Jon Kennedy's 'Postcards from
Camelot on the Blacklick
Jonal entry 1092 | March 4 2009
Last week someone sent me the following in the form of a scan of a clipping from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. I spent several hours combing the P-G archives online in the hopes of finding it in web-page format, hoping to find more information, like a date and possibly an email address. I was unsuccessful, but internal clues in this suggest that it is recent, as by my reckoning Mr. Edelstein's 93rd birthday, which the writer was looking forward to, will be later this month. It's possible I couldn't find it online because it had not been online long enough to have been found by Google or some other indexing service. Please read it; I think anyone with Blacklick Valley roots will find it charming and fetching, even if the writer considers Nanty Glo "a tired, old town."
My own childhood impressions of Nanty Glo were not nearly as "glowing," so to speak, as Ronna's. Mine were based on actual visits to the town, the nearest "marketplace" for our family farm at the time, and not only did it look ugly to me, it smelled even uglier, with the savor of burning sulphur permeating everything within a mile of the Heisley Mine rockdump. The railroad crossing just beyond Rinehart's Drugstore (now the Niner Diner) was so rough you might get a broken spring. And the creek under the bridge a block farther on was so polluted with bright red, almost orange, acid mine drainage that it almost glowed itself. But I think my first "defensive" posture toward Nanty Glo was struck when a visitor to our family who was with us when we drove through, complained about how awful it seemed. It's one thing to find a place ugly to yourself, but when someone tells you your place is ugly, your hackles go up. Then in junior high years I started hitch-hiking to Nanty Glo for occasional movies at the Capitol Theater, and some of those experiences were pure joy. Through "the showplace of Cambria County," Nanty Glo became to me the closest the young boy could get to the "bright lights, big city." And by then, the rockdump was getting less and less odiferous year by year.
I started writing for the Mountaineer-Herald in Ebensburg about that time (seventh grade), mainly because it was convenient for me to pop into the M-H office on Center Street and pitch my services as the Blacklick Valley correspondent to Mr. Thompson, the editor, while Mom shopped at the A&P across the street. But a few years later, after he declined my pitch to also do a teen column for the Mountaineer-Herald, and Andrew P. Rogalski, the editor of the Nanty Glo Journal, warmly welcomed it, my loyalty to Nanty Glo was sealed from then on. But even better, the teen column was a great success, so much so that the editors of the other Mainline newspapers at the time were also running it, and it was the most talked about weekly feature in the Journal. From my picture in the paper, people routinely greeted me on the streets of Nanty Glo (and it had more than one main commercial street in those days). Unlike Mr. Thompson who never gave me any advice, Mr. Rogalski undertook to be my mentor, and by the end of my junior year in high school I was doing a considerable amount of reporting in the Journal besides my columns.
Flash forward about seven years, when I had moved away from the Valley to take a managing editor post at an international weekly paper published in South New Jersey. I found my future wife and brought her home to meet the folks and show her around. When I tried to explain my years of being "nearly famous" in Nanty Glo, she burst into the refrain to "Camelot," which we had gone to see on a date in New York City as probably the most memorable day and evening of our courtship. Yes. That was it, exactly. That said it all.
Here are some earlier articles about Edelsteins and their
department store in Nanty Glo:
And here's an earlier memoir of my teen column:
Thought for today
— C. S. Lewis (1898 - 1963)
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