Bill Brunner Recognized by Borough
Bill Brunner is not a "man of few words." If you've ever engaged Bill in a conversation about Spring City or Royersford history, you probably gained more than you expected...but that's a good thing. For more than 30 years, Bill Brunner has helped to preserve and communicate the history of the Spring-Ford area, and his encyclopedic knowledge of area is legendary. It is this passion that the Borough of Royersford took time to recognize on November 26 with a special clock and plaque. Presented by Borough Council member and Spring-Ford Area Historical Society president, Amy Demchik, Bill was surprised by the recognition. "I absolutely treasure this recognition and it means a lot to me," said Brunner, who as president of SFAHS, recognized many individuals himself for their contributions to the local historical society and its museum.
It was on a fall day in 1988 when Bill Brunner decided to make a visit to the Royersford train station. As a rail fan Brunner would often wait at the station to take pictures of passing trains. On that day, L. W. Shaner came out of the station in which the newly opened Spring-Ford Area Historical Society Museum was housed and asked Bill to come inside. Bill spoke with Dick Obenshine, Elmer Grime, Jack Newett, and L. W., some of the "regulars" who hung out at the museum every Sunday afternoon. Soon, Bill became a "regular" himself, soaking in the many stories told by L. W. and the others. (It was L. W. Shaner who introduced Bill to the world of post card collecting, another passion that continues to this day.)
In 1989, Bill became a member of the historical society and in 1990 was asked to join the board of directors. He participated in all of the society functions along with his wife, Joyce, who served for many years as secretary for the board. "There were so many people who were passionate about the history of our local area that it couldn't help but rub off on me," recalls Brunner.
Over the next ten years, Bill developed a "Then & Now" slide program using two separate projectors. He used images from his post card collection along with his own current day photographs. Bill's development of projects continued and was spurred on by the society's purchase of a digital projector and notebook computer. He created more than 65 programs on many subjects of local interest and became the unofficial spokesperson for the society presenting programs for many groups, and participating in radio and video interviews about local history.
In 1990, Bill began to work closely with museum director, Carolyn Fetterolf. Bill began assisting with the newsletter, starting by creating a number of four-page newsletter inserts which focused on a variety of topics of local history. Brunner has created more than 80 inserts, reprints of which are available at the museum.
In 2000, Bill was involved with the single most important event in the society's history: the purchase of the Lewin property on Main Street in Royersford. The house and barn would become the society's new home, and the museum is the premier depository for Spring-Ford area artifacts and memorabilia.
In 2003, Bill wrote his first book, "Spring City & Royersford - A Post Card History." It was a success, as were the two books that followed. The society sells Brunner's books, which are produced by Arcadia Publishing. Bill also wrote a weekly column for the "Reporter of the Spring-Ford Area" newspaper called "Reflections," often featuring items from the museum's collection or historic photos, challenging readers to guess the location. This connection with the newspaper proved beneficial to the society. When the "Reporter" closed its Royersford office, its newspaper archives from 1895 to 2000 were donated to the museum. In 2014, after attempting to obtain grant money, Brunner started a campaign to raise local funds to digitize the fragile newspapers in order to preserve them. More than half of the collection have been digitized. Brunner's "Reflections" column was resumed in 2006, and continues today in the "Phoenix Reporter."
In 2004, Brunner was elected president of the society. During his fifteen years as president, a number of noteworthy projects were brought to completion. Here are some highlights:
2004 - Pavilion built on the museum property and dedicated to the memory of John Fetterolf and Lawrence W. Shaner
2005 - Horace Heistand glass plate negative digitized, comprised of 128 images of local history.
2007 - Bill took over the coordination of quarterly society evening programs, available free to the public. (Bill also created and presented a number of these programs.)
2008 - Completed a collection of Spring City High School, Royersford High School, and Spring-Ford Senior High School Yearbooks. This collection has been maintained and kept current.
2010 - Celebrated the 100th anniversary of Boy Scouting with a year-long exhibit. Bill also coordinated 23 different Eagle Scout project that benefitted the historical society.
2010 - Coordinated Spring City walking tour event as part of the Chester County Walking Tours program.
2010 - Facilitated the purchase of seven stoves, adding to the museum's collection. By the time Bill left office as president, all stoves are owned by the society.
2011 - Provided the Royersford Applebee's restaurant with local historical photographs to use as part of their décor. The same was done for the Main Street Café in 2012.
2018 - Negotiated an agreement enabling the society to receive the Col Thomas McCabe military collection housed in the Spring City Armory. The substantial collection will be housed in the museum's new military room located on the second floor of the Fetterolf Gallery.
In June, the board of directors of the Spring-Ford Area Historical Society unanimously approved Bill Brunner as President Emeritus. Although Bill had to step down as president, he continues to contribute to the work of the society. He posts photographs of local historical interest on Facebook almost daily. He also plans to continue writing newsletter inserts and has already completed one for 2020 and is working on another. Bill also continues to have ideas for the society's evening programs, having completed one on the Harold Amster negatives for November, and is creating another that will focus on Spring City schools for September.
Without any doubt, the history of the Twin Boroughs is better off as a direct result of the hard work, dedicated efforts, and undying passion of Bill Brunner. Bill, we deeply appreciate all of your contributions that have served to preserve the past for the future. We look forward to benefitting from your ongoing efforts as you work to interpret and communicate the history of our area.