Category Archive 'The Region'
15 Mar 2021

Ides of March

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In my high school, the better students, in the two Academic class sections, received instruction in Latin in 9th and 10th grade. Our Latin teacher had a curious personal custom. He sacrificed annually in honor of Great Caesar, on the Ides of March, the male student in each class who had offended him by doing the least work and/or being the most disruptive. He sacrificed additionally one female student from each class whose selection, I fear, was based only upon his own capricious whim and covert sexual attraction.

The sacrifice consisted of the victim being bent over a desk and receiving three strokes of a paddle, delivered by a six foot+, 250 lb.+ Latin teacher laying on the strokes with a will and putting his weight behind them. (I won’t name him.) Mr. X’s paddle was a four foot long piece of 1 1/2″ thick pine, produced in our high school’s wood shop by General Curriculum students, who did not take Latin, but admired Mr. X. The paddle was roughly in the form of a Roman gladius, and its surface was scored by a series of regular lines, because it was generally believed that a blow from an uneven surface was more painful.

Mr. X had a fixed policy of assigning the duty of construing the day’s Latin assignment on the blackboard in strict and completely predictable order, going up and down the aisles of desks. Two or three of the smart kids would always actually do the Latin, (I was one of them) and it was our recognized duty to supply the translations in advance to the person who would be going to the blackboard.

Readiness to translate correctly was really vital, because Mr. X would apply his dreaded paddle to anyone who failed to write out the day’s assignment correctly on the blackboard. It was rare, but every once in a while some truly feckless idiot would neglect to seek out Kenny Hollenbach, Jack Rigrotsky, or yours truly, and would arrive at the blackboard, chalk in hand, unprepared.

Mr. X typically broke the current paddle over the defaulter’s posterior, and the mental defectives in shop class would gleefully commence the fabrication of a new, yet more elaborate, edition of the famous paddle.

Every March 15th, two 9th and 10th grade Academic Curriculum sections would look on with the same sadistic interest of Roman spectators at the gladitorial games, as Mr. X conducted his sacrifices. I can recall that he struck the pretty strawberry blonde with the well-developed embonpoint so hard that he raised dust from her skirt. We were a bit puzzled that girls actually submitted to being beaten with a paddle for no reason, but all this went on undoubtedly because the legend of Mr. X the fierce disciplinarian had enormous appeal in our local community. The whole thing was fascinating, and it all made such a good story that everyone, student and adult, in his heart of hearts, enthusiastically approved.

Mr. X would never be allowed to get away with that kind of thing today. Alas! In Hades, poor Caesar must do without his sacrifice. And it is my impression that Latin instruction has rather overwhelmingly also become a thing of the past. Kids today learn Spanish. Modern languages are easier and are thought more relevant.

Teachers
My high school Latin teacher is the large chap wearing glasses. He also coached one of our sports teams.

————————–

An annual post in memory of my Latin teacher.

14 Dec 2020

Boilo: Lithuanian Penicillin aka Coal Region Champagne

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Anne Eubank, in Atlas Obscura, describes a seasonal favorite of my native Anthracite Coal Region: Boilo.

Winter’s the time for toddies and eggnog, or any cocktail that combines fistfuls of spices with warm sweetness. But when it comes to sweetness, spice, and sheer boozy firepower, boilo has them all beat.

You can be forgiven for not knowing about boilo. Outside of Pennsylvania, this warm drink, sipped by the shot, is rarely seen, and its main ingredient, Four Queens whiskey, is practically impossible to source over the state border. But for many residents of Pennsylvania coal country, the drink is an indispensable winter treat that began as a favorite of the area’s hardy miners. Today, it endures as a cold-weather cocktail and an unlikely soother of colds and the flu. However, due to its main ingredient, 101-proof whiskey, boilo needs to be treated with wary respect, whether drinking it by the glass or heating it on the stove.

Often stirred up for a Christmas party or a firefighter’s fundraiser, the basic elements of boilo are sliced oranges and lemons, squeezed and cooked in water or ginger ale, along with pounds of honey, spices, and the occasional handful of raisins. The mixture is brought to a boil (one folk etymology claims that the name comes from “boil over,” which is very easy for a foamy, sugary pot of honey and sugar water to do), and then the heat is lowered to let the spices and citrus peels infuse the brew. Only after the mixture is removed from the heat and strained is the whiskey added, since legends tell of boilo explosions from fire meeting a dribble of flammable Four Queens whiskey.

A riff on an Eastern European spirit, boilo is rooted deep in Pennsylvania coal country.

RTWT

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“Boilo” is essentially a literal translation of the Lithuanian virytas.

My own family’s recipe goes roughly so:

2 quarts moonshine or inexpensive bar whiskey, rye preferred
4-6 oranges
4-6 lemons
1/2 cup of raisins
2-7 tablespoons sugar (to taste)
2 cups honey
13 herbs and spices: including 2-4 cinnamon sticks, vanilla beans, juniper berries, cardamom seeds, whiskey glass full of caraway seeds, whole nutmeg, whole allspice, whole cloves, peppercorns, bay leaves, saffron, candied ginger, and 1 cup hard candy

Peel oranges and lemons and cut into quarters. Squeeze the fruit into a pot, then throw in remaining fruit pulp. Add remaining ingredients. Cook everything at a slow simmer until the hard candy is melted, stirring constantly. Add whiskey and bring briefly to a rising boil. Add orange juice (some people use ginger ale) to restore any lost volume. Strain and serve hot in shot glasses.

We always used moonshine made in Locust Valley (my birthplace, a rural district in Ryan Township, Schuylkill County). You’re supposed to fiddle with the precise quantities of ingredients to get the taste you prefer.

As always with punches, if you find it too harsh and strong, add more orange juice or ginger ale. If you find it too weak or too sweet, add more whiskey.

You drink it hot out of shot glasses. After about three of these, you’ll find your knees are weak.


The Region

14 Jul 2020

Coal Region Drinking Culture

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Jonathan Malesic has an interesting article, in Commonweal, on the hard times and drinking culture of The Anthracite Coal Region, focusing on my hometown’s Northern neighbor: Wilkes Barre.

On a typical Friday afternoon during my time in Wilkes-Barre, after the curriculum-committee meeting adjourns, my friend G. and I walk across the street to a bar whose name is variously spelled Senunas’, Senunas’s, or Senuna’s. The place isn’t busy yet. We cross the ceramic-tiled floor and settle in at two stools at the corner of the bar. We’re flanked by solo drinkers, men watching other men shout at each other on ESPN. The TVs are muted and closed-captioned to clear aural space for the jukebox, not that anyone has spared a dollar to make it play.

We each place a ten-dollar bill on the bar and order a lager. We don’t say “Yuengling lager,” because in this region, where it’s brewed, that would be redundant. The bartender, M., is a student of mine. She pours our beers and slides our glasses in front of us—each of them an ounce or two short of a pint. She picks up our tens and then sets down a stack of bills and coins totaling $7.75 in front of each of us. The other men sitting at the bar—all of us white, paunchy except for G., and between thirty and sixty years old—have similar stacks in front of them. …

Halfway through our drinks, M. sets shot glasses, upside down, in front of me and G. The grey-mustached drinker has just bought us a round, and the shot glasses signal what we’re owed—and what we’ll owe. M. pulls four singles and two quarters from his stack.

Now I have to talk to him. And not just through this round. Two rounds, because now I’m on the hook for one. I can’t bail after I finish the one he buys me. At least, I think I can’t. That would violate the way of things here. Owing him ties me to him. And I don’t want that tie. I would much prefer to settle the debt immediately, or even to act as if I don’t know how this economy works, say thanks as I get up off the stool to leave, and forget I owe him anything. Instead, I grit my teeth, buy him a round, and bear it. We make small talk: sports, work, where we’re from. M. takes a few dollars and coins from my stack. I leave her the rest.

I never initiated this sort of exchange. On a different day, at a different bar, I would walk away without reciprocating. And, over time, I did that more and more. When I finally moved away to Dallas, Texas, miserable in my academic job and ready to follow the career of my Berkeley girlfriend, now my wife, I was several beers in the red.

The desire to belong is incongruous with the individualistic culture of America’s elite.

Throughout my years in Wilkes-Barre, I believed the area had no culture. But I was mistaken. What I didn’t realize was that drinking alcohol is culture. …

I’ve never had a beer at my new upper-class parish in Dallas, surrounded by office towers and condo complexes. The relative lack of binding customs in the urban brewpubs and $15 cocktail bars of this sun-blasted “global city” signals a thin, flattened-out drinking culture—of a piece with a thin, flattened-out culture here overall. In the sort of bar I go to now, straight guys don’t buy rounds for other straight guys they just met. There’s only one unwritten rule: leave each other alone. The smartphone helps enforce this taboo. It allows educated urbanites to go to bars and carry on conversations with their closest friends—only they can’t clink glasses by text message.

RTWT

Wow! $2.25 for a draft beer back there. When I was young, you could get a beer anywhere in Shenandoah or Mahanoy City for 15¢, and I knew bars in Shamokin where you could get F&S beer for 10¢ a glass.

23 Apr 2020

St. George’s Day

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Vittore Carpaccio, St. George and the Dragon, 1502, Scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni, Venice.

From Robert Chambers, The Book of Days, 1869:

Butler, the historian of the Romish calendar, repudiates George of Cappadocia, and will have it that the famous saint was born of noble Christian parents, that he entered the army, and rose to a high grade in its ranks, until the persecution of his co-religionists by Diocletian compelled him to throw up his commission, and upbraid the emperor for his cruelty, by which bold conduct he lost his head and won his saintship. Whatever the real character of St. George might have been, he was held in great honour in England from a very early period. While in the calendars of the Greek and Latin churches he shared the twenty-third of April with other saints, a Saxon Martyrology declares the day dedicated to him alone; and after the Conquest his festival was celebrated after the approved fashion of Englishmen.

In 1344, this feast was made memorable by the creation of the noble Order of St. George, or the Blue Garter, the institution being inaugurated by a grand joust, in which forty of England’s best and bravest knights held the lists against the foreign chivalry attracted by the proclamation of the challenge through France, Burgundy, Hainault, Brabant, Flanders, and Germany. In the first year of the reign of Henry V, a council held at London decreed, at the instance of the king himself, that henceforth the feast of St. George should be observed by a double service; and for many years the festival was kept with great splendour at Windsor and other towns. Shakspeare, in Henry VI, makes the Regent Bedford say, on receiving the news of disasters in France:

    Bonfires in France I am forthwith to make
    To keep our great St. George’s feast withal!’

Edward VI promulgated certain statutes severing the connection between the ‘noble order’ and the saint; but on his death, Mary at once abrogated them as ‘impertinent, and tending to novelty.’ The festival continued to be observed until 1567, when, the ceremonies being thought incompatible with the reformed religion, Elizabeth ordered its discontinuance. James I, however, kept the 23rd of April to some extent, and the revival of the feast in all its glories was only prevented by the Civil War. So late as 1614, it was the custom for fashionable gentlemen to wear blue coats on St. George’s day, probably in imitation of the blue mantle worn by the Knights of the Garter.

In olden times, the standard of St. George was borne before our English kings in battle, and his name was the rallying cry of English warriors. According to Shakspeare, Henry V led the attack on Harfleur to the battle-cry of ‘God for Harry! England! and St. George!’ and ‘God and St. George’ was Talbot’s slogan on the fatal field of Patay. Edward of Wales exhorts his peace-loving parents to

    ‘Cheer these noble lords,
    And hearten those that fight in your defence;
    Unsheath your sword, good father, cry St. George!’

The fiery Richard invokes the same saint, and his rival can think of no better name to excite the ardour of his adherents:

    ‘Advance our standards, set upon our foes,
    Our ancient word of courage, fair St. George,
    Inspire us with the spleen of fiery dragons.’

England was not the only nation that fought under the banner of St. George, nor was the Order of the Garter the only chivalric institution in his honour. Sicily, Arragon, Valencia, Genoa, Malta, Barcelona, looked up to him as their guardian saint; and as to knightly orders bearing his name, a Venetian Order of St. George was created in 1200, a Spanish in 1317, an Austrian in 1470, a Genoese in 1472, and a Roman in 1492, to say nothing of the more modern ones of Bavaria (1729), Russia (1767), and Hanover (1839).

Legendarily the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George was founded by the Emperor Constantine (312-337 A.D.). On the factual level, the Constantinian Order is known to have functioned militarily in the Balkans in the 15th century against the Turk under the authority of descendants of the twelfth-century Byzantine Emperor Isaac II Angelus Comnenus.

We Lithuanians liked St. George as well. When I was a boy I attended St. George Lithuanian Parish Elementary School, and served mass at St. George Lithuanian Roman Catholic Church in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania.

StGeorgeXmas1979
St. George Church, Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, Christmas, 1979. This church, built by immigrant coal miners in 1891, was torn down by the Diocese of Allentown in 2010.

15 Mar 2020

Ides of March

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In my high school, the better students, in the two Academic class sections, received instruction in Latin in 9th and 10th grade. Our Latin teacher had a curious personal custom. He sacrificed annually, in honor of Great Caesar, on the Ides of March, the male student in each class who had offended him by doing the least work and/or being the most disruptive. He sacrificed additionally one female student from each class whose selection, I fear, was based only upon his own capricious whim and covert sexual attraction.

The sacrifice consisted of the victim being bent over a desk and receiving three strokes of a paddle, delivered by a six foot+, 250 lb.+ Latin teacher laying on the strokes with a will and putting his weight behind them. (I won’t name him.) Mr. X’s paddle was a four foot long piece of 1 1/2″ thick pine, produced in our high school’s wood shop by General Curriculum students, who did not take Latin, but admired Mr. X. The paddle was roughly in the form of a Roman gladius, and its surface was scored by a series of regular lines, because it was generally believed that a blow from an uneven surface was more painful.

Mr. X had a fixed policy of assigning the duty of construing the day’s Latin assignment on the blackboard in strict and completely predictable order, going up and down the aisles of desks. Two or three of the smart kids would always actually do the Latin, (I was one of them) and it was our recognized duty to supply the translations in advance to the person who would be going to the blackboard.

Readiness to translate correctly was really vital, because Mr. X would apply his dreaded paddle to anyone who failed to write out the day’s assignment correctly on the blackboard. It was rare, but every once in a while some truly feckless idiot would neglect to seek out Kenny Hollenbach, Jack Rigrotsky, or yours truly, and would arrive at the blackboard, chalk in hand, unprepared.

Mr. X typically broke the current paddle over the defaulter’s posterior, and the mental defectives in shop class would gleefully commence the fabrication of a new, yet more elaborate, edition of the famous paddle.

Every March 15th, two 9th and 10th grade Academic Curriculum sections would look on with the same sadistic interest of Roman spectators at the gladitorial games, as Mr. X conducted his sacrifices. I can recall that he struck the pretty strawberry blonde with the well-developed embonpoint so hard that he raised dust from her skirt. We were a bit puzzled that girls actually submitted to being beaten with a paddle for no reason, but all this went on undoubtedly because the legend of Mr. X the fierce disciplinarian had enormous appeal in our local community. The whole thing was fascinating, and it all made such a good story that everyone, student and adult, in his heart of hearts, enthusiastically approved.

Mr. X would never be allowed to get away with that kind of thing today. Alas! In Hades, poor Caesar must do without his sacrifice. And it is my impression that Latin instruction has rather overwhelmingly also become a thing of the past. Kids today learn Spanish. Modern languages are easier and are thought more relevant.

Teachers
My high school Latin teacher is the large chap wearing glasses. He also coached one of our sports teams.

————————–

An annual post in memory of my Latin teacher.

08 Feb 2020

Pokeweed Salad

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When we were litle kids, back in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, we found this plant abundantly present on waste ground. We referred to its fruit as “Inkberries.” They were believed to be deadly poison. Childhood folklore held that you only needed to eat a single berry to die. So we picked lots of the fascinating berries, crushed them in containers and dared each other to try eating “Inkberry soup.” No one did.

It never occurred to us to do anything with the plant’s ordinary, boring green leaves, but Abby Carney, in Saveur, tells us that Poke salad is really a long-time staple of Appalachian-cum-Afro-American rural cuisine, valued for its flavor as well as regarded as having medicinal properties.

All we did was pick the berries, make poison with them, and throw them at each other.

Despite the fact that the kudzu-like Phytolacca americana sprouts up all across North America, poke sallet, a dish made from the plant’s slightly-less-toxic leaves, is a regional thing, popular only to Appalachia and the American South. The leaves must be boiled in water three times to cook out their toxins, and, as aficionados will tell you, it’s well worth the extra effort.

But if pokeweed is so toxic, why did people start eating it in the first place? In a word, poke sallet is survival food.

According to Michael Twitty, historian, Southern food expert, and author of The Cooking Gene, poke sallet was originally eaten for pure practicality—its toxins made it an allegedly potent tonic. “Back in the old days, you had a lot of people who walked around barefoot,” Twitty said. “They walked around barefoot in animal feces all the time. Most of our ancestors from the Depression backwards were full of worms.” So then, poke sallet acted as a vermifuge, a worm purger.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center cites research showing that raw pokeweed has medicinal properties that can help cure herpes and HIV. That said, there are no clinical trials that support the use of the cooked dish as such, or as any kind of medicine, but its devotees swear by its curative qualities. Pokeweed remains a popular folk medicine, but it hasn’t been widely studied, so its healing properties remain, officially, purported.

RTWT

17 Jan 2020

Photographing Left-Behind Pennsylvania

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Niko J. Kallianiotis, “Lights On,” between Shenandoah and Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania (2016).

Niko J. Kallianiotis makes a specialty of photographs capturing the surreal quality of economically-abandoned Pennsylvania small towns. A lot of his work focuses on the Anthracite Coal Region.

20 Jun 2019

“The Lonely Valley”

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Birdseye view of early Girardville.

Nice article on the foundation of the mining industry and the founding of towns in the Valley of the Mahanoy Creek, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania by Jake Wynn.

I grew up in Shenandoah. My father’s family had settled in Mahanoy City.

Out of wilderness came the wild towns of the Mahanoy Valley.

Ashland. Girardville. Mahanoy Plane. Gilberton. Shenandoah. Mahanoy City.

These communities and the patch towns that surrounded them suddenly appeared in the 1850s and 1860s out of pure wilderness. All built to mine black diamonds from the mountains surrounding the area in every direction. …

The Mahanoy Valley became home to a series of boom-towns in the 1860s and early 1870s. And with boom-towns come the inevitable problems of a population explosion. Lawlessness reigned in these years after the Civil War. These towns had major problems with violence and liquor in their early years. And they also became the seat of unrest directed toward the large mining interests that sought to absorb the patchwork of independent operators in the 1870s. Many of those hanged as Molly Maguires came from this narrow valley.

Developing the Mahanoy Valley came as a direct result of the Civil War and the sudden emergence of life in the wilds of the “Middle Field” created a situation as close to the “Wild West” as would ever be seen in the Keystone State.

Walter Winchell, back in the Prohibition Era, referred to Shenandoah as “the Only Western Town in the East.”

23 Apr 2019

St George’s Day

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Hans von Aachen, St. George Slaying the Dragon, c. 1600, Private Collection, London

From Robert Chambers, The Book of Days, 1869:

Butler, the historian of the Romish calendar, repudiates George of Cappadocia, and will have it that the famous saint was born of noble Christian parents, that he entered the army, and rose to a high grade in its ranks, until the persecution of his co-religionists by Diocletian compelled him to throw up his commission, and upbraid the emperor for his cruelty, by which bold conduct he lost his head and won his saintship. Whatever the real character of St. George might have been, he was held in great honour in England from a very early period. While in the calendars of the Greek and Latin churches he shared the twenty-third of April with other saints, a Saxon Martyrology declares the day dedicated to him alone; and after the Conquest his festival was celebrated after the approved fashion of Englishmen.

In 1344, this feast was made memorable by the creation of the noble Order of St. George, or the Blue Garter, the institution being inaugurated by a grand joust, in which forty of England’s best and bravest knights held the lists against the foreign chivalry attracted by the proclamation of the challenge through France, Burgundy, Hainault, Brabant, Flanders, and Germany. In the first year of the reign of Henry V, a council held at London decreed, at the instance of the king himself, that henceforth the feast of St. George should be observed by a double service; and for many years the festival was kept with great splendour at Windsor and other towns. Shakspeare, in Henry VI, makes the Regent Bedford say, on receiving the news of disasters in France:

Bonfires in France I am forthwith to make
To keep our great St. George’s feast withal!’

Edward VI promulgated certain statutes severing the connection between the ‘noble order’ and the saint; but on his death, Mary at once abrogated them as ‘impertinent, and tending to novelty.’ The festival continued to be observed until 1567, when, the ceremonies being thought incompatible with the reformed religion, Elizabeth ordered its discontinuance. James I, however, kept the 23rd of April to some extent, and the revival of the feast in all its glories was only prevented by the Civil War. So late as 1614, it was the custom for fashionable gentlemen to wear blue coats on St. George’s day, probably in imitation of the blue mantle worn by the Knights of the Garter.

In olden times, the standard of St. George was borne before our English kings in battle, and his name was the rallying cry of English warriors. According to Shakspeare, Henry V led the attack on Harfleur to the battle-cry of ‘God for Harry! England! and St. George!’ and ‘God and St. George’ was Talbot’s slogan on the fatal field of Patay. Edward of Wales exhorts his peace-loving parents to

‘Cheer these noble lords,
And hearten those that fight in your defence;
Unsheath your sword, good father, cry St. George!’

The fiery Richard invokes the same saint, and his rival can think of no better name to excite the ardour of his adherents:

‘Advance our standards, set upon our foes,
Our ancient word of courage, fair St. George,
Inspire us with the spleen of fiery dragons.’

England was not the only nation that fought under the banner of St. George, nor was the Order of the Garter the only chivalric institution in his honour. Sicily, Arragon, Valencia, Genoa, Malta, Barcelona, looked up to him as their guardian saint; and as to knightly orders bearing his name, a Venetian Order of St. George was created in 1200, a Spanish in 1317, an Austrian in 1470, a Genoese in 1472, and a Roman in 1492, to say nothing of the more modern ones of Bavaria (1729), Russia (1767), and Hanover (1839).

Legendarily the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George was founded by the Emperor Constantine (312-337 A.D.). On the factual level, the Constantinian Order is known to have functioned militarily in the Balkans in the 15th century against the Turk under the authority of descendants of the twelfth-century Byzantine Emperor Isaac II Angelus Comnenus.

We Lithuanians liked St. George as well. When I was a boy I attended St. George Lithuanian Parish Elementary School, and served mass at St. George Lithuanian Roman Catholic Church in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania.

StGeorgeXmas1979
St. George Church, Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, Christmas, 1979. This church, built by immigrant coal miners in 1891, was torn down by the Diocese of Allentown in 2010.

15 Mar 2019

Ides of March

, , , , ,

In my high school, the better students, in the two Academic class sections, received instruction in Latin in 9th and 10th grade. Our Latin teacher had a curious personal custom. He sacrificed annually, in honor of Great Caesar, on the Ides of March, the male student in each class who had offended him by doing the least work and/or being the most disruptive. He sacrificed additionally one female student from each class whose selection, I fear, was based only upon his own capricious whim and covert sexual attraction.

The sacrifice consisted of the victim being bent over a desk and receiving three strokes of a paddle, delivered by a six foot+, 250 lb.+ Latin teacher laying on the strokes with a will and putting his weight behind them. (I won’t name him.) Mr. X’s paddle was a four foot long piece of 1 1/2″ thick pine, produced in our high school’s wood shop by General Curriculum students, who did not take Latin, but admired Mr. X. The paddle was roughly in the form of a Roman gladius, and its surface was scored by a series of regular lines, because it was generally believed that a blow from an uneven surface was more painful.

Mr. X had a fixed policy of assigning the duty of construing the day’s Latin assignment on the blackboard in strict and completely predictable order, going up and down the aisles of desks. Two or three of the smart kids would always actually do the Latin, (I was one of them) and it was our recognized duty to supply the translations in advance to the person who would be going to the blackboard.

Readiness to translate correctly was really vital, because Mr. X would apply his dreaded paddle to anyone who failed to write out the day’s assignment correctly on the blackboard. It was rare, but every once in a while some truly feckless idiot would neglect to seek out Kenny Hollenbach, Jack Rigrotsky, or yours truly, and would arrive at the blackboard, chalk in hand, unprepared.

Mr. X typically broke the current paddle over the defaulter’s posterior, and the mental defectives in shop class would gleefully commence the fabrication of a new, yet more elaborate, edition of the famous paddle.

Every March 15th, two 9th and 10th grade Academic Curriculum sections would look on with the same sadistic interest of Roman spectators at the gladitorial games, as Mr. X conducted his sacrifices. I can recall that he struck the pretty strawberry blonde with the well-developed embonpoint so hard that he raised dust from her skirt. We were a bit puzzled that girls actually submitted to being beaten with a paddle for no reason, but all this went on undoubtedly because the legend of Mr. X the fierce disciplinarian had enormous appeal in our local community. The whole thing was fascinating, and it all made such a good story that everyone, student and adult, in his heart of hearts, enthusiastically approved.

Mr. X would never be allowed to get away with that kind of thing today. Alas! In Hades, poor Caesar must do without his sacrifice. And it is my impression that Latin instruction has rather overwhelmingly also become a thing of the past. Kids today learn Spanish. Modern languages are easier and are thought more relevant.

Teachers
My high school Latin teacher is the large chap wearing glasses. He also coached one of our sports teams.

————————–

An annual post in memory of my Latin teacher.

06 Sep 2018

Beer Snob

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John Ellis does not approve of drinking IPAs, Heineken, Yuengling, Blue Moon, or Guiness. Not one of these widely popular choices rises to his standard.

His analysis goes:

1) IPAs don’t taste like beer.

Well, they are all ales, not beers, and representatives of a distinctly different genre, liking which does represent a specific, idiosyncratic taste. It is, I think, possible to feel that there are too many IPAs these days and one IPA is pretty much like an other, except some are even bitter-er and hopp-ier than others.

2 Heineken is bland and is not really a superior beer.

Screw Heineken. They support Gun Control. I’ll never buy or drink another Heineken. But I will note in passing that what he really means by “bland” is that Heineken is a Pilsener-style pale lager, a type of beer that is not dark, heavy, full of floating debris, and loaded with complicated earthy tastes. in other words, not the style of beer beer snobs dote upon.

3. He doesn’t like Yuengling either because Yuengling is a reasonably priced lager.

He is just prejudiced against all lager beers and all mass marketed beers. Yuengling is really pretty neat and almost everyone likes it. Yuengling is the oldest brewery in America, dating back to 1829, and is still owned by the original family. It comes from Pottsville, Pennsylvania, the county seat of Schuylkill County, in the very heart of the Anthracite Coal Region, and today’s Yuengling, honest to God! tastes kind of like, only definitely better than, the Yuengling I used to find on tap for fifteen cents a glass in local bars when I started drinking as a teenager. It has a distinctive character and authenticity and it isn’t premium priced. Yuengling is a better beer than Bud or Michelob and it’s just as cheap. What does this guy want? An egg in his beer? as they’d say back in the Coal Region.

4. He’s down on Blue Moon because he allegedly knows of some superior Belgian-style wheat beers and you ought to be drinking those.

Jesus, this guy is a snob. Well, outside the Metropolis, we are lucky if we can find Blue Moon. Raised-Pinkie-Finger Craftbier witbier made in Florida, Maine, or Washington State is not likely to be found in your supermarket in rural Virginia or at the local beer distributor in Central PA. Besides, Blue Moon (though pricey) is actually pretty good.

5. Guinness is not stout-y enough.

Americans customarily drink light lager beers. Guinness is dark, heavy, and bitter and is an acquired taste for Americans. And, according to Ellis here, getting used to Guinness is simply not enough. You have to get used to drinking the kind of stout that you could grow plants in.

Frankly, all this pretension and display of connoisseurship is beside the point. It’s only beer. It’s not Premier Cru Bordeaux or Napoleon cognac. You drink a beer after mowing your lawn or while watching idiots run into each other in the Superbowl. Beer is never haute cuisine. Beer really belongs in the unpretentious, mass-marketed workingman’s realm.

This John Ellis guy ought to leave Brooklyn and walk into a bar in Minersville or Hazleton, order a beer, and then turn up his nose and start telling everyone how this stuff is swill and they ought to be drinking $25-a-bottle craft beers with stuff swimming in them made by monks in Belgium from a medieval recipe.

HT: Bird Dog.

15 Jul 2018

Profile Rock, Columbia County, Pennsylvania

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1901 view of Hanging Rock, later known as Profile Rock or Indian Head, along Route 42 beside old Canal north of Catawissa along the road to Bloomsburg, Columbia County, Pennsylvania. My native region’s smaller version of New Hampshire’s Great Stone Face. This ancient postcard was obviously made from a photograph taken a minute or two earlier than the photo from Shorpy’s directly below. Note that just beyond the Canal is the North Branch of the Susquehanna River. (Click on image for larger version, then click once more to enlarge again.)

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Shorpy’s today is running another, just minutes later, image I had not previously ever seen. This is not a post card, but the full size photograph that they made a postcard from. The train is gone and the wagon is much closer to the camera.

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Early postcard view from opposite angle with canalboat. (The canal was still in use!) This one might even be earlier than 1901.

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Another 1900-ish postcard view.

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1920s, possibly early ’30s, telephone poles are gone and the road is paved.

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Late 1950s, the road is a lot wider.

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Contemporary, color photo.

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