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.