Nanticoke Historical Society

Nanticoke Historical Society

Saturday, May 17, 2014

On Thursday, May 15, The Nanticoke Historical Society hosted guest speaker Attorney Charles Petrillo who presented four movies that centered on the coal mining industry and were filmed in Nanticoke and surrounding areas.  The Price of Carelessness, a silent movie, focused on the hazards of being under the influence of alcohol on the job. The movie debuted at the Rex Theatre in Nanticoke on June 15, 1915, and as Petrillo pointed out, is a year and one month shy of the first time the movie was viewed by the public. Petrillo also pointed out, the film shot at Truesdale Colliery was probably one of the first times a movie was filmed underground. In it an accident, caused by a miner under the influence of alcohol after drinking at a local well known bar, causes the death of his helper. It showed the helper being transported immediately after the accident in a horse drawn hearse or black Mariah as it was known at the time, to his residence, in Concrete City. The second film, also silent, Mining of Anthracite, is also believed to be from the Nanticoke region and presented an overview of the coal mining process. A third film from the 1960s showed the mining operations at Wanamie and the former railroad there.   The fourth film, however, was an additional one Petrillo brought along as an added surprise. produced by Blue Coal Company, the film heralded the assets of coal as an energy source and introduced the company’s new coal furnaces. The film produced in the 1960’s was an attempt to curb the popularity of the new oil burners, that after the decline in the use of coal,  would essentially take over as heating units in homes and businesses. Petrillo, added one more surprise, telling  those in attendance they were probably the first audience in 60 years view the film.  Another wonderful scene from this movie showed the Huber Breaker in Ashley in its heyday.  The evening was a wonderful look back at the life of those who toiled to feed their families and was a graphic representation of how dangerous jobs in the coal mining industry were. The men and boys who risked their lives and the women who sustained homes and families under unbearable hardships were truly heroes.  The Nanticoke Historical Society would like to thank Mr. Petrillo and the Anthracite Heritage Museum for sharing these informative pieces of history with our community. 

Contributed by Judy Minsavage for NHS

Thank you Judy

Friday, May 2, 2014

We would like to share this story!

This was such a great story submitted to us us by
Chuck Anziulewicz on Facebook.  Not everyone follows us on Facebook but I thought this was worth sharing.  We thank Chuck immensely for this wonderful contribution.


If there was one town that makes me want to jump in a time machine and travel back 50 years to a simpler, more innocent time ... Nanticoke is that town. That's where my mom's side of the family was. I had cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents and great-grandparents there. Today there are a vanishing few older relatives who can still lapse into conversational Ukrainian once in a while, but when I was a child it was VERY common to hear Polish and Ukrainian spoken frequently in conversation. I wonder if ANYONE in Nanticoke speaks Polish or Ukrainian conversationally anymore.

My grandpa was a coal miner, and my grandma worked for a while at the old McGregor clothing factory on East Washington Street. Although I spent most of my childhood years in the Washington DC area, visiting my grandparents in Nanticoke was always something to look forward to.

My mother's maiden name was Patricia J. Petrash. She graduated from Nanticoke High School in 1954 and later attended Wilkes College before getting married to John Anziulewicz, my dad. My mom's parents were Walter and Anna Petrash, and when I was just a toddler they lived on Hanover Street (I think 614) directly across from the Stegura Funeral Home; their old house is still there. At the corner of Hanover and Ridge Streets, where the Walting dental practice is now located, there actually used to be an old grocery store run by an old man named Jack, and whenever we were visiting my grandparents, my grandpa would give me and my little sister a few coins, and we would run down to Jack's grocery to buy candy. This was back in the early 1960s.

On Church Street there's Larry's Pizza, which I believe is currently managed by the son of the original owner, Larry Carns. What many people in Nanticoke today may not know is that the pizzaria was originally located on Hanover Street, and I remember seeing Larry Carns and his son (who was probably a few years older than me) working down there whenever my grandparents would send me down to pick up a pizza order. I stopped by Larry's Pizza on Church Street several years ago, and honestly the smell and taste of that pizza has not changed a SINGLE BIT over 45 years. The next time I visit Nanticoke, hopefully in the next few years, I'm going to make a pilgrimage to Larry's Pizza.

Some people on these forums have mentioned the old Leader Store in downtown Nanticoke. I remember going there with my mom on a couple of occasions, and I was always utterly fascinated by the network of humming motorized cables that were strung throughout the store, connecting checkout stations to the business office: Receipts and other business statements and envelopes would be attached to a cable and OFF it would fly to another part of the store! That must've been the epitome of high technology back in the 1960s.

Going down the hill from my grandparent's house to West Side Park was always a lot of fun. There was one piece of playground equipment that had to be one of the coolest, most dangerous pieces of playground equipment ever invented: The "Witch's Hat," which was a kind of tilting merry-go-round. But like so many other wonderful pieces of playground equipment like swings and teeter-totters, it was ultimately removed, probably because some careless kid got bruised or chipped a tooth.

My grandparents, as well as many of my other relatives, attended St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church located at the corner of Hanover and Green Streets. At the time the mass was sung entirely in Ukrainian, with the choir singing "Hospodi Pomiloi" (Lord Have Mercy) up in the loft. Women sat on the left, and the men to the right. The altar was flanked by large statues of Mary and Joseph, both of whom had green neon tube halos! There was the lingering smell of incense, the big metal rack of red votive candles at the back the church, and sometimes teams of old women in babushkas would be down in the church basement, turning out pierogies by the thousands! Sadly, the church closed a number of years ago, but it's still there.

Of course, ANYONE in Nanticoke over a CERTAIN age has fond memories of Sans Souci Park. I think it was probably the first amusement park I ever went to, and for any child it was sheer HEAVEN. There were great classic old rides like the Tumble Bug, Bearcat Roller Coaster, and the utterly terrifying Wild Mouse, which looked like it was held together with little more than chicken wire and spit. I have actually seen wooden horses of Sans Souci's carousel up for sale online (if you want to spent hundreds if not thousands of dollars). The Bearcat was the first roller coaster I ever rode, probably when I was all of seven or eight years old, and I remember keeping my eyes closed for MOST of the time!

Sometime in the 1970s my grandparents moved from Hanover Street to a smaller house at the corner of South Walnut and East Grand Street. Then in 1981 my dear beloved grandpa, Walter Petrash Sr., died rather suddenly: He was was working in his garden, suffered a ruptured aorta, and died on the operating table just hours later. It was very sad. My grandma, Anna Petrash, passed away back around 2003, I believe. My mother's sister, Sonia Marshall, died several years ago after a long battle with cancer. But my parents are still alive, and my mother's brother, Walter Petrash Jr. (who went to WOODSTOCK!), lives with his wife Barbara in Wilkes Barre.

Sometime in the next few years I'm going to drive up to Nanticoke, spend the day walking around town, taking pictures, and I'll go to Larry's Pizza for dinner. I'm 54 years old now, and if I don't do this soon, I'm afraid I never will.

Below is a photo from 1942 that my mom sent me. It was taken somewhere up on Avondale Hill. My mom is the little girl on the far left.