When a town has about 700 people living in it, and it is referred to as a "city," there is only one explanation: a legal loophole. If the place in which you live in Pennsylvania has a certain type of legal charter, filed in the capital, Harrisburg, then you can call yourself a borough (or "Boro"), a town, village, or, in the case of Parker, Pennsylvania, or "Parker's Landing, " as the name was imprinted on the side of the old street signs the federal government made Parker replace with the bland white on green street signs, called the place, a CITY. In the Pennsylvania Unconsolidated Statutes, Parker is a Third Class City with a mayor and city council. When I was growing up there, there were over 1,000 people as there was a glass factory and a plant that made precision levels, you know, those glass tubes with the green or yellow fluid in them that let you know when something you built is level with the ground and not leaning to one side or the other. With lucrative employment close at hand, there were a lot more people there. As recessions began subtracting employers, people left. The population has been relatively stable the past few years as people now live there and commute to other employers a reasonable driving distance from Parker.
Parker began as an oil boom town in the mid-1860s, with the national Oil Exchange building located there. There were about 25,000 to 35,000 people living in Parker at its peak, and it had first class hotels, trains stopping several times each day, and a horse racing track. John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of Abraham Lincoln, spent some time there during the Civil War, speculating on oil claims as he did in Franklin, Pennsylvania where he also acted at the local opera house on Buffalo Street.
The Christy Wave hairstyle that Mary Stuart Masterson wore as Idgie Threadgoode in Fried Green Tomatoes was invented in the 1930s at Richard Christy's hair salon in downtown Parker, the section along the Allegheny River known to locals as "The Flat." There was a spread in a contemporary Life Magazine about the Christy Wave, Parker's contribution to the world of haute couture.
In April 2008, Parker made a contribution to the literary world when it became the location for the Kris Radish novel Searching for Paradise in Parker, PA., the main protagonist being a woman at a crossroads in life, not unlike Kathy Bates' character Evelyn Crouch in Fried Green Tomatoes.
Now, Parker relies on tourists using the newly cleaned-up Allegheny River for fishing, kayaking, canoeing, and other outdoor pursuits. Wildlife also brings hunters, conservationists, and bird watchers. The bald eagles now fish the Allegheny, and once-endangered Pileated Woodpeckers now drill trees and fill quiet residential areas with the sound of their jungle bird-like calls. Humming birds defy the laws of aerodynamics to take nectar from the orange blossoms of trumpet vines like the one in my late parents' backyard. Summers mean picnics, fireworks, and fireflies, and Memorial Day is still important.