His­to­rian fin­ishes fi­nal book

Ge­orge Meiser con­cludes book se­ries

The Boyertown Area Times - - OLEY SENTINEL - By Har­ri­son Otto hotto@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com

Eighty-year-old his­to­rian Ge­orge Meiser of Ex­eter Town­ship plans to put an end to his ca­reer as an au­thor fol­low­ing the pub­li­ca­tion of his 24th and fi­nal vol­ume of “The Pass­ing Scene” — his con­tin­u­ing book se­ries that shows Berks County his­tory through old and rare pho­to­graphs.

“I’m old and noth­ing goes on for­ever,” said Meiser. “I’ve reached a point where I have so many pho­to­graphs, files, and books not put back where they be­long. I spend half my time look­ing for things, and it’s gonna get worse be­fore it gets bet­ter.”

“The Pass­ing Scene” came out of a se­ries in the Read­ing Ea­gle that he wrote when work­ing for the news­pa­per from 1977 to 1984. Even­tu­ally, Meiser turned the se­ries into books, and re­leased the first of­fi­cial vol­ume of The Pass­ing Scene in 1982. The lat­est vol­ume in­cludes 320 fully re­stored pho­tos, in­clud­ing many from Boy­er­town, Kutz­town, Ham­burg, and Read­ing from the turn of the 20th Cen­tury.

How­ever as a 55-year mem­ber of the His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety of Berks County and for­mer his­tory teacher, he has been col­lect­ing in­for­ma­tion and pic­tures con­cern­ing lo­cal his­tory since the 1950’s.

“I get in­for­ma­tion wher­ever I can get it. I have 28,000 pho­to­graphs at home and have been col­lect­ing news­pa­pers for years. I also read mi­cro­film, so when­ever I come across a pic­ture, I’ll type it out and put it in a file,” he said.

Meiser also started pho­tog­ra­phy at age nine, which he notes as one of his great­est ad­van­tages. Since then, he has com­piled thou­sands of pho­tos from around Berks County — many he has taken him­self.

“When peo­ple look at an old pic­ture, they want to know whether it still ex­ists. And if not, what hap­pened to it, and when. They also want to know ex­actly where it is lo­cated.”

He men­tions that much of his time how­ever is spent gath­er­ing data from all over the county, restor­ing pho­tos, trav­el­ing to sites, and check­ing on names and dates in or­der to give as many de­tails as pos­si­ble in his books.

“The big deal about the ‘Pass­ing Scene’ books is that when­ever pos­si­ble, I give ex­act lo­ca­tions, when it was built, when it dis­ap­peared, what­ever is on the site to­day,” he said. “The fo­cus of each books is what I can lay my hands on that is his­tor­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant and rare.”

Al­though Meiser may be done writ­ing, his fo­cus still re­mains on pre­serv­ing the his­tory of Berks County be­fore it is pos­si­bly lost for­ever.

“My big con­cern has al­ways been to save it while I could. If I don’t pre­serve the pho­tos, then they won’t get pre­served. There is no one fol­low­ing af­ter me, which is pretty scary,” he said. “But my legacy, I hope, will be to make pho­tos avail­able that would be un­avail­able any­where else.”

Copies of “The Pass­ing Scene” Vol. 24 are avail­able at the front of­fice of the Read­ing Ea­gle Co., 345 Penn Street, Read­ing.

COUR­TESY OF GE­ORGE MEISER

Ex­eter Twp.’s An­ti­etam Farms Barn, Sycamore Drive, (page 187) one of the finest barns in Pa.

COUR­TESY OF GE­ORGE MEISER

Lit­tle Oley Ho­tel, dat­ing from 1841

HAR­RI­SON OTTO — FOR DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Lo­cal his­to­rian and au­thor Ge­orge Meiser has re­cently fin­si­hed the fi­nal vol­ume of his book se­ries, “The Pass­ing Scene.”

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