New Link For Our Blog

  Microsoft decided to stop supporting their blog site and all of the blogs have to be moved to WordPress. I’ve moved our blog to WordPress but I can’t do all of the things that want to do. Well,I probably can but I’m not enough of a geek to figure it out. So I’ve copied it all over on Blogger and I’m going to continue posting on the blog over there. Here’s the new address.  Bookmark it or make it a favorite if you want to read the continuation of our exciting adventures.  :p


Scranton, Pa – Coal and Trains


  Scranton is wedged in a long valley of the Appalachian mountain range. The pressure and folding of these mountains created anthracite coal which is harder and cleaner burning than other types of coal. This whole area is honeycombed with underground mines , once the source of great wealth and great misery depending on one’s circumstances. The mine owners owned the railroads  so they controlled not only a very valuable resource but the delivery system too. The miners came from western Europe and later eastern Europe lured by inexpensive steamship fares. Working in the mines was dirty, hard and dangerous. In the worse cases the miner was responsible for supplying all of his tools , dynamite , mule and helpers. He was paid by the weight of the coal that he managed to mine so some days he made nothing and the mine owner didn’t have to shoulder any of the expense. These conditions lead to labor strikes which often turned violent when strikebreakers and police were involved. The mining industry collapsed after WWII when other sources of fuel became more popular.

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Really,Really Rich People’s Gardens


   The late 1800s to the early 1900s is known as the Gilded Age.  Railroads , factories , coal mining and other heavy industries paved the way for individual families to amass huge fortunes of hundreds of millions of dollars. This excess of money was used to build very elaborate houses surrounded by vast estates. The owners traveled the world collecting antiques and treasures to furnish their houses. They brought back exotic plants for the gardens. They planted trees and made paths to ride their horses. As fortunes dwindled , older relatives died or areas become unfashionable, some of the estates were broken up and sold to developers. Others were saved by trusts or donated to organizations who took over the upkeep so now we can enjoy the century old trees and gardens that were originally designed for the enjoyment of these really , really rich people and their really , really rich friends!

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Ghost Towns and a Little Family History


Are any of these guys my relatives?? I’m an American mongrel. My ancestors came from the British Isles , Germany and Slovakia. They came in the 1700s through the 1900s. They fought in the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. Most of them landed in Philadelphia or New York and migrated across Pennsylvania to settle in Pittsburgh. Roland Wilson Curtin,my great,great grandfather, was an exception. He drifted all the way to California but he started life in Curtin Village and grew up with the families of the men in the picture. His grandfather was a foundry worker at the Curtin iron works. His mother, Sarah Grassmier , had seven children , lived all of her life in the area and never married. Roland left home as a teenager and set out for Pittsburgh where he enlisted in the Union army. Those are just the simple facts that I’ve found by searching census , payroll and other public records. The puzzle of it all is- who was Roland’s father? Why did his mother give him the name Roland Curtin? What was the social sigma like for an unwed mother in such a small village in the 1800s? How did she support all of the children after her parents died? The true story has been lost through the generations and it’s probably much more interesting than these little bits that I’ve found. Unfortunately when Roland went to California , his young daughter (my great grandmother), was left in the care of relatives in Pittsburgh and the only thing that they told her was that she was related to the first Roland Curtin who immigrated to the US in 1793 and founded the iron works at Curtin Village.  More pictures

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Johnstown, PA.


The story of the 1889 Johnstown flood holds a certain fascination for us , perhaps because the names are so familiar – names that we’ve heard all of our lives , the great industrialists and financiers who built Pittsburgh. Carnegie , Frick , Pitcairn, Knox , Phippps, Scaife and Mellon were among the 61 members of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club which owned the lake and 160 acres of adjacent land.

The lake was originally constructed as a reservoir to provide water for a section of the Pennsylvania canal.   However  before it could be used for this purpose the canal was rendered obsolete by the railroad system. Over the next 21 years the top of the dam crumbled and drainage pipes were removed from beneath the dam. When the club bought the land the dam was in need of costly repairs. They chose to patch instead of repair. The drainage pipes which could have been used to ease pressure on the dam walls were never replaced. The top of the dam was built up with loose fill and then the water was allowed to rise above a structurally safe point. The spillway which should have kept the lake at a safe level was blocked by a debris catching fish screen because the club didn’t want their game fish escaping down the river.

After the dam failed , flooding Johnstown with 20 million tons off water , killing over 2000 people and causing 17 million dollars in property damage , the club members abandoned the property. None of them ever returned to Johnstown and the property was sold at a sheriff’s sale. Individual members contributed small amounts to help the people of Johnstown but neither they or the club ever admitted to any responsibility for the disaster. No lawsuit against the club or any member was successful.  More pictures-

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Leaving Pittsburgh


   CCC cabins. Few people realize the scope of the CCC. The program put into place by President Roosevelt during the depression to employ young men. At it’s peak in1935 , 2,600 camps employed 500,000 young men.  We’re most familiar with the work that was done in state and national parks but it also included these projects:

  • more than 3,470 fire towers erected;
  • 97,000 miles of fire roads built;
  • 4,235,000 man-days devoted to fighting fires;
  • more than 3 billion trees planted;
  • 7,153,000 man days expended on protecting the natural habitats of wildlife; 83 camps in 15 Western states assigned 45 projects of that nature;
  • 46 camps assigned to work under the direction of the U.S. Bureau of Agriculture Engineering;
  • more than 84,400,000 acres of good agricultural land receive manmade drainage systems; Indian enrollees do much of that work;
  • 1,240,000 man-days of emergency work completed during floods of the Ohio and Mississippi valleys;
  • disease and insect control;
  • forest improvement — timber stand inventories, surveying, and reforestation;
  • forest recreation development — campgrounds built, complete with picnic shelters, swimming pools, fireplaces, and restrooms

    The cabins above , in Raccoon Creek State Park, were in  disrepair with leaking roofs and missing chinking in the logs. They were built from wormy chestnut trees that had died from blight. These trees are now almost extinct  but they once covered acres of the eastern US, an estimated 3 billion trees. We’re so happy that we , along with other volunteers and park employees, were able to save the cabins.More pictures here-

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    Visiting Back East


      We’re almost legal! We have a new license plate and inspection sticker. Now we’re waiting for Penn DOT to give us the official thumbs up and send us the little sticker that goes on our license plate.  It also looks like we’ve solved all of the major motorhome problems. Everything is working properly , no new problems and just a week or so left of little stuff to fix. It will take us longer than that , though , because it’s much more fun to visit everyone! More pictures here –

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    Meandering Our Way North


    Hot Springs , Arkansas – This is the men’s dressing room in the spa that the National Park Service restored as a museum. The hot springs that feed the spas are unique because the water isn’t heated by volcanic action but by the water percolating down far enough to be heated by the rocks which are hot from gravitational compression. The water is very pure , odorless  and good tasting.

      The hot springs had been known and used first by Indians and early settlers but the area wasn’t developed as a commercial spa until the early 1800s. The federal government , fearing that many people would lose access to the springs , set up a reserve so that they would have some control over the development and use of the springs.  The spas were used as therapy for many different diseases and conditions.  During the 1920’s elaborate buildings with stain glass , marble and colored tiles were built. This was also the era of probation and Hot Springs became a  gambling mecca and  vacation spot for many of the bootleggers.

    As medicine was developed for many  diseases , the spas lost their popularity and some were abandoned. The National Park Service stepped in to restore the Fordyce Bathhouse as a museum.    More pictures here

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    Visiting Everyone in Texas

    We stopped for a couple weeks in San Antonio , Texas for a long over due visit with family.


    Dinner out with the ladies , my Mom and her friends , Shirley and Minnie.


    Many thanks to Chris and Dan , sister-in–law and brother, for the good company and good smoked barbecue and home cooking!


    We made good use of Dan and Chris’s front yard to get some more sealing finished. Red Letter Day! – May 17 – huge rainfall and no leaks!

    It was great visiting  but Texas is getting way too hot – back on the road and heading north!

    Early spring was pretty wet this year so Texas hill country is bursting with wild flowers.