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Treasuring the past

Published November 21. 2009 09:00AM

I have a confession to make. I honestly cannot understand why people do not appreciate history especially when it comes to their heritage. Our identity, who we are as people, is created in a large part by our backgrounds and the experiences we bring to this table of our lives. Those who say history is meaningless really have not learned its true power. They wander through this world oblivious to what can be because they have never takentime to see what once was.

It really disappoints me when people express their lack of interest in our past or go further and insult or oppose those who do have a sincere interest in what has shaped us as a culture, a nation and a people. I think knowing and understanding our history as a human, as an American, is part of learning to be wise. We learn from our mistakes, our failures and the failures of those that come before us as well as the successes of our forebears.

I originally wrote this column today leveling a shot directly at the governor's office and the Pennsylvania legislature for their ignorance in deciding that historical and cultural attractions in the commonwealth were fair game to close while they continue to fund their stadiums and sports complexes and their walking around money which they continually use to buy their way back into the hearts of their constituents. I had a whole column about the trashy things they have done to rub the corruption of the commonwealth under our noses, how they conned us into accepting gambling under the promise of property tax relief but have used more of that money for pet projects than for us, but I'm not going to go any further than that.

Too many of you don't care enough to vote for people who could stop this while many of you don't recognize when you are being played, so why waste my space?

Instead I'm going to use more of this column to tell you what Eckley Village means to me. I'm the proud descendant of coal miners. My father's family worked in those mines in Summit Hill and Lansford all their lives. The mines took my grandfather from me way too soon as he died horribly from silicosis in 1980 much younger than he should have. It deprived me of at least five years of his time I wish I had. My mom's father worked in the shops in the Number Nine mine until he retired and worked for the borough. While he didn't have silicosis as bad as my Grandpa, the years didn't go without affecting him either.

When I visit Eckley, I feel the spirit of my grandfathers and those of many others in the homes and on the streets. I can close my eyes and imagine what life was like for our ancestors back in that patch town. I walk through the homes and I'm stepping back in time to my grandparents and great grandparent's homes. The furnishings I've seen in their homes and in other relatives' homes. My heritage is that museum. It's exhibits are my roots and most of yours too.

If you have never been there, it's too bad the state has seen fit to make sure you may never have that opportunity. It's an emotional experience for some of us and it is where most of you have originated. That patch town is your ancestral home. Those simple wooden homes are the homes of our grandparents. That dusty street could just as well be Ridge Street in Lansford, Ludlow Street in Summit Hill, Broad Street in Tamaqua, Philips Street in Coaldale or Catawissa Street in Nesquehoning.

To lose that location is to lose a piece of ourselves. If you are reading this saying I don't care, then you really don't understand or appreciate the sacrifices your family made for you. That museum up until now has been and continues to be a beacon of our heritage. It tells the world about the faces behind the Industrial Revolution, behind the birth of organized labor to whom most of us owe our jobs and wages. Eckley Miner's Village is the story of northeast Pennsylvania and while it has lived on a shoestring up until now it could tell that story, but now the last chapter may be penned by a group of thoughtless uncaring politicians who refuse to invest in our culture anymore. Shame on you Ed Rendell and shame on each of you in Harrisburg who have condemned our heritage. I hope you are proud of yourselves.

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