2022 MEMORIES OF LEE SCHLIECHER
My grandfather John Schleicher, immigrated from Wiemar, Germany to the United States in 1863 at the age of 20 during the American Civil War. John Schleicher had to forswear allegiance to the German Duke of Eisenbach before he could receive American citizenship. I visited German, near Wurtzburg Castle, to research his family history. Unfortunately, it was a Saturday and the records office was closed. Heidi Brubaker, a neighbor, who spoke German later faxed a request for information. The reply was that there were so many churches in the area that a search was impractical. The Schleicher family is generational Lutherans and member of St. Paul’s Lutheran church.
My grandfather was employed as a gardener by Joshua Hunt, who lived at Second and Bridge Streets. The location eventually became the site of the National Bank of Catasauqua. On the grounds of the bank, John planted oak saplings. He lived 70 years after the planting and saw the saplings grow into tall trees. Following the death of Joshua Hunt, John was employed by the Thomas Iron Works and later by D. George Dery. The Dery house still stands at the corner of Fifth and Pine Streets. Before his retirement John was also employed as watchman at the Bryden Horse Shoe Works on Front Street, which eventually became Phoenix Manufacturing. He continued to garden on his home property until dying at the age of 91.
Leonard Peckitt, president of the Crane Iron Works, had a St. Bernard dog. My father John Schleicher, Jr., played with the dog. A picture of the dog still hangs in the Brubaker Funeral Home at Third and Walnut Streets. According to John Brubaker there is also a picture of Mrs. Peckitt. Our daughter was awarded the Peckitt Scholarship for college in the 1980’s. Lincoln High School burned in 1941. My father, John Jr., was a carpenter and helped to rebuild the school. He was the last carpenter laid off. During the rebuilding some classes were held in the Taylor School building on Second Street and for high school students went to St. Paul’s Church.
I still live in the same house in Catasauqua to which I was born and raised. The house was built in 1869. My mother was a Kraus. The 99th Kraus family reunion was held on July 25, 2010. When I was a child, the house had a coal stove in the kitchen. It was gas (UGI) and coal. During the winter the coal side of the range was used for baking and heating the first floor and parlor. There was no heat upstairs, only heavy comforters. There was a small gas heater in the bathroom to warm it for taking baths. My father turned this into an apartment for relatives in the 1930’s.
Because the indoor range burned very hot, during the summer my mother cooked on a range on an outdoor enclosed porch. The outdoor stove also had what was called a dryer. It was about 18 inches wide and 24 inches long. It had a place to put water in. Corn, beans and apples were dried in it. It would take a lot of wood to keep the fire going. I didn’t like chopping wood but it was one of the jobs and I had to do.
The Schleicher family’s coal bin was in the middle part of the cellar. The coal bin for the apartment was in the front of the cellar so they would order coal, two tons at a time. The Schleicher’s had to carry the coal back to their bin in baskets. When I was old enough, carrying the coal became one of my jobs. I did it until 1954 when I went into the army at 18 years old. The coal man would have carried the coal back for $.50 more per ton but father wouldn’t have it done. He said he would do it again himself. He was 65 years old at the time. They talked to their neighbor, Dr. Baker, his driveway ran along the side of our house. The coal man was then able to enter the driveway and pour the coal right into the bin and solved the problem of carrying coal. Central heating was installed in the house in 1962.
I graduated from Catasauqua High School in 1953. After graduation from High school, George Haines asked me if I wanted to work on the PBNE(Philadelphia, Bethlehem and New England) railroad. I was under 21 years of age so I was on the maintenance of way section gang. In October of 1953 I went into the Army and returned from the Army in October of 1955. I returned to the PBNE railroad as a brakeman. One conductor said to the younger men, “I don’t know how you younger ones will make it on $10,000 a year.” I did look into building plots on the land where the new Catasauqua High School now stands. The cost was $500 for a plot of land.
My wife, Carolyn Snyder Schleicher, also had two uncles working on the railroad. I remember the old Pine Street Bridge. He says that if a steam locomotive passed when a person was walking across the bridge the steam went up their pants legs. Sometimes the trains were pulled by two steam engines.
I was on the railroad until the recession of May of 1960. After working odd jobs for four years, in January of 1964 I started a job at the Lehigh Valley Dairy as route salesman in wholesale. After a time several routes were cut and I went into the cottage cheese department until January of 1989 when the dairy closed. I returned to the PBNE railroad. I took engineer training and was an engineer until November 24, 1995 when the Bethlehem Steel closed.
During World War II in 1944, I along with other students from other county schools collected tin cans for the war effort. I won the $5.00 first prize twice for collecting cans during the war. The total number of cans collected in Catasauqua was 34, 377 according to an April 1944 edition of the Morning Call newspaper. Nearly 15 tons of cans were sent from Lehigh County to detinning plants.
I collected the cans in a crate scooter I made myself from orange crates. They were about three feet long and very strong. I took apart an old roller skate so I would have two parts. I would nail or screw them to the bottom of the board with the box on top. I then made some kind of handle and had a box scooter. I would also push my scooter out to the A.B.E. (Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton) airport. There had been some strong storms in the south and they flew the fighter planes to A.B.E. At the end of the war people were walking around Catasauqua waving flags, beating pans and yelling that the war was over.
I was downtown one day after WWII (about 1946) walking past William’s Hardware Store. A truck was unloading brand new refrigerators. I just stood there amazed at seeing those three big boxes being unloaded. There were no appliances made during the war years. That evening at dinner I told my parents what I had seen downtown. Nothing was said but the next day there was a brand new refrigerator in their kitchen. It had a small ice compartment for ice cubes or a half gallon of ice cream. The old ice box was gone and there was no more ice men coming to the house.
I started doing errands for George Haines at the age of 9. I shoveled snow, walked the dog and did other errands as requested. I was paid $1.00 a week. I did the same for Mrs. Ritter who lived at Fourth and Pine Streets. Another job I did was help Burkholder put in an asphalt driveway at the funeral home (now Brubaker Funeral Home). Burkholder wanted to pave his driveway. There were many men out of work so he hired a lot of men to dig down about four inches by hand because there was no backhoe yet. I would go down in the morning and work with the men and in the afternoon go to the Catasauqua pool. I helped with the driveway because I wanted to earn enough money that summer to buy my first electric train. I needed $22.50 to buy a Lionel train.
Burkholder was also one of the first people in Catasauqua to have a television set. He would put chairs on the porch so people could watch baseball games. There was an Ice Cream parlor at 1034 Third Street that did the same thing.
My Uncle Charles was the first to portray Uncle Sam in the Firemen’s Association parade as a patriotic act. He also dressed as Uncle Sam for Allentown’s 100,000 Population Jubilee parade. A time came when Charles could no longer walk in the parade due to problem with his legs. He built a horse and set it in a car. He sat on the horse as Uncle Sam. When Charles no longer used the horse it was displayed at the King George Inn at the corner of Cedar Crest and Hamilton Boulevards in Allentown.
My Uncle George followed Charles in portraying Uncle Sam in the Firemen’s parade from 1932 to 1938. When George Schleicher died his wife buried the Uncle Sam garb with him. George Schleicher was a painter by trade and pushed his ladders around town on a cart. During the flood of 1940 the high flood waters were causing the house by the lock to move. George put his ladder across the lock and got the people’s clothes from the house.
My wife Carolyn and I have been beekeepers for 44 years. The Beekeepers Association attended by over 60 people awarded Carolyn and me an honorable lifetime membership in the Beekeepers Association in 2004. I still give talks on beekeeping at the Catasauqua Playground to young people. I keep up with beekeeping and now have 45 years experience. I say I still have a lot to learn.
My wife and I were the last people in Catasauqua to keep chickens. I would buy pullets about 12 weeks old and just about ready to lay eggs. One year I bought pullets and a couple of weeks later on a Friday night I was going to get the older chickens ready for Saturday butchering. When I went into the coop to collect the old chickens all the pullets were gone. The only good part on the old chickens was the legs. The rest was fat because they were about five years old. We gave up the chickens in 1967 when chicken feed got too expensive.
I received awards for service to young people. In 1984 I was awarded the top scouting award. The Minsi Trail Council Scouters presented me with scouting’s Silver Beaver Award. I also received the four Chaplains Award for all I have done to help boys. Finally on July 14, 1998 the Lamb Award was given to me by St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church for my many services to the church and the Boy Scouts of America.