There was a lot of Progress in 2022.
One thing the Progress delivered in 2022 — optimism. Ed Ackerman brought it every week. Clever, insightful, funny and moving stories about his favorite topic — people. His family and their pets, his many friends, some of whom he lost, and his Luzerne County Community College students made it into The Optimist. His greatest hits might include the column wherein he asked his wife, “If I didn’t marry you, how would I know what’s wrong with me?”Or “It took 53 years but I finally made it to Woodstock.” Or “My sister-in-law wasn’t expecting the answer she got when she asked her little girl what she learned in school that day. ‘“I learned about the curse finger,”’ she said.”
Meanwhile the Progress town correspondents — Kayleigh Kester, Hughestown; John Bubul, West Pittston; Jackie Borthwick-Galvin, Duryea and Avoca; Annmarie Paddock, Dupont; Katie Kelly, Pittston City; Brandon Joplin, Jenkins and Pittston townships and Yatesville and Grace Berlew, Exeter/Wyoming/West Wyoming — readers were updated with news from the churches, fire departments, VFWs, schools, libraries and towns. They told us when to put out recycling and where to find Welsh cookies.
But they also sometimes opened their columns with personal stories or reminisces. Bubul writes about memories of West Pittston and family traditions around the holidays. Jopling opens his columns with little tales back to school, Christmas in July, National Compliment Day and his friendship with The Optimist. Borthwick-Galvin reminds us what’s important, like benefits for those in need.
One week Grace Berlew led off her column with this gem: “Love can be a lot like black ice.” Made us want to read on.
Speaking of Berlew, we are lucky to have two. Grace’s mother, Greater Pittston Progress correspondent Erin Linnen-Berlew, kept us informed of happenings in the city with stories about the Pittston St. Patrick’s Parade, the Tomato Festival, Paint Pittston Pink and Second Friday Art Walk. “Fit in the City” was a two-part series exploring the city’s fitness studios and health food restaurants. The mayor gave her the scoop on the keeping up the city’s healthy cultural vibe.
History is always a Greater Pittston topic in the Progress. In 2022, Progress ran stories about Jim Reap’s Monster, Charley Trippi the baseball player, Exeter History Day and its tribute to Maxwell Marcus, last run of the Laurel Line, the history of curling in Greater Pittston, and the West Pittston Fair Grounds, which hosted agricultural fairs, baseball and soccer games, three-ring circuses, track and field meets and horse racing in its heyday before World War 1. Also, the West Pittston Historical Society’s inaugural First to Fall event, a tribute to the Harding brothers who were the first killed in the lead up to the Battle of Wyoming. The event included a tour of the historic West Pittston Cemetery.
A story about Wyoming Area golf team’s 107-match winning streak in the 1970s couldn’t show how it ended. It didn’t end with a loss but a tie in the last match of 1976. The next season the program withdrew from the Wyoming Valley Conference due to a teacher’s strike.
Here’s the lede on a story: “Jim Steer once got hit in the head with a quart bottle of Gibbons beer. Another time he was attacked by an irate wife wielding a frying pan.” It was about Steer’s 60-plus years as a state constable.
Also profiled was John Bonchonsky, 90, who grew up in Pittston in the 1930s and ’40s. A Detroit Tiger scout offered him a $150 a month contract after he struck out 16 batters in an Anthracite League game, but he declined as he was making more as a waiter in the Catskills. He and his wife were pioneers of AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization) in California.
Gerald “Jerry” Zezza was profiled when he was selected West Pittston Cherry Blossom Festival’s parade grand marshal. He’s 80 and a Garden Village lifer. A retired Wyoming Area art teacher known as an athlete, teacher, coach, artist, family man and an upbeat guy, quick with a smile and a good word.
In celebration of the its 100th anniversary, Pittston Twp. Fire Department brought back its picnic in June after a five-year break. The story included a little history of the company and the bazaar which went back to 1952.
A story about the last run of the Laurel Line, the interurban Scranton-Wilkes-Barre trolley line with a rich history in Greater Pittston, closed out 2022, just as the line closed out 1952 with its last run on New Year’s Eve.
Keep reading in 2023 for more of Greater Pittston’s past, present and future.