Garage mosaic

The front of garage near Marticville is decorated with century-old mosaic.

Dear Dr. Scribblerglass:

Can you discover the history of the intriguing mosaic building with photos under glass on Route 324 on the way to Marticville?

Nancy Johnson

Lancaster Township

Dear Nancy:

About 90 years ago, George Johnson took up an unusual hobby. The Lancaster city man surrounded cement blocks with molded material and inserted postcards, dollar bills and pictures of presidents to the fronts of the molds. He surrounded these objects with bright fragments of glass or ceramics. Then he covered the cement blocks with molten glass.

In summer 1958, Johnson gave many of these blocks to James Booth. Booth used them to build the facing of a garage on Route 324. Over the years, the glass covering has preserved practically everything from the weather. Thieves have broken through the glass to remove money.

To view this curiosity, drive south from New Danville toward Marticville on Route 324. The garage is located at 269 Marticville Road. It’s private property, so please look and leave.

Dear Dr. Scribblerbrain:

A recent LNP article discussed using Osage oranges as part of floral displays.

Years ago, we called them “hedge apples,” at least in Lebanon and Dauphin counties. I’ve wondered if this moniker accompanied those things in Lancaster County. And, no, if you tried to eat one of those things once, you did not try a second time!

Karl E. Moyer


Dear Karl:

Technically, hedge apples are the round, green, heavy, wrinkly, baseball-sized fruit of the Osage orange tree, although a lot of people call the fruit itself Osage oranges as well. Some folks call the fruit “monkey brains.”

If a falling hedge apple hits you on the head this autumn, you might wind up with the equivalent of monkey brains.

Osage orange trees originated in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, home of the Osage Indians. The thorny trees were planted as living fences before the invention of barbed wire.

You are correct, Karl, that hedge apples are inedible; but they “stink good,” as some folks might say, and don’t look so ugly when mixed with flowers.

Dear Dr. Scribblerplane:

My mom was a riveter on a plane tail section during World War II. She lived in St. Michael, but my father was in the Army so she moved to Lancaster to do her part. She passed away last month at the age of 94, and we have her name on a plaque at the Yankee Air Museum in Ypsilanti, Michigan. They have a large area devoted to Rosie the Riverters.

I am trying to find out what kind of planes were made at this plant (one of those questions I should have asked).

Janice Goodwin

Phoenix, Arizona

Dear Janice:

The simple answer to your question, Janice, is that no planes were made at the Armstrong plant.

A more detailed answer is that substantial parts of at least four planes were made.

During World War II, workers in Armstrong's Munitions Division — many of them women — made tail sections, wing tips, stabilizers, rudders, cockpit sections, fuselage and other airplane parts.

James W. Grove, production manager of Aircraft Operations at Armstrong from 1942 to 1946, kept scrapbooks of articles from newspapers and magazines describing this work.

According to Grove’s scrapbooks, held at LancasterHistory, Armstrong made parts for at least three planes: the Navy’s Martin Mariner amphibious long-range patrol bomber; the Navy and Marine Vought F4U-1 Corsair fighter plane; and the Army’s B26 Marauder.

A separate news item from the Jan. 4, 1944, Lancaster New Era reports Armstrong also made parts for the Navy’s Curtiss Seagull.

Retired Armstrong executive Eugene Moore, author of “How Armstrong Floored America,” says all parts manufactured here were assembled as planes elsewhere in the United States.

Jack Brubaker, retired from the LNP staff, writes “The Scribbler” column every Wednesday. He welcomes comments and contributions at