On December 19th, 2017

What’s in a name?

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When I announced my new IT business would be known as Mountain City Services, LLC., there was immediate rebuttal from some close to me.  They were dismayed that I had decided on a name void of any reference to IT, technology, computers, networks, internet or anything with a plug.  Even a poorly conceived play on IT related words would be something. I chuckled and thought,  “yes, I do believe they think I just proved that I’m not very smart after all.

So, what’s in a name? For me, thinking about a name, was my journey thus far in life. Born and raised here in Altoona, A.A.H.S. graduate, floundering a bit post graduation.  At age 22, I had been living at home with barely a part-time job. I think that the state was in bankruptcy as I recall. I was bored, complacent and frustrated that life in Altoona appeared to be all there was for me.  The idea of surrendering to what hand you were dealt in life, at age 22, would have been the worst thing I could have done.

A good friend was moving to Ft. Lauderdale and offered to put me for up a few months free of charge if I helped him move.  Once employed, we could discuss room rent or I would be free to strike it out on my own. I had nothing to lose. I was packed and ready within hours.

We arrive just days before Hurricane Andrew would decimate Homestead Florida. It was decided we would stay in Sarasota until the storm passed. My buddy had spent his honeymoon there, it was familiar to him.  After we arrived, the beauty that is Sarasota, quickly changed his mind.  He bought a home there instead.

Much of time in Florida was spent developing my IT career in the software, offset and magazine publishing industry in Sarasota.

Fast forward 18+ years, A few trips home to lay to rest some family elders and spending time with family, friends and some thought and debate, I decided it was time for another change—It was time to return home.  Return to its beautiful mountains and splendid 4 seasons.  It has since become apparent that I also missed gardening.  It’s a labor of love that I enjoy deeply.

I made the official announcement.  Family and old friends were joyed to hear that I was moving home but were quickly compelled to ask WHY?, as in, “WHAT are you thinking?” [smack]

People I’ve met since being here often have a similar response when they learn I returned after 20 yrs in Florida.

So, what’s in a name? I left Altoona barely an adult. Now, returning 20 yrs later, mature and aware.  My perspective is acutely different in my 40’s.  A need to know more about its history and my own ancestry.

More often than not, Altoona is referred to as the RailRoad City. It’s an easy moniker to understand considering our well know local history and largest claim fame being the World Famous Horseshoe Curve.  Even people in Florida knew our city’s  name, one of general replies were “Yes, I recall reading the about the Horseshoe curve in Altoona“, or “I drove by Altoona once“.  A later reference being added. “Isn’t that the city that someone paid to legally change their name for a couple months or something?“.

The only group of people I found who actually had visited Altoona we’re the guys in a model railroading club I belonged to in Florida, RealRail.   I was the novelty.  I was actually FROM the World Famous Horseshoe Curve !!

So, what’s in a name I hired a contractor about a year after returning home.  I bought an old Victorian style house, researched its owners back to the 1890’s when it was first built.   The construction company used Mountain City in their name.   Mountain City… I wondered why?  I asked, the owner was unsure, he was second to the business name and could only state it was just what our city was known as.

Winters in FL were enjoyable and very much still a time to be outside.  Being home, I have ample time for research through the winter months here while locked inside.  To summarize my research, it simply seems to be a term used by the railroad in the later 1800’s.  We are a city in the mountains, at the base of Horseshoe Curve.  We were referred to as the Mountain City.

In 1887, Louis Black built the Mountain City Theatre, on the corner of 11th Ave, and 12th St.

In the early 1900’s The Mountain City Hebrew Reform Congregation commissioned a Moorish structure with onion domes and horseshoe-arched openings. It was later the First United Church of Christ, then by 1990, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church was located at the site on 1433 13th Ave.

Mountain City Brewery was a renaming of Union Brewery, built in 1880, with an address at 1419 4th Ave.

A 1910 reference to the Mountain City Trust Company, as well as the Mountain City Business College which occupied a floor of the Jaggard Building at 1508 11th Ave.

References are from: National Parks Service 1990 – Book , Railroad City – Four Historic Neighborhoods.

There were also baseball teams.  In 1884 the Altoona Unions, or Altoona Pride were local major league teams. In the 1890’s an amateur Baseball club was formed, known as the Mountain City Base Ball Club.

The baseball reference article cites the teams location as being “Altoona Mountain City“‘

So, what’s in a name?  I liked it, it felt like home after several years of flat Florida and its not so overdone like Railroad type labels.   Like my decision to launch my own company, it offered up some sense of pioneering spirit—also a sense of pride I was gaining as I learned more about our local history and that seemed to mirror the confidence being built as I fleshed out the details of my new endeavor.   The IT details seemed unimportant to the name.  Adequate slogans or tag lines on marketing materials would round out the description so people know the type of services I provide.

And, there it is.  What’s in my company nameA sense of pride for our local history, some family heritage in this small place known as Altoona Pennsylvania and a similar spirit embarking on a new adventure for me personally.

Being conventional isn’t always the right path.  My company name and my passion for technology are reflections of each other.   A sense of pride and spirit in my work that complement the pride and spirit I have for Altoona.

Some people still won’t get it, and that’s o.k..  If you’ve never left Altoona, you’ll never understand the choice one makes to return home.  Now you know what’s in my company name.

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