LOCK HAVEN - Small towns aren't as boring as they might seem.
Want to learn about one small town with a lot of big history? Join Lou Bernard on his "Walk the Past" tour of Lock Haven.
Bernard, adult services coordinator at the Ross Library and native of the city. He guides walkers throughout the city of Lock Haven, giving them visual landmarks to go with his historical stories.
Lou Bernard, left, adult services coordinator and guide at the Ross Library, tells a story of a moved statue at Triangle Park in Lock Haven. Peggy Scott, right, of Lock Haven, enjoys the tours and takes them to learn more about the town. Her left pocket holds a pedometer used to measure her steps. Each walking tour participant receives a pedometer at the start of the tour.
Tour guide Lou Bernard, right, makes a stop on the Walk the Past tour of Lock Haven to tell the group about a past resident of this house. The man, a funeral director, accidentally fell down the stairs and died in his home after he was startled by a late-night knock at his door.
This neopolitan ice cream sandwich is part of the sidewalk in front of Fitness Unlimited on Main Street. The business it sits in front of used to be an ice cream shop. Many people walk by and never notice the treat embedded there.
Tours are held at 9 a.m. Fridays through July 27 and begin at the library, 232 W. Main St.
The walking tours are a continuation of a fitness program that Bernard was part of last year. He said they became popular and, when the fitness program ended, participants asked if the walking tours would continue the following summer.
Bernard is knowledgeable about the town's history and has heavily researched many aspects of it.
He said people have commented that connecting an actual historic site with the story that is told about it sometimes can be better than picking up a book.
The walks meander through various streets and districts of the city.
On a recent warm Friday morning, Bernard showed where a courthouse - a third, mind you - was to be built but never was. Back then, Lock Haven actually had two courthouses and one man wanted to build another one.
Bernard told a story about the Titanic and how a resident of Lock Haven actually was close friends with the captain of the cruise ship.
"You are walking on 100-year-old slate sidewalks, which still exist," he told the group.
High schoolers, mostly locals, who have taken the tours said they have become very interested in what has happened in their town, Bernard said.
"These walking tours, you can get a lot of things they didn't include in (history) classes," Bernard said.
Peggy Scott, formerly of Florida, said she did the walks last year and is doing them again.
"I have always found them fascinating. The history of Lock Haven is just interesting," she said. "I would have never thought that (history) existed here."
The walks also include local topics such as the first courthouse, town founder Jerry Church and the lumber industry.
Bernard said he added in many interesting things to really grab people's attention. For instance, in a future tour, walkers will learn about James Bacon, a famed writer and actor, who had parts in all five of the "Planet of the Apes" movies.
"He grew up just down the street," Bernard said, pointing out the window of the library. "People don't know that. They drive past his house every single day and they have no idea they have seen this guy on late night movie TV."
Bacon died in 2010 at the age of 96.
Participants also will hear about famous national stories that have a local connection, such as Helen Keller, Mark Twain and the 1953 Greece earthquake.
These little-known details make people wake up and take notice, Bernard said.
"(It's) a lot of interesting things you wouldn't hear about otherwise," he added.
During a recent tour, the Confer family of Mill Hall stood in front of Maria Molson's home. She was a black women who owned a lot of property and was a conductor on the Underground Railroad.
One of the Confers' young sons realized he had read a book about this woman in school. He was pretty excited to be able to connect Molson's life with an actual location not far from his own hometown.
The walks are educational and entertaining for anyone, regardless of whether they are local residents or tourists.
"(People) probably have walked by things like this day after day without knowing what it is, or what has been there," Bernard said.
The walks feature some Civil War history, too.
Bernard has showed walkers the house of William Mayer, a paymaster of the Navy during the Civil War. Mayer was a personal friend of Abe Lincoln, he said.
Unfortunately, Mayer's house, which was cattycorner from the library and had been known as the TKE house, recently was ravaged in an arson fire. The Lock Haven Express has reported that the house was to be razed but, as of early last week, it still was standing.
Among the former battlefields where the Gettysburg National Military Park now is, the only monument that has a dog on it is from the 11th Regiment of Pennsylvania. Young men from Lock Haven served in that regiment, Bernard said.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, and Bernard said the walk will share stories and events of the area's participation in the war.
All participants will be given a pedometer to track their mileage. The goal is that, by the end of the program, the walkers will have reached 318 miles - the distance from Lock Haven to Gettysburg and back.
"There is fascinating stuff out there, but it is not going to kick down the door and drag you away from the television set," Bernard said. "You do have to get out and make an effort to experience it and learn about it."
Leashed dogs are welcome on the walk and their mileage also counts.
For more information, call 570- 748-3321.