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By Rebecca Price Janney, Jul 12 2017 08:10PM

Easton's Heritage Day weekend is always special for me, but this last one will linger in my memory for a very long time. I'll give you reasons for both.


Back in 1976 to celebrate the Bicentennial, Easton put on quite a celebration. After all, this town was one of the first three in the new nation to have a public reading of the Declaration of Independence--along with Trenton and Philadelphia. The bands played, flags waved, and fireworks soared into the nighttime sky. The following year was much quieter, which prompted my mom to write a letter to the editor of the then-Easton Express to suggest we should have a similar festival every year. While I don’t know for sure her letter is the actual reason we have a Heritage Day, I believe her ardor contributed to the present commemoration. Thanks Mom! You were a true Patriot in so many ways.


Easton has observed an annual Heritage Day since the late 1970s on the Sunday closest to July 8th, the date Robert Levers read the Declaration of Independence to the villagers on the Courthouse steps. My beloved ancestor, Colonel Peter Kichline (one of two main characters in my Easton Series), led his regiment to the Great Square in a display of patriotism amidst shouts of “Hip hip huzzah!”


For the past few years, my husband has portrayed the Colonel, and myself and our son as his wife and son, in a parade from the Bachmann Publick House on Second Street to the “Circle” where our good friend, Christopher Black, skillfully plays Levers before enthusiastic crowds. Needless to say, my heart swells as I stand there hearing those words read, and I often feel tears coming on at the end when we all pledge “our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”


This past weekend was even more amazing for me than usual. On Saturday morning I participated in the 265th birthday of the Easton Farmers’ Market at the invitation of another dear friend, Paul Strikwerda. There I spoke about, and signed, copies of my brand new book, Easton in the Valley. The weather was gorgeous, and I so enjoyed meeting many people who came by to see me.


In the evening I had the honor of participating in a book launch sponsored by the Sigal Museum/Northampton County Historical and Genealogical Society at the 1753 Bachmann Public House. Fellow authors Jeff Finegan and Richard Hope joined me there as we spoke about our books and welcomed a sell-out crowd of well-wishers and book lovers. What fun I had greeting friends from nearly every part of my life in that historic place! I even ran into my former German professor and his wife from Lafayette College! Thank you, Carey Birgel, for making the evening such a success.


Sunday morning dawned much more comfortably than any Heritage Day I’ve ever known, and I scurried with a friend and my family to the interfaith service at Riverside Park. The town criers called us into the outdoor amphitheater, and the Rev. Michael Dowd of the First U.C.C. gave a stirring sermon. From there, I mingled with Heritage Day festival-goers, then marched in the noontime parade. At the end I ran into several of my DAR friends, including Carrie Ballek and Tracy Dejonge. Having lunch at the Sigal Museum with many new and old friends was a special treat, followed by some time in the historic First U.C.C., which served as a hospital during the Revolution. Although I was too tired to stay for the parade which include the famous Clydesdale horses, I came home with a truckload of happy thoughts and touching memories. I don’t think I’ve stopped smiling since!






Celebrating Easton Farmers' Market's 265th and Easton in the Valley
Celebrating Easton Farmers' Market's 265th and Easton in the Valley
Book Launch at the Bachmann Publick House
Book Launch at the Bachmann Publick House
With Sarah, Tracy, Carrie (DAR friends) and the Colonel
With Sarah, Tracy, Carrie (DAR friends) and the Colonel

By Rebecca Price Janney, Dec 15 2016 03:15PM

What was your favorite sweet shop when you were a girl or boy? Where was it located? I’d love to know all about this special place and what your mouth always watered for there.


When Erin Miles returns to her hometown of Easton, Pennsylvania in my novel, Easton at the Forks, reminiscences of her youth flood her spirit as she drives through Center Square. However, it’s the Carmelcorn Shop that fills her with the sweetest memories.


“She recalled hot dog lunches at Woolworth’s and sweet treats from the Carmelcorn Shop with its surgary aromas that pulled her inside and forced open her relatives’ wallets.”


Naturally, Erin decides to stop and get her son a treat. After visiting my dad in the hospital late last week, I also stopped by the Carmelcorn Shop, to purchase Christmas stocking stuffers for Scott and David—shhhh! Oh, how I love that quaint little store nestled in the corner of Center Square—or “the Circle” as my family called it when I was a girl—in a row of sturdy but quaint, very early 19th century buildings. Actually, Easton historian Richard Hope says portions of the structure very possibly date from as early as the Revolutionary War period. In 1931 John and Ruth Doherty opened The Carmelcorn Shop there, and my parents had fond memories of happy times spent inside choosing what to buy. Of course, they couldn’t afford much, growing up during the Depression. I can imagine my mother as a small child, walking with her family across the Northampton Street Bridge to services at the German Reformed Church, passing by the shop, visions of the shop’s sugar plums dancing in their heads.


A generation later, I would beg to go there when my mom and grandmother took me shopping, craving the store’s signature carmelcorn, letting the sweetness melt on my tongue before crunching into the popcorn. My mom loved the freshly-roasted nuts in the display cases on the left of the narrow shop, but I would wander through the stacks of bagged candies on the right and at the back. At Christmastime, the shopkeepers would bring out their famous barley sugar candy shaped liked toys and houses and, oddly, a hand, which remains my personal favorite. They also sold ribbon candy, coal buckets, rock candy, fudge, and a rainbow of licorice flavors—I liked the chocolate best.


In 1977 when Sia Bassil was a high school student, she found out the Dohertys were hiring, and she got the job. She was so hard working and dedicated the owners apprenticed her, teaching her to make homemade fudge and varieties of nut brittles, eventually entrusting their business to her while they spent more time in Florida. The Dohertys decided to sell the shop in the mid-1980s, but Bassil wasn’t in a position to purchase it. She did continue working intermittently for the new owner, Richard Baskin, while she raised her own family. In 1996 Bassil and her husband bought the Carmelcorn Shop. Over the years she has become as beloved a figure in Easton as the shop itself. It’s hard to imagine anyone else running the place, except she recently announced she’s looking for a buyer, making it clear to a reporter, however, she wouldn’t sell to just anyone. The new person needs to be as devoted to the historic candy and nut store as she is.


If you go to Easton, do yourself a big favor and treat yourself to a visit to the Carmelcorn Shop. When I was there last week, I told Sia Bassil and her son, “I’ve been coming in here since I was this high,” and I lowered my hand to indicate a small child’s height. He said, smiling, “You’re about the millionth person to come in and say that.”





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