Tom Laird on why Philipsburg will always be home: “It’s feisty fun”

– by Cara Aungst

If you visit Philipsburg and make your way to the new Moshannon Valley Heritage Center (we highly recommend that you do!), you’ll inevitably run into Tom Laird. He is, after all, a lifelong Philipsburg resident, original member of The Cold Stream Beach Bums, and can regale you with stories of old dams, forgotten ruins, hollows and hills of the area. “It sings to me,” he says.

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These are just a few of the (now well used) books I have kept read and still use that my parents gave me as a child. Some to Cali and back.

HVAB talked to Tom about why he digs Happy Valley — and Philipsburg — and his enthusiasm was pretty contagious. Read on.

Can you tell me your Happy Valley story?

Sure. It could normally take a long (long!) time, so here’s just a snippet—or two.

I am a Cold Stream Kid and an original member of The Cold Stream Beach Bums.

My mom, our smart and sweet life guide, was our prototypical version of one too. Our woodsy dad was a local appliance repairman (he was busy!), and eventually a journeyman union electrician.

We bought a fire-scorched camp (we rehabbed and treasured) next to state game lands—beside local trout streams, along old indigenous American trails, CCC dams, and overgrown logging roads.


Many memories still hold… one of my Dad’s old fly-fishing reels, a wad of fake money “paid” to me by some of my Extension compadres at PSU, and a hick kid portraiture of our amazing dog Blacky that I secretly made using house paint on a naturally shaped rock (during a rainy day at our family camp.)

And from there, our dad dragged the six of us around into woody wonders, along springs, streams and old dams. Finding nooks and crannies. Gathering wild berries, grapes, ramps and greens. Fishing. Hunting. Crafting old-school DIY holiday decorations of mosses, princess pine, dried barks, vines, twigs and pine cones we’d gathered near forgotten ruins, waters, woods and other old places. We gently searched fallen forgotten fence rows for old-timey local and regional bottles and such. We strolled along long-lost scattered stone fences and walls hidden in woods. Fallen barns and buried foundations. Abandoned tumble-down houses and hovels. Backroads. Big trees. And those big, big old tree stumps we actually walked up into and through. Seeing the “whip-poor-will” with her nesting young. And we’d many adventures finding “our” places where “our” truck sometimes got stuck, or broke down—then we fixed it (just enough), or we got chain-towed out. And we’d laugh. Well, mostly.

I know of the good in Philipsburg—and its surrounding enclaves and across its systems of hollows and hills. It makes sense to me. It sings to me in all sorts of ways. So, I simply love it here, through all its times. I can still SEE the good here, as it was AND in its possibilities.

It is truly up to us and what we do that makes our maybes real…not only because we should and must, but because we all enjoy and love it—and also each other.

"I dig Philipsburg. Always have. Always will. No apologies. It was born from honest hopes, prayers, dreams, opportunities, and deep love, will and work to help all here find and tap into betterment"

- Tom Laird

Can you tell me about all of the things that you are involved with in this community?

Past and present, I have assisted and served within various local committees and support, plus fundraisers and churches; Scouts, Philipsburg Public Library, Jaycees, Moshannon Valley Heritage Center, Moshannon Valley Economic Development Partnership…plus our familial Housley Hoops, of course (and yes, that’s my insider joke :)

Can you tell me a little bit about the Moshannon Valley Heritage Center – What's special about it?

Our surprising little MVHC has impressive support from The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau and Visit Clearfield County in the telling of our amazing local stories. The Moshannon Valley Heritage Center has an inviting and historical physical presence designed to grown viral opportunities to impress and advance knowledge about the history of the area. The support for it is smart, willing, and growing in its impact. Those who see what’s become possible here want more of it (and from it.)

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One of our fav local stomping grounds was by “The Whirly Hole”behind The Old Cigar Factory + our “Dinosaur Hill” was next to that—where we also dug up shale with lots of fossilized imprints of plants, worms and shells on them. Amazingly, it also had a potable spring-fed pond w dragonflies, fish and frogs to catch…2 blocks from my home!

In your opinion, what makes Happy Valley so one-of-a-kind?

There are always some relaxing or cool fun places and stuff to do not far from where you are at…

It’s kinda like ‘Alice’s Restaurant’…”You can get anything you want” fun not far from where you are. Symphony music? Check. Massive sports events? Check. Funky towns? Check. Big and small woods and waters to explore, wander, wonder, love and ponder? Check. Quiet places? Check. People who love you back? Yep. History? Tons! A place to roam, or to call home? You betcha (and yep.) It’s a feisty, fun, and treasured mixed bag for those who care to look closer. Gather a crowd.

Oh, and there’s porches where I see people who actually wave and talk. ‘Seen that? You can too.

"It’s a feisty, fun, and treasured mixed bag for those who care to look closer"

- Tom Laird

What’s one off-the-beaten path thing that you personally love about Happy Valley?

Any time is right for spontaneous gatherings outside at Blacky (Black Moshannon) or Cold Stream Dam. (When I hear “Happy Valley”, I personally think of it as a collective for all in our Central PA.)

What’s something every visitor should see (or eat, or experience) while they are here?

Takeout lunches “out at Cold Stream Dam” in summer (or any time!), plus We Are Inn, Brown Dog Café, Poppies Café, The Rowland Theatre, Dead Canary Brew Pub and AMVets Memorial Park. Or simply have a relaxed “sit-and-talk” in South Park, or on one of the hills overlooking our scenic panoramas.

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This was a gray heron frogging in wetlands in town across the street from Weis Mkt in Pburg to use in my/our MVHC profile tale.

Anything else you'd like to add?

I dig Philipsburg. Always have. Always will. No apologies. It was born from honest hopes, prayers, dreams, opportunities, and deep love, will and work to help all here find and tap into betterment.

It has been and remains a blessing to me, and mine. And I am thankful.

The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau publishes up-to-date event information at