Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Magic of Home

As I observed on Twitter:

Who says you can't go home again? Weekend in Scranton. Yummy lunch @ Pappas Pizza & dinner @ Savory Maza. My Italian/Lebanese sides happy.

We spent a long week-end in Scranton, where we had a 50th anniversary party for my husband's parents. My parents are also home from Florida for the summer, so I got to visit with them as well. A family-filled week-end (and, as always, some good eats).

A perfectly timed Week-end Journal piece in last week's Philadelphia Inquirer selected Scranton as a destination point, The magic of Scranton, which provided a chuckle for the family and friends from the area.

Calling downtown compact -- about 6 square blocks, in the article may be accurate, but doesn't truly reflect what that downtown was like when I was growing up. Back in the "good old days" (or at least my memories of them), downtown was a vibrant place to be. My high school was on the edge of town, so we went downtown every day after school. To the Charlamont Restaurant at the Globe Store, for brownie a la mode, to Coney Island (mentioned in the piece) for hot dogs, shopping at the Globe and the Scranton Dry Goods Store -- as well as the Army/Navy Store -- believe it or not -- in my hippie days. Those were the days, my friend.

Because the party was held at the Scranton Hilton, I drove my daughter around center city, pointing out various points of interest from my youth. She insisted that it was the first time that she had been downtown (which I find hard to believe), and observed that it was nicer than she expected. I also have to admit that I was amazed at the revival of the downtown in the past few years. My old high school, Central, is now home to a college. The train station and courthouse have been renovated and look fabulous.

As the Inky notes of Scranton:

Mary Ann Moran Savakinus, director of the Lackawanna Historical Society, gives us the city's history in a nutshell:

"The industrial boom was fueled by the holy trinity of iron, rail, and coal." In 1847, brothers Selden T. and George W. Scranton were the first to mass-produce iron rails in America. Their iron-manufacturing business was short-lived, but coal stayed hot. With local fields containing 85 percent of the world's anthracite coal, the family shifted to railroading to transport those "black diamonds" around the country.

By 1900, Scranton had grown into the 38th-largest city in the country, with a population of more than 100,000, and families such as the Scrantons had joined the so-called robber barons of the era.

But the city's story is not just about the wealthy. Industrial growth required labor, and immigrants poured into the city to fill the jobs. The Irish and the Welsh were among the earliest arrivals, followed by Eastern Europeans and Italians.

"Having mined anthracite coal in their native country, the Welsh were a perfect match for the Pennsylvania mines," Moran Savakinus says. "Back then, Scranton had the largest Welsh population outside of Wales itself."

After World War II, coal was displaced by cheaper fuels - oil and natural gas - and the city's fortunes faded.

Its fortunes faded and many of its inhabitants migrated elsewhere (Philly has lots of them). However, like the "hardscrabble" people of Scranton, the city manages to survive, and thrive in its own way.

And, it's nice to know that you can go home again. At least once in a while, for a visit.

(Photos via Scranton Design)

1 comment:

Ben said...

Yeah downtown scranton isn't very big at all but it is still beautiful and vibrant. Like you said there is still a lot of magic in the air!