Preserving the best of Coaldale
Saturday, August 20, 2016
By Donnie Serfass

Much daily news is bad. But sometimes a warm story comes along that smacks of being just right.

I had a good feeling last week when I read a news account out of Coaldale.

Borough council approved a request to move the large collection of Coaldale High School trophies into a local repository for display.

The town doesn’t have its own museum. Not yet, anyway. And so the trophies will be made available to the public at the “Coaldale section” of the nearby Lansford Historical Society Museum.

The move will be done under the condition that ownership of the trophies remains with Coaldale borough. And that’s the way it should be.

After all, the day might come when Coaldale opens its own museum. When that happens, everyone will be delighted to see the trophies displayed in town.

Until then, Coaldale’s glory days are coming to life inside the Lansford museum, and that’s a perfectly fine interim step.

Resident Bob Perrin has been working feverishly to expand the Coaldale display. It’s never an easy job. While many others were sitting in the comfort of air conditioning during last week’s stifling heat wave, Bob and a friend moved a 350-pound Coaldale chair into the museum’s second-floor display area. Not just any chair, it’s a 1920s-era hydraulic seat from Brunda’s Barber Shop, a Coaldale landmark. The chair was donated by Bill Scutta.

Bob has endless energy in his pursuit to launch a Coaldale museum. He’s the one who appeared before council a week ago to ask the board to allow the trophies to be showcased for public benefit.

Sure, one day Coaldale will have its own museum. But that doesn’t mean Coaldale’s past should be locked up and hidden until that time.

“We are landlocked and the only thing that is going to save us is history,” Bob said.

There are many reasons to be Coaldale proud, starting with the legendary Tigers.

The 1962 Coaldale High School football team went undefeated and untied. The 1947 CHS baseball team won the Black Diamond League championship. The 1941 CHS track team grabbed the District 11 crown and the state championship, too.

The Coaldale Big Green professional football team of 1912 to 1933 is regarded by many as the coal region’s most consistently successful pigskin club. They won the coveted Curran Cup three years in a row and beat the much-ballyhooed Pottsville Maroons 3-0 in a big game in 1923.

The school’s athletes and town-sponsored teams left an indelible mark.

But it’s not only sports that put the town on the map. Music and art also were at the fore. For instance, the impressive Coaldale Victory Band, a staple in regional parades and celebrations for many years, featured a roster of some of the finest musicians in our area.

Coaldale has its share of fine architecture, too. The interior of St. Mary’s Orthodox Church represents a pinnacle in religious artistry. The church easily could serve as a Coaldale tourism anchor. In a day when magnificent churches are being destroyed by the wrecking ball, St. Mary’s reminds us that some of the most creative minds of the late 1800s and early 1900s left us a legacy we need to protect.

The many remarkable stories of old Coaldale could be written for years to come.

In the meantime, I hope volunteers get the support needed to push forward with a Coaldale museum.

The Lansford Historical Society is doing its part. They’re providing space for what is, essentially, a museum incubator project for the benefit of Coaldale history.

That show of cooperation is a warm story as well. Coaldale and Lansford fall in two different counties. But when people work together, good things happen. Government and municipal boundaries are insignificant when people share a common culture and a greater vision.

Coaldale might be landlocked, similar to some other towns. We can’t overcome geography. But there are no limits to Coaldale’s historical richness, the quality of its people, and the potential for good things to come.

Coaldale trophies on the move
Wednesday, August 31, 2016
By Donald R. Serfass
Bob Perrin says he wants to fill the gap.
The Coaldale historian says creation of a Coaldale Historical Society and Museum would not only rekindle interest in preserving the rich history of the Schuylkill County town, but also fill a void.

“It’d fill in the only gap we have between Mauch Chunk and Tamaqua.”

What Perrin means is that Coaldale is the only major community without a historical group among six towns of the Carbon-Schuylkill hard coal valley: Jim Thorpe, Summit Hill, Lansford, Nesquehoning, Coaldale and Tamaqua.

The six towns are split between two separate national heritage corridors and situated in two different counties, but they’re geographically one community and they tell the same, or similar, stories. In fact, they share the same heritage of coal, railroads, canals and culture.

Plus all six provided the foundation of manpower and natural resources that helped to fuel America’s Industrial Revolution.

“My goal is to find a site and a museum in Coaldale in two years,” Perrin, 51, said Tuesday morning as he and a friend removed Coaldale High School trophies from Coaldale Town Hall and loaded them onto two pickups.

The trophies are owned by Coaldale borough but are on loan for display in what is intended to become a Coaldale museum.

Perrin’s mission isn’t new. He’s been working toward the establishment of a society and museum for the past three years, running around the valley and soliciting input, support and donations of artifacts.

More recently, he set up the Coaldalele Corner, a portion of the Lansford Historical Society Museum that is devoted to Coaldale.

“Look at this trophy,” Perrin said, holding up a 1947 relic of the Coaldale-Lansford Turkey Day Classic football game. “This was a big thing.”

Another is called the 1924 Perpetual Team Prize, one for which the origins would need to be researched.

“And they’re not only football trophies,” he said.

There are trophies for a school dance, others for oratory and public speaking, with names such as Melley and Pavlick. Still others are achievements in track and field.

He’ll clean them and repair some that are broken. Then he’ll organize the trophies and archive each, carefully setting up display showcases so that the trophies tell some of the biggest and best stories of Coaldale.

To complement that effort, Perrin has been working on a Coaldale High School Facebook page.

It all takes work and time, and often Perrin has trouble finding volunteers to help.

“Sometimes I’m a one-man show,” he said.

But he’s on a mission. He’s pushing forward, just as he’s done through summer heat, to make sure Coaldale’s story is told and the gap is filled.