GERALD G. THOMPSON
Jerry was born in September 15, 1935 in his Batdorf grandparents’ home, the son of Harper Thompson and Myrtle Batdorf. Initially he lived at Myrtle’s parents’ house, 542 North Street, Lykens but shortly thereafter moved to Tower City. During the first few years the family moved four times and his two younger brothers, Eugene and Robert, were born.
In 1942 the family left Tower City to Middletown where his father worked at the Homestead Air Force Base. They lived on East Lane, Pineford Acres, on the U.S. Government Base; today it is called Village of Pineford. he had attended Tower City Grade school up to second grade and transferred to Feaser Grade School.
Before school each day, Jerry had two paper routes delivering the Sunday News and worked on a milk route for Harrisburg Dairies. In the evenings we’d help our dad in the garden behind our house. Behind the garden, they had a punching bag hanging from a tree. His father had been a boxer and the neighborhood kids would come and we’d practice our skills.
One Christmas us three boys overheard our parents mention there wasn’t enough money for a tree. So, us boys went out and “secretly” cut down a tree and brought it home. Our parents were conflicted, both good and bad, about the tree scavenge.
The family moved to Clinton Street in Harrisburg when he was thirteen, the center of a three-row house, with an outhouse. He attended Camp Curtain Middle School and William Penn for High School. During this time, he still worked milk delivery and started working in the produced department at the Food Fair, on Munich Street, until graduation. The boys played football and basketball in the alley off our house and they started a garden in our back yard and planted our Christmas Trees out back after each holiday.
Jerry left home at seventeen for service, feeling very alone, and misunderstanding about war. When he returned his first regular job was making 50-cents a day delivering on a milk truck. Eventually he worked as an electrician for forty years, belonging to IBEW, American Legion, Moose Lodge, Knights of Columbus, and 998 Color Guard, Dauphin County VHC. He enjoyed all types of music except Heavy Metal.
The first President I recall voting for was Ike, who turns out to be a relative, and at 22, I married and had three children. Our biggest problem was financial, but we enjoyed holidays and birthdays together. The best times were when we had our friends around. We didn’t travel but occasionally work took me to New York, New Jersey and Delaware.
Jerry married and had three kids, living in Harrisburg, Halifax and finally settling in Rutherford Heights. He worked construction and became an electrical journeyman in 1964. Later he instructed for the IBEW #143, teaching the electrical apprentice program for eight years. He also worked for Keystone Electrical Inspection in early 70’s and took additional training at PSU Middletown campus. In the late 70’s he taught Electrical Construction program at Cumberland County Vo-Tech school. He also worked on revamping the TMI Unit #1 electrical boards until the accident there in 1979.
During the 80’s work was scarce, and Jerry traveled to do electrical installation in Allentown, Norristown, Pittsburgh, Beaver, Berwick, Wilmington and many other areas in Mid-Atlantic states. He received his master electrician license in 1983, finally settling on a job at Balco which became BTE (Building Tech Engineers) for Strawberry Square in Harrisburg, from which he retired in 2000.
My firmest rule was my kids had to be in by 9 pm each night and I always tried to teach them survival, independence, faith and truth. I believe Faith will overcome all. I think the biggest advance in my lifetime has been computers and the thing that disturbed me the most was war. I consider my two best achievements seeing my children in adulthood and teaching others in the trades.
My biggest influences were my father, an honest hard-working man, and JCV Lahr, who stressed always doing the best you can. Volunteering at the Honor Guard has made the largest and longest lasting impression on me. I believe in friendship, honor, truth, your word and love, especially when you don’t expect it. The best piece of advice I can give is money is not the most important part of life, health is!
Thornwald Lifestyle writes: Gerald was born in Lykens, Pennsylvania, and grew up with two brothers, Bob and Eugene. He graduated from William Penn High School in 1953. While in high school, he was highly involved in the electrical shop class and a member of the stage crew for the theatre productions. After high school, Gerald enlisted in the Air Force and completed his three-year contract, during which he inspected and repaired motors. He was stationed at Lake Geneva in New York. After military service, Gerald worked for the U.S. Postal Service and went on to enroll in the IBEW electrical apprenticeship program. He later married and had three children, Tory, Jill and Marc. Although they did not travel much, he remembered a trip they took to Atlantic City. When asked what was so memorable about it he replied, “It was memorable because we were all together as a family.” Gerald worked as a master electrician most of his life, inspecting houses. He also worked as an instructor of an electrical class at Cumberland Perry County Vo-Tech. Gerald became involved in the American Legion in 1972. As his membership continued over the years, he eventually became the President of the color guard for Post 998, located on Derry Street in Harrisburg. He is also a charter member and was President of the Dauphin County Honor Guard for many years, participating in graveside services for departed service members.