Past Meeting

At our public meeting on Sunday, April 17, 2016 the featured presentation was:

Book covers (front & back)

Life Along the River: Past, Present and Future

by Michael Tolle

Renowned local historian Michael Tolle spoke about the past, present and future of the towns along the lower Schuylkill River. The eight towns from Pottstown to the Conshohockens are the subject of Tolle's most recent book, They've Been Down So Long ... Getting Up's Still On Their Minds.

Tolle describes his approach as urban history in support of urban activism.  They've Been Down So Long ... Getting Up's Still On Their Minds is addressed directly to those who wish to see their long-suffering towns—and others—undergo a revival.

This presentation was held at the Easttown Library & Information Center in Berwyn, PA starting at 2 pm. Visitors are cordially invited, and there is no admission charge at our public meetings.


Michael E. Tolle has lived a variety of experiences, which have influenced both his selection of a late-in-life career, and how he pursues it. He is the author of What Killed Downtown? – Norristown, Pennsylvania, From Main Street to the Malls, and blogs regularly in support of urban revival in America's small towns, using the eight towns on Pennsylvania's lower Schuylkill River as his subjects.

His blog “The More Things Change...” ( addresses national issues through the lens of his subject towns on the lower Schuylkill. Despite its narrow geographic focus, Tolle's blog has an international audience, with an especially loyal contingent from Norway.

Michael earned a B.S.F.S. (Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service) at Georgetown University in 1969. A summer spent as a volunteer for the World Relief Commission delivering commodities to refugees in Viet Nam led him to return there, this time as an Assistant Relief/Rehabilitation Advisor for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). After college graduation, he began a year-long study program in the Vietnamese language at Roslyn, Virginia, followed by two years in Viet Nam, first in a province resettling refugees, then in Saigon. As the Deputy Chief of the Refugee Division, Michael was responsible for the day-to-day operations in support of refugees throughout the country.

Michael returned to the U.S. and started his own business that specialized in home remodeling, energy conservation and alternative energy projects. In 1983, in support of his wife's career, Michael became the primary caregiver for their two sons. After they were established in school, he began graduate studies at Villanova University, where he earned a Masters Degree in History, and then attended Temple University, seeking a Ph.D. He completed all requirements for the degree except the dissertation.

After leaving the Ph.D. program, Michael obtained positions as an Instructor in History at Delaware County Community College and Montgomery County Community College. In early 2006, his wife accepted a job offer that required a move to San Francisco. He resides there today, continuing his research and focus on the history and future of our small towns.


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