Volume Five  Issue Four  May 2020
The History Center on Main Street
 83 and 61 North Main Street
Mansfield, PA
The Museum of Us
In the Year of the Pandemic
The History Center on Main Street
Director- Joyce M. Tice: President - Deb Talbot Bastian: V.P - Kathy McQuaid
It was fifty years ago that the Pennsylvania State Store opened in Mansfield after many decades as a dry town. It has been closed since March because of the state shutdown during the coronavirus pandemic. Tomorrow, May 8, Tioga County will be opening up on a limited basis. Virus cases in the county have been low compared to many areas, so some rural counties are the first to see changes. The liquor store will be open for curbside pickup. Get your order in and get in line. The line on the last day it was open in March went from the counter to the back of the store, back up the aisle and out the front door. Personally, I think I can wait a while for the lines to shorten.
Liquor Store Opens in Mansfield 1970 and 2020
Mansfield engages in borough’s most “spirited” debate 50 years-ago this spring.
by Steve McCloskey

For some Mansfield residents, Governor Wolf’s ordering the closure of all the State Stores in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on March 17, as a preventive measure in limiting the spread of COVID-19 virus, was fifty years too late.

The Governor’s executive order effectively prohibited the selling of packaged liquor in Mansfield, a course of action that escaped a dogged group of 16 area residents who appeared before Tioga County Judge Charles G. Webb during a hearing in Common Pleas Court the morning of April 8, 1970.

The hearing was the final showdown in a community-wide debate that had raged since Mayor Ernie Vosburg informed borough council at their February 3, meeting that he had been informed by three State Liquor Control Board officials that a State Store was imminent for the borough.

Those three officials had visited Mansfield two months earlier to conduct an informal survey of community and business leaders after the agency had reportedly received numerous requests for a State Store from area residents. Those residents complained they had to travel to Blossburg, Wellsboro or Troy to purchase legal spirts and wines. The officials also reported that the Chamber of Commerce and most business owners were receptive.

It would seem the State Liquor Control guys may have missed a few folks in their survey. Mansfield had a long history as a dry, and moral, community.
Well before the advent of social media, letters-to-the editor were the most popular and effective way to express one’s opinion. Judging by the volume and intensity – although civil by today’s standards - of anti-State Store letters posted in the Mansfield Advertiser and the State Gazette, there was substantial and passionate opposition. The Advertiser, in its near final days of local ownership, penned an editorial strongly opposed to the sale of liquor in the borough.

Many of the writers of those letters were opposed to a State Store on religious and moral grounds, historical tradition or just plain frustrated that they had little or no choice in the matter. By Pennsylvania law, the State Liquor Control had the authority to legally establish a store in any community that had an expressed interest unless there was overwhelming opposition.

The Star-Gazette of Elmira conducted an informal survey and reported that proponents of the establishment of a State Store outnumber those opposed. Another questionnaire was circulated to 100 borough residents as part of a survey class at the college that also showed a majority approved of the establishment a State Store.

Word leaked out that the State Liquor Control Board was in negotiation with the newly built Mansfield Plaza to construct a store connecting to the almost finished Super Duper. That news prompted 16 residents, most of them married couples, who lived within ¼ mile of the site to present a petition disallowing the store in their neighborhood.

The evening before the hearing date in Wellsboro, Mayor Vosburg – who was in favor of the State Store but had no vote on council – asked the borough council to go on record and vote if they approved or disapproved of the establishment. Council complied to the Mayor’s request by giving its unanimous approval to the proposed establishment of a State Store.

The next morning, Judge Webb opened the hearing by explicitly informing both sides that this issue to be determined was not if Mansfield should by wet or dry – the judge claimed he was personally one of the driest of the dry in Tioga County - but only why the store should be prohibited from opening at the location in the plaza. Despite his best efforts, he proved less than successful in limiting the scope of the debate.

When first filed, the petition consisted of three reasons for rejection of the plaza property that included the proximity to a church, school and private residences and previous elections that expressed the will of the residents in opposition of the sale of liquor.

The third original reason that was dropped prior to the hearing is perhaps more revealing in a town and gown community – the student population is more than the population of Mansfield.

The revised rational centered on the site’s nearness to a church which was represented by the pastor of the Seventh Day Adventist Church located on the corner of North Main and Elmira that now houses the History Center's Museum of Us. He spoke about his concerns of increased traffic on Saturdays, their day of Sabbath. He was also worried about people drinking as they walked by the church.

The second issue presented was residents’ concerns that children would have to walk past the store on the way to and home from school. Finally, the original concern about the college population was replaced by concern of the proximity of Prospect Cemetery, a “sacred place”, and the location of the store.
 After two hours of testimony, including a number of people stating they were against the State Store no matter where the location on moral and religious grounds, the counsel for both groups presented their final arguments.
The Liquor Control Board, represented by an assistant state attorney, carried the day arguing there were plenty of established State Stores located much closer to churches in other locations throughout the Commonwealth. The state also insisted the Plaza parking lot provided a long buffer between the store and the sidewalk.

Their final argument buried the opposition when the state stated that “it would be impossible for the State Store to have any effect on the residents of the cemetery.”

Judge Webb concurred and the case – if not the debate – was finally over.
The Mansfield State Store opened for business later that year – ironically the first customer was from Wellsboro.

While were waiting for the return of normalcy, get out and take a walk from the State Store in the Plaza to the History Center's Museum of Us, and see if indeed it’s within a quarter-mile.

 I’ll drink to that.
Our new journal that we send to members has been very popular. Our intent remains to produce four to six issues a year. We've been on our intended schedule, but with the closure of Mansfield University Print Shop, we may not be able to print again until August or so. We'll be ready to print when the shop opens.

Copies of the journal are available to non-members for $10 each or two for $15.
Upcoming Events
Because of the Covid-19 pandemic we have cancelled all events and art classes. We will resume that activity when we can.

For the past several years, we have hosted several high school reunions each year. We have not heard any plans for this summer, and we expect that classes are having a hard time making decisions about if and when. Let us know when plans are made.

We will be open at The Museum of Us on a limited basis for the summer. We do not expect a lot of visitors given the hesitance to travel. We have lots of space for the volunteers to keep their social distance.
The Women's March on Washington 2017
The Museum of Us - New Exhibit

Deb Rotella of Mansfield has put together an exhibit in our museum commemorating the January 2017 march on Washington. Her exhibit includes photos of local people who participated as well as artifacts and voice QR codes that let us hear the voices of the participants telling their story.

Deb has encountered a number of hurdles in getting this together, not the least of which is - again - the closing of the MU print shop before her planned materials had been printed. Also, her planned reception is delayed because of the necessary social distancing. We will do a video interview and presentation with Deb to be included in a future newsletter.
Why do we ask for donations in every newsletter? Because we have to.
It's the only way we can continue offering our important services to the community.
Your help will make it possible.
Membership Supported Non-Profit
Annual memberships are an important part of keeping us operating. Please consider a new or renewed membership.

Membership entitles you to receive our printed journal, Voices From the Archives. This 40 page publication will be produced 4 to 6 times a year with articles of our local history, businesses, and people.

Many thanks to our members.
Thank You to Our Gold Level Sponsors
Law Offices of Larry Mansfield
First Citizens Community Bank
Mansfield Auxiliary Corporation
Tri-County Rural Electric Cooperative, Inc.
Thank You to Our Silver Level Sponsors
Strohecker Vision
Elite Therapy
Mansfield University Foundation
Dandy Mini Marts
The History Center on Main Street
The History Center on Main Street provided no goods or services in exchange for your contribution. Your contribution is deductible to the extent provided by law. The official registration and financial information of The History Center on Main Street, may be obtained from the Pennsylvania Department of State by calling toll free, within Pennsylvania, 1-800-732-0999. Registration does not imply endorsement