When "Cannonball' Woods Performed in Coaldale

(by Jack Yalch, The Valley Gazette, November 1979)

Anybody remember "Cannonball" Woods? He was the human fly and internationally known stunt performer who was getting considerable coverage in the newspapers during the early 1930's.

In May of 1933, Cannonball showed his stuff during a visit to Coaldale. During one of his stunts, he balanced himself on the hind legs of a chair atop the chimney at O'Donnell's Service Station.

He followed that act by driving a car through a number of streets in the borough while blindfolded, stopping the vehicle at all traffic lights and intersections.

For his Grand Finale, Woods climbed the 65-foot pole fronting O'Donnell's station, then hung suspended in an automobile inner tube. The tube supported a total of 190 pounds.

At the time he performed in Coaldale, Cannonball held the world record in human fly scaling, having climbed the side of the Woolworth building in New York. He said he had his sights set on conquering the Empire State Building next.

Woods said he expected to make that climb of 102 stories in a little over three hours.


Parachute Jumper (Dressed as Santa Claus) Suffers Injury in Leap from Plane

(The Evening Record, Friday, November 27, 1936)


George Jephand of R.D. 3 Berwick, suffered a probable fracture of the left leg this afternoon in making a parachute jump from a biplane operated by an official of the Lehighton Airport. He was rushed to Coaldale Hospital where an x-ray was taken to determine the exact nature of the injury.

Jephand had been widely advertised as Santa Claus who was to officially open the toyland in Bright’s. He was attired in the costume that designated him as the harbinger of glad Christmas cheer to children of the Panther Creek Valley.

His (original) landing place was selected as the high school stadium in Lansford…When Jephand leaped (from the plane) the wind drift was greater than he anticipated with the result that he landed in the colliery yard.


Injured Santa Back at Bright's Store

The Evening Record, December 11, 1936)

Jephand who injured his right leg two weeks ago while impersonating Santa Claus in a parachute jump, has been discharged from Coaldale Hospital and is back on duty in Brights Department Store.

Except for a slight limp, he is in good condition and is receiving hundreds of youngsters daily.

Youngsters who were penning letters to Santa Claus at the Coaldale Hospital may now discontinue their correspondence and meet the old gentleman personally at Brights.


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."