Friday, April 23, 2010

A Great Way to Spend the Day!

Today -well, actually now it would be yesterday -was really, in no uncertain terms, a great day!

Although things didn't start out that great -running out of fuel oil which meant NO HOT WATER until we got some oil dumped in ye olde tank -and that just meant a delay in washing up the dishes along with -as it turned out -a really big delay in my getting a shower, things ultimately worked out just fine and dandy. (Well, I still haven't got that shower worked in as yet but at least now I know I can as I will have hot water to come pouring down over my fat self and to refresh some really tired, aching muscles I have tonight as well.)

Anyway -back to my great day!

My older daughter had called me last night (that would have been Wednesday night now) and told me that she and her son-the oldest grandchild and "My Prince" (Alex) would be coming up home this morning to spend the day with old Gram here and Aunt Mandy since it was her day off and Alex had the day off from school too.

That's great, I had thought. It will be wonderful to have a little extra time to spend with this boy who is rapidly growing up -getting taller and taller (also older and older but we won't dwell on that will we) and his maturity levels are really great -well beyond his age of twelve years now.

Well, Mandy and I know the older daughter and her habits -especially those involving time and the adherence to that entity -all too well so we didn't actually figure she would arrive until probably sometime in the afternoon. And we were right! They got here about 2:30 or so.

I had managed by then to get the dishes washed up, had swept up the kitchen, dining room, entry way and living room too with the intent of getting at least the kitchen floor mopped up then too. But when daughter # 1 and the grandson arrived, she came in bringing her own scrub bucket, plus cleaning supplies (wondering here if she thinks that we don't purchase those items, or what) but anyway, her intent it seems was that she wanted very much to give her sister a hand in doing some cleaning in this old place.

About the time they arrived, Sammy was making known he had some issues and wishes of his own too -that being a nice walk -so I asked the grandson if he'd like to go with me as I walked the dog.

I think Alex sensed immediately too -as I had -that this was a great idea and a way to get both of us out of the house and away from the two cleaning maniacs -my daughters!

So, away we went!

As we headed down the road, Alex asked me if we were going to "walk around the block" meaning we would stay on the paved road, make a left turn down the street from our house where the pavement ends if you go straight and the road then changes from Cooper Avenue to Peale Road.

Nope, I had informed him that today, he, Sammy and I were going to walk down towards Peale -that little ghost town that I have mentioned periodically on my blog.

The look on Alex's face was somewhat quizzical and I asked him then if he has ever been down to Peale. He said yes, once or twice -the most recent time being when my ex-husband -the kids Dad and Grandpa, aka "Poppy" was last here about 3 years ago. On that occasion, Alex, Uncle Clate, Uncle Wally and Poppy had gone down to Peale to do a little 4-wheeler riding there.

But aside from that, the boy didn't know very much about this village that had once existed out in the woods beyond our house -and civilization as we think of it today anyway.

So, away we went!

And from the onset of our walk, Alex asked me questions -many, many questions -about Peale, and especially he wanted to know how we connected back to this town.

As I explained to him, the town was built around 1883-84 but the first influx of settlers to the village didn't take place until one weekend in October of 1884 when people employed by the Coal Company then and who were working and living in another little coal town down in Lycoming county, outside of Williamsport, PA -a town called McIntyre -were moved en masse by train from McIntyre up to Peale!

And within the group of people who moved that weekend were a couple of recent immigrants from Sweden and the six children they had then. Among those children, the second oldest of the group was my grandfather -Adolf Eld -who was, as I explained to Alex, his great-great-grandfather. The couple -Carl aka Charlie and his wife, Maja Lisa Eld -were Alex's great-great-great-grandparents.

As I explained a few little things to him about the town of Peale, about his ancestors and such, he remarked with great interest as well as pride that this then is our history, isn't it?

Yep, you better believe it my grandson, it surely is our history!

We walked and walked and talked about this historical aspects of the village, of my grandfather, his life there and also about the mines, the mining industry -the slope mines that provided a living for my great-grandfather and for all of his sons as they became old enough to go to work in those hellholes.

After the slope mines and the coal attainable by those means died out -and many of the children of those immigrants determined too that they wanted no part either of slaving their lives away in cold, watery darkness with ever-present dangers of cave-ins which could claim life and limb -the move was on and one by one, people began to leave, to move away to other parts of the country, to better work, wages and way of life too.

I pointed out to Alex the mountainside that is a backdrop to our village which has been reclaimed over the past year -the mountain re-contoured to look as much as possible to the natural contours of the land when the early coal companies had come in here and begun to remove that valuable entity -coal -from beneath the surface. As I had mentioned here in a post a few weeks back, part of that reclamation had involved the leveling and covering up of the old "bony pile" or as many around here also called it, the tipple. (My kids and their generation as well as those younger than them often referred to this as "The Volcano" too.)

We walked past the drainage ditches now being put in from that reclamation project to give the water runoff a way to get down the mountain and to empty into Moravian Run -also know to folks by a different name too. My generation has always tended to refer to this tiny stream as the "Sulfur Creek" and my kids and younger usually just call it the "Poop Creek" mainly because so many people for so many years (prior to our township establishing a Sewage Authority) just simply piped off their raw sewage from their homes into this little stream that had way before my generation been polluted with sulfur run-off from the mines upstream and around the village where I live.

Today, the little stream seems to be clear -not having the reddish cast it had when I was growing up -and also not sporting any strange, smelly entities floating down stream in it either. However, I still don't think I'd want to chance or risk drinking the water that flows in it regardless of how much the stream may have been cleaned up over the past 2-3 decades now.

We -Alex, Sammy and I -walked on further down the dirt road and before we knew it, we were down at the curve and by the one house left still standing in the part of Peale that existed on this side of the Red Moshannon Creek. I showed Alex where there had once been a big farm house in which the people who had been the last to live in Peale had lived and that house, I had always been told, had been the house designated to belong to the Lutheran minister who had served the town of Peale until about 1912 -if I have my dates correct there. (Pastor Berquist, that would have been. Somewhere I should have some old-old photos of this man but I can't locate the cd I had transferred those picture over to right now.)

From there, I told Alex we were going to take the road that branches off to the left right after you pass the lone house standing there.

As we walked up this road, you can tell by the big stones that it was originally cobbled with that this road had once led to a place of importance in this old community.

It had led up to where the old company store had once stood, had been a thriving entity for those folks who lived their lives working for the coal company a hundred to 125 years ago.

It also led up to what had once upon a time been a park in that community. A park that had even sported a swimming pool -a brick-lined pool, no less!

Today, there is a big pool of water pretty much where the pool had been but seeing any trace of the pool's structure has now gone by the wayside. The flat area around the pool and where the park had once been has become over the past 30-40 years or so the party grounds for most of the local youth -where they have their bonfires and beer parties late at night, usually around the rite of passage called high school graduation.
This is what the old swimming pool/hole looks like today -a far cry from how it appeared even only a mere 70 years ago, when the park was used at least one Sunday a year to welcome back people who had been among the early settlers in Peale, many who had moved far, far away and yet returned for the Peale Reunions that were observed here from 1930 through 1939. Surprisingly enough, those reunions garnered attendance ranging from 1,200 to 2,000 people -something I still find incredible to believe but yet, I know because I have in my possession a huge ledger book that many of the attendees signed so I know the numbers couldn't have been fudged by very much, if they were tinkered with at all even.

As Alex and I walked around the area that had formerly been the Park, we wandered off on a little path where we saw indentations in the ground, overgrown now with brush and weeds, but were one can still make out by the dimensions that these were most likely the foundations of some of the houses that once stood in Peale.

Many of the houses that existed in Peale are actually still standing today, still lived in but just not still in Peale. They were, you see, torn down, piece by piece and then the piles of the lumber, windows, etc., were transported from Peale up to Grassflat -the village where I live today -and re-erected here for the families who had occupied them in Peale to live in here -if they had decided to stay on working for the mines, or living in this vicinity. Eventually, those houses were sold to the miners and/or other people in the village by the coal company. All part and parcel of how the coal companies ruled the lives in just about every possible respect back then. Also shows too how that song, "Sixteen Tons" with the line in it about "I owe my soul to the Company Store" was a huge part of the lives of those people back then too.
The above picture as well as the one below here are both shots of the sunken, overgrown indentations that mark where a house once stood in the town of Peale, back in its heyday.
Alex was fascinated with the stories about this little, now defunct, village and said he could easily imagine how the people who resided there must have lived. The foundations we saw aren't huge, by any means, but knowing the size of many of the homes that were relocated up to Grassflat, they generally were two bedroom units but they often housed a whole lot more than just one family too. Very often, the families who rented these homes from the coal company also rented bed or cot space to other miners, recent immigrants, where they could get a place to sleep as well as meals and thus save their paychecks or as much as possible of their meager earnings, in order to accrue enough money to send back to their homeland and bring wives and children over here to join them.

That was how my Great-grandfathers -3 out of 4 of them -had done when they first came to America. Two immigrated here in the early 1870s from Scotland and lived in northeastern Pennsylvania -around Wellsboro and the Morris Run areas and my great-grandfather Eld came here in 1880 from Sweden and worked in McIntyre, saving money to send for his wife and the five children they had then that he had left behind for about 18 months till he could pay the passage for her and the children to come here.

Alex and I wandered around up behind the park area a bit more -and here's some pictures of him and Sammy as we explored down a couple of the paths and around the old foundations.

In the bottom photo here, Alex had found the remains of some broken crockery type bowl or some such.

After our little escapade today, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if Alex doesn't try to convince his Dad to come over here and go wandering around the hillsides down in Peale with a metal detector to see if they can scavenge up any other mementos of the town and people that once called Peale home.

We were gone close to three hours on our walk and I know it is 3.9 miles, round trip, from my house down to the one remaining house in Peale, so that distance plus all the trudging around we did up around the park and pool area and on back beyond that, I figure we probably walked at least five miles, round trip today.

I do know one thing for sure, I was pretty beat from all that walking around too!

And I was also really excited when I decided to weigh myself this afternoon too and saw that I had dropped another 3 pounds now! Which, at the moment, makes roughly 13 pounds I have walked off now since I started this walking program back in December!

Not the greatest in the way of weight losses but for me, I thought it was pretty darned good!

After a kind of celebratory supper -consisting of pizza that the local grocery store deli was running a sale on this week -I crashed onto my bed about 8 p.m. and woke up shortly after 11 p.m. then!

When we got back home, Maya's TSS was here and she asked Alex if he had learned anything today on our walk. He said that yes, he felt he had and had found the things we saw and talked about all to be very interesting too.

But when she asked if he thought he would ever be able to use any of this information, he said sure, because it is important for him to learn and know about his roots, his own history of how he fits into this area now.

And my response to her questions were that his nosing around down in the rubble and old foundations of this ghost town might work well if he does indeed do what he told me seven years ago that he was going to be when he grew up.

That was when I was in the hospital, having just had the first of several surgeries (colo-rectal cancer, etc) and he had drawn a get well card for me and brought it over to the hospital when he, his Mom and Dad had come to visit. As I had looked at his art work -which for a five-year-old was quite good -I had remarked that perhaps he had inherited some of the artistic talents his Uncle Clate is known for and maybe some day that he, Alex, would become an artist.

He had quickly told me then though, "NO, I don't think so Grammy as I'm going to be a palaentologist!"

Needless to say, that remark really threw me as I had no clue the child even knew how to say the word much less that he had even a clue as to what people in that occupation do too!

But after having spent the afternoon with him, exploring, talking, walking and enjoying the outdoors, and each other's company, I'm thinking maybe he really was right on track back then when he told me that was what he wants to be!

It was truly a great way to enjoy a perfect day and excellent way to spend my time in the company of my most special grandson, Alex.


Maggie May said...

Really pleased that you and Alex had such a lovely walk and that A was so interested in the history of Peale.
Great you lost weight too. I am trying.

Wish my children were cleaning dervishes.

Nuts in May

TechnoBabe said...

Great walk and talk with the grandson. You sound so happy.
And the perfect ending of the day is to see you had lost some weight too.

Michael said...

I enjoyed reading the story very much. Growing up (well, my teenage years anyway) in Grassflat, I spent many, many days running through the woods in Peale and around Grassflat without much regard or interest for the history behind those areas. I have since taken an interest in the history of my current hometown, Mount Union, which shares some similar history with Peale. Thanks for sharing your wealth of knowledge!

Sniffles and Smiles said...

What a very precious time you shared together...such treasured memories a walk like this creates! He sounds like a very mature, young man...and extremely intelligent! You much be extraordinarily proud of could you help but be? This post was terrific! So intriguing! Thank you! Love, Janine XO

terri said...

That sounds like such a fantastic way to spend an afternoon, revisiting history and spending time with your grandson. How awesome that he was so interested too!

fermicat said...

Ha ha, my older sister is always late, so that part of your story is very familiar. Love the history lesson. I enjoy remembering things my grandparents told me about old Atlanta. I wish I had written it down.

... Paige said...

what a wonderful time and a nice looking young man he is