Making regress with Progress: A coal region Christmas message

Oh how the region has changed..
How coal county, once might in anthracite hills, has basically detonated into oblivion.

There are positive silver linings at times..
But what so often local fishwrappers won’t tell you is that property value has dramatically fallen.. that population levels in the region have taken a nose dive. That poverty is rampant and the middle class in the area is shrinking, being squeezed tight by economic pressures and realities.. Good jobs are found, but few and far between. Instead, lots of travel takes place as early morning commuters brave interstate highways to the nearest population center where work exists…

This time of year can give a hardcore dose of nostalgia. For me, there is this vision of a snowy Christmas Eve night sometime when Ronald Reagan was president.. My grandmother was alive and well and Centralia was still in the process of being demolished.. I think back to that and wonder how different things really were? …how much has really changed?

Jim Thorpe is a prime example of a coal region town making it. There is history there. Mauch Chunk history. Molly Maguire history. Nooses strung and ghost hands galore.. Yes, this time of year Jim Thorpe looks mighty fine, with its town train rolling through the ancient woods and tourists spending questionable amounts on items in stores lining their trendy streets. I love Jim Thorpe, especially around the holiday season.

But for me Jim Thorpe is a reminder of history not only there but other places too. Ashland has history. Pottsville has history. Girardville has history. The coal region’s former mansions are barren and overgrown with the weeds of history, but once rich and powerful tycoons lived here. Company stores thrived. Main street survived.. Today it’s turned into a blanket of blight.

But it can change!
It always can change.

But it would have to be a monumental change.

Every town could be another Jim Thorpe.. Every town, with the proper alignment of events.

x x x

2017 seemed to be an excrutionatingly awful year for quite a few people I know. The world in itself wasn’t so hot either. Politics is downright nuts. The left has gone further and the right has traveled a distance as well. The political moderates gave up!
Hurricanes swept the globe.
Loud booms freaked out states and countries..
We seem divided. We seem angry. WE seem so very, very tired.

The coal region of Pennsylvania has been mired in the same feeling as well.

This year, after 40 years of existence, the Schuylkill Mall shuddered and will be torn down in ’18. 
The area is devoid of life.. the entire barren landscape seems dulled by inactivity and sadness.
Heroin is taking over so many streets and neighborhoods. It is creeping into families that never had such concerns and ruining lives that deserve to be lived.
Medical care has changed..
An elderly population of so many small towns slowly leaves this planet..
All signaling that a change is here. Not coming. But here.

There are moments in time when decision need to be made, when choices are apparent and bravery is necessary to face the ramifications of whatever choice someone makes.

That choice is now.

A choice to make this area better.. to bring a new and positive light of life into the once great coal region in this 21st century.. To honor the past, but in a sense shed the old baggage that so often keeps the populace back. To honor the elders but use what we learn from them to create an atmosphere conducive for business and innocence.

Buildings without tenants? Open indoor farms!! Feed the county! The world is at our fingertips!
Coal country loves its deer meat. But a vegan restaurant wouldn’t be bad either. Positive changes seem to be happening in some locations. Gourmet grilled cheese in Pottsville? a few new restaurants and thriving old ones? It can happen.

I am not running for office
I am just a citizen with concerns. Like you.

We have been divided and exploited. The area has been subjected to environmental hardship. Strife … hard work, however, has never been a problem for the citizenry.

We just have to work smarter. Better.

This can be an amazing quaint and beautiful place to live.

or…….maybe it’s time to move away.