Former police chief was star athlete and war hero

Sayre’s Ray Eldred (left) and Waverly’s Cass Lewis shake hands prior to the start of a Nov. 3, 1934 football game held at the old Lincoln Street Field in Waverly. Eldred is featured in the Fall issue of the Sayre Historical Society’s Quarterly history magazine.

SAYRE – A 1934 black and white photograph showing the captains of the Sayre and Waverly football teams includes Sayre’s Ray Eldred, who was a 34-year member of the Sayre Police Department as well as a star athlete and a celebrated hero in Italy during World War II. The well-liked Sayre native is profiled in the Fall issue of the Sayre Historical Society’s Quarterly history magazine.

Other stories in the 20-page publication include a story on the Lehigh Valley Railroad station as part of the Historic American Building Survey, an 1882 article on the “retirement” of Robert H. Sayre, Sayre’s “music man” Ron Billings, and the Cayuta Wheel & Foundry Company, one of Sayre’s pioneer industries.

The center section of the Quarterly features a photograph of the 1927 Sayre High School league champion baseball team.

The Quarterly is a membership benefit mailed four times per year to supporters of the historical society. Individual copies are available at the museum’s Burkhart Gift Shop. Museum hours are Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Wednesdays from 4 to 6 p.m.

The cover story recounts the life story of Eldred, who was honored at a testimonial dinner in 1974 after a stellar career as a police officer, including a stint as Bradford County detective. Eldred graduated from Sayre High School in 1935 where is excelled in athletics as a member of the “red and blue grid warriors.” During World War II, Eldred was a P50 Mustang crew chief on “one of the oldest fighter squadrons in the Mediterranean theater,” according to the May 23, 1944 Sayre Evening Times. While he was Italy, Eldred rescued a flier from a flaming plane that had crashed for which he was awarded a medal for bravery. It was the second time the Sayre native had rescued a pilot from catastrophe.

At the 1974 testimonial dinner for Eldred upon his retirement, fellow police officer Jack Rhodes complimented Eldred for his dedication to the police force and its officers.

“It has been my pleasure to work with Ray for the past 20 years and I have always found him to be capable, honest and honorable,” Rhodes said. “He has never refused to help a fellow officer – day or night.”

A story on the Sayre passenger station details its inclusion as part of the Library of Congress Historic American Buildings Survey. The Library of Congress website offers several views of notable buildings in the United States including the Sayre passenger station as well as the massive Sayre Shops. The Sayre museum collection includes a series of large format photographs from the survey donated by Scott Lawrence. The Sayre station building was formally dedicated in June of 1882.

An Oct. 21, 1882 article from the Lancaster Intelligencer-Journal announced the surprise resignation of the superintendent and engineer of the Lehigh Valley Railroad.

“Mr. Sayre is one of the best-known railroad engineers in the United States,” the article stated. “His management of the Lehigh Valley has not only been successful but brilliant.”

In the 1850’s, Sayre had become connected to the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company in the days when canals were being replaced by steam-powered railroads. Sayre worked closely with railroad founder Asa Packer, serving in a variety of capacities throughout his life.

“It is safe to say that Judge Packer never undertook any enterprise for himself or the Lehigh Valley road about which he did not consult Mr. Sayre,” the article stated.

Sayre’s Ron Billings, who passed away last year, is remembered for his love of music and local history. Two photographs donated by executor Janet Teeter show the versatile musician playing piano in a talent show held at the Capitol Theater in Waverly as a high school student and later as a drummer with “Bill Reap and the Rhythm Masters.” A number of musical programs, newspaper clippings and historical booklets were donated to the historical society by Billings including his prized copy of the local history book Sayre and Early Valley History by Elizabeth Wilcox.

The Cayuta Wheel & Foundry Company traces its roots in Sayre back to 1873, according to an unidentified newspaper article from 1925. The article was donated to the historical society by Nancy Brittain.

“Despite the fact that the year 1873 in which the company first began business was characterized throughout the nation as a time of panic and business failures, the Cayuta Wheel and Foundry Company enjoyed prosperity from its establishment and rapidly developed into one of the largest car wheel foundries in this section,” the article stated. The foundry was originally located across the street from Croft Lumber until it relocated to Bradford Street in 1900.

Three news items from the 1906 Valley Record newspaper round out the Fall issue.

The back cover of the booklet features a streamlined locomotive commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Lehigh Valley Railroad in 1946.

The Sayre Historical Society is non-profit historical preservation organization located in the former Lehigh Valley Railroad passenger station. The organization receives funding from the Bradford County United Way and the Bradford County Tourism Promotion Agency.