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Local native's book captures memories of Strongstown, Belsano, and Johnstown

A native of the Strongstown area who spent his childhood and youth in Belsano and Johnstown, respectively, has written and published a nonfiction memoir of his life that reads like a novel. Walt Cameron, now retired in Arizona, not only remembers the area and some of its icons like the C&I (Cambria and Indiana) Railroad and Johnstown Traction Company streetcars, he now markets models of the very railcars those companies ran in a hobby business he conducts from retirement.

Something Tells Me, Cameron's book, is a 130-page collection of remembrances of things that happened to him in life. The first account tells about the accidental death of his father, Albert Waldo Cameron, when a C&I Railroad crane fell over, killing him. The crane was operating on a rail site of an earlier derailment only a few miles from the Camerons' farm outside Strongstown, and the father had noted its precarious posture to his co-workers before leaving work on a Friday, only to be crushed by its collapse shortly after he arrived at work the following Monday.

The accident occurred two days before Walt Cameron was born, which was also the day his father was buried at Johnstown's Grandview Cemetery. The father's seemingly prescient remarks about the crane's stability complemented his wife's sensing, when a relative arrived at their home shortly after Walter left for work that day, that he was there to report her husband's death. Such “foreknowing” incidents were common in the younger Walt Cameron's life and are the source of the book's title.

Somewhat controversial in the book is its treatment of spiritualism, along with several incidents of fortune telling that seemed dead right on many occasions yet, the author observes, served no useful purpose and would have been better not foreknown.

Walt Cameron left Johnstown before graduating from high school, spending most of his working life in the Youngstown, Ohio, area, with a steel drum manufacturing company. He was a self-educated engineer whose inventions saved his company more than his whole accumulated salary for the years he worked there, he reports. Despite its relocating from Indiana and Cambria Counties to eastern Ohio, the book repeatedly returns to Johnstown, Altoona, and even Nanty Glo in its reports of incidents in the principles' lives.

Cameron's recollections of Belsano merchants Merton Edwards and S. Ward Adams are alone worth the modest price for the volume for anyone who shares similar memories, and his word pictures of Johnstown as a booming industrial major city will inspire nostalgia in anyone remembering as far back as the early '60s in the area. Despite the book's dabbling in occult phenomena, Walt makes a strong profession of Christian faith.

“My website, www.westernhobbycraft.com, has a spot where people can purchase the book or they can write or email me on the same site or Snail Mail at Walt Cameron, 309 S 72nd Circle, Mesa AZ. 85208-1102,” the author says, and adds: “Price is $8.95. Local area folks can make it ten dollars and I will ship it priority mail for that when they contact me for it.” The website is where you'll also find his model rail cars and other collectibles. Click here for the catalog page for the book.

Jon Kennedy, webmaster


 

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