Tuesday, April 19, 2011

My Hometown - Part One

I began this post a few nights ago; and while going back and forth between sites, closed this one and lost everything.  But not really, the words and photos were lost but not the memories or the idea.

And isn't that what this particular selling and moving thing, as well as the general idea of change and transition in life is all about.

btw, let me share a little counseling axiom:  You can have change without transition, but you can't have transition without change.  The easy explanation of this is that you can make an external and superficial change without the internal, life-altering ones but not vice versa.

If I want to take you on a deeper detour down the line, we'll explore The Stages of Change as developed by Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente.  Useful for all sorts of things.  Trust me.

Back on topic.  Pottsville, Pennsylvania.  An anthracite coal mining town in Eastern Pennsylvania.
Full of high society WASPs but plenty of immigrant Poles, Irish, Germans, even Jews.  How the hell did they get there?

Best known for the now celebrated Yuengling Brewey, the oldest family brewery in the US, or so they say.  I grew up with the smell of hops wafting down the hill to Garfield Elementary School (now a parking lot, I'm told) and we had field trips into the plant.  Yuengling's also had a ice creamery across from the brewery on Mahantongo St.  A logical use of shared resources and the kinds of ice creams for which otherwise objective adults who now buy lavender, green tea, lemongrass, bittersweet artisinal chocolates continue to yearn.

Pottsville's other claims to fame include author John O'Hara ("Pal Joey," "Butterfield 8") whose early novels include"Appointment in Samarra" (about Pottsville and Schuylkill County society) and the Pottsville Maroons who may have been one of the first NFL championship teams until they were charged with a violation (fledgling reporter John O'Hara covered the team).

Our first house, to which I was brought home as a preemie (my mother recounted that I looked like a "plucked chicken") was on Norwegian St.  I have a horizontal memory of being carried into a room with a lamp over a chair and my paternal grandmother in the room.  This is apparently accurate although there is no photographic confirmation.

At some point, we moved to a big old house on Mahantongo St.  Just down the street from the Yuengling mansion.  Except that we had tenants.  One in the former maid's quarters.  Another family in the former billiard room/trunk storage on the third floor.
Yuengling Mansion

Mostly, I remember Pottsville as a time of true innocence.  Unaware of the history or the class discrepancies.  In my memory, it was all like this:

and like this:

But there's another story here.  My parents'.  Two immigrant families.  A Polish Catholic girl, born in the USA to two Polish immigrants who found her way briefly to NYC as a hairdresser (and a night or two at the Stork Club - my brother has the ashtray) and a Jewish immigrant young man who arrived in 1920 at age 12 from a long lost Polish/German/Russian village and who, speaking no English, graduated from high school, went to Penn State and was valedictorian of his class and got a scholarship to Harvard Law, serving up creamed chipped beef (or shit on a shingle) to the creme de la creme.

They were, both back in Pottsville, set up on a blind date by their opthamalogist, and eventually eloped to Atlantic City, giving my cousin a note and a quarter to deliver it to my mother's mother.  Just recently got that note when my Aunt Esther died and my cousin provided it.  Family tumult immediately ensued; the end result of anti-Semitism and tragedy two decades away.

A time of reflection and process.  Excuse the commercial.

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