The adventure below is the latest in a series sharing my quest to explore Pennsylvania by visiting each of the sixty-seven county seats and eating a hot dog while in town.
Jeff and I continued our quest into Berks County and the city of Reading. Berks county was formed March 11, 1752 from Lancaster, Philadelphia and Chester Counties. It is named after William Penn’s home county Berkshire in England. Reading was settled mostly by Germans and during the industrial revolution was built on coal, railroads and heavy industry. Unfortunately, for Reading all three of those economic building blocks collapsed leaving Reading in a difficult position. In 2011 PBS Newshour reported that Reading was officially the poorest city in the Nation with 49% of the inhabitants living under the poverty line. The city has been attempting to turn the economic struggles around.
Our GPS eventually took us right to Johnny’s and Hon’s Bar and Grill; The place Where the Big Dogs Hang. We walked into a busy “L” shaped space. To the right was the short leg of the “L” which was the game room. The bar was to the left lined with stools of different color and design covers. The booths where situated along the long leg of the “L” past the game room. I explained our purpose and the bartender/cook asked me, “Is this the first place you can drink in?” It took me awhile to go back in my memory to Danville and The Pub II where I had my first hot dog on this quest to remember a place I could have a hot dog and a beer.
Neither of the bartenders wanted their photo taken but suggested I see the blonde at the back of the bar who had been here for thirty years. So, I walked passed the bar to the back of the place looking for an “older” person. Instead, I found Linda stirring a crock pot full of chili. She laughed easily when I expressed my surprise and exclaimed, “Yes, I am the reason for the child labor laws.” Linda and I hit it off right away. She shared with me that her uncles bought the place from Johnny and Hon (the original owner’s first names) thirty years before and she had been here ever since. The game room had once been a barber shop. Local lore has it that the barber used to come over to the bar for a drink when he didn’t have customers. If you came for a haircut near the end of the day it is said that you didn’t get a very good cut! Linda was excited about being included in the blog and I am thrilled that we met.
We left the friendly confines of the bar and grill to continue our exploration of Reading. We got misdirected once and were traveling down a one way street the wrong way. Reading has lots of one way streets. Eventually we found the courthouse, parked illegally and got the photo. Our next destination was the Pagoda sitting on Mt. Penn 620 feet above Reading. This seven story structures is visible from almost everywhere in Reading. The obvious question is, “Why is there a Japanese Pagoda overlooking this town full of Germans?
Well, the answer is, in 1908 William A. Whitman decided to build a luxury resort on Mt. Penn. The center piece of this resort was going to be a Pagoda. He completed the Pagoda in 1910 but could not get a liquor license and sold the place never opening it to the public. In 1911 Jonathan and Julia Mould sold the Pagoda to the city of Reading for one dollar. It is the only pagoda in the world with a fireplace and chimney. The bell on the seventh floor was cast in Japan and shipped to Reading by way of the Panama Canal. Every year on Christmas Eve the Pagoda’s lights flash to let the children know Santa is on the way. The restaurant on the first floor is open on Saturday and Sunday. Yes, Berks hot dogs (The company has been based in Reading since 1933) are on the menu along with other sandwiches and an assortment of locally brewed beers.
The Duryea Hill Climb in June and Pagoda Hill Climb in August are two events known together as The Reading Hill Climbs. When I was dating My Jane her roommate’s boyfriend (now spouse) owned a Formula V race car (he parked the car in his living room). We got to watch Ed race his car on Duryea Road up Mt. Penn to The Pagoda back in the dark ages before cell phones and digital photography and computers. Oh my, I think I need a nap.
Jeff and I didn’t use our GPS to reach the Pagoda. We just keep the car pointed in the direction of the building on the mountain. We only found ourselves going the wrong way on a one way street once on this leg of our journey.
After our visit to the Pagoda we found our way through Reading around construction and avoiding one way streets the wrong way until we were safely heading back to Lebanon. Jeff and I both must have behaved because we didn’t almost get thrown out of any place we visited. We discussed this fact on the way to Lebanon and came to the conclusion that we where simply getting older! Oh my, I think I need another nap.
See you next time.