York Town Square

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York County history books tout native-born workers. But does not diversity strengthen communities?

The New Year’s cigar ceremony signaled the importance of cigarmaking in Red Lion’s past. The last cigar factory operating in Red Lion – and York County – closed earlier this year. Also of interest: Cigarmaking Red Lion on top of York County and Kaltreider Library draws name from noted Red Lion cigarmaker and York County cigars: ‘They contained a vast amount of nicotine’ and Part I: Red Lion, Pa., cigar factory goes on the block, Booger Hollow Stogies and all .

A conversation with a York County thought leader about 10 years ago has always stuck with me.
If you could achieve a community in which everyone looked alike, thought alike and had the same interests, would that community be as strong as it could be and a desirable place to live?
He went on to answer his own question… .

Tracks run down the side of the Red Lion Municipal Building to allow for the New Year’s Eve cigar drop. Interestingly, the municipal building is the former Harry Haines Porto Rico Cigar Co.
No, because such a community might not be accepting of new ideas. It would be out of touch with the world, which no longer looks and operates that way. But most importantly, he said, such a community would be all the poorer for losing the pleasure derived from knowing and interacting with people who are different.
I thought about that conversation when coming across a sentence in a Red Lion history book, published in 1980:

“The laborers in the cigar factories of Red Lion were all native America.”

“That meant workers were locally born and raised,” I wrote in a York Sunday News column (7/17/11).
“The implication of these words was that no post-World War I immigrants, say whites from eastern Europe or blacks from the rural South, were there to weaken the work ethic shown by the largely German Red Lion population.
“And it reinforced the erroneous thinking that a town without diversity is all the stronger for it.”
I pointed out, too, that Red Lion was not alone in such thinking.
I cited a 1957 York County history that stated:

“Yorkers are a home-loving people, predominantly native-born, with whom thrift and industry are traditional.”

“That thinking pervading a people, who ironically came from immigrants, can cause a county to under appreciate the contributions of others, of outsiders,” I wrote.
“The book also noted that until recently, York industries were locally owned and the direct product of local ‘inventive genius.’
“But in the 1950s, the book said, nationally known firms had established modern branches, taking advantage of a favorable tax rate and other advantages offered by the community.
“The book failed to recognize that these national firms were providing expertise as hundreds of inventive geniuses were flowing into York, building on the fine industrial base that had been established.
“These outsiders would diversify a community to better compete in an increasingly global market. Further, they would bring new ideas to social and civic organizations.”
To see how I develop these ideas in my column, see: Diversity strengthens communities.
For a Q&A about the cigarmaking culture in Red Lion where I first explored the sentence in the Red Lion book, see: Red Lion, Pa., cigar factory goes on the block, Booger Hollow Stogies and all.
For a profile about Red Lion line, see: Red Lion – Retooling from making things to providing services: The boroughs of York County series.
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– Of course, you can always search for York Town Square posts on Google. For example, when you search for yorktownsquare and cigars, you get this.