Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

Reading Stretches From Peanuts to Pagoda

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READING, PA – Like prime real estate, Reading’s major attractions are location, location, location.

As an industrial center, it forged its place in history as a major player in the formation of this nation and a source of Conestoga wagons that played a vital role in the drive to develop the West.

Its geographic position in the shoulder of Mount Penn on the banks of the Schuylkill River is an hour’s drive or less from the fecund and food‑filled Lancaster County, capital of Amish country; the glitter and gourmet seafood of Atlantic City and the New Jersey shore, the historic sites of Valley Forge and Gettysburg, and Independence Hall, the cradle of our constitution in Philadelphia.

This manufacturing city designed in 1748 by William Penn’s sons, Thomas and Richard, is to outlet shopping what Bethlehem is to Christendom. It brags that it’s the Outlet Capital of the World, citing the opening of its first manufacturer’s outlet surplus sales shop more than half a century ago.

“America’s Oldest Brewery” is just up the road in Pottsville, the boyhood home of author John O’Hara, where the Yuengling family has been fermenting barley and hops at the foot of the Appalachian Trail since 1829.

This cozy complex that opened in the early 1700s as a food stop for muleskinners hauling barges along the Schuylkill River Canal System is still home to the ghosts of at least one of the owners, an owner’s mistress, a Revolutionary War soldier and a young girl who died of a respiratory ailment.

“We’ve had waitresses who’ve seen these ghosts and think they’re customers,” we were told.

A network of riverside walking and bicycle trails links the heart of this city of 80,000 with the countryside and much of its history. Donald Linderman, a nearby resident pedaling with a local group through a covered bridge leading to a former wagon works transformed into a museum, informed the group why there are no windows on covered bridges.

“They were built to get horse‑drawn wagons across the river and horses get skittish when they see anything moving under them. There are no windows so horses wouldn’t see the water rushing under them.”

After that lesson, it was time for a stop at downtown’s best‑known watering hole and power‑lunch stop ‑‑ Jimmie Kramer’s Peanut Bar. First‑timers tend to shuck peanut shells back into the bowl on their table. “Throw ’em on the floor,” sang out our server.

Before leaving this seat of Berks County, we headed up Mount Penn to the Pagoda on Skyline Drive for a semi-bird’s-eye view of this food- and fun-filled historic corner of our world.

Written by Cecil Scaglione

October 23, 2021 at 5:00 am

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