Thursday, July 15, 2010

It's All About the Setting

Nothing inspires a good story like a unique setting. Shirley and I had some extra hours to kill while driving through Pennsylvania and the folders we had gathered at the state line gave us some unusal destinations. Off the Interstate and winding down through the old coal bearing hills we came to the town of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. It was named for the Olympic champ, a native man who was treated shamefully by the various sports bodies who governed the many sports Thorpe excelled in early in the 1900's. (they say his records for pentathlon and decathlon still stand today) Thorpe's widow, as it happens, was a scam artist who conned the town into renaming itself to Jim Thorpe in honour of her late husband, who died drunk and penniless. She promised many financial benefits to the town, such as huge amounts of tourism, and a hospital. The town name was changed, (and considering the previous name of Maunch Chunk, it was well they did), and the body of Jim Thorpe was disinterred, moved to Pennsylvania, and buried in town with full honours. Unfortunately the tourists failed to show for many years, and the hospital was not forthcoming. Not to be discouraged, the ambitious town fathers changed a five mile coal train loop with a mile long cable ascent into the world's first roller-coaster, where people loaded into special cars and were dragged uphill and then sent down for a fast five mile trip down the mountain. The train is still operating.
The town is a great place to see. It is like old Quebec City. The streets wind around the narrow folds of the valley and the buildings are designed to fit into the limited spaces. Yards and laneways end in neat home-made stone walls. The houses are wood and painted with generous amounts of colour. Some of the colours match. Check it out. Art shops and law offices abound here, so there is plenty of money and people to spend it. There is a gothic-looking jail where some Irish miners, the famous Molly McGuires, were hanged for promoting violence against the mine way back when mining was controlled by rich financiers and the local men worked in near-lethal conditions. A mine museum nearby had some cool artifacts. This is a great place to visit if you have some hours to spend. Today we are visiting Allison and John Sullivan, with son Jake and daughter Lilyanne, in Triangle Virginia. Tomorrow John, a US Naval Commander will show me around Washington D.C.
Driving long distances gives me time to think and I'm getting some ideas to add to the "Dan Time Boy" story. Got some new ideas about that, but we'll see what happens.

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