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Saturday, October 29, 2022

Eckley Miners Village - A Living Museum Of A Patch Town

5 pm was sunset and quitting time on the main street.
We were alone.


Eckley Village - 
A state historic site.
The company store.
The replica colliery. 

The original homes were covered 
with bare wood clapboards. 

Today after the FSU football game - we drove over to Eckley from our hotel explore the old coal company town. Both of my parents grew up in "patch towns." Simple - a patch town was a community owned by the coal company to house the miners and their families. Your worked in the mine - you paid the rent back to the company. You shopped at the company store - and at the end of the week you were lucky on payday if you had any money left over. 

My Mom lived in "The Vulcan." Several of the houses are still there and can be seen when zooming by on Interstate 81 near Mahanoy City. He Dad was the timekeeper for the miners. He was part  of management - his family came to America from Wales to work in the mines. Believe it or not - they were mining the same coal seams that were mined over in Wales. 

My Father lived in "Seek." He worked in the Number 8 mine in Coaldale PA. He was born in 1916 - lived in Seek until he was 25 years old - when he got married in 1941. They moved to a farm near Andreas and later Tamaqua to raise the family. Many of the the company homes are still being used in Seek - although they have been sold by the company to families. The kids from Seek still go to the school district where I taught. 

In 1969 - the Eckley Miners Village was chosen to be the movie set for the movie "The Molly Maguires." It starred Sean Connery and Richard Harris as organizers of one of the first labor unions. Although people still lived in the homes in Eckley - the state decided to preserve it as a living museum. The residents were allowed to live in the homes - which were renovated on the inside - and redesigned on the outside to hide and modern utilities. 50 years later there are a few home still occupied there. Outside the homes are covered with unpainted wood clapboards. Inside they have Internet - Cable TV - electricity - modern plumbing. Outside they have replica outhouses. 

Other buildings include a replica coal breaker - a company store - a pub - and a doctors office and home. the Superintendent of the Mine lived in a mansion far down the Main Street - away form the workers. There was a Protestant Church for the English and Welsh and a Catholic Church for the Irish - Eastern Europeans - and the Italians. 

Today there is an indoor museum with artifacts. It has regular hours and a $7 admission. The outside museum is free and walkable most anytime. Cars are kept outside the historic streets. 

The town was name after Eckley Cox by his father. Cox eventually became active in the community and founded the MMI School. At the time it meant Mining and Mechanical Institute. My wife Lulu was the school librarian and computer science teacher there for several years. Today it is called MMI Prep School. 

Walking around the patch brings back memories of a simpler time but not necessarily a better time. They worked 6 days a week and 10-12 hours a day. It was isolated - no personal transportation - and few labor laws to protect the workers. If they didn't get killed in mining accidents - they died of black lung from breathing air full of coal dust. If the miner quit or died - the family was expelled from the community. 

Later working conditions improved thanks to labor unions. 

A later electric engine
to haul coal cars.

The Catholic Church and Rectory.

Found in 1854 - 
people still live here. 

Sunset in the west over museum.

Catholic Church. 

I sold my soul to the company store. 

Paint peels from back of 
Superitendent's home. 

The boss's big house.

The dispensary.

The doctor's office. 

The Protestant Church

Note the brick tar paper -
covered by clapboards.

A nice addition on the house.

Hidden underground 

Little pink houses for you and me

Coal chunks were put in the tops - 
the breaker broke it to different sizes. 

Peeking in the windows.
Front bedroom

Kitchen and coal stove.

The were original red with 
black trim.

The pub.

Miners' doubles - 
2 houses - full upstairs.

Atlas Powder Company had a plant 
south of Tamaqua. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Tamaqua Train Station Makes It Onto A USA Postage Stamp

I spent my first 55 years in Tamaqua PA. Back when I was born in 1948 - it was a bustling town of 12,000 - a railroad hub in the Anthracite Coal Regions of Pennsylvania. One could catch a train to Philadelphia - 90 miles away - to see the Phillies play. A 100 mile weekend ride to New York City could include a Broadway play. My Dad worked down in a deep mine in Coaldale PA for 25 years - filling the coal hoppers of the Industrial Revolution and filling his chest with the Black Lung. I was a school teacher for 33 years about 5 miles east of this old train station. 

Today in the town of 6000 - the Tamaqua Train Station stands sentinel as a witness of that past. It took a lot of effort by the townspeople - to restore the building to its original glory. It houses a restaurant and hosts many outdoor concerts - bring your own chair. 

Today - the Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad runs excursion trains from Reading on the former lines of the old Reading Railroad. 

The USPS has announced they are releasing a series of 5 railroad station stamps in 2023. Of all the stations - little Tamaqua Pennsylvania has made the cut. 

Whenever we return home - we make sure to have supper at the station. We get to meet long lost friends and get a little peek at the past. 

When I was a kid - we used to hang out there. It was warm inside and there was a phone booth that was still only 5 cents. We could pester our female classmates for half the price of a bottle of Coke. Back then I could remember phone numbers.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

45 of 45 - Monday - The Longest Day - Coming Home From Australia

Australia has lots of dangerous animals

Last night in Sydney
Dinner Cruise 

We swam on the
Great Barrier Reef

Saint Mary's Cathedral

Australia Museum 

We just spent 45 glorious days in the Land of the Down Under - Australia. We have returned home throughly overwhelmed by the size of our earth - and the culture of Australia. From our hotel door in Sydney to our front porch in Tallahassee - it took 27 hours - all on Monday. It was roughly 11,000 miles and about 14 time zones. When we were there - we had to figure that the USA East Coast was 14 hours behind us. When the FSU Seminoles were playing a football game on Saturday night back in Tallahassee - it was already Sunday morning in Australia - the next day. 

We left our hotel in Sydney at 8 am Monday morning. We took an Uber car to the airport. We sat in the airport lounge having breakfast - waiting to fly at 10 am. The longest flight was in an Airbus 350 for 13 hours and 7000 miles to Los Angeles. Lulu and I had window seats - but we were one row apart. I sat next to another guy - and we barely spoke a word - except to ask to go to the bathroom 3 times. I got very little sleep. I watched 3 movies including Elvis Presley and Tonya Harding. I was lucky our plane had the Internet - I could post stuff on Facebook and email my friends.

It was around 6 am when we arrived in Los Angeles - but because we crossed the International Dateline - it was still Monday - October 10. Going thru customs was easy - all we did is scan our passport - no one asked us any questions. We hurried to the Delta Lounge where we had another nice meal - after getting 3 meals on the jet. I love getting a shower in the lounge - it is like generating my battery. After about 5 hours of lounging - we got on our plane to Atlanta. Again we were separate - Lulu was one cabin category in front of me. No first class - but comfort plus. I think  I got a little sleep on this 4 hour leg. 

After 2 hours of layover in Atlanta - we hopped on a plane to Tallahassee and home. It only took an hour. Our friends Joel and George dependably picked us up at the airport. We normally do not check luggage - but we had extra bags for our friend Joan that she sent home - so we checked 4 bags for free. No need for us to carry bags onto the plane. We arrived in Tallahassee about 8:30 - our bags were fast - the Dawsons were there - they had us home by 9 pm. 

Joan is staying on for another month. She has a 3 week guided tour of New Zealand coming up. Joan is a nurse and we love to bounce any ailments off her. She has visited with us in London - Berlin - and now Australia. 

WORK TRIP - this was a work trip for Lulu. She was doing special research at the Australian National Library. She went through bins and bins of private papers of a famed scholar. We eventually visited his school and grave in Melbourne. But almost every day she spent 4 hours at the library. After that we could tour around. That is why we stayed in Canberra - the capital - for the full month of September. After that we toured around to - Sydney - Melbourne - Batmans Beach - Bungoladore - Goulburn - Braidwood - Bowral and many national parks and museums. 

Lulu also taught 2 grad classes for FSU every week. Over here classes were 6 pm on Tuesday and Wednesday. Over there - the time was Wednesday and Thursday at 8 am. Lulu liked getting up early and teaching the 8 am classes. She works better in the morning. 

In the beginning of the trip we were a bit homesick - for friends - family and our home in the USA. Australia is a very nice place - the people are very friendly - and they admire everything USA. Once you start talking they do not let you go. As you might say - they don't get far from home much. 

Australia is a country of 25 million people but it is as big as the 48 USA states in size. Melbourne and Sydney are in competition to see who is top dog. Each city has 5 million people. This is why they chose to build a new city - Canberra - between them to be capital. The country seems to have an inferiority complex about their little capital of 150,000 people. It is very modern - a planned community. It is 2000 feet above sea level - making it one of the colder places in the country. I really enjoyed living there - great shopping - lots of good places to eat.  I liked the parks - museums - animals - and mountains. They call it the Outback Capital. 

Canberra - at night got down to 40s - in the days sometimes up to the 70s. I could get along with a light jacket and a sweatshirt. I had a pair of jeans and a tie for dressing "up." But mostly I wore shorts and t-shirts and button down shirts. I never felt underdressed. 

APARTMENT - we had an airbnb apartment right downtown next to a big mall. It cost about $100 a night. The mall was top drawer with Tesla and Apple stores. Our apartment had 2 bedrooms and 2 baths. It was 2 years old with 3 floors of underground parking. We parked our rental white Kia there. The airbnb was completely furnished - dishes - cooking utensils - linens - towels - curtains - appliances - iron - washer - dryer - dishwasher - microwave - flat top stove - frig - AC. It had good Internet and TV - although we bought Fubo TV to watch FSU sporting events. 

It is Tuesday night at midnight as I type this and select pictures at home. I slept on and off today for 16 hours. Lulu seems better adjusted than I am - she already taught her Tuesday night class at home. 

While we were there - we were so glad that Melissa and Joan - two of our best friends - came to stay. They love to travel and knew we would have extra room. Melissa came first - and was in Canberra with us. Joan came later - and was in Canberra a week - then she traveled with us to other cities. The best time was when they were both with us. Nancy loved having shopping partners. When I go shopping with her - I sit on a mall bench or in the car. These two love shopping - lunching - pubbing - trying to new foods - as much as Lulu. When they were together - I could tour grittier museums - and parts of my misery tour. The ladies really provided a lift for Lulu and me. We all loved swimming at the Great Barrier Reef - you really felt far away from home there. 

I do not know if she means it - but Lulu said this was her last working trip. She would rather travel leisurely with me. But it is hard to pass up the opportunities. While we were over there - our son video chatted with us from London at the queen's funeral - and then later from Cyprus - where he was working with that country on their energy plans. He is just like his Mom. Meanwhile our other son and his son video chatted from an FSU football game in Raleigh. Again just like Lulu - they are big Seminole fans. 

On this trip - I was able to spend frequent flyer miles for my plane ticket. Lulu's expenses were covered by the project. We ate quite a few meals out - but we also cooked many in the apartment. We stayed in 3 Hilton Hotels that had executive lounges - but we also cooked lots of meals. I left home at 238 pounds- and came back home at 239 pounds . My next project is to whittle that down to 200. 

Lulu did get a cold while we were in Canberra. I remained healthy except for a loose constitution a couple times. No signs of covid. This trip was delayed for 2 years - because Australia was completely closed to visitors. We waited it out and had to use it or lose it - so we had to act fast. 

We really appreciate that we can do things like this thanks to Lulu's job. I am retired 20 years after 33 years of being a public school teacher - and I just get to go along as a gofer. I am truly a trailing spouse. I have to watch that I do not sound too much like a bragger - I did nothing to earn this opportunity. I always loved Show and Tell in the classroom when I was a teacher. It is so long ago - many people do not recall me ever working. I look at this blog and my pictures as Show and Tell. It is like a dream and I pinch myself regularly. 

Lots of neat scooters
This one has 2000 watt motor 
Disk brakes - Shock Absorbers

These were toy guns. 

The guns shot 7 mm gel pellets

Toys - $200 to $400
we shot these guns.
slower than BB guns. 

My Glock 19 was cheaper
than this toy gun

The lagoon in Cairns -
We waded here

I love this valley
across from our hotel - 

That is our hotel in Cairns from 
Ferris wheel at lagoon

I liked getting in plane
rear door - Cairns

Our Hilton Sydney
right in middle of action

Queen Victoria Building 
beats shopping mall ever

Australia National Museum

Brown snake - common 
and poisonous

Steps in Australian Museum

Skeleton horse and man

Saint Mary's Cathedral

Queen Victoria Building Mall

Queen Victoria Building
great place to shop and eat

Executive lounge in our hotel - 
just a pretty place and stocked.

Our lounge - so many nice things to 
eat and drink

Lulu at breakfast

Lounge had great service and 
2 bartenders

I loved the orange juice

Bread bar and toaster

City Hall across from 
Hilton Hotel

This bike had a lot of neat features.
electric motor - built in battery - 
"no flat" tires - shock absorbers - 
rent it with credit card.

Our hotel behind tram.
Just tap your credit card and get on.
About 60 cents a ride.

Queen Victoria Building - 1900

Church - city hall - shopping mall

The famous Sydney Opera House

Sydney Harbor Bridge
Fireworks from the bridge - 2000 Olympics

Last night in town - dinner cruise

Cruise ship passing the
Opera House

Monday morning - airplane home

Full moon from my jet seat

Over Pete's house on way home

Look at the leg room in exit row

Someone offered me a challenge 
on the plane - did not do.