A few days ago, my wife, Janet, noticed an advertisement for a 1940’s theme weekend at Eckley Miner’s Village, a museum that is dedicated to coal mining in north east Pennsylvania, not too far from where we live. She was particularly interested in the fact that a Holocaust survivor, Severin Fayerman, would be speaking at the event.. http://www.eckleyminersvillagemuseum.com/
So we made plans to attend. But, we also discovered that my brother, Craig, would be performing in Coopersburg in the evening, so we expanded the itinerary and made a day of it.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cnb_8ZDeXgY
Mr. Fayerman’s talk was very moving. It was our first experience hearing an actual survivor of Auschwitz discuss the details of his experiences inside a Nazi concentration camp. I have had the good fortune, however, of having friends in NH who experienced World War II from two different, yet harrowing perspectives. Titia Bozuwa grew up in occupied Holland and wrote a captivating book about her life as a young girl at the time http://www.amazon.com/In-The-Shadow-Of-Cathedral/dp/0975482513, and her husband experienced the war as an inmate in a Japanese Concentration Camp. http://www.amazon.com/Emperors-coming-behind-Barbed-Indonesia/dp/0975482548
Despite the trials that Severin, Titia and her husband Gijs experienced in their formative years, each of them has lived full, productive, and exciting lives. Most importantly, even after eighty or more years of life, they are particularly gracious and have energy to share with those who happen to be in their presence. These are qualities that I happen to admire most about them.
In addition to the speaker, there were WWII encampments and interpreters, and one of the houses in the village was open, furnished just as it was in the 1940’s. Sometimes we tend to ignore the history in our own back yard – I would recommend a visit to Eckley by those both near and far!
After spending some time at the museum, we headed south towards Tamaqua, the town that I associate with my grandparents. My Grandfather worked for the Reading Railroad, and his job required that he move from time to time. But Tamaqua was home, and that is where we visited them when I was a child. It just so happens that Janet’s grandparents and mine are buried at the same cemetery located in Hometown, just north of Tamaqua. We decided to stop just to see if we might find their graves, but we did not have success. We will have to do a little research before returning again at some point!
As we approached Tamaqua, I related to Janet the memory of driving out to the country with my grandparents for ice cream. We went to Heisler’s dairy. I stopped at a gas station in town and asked if they were still open.. they are.. and we got directions..
Fortunately for us, they were not quite this busy, but the ice cream was just as good as I remember it, and the purple martin houses and mini golf course are still there.. It was well worth the short detour into the country!
We then headed south again, towards the Lehigh Valley, home of Mack Truck, and Martin Guitars.. and my brother the rock star! Most everyone that I know who have children have questioned at one time or another how it is possible that children raised in the same household, by the same parents, can turn out so differently.. That is certainly the case with my two brothers and me.. I am the youngest.. the one who happened to benefit from observing my older brothers and figuring out the easiest way to navigate through adolescence – easiest for both me and my parents 🙂 But we have all turned out to be nice guys, doing our own thing, in our own way.. Dan, the oldest, now lives in Tennessee, Craig lives in Coopersburg, not far from out hometown of Quakertown, and, I currently live in Bear Creek Township, just outside of Wilkes Barre. Craig is the rock star.. he had a dream of making a living by playing his guitar from early childhood, and he has done it. I admire his talent and his determination.. and, even though I grew up listening to him play day in and day out.. , It is a lot of fun to see him on stage – maybe more so now that we are a bit older and he has mellowed and branched out a bit.. In fact, we just listened to his latest CD last night on the way home, and I swear that two of the tracks would be welcome on CMT.. although I am sure that he would argue that to the death 🙂
He and his friend Nyke van Wyk just got back from a tour in Ireland, and they were performing at a benefit in Coopersburg.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1pzY0MgWiD8
We happened to arrive just as they were preparing to play.. we surprised my niece and chatted a bit with my sister-in-law and then found that my Uncle Dick and Aunt Joanne were in the crowd.. It was nice to touch base with them having not not seen or talked with them for probably 30 years..
After the show my sister-in-law asked us over to the house for tea.. this is like even better than getting a back stage pass! of course, there was no back stage at this particular venue 🙂 We enjoyed looking at her pics from the trip to Ireland and chatting with them, but then it was soon time to head home.
We are beginning to sense that the end of summer is just around the corner and that the demands of school are nearly upon us, and that makes days like this even more special – time to enjoy each other’s company, time to explore the area around us, time to revisit childhood memories, and time to spend with friends and relatives. It was a great day!