My cousin Claire Stiglitz once related the story of a cross-burning across the street from our grandparents’ home in Bethlehem PA; her father Herbie Battalen had told her of the incident. Recently I turned to www.Newspapers.com to see if I could find anything about this event. To my frustration, nothing has turned up – yet. Meanwhile, I did find two small items that concerned our family.
The first incident, on January 6, 1923, involved “nine-year old Herbie.” He “coasted” into the side of an automobile driven by a police detective and was hospitalized with a possible skull fracture and a banged-up face. The article doesn’t say what he was coasting on, but given the time of year, it might well have been a sled.
In 1923 Herbie (b. 1916) was not nine years old, he would have been seven. However, his brother Jesse was born in 1914 and would have been nine years old in 1923. I think we all know that newspapers do not always print accurate information, so this error is not surprising.
The second incident involves my grandfather, Louis Battalen. There are two articles; the first refers to him as Louis Battalino of 1011 Spring Street, but the follow-up article gets the name “Battalen” correct.
At 6:00 p.m. on October 9, 1923, Louis got off a trolley at the intersection of Columbia Avenue and West Broad Street and started to cross the street. He was hit in the left leg by one Edward Knauss, driving a delivery truck. Knauss was charged with “…driving his truck past a trolley car while discharging passengers and pleaded guilty;” he was fined ten dollars and court costs.
The brief article includes some interesting details: Knauss lived in Allentown and had a load of potatoes he’d picked up at a farm at Hecktown (love that name). After being struck, Louis was taken “…to the office of Dr. V. J. Gangewere…” where he was treated and sent home. Knauss was taken to the police station where he made bail. We also get the information that Louis was an engraver employed by L.F. Grammes and Son, Inc.
So, it’s likely that our grandmother Fannie twice that year had the experience of getting a knock on the door that must have sent her heart racing. Luckily, everyone survived, apparently intact.
By the way, the newspapers of the time were full of articles about the Ku Klux Klan, cross burnings, shootings, gatherings on mountain tops, intimidations and even their social events.
The research into the cross-burning incident continues.
 January 6, 1923. Young Coaster Crashes into Detective’s Car. The MorningCall, p. 4
 October 9, 1923. Allentown Truck Hits Pedestrian. The Morning Call, p. 5
 October 10, 1923. Allentown Truck Driver Fined in Police Court. The Morning Call, p. 4.
 October 9, 1923. Op cit.