DuBOIS — Todd Thompson, a retired history teacher of 30 years and local historian, is also the longest serving member on the DuBois Area Historical Society’s board of directors.
Thompson, a Brockway native, has been a historian with the DuBois Area Historical Society since its inception 40 years ago.
Thompson, who was a history teacher at DuBois Area High School, started an elective course there based on local history that was available to all students in 1992-1993. This, says his wife, Susan, is something he is widely known and remembered for.
Susan said the local history course that he started –which encompassed DuBois Area School District –became very popular, as it wasn’t the norm, and opened students up to the past around them. Thompson also taught AP U.S. history.
His favorite part of teaching, said Thompson, was introducing students to “the positive side” of history. He retired in 2000.
Besides having an obvious passion for all things history, Thompson says a historian answers questions people may have, conducts research and, if he happens to not know the answer, can direct the person to someone who does.
When traveling back in time, Thompson finds himself thinking of many old pastimes in DuBois, including the DuBois Brewery, the race track, and even a horse’s grave that is located near the Courier Express office. And, of course, the three “Johns” of DuBois.
He has also witnessed new developments over the years, including the Treasure Lake gated community and growth in industry –such as powdered metal plants. Railroads were also very important to the area. Thompson recalled “riding the train over from Brockway” to DuBois looking for things to do when downtown DuBois was known for its shopping.
He also recalled the different mine shafts that used to be in DuBois, including one near where the DuBois Mall is now, and the huge pine trees that were used for timber.
When it comes to the historical society, Thompson enjoys the lantern walks, which have been going on for 13 years. They have very much grown over the years, said Susan. He also used to host tours for kids, where they would visit the historical society itself, and the monument where John DuBois and his horse were first buried.
Children and youth groups, such as Cub Scouts, very much enjoy touring the building, seeing old movie projectors, a telephone switchboard, etc.
“They are just amazed by it all, and interested in everything,” said Thompson.
Continuing to pass on his knowledge and teach the younger generation, said Thompson, not only brings him joy, but gives them an appreciation of the history. Parents have called and thanked him over the years, as well as past students, for the impact he had on them.
Susan noted that he receives a letter from a former student every Christmas.
Sometimes, historians can also help families find answers when it comes to their loved ones, Thompson said, noting that the DuBois Area Historical Society has a very large genealogy department.
When the historian society first began, Thompson remembers it starting in a rented room above Joe’s Tux Shop.
Thompson, also a farmer since 1965, would also speak for organizations and at churches about historical events.
“Our grandkids love to sit down and listen to Papa talk about the history,” said Susan.
Thompson has lent his help to many over the years, including “Ice Cream Joe” from Valley Dairy in DuBois, who was decorating the side of the restaurant and wanted to know the history of Indians in the area. Thompson informed him, he said, that there were no Indians here, and the closest village was in Clearfield.
He also recalled several famous people from DuBois, such as Secret Service Agent Floyd Boring, as well as others.
Sporting the “40th anniversary” logo on his DuBois Area Historical Society hat, Thompson recalled all of the longtime members who, like him, have enjoyed being a part of the organization over the years.
Although he is “slowing down now,” Thompson is always willing to lend a hand or pass on some knowledge about the town he loves.
DuBois has certainly grown and expanded in time, said Thompson, noting the baseball friends and DuBois Area School District, among other things.
Thompson also assisted Jan Nichols in writing “DuBois Where and When, DuBois Now and Then,” Volume II, a book about DuBois native Tom Mix and others.