Category Archives: Pennsylvania Towns

More Exploring the Area

skytopfaraway In my ever evolving plan to learn more about this area, I went with a friend for lunch to Skytop Lodge, a Poconos resort that was created in 1925. The site and views are impressive to say the least and, since it is only a 35-minute drive from Lords Valley, I thought it would be a nice place to bring visitors (should I ever have them!!). aerial_web However, we quickly learned that, unless you are a guest at the lodge, there is some suspicion as to why you would ever be there! The dining room was buffet only and really is set up for guests who are assigned tables. It reminds me of the Catskills in the 1950s and 1960s — have you ever seen Dirty Dancing? Anyway…we were directed to the Tap Room which is dark, paneled, and trying to look like an English pub I think. The menu looked tempting so we ordered what turned out to be a less than satisfactory lunch. It was worth the visit, though, because the drive is lovely, the lake on which Skytop sits is spectacular, and the building itself is somewhat like The Grove in Asheville so quite imposing. Just looking at the towering hemlocks was worth the drive. hemlocks I enjoy places like this — imagining what it was like in the 1920s, how people got there on the winding mountain roads, how they dressed, what they did (hunting? fishing?), how they stood the heat and mosquitoes.

After lunch, we decided to explore the nearby town of Canadensis which was reported to have interesting shops. A very short drive (a mile or two) and we quickly identified several shops that we wanted to look at: a wonderful kitchen equipment store, a store that only carried Portuguese pottery and linens (some of which were made in China), and what looked to be a hardware store (pictured here). OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA When I walked into Theo Price Lumber I saw someone making a copy of a key for a customer, shelves filled with paint supplies and other things you’d expect to see in a hardware store. However, this place was more than just that — antique lanterns hanging from the ceiling, room upon room of stuff, antiques, Vera Bradley (very unexpected!), old-fashioned children’s toys and games, quilts, fabric, African art, and a huge Christmas display. To say that I was surprised is an understatement.

Theo Price Lumber has been a family owned and run business for 90 years. According to its website, it started manufacturing wood products to support the local coal mining industry. It is still a retail lumber store and hardware store, and an amazing eclectic mix of primitive art, gourmet food, books, and almost anything you can think of. In spite of the 90+ degree heat, we soldiered on and explored every inch of the 2-story building. As we left, Warren (married to Theo Price’s granddaughter Mary Ann) said, “Come back the Sunday after Thanksgiving. We will be almost decorated for Christmas and we have a huge open house with many local artists.” Apparently the artists set up on the porch and sell their work while Warren and Mary Ann set up food and drink (no charge) in the store. It sounds just like the kind of place I’d like to visit for the holidays. As long as it doesn’t snow or ice (and the creek don’t rise) over that weekend, I will certainly be there. What a lovely unexpected find — my kind of exploration!

Reading, PA

pennstreet This week Alex Rodriguez finished his rehab from an injury that kept him from the first half of the baseball season. He was playing with the Reading Thunder, a Class AA affiliate of the Yankees, and his appearance there led to an article in the New York Times — “In Minor Leagues, a Rich Man Visits a Frayed City.” I read the article with great interest, forwarded it to my cousin Jill, who is also a Yankees fan. Jill remembers going to minor league baseball in Reading when they were a farm team for the Phillies. We have a connection to Reading, PA, having spent a good deal of our childhood there visiting one or both of our aunts who lived just outside of the city for the better part of their adult lives. Jill and her sisters, Andie and Maxine, spent more time there than I did but our visits often overlapped and it wasn’t until we were adults that we realized what a tiny house Aunt Millie had. I now understand why we were constantly being sent outside or taken to the Berkshire Country Club where my uncles played golf.

Reading is in southeast Pennsylvania and was once a hub for the Reading Railroad and for the textile industry. I remember very well going to the Berkshire Knitting Mill to buy sweaters and bathing suits. We walked on streets along the railroad tracks that ran down the center of town and bought socks and buttons. We always brought home large amounts of pretzels and Reading is still the home of Bachman Pretzels. The Reading Glove and Mitten Manufacturing Company, from which we bought winter gloves, became Vanity Fair and in the 1970s the original factory became the first outlet mall in the country. Unfortunately, Reading entered a decline from which it never recovered and currently has the most people living in poverty in the nation.

What memories that one article stirred. My Aunt Millie took us to The Pagoda which was on the top of Mount Penn that overlooked the city. So many times when we drove into Reading we looked up at the Pagoda and wondered who built it and why. pagoda

I remember the excitement that was generated by the idea of going downtown to have lunch at The Crystal, a restaurant at which all the Reading businessmen gathered for lunch. Women (and children) were relegated to a separate area of the restaurant and it was there that I had my first Shirley Temple. Downtown Reading, once we were old enough, was reached by a bus that we took to go to the movies or to visit our uncle who owned the local fur store. Pomeroy’s, the downtown department store, was the destination for my father to get his chocolate covered pretzels.pomeroys Whether visiting as a child, teenager, or adult, I have very fond memories of Reading and am saddened to read about its current difficulties with crime, unemployment, and poverty. In my mind it will always be a special place of which I have wonderful memories. I remember walking down the street to a tiny basement shop where we could buy candy when sent to pick up milk for dinner; I choose to remember the fun of the pool at the country club and being able to order lunch and sign for it with a member number; I was excited about exploring the attics at both Aunt Millie’s and Aunt Rhetta’s houses. Most of all, as an only child, I loved being with my cousins. It’s funny how an article meant to evoke negative images did just the opposite for me.