Scranton? Why? What’s in Scranton?

Here is something that as a lifelong Northeast PA resident, I never thought I’d hear myself say, “Come on everyone! Let’s go to Scranton!”

People watch the American version of The Office and think they should visit Scranton to see what the city is like but I’ve never heard/seen anyone in my area say the name Scranton without wrinkling their nose in confused disgust.

“Scranton,” they say. “What’s in Scranton?”

To prove this point, when I called my mom to tell her we had changed plans for the day and were going to Scranton instead of the Finger Lakes in N.Y., she said, “What’s in Scranton?” the same way you would say, “Why would you do that? Are you insane?” 

She said it like she wanted to add, “Why are you going to Scranton? Are you being held at gunpoint? Don’t lie to me!”

After we went to Scranton, my son told his friend we had gone, and his friend, 16, looked at him and said, “Scranton? Why Scranton?” And he said it with disgust like everyone else. He has learned it at a very young age to question the validity of a visit to Scranton.

This is a photo of my son on the phone with my dad who is asking, “Are you still in Scranton? Why are you in Scranton? What’s in Scranton?”

For anyone from Scranton who is reading this, please know the above paragraphs are written all in good fun because people from Scranton could ask the same of where I live. “Rural Pennsylvania? Why would you go to rural Pennsylvania?” And they would ask it with their noses all wrinkled up too.

While Scranton residents can say they have a beautiful cultural center with amazing events, a gorgeous college campus, and amazing restaurants with delicious food I can say we have beautiful scenery, lovely walking trails, the wildlife outside your door (hopefully not bears), and peaceful nights. So, we both have our good points.

Anyhow, after voluntarily visiting Scranton this weekend it turns out it’s not so bad, but also not a place this small-town girl would love to live in.

There are buildings. Lots of them. Too many of them really. I mean, for all you city-folk out there this is a small city, very small. For me, it was like Clark Kent when he first walked into Metropolis.

Let me back up here a bit and explain why we went to Scranton. You see, we were going to take a day trip to the Finger Lakes, a favorite place for us to visit when we lived 45 minutes north, but then The Boy asked if we could visit Scranton because of the show The Office. I thought he meant he had watched The Office and enjoyed it and wanted to see the city where it was based (even though the show was actually filmed in L.A.). It wasn’t until we had almost finished our visit, after I took him to a mural of Dwight’s head, that my son broke the news to me, “I don’t even really like The Office. I don’t understand most of the jokes or what it’s even about. I just thought it would be cool to see the place where the opening was filmed.”

So, we essentially visited Scranton for no reason.

Still, it was an adventure and got us out of the house and into a different area, so I suppose it was worth it.

We met a couple of interesting people, one a lady who swindled us out of money by lasering in on my 6-year old to try to sell her a bracelet. She knew our Achilles heel — our weakness at buying things for our youngest, even though they are a rip-off.

After we dragged ourselves away from her with a bracelet and a pair of Dollar General sunglasses she claimed would normally cost $29 but she was giving it to us for $10 (sigh) we crossed the street to see what the large stone building was that we’d been looking at during lunch (which took forever but was worth the wait). It turns out the building was the courthouse. A woman in the front yard of the building immediately began telling me her life story. I’ve mentioned before on this blog that this happens to me a lot. I will walk past a person, smile or nod and suddenly, without even saying who they are, they’ll say something like this woman did to me, “Hi, I’m homeless.”

And there I stood while she told me that she’d left a 30-year old marriage, was homeless, came to this space to watch people and because it was peaceful and because a woman at the shelter she was staying at had gone “bat crazy”, and had been feeding the squirrels sugar-coated pecans.

She also told me she believes in Jesus and asked me to pray in agreement with her that she would find an apartment and a job because “wherever two people are gathered in my name God is with them.” She talked about Jesus and faith a lot, without taking much of a breath, and how many will live in torment by not believing in Him.

I never mentioned Christ or my faith before this conversation started so I have no idea what compelled her to talk to me about Him or her faith, but there I stood while she talked about it, wishing I could leave, but feeling guilty that I wanted to leave. She wasn’t like the homeless portrayed in movies. She wasn’t dirty or living under a bridge. She was well dressed, wearing make-up, and spoke fairly clearly, but did ramble quite a bit. Was she really homeless? I don’t know. Why did she choose me to talk to? I don’t know. But I did pray for her, and I hope she ends up with an apartment and in a safe place.

After we left the main part of the city, we drove past The University of Scranton, which is a Catholic and Jesuit university, and took an unintended tour of it while looking for a vintage store that sells vintage records.

The University of Scranton was founded in 1888, according to its website, and is a private university with 3,700 undergraduate students and 1,300 graduate students. The campus was very pretty. The architecture of the buildings, like many in Scranton, reflects a classic style with a bit of Victorian mixed in.

 I thought The Boy would enjoy looking at the records at the vintage store, and he did but didn’t end up buying one. The Boy has been very interested in vinyl records and we hope to pick him up some and a record player for his birthday. The store had tons of antiques or vintage items and as I took photographs of them, I felt like Our Little Red House taking photos for one of her antique store trips in Arizona.’

The store was where we found the mural of Dwight, a character from the show, and actually, I made this one of our stops on purpose, thinking The Boy would like it. He did but, again, reminded me he is not a real fan of the show.

The tower in the opening of The Office.
I took a photo of this building because it looked like one of the motels where they find the bad guys in a Rockford Files episode.

On the way back we stopped at a playground about half an hour from us and I enjoyed some quiet time next to the creek.

I also checked out an abandoned house by the playground which reminded me of my old house. The Boy said it was haunted and thought he saw a person looking out one of the windows. Luckily, it was a reflection. We think anyhow. *wink*

Part of our view on the drive home.

We were all glad to head home as the humidity jumped up, making us feel drained and over-heated.

All in all, it was a fun trip. There were a few other sites we wanted to visit but we will save them for our next trip.

Yes, that’s right, we probably will visit Scranton again, even if everyone we know looks at us, wrinkles their nose, and says, “Scranton? What’s in Scranton?”

Visiting the Tunkhannock Creek/Nicholson Viaduct; one of the largest stone railroad bridges in the world

Because we don’t want to travel a lot these days (since the world has lost its’ ever-loving mind) we have been checking out some of our local sites this summer. One of those was the Tunkhannock Creek Viaduct (railroad bridge) in Wyoming County, Pa. The bridge is also called the Nicholson Viaduct because it is located in Nicholson, Pa.

It isn’t like visiting a playground or a water park, but it’s something still worth traveling to see, especially when you find out that it is one of the largest stone railroad bridge crossings in the world. Built in 1912 and open for business in 1915 it is 2,375 feet long and 24 feet wide. It is 240 feet above stream level and 300 feet above bedrock.

As we were driving toward it I could tell the kids and my husband were wondering when we would arrive at it. It had been years since I had been there but I knew there was no way we could miss it by traveling on that road. You can’t miss a 300 foot stone structure that rises above the highway and the little town of Nicholson.

According to the Nicholson Heritage Association, the project used 185,000 barrels of cement which produced 67,000 cubic yards of concrete. About 1,140 tons of steel were used to reinforce the concrete. The bridge was built to endure 6,000 pounds per square foot, since some engines at that weighed 233 tons. The bridge cost $1,735,000 to build.

There were about 500 men who worked on the bridge and less than half of them were skilled laborers. Many of them were farmers who worked on the bridge during the winter or when it wasn’t a busy harvest season. The men worked 24 hours using dynamite, steam shovels, and a cement mixer that was built on site. The bridge was born by the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western Railroad, who wouldn’t allow the dynamite to be transported on their railway so the Lehigh Railroad transported the dynamite to Springville and then it was carried the rest of the way by horse and wagon.

There are 12 arches and 10 of them are 180 feet across.

According to the heritage association: “In Theodore Dreiser’s 1916 travel biography, he called the bridge: “A thing colossal and impressive. Those arches! How really beautiful they were. How symmetrically planned! And the smaller arches above, how delicate and lightsomely graceful! It is odd to stand in the presence of so great a thing in the making and realize that you are looking at one of the true wonders of the world.” Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and former President Theodore Roosevelt were among the many people that came to view the bridge.

If you would like to learn more about the viaduct you can visit the site for the heritage association.

We also saw some beautiful scenery as we drove to the viaduct and on the way back we visited a small playground because my daughter was missing playgrounds.