HANOVER TOWNSHIP -- If you are riding on Route 309 south, just before Mountain Top, you are passing by what used to be Ashley Mountain. Now it is Mount Joe Palooka, and the mountain's name and the monument in front is a dedication to a home-grown comic strip hero.
"Remember it? I grew up with it," Fred Ney said. He was at Wednesday's re-dedication ceremony.
Created in 1934, the Joe Palooka Comic Strip lived on for more than five decades. Now a monument is rededicated in his honor. Palooka was a heavy-weight boxing champion, a war hero, and a man with roots from northeastern Pennsylvania.
"Although the comic strip isn't around anymore, it's good to remember what he was and what he represented," said David DeCosmo.
At its peak, the Joe Palooka Comic Strip was carried by 900 newspapers worldwide and was one of the most popular in the country in the 1940s. Cartoonist Ham Fisher created the comic strip in his hometown of Wilkes-Barre.
"He was the epitome of who's who in America in a sense," Sam Greenberg said.
Joe Palooka represented the ideas and values of people in this area. In the comic strip, just before the United States entered World War II, Palooka enlisted in the Army, a move that brought thousands of his fans to enlist, too.
"It was much more than just an entertainment medium. It served as a national rallying point for unity and for the national defense," Ney said.
The original monument was made of bronze and was stolen in 1972. It was replaced four years later, and just a few months ago when it was taken down for restoration, passers-by were afraid it was stolen again.
"I'm glad they noticed because that indicates that they knew it was here in the first place. Now they can enjoy it even more," DeCosmo said.
David DeCosmo, Sam Greenberg, Fred Ney and the late John Cicero were on the committee to replace the stolen monument in 1976. Sitting right off of Route 309 where it climbs to Mountain Top, the monument began to deteriorate recently and the Home Builders Association of NEPA stepped up to renovate it.
"We were thrilled because it helped to perpetuate the work we had done more than four decades ago," Ney said.
The comic strip may be long gone but the Joe Palooka legend lives on in Hanover Township, and now there is an even easier spot to pull off and remember.