The following account of a fourth of July venture is related by a distinguished citizen of Reading who is known to his intimates as “Betsy”, but who shall remain anonymous here.
“About 50 years ago some cousins from Philadelphia called on us at Hill-Top on the southern slope of Mt. Penn, directly below below the present William Penn Tower. They brought with them a home-made cannon of gun metal. This weapon was eight inches long and one inch thick, unmounted.
Anxious to make the greatest possible noise with this cannon we hiked to the highest point on Mt. Penn and fastened the piece securely between the rocks so that the explosion would not dislodge it. We attached a slow-burning fuse to the prime-hole and hastily sought the shelter of some rocks for safety.
But there was no great explosion and no echo, even though we had selected the most likely point for our experiment. Undaunted, we tried again, this time from a bluff above the present site above Carsonia Park. Here the noise was terrifying and the echoes resounded and reverberated again and again.
Twenty years later, I wished to give the children of Pennside a treat on a Fourth of July evening 1915. I had the same cannon ready and primed and as well equipped with firecrackers, matches, fuses and punk, carrying these in a tin box in the interest of saftey.
With a piece of punk in my hand I reached across the top of the mounted cannon to get a few firecrackers when! — the punk had slipped from my fingers setting off the cannon. My hair, eyebrows and moustache were singed and my right eardrum had burst. I hastened to Reading to see my doctor. On hearing my story he said “You fool. You should have had your brains knocked out.” Since then the cannon has been silent each July 4th.
The William Penn Fire Tower is near where the Stone Tower stood. Skyline drive has replaced the Gravity Railroad. Only the the Summit House remained. It was demolished in 1959. Courtesy of the Historical Society of Berks County.