in America was reduced 15 percent between 1918 and 1919. Even after the war had ended, Hoover continued to organize shipments of food to the millions of people starving in central Europe as head of the American Relief Administration, earning him the nickname the “Great Humanitarian.”