Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Eckley Miner’s Village

Growing up in Pennsylvania, I’ve always been fascinated with the state’s coal mining heritage.  I’ve taken the Lackawanna Coal Mine and the museum several times.  Yet, I had never visited Eckley Miner’s Village, even though I drove past the signs every week on my way to my brother’s house. 

After looking it up online and saying I would go for about a year, I finally made it happen this month.  Since the village is so close to my brother’s home, I took my niece and nephew along.  Our first stop in the village was the visitor’s center where we purchased our tickets for the museum and walking tour.

 Originally, I hadn’t planned on taking the guided walking tour due to its length and my niece’s age, seven.  I thought that it might be too long for her but when I told her it was an hour and half of listening to our guide speak, she assured me that she would not get bored.

While her attention did wonder a bit, I’m still glad we took the guided tour. Most of the information plaques are inside the museum and inside the buildings, so we would only have gotten half the information with a self-guided tour.

We had a good time in the small museum that included a short movie about the village’s history, which began in the 1850’s.  The museum housed artifacts from the miners and their family’s daily lives, clothes, mining gear, toys, and several items grouped together to create a small replica store

After finishing the museum, we still had some time before the tour, so we visited the gift shop, the former church rectory. The lady working there was extremely nice and informative about the buildings history and some the former residents.  

Then, we wondered around the village until it was time to meet our group at the visitor’s center.  We had a good sized group that included three other kids. Our guide was very informative about not just the history but of personal experiences working in a coal mine. 
As we walked down the long street through the village, our guide let us into the Catholic Church, two houses, the Episcopal Church, and the doctor’s office.  The churches were beautiful and the office and homes were excellent examples of how people lived back in the mining days.
Inside the Catholic Church 
The Doctors' Office 
Inside the Episcopal Church

It was a wonderful visit, though a bit long for young kids. It was also very hot, so next time I may go in the fall, but there most definitely will be a next time.  

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Isset Acres Museum

I know some people would not consider trips to museums to be exciting adventures, but I beg to differ.  Museums are windows into the past, collections of beloved pastimes, and an exploration of the human spirit.        
Isset Acres Museum in Huntingdon PA managed to showcase the wonders of history without forgetting the sadder, grimmer side, such as the story of the last man hanged for murder in the area. However, it was definitely a fun visit with something to spark everyone’s interest, vintage toys, WW2 uniforms, cars, old medical equipment, train sets, camera, antique printing presses, and so much more.

            The museum is divided into three large main buildings and as with most museums, they have many more items in storage. The first building resembles a barn from the outside, so it’s natural that a section of the large exhibit space is dedicated to farm equipment. However, there’s also a large collection of vintage radios and phonographs, china, a printing press, and a diner booth from the 40’s/ 50’s/ complete with replica menus. 

            The second building houses several antique porcelain dolls, doll houses (including one made from an old radio) washing machines, a dentist chair from the 30’s , and old hospital displays such as a full sized nurse mannequin once donated to a local hospital.  The other side of the massive room contained two large train sets, one complete with a miniature recreation of Huntingdon from the WW2 era.

            Past the main room of the second building is an entertainment room, projection TV’s from the ‘80’s, vintage pianos, including a player piano, banjos, and other string instruments. Past that room is a large collection of typewriters and old fashioned, bulky computers, as well as three vintage cars, an old gas pump, and several toy cars.

            I haven’t even mentioned the original Star Wars toys , the poor doll with Sticky Doll Disease, or the toy car versions of the Flintstone’s car and the Oscar Meyer Weiner Mobile, or the pump organ, or the , well, let’s just say, this building was packed and may have been my favorite, between the typewriters, Star Wars toys, dolls, and trains. Did I mention the tiny town has a DeLorean sitting on its train tracks?

            Building Three is just as packed and just as enthralling with its collection of vintage cameras and dark room equipment, move cameras, and a schoolroom recreated with period desks for the students, (dolls) and the teacher ( a mannequin in period dress).  There’s Civil War uniforms and weapons as well as a large collection of WW2 uniforms and weapons, dresses from various eras, a recreation church, a recreation store filled with vintage boxes and a butchers counter.  There’s several cubical like spaces filled with artifacts to recreate kitchens, dining rooms, and bedrooms.

            After being guided through these buildings by our very knowledgeable and friendly tour guide, we got to meet the museum’s owner, Mr. Isset, who is in his 90’s and has a lodge on the grounds to do work and visit with friends and family. He said he and his wife collected throughout their marriage and the collections, “got away from them” so they opened the museum to share the growing collection.

            It was such an amazing place that I cannot wait to return and see what I missed and what’s been cycled out of storage.  If you love history, old things, or just visiting new places, check it out.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Sunshine on Moon Lake

The last time I visited Moon Lake, the former counter park turned state forest, it was permeated with an air of faded joy, decay, and abandonment.  The grass was overgrown, the buildings were spray painted and boarded up, and the picnic tables were weathered and well, splintery. 

I recently made a return visit and was pleasantly surprised by the improvements.  My dad had revisited the park beforehand and had told me of the changes. Of course seeing them gave me a complete picture of how much the park is changing. 

Save for the stone work and pavilion, the entire pool area has been demolished and filled in.  While I’m sad that the pool could not be saved, or be explored Adam the Woo style, it’s comforting to know that grass, flowers, and trees  can now grow once again.   



I felt the same way about the lake house and the education center, sad that they could not be restored or explored in their decay, but glad that they could no longer be damaged and that their absence made way for new life.   

The picnic tables have all been replaced and joined by charcoal grills under the pavilions.  The local airplane club still operates on the grounds, and shiny, new signs guide visitors to the picnic, tent camping areas, and the dock where boats can be launched.
            During my visit, I noticed several boats on the lake, some people were fishing, and others seemed to just be enjoying the water.  People were walking around the lake and while it’s a bit too early in the season for picnicking or tenting, I’m certain people will take advantage of those options as well.
            It was very encouraging to see not only improvements but the potential as well.  It reminded me that no matter how dismal a situation looks, that there is always hope and sunlight, that with God all things are truly possible.