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Monday, April 19, 2010

Florida Coal Cracker Returns to His Roots

On Sunday - we told Sherman to set the "way back" machine to 1971 - 2003. Lulu and I had the pleasure of visiting people - places - and times from our early years together as teachers - home builders - and family folks.

Some people will say that Tamaqua and the Panther Valley are in a time warp - things do not seem to change. If you are from the Valley you know that is good because you can improve perfection.

The day started out with breakfast with Lulu's sister Lori and her two kids Tyler and Dana. No sooner did they leave when Sally Bair - a special computer and teacher friend - came by and we shared Penn State and FSU stories. Sally announced that she is retiring from teaching this June. 

Then we had lunch with Bob and Cam Schleicher. Bob is my cousin. They visited us in Florida. 

Next we visited a street festival in Jim Thorpe PA. To complete the circle - we drove through Panther Valley - my old school district. 

In Tamaqua - we stopped to see neighbor Lee Schilling - and our old home.

The night ended at the home of Nancy and Bussey Jones. Nancy was Lulu's best friend in high school. She is a teacher at Tamaqua - and it also retiring this June. Nancy made one of my favorite meals - West Penn Township Pennsylvania Dutch chicken and potpie - FROM SCRATCH - with real dough. We sat up for hours telling old war stories.

Today we will end our Coal Region flashback with lunch with Lulu's Mom - Betty. It will be noon at Dimaggio's - a downtown hotspot - then a ride to the ABE Airport and home to Tallahassee.

Tyler - Nancy - Lori - Dana

Harry Met Sally

For 33 years I pestered the Panther Valley School Board to build a new middle school. As soon as I left - they got out the drawing board and planned this NEW Panther Valley Middle School. It is several shades of gray and reminds me of a coal breaker.

This is the entrance to the high school and new middle school. Note the name on the street sign. Harry was raised and taught the "Coal Region Way."

We stopped at the Number 9 coal mining museum. My dad worked at Number 8 for 25 years - which was right next door. Yes - he died from Black Lung - the dreaded miner's asthma

You can still go down into the Number 9 mine. It is turned into a museum by a bunch of retired coal miners. The last time it was producing coal was 1972.

The Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company owned the mines and the canals and trains that took the coal to the city. In 1910 - the state produced 100 million tons of anthracite - or hard coal. This coal is found few places in the world. It is a metamorphic that burns cleanly and smokelessly. During the Civil War - the coal was used by blockade running ships because its smoke could not be seen. Also - during WWII it was used by battleships so the subs could not see their smoke.

Our old house in Tamaqua. Lulu and I (plus Paul Dodson) built it from a 100% cedar kit in 1973 for $20k. 30 years later - we sold it for $125k - after raising the two boys there.

Anthracite coal and dandelion. They were the "national bird" of the coal regions.

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