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Some Johnson County People Once Migrated to Southeast Pennsylvania

Johnson County has been marked by at least two periods of major outward migration. In the 1920s a number of people left to seek their fortunes in the Northwest, primarily in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Farming and the timber business were about the only means of livelihood for many folks who lived in Johnson County. Land was plentiful and cheap in the far western states and with a pioneering spirit some Johnson County folks went west to follow their respective dreams and they never returned except to visit.
The other era of migration from Johnson County began in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s and lasted for a number of years. It was then that many Johnson County people took to the roads and wound up in southern Chester County Pennsylvania. It seems they left the “Green Bean Capital of the World” to live in a major mushroom growing area.
The names of southeast Pennsylvania towns such as West Grove, Avondale, Kennett Square and Toughkenamon were soon familiar sounds to Johnson County citizens due to their visiting them or having relatives working in those locations. Many folks who went north made their homes there and never came back here to live.
In my younger days I visited a few weeks in the Avondale area and worked in the mushroom growing business. My brother and his wife had already been there for a few years and when they came back to Mountain City to visit, I went back with them to stay a few weeks and try my hand at working in mushrooms. Now I found out that those mushroom people didn’t know the meaning of the word “rest.” They didn’t know when to quit either. At least it seemed so at the time. It was a good experience though – one where I valued the lesson learned but I wouldn’t want to go through it again. Occasionally I bump into someone when I’m out and about town whom I worked with during that time. I began work in a mushroom house owned by an Italian family named Catina. It was a company that many newcomers from Johnson County hired on with to learn how to work in the various steps necessary in growing mushrooms. The wages there were minimal there but many from Johnson County started work there and after gaining experience and efficiency graduated later to another company with better pay. It was a win–win situation – good for the company and good for the people new to the business.
Clyde Phipps, a foreman at Catrina’s, who was originally from the Trade area of Johnson County, put me to work in one of Catina’s mushroom houses. It wasn’t long before he asked me to help him in building some mushroom houses of his own near his home. I worked for him the rest of my stay in that area. I have nothing against southeast Pennsylvania. It is beautiful and busy place whose people have a great work ethic and are kind and friendly. After all, many of them came from here. But, I was not unhappy to come back to good old Johnson County.
If I remember right it was around the 1960s that Johnson County began getting industry to locate within its borders. It was then that jobs could be found here and much of the movement out of the county slowed. I believe Greensboro Manufacturing was one of the earliest to set up shop in the county. It ultimately became Levi Manufacturing. Blue Ridge Shoe Company provided many jobs during its time here. I worked seven years at that plant which now houses Film Salvage Company on Highway 91. My final two years was as Supply Supervisor. There are still some manufacturing plants in Johnson County but not as many as there once were. Many folks commute to towns and cities outside the county to work. There’s no doubt that in this economy, more environmentally friendly industry would certainly be welcomed in the Johnson County area.