This weekend we travelled up to northeastern Pennsylvania for my husband’s family reunion. On the way we saw both beautiful scenery and depressed areas. Some towns we drove through probably haven’t seen an economic boom since the days of the robber barons, if at all.
At one point we drove through Jim Thorpe, a town that seemed to be completely frozen in time. It’s nestled in Mauch Chunk, the “Mountain of the Sleeping Bear.” Architecturally, it’s still the Golden Nineties (1890’s, that is), the sort of place you’d call quaint, and seemingly devoted to maintaining that image for tourism – little shops, statue of the town founder Asa Packer, his impressively grand mansion on the hill, a working railroad to take you through the “Switzerland of America” – all this within a very small patch of land on a river. Kayak shops and signs for the Audobon trail abound. The great and tragic Olympian Jim Thorpe is buried there.
The town’s history and fate, like so many others in the region, became bound to the rise and fall of coal mining. They filmed “The Molly Maguires” there, which we’d seen a few months back. Some of my husband’s ancestors had even been involved in that rebellion, struggling to win parity in a life of black lung.
I thought as we whizzed by in the Mini, making the locals’ heads turn, that this would be a nice place to visit for a weekend. I thought that again as we sped by on our return, exhausted from several hours of reunion-izing. But we didn’t stop, eager to return to our city, and something tells me we won’t see it again.
This post appeared in its original form at DC Metblogs