Hitchhiking to Nanty Glo

By Jon Kennedy

During my 16th year—the one between my 15th and 16th birthdays, the '57-'58 school year and beyond—I hitchhiked to Nanty Glo from the intersection of Red Mill Road and what is now Route 271, and back, at least 300 times. I was an usher at the Capitol Theater part of that year, but when I gave up that job I continued going to Nanty Glo in order, as I told my Mom, to gather material for my teen column. But mostly I did it to hang out with my new buddy John Golias, whom I met in the lobby of the Capitol when he came out after seeing a movie and struck up a conversation. Also on one of those trips before I was working at the Capitol, I met Bill Martin in Mitchells' Restaurant atop the hill on Lloyd Street, and he and his mother Kitty became close friends and I spent a lot of time at their place. Bill had once been on a track to become a priest and I might have been on a pre-ministry track, so we had a lot in common despite the age difference. He was already out of high school and I was just a sophomore, a gap which we thought of in those days as making the difference between men and boys.

Hitchhiker's corner, Fred Edwards' Store
Nanty Glo's long-famous 'hitchhiker's corner,' at
Fred Edwards' Store, Chestnut at Second Street.

Shortly after getting my first car early in my seventeenth year, I met Dick Millward and his "gang," and could be found most evenings from then until Dick graduated from Saint Francis College and moved to California, at Sparky's Garage. Dick worked at the garage, evenings and most Saturdays, for his dad all through college. The gang regulars consisted of Dick and John Golias, Sam and Dave Campbell, Louis Scansarolli, myself, and later on, Stewart Wertz. Others, like Mike Shutak, dropped in and out once in a while. Of course girls dropped in frequently, too, but I won't mention any of their names, not that there was anything dishonorable but we've all been married since and none of us to any of them.

Those days are long gone, of course, but one of the reasons this Virtual Nanty Glo | Virtual Blacklick Valley exists is to enable any of us who ever lived and worked and played in the Valley to hitchhike to Nanty Glo any time we want, by pressing a mouse finger instead of holding out a thumb. In the '50's there would be one or more hitchhikers at the corner of Chestnut and Second Street (see photo) constantly it seemed, and as often as anyone else, I was one of them. I have not seen many hitchers there on recent visits; virtually none, in fact. Maybe it's gotten dangerous to hitchhike even in Blacklick Valley; maybe there's just no reason to hitchhike to Belsano, Twin Rocks, or Vintondale these days or the other way 'round.

Much of cyber-reality is no reality at all, of course. But it's a great place to reconnect with old acquaintances and make new ones. In fact, since I became a regular hitchhiker on the Internet four years ago, I've met, through email, more people that I have more in common with than I had in all my previous years together. So, as the Microsoft ads ask, "Where do you want to go today?" One place I want to visit again is Nanty Glo.


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© Jon Kennedy 1998, 2012