The following questions were asked recently on the Wonderline:
Q: Is it legal for someone to push all the snow from their driveway into a city street in York?
A: No. Section 34-41 of the municipal code says it is unlawful for any person to deposit or pile snow removed from private property onto any sidewalk, street or alley.
Q: When was the old swimming pool in York taken out of service?
A: The old swimming pool at Harrison Park was taken out of service at the end of the summer of 2003.
Q: I remember a few years ago, there was a story in the newspaper about how one summer, long ago, there were so many grasshoppers in York County that piles of them were burned on the courthouse square, in York. Can you possibly find that story again, because I was telling somebody about it at work and they didn’t believe me.
A: As crazy as it may sounds, according to local history books, it is true.
The story is in the publication called “Old Settlers History of York County.”
The old, historical book says that “in the latter part of July, 1873, the early settlers were visited by a new and unlooked for calamity of grasshoppers. In the afternoon of a hot day, July 20, a mysterious cloud appeared in the northern horizon and all were wondering what it was. Until suddenly the awful cloud of grasshoppers covered the country, so thick at times that the sun was darkened, and all gardens and green vegetation was soon devoured. Much of the small grain was in the shock and mostly saved, to the great comfort of the pioneer settlers.
“The grain that was standing was soon ruined. The grasshoppers would bite the straw off just below the head; after they had done all the damage they could, they tilled the ground with eggs and left. The next spring the eggs began hatching and the settlers were filled with alarm for the coming crops, and every device imaginable was made for catching young grasshoppers. A petition was filed with the County Board of Supervisors, asking them to take measures to exterminate the young grasshoppers.
“The county board met in special session on April 25, 1877, and Book No. 1, page 470, detailed the proceedings.
“After deliberating upon the subject, a resolution was adopted. All persons in the county were called up on to turn out and kill and destroy grasshoppers. All grasshoppers caught and killed within the limits of the several road districts in the county were to be delivered to the respective road supervisors. The supervisors each gave out receipts, stating the amount of grasshoppers, when and by whom they were delivered. The supervisors received grasshoppers every Friday afternoon.
“The Village of York was at that time liberal, patriotic and interested in the prosperity of the county as a whole, and procured devices for catching grasshoppers and used them in the town and county, catching great quantities of grasshoppers and piling them upon the courthouse square in great piles and burning them free of charge. Mr. H.C. Kleinschmidt tells us he has seen grasshopper piles on the public square nearly four feet high when they were small, and that a bushel of young grasshoppers would make more than a hundred bushels of grown grasshoppers, that one grasshopper egg would have hatched out five or six young grasshoppers,” the history book reads.
There was also a passage in the historical account that suggested the county paid so much per bushel of grasshoppers – but the account was a bit confusing so we couldn’t really tell just how much they went for.
Q: I saw a news snippet in which they showed a picture of the place where the original U.S. Constitution is displayed. I’m curious as to how the document has been so well preserved all these years.
A: Since 1952, the Constitution has been on display in the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C. Currently, all four pages are displayed behind protective glass framed with titanium. To preserve the parchment’s quality, the cases contain argon gas and are kept at 67 degrees with a relative humidity of 40 percent. It is displayed under dim lighting, to prevent fading as much as possible.
Q: Why are there gun salutes at military funerals? And when someone has been killed in action . . . when they present the internment flag to the family, they say something very specific to them – what exactly do they say as they present the flag to the family?
A: The tradition of the gun salute comes from an old battlefield custom. The two warring sides would cease hostilities to clear their dead from the battlefield and the firing of the volleys of shots meant the dead had been properly tended to.
As far as the presentation of the flag, the military presenters say, “On behalf of the President of the United States, the United States (Army, Marine Corps, Navy or Air Force), and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service.”
Q: Why is it that old barns were always painted red?
A: According to the Farmers’ Almanac, “red was a popular color for barns, not due to its color shade but rather for its usefulness.
“Many years ago, choices for paints, sealers and other building materials did not exist. Farmers had to be resourceful in finding or making a paint that would protect and seal the wood on their barns. More than 100 years ago, many farmers would seal their barns with linseed oil, which is an orange-colored oil derived from the seeds of the flax plant.
“To this oil, they would add a variety of things, most often milk and lime, but also ferrous oxide, or rust. Rust was plentiful on farms and because it killed fungi and mosses that might grow on barns, it was very effective as a sealant. It turned the mixture red in color.
“When paint became more available, many people chose red paint for their barns in honor of the tradition.”