LV engineer called “Slug” recalled in Sayre Quarterly

Lehigh Valley Railroad engineer William “Slug” Ryan was a power hitter on several local baseball teams and is remembered in the summer issue of the Sayre Historical Society Quarterly now available.

SAYRE — William “Slug” Ryan was an engineer on the Lehigh Valley Railroad, but it was his power-hitting exploits on the baseball diamond that earned him his colorful nickname.

Ryan is one of several subjects explored in the Summer issue of the Sayre Historical Society’s Quarterly history magazine.

Other items in the Summer Quarterly include a feature story and photographs of a 11-year-old Sayre girl who corresponded with a soldier during World War I, the Sayre High School Class of 1969, the 1969 yearbook dedication to former teacher Thomas Brown, a 1957 resolution honoring Dr. Donald Guthrie as “Sayre’s greatest man,” and a story on the discovery of unique union records in a Madison Street basement.

The Quarterly is published four times a year and is mailed to historical society members as part of their membership benefits. Individual copies are available at Carl’s News Stand in Sayre and the historical society museum located in the former Lehigh Valley Railroad Passenger Station in downtown Sayre. The museum is open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Wednesdays from 5 to 7. A rotating exhibit titled “Working on the Railroad: Sayre and the Lehigh Valley Railroad” is on display until September 4. Admission to the museum is free.

Ryan was a Sayre native who started working on the railroad as a sixteen-year-old, working his way up to engineer. He acquired the nickname “Slug” while playing baseball in the Valley following World War I, according to his August. 27, 1965 obituary in the Sayre Evening Times.

Ryan was called the “home run king” and legendarily hit a long ball into the pond at the old Coleman Field in Sayre. He played on the Ingersoll-Rand team, the Sayre Shops team and the Coleman Memorial team, according to his obituary. The 1915 Coleman team won the Bradford County Championship with a record of 21 wins and five losses.

Ryan was a private with the Engineer Corps of the U.S. Army during World War I and treasurer of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers in Sayre for 20 years, according to the obituary.

The story on 11-year-old Helen Champion was provided courtesy of Tim and Cindy Hill of St. Charles, Missouri who acquired the collection of World War I letters.

“When Helen was a child, she met a U.S. soldier on his way to the European Western Front to begin his journey in World War I,” according to Tim Hill, who inherited the letters from his mother, Liz Hill. “While we have great pride in these artifacts as part of the story of America, we cannot keep them from the Sayre community as this chance encounter between a child and soldier would not have happened if the Lehigh Valley Railroad had not had a train station in Sayre.”

The story includes excerpts from several of the letters, a photograph of the soldier (Sgt. Charles Kennedy), two picture postcards, and an envelope bearing the official censor mark of U.S. military.

In one of the letters, the soldier describes the city of Paris during the war.

“It seems so hard to realize that France is at war, if it wasn’t for the absence of men here,” Kennedy said. “About the only people you can see are old folks and children.”

Kennedy recounts the ocean voyage when they “fairly sneaked out of our port in the evening,” and were not allowed on deck “until we were safe from the curious public.”

Helen (Champion) Haflett was born June 22, 1907 in Athens, the daughter of Edmund M. and Amanda Armsbugle Champion. She lived in Sayre for most of her life, was a member of the Church of the Redeemer and passed away on May 18, 1977. She was married to John W. Haflett, who died on April 2, 1973.

The Sayre Class of 1969 is remembered on its 50th anniversary. The yearbook dedication to class advisor and biology teacher Thomas Brown is included recognizing the “time and energy he expends in completing his duties at SHS,” according to the yearbook dedication. The class photograph taken on the steps of Methodist Church is featured in the center section of the Quarterly. Class officers for the Class of 1969 were President, Joseph Ennis; Vice-President, Daniel Scanlin; Secretary Margaret Burkhart; Treasurer, William Cooper, and Historian, David Rich. Ellen Ganley was the yearbook editor.

In 1957, Sayre Borough honored Sayre physician and hospital administrator Dr. Donald Guthrie by renaming the streets surrounding Howard Elmer Park as Guthrie Square.

According to the resolution, Guthrie was recognized for his “untiring and unstinted devotion to the welfare of humanity, his civic contributions, his benefactions, and his kindly interest in all people, particularly those with whom he has lived as neighbor and friend.”

An article that appeared in the January 11, 1910 issue of the Towanda Daily Review, recounts the board of trustees meeting of the Robert Packer Hospital where Dr. Guthrie was formally approved as surgeon-in-chief of the hospital. The meeting was expected to be contentious but the article stated the meeting was “largely attended and very harmonious.”

The discovery of union records was made by the Harry, Maureen and Brian Howland of Sayre who are renovating a Madison Street, Sayre residence. Nine boxes of records were discovered ranging in date from 1947 to 1968 from Sayre Lodge No. 578 of the Brotherhood of Railway and Steamship Clerks, Freight Handlers, Express and Station Employees.

Several of the documents include the name of Warren S. Parke, who was a local union chairman, and who at one time lived in the Madison Street home. The records include railroad employee rosters, sick leave requests, furloughs and company bulletins. The treasure trove of records is currently being processed at the historical society.

The Sayre Historical Society is a non-profit organization staffed by volunteers and a recipient of funding from the Bradford County United Way and the Bradford County Tourism Promotion Agency.

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