1. High school football games are the place to be on a Friday night.
No matter what city or town you’re from in the Coal Region, odds are on any given Friday evening in the Fall, high school football games are the “gathering spot” for both teens and adults alike.
Many high schools in the Coal Region have a rich tradition in high school football, such as Mount Carmel, North Schuylkill, Jim Thorpe and Southern Columbia who make it to the state playoffs practically each year.
2. In most towns, there is a bar and church on every street.
During the economic boom in the Coal Region from the late 1800’s to the early 1960’s, the miners often needed somewhere to get a cheap beer nearby after a hard day of work in the mines. As for the churches, most neighborhoods had one depending on one’s ethnicity.
Despite the lack of industry, many of the bars remain. Possibly as an outlet for most of the townsfolk to gather and revel in the greatness of the past.
3. The town’s local swimming spot is more than likely a hole in the ground.
Due to a particular type of anthracite coal mining known as surface mining, which was a popular and easy mining method during the coal boom; large holes, sometimes nearly a mile long and over a hundred feet deep still remain to this day.
In more modern times, the surface mining holes have become popular swimming spots in many Coal Region towns, such as “The Mile” in Trevorton, PA or “The Caves” in Shamokin, PA.
4. Each town has an eatery that has been open as long as anyone can remember.
Whether it is Coney Island Lunch in Shamokin, The Mrs. T’s Pierogi Factory in Shenandoah, or Heisler’s Cloverleaf Dairy in Tamaqua, each town in the coal region seems to have its famous eatery that, surprisingly to those in the Coal Region, tend to be endemic to their respective areas.
From a personal perspective, I was very shocked to go to the beach in North Carolina last summer and not be able to fine Mrs. T’s pierogi. (A pierogi is an Eastern European food made of potatoes and cheese and then wrapped in a dough, ravioli-like shell) available at any supermarkets.
5. Church or fire company block parties are the place to be in the summer.
Another popular custom that has become a chief tradition in most Coal Region cities and towns are block parties. Most churches and town fire companies each hold their own block party when the weather in nice on summer weekends. They usually include live music (more often than not polka music), Eastern European ethnic foods, such as pierogis, haluski and halupki, games, and of course lots of alcohol.
6. Mountain parties are a weekly necessity.
In most of the smaller Coal Region towns, since the coal boom has died down, many businesses have left the area, which has led to teens to find less-wholesome forms of entertainment, such as the notorious “Mountain Party”. Mountain Parties are basically composed of a group of friends buying some cheap beer and driving up to old coal mountains to drink on the weekends.
Despite not being a particularly productive way to spend time, most people in the Coal Region look back at mountain parties with fond memories.
7. Growing up, there was a Catholic school for every neighborhood.
Though many have been closed down by local Diocese, not very long ago, Catholic schools were practically more popular than public schools in most Coal Region towns. Especially for the older generations, most people look back on their private school days and still fear the sight of nuns.
8. Your friends from outside of the coal region cringe at your accent.
Over the years, the Coal Region has developed its own unique and often cringe-worthy dialect. Terms such as “hain’t”, instead of ain’t, or isn’t, or “bot” instead of buddy or pal. The accent itself is difficult to describe, but one that may haunt you forever once you hear it for the first time.
9. The opening to deer hunting season might as well be a national holiday.
The first day of deer hunting season is a huge tradition in the Coal Region. Most men, women and children take the day off and most schools are closed. Most coal region folk treat this day as a holiday and participate annually.
10. Soupies, Pigeons, and City Chicken are some of your favorite snacks
Despite their odd names, many people in the coal region love the aforementioned foods.
Soupie, a meat snack relatively similar to pepperoni, is a traditional coal region cuisine that originated in Italy, but since is nearly endemic to small coal region towns.
City Chicken, despite its name does not contain chicken. Instead, city chicken is made up of pork and veal, then covered in breadcrumbs and fried.
Pigeons, are also a coal region favorite and are composed of a hamburger and rice ball, which is wrapped in a cabbage leaf and then boiled in a tomato sauce. All are cherished foods, but rarely heard of outside of the area.
11. No matter what, you love Penn State football.
Despite the relatively recent lawsuits against the program, Penn State football has a cult-like following in the coal region and most of PA. It is exceedingly rare to find someone in the Coal Region who does not own at least one PSU shirt or jacket.
12. No one that you know from outside of the Coal Region can pronounce the names of most towns.
In homage to the Native Americans who once populated the Coal Region, many local cities and towns have named themselves after local tribes and Native American words.
Schuylkill Haven, Shenandoah, Shamokin, Tamaqua, Mahantango and Chillisquaque are a few. Despite their odd names, the local populace pronounce these names with ease.
13. More than likely, Yuengling is your favorite beverage.
Hailing from the heart of the Coal Region, in Pottsville, Yuengling is one of the most well-known coal region-based companies and many locals proudly profess how it is not only the oldest brewery in America, but also the best. Founded in 1829 and becoming more popular nationwide than ever, it is hard to argue with the Coal Region on this one.
14. It’s not a surprise to visit your hometown and find that the creek is bright orange.
As odd as it sounds, due to acid mine drainage, most of the creeks in Coal Region towns and cities are orange. Caused by sub-surface mining and the abundance of sulfides in the mines, the acid mine drainage has ruined many creeks and water sources, such as the Shamokin Creek and the Swatara Creek in Schuylkill County.
There are many restoration projects in place to bring back fish and wildlife to areas near the water.
15. Knoebels is the best amusement park to go to.
Opened since 1926, Knoebels Amusement Park and Resort in Elysburg is a Coal Region gem. (It’s actually more popular worldwide, and has recently been rated as the second best family friendly amusement park in the country.)
Practically everyone in the Coal Region visits Knoebels at least once a year. From the amazing food to the world famous wooden roller coasters, “the Phoenix” and “the Twister”; Knoebels is likely to stay one of the most popular attractions in the Coal Region for generations to come.
16. You’ve been to Centralia at least once.
Centralia is, or was a town in Coal Country, which was exposed to a devastating mine fire in the 1960s. Currently, less than ten people reside in Centralia and despite a church, the cemeteries and just a few houses; the entire town has been leveled by the government, as it has been deemed unsafe to live in due to the fact that the mine fire is still raging underneath the town.
A few people still refuse to leave. Due to the eerie smoke that rises up out of the ground and the fact that it is basically a ghost town, Centralia is a popular spot for tourists and for local kids, who want to give themselves a fright after dark or write their name on the infamous “Spraypaint Road”. Centralia is also the inspiration for the movie, Silent Hill.
17. Trail rides are an area pastime.
Due to the awful roads and lack of things to do in Central PA, many of the local populace have invested in older jeeps and trucks, known for their sturdy designs and the plethora of customization options available. Lots of people who own these customized vehicles also tend to take them out on the weekend to many of the old coal truck routes nearby the mines.
18. Halupkies are a New Year’s tradition.
Unlike the rest of the U.S., which tend to bring in the New Year with pork and sauerkraut, halupkies, also known as “pigeons” are a local favorite to celebrate the beginning of a New Year in the Coal Region.
19. The Pottsville Maroons won The NFL Championship in 1925.
Despite not being known outside of the Coal Region and even forgotten by many of the younger generations; the city of Pottsville once housed an NFL powerhouse, which would win the NFL Championship in 1925. However, despite defeating every team that they played that year, it was stripped of its title due to a legal stipulation.
Many in the Coal Region still consider the Pottsville Maroons to be champions.
20. You have more pride in your home town than anyone else you know.
If there is one thing above all else that all coal regioners have in common, it’s an undying sense of loyalty to the Coal Region and your town. Whether you are from Shamokin, Mount Carmel, Hazelton, or truly anywhere in the Coal Region, more than likely you have a sense of pride in the rich traditions and history that your town is known for.
As they say, there is no place like home and this phrase is as true as it can be in the Coal Region.