Shamokinites of 1929: Do you know them?

A busy schedule may have kept me absent from this blog for a while, but I just had to check in to post this rare glimpse into the coal region of old. What were Shamokinites and natives of the surrounding area doing in 1929? Many, it seems, turned out for the celebration at Richardson Field (presently Northumberland County Airport) given on the occasion of the dedication of two new hangars, as well as the retirement from the Navy of Captain Holden Chester Richardson, a native of Shamokin.

A good friend of mine recently discovered an old film reel from this event, which she purchased and converted to digital. She let me view this historical find, a copy of which she is currently offering via eBay auction, and allowed me to take a few snapshots of some of the area residents shown on the film. The following individuals are unidentified, but while I don’t know them, I wish I did! Do you recognize anyone?

Festival 2009 Part III: The Past Comes Alive at Shamokin Cemetery

Shamokin Cemetery: The large mausoleum is visible in the background

Shamokin Cemetery: The large mausoleum is visible in the background

By many, a cemetery is considered an eerie, morbid, sometimes even macabre place. It’s an overused setting in films and novels of the horror variety, and is not very often associated with anything other than death or desolation in some form. But, although a cemetery certainly marks some of the more despondent moments of history, it is also, to the people who made the Shamokin Cemetery tour on Saturday, May 23rd possible, a place to recognize and remember those who are buried there, and, for a few hours every year, to bring that past back to life.

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Festival 2009 Part II: The Trolley

While horses made their way through the streets, and festival-goers milled about the vendors’ booths on Market Street yesterday, a red and white motorized trolley, a new one this year from Wellsboro, made stops at the corner every thirty minutes to take on new passengers for the historical tour through Shamokin and Edgewood.

I arranged to take the 12:00 tour, and as I got on as soon as it arrived, I was able to take a number of photos before many passengers came on.

Grand old woodwork in trolley interior
Grand old woodwork in trolley interior

The trolley, which seats about twenty people, had a beautiful oak interior with brass accents and round ceiling lamps, and in the back a speaker played quaint haywagon-style tunes. Tour booklets were laid out on the seats, featuring old and new photos for stops on the ride.

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Anthracite Heritage Festival 2009: Part I

What an incredible day.

Certainly, this was the most fruitful, exciting, informative and simply amazing of the three annual Heritage Festivals I’ve so far attended. Starting with the 10:00 cemetery tour, moving on to a trolley tour of Edgewood at 12, interviews with the cemetery tour reenactors at 1:30, and finally a visit to the Anthracite Heritage Museum and adjoining military museum at the American Legion Building around 3, I made it a point to do and see as much as possible, and I have to say I definitely accomplished a lot!

Vendors on Market Street

Vendors on Market Street

This is where I initially arrived to pick up tickets from the corner booth. I then proceeded to the Shamokin Cemetery, where I came early to meet and talk to a few people. The tour was fascinating, and I kept my ears peeled for interesting quotes which I quickly scribbled in a notebook. Along the approximately one-and-a-half-hour tour, several stops were made, with commentary by event coordinator and guide Frederick Reed on numerous individuals of the distant and recent past interred in the cemetery, while reenactors also portrayed four prominent figures. Later on I’ll post a more detailed article about the tour, along with photos and a few comments from the participants.

Although I only traveled on the trolley this year, it was pleasant to watch the buggy and wagon traversing downtown Shamokin every now and then–what was once, in the good old days, just a common sight.

Horse and buggy, as seen from the trolley

Horse and buggy, as seen from the trolley

I also stopped by the American Legion Building before calling it a day. There, I visited the Heritage Museum (see my post from March for more information on the museum), and also happened to find my way into the military museum in the next room. Elegant old furniture and paintings (one is visible in the photo below) adorned the spacious room, which held mostly photographs of local area servicemen from the Spanish-American War, WWI and WWII–and thankfully, nearly every one included an identification!–but also old books, scrapbooks and clippings. Unfortunately, one of my cameras was just about at its capacity, and the other one was home in rehab (recharging) from overuse, so I was only able to take one photo. However, the Heritage Museum, and, I’m presuming, the adjoining military museum as well, will be open tomorrow, so if possible I will visit there again for additional photos.

Military museum, American Legion Building - WWII photos

Military museum, American Legion Building - WWII photos

Next, I will be posting photos and information from the trolley tour, which went through Edgewood. Indeed, this was a great day, and I’m certainly glad I attended!

Heritage Festival begins this afternoon

Well, the time certainly has passed quickly! The 2009 Anthracite Heritage Festival of the Arts officially begins late this afternoon and evening (fireworks, parade, luminaries, etc.). I, however, probably won’t attend until tomorrow–that’s when most of the action gets underway, primarily in the Market Street area. The median will be occupied by a good number of vendors, one street corner will feature the familiar booming bandstand, and around town there will be tours via carriage and motorized trolley of historic districts. Most interestingly, there will also be cemetery tours this year as well, featuring reenactors portraying prominent Shamokinites of days past.

I hope to visit and take photos of as many places as possible, and upon my return, if I have enough photos, I’ll use separate blog posts for each locale. I’ll also be presenting a detailed article about the cemetery tour reenactments, including an in-depth look at how that event is organized, with remarks from the participants themselves.

For a detailed list of the attractions at the 2009 Heritage Festival, check out this News-Item article. The News-Item also delivers a great pitch for the attractions of the festival weekend in “Heritage Festival kicks off today.” A search on the News-Item website will yield additional info.

Finally, I’d like to wish the best of luck to everyone who has made this event possible, and I’m certain the 2009 festival will be a great success!

Festival season!

Well, it’s that time again–the Anthracite Heritage Festival, May 22-23. Lately I’ve been absent from this blog again, but (hopefully!) you’ll be seeing a lot more of me this month. I won’t forget my camera this time ( 😉 ) so you can expect numerous photos of the festival action, even though they may be a little blurry from my cameraphone’s sheer ineptitude. That’s another thing I should take care of this year!

This blog certainly needs a makeover, too. If you see anything out of whack for a while, that’s why. Mostly I’m changing the introduction page and adding a Profiles section with short biographies, document transcriptions and assorted information on significant individuals I’m researching. There may also be a Photos page with images of local landmarks and some old photos connected with my research.

It’s certainly going to be a busy month, but I’ve been attending the Heritage Festival for almost three years in a row now, and I’m eager to share the excitement, history and local color of this wonderful summer event here in coal region Shamokin. Yes, a busy but memorable month ahead!

Shamokin-CT Heritage Museum – Wealth of information (including Shuman discoveries and more)

It was reported some time ago in the papers that after last week’s American Legion Building flood, the Shamokin-Coal Township Heritage Museum, did not, in fact, lose any items to water damage, due to the quick response of firefighters and police. The museum also opened its doors last evening at six to the general public, an opportunity which I quickly took, needless to say. And I’m glad I did.

I’ve never actually been in this part of the American Legion Building before. Aside from the library entrance, there are two entrances at either end of the facade, and it’s the one at the left that leads to the Heritage Museum. It opens, first, into a small vestibule, which, though old, by its construction probably isn’t original. The vestibule, however, then opens onto a large, empty, high-ceilinged room with superb stone walls and a long staircase under an archway. Along the ceiling, a carved inscription dedicated to the memory of the soldiers of the World War (that would be the first, as the building was erected in 1922), follows the perimeter of the room.

Upon arriving, I proceeded up the stairwell to a door marked with the name of the museum. Turning right as I entered, I came upon a long narrow hallway with several tables lining one wall, containing mostly school group portraits from the 1920-1950 period, though a few from earlier dates were there as well. Some old documents and miscellaneous items, including a case of rulers with the names of local businesses, could also be found.

Here I met Mr. Carr, who had collected most of the items at the museum. He was quite helpful, and showed me into the next two rooms, which contained a bounty of old documents and photos. I spent an hour and a half going through them, and still had not time to see everything. School memorabilia, yearbooks and reviews, made up a good portion of the collection, but there were also a number of portraits (most unidentified, unfortunately), church records and booklets, and several family diplomas, baptismal and marriage certificates. Most of these last were from the Mulliner family, but there were a few Henninger, Neugard, and Fetterman names as well, among others. I saw dates as early as 1901, but most of the diplomas and certificates were from the 20s. The portraits varied in time period from the 1890s/1900s, or perhaps earlier, to the 1940s and 50s. There were also binders containing old miscellaneous paperwork such as invitations, business letters, etc. Newspaper clippings, most of them recent, from the Centennial (1964) or later, were also to be found. Just before I left I came upon quite a few old directories, most fairly recent–within the past fifty years or so–but some appeared to be a little older. It was getting late, however, and I had to leave, so I did not get a chance to go through them until this morning.

Naturally, I did turn up some interesting finds. A 1924 high school yearbook included a photograph of Dorothy Shuman, daughter of Harry W. Shuman, who was a nephew of M. H. Kulp. According to the 1920 census, Dorothy was at that time living with Kulp’s widow, Sarah, at her Edgewood residence. Apparently, she lived with her for a number of years, as the yearbook lists Dorothy’s address as 126 N. Shamokin Street, to which Sarah Kulp relocated after the sale of Oaklawn in 1923. In the yearbook, the remarks by “Dot’s” portrait read:

Just gaze upon this charming bit of feminine beauty. Really, dear readers, we just don’t know what to say about her. She is a good sport, a fine pal, and all around good fellow. If it were not for all this, perhaps, we could say something, but we know when we are beaten. We wish every success.

So beautiful and refined
I hope she doesn’t mind,
If I tell you this time,
She’s got an awful line.

A 1932 yearbook mentioned Monroe Shuman, Dorothy’s brother. Born in 1914, he was named after his great-uncle.


This little boy we call the “Coach,”
He’s razzed and teased the limit.
But when his “Mamma” calls,
He’ll be there in a minute.

pre-1929_metal-box_compliments-of-kulp-lumber-co_2I also located a few photos of (I believe) Harry Shuman, Jr., brother of Monroe and Dorothy, and better known as H. Wilt Shuman. And, on one shelf in the museum, I found a fairly large, black tin lockbox, empty, with the inscription “Compliments of Kulp Lumber Co., G. Gilbert Kulp, Prop.” With Gilbert as the proprietor, this box must date from before 1929.

As I dug through the multitude of dusty treasures, a cd player in the other room played recordings of the former WISL station, on which host Tom Kutza used to discuss his memories of old Shamokin. Between commentary, Big Band tunes played, along with a rendition of “Dear Old Edgewood Park,” and the locally famous 1940s “Moke from Shamokin.”

After an hour and a half, I had to get going, but returned again this morning shortly after eleven. The oldest of the directories, it appears, was 1928-29, and though there was a gap between those years and around 1950 or so, there were several directories from post-1950. In the back of the room, I found a diary from around 1934-37, written by someone named Betty. I did not see any surname for the author in my perusal of the diary, but there were frequent references early on to a “Grandma Shott.”1933_five-year-diary_cover1



In a “Labor Day Handbook” from 1916, I also came upon a portrait I had never seen before of William C. McConnell, who was running for office (State Senate) at the time. On the subject of photos again, I really must say there were more portraits at the museum than I could tell you. Some were from Thomas Photography, others Lippiatt, Swank, and more, and some were school pictures. Many more were in books. 1930_school-day_edgewood-park_ticket1Unfortunately, the majority had no identification, but I’m sure there must be plenty of genealogists and locals out there who might be able to recognize someone. I tell you, this place can be quite the gold mine for anyone interested in Shamokin history, genealogical or otherwise. There was a lot of interesting miscellany, too, like souvenirs from local businesses. Quite honestly, I saw a little bit of everything.

The museum, however, doesn’t seem to be getting a lot of attention. Last night, I was the only visitor there the whole evening, except for someone who stopped in briefly, mostly asking about the flood damage to other areas of the building. When I signed the guestbook again the next morning, there were no other names after mine. So I’d like to say that if you’re at all interested in Shamokin area history, or your ancestors from the area, be sure to visit the Heritage Museum. I think it’s an invaluable resource and a fascinating glimpse into the town’s past. According to the News-Item, the museum will be open from noon to 3 pm tomorrow.

Local library, museum and more damaged

Shamokin’s American Legion Building on Independence Street houses the Shamokin-Coal Township Public Library, the Anthracite Heritage Museum, the Lower Anthracite Model Railroad Club, and a gymnasium, among other establishments. On Monday, March 9th, however, it seems a floor sink in the gym upstairs was left clogged and the water running for several hours. Needless to say, this didn’t end well.

I first noticed something was going on Monday morning after seeing a crew of fire trucks and the works outside the building, but did not learn much more until the following day when I visited the library. The incident was also briefly mentioned at the city council meeting Monday night, which I attended, but they didn’t go into details. In any case, it appears the rear section of the public library sustained the most water damage. The stairs to the children’s section were still drying on Tuesday, and the upper floor was accessible only by the usually closed staircase in the front of the building. The fiction area was considerably affected, and the newspapers report that hundreds of books were ruined or damaged. The museum, too, lost some items, but details haven’t been published. (I only slap myself for not having visited the museum before. I mentally confused it with the model railroad club and expected to find little of use to my research there.)

When I visited the library Tuesday, the place smelled faintly of damp paper and all the tables on the main floor were covered with books standing on their edges with the pages fanned out and drying. At least, however, the damage was only in the back, and the historical materials and microfilm are nearer the front, untouched. The lights were all of course out in the fiction area, and in the semi-darkness I could see the shelves were covered with plastic sheeting. As I scrolled through the newspapers on the microfilm reader, seeking out an obituary to copy, cameramen from WBRE and–what was it? WNEP?–showed up, with the librarian escorting them around. (I swear I did not know there were going to be cameras when I came in!! Lol. :P) It was all very quiet, however, and I went on with printing the obituary.

These two articles in the News-Item–Library Floods; Shamokin – C.T. Library Reopens After Flood–provide a full account of the incident and aftermath. Fortunately, the librarians say that although the damage is serious, it’s not quite as costly as expected, and many of the books are salvageable. It isn’t known yet whether the clogging of the sink was deliberate, or simply idiotic.

Speaking of quiet, I figure I will also mention the council meeting, since it’s the first I’ve attended. It took place in a large room on the second floor of the Lincoln Street City Hall, and though I won’t go into details, let’s just say it was docile. All the councilmen and councilwomen agreed unanimously on every issue brought forth, and the first order of business was to take a break. But I suppose that’s all a good thing–we don’t argue in this town! However, one important issue that came up was the Knights of Columbus Building on Independence Street. This was a place that was supposed to be erected some months ago after the original K of C building was damaged in a roof leak or something, and part of the ceiling collapsed (don’t really remember when that was). However, the new, unfinished building also collapsed quite suddenly in January when all four walls simply fell into a heap, scattering debris onto the sidewalk. To this day, the sidewalk is still inaccessible. Cleanup hasn’t even been attempted, and it seems the contracting company can’t be communicated with. K of C people say the contractors have 15 days to get moving, but if they don’t, cleanup will still definitely happen within 30 days.