This week in Lehigh Valley history: Eagles start penultimate camp at Lehigh in 2011; locals at ‘96 Olympics bombing (July 25-31)

Lehigh Valley Then is a weekly series that recalls historical headlines from affiliate The Express-Times and its predecessors from 10, 25, 50 and 100 years ago. These stories were pulled from microfilm at the Easton Area Public Library. The original text is edited for clarity and length.

This week in Lehigh Valley history: In 2011, the Philadelphia Eagles head to Lehigh University for the team’s annual training camp — a relief to local businesses worried about a league lockout. (No one knew that the following year’s camp would be the team’s last in the Lehigh Valley.)

In 1996, a pipe bomb goes off at the summer Olympics in Atlanta, and athletes, sportswriters and volunteer security guards at the Games from the Lehigh Valley shared their reactions.

In 1971, STEM didn’t mean science, technology, engineering and math; it was part of an anti-shoplifting campaign across Pennsylvania, previewed by local retailers.

And in 1921, a group of canal boat veterans relive the days of the Delaware & Lehigh Canal, taking a boat from Mauch Chunk (now Jim Thorpe) down to Bristol on the shores of the Delaware River.

This was the Lehigh Valley then.

10 YEARS AGO: Eagles land at Lehigh camp

Lehigh Valley Then July 26, 2011

The front page of The Express-Times on July 26, 2011, told of local business' relief as an NFL lockout ended and the Philadelphia Eagles returned to Lehigh University for the team's annual training camp. It was unknown at the time that it would be one of the Eagles' last camps in the Lehigh Valley. (Inset photo: Sue Beyer | For microfilm via the Easton Area Public Library

July 26, 2011: The anxiety is over for Philadelphia Eagles fans in the Lehigh Valley looking for a preseason glimpse of the team training in their backyard.

It’s also over for businesses in Bethlehem and beyond that for years have counted on the team’s annual training camp to help bring in the crowds in late July and August.

… The team will report to Lehigh (University) on Wednesday … and Eagles coach Andy Reid is expected to address the media at 5 p.m. that day, the team announced.

The announcement came just hours after the NFL Players Association executive board and 32 team representatives voted unanimously to approve the terms of a deal to end the four-and-a-half-month lockout.

… Having the NFL lockout end and training camp begin could mean a difference of $15,000 to $20,000 in the bottom line for Starters Riverport, [restaurant manager Rich Stine] said.

“Training camp is Christmas in July and August here,” Stine said.

25 YEARS AGO: Atlanta Olympic bombing

Lehigh Valley Then July 28 and 31, 1996

Headlines throughout the Express-Times on July 28 and 31, 1996, included accounts from Lehigh Valley athletes, volunteer security guards and sportswriters of the pipe-bomb explosion at the Olympics in Atlanta.Express-Times microfilm via the Easton Area Public Library

July 28, 1996: Shortly after the bombing, local Olympians competing in the summer games offered their reactions in a front-page story headlined “Locally, reactions to Atlanta blast range from anger to concern to fear”:

Robert Dover, who resides part time in Lebanon Township, is competing in his fourth Olympics in equestrian’s dressage. …

“I’ve not been to an Olympics yet that the word terrorism hasn’t come into play,” Dover said. “Ever since Munich, this has been a factor. I don’t let it affect me; I try to stay focused on the reason I’m here and avoid allowing any of my energy to go to anything negative.

“This is my way of not letting terrorism win,” Dover added. …

Trexlertown’s Marty Northstein was another athlete who concentrated on his event. He reached today’s gold-medal final in cycling’s match sprint. …

“It’s a shame what happened and my heart goes out to everyone,” said Nothstein, who is staying at a home near the Olympic velodrome at Stone Mountain Park, about 15 miles east of Atlanta. “But I’m here to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games and no matter what, I don’t think anything is going to stop me.”

  • July 28, 1996: The bombing also rattled sportswriters, whose stories became personal. One focused on Sports Illustrated writer Jack McCallum, of Hanover Township, who immediately went to check on his 19-year-old son Jamie, who was working the Games as an SI photo assistant. Below, Express-Times sportswriter Corky Blake wrote about his first-hand experience in a column headlined “When cheers turned to fears at the Games”:

A homemade bomb blowing a hole in the heart of the Centennial Olympic Games not once entered my mind as I departed downtown Atlanta about 11:30 p.m. Friday night.

After covering Trexlertown’s Marty Nothstein in cycling’s match sprint late Friday morning at Stone Mountain Park, I made my maiden voyage into Atlanta.

… I wanted to spend the rest of the day experiencing the splendor, pageantry and commercialism that is the Atlanta Olympics.

… My plan slowly evaporated as I became swept up in the sea of humanity filling every street and pavilion within a five-block radius of the Centennial Olympic Park, site of Friday night’s blast.

… Driving to Atlanta on Saturday morning, it was appropriately raining. Radio reports said the Main Press Center was closed and hundreds of reporters were out on the street. Checking for bombs was the unconfirmed reason.

… The way things were going … I considered staying on Route 285 and driving straight out of Georgia.

The thought stayed with me for just a second. I have a responsibility not only as a journalist to stay with the story but also as a citizen.

We cannot be scared into submission by this act of terrorism. As FBI special agent Woody Johnson said Saturday at a press briefing, “in a free society, there is a trade-off.”

In this case, the trade-off was to open the Olympic Park to everyone. No security checks, though there were plenty of security police walking the grounds. No barbed wire fences.

If my schedule was a little different, I might have been one of those still strolling around the Olympic Park in the wee hours.

I walked past the bomb site many times Friday. It’s just across the street from the Main Press Center.

Today, that ugly light and sound tower is a major tourist attraction. Swarms of visitors stopped at the corner of Harris and Williams streets, about a block away, to snap photos of that tower.

… Judging by the tremendous crowds that filled the venues Saturday and are expected again today, terrorism is a monster that may have ruined a party but it hasn’t controlled the Games.

  • July 31, 1996: Volunteer security guards from the Lehigh Valley spoke to The Express-Times following the bombing, as investigators and media identified fellow guard Richard Jewell as a suspect (Jewell was never charged). That story was headlined “Guard from area sees bomb’s effect”:

Teacher Lori Spaziani — all 5 feet of her — went to Atlanta to be a volunteer security guard.

In the back of her mind, she had a notion something bad could happen.

“Because I was going as a security officer and I’m all of 5 foot, I tended to think what would I do if something happened,” she said. “But I didn’t really think that it would happen and I would be there.”

But she was there — off duty, enjoying a concert in Centennial Olympic Park — when a pipe-bomb exploded, killing a woman and injuring 111 people.

“It really sounded more like firecrackers,” she said. “It didn’t sound like a major explosion. It was just loud enough to make you jump. It just seems so far-fetched that that’s what that would be.”

It seems far-fetched also that a security guard — reportedly a paid member of a separate force — could be a suspect in the case.

But federal authorities on Tuesday named guard Richard Jewell as a suspect.

… Dennis O’Connell, of Easton, a teacher at West Morris Central High School in New Jersey, also is working security at the Games.

“There’s not so much annoyance as there is disgust that this guy is connected with the program,” he said Tuesday from the Olympics.

50 YEARS AGO: Stop the stealing

Lehigh Valley Then July 31, 1971

The front page of The Easton Express on July 30, 1971, included this story and photo about a statewide anti-shoplifting campaign previewed by Lehigh Valley merchants.Express-Times microfilm via the Easton Area Public Library

July 31, 1971: “Shoplifting is stealing!”

This hard-hitting slogan will be seen and heard on billboards, posters, television, radio and in newspapers this fall when a state-wide anti-shoplifting campaign begins Sept. 15.

Members of merchant groups in Easton, Allentown and Bethlehem screened the advertising campaign at a meeting in Hotel Bethlehem yesterday.

The Pennsylvania Retailers Association is sponsoring the program under the name STEM — Shoplifters Take Everybody’s Money.

… “Shoplifting is the first step on the road to a life of crime,” [Easton Police Chief John Mazzeo] commented.

100 YEARS AGO: Trip down memory canal

Lehigh Valley Then July 30, 1921

The front page of The Easton Express on July 30, 1921, includes this short story about some canal boat veterans taking another excursion down the Delaware & Lehigh Canal.Express-Times microfilm via the Easton Area Public Library

July 30, 1921: Seven veterans of the inland waterways, headed by Edward Mulhearn, now [illegible] of the Carbon county bar but in former days a canal boatman, arrived [in Bristol, Bucks County] today from Mauch Chunk [now Jim Thorpe], via the Lehigh canal on a barge bearing the legend “1886-1921” the former indicating the year in which the senior member of the party to the canals and locks.

They were met by a reception committee. …

The veterans of the water courses left Mauch Chunk … taking turns in driving their mule along the canal as they had done in youth. They will remain here until next [week], when the return trip will be started.


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