Infamous Game in Coaldale in which Gus Sonnenberg Played, 1920's
(Source: Biography of Gus Sonnenberg)
Gus Sonnenberg was a great football player and Heavyweight Wrestling Champ in the 1920's .
During his college days, he had some rather remarkable experiences. One year he blocked nine punts and all of them, except one, would have been good for touchdowns. Once in a game at Franklin Field, Philadelphia, he booted the ball eighty yards in the air for the longest kick ever made at the University of Pennsylvania's field.
Sonnenberg played in the infamous Coaldale, Pennsylvania game. Sonnenberg explained, "There was great spirit in Coaldale. The local gamblers were backing the team to the last penny, betting even their homes and shirts. Why, I saw $60,000 in cash on a blanket on the sidelines. Well, we beat them 10 to 7. It was a terrible game. After it was over, the crowd mobbed us. They threw stones at us as we ran for our special train. We got on the train and dropped to the floor to escape the rocks that smashed nearly every window. As the train of thirteen cars pulled out of the town, they commenced to shoot at the cars. Of course, we were all on the floor, but one fellow was wounded in the eye by a shot."
Coal mining exacted a high price
Published October 03. 2015 09:00AM
By Donald R. Serfass firstname.lastname@example.org
Coal is the black rock that built America.
Anthracite coal, in particular, is the finest black diamond in the world.
It's very hard, a compact variety of high luster. It has the highest carbon content and fewest impurities, and so it's in demand.
But mining can be dangerous.
I recently had the opportunity to further explore two of the most historic events in the history of anthracite coal mining.
On Aug.13, 1963, a cave-in at Fellin Coal Co., between Sheppton and Oneida, trapped three workers at the bottom of a mine.
The men were caught inside a tiny chamber.
Television news, an industry still in infancy, rushed crews to the site, as did newspapers, radio stations and magazines from around the world. Tiny Sheppton turned into "Media City" for weeks.
For the first 5 1/2 days, the world didn't know if the men were dead or alive.
Two were trapped together, huddled against each other to stay warm. Henry Throne, 28, and David Fellin, 58, sat and shivered in total darkness, sharing a damp, cold chamber estimated at 6 feet long, 6 feet wide and almost 6 feet high on the "high" side.
Louis Bova was trapped in an adjacent chamber.
A dramatic, daring, two-week rescue brought Throne and Fellin to the surface, hoisted by parachute-type harnesses.
Bova was never saved. He died there and his body remains entombed.
I've written about the story so many times that I've become a friend of Bova's son John.
I've been to his house, where he shared his raw feelings, a profound sense of loss and the pain of growing up without a father. Even worse is the agony of uncertainty over his father's final days and manner of death.
A powerful story by any measure, yet it's one that's been overlooked.
It took 52 years, but Pennsylvania finally erected a historical marker at the site in August. Long overdue.
Similarly, today marks the 100th anniversary of the conclusion to Foster's Mine Tunnel Cave-In in Coaldale.
The mine collapsed on Sept. 27, 1915, trapping 11 men for days. Final rescues took place Oct. 3.
That story had a much happier ending.
Still, the Coaldale cave-in continues to impact descendants of those entombed.
I saw it firsthand when I visited with Dr. Michael Laigon, grandson of one of the trapped miners. He tells of his grandfather's first-person accounts of the event, haunting stories of survival handed down through the family.
Both Schuylkill County mishaps riveted the world's attention. And I'm certain that one day the Coaldale cave-in site at the base of Mount Pisgah will be awarded a state historical marker similar to the one erected in Sheppton.
Both sites have the potential to become tourist destinations because they tell dramatic stories of human survival.
They demonstrate the amazing endurance of the average man.
Historical markers that interpret anthracite's horror stories carry special meaning. They memorialize more than 51,000 Pennsylvanians who died in the mines.
We now realize, in a most sobering way, that progress fueled by anthracite coal mining came with a human price tag.