The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


August 25, 2008

They’re coal crackers, and proud of it

Club started out as get-together for coffee

They have a Web site, e-mail, a 700-member mailing list…and coal running in their blood. The Coal Cracker’s Club of the Shamokin area exists for one simple reason: friendship.

“It started with a couple of us that used to meet for coffee, and it just started to grow,” said Dale Johnson, of Lewisburg, one of the planning committee coordinators. In 2001 the group met for their first luncheon with about two dozen people, all with some connection to the greater Shamokin area, including surrounding towns like Kulpmont, Mount Carmel, and Trevorton.

Now they meet three times a year, with 250 to 300 members in attendance.

“This really is not connected with a school or classes,” Johnson said as he watched members laughing together recently at a pavilion at Knoebels Amusement Park. “It’s just anybody who has ties to the area.”

Something about growing up in coal cracker country lingers as deeply within a person as the anthracite within the ground they once played on. “I sometimes wonder why the people come out here like this, but you can see what they’re doing. They’re greeting each other, seeing old friends,” Johnson said. “The best thing I ever heard is when a lady walked up to me and said, ‘Oh, I’m so glad I came. I saw somebody I hadn’t seen in 40 years.’ ”

The Coal Cracker’s Club charges no dues and has no officers. At their July meeting, catered by Knoebels, 247 people attended, with visitors from six different states, and 27 new members.

“In October, a couple from Arizona plans their trip home for the Coal Cracker’s Club because they always want to be here for it,” Johnson said. The group meets at Knoebels in July, and at Masser’s Banquet Hall, Catawissa, in April and October.

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