After spending months researching area newspapers and plowing through hundreds of old photos, Phyllis Bitner is going to have to find something else to occupy all her time and thoughts.

After spending months researching area newspapers and plowing through hundreds of old photos, Phyllis Bitner is going to have to find something else to occupy all her time and thoughts.
The book that was the center of her life all those months, “Rediscovering Arma Celebrating 100 Years,” is not only finished, it’s in print, with 300 copies in boxes at the Arma City Hall.
“I don’t know why it makes such a difference to actually see it in print and hold it,” said Bitner, a member of the Arma Centennial Committee.  “It looks great.”
The city will celebrate its 100th birthday in conjunction with the 63rd Arma VJ Homecoming, scheduled Aug. 7-9.
“There will be a big reunion tent at the homecoming, and the  Centennial Committee will have a booth with copies of the book for sale,” Bitner said. “But a quarter of the copies have already been sold, so I do suggest that people buy the book in advance if possible. They’re here at the Arma City Hall, and the cost is $30.”
“I’m thinking you’ll probably need to order more copies printed,” said Debby Close, also an Arma Centennial Committee member. “I really don’t think 300 is enough.”
The book contains 112 pages of photos and newspaper clippings about Arma.
“I manage Arma’s web site, which has a history section, so I already had some information,” Bitner said. “The committee ran a newspaper ad asking people to submit photos and clippings, and a lot of research was done at the library. Louis Casaletto and I both love history, and he helped a lot.”
The research was made more difficult by the fact that the old newspapers are not indexed.
“We’d want a clipping about a particular store, for example, and we’d just have to keep going through old newspapers until we could find something on that store,” Bitner said.
At the end, there was a huge pile of photos and clippings that had to be sorted and sifted. Bitner had thought that the book’s 112 pages would give her plenty of space, but soon learned otherwise.
“All I could do was put in as many different things as I could,” she said. “I would go to bed, then get up in the night and write more on the computer. You just think this 24 hours a day.”
Bitner said she didn’t want to focus so much on individuals and families, but on the community of Arma — the businesses, schools, organizations and so on. “I also knew I wanted it to be in a scrapbook format, with lots of photos and not a lot of text,” she said.
“I like that format very much, because you don’t have to sit and read the whole thing,” Close said. “You can read it a little bit at a time. This book is a keeper.”
Early clippings cover the city’s beginnings.
“It was a boom town, and you could buy a lot on Washington Street for $40,” Bitner said. “In one newspaper, there was a coupon that would give you $1 off and let you buy a lot for $39.”
The book’s cover features the Arma centennial logo, which was designed by community school children. The logo includes the Arma water tower, a favorite of the city’s high school students for decades.
“The kids have painted all over it, and one year the sophomore class didn’t have a banner, so they stole one and hung it on the tower,” Bitner said.
She’s looking forward to the homecoming/centennial celebration.
“People have been calling from all over the country,” Bitner said. “People who haven’t been back for homecoming in 30 years are planning on coming.”
Anyone needing additional information about ordering a copy of “Rediscovering Arma Celebrating 100 Years” may call the Arma City Hall at 620-347-4125.