The thermometer read 13 degrees. A foot of snow had fallen the day before. The weather folks were warning of black ice (That’s the ice you don’t know is there until you are going down the road sideways with no control of the vehicle while you watch telephone poles, fences and cows pass by through your windshield hoping you don’t hit something real hard). Yep! It was a perfect day to visit Pottsville the County Seat of Schuylkill County. Schuylkill County was created between 1811-1818 from parts of the following counties; Berks, Lancaster, Northampton, Columbia and Lehigh Counties.
In 1810 a guy named Moses Phillips and his wife Endel began sewing shirts by hand and selling them from pushcarts to the local coal miners in Pottsville. You might have heard of the company this meager beginning spawned named Phillips Van Heusen. Cool huh? It is amazing what you can learn eating hot dogs.
The beginnings of G.H. Bass, Izod, Arrow and Calvin Klein in Pottsville is pretty interesting but the town is much better known as the home of D.G. Yuengling Brewing Company the oldest continuously operated beer manufacturer in the United States. Yes, I have been on the tour and have ‘sampled’ the brew many times in many places!
A darker episode in the life of Schuylkill County, Eastern Pennsylvania and our Country as a whole were the Molly McGuire related incidents in the Anthracite coal fields of the area. Mining was a dangerous and poorly paid job with owners squeezing out every once of sweat and blood from the poorly paid workers. The Irish workers were probably the most abused ethnic group of the time (The Slavic workers being a close second.)and many violent and deadly confrontations took place in the late 1800s. Pottsville was one of several County Seats that saw the trials and executions of supposed Irish Molly McGuire leaders.
But, we are here on a quest for hot dogs. I found my hot dog at Coney Island. I had the Big Beef which is all beef and twice the size of regular wieners. I can already feel your jealousness because you didn’t have this hot dog! Coney Island has been in Pottsville for one hundred years with this shoppe being the third of what once was three separate restaurants in town.
I received my food and sat at a table for four. I felt like I was in the bar “Cheers” or a church luncheon. Everyone in the place seemed to know everyone in the place and greeted each other by name. Two gals came in looking for a seat and I invited them to join me and I am so glad they accepted my invitation. We had a blast! Molly and Agatha are regulars at Coney Island and for good reason. The owner, a retired Marine is Agatha’s son. Well, Agatha and I hit it off right away both being “Burghers”-That means we are from Pittsburgh.- (she was raised in McKeesport, I lived in Beaver Falls and Greensburg).
After she graduated from Grove City College, Mercer County, in the 50s (My Jane graduated from Grove City in the 70s). she moved across the state to Pottsville. I asked her why she made the move to which she replied, “I moved for love.” How sweet is that? Molly is an artist and teacher who I believe will be returning to her art now that she has raised her two children. Life is full of surprises, isn’t it! I didn’t want to break up that fun luncheon.
Oh yea, you can buy a Yuengling at the Coney Island. After all, this is Pottsville! I didn’t need a brew to have a good time on this sunny winter day because I made two new friends on my quest. What a great day.
I returned home to a balmy 20 degree temperature without traveling over any black ice along the way.
See you next time.