O'Hara Sign Goes Missing

Found on eBay; Recovered;

No Charges Filed

Published: Thursday, September 4, 2008 4:23 AM EDT
By Stephen J. Pytak
Staff Writer/Republican Herald
One of the street signs leading visitors through Pottsville's John O'Hara Walking Tour was up for sale on Internet auction site eBay last week.

On Aug. 25, Pottsville police contacted the seller, "box_music" based in Tamaqua, and retrieved the sign for "Pill Row," which will be returned to the 200 block of Mahantongo Street, according to Mark T. Major, executive director of the Schuylkill County Visitors Bureau, and Police Chief Joseph H. Murton V.

The seller won't be charged.

"We couldn't prove that it was stolen," Murton said Wednesday.

The signs, erected between 1999 and 2000, were part of an Eagle Scout project devised by Daniel S. Kheloussi, then 13, of Pottsville.
When told about the incident, Kheloussi, 22, of Pittsburgh, who was contacted Wednesday, was surprised.

"I'm a little disheartened that someone would put this up on an auction site, but I'm glad it's resolved," he said.

Murton said he did not know the seller's real name and referred all other comments about the case to Pottsville police Lt. Steve Durkin, who was not in the office Wednesday and could not be reached for comment. An effort was made to contact "box_music" via eBay, but the seller did not return the message Wednesday.

The sign was one of 19 along The John O'Hara Walking tour in the city, according to the tour brochure compiled by the Pottsville Commission on Tourism.

The fifth stop on the tour, "Pill Row," is near the intersection of Third Street and Mahantongo, according to the brochure. "Pill Row" is mentioned in O'Hara's "Gibbsville." According to the book, it's a neighborhood where several doctors had offices on "lower Lantenengo Street."

In his novels, O'Hara used pseudonyms for real places, such as "Gibbsville" for Pottsville.

On eBay, the seller stated: "This is an old sign we bought at a yard sale. It refers to John O'Hara, a famous writer from Pottsville, Pa."

The auction included pictures of the sign, which is 24 inches long and 6 inches high. The starting bid was $29.99. The item had no bids when the seller took the auction down Aug. 25.

Local officials became aware of the auction on Aug. 25. The first was Major, who received an e-mail about it from a concerned resident.

"I sent it over to the city to let them know about it and I also got on eBay and contacted the seller to let them know the sign that they had for sale was stolen from the City of Pottsville and I asked them if they would consider returning it to the city," Major said Wednesday.

"They were very cooperative in returning it," Murton said, referring to the seller.

The sign was in the office of City Administrator Thomas A. Palamar on Wednesday. Palamar said the bracket which attached the sign to the post on the 200 block on Mahantongo Street was cracked. The signs were made by Roberts Sign Co., Pottsville, and cost about $500, according to Kheloussi.

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