Small Town U.S.A.
Bloomsburg has always been near and dear to me for many reasons. For one, I was born and pretty much raised here, moving only across the river during my earlier school years. After attending Bloomsburg University, I was fortunate to find employment with the Pennsylvania Downtown Center, a nonprofit organization now located in Harrisburg. The organization promoted the revitalization of Pennsylvania’s downtowns and I began to realize and appreciate the wonderful town I live in. Several years later, I was asked to serve on the board of directors for Downtown Bloomsburg Inc. This was an opportunity for me to give back to the community I was lucky to grow up in.
As a child I remember visiting Santa at the Candy Cane Cottage on Main Street, and as a parent I now take my own child. There are so many exciting events for children, adults and students continuously going on in Bloomsburg. From the front door of where I work, Bloomsburg University, I can walk downtown and grab lunch, shop, conduct business, visit my dentist, worship and have somewhere to go for entertainment without having to travel a distance.
Times have changed, but Bloomsburg still has the charm, excitement and energy it had when I was small. I admit, I still slow down and admire the beautiful fountain right in the heart of Main Street. It is a sight to see, especially at night.
Bloomsburg is Small Town USA, and I don’t see myself leaving anytime soon.
— Jennifer Williams ’90, Office of the President
Home, Harmony and Belonging
When I first moved to Bloomsburg from Texas in 1972, both the college and town seemed so foreign to me. Now, over four decades later, Bloomsburg itself and the BU community have become like family to me. I have witnessed many changes on both fronts but as I grow older I have come to believe in a common theme – that the sense of home, harmony and belonging in the world do not happen in a vacuum. Instead there is an intrinsic tie between the welfare of the community and society at large.
From this belief stems my active participation in our community. Since my retirement from the university in 1996, I have not only served as a board and advisory member in various community organizations but also currently volunteer in our church activities, deliver food as part of the Meals on Wheels program and pick up trash as part of the litter crew in our community.
Because of my background in the sociology of aging and interest in emerging aging issues both locally and globally, I have recently begun focusing on how to improve the lives of our senior citizens. In order to help seniors live healthy and productive lives, I have begun a program under the Columbia/Montour Aging Office called Let Seniors Stay Active, which draws attention to eating right, moving (literally) and to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. At the youthful age of 83, I hope to demonstrate the benefits of physical exercise, regardless of age.
— Chang Shub Roh, Professor Emeritus
(Shown with faculty emeritus James Pomfret, right)
My Favorite Things
The square and fountain at Market and Main, Steph’s Subs, attending the Fair, taking in the view of Carver Hall from the foot of the hill, browsing campus to see the changes, the monumental improvements to Sutliff Hall, the Town Park, the view from Danny Hale Field (name another place where you can see a game and a view like that at the same time), reconnecting with old Bloomsburg friends, attending events like Homecoming and being surprised by seeing someone from my era that I have not seen in a very long time, organizing old friends to participate in alumni events.
—Joe Hilgar ’75
An Expansion of Heart
Some of my most formative years happened while living in Bloomsburg. This was not just because of my experience with the university but also the life of small town, in which existed a diversely populated college. Between the two, there often seemed to be balance and understanding, regardless of what the students managed to get themselves into!
I will never forget working on the new playground in town in which the university and town intermixed. Growing up in a small town myself, this experience and the maturing that had taken place while living in Bloomsburg, magnified the composition of the world. It was the diversity that began to take shape within me that has helped me to become more understanding, tolerant, empathetic, and so many other gifts that were nurtured during my time living in Bloomsburg.
It always had that small-town feel, and still does from what I can tell when I return; but at the same time, I know it was the place that began an expansion of my heart to the globalized world in which we live. Who would have thought — in small-town Pennsylvania! Yet, it did and my hope is that it continues to help form young people to see and think critically, while maintaining differences. With the presence of the university, I believe it allows the town to remain young and vibrant and to ever expand into the melting pot it was when I was there!
— Martin Nocchi ’94
It’s Where I Live
The Bloomsburg University campus is an exceptional place. On top of College Hill, the Carver Hall clock tower is a beacon of intellectual enlightenment, open mindedness and diversity; shunning ignorance and embracing acceptance.
While I always enjoy being on campus throughout the week, what truly makes BU a unique place is the town. I’ve lived downtown for the majority of my four years at college and I can safely say that it’s not just a place I stay during the semester; I’ve built a life here. I can walk down Main Street from campus blindfolded and tell you what businesses we’re passing on the way. I’m on a first-name basis with at least one waiter at La Fontana, Balzano’s and Applebee’s and I am probably responsible for singlehandedly putting a decent dent in their rent payments. Although I may roll my eyes when Larry at the laundromat tells me his life story or the cashier at Weis tells me for the 30th time that I look like an actor from Glee, the truth is I cherish every minute of it. This town has left an indelible mark on me and I couldn’t be happier with having spent the best four years of my life here.
—CJ Shultz ’13
I grew up in West Hazleton and graduated from Bloomsburg University in 1990. A few years afterward I took my wife to the fair for her first-ever visit to Bloomsburg. She grew up in San Francisco, Huntsville and San Antonio, then went to school with 35,000+ students at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. When we walked through lower campus in under 10 minutes she laughed at how small it was. We continued to walk downtown to the fairgrounds. With each passing block I noticed a change in her expression.
She was soaking it all in and enjoying it. She was impressed with how clean the town was and how nice people were. Everything you could need is in walking distance. The fair actually reinforced that impression and we ended up coming back for the fair 15 straight years until the horrific flood in 2011. Due to family illness we could not make it in 2012, but it is already on our 2013 agenda. The protests of last year’s cancelled fair and resilience of this year’s rebuilding is a sign of community strength that can only be experienced first-hand.
I will never understand what she was expecting, but her first exposure and subsequent visits reinforced all the great things that I had known all along but had taken for granted. And that is why I love Bloomsburg.
—John M. Makara ’90, Member of Alumni Board of Directors 2012-2013
I first arrived to Bloomsburg in 2007 as a BU student, and from day one both the campus and the town fascinated me. Of course at first everything was new and exciting because I was coming from a different country, and it felt like I was living the “American Dream.” But soon I started meeting people and getting involved in the university and town life, and everything felt perfect.
I moved off campus my second year, and at the local businesses on Main Street I found what today are my beautiful group of friends in Bloomsburg. Phillips Emporium, Karen’s Candy Barrel, Bella Donna, VanDyke’s, Top Drawer, Ready Go Burrito, Legendary Comics, College Hill, Prana Juice Bar… they’re all a big part of my life in Bloomsburg. And now that I can call myself a local, I found my second home at the Moose Exchange, where I work as a director of film services at Box of Light Studio. I even write about movies and film events in Bloomsburg for Examiner.com as a local examiner.
I treasure all my friends and memories from Bloomsburg University and town and, like me, I know a lot of foreign alumni who keep Bloomsburg very close to their hearts from far away, all over the world. It is a charming, beautiful, active little town, full of wonderful people and unique spots.
—Julia Camara-Calvo ’09
Great Place to Raise Children
When our family moved from Virginia more than 20 years ago, our son had not yet turned 1 and our daughter had just turned 3. We were new to the area and we were not sure what the Bloomsburg community had to offer a young family.
We found that the area had numerous preschools and day care centers to choose from, varying from traditional preschools like Magic Carpet and the YMCA to day care centers such as Columbia Child Development and University Day Care Center. We were able to tailor our children’s day care and preschool attendance to meet the needs of our family.
Our children participated in the Story Time at the Bloomsburg Town Library. The Children’s Museum next to the YMCA is a “must see” for area families. The Bloomsburg Area YMCA has numerous family friendly activities.
The Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble has a Christmas program each holiday season in addition to the summer production geared specifically to children. We have many happy memories of watching The Christmas Story and A Christmas Carol.
Bloomsburg has a wonderful park with tennis courts, walking paths, a youth baseball complex, a skateboard park, the town pool, basketball courts and a band shell for weekly concerts held in the summer. And who can forget the Fourth of July fireworks; the Catawissa Military band plays to a glorious fireworks display.
There is always something for families to do in Bloomsburg. The diversity of indoor and outdoor activities provides the opportunity to be active and meet new friends. Bloomsburg has been a great place to raise our children!
—Karen Hicks, Payroll Coordinator
Your Own Town
Bloomsburg is small: small enough to invite getting involved; small enough that Public Works will come check out your streetlight or water the newly planted trees. Its sidewalks and alleys invite you to wander, to make the whole town your own. Peonies lolling by fences, the scent of mimosas blooming, and bent old timers planting tomatoes beside their driveways—maybe a swing by my own plot at the community garden, where my chard has sprouted and my peas are getting ready: that’s a good Bloomsburg walk.
Kids walk too: to school by themselves, but then after school they can explore on their own—maybe just the neighborhood or the park at first, but then pockets of semi-wild greenery, the library, downtown, enjoying a kind of rambling, autonomous discovery that has been scheduled and zoned out of existence in many places.
But Bloomsburg’s big enough to be a real town: downtown’s a real downtown. Its economic base is broad: Milco but also the university; Autoneum but also Bernardi and Kawneer and Speer’s Kitchen and the county seat, among others. It’s difficult to find that kind of class and occupational diversity in a place so small.
And we have a newspaper! A daily! Yes, many a Press Enterprise editorial makes me mad—not to mention 30 Seconds—but the Press Enterprise publishes my letters, too, and people read them. It tells people about each other and reminds me, as I read it with my coffee every morning, that I am part of a community.
—Cristina Mathews, Associate Professor, English
This big small town or small big town,
Has a flavor all its own.
The “locals” and “the college crowd”:
From all the seeds are sown.
And that’s what makes this place unique
The people and the place,
The families, friends, and memories,
Still through one’s heart do race.
The streets and parks and downtown shops,
The churches and Market Square,
The trees and flowers, restaurants, too,
And, yes, the Bloomsburg Fair,
The Farmers Market and swimming pool,
The Renaissance Jamboree,
The parades and celebrations,
Make this the place to be.
What’s not to love about this place,
America at its best?
And, neighbors all pitch in to help,
When rivers bring the test.
Bloomsburg lives on no matter what
A hearty group of folk.
They all stand strong and faithful,
Just like a mighty oak.
But why I really love Bloomsburg,
This special place in life,
Because it is where God blessed me
With my lovely wife.
—Eric Koetteritz ’75
A Warm Embrace
Bloomsburg may be Pennsylvania’s only town, but she is a second mother to me. She nourished me during my prenatal years. Catholic school (St. Columba) and public school (Central Columbia) were crucial formative stages, my first two trimesters. They prepared me well for a spurt of maturation. A necessary infrastructure was laid as scaffolding for later growth (higher education).
During my third trimester (Bloomsburg University), the proliferation of learning felt more like metastasis. I sought ways to stop the surge, but it pushed outward. So I learned to love it; cherish it. I accepted continual cultivation as the key to its control and could even result in my coming of age.
Then, she forced me out of her warm, swaddling comfort before I was quite ready. A late bloomer, two degrees did not effectuate my educational needs. As any infant, I had all the necessities for postnatal life. However, the limbs of my intellect needed further nurturing and my responsibility needed real-world stress to strengthen.
Yet, the foundation was solid. Since my earliest memory, my parents have guided me toward good. From school to school, my educators became new role models to emulate. These, the greatest gifts in my life, are all wrapped in Bloomsburg’s warm embrace. She even played matchmaker for the meeting of my wife. She always welcomes me home, but reminds me to find more time for her in my busy schedule.
—Luke Haile ’05/’08M (Shown with son, Samuel)
I think the thing I like the most about Bloomsburg is the simple beauty of the town as the seasons change each year. In my career as a journalist I traveled throughout North America and the Caribbean. The natural beauty of places such as the British Virgin Islands, northern California, Cabo San Lucas, and the strength of American cities – Washington, D.C., New York, Chicago, Boston, Miami, San Francisco, San Diego, New Orleans – all have their attraction.
But I’ve always looked forward to returning to Bloomsburg to see the trees and shrubs as they bloomed in the spring around houses with Easter decorations on the doors. To witness the spring greens gradually turning to dark forest shades as days get longer and warmer.
To see kids as they hurry to Fishing Creek carrying their inner tubes for long, lazy treks downstream on overheated summer afternoons. To watch high school students busily painting on the downtown business windows with spooky scenes of Halloween haunts and the glowing colors of the trees slowly shedding their leaves. To be enveloped in the first snowfall of the season and hear the profound quiet during an evening walk down a frosted Market Street.
The scenery changes. Each new thing has its own attraction. All will arrive and pass. And each will come back again to Bloomsburg.
—Tim Pelton, Coordinator, Civic Engagement
Lovely and Lively
Bloomsburg has the best small town-university town combination. We love the folks that keep our town lovely and lively: Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble, The Moose Exchange, as well as Brennan’s Big Chill, Balzano’s, the Bloom Diner and so many more.
—Toni Bell, Associate Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry
Bloomsburg is a classic American town and a great place to raise a family. The people are friendly and everyone seems to know each other, whether it is through church, the Children’s Museum, the university, or one of the civic organizations in town.
We enjoy taking our daughters to the town park to play on the slides and swings during nice weather or to listen to music on Wednesday evenings during the summer Concert in the Park series. We also keep our girls busy by taking them to the playgroup that meets at the Bloomsburg Sportsplex in the old Walmart building. Our neighborhood is safe and we are not worried about allowing our girls to play in our backyard.
We enjoy eating at downtown restaurants such as Steph’s Subs, Nap’s Pizza, Balzano’s, Rose Marie’s, Brennan’s Ice Cream Shop and La Fontana. These restaurants all provide friendly customer service and care about their food and customers. We also enjoy the productions at the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble at the Alvina Krause Theatre.
The most unique and enjoyable things about Bloomsburg are the community events, such as the annual Renaissance Jamboree in the spring and the annual Cake and Ice Cream Festival in late summer. The town recently came together to build a playground for toddlers and is currently raising money for a new Kidsburg at the Town Park. It is refreshing to see the town of Bloomsburg come together and enjoy these events.
—Neil Strine, Associate Professor, Political Science
One florist. Two tattoo parlors. Three banks. Four churches. The post office, the Regional Technology Center, the Columbia County Courthouse and more pizza and hoagie shops than I can count. These are just some of the places I pass during lunchtime walks in Bloomsburg.
After a dozen years, my walking buddy and I know the route by heart: College Hill, East Street, Fifth Street, Market Street, Main Street and back up the hill to campus. We see the seasons change as we pass family homes and student rentals, restaurants and bars. We slip into the thrift shop and recycled clothing store looking for bargains. We stop at the farmers market on the Square for cherry tomatoes and kale and admire the formal attire in the bridal shop’s window.
Walking in Bloomsburg is good for the body and clears the mind. It can be as vigorous as any walker wishes or a casual stroll when conversation about families and day-to-day events takes over. On this path, we have lost a few pounds, worn out a few pairs of athletic shoes and nurtured a great friendship. Judging by the number of people we pass along our route each day, we aren’t the only ones.
—Bonnie Martin, Editor, Bloomsburg: The University Magazine
I am from Lock Haven, born and raised. Bloomsburg and Lock Haven are facsimiles of one another. It was a very easy transition to attend there for four years. What is great about each community is really simple:
• Quality education
• People who smile
• People who laugh
• Great place to live and educate
Pretty simple stuff.
—Rob Emert ’83
I came to Bloomsburg a hick from a small town. After four years and two summers, I left with the foundations to become a pre-medicine physics teacher. The town gave me an opportunity to make money to stay in school. Taught me about how to contribute to a town and share the fun of living in a town. I am what I am today because of this town and college (now university).
—Donald G. Franklin ’65