Monthly Archives February 2018

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North East vs. Northeast Pennsylvania

By M Davies   /     Feb 27, 2018  /     Misc/Crap, NEPA, Pittsburgh  /     3 Comments

I got into a conversation with a cashier last night and it took me a good 20 or so minutes to realize we were on two completely different plains of existence.

The gentlemen in question saw that I was wearing my WQED hoodie and started talking to me about people he knew that worked here and how he got the chance to meet Mister Rogers and tour the studio. Unfortunately, Mister Rogers, the set and the show are well before my time at this station. I assume that most of his friends have retired, because the names did not sound familiar.

— Oh yeah, by the way, did I tell you I now work at WQED, “the Mister Rogers station”? More on that another time. —

Anyway, I told him I wish I had the opportunity to meet more people in Pittsburgh, but that I did have a few friends from my jobs here. He of course, wanted to know where I was from and I said “Northeast Pennsylvania.” I find that by saying this, it triggers some knee jerk reaction about Philadelphia. In this case, he said “North East Pennsylvania? OH YEAH! I’ve been to the wine festival up there.” (note the difference in spacing)

I know there are a ton of wine festivals in Northeast PA, but a wine drinker I am not, so I mentioned the only two I could think of off the top of my head. “Montage Mountain? Tunkhannock?” He looked at me like I grew another head.

“No, it’s by the train station,” he said. “There’s an Italian restaurant we ate at near the tracks that was really good.”

Me: “Oh? Maybe you were in Scranton or East Stroudsburg?”

Him: *another puzzled look* “It’s by Lake Erie.”

Me:  “Wait….what?”

He said “Well, you’re from up by Lake Erie, right? That’s where North East is.”

….

No.

I told him I was NorthEASTERN Pennsylvania. “You know, by Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, the Poconos.” Another blank stare.

It took us a few more minutes of back and forth for us to figure out what the hell we were both talking about and then we had a good chuckle.

As it turns out, there is a small borough near Lake Erie, in Erie county, called “North East” and when you pair it with Pennsylvania it sounds like you’re referring to Northeastern, Pennsylvania (NEPA). These are two entirely different areas clear across the state from each other. I would have had no idea that this town even existed if it wasn’t for this awkward conversation. After I got a chance to sit down, relax, and boot up my computer last night, I googled North East, Pennsylvania. According to the borough’s website, the region is known for it’s fruit growing especially cherries and grapes. Welch Foods has a plant in North East and it is one of the area’s largest employers. There is an annual Cherry Festival in the summer and an annual Wine Country Harvest Festival in the fall — this must be the wine festival the cashier was referring to during our chat.

Taken from the North East Wiki

According to some other friends, there’s a rail museum (Lake Shore Railway Museum) and a hotel that’s on the National Register of Historic Places (Short’s Hotel). Additionally and equally confusing/hilarious, there’s a North East Fair, not to be confused with the Northeast Fair near Pittston.

Lesson learned! When you’re referring to Northeast PA on the western side of the state, it’s just easier to call it NEPA or give geographical reference points. Otherwise people will just assume you are from Erie.

The horror!

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Letters from my Grandmother

By M Davies   /     Feb 21, 2018  /     Into the Void, Rusyn  /     0 Comment

Christmas time every year just seems to get increasingly more stressful for me. The shopping, the decorating, the cooking and baking, endless parties and writing Christmas cards. Everyone expects so much with what little time there is between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. No matter how hard I try to plan I always end up last minute shopping or wrapping or decorating, etc.

While I was home over Christmas break, I ended up being added to a NEPA Star Trek fan club on Facebook. Like most Facebook groups, I usually get added without my permission. Nothing against Star Trek or its fanbase, I just never really got into it. HOWEVER, back when I was working at the big red telephone company (around 2002), I found enjoyment in reading blogs and writing my own. I was always out looking for new content. My friend Jeff (who I’ve blogged about before) kept harassing me to read Wil Wheaton’s blog. Wil played Wesley Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation. I really couldn’t care about that, but what I did find fascinating about him was his blog. At the time, he was in some kind of heated feud with William Shatner. I don’t know why, but I found this feud highly entertaining. I guess it’s because I always found William Shatner to be a little pretentious. I bought a copy of Wil’s first book and I even paid for an autographed copy of his Star Trek photo. Getting back to the story, a few years ago, I scanned the photograph and put it on my Facebook page.

It’s signed “Wil Wheaton’s Biggest Fan (that’s never seen Star Trek)” Since I was added to this Facebook group (again, without my consent) I decided to share this with the group since it’s really the only thing I could possibly have to contribute to the conversation. It got a few likes or comments. Whatever.

I told that story to tell you another one. One of the sleepless nights before Christmas, after being added to this group (WITHOUT MY CONSENT, PLEASE FIX YOUR WEIRD POLICIES FACEBOOK) I decided to go looking for the actual autograph in my various filing cabinets and boxes in my basement. It sparked my memory that maybe I should do something to protect it so it doesn’t loose its color or get ripped. I couldn’t find it anywhere…but I did find a curious envelope with my name written on it. Not being able to remember where it was located, I put it aside and continued to look for that damned Wil Wheaton autograph. Spoiler alert: I didn’t find it, and still haven’t.

After wrapping all of the Christmas gifts after midnight on Christmas Eve, my suspicion got the best of me, and I went to find the envelope to see what the hell was in it. To my complete astonishment and after I read letter after letter, I realized these were letters my grandmother from years and years ago. Probably 20+ years if not more. It was Christmas Eve and I found the best present ever that’s probably been hidden for years. Some of this stuff was just what I needed to see and hear at the right time.

As some of you guys know, I’ve been trying to trace my families ancestry which has been proving downright impossible due to the variations in last name spelling. My grandmother single-handedly confirmed on the right track from beyond the grave. If you don’t mind indulging me for a minute, I figured I would share some of these letters with you. My hopes are that maybe, just maybe one of my long lost relatives will come across this blog post and something will ring a bell with them as well.

First…the letters. My grandmother was always sending us money and telling us “to be good.” She wanted my brother to be mayor and me to have a safe trip to Norway. The year on this letter is from 1995. I’m putting these in the order I think they were written, although I cannot tell because she didn’t properly date all of them.

I’m putting these ones next…I don’t know what the dress was for? But I know that if she signed both her and my Grandfather’s name that it must have been sometime in 1995 before he passed.

 

I feel like this one was right before my trip to Norway, because I remember wearing a vest there, IT WAS REALLY COOL LOOKING AT THE TIME, SHUT UP.

Something about a library book. I have no idea what book it was, but now I’m really interested to know.

Next up, a series of more undated letters with more money. Talks of behaving and clothes shopping. None of these have my grandfather’s name signed to them, so I’m assuming they were after he passed, but I could be wrong.

 

And now, the crown jewel. The ancestry information:

 

As you can see there are some family trees, and then a written out biography for my grandfather. It says: “My Grandfather Russell Hryvnak was born 9/23/19 in the Hanover Section of Nanticoke. He was educated in Public School. Went to Church in St. Peter & Pauls Church in Plymouth. Went in to CCC Camp in 1936. Stayed there 1 year. Went back to graduate from Hanover Twp. High School. Went to work in the Buttonwood Collery of the Glen Alden Coal Company as a brakeman on the motor. Went into the Army March 15, 1945 and was discharged May 28, 1945. Worked for the Ridon Glass Company 38 years. Retired and did odd jobs.”

While I knew some of these details, I did not know them all. This paints a broader picture and gives me clues where the case otherwise has gone cold. The lineage was mostly stuff I had, but there are some new leads as well that I’m following up on. The biggest haul from these documents was that Dmytro was my great Grandfather’s brother. I always had assumed that was the case, but didn’t have any concrete facts. I have shared this with a few of my relatives overseas to see if these names ring a bell. By the way, if you have a smart phone, I highly recommend the Google translate app if you have to translate something to or from another language. It works VERY well.

So what’s next? I don’t know, but as some of these pages are yellowing with age, I wanted to make sure I found a way of preserving them, even if it’s only online in a scanned file. My recommendation would be if you have aging loved ones to sit down with them and have them tell you their stories of what they remember from their pasts. It a lovely thing to know the history of where your family came from. You never know what kind of amazing things you may learn from them.

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Margaret Nash

By M Davies   /     Feb 12, 2018  /     Community Service, Hobby-ish  /     4 Comments

So I did a thing.

You may remember that I wrote a blog post last year about the Lee Park Honor Roll. As I was researching the information for the post, I fell down a wormhole otherwise known as Margaret Nash. To bring you up to speed, Margaret is the only woman on the wall that was held as a prisoner of war. There are very few names of women on the wall, but she’s the only POW. The back story is that Margaret was captured and held as a prisoner of war by the Japanese during World War II. She neglected her own health to nurse hundreds of her fellow prisoners suffering from disease and near-starvation in the Philippine Islands. She was still struggling to survive when the camp was finally liberated by US forces three years later. Though doctors told her she wouldn’t survive, she went on to live a long life nursing and teaching.

I closed the blog post by saying “…I believe it should be fair game for a PA historical marker, but I’m not sure what the application process would be for something like that.”

And that’s where the thing that I did comes into play. After extensive research, and talking with some of my history buff friends, I decided to take the plunge into madness. I downloaded the nomination form for a Pennsylvania Historical Marker in June. The document, which can be found on the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission website, is a 10 page application that needs to be filled out and returned for consideration. The deadline for submission falls on December 1st each year. The committee then meets at the beginning of the next year to discuss the submissions and select the markers. I carried the form with me for about a month without really reviewing any of the details. I think it was around July or August when I really started to scrape the surface of what was needed to complete the nomination. Little did I know what I was getting myself into. I talked to Tony Brooks briefly about the process, and I think he told me at one point he was a part of the selection committee. He said that people with Masters Degrees and PhDs have written proposals that haven’t been accepted. I didn’t let that discourage me.

Let’s just say the application process is quite extensive. You need to cite sources as you would if you were writing a school paper. It’s been a while since I’ve had to write a paper of that type of caliber, so it hurt my brain. I ended up citing the sources I found in my newspapers.com research as my primary sources. I scoured the internet for some secondary sources and came across a few books that Margaret was mentioned in. I attempted to reach out to the authors of these books, but on a tight deadline, I only heard back from one, Mary Cronk Farrell, who published “Pure Grit”:

Hi Michelle,
What a wonderful project! You certainly may use my book as a resource. Since you don’t have a copy, I suggest you ask your local library to add the book to their collection. You might also let local teachers know that the book is available to students at a reduced price through the Scholastic Book Clubs. $8, I think.
Best of luck! Please keep me in the loop on the historical marker.

All best,

Mary

Mary Cronk Farrell

Take a look at my books here. 

I’m leaving the link to her website in this post. While she writes books for a more juvenile audience, I still think they contain helpful information should you find yourself needing to research history’s most bad ass women! We exchanged a few more emails and she admitted that Margaret was one of her favorite nurses in the book and that she recently did a presentation on Margaret (as well as others) in San Diego.

Speaking of presentations, my good friend Kathleen Smith shared a Facebook post with me about a presentation at Misericordia’s Center for Nursing History that happened in November. My jaw immediately dropped. The presentation was all about nurses during WWII and Margaret was one of the featured nurses! As matter of fact, the person who spoke during the presentation was Margaret’s nephew, who happens to be a Reverend at Saint Faustina Parish in Nanticoke. I honestly had no idea that Margaret still had family that were local. From what I read, she moved to California and taught nursing there. Through some friends who happen to attend that parish, I was able to get a letter to Father Nash who seems excited and interested to learn more about why Margaret’s story fascinated me so much. I’m still waiting to hear back from him, but he’s a very busy person. Kathleen did put me in touch with Donna Snelson who runs the Center for Nursing History. I sent her an email and waited to hear back for more information.

In the meantime, the deadline to submit materials was rapidly approaching. I put together what I had in a document (Read: 56 pages) and had 3 or 4 people proofread it. After making some suggested changes, I sent it off to the presses. I should point out – you need to make twelve (12) collated copies of the document to send in for the committee. For those of you keeping score, 56 pages x 12 copies = 672 pages. Since I don’t have access to a large copier, I sent these off to Staples. It cost $47.65. I picked up the order early on Black Friday and the clerk wished me good luck. After that I headed over to the Wilkes-Barre post office and using two boxes, shipped the 12 copies to Harrisburg (another 20 dollars). Margaret Nash arrived just shy of the December 1st deadline.

After the holidays were over, and a few emails were exchanged, I met up with Donna Snelson over lunch. I shared with her my application and she read it over and loved it. She asked if I would be open to changing the location of the marker and I said that I was (if the PHMC will allow me). The marker cost will be $1675 to have made and installed, which clearly I don’t have sitting around. Donna thinks that she can find the money through the Nursing College’s alumni network and possibly the local hospitals. We shall see, that’s about 5 steps ahead at this point. The committee meeting for the selection process hasn’t happened yet!

The committee meets on March 7th and the markers will be selected then. The winning applicants will be notified via email. Even if my application doesn’t get approved this first go round, the commission sends you their notes and you’re allowed to resubmit for a period of 3 years. Donna said that her staff and students would be willing to help with further research and re-writes if needed.

This process has been so overwhelming, it was truly like giving birth. I can’t thank everyone enough who has helped me along the way to get this project off the ground and also to help get me in touch with the right people. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll have good news in another month. I promise to keep you all updated either way.

I will leave you with a copy of the application for review. I blotted out my contact information, but everything else is the same. This is a 24 meg document, so it may take a little while to load. Keep your fingers, eyes and toes crossed for me!

Margaret Nash (full)

U.S. Navy Nurses Margaret Nash and Bertha Evans enjoy a chocolate shortly after liberation (U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine, Office of Medical History) Source: Amazing Women In History, all the kick-ass women the history books left out.

 

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