`HISTORY NUT' CHRONICLES UNION'S PAST
Published: Sunday, February 10, 2002
Guy DePasquale was a self-described ``history nut'' as he was growing up in Wyoming Valley. Anything about the past fascinated him.
But it wasn't until about two years ago that he really hit his stride. Around mid-2000 he realized that the deadline for the assignment he'd taken on - producing the program book for the 100th anniversary of Local 163 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in February 2001 - was bearing down on him.
Another person might have collapsed under the strain. But DePasquale discovered that not only was he good at compiling and writing history, but he enjoyed it as well.
``I just went nuts. But thank God the juices started flowing and I pieced everything together.''
What he produced for his union local's anniversary, in a year of furious activity, was a truly impressive and genealogically useful document. Eighty-eight pages long, the glossy-bound book describes the historical background and the step-by-step organization of the union a century ago.
That's not all, however. Have an ancestor who was an outside lineman or an electrician? The book offers lists of inspectors and other officers as well as biographies of former business agents and managers - beginning with his own great-grandfather, charter member Anthony F. Love Lynch.
It's got large photos of anniversary celebrations and work on major job sites, such as the Veterans Hospital, with good identifications. Wondering what the inside linemen used to earn? DePasquale gives you an historical chart of wages (87.5 cents per hour in 1921). The dangers early workers endured is suggested by a 1901 news story detailing the first
death on the job of a local member, an outside lineman killed by a falling pole.
Style abounds. DePasquale suggests the age of the local by scattering through the book plenty of old-time ads, using antique-looking borders and coloring some clippings yellow. Even great-grandfather Lynch's turn-of-the-century union card is there.
Technically, DePasquale of Penn Lake Park is an electrician and historian/curator of the Local 163 Historical Society, Wilkes-Barre, Inside Wireman-Electricians Union.
But he's also a man on a mission to make modern-day people aware of the struggles it took to organize and of the dedication of local labor pioneers, many of whose descendants live in the area today and might not know much about their ancestors.
``It (electrical work) was a brand-new trade,'' said DePasquale. ``The corporations didn't want you to be skilled. They wanted you to be a glorified laborer. So the unions formed to improve wages, safety and the like.''
DePasquale insists he doesn't do it all alone. He credits Local 103 Business Manager Joseph Capece, computer graphics partner Augie Ciulla, and research helper Carol Cipolari, from the international in Washington, D.C. - along with wife Natalie.
DePasquale's local union history work doesn't stop with his anniversary book. He's also compiled the first two volumes of his Pioneer Collection, writings by and information about great-grandfather Lynch and fellow local charter member Willard F. Barber. These notebooks not only describe the two men but offer, in their own words, the story of
the union's first three decades.
For the future he's planning a full-length book that will expand upon his 100th anniversary monograph and a 75th-anniversary commemoration of the State Electrical Workers Association.
``I'd also like to compile a biography book as well and - in my wildest dreams - a movie script based mostly on the old linemen and their struggles with a new trade,'' he said.
Whether he will find his future in Wyoming Valley is uncertain, though. DePasquale is looking forward to a move to Washington, D.C., soon, a move that he hopes will enable him to expand his research into union history through access to national sources.
But wherever that future lies, he says, his goal will never change: to make the people of today aware of their ancestors, ``the men whose mettle was tested and those who strove for the golden rule and golden principle - all for one and one for all, a union/brotherhood utopian ideal.''
The public can find DePasquale's anniversary book at the Osterhout Free Library and the Luzerne County Historical Society, both in Wilkes-Barre.
Local History Moment: Sometimes an old, faded sign can tell a lot about the past - to those who will look and remember (or ask). On the side of a brick building on Wilkes-Barre's Hazle Avenue there remains the inscription ``Huntzinger's 5 cents, 10 cents.'' Before there was a Kmart, an Ames or a Wal-Mart, communities had their
Woolworths, their Kirbys and their Kresges - downtown stores that sold bargain-priced goods from big self-service racks.
Then there were the individual entrepreneurs, such as the local Huntzinger family, running its own store to serve the people of the city's Rolling Mill Hill section for whom a streetcar trip downtown to buy fabrics, magazines or toys was an inconvenience, or an experience reserved for a special day.
In the now-dim past, everything in these stores really did cost just five or 10 cents, but eventually the expression ``five and dime'' or ``five and 10'' came to mean anything below department-store price levels. Huntzinger's has been gone for decades, but the sign remains, a signpost to another era and way of life.
News Notes: My second and last introduction to genealogy program for the winter season is set for the Wilkes-Barre Boscov's Department Store today from 1 to 3 p.m. It's free. Come on over to the store's fourth-floor auditorium for an afternoon of tips and conversation with your fellow local family historians. You can park in the South Franklin Street parkade and walk right into the store. I'll be repeating the sessions in the fall.
Congratulations to Webmaster Tammy Lamb, whose Luzerne County Genweb recently garnered high praise in Smart Computing, the online computer magazine. In an article titled ``Put Down Roots,'' appearing in the February issue, writer Kylee Dickey praises the local Genweb for its ``massive amounts of information'' and holds it up as an example
of what a Genweb site should be as she evaluates national sources of genealogical research material.
Genweb is a national network of localized Web sites containing genealogy information, query boards and other features.
The Genealogical Research Society of Northeastern Pennsylvania will sponsor part two of the beginners' workshop titled ``Genealogy A B C: How Do I Find Out All About Me?'' It is set for 7 to 9 p.m., Feb. 20, at the Community Room, Lackawanna Heritage Apartments, 211 Susquehanna Ave., Olyphant. The workshop is free and open to the
public. For additional information, call (570) 383-7661.
In a move that other states are looking at, New Jersey libraries have banded together to offer research services over the Internet. ``Twenty-six libraries in New Jersey split day and evening hours answering questions,'' says a recent wire story. ``Overnight duties are provided by LSSI, a library service provider based in Maryland.''
The service is limited to factual questions typed in by the person seeking information. ``And Pennsylvania libraries are trying to get their own together by midsummer, using the Free Library of Philadelphia as one of the research providers,'' the news story said.
State legislators in South Dakota recently refused to consider a proposed law that would have required newspapers to run free obituaries. The legislators' reason for rejecting the bill was that they did not believe they had any right to tell newspapers what to print.
But the controversy points to a fact that genealogists should be aware of. Though the Times Leader and many other papers print obituaries for free, some papers - especially those in larger cities - charge to print them. So if you can't find an obit for an ancestor, that might mean simply that the family didn't ante up for the article.
``Out on a Limb,'' the Times Leader's award-winning local genealogy column, appears every other Sunday. It is also accessible at www.timesleader.com and on the Luzerne County Genweb. Back columns are archived on the Genweb.
Contact Tom Mooney, Times Leader, 15 N. Main St., Wilkes-Barre, PA 18711. E-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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