Monthly Archives: May 2009

Anthracite heritage – part 2

It’s 2pm, and I’m sitting atop a steep set of stone steps that lead to Academy Hill Cemetery. Below me is the 4 th Annual Anthracite Arts & Heritage Festival in downtown Shamokin, Pa. Above me is a hazy, darkly overcast sky with thick ominous clouds looming in the distance threatening to burst at the slightest provocation.

I look around as the guide waits to begin our tour. There are about 10-15 people milling about the apex of the hill, and not a single Goth among them. Our guide, former Shamokin mayor Frederick “Fritz” Reed, comes around to collect the tickets, and then we’re off.

Nothing really exciting happened until we come to the “Soldiers’ Circle,” a ring of tombstones with a large monument at the center. Four of those stones are marked “unknown,” but that’s not what’s special about the circle.

“This is the only soldiers’ circle to have a base made from actual rock taken from the battle of Gettysburg,” Reed explained.

We walk around to the front of the 15 acre cemetery stopping just a few feet from my grandfather’s grave, and Reed regales us (in a bucket hat and fake mustache that kept falling off his face) with the story of how the town was founded and how Cleaver (Reed’s character), reluctantly ran for state office, invented various mining equipment and died tragically at a “relatively young age” (he was 44 yrs old).

Next up was some costumed re-enactors (4 in all, mainly teachers from the local high school). One was a doctor-pharmacy tycoon, one was a congressman-city founder (Reed’s character), one was the wife of a local landowner and one was a famous civil war hero turned Sheriff-Mayor.

“In 1864,” Henry “Snapper” Reese (Dave Kopitski Jr.) said of his adopted hometown. “You had as good a chance of getting shot in Shamokin as in the Wild West.”

Reed soon lets us go to explore the rest of the cemetery on our own, but I head back to the festival.

The duck business was doing extremely well with about a third of the ducks we brought gone, nearly all of the candy as was a sizable amount of small prizes. The line, however, remained relatively strong.

“We had some slow times, but it was pretty steady all day with the ducks,” Barb Silliman reported. “We kind of just improvised as we go along.”

I go off in search of the funnel cake stand and find it near the end of the vending area. There is no line, but the woman in the trailer refuses to give me change instead opting to try and stare me down. I wondered if that actually works on people or if she just thought I was stupid enough to fall for that.

“You want something else?” She said icily before finally retrieving a dollar from her cashbox.

Its 4pm as I finish my cake and head back to the duck booth – which was being disassembled before my eyes along with every vending area along Market Street. I arrived in time to tear down the very tent I helped set up and reload the car I helped unpack (this time the ducks, candy and prizes all fit into the same plastic box making the process a whole lot easier).

Next we drove up to the church to pick up my dad and whatever work he was doing between the 7 visitors the church received during the festival (up from 2 when I checked in around 1:30pm), and we still got home by 4:30pm.

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Anthracite Heritage – part 1

It was 7:45am when my parents and I arrived to help set up the two areas that St John’s had rented for the 4 th annual Anthracite Heritage Festival in downtown Shamokin, Pa. My dad helped set up the tent for the food area, and I helped my mother set up the church’s new “Dunk a Duck” game (where you try and knock one or more small rubber ducks off a platform using either a water cannon or three water balls of varying sizes).

The food area was ready for the 9am opening colliery whistle, but our duck game was nowhere close to operational. Dad was already at the church on “the off-chance that someone showed up for a tour,” the Contemporary Worship Band was performing on the main (only) stage and mom had disappeared somewhere into the ether. That meant I was thrown into the running a game that had no set rules, a convoluted list of prizes and was only partially set up. Did I mention there was already a line?

The church band returned from their performance, and I quickly grabbed one of the confirmands and told him I was off to find the nearest porto-potty. It was directly across from the seating area on Chestnut St, and it had its own portable hand sanitizer station. I then took the opportunity to wander around the booths (there were three other groups with duck themed games) and try to find a half decent lunch.

The vending\entertainment area of the festival covers about three blocks of Market St, but there was also a classic car show in the Rite-Aid parking lot, carriage\trolley rides and cemetery tours. My next destination was the Anthracite Heritage Museum on the 2 nd floor of the American Legion building, and it was, conveniently enough, located next to the famous Coney Island hot dog stand.

The museum itself was a small loosely connected series of band\sports photos, yearbooks and student newspapers from local high schools (some of which closed decades ago) laid out in the hallway and storage rooms adjoining the Legion’s meeting room (though it was unclear if said room was also part of the museum or not).

The museum exited directly into the line for the Anthracite Model Train Layout, which is open during the festival and on weekends in December. I went through it with my camera taking pictures of our finely detailed region in miniature, and then I left to check in with my dad at the church (he had "exactly two" visitors other than me).

It was nearly 2pm when I left the church, but I had one more stop to make before returning to the festival area.

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Quick notes

Baltimore Brew is reporting that my paper isn't the only one to turn up missing in the morning.

I finally broke down and joined the DC chapter of the University of Miami Alumni Association. It should be noted that this is my fifth year since graduating from UM, and my 10th since high school.

The Anthracite Heritage Festival of the Arts is next weekend in downtown Shamokin , Pa. Yes, I plan on attending, and I will try to post more about this later in the week.

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The Sun also sets

I cancelled my subscription to The Baltimore Sun yesterday. Not because of the massive lay-offs, the ugly and obviously last minute redesign, but because it was the fifth day this month that I went out to the lobby and my paper wasn’t there.

Seriously, why should I pay to have the paper delivered when I have to go down and buy it from the convenience store on Park\Howard Sts? The best part of this was when the agent on the “customer satisfaction line” had the gall to suggest I give the paper a “second chance.” Apparently, I’ve been reporting missed deliveries for fun and laughs (two of which were never re-delivered, but only one was credited on the bill I was canceling).

The though crossed my mind that maybe someone stole my paper five out of thirteen days, in which case why was it there the other eight? Do they consistently miscount in the distribution center? Do they have such a high rate of turn-over that they have to replace the carrier every few days? It doesn’t matter, as I’m done with giving them “second\third\Fourth\FIFTH” chances.

It also doesn’t help that the paper now has the same type and thickness of The (Sunbury, Pa) Daily Item. But that’s another matter entirely…

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Misc news

So after 2 continuous days of rain, the Maryland drought is officially over (Baltimore Sun).

Riptide is reporting that UM wants to rekindle its cross town rivalry with FIU after their disastrous 2006 match-up.

Adbusters magazine has declared that we have entered "the era of simulation," actually the new version doesn't ship until June (picture from

Did you feel the force? Yesterday was Star Wars Day.

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