Narrative 6: “For some reason the people who live here can’t see it that way”

I’m Pauline and I’ve always lived here. I have a husband and my kids have been out of school for a while. Jenny is 29 and Linda is 24. All my family lives in Sunbury.

No, we’ve never considered moving; we’re too close to family. The only time I was away was when I went to beauty school in Williamsport, but then I’d come home weekends. It didn’t work out. I was allergic to perms and hair colors.

I’ve worked at the pharmacy 33 years. It’s 5 to 10 minutes away so I usually always walk. We’ve been owned by many companies. What I make after 33 years really stinks. If I moved I would probably be making a couple of dollars more, but I like what I do and I get a lot of vacation.

I think people give Sunbury a bad rap. We’re still a small town and we have a lot to offer: the YMCA, the gardens, the river… There’s ice-skating in the winter months and you have the state park… We have a real nice pool. There are places for children: right around the corner is a beautiful playground with a water park. They didn’t have that when my kids were growing up.

People have stopped taking pride in Sunbury. I think we have a very nice town. I have friends from all throughout Pennsylvania. We do historical reenacting down in Gettysburg and Virginia, so we have a lot of people from all over. Friends that come up here think it’s a nice town, but for some reason the people who live here can’t see it that way. I don’t think they realize how lucky we are until… Well, I have friends that live in Harrisburg and they see it differently.

We used to have a booming downtown with all kinds of stores. That changed with the mall. I mean, there are still a few stores downtown; not too many, but they’re specialty shops. You would have to have something really unique down there for people to come again. Like the bike shop- you can’t go to a mall and go to a bike shop.

It’s not really bad. I don’t think it’s getting any worse. I know they’re trying. They just did the park over, which looks nice. I was kind of against them moving the monument – a lot of people were. But what can you do? They’re doing the riverfront and supposedly getting that amphitheater. I don’t know how that’s going to work. If they do get it, it might be a boost to Sunbury because people have to eat food. Maybe it will help restaurants, you know? Just as long as we don’t have a flood…

Some of the things I like least here is the crime that’s moving into town- drugs, drug trafficking. At one time we had an orphanage outside of town and that brought a lot of people from the city. Now they closed down, but I think that brought a lot of crime and drug dealers. We have a really good chief of police now. He was from a higher crime area – Reading or York or one of those places – and he does really well.

It seems there are a lot of welfare people are moving here. I think there’s a sign in New York City that says, “For a cheap place to live and get easy welfare, move to Sunbury, Pennsylvania.” I don’t know who put it up. We have low rent so we get a lot of… That’s what I’ve been told.

I don’t think the job market is as bad as people say. People just aren’t willing to take the jobs available. We saw that hiring for someone in the pharmacy. You know, they don’t want to work nights, they don’t want to work weekends, they want the best possible schedule. You would think if you need a job it wouldn’t matter. But we have people that just want nine to five and they’re not willing. When I first worked I worked every weekend!

Well, we actually lost a lot of factory work when Celotex closed up. That was a big employer. We also had the door company. They left – went out to the coal region to a big industrial park. That took a lot of jobs away. Some of those people could transfer if they wanted to travel. We have the mill – Sunbury Textile – but I don’t think they’re working full-production.

My daughter, she’s doing good. It wasn’t cancer; it was just a tumor. It caused her to have seizures and seizures can actually kill you. She had another surgery. Her skull collapsed and she had to have it filled in. Then the muscle pulled in her face so she looks like she was beat up and she can’t move her eyebrow.

She had insurance, but then she didn’t work for 5 months. Her friends actually had a fundraiser for us. We had to pay for her insurance. Well, we paid for part of it – some of the neighbors put money together to buy a month of insurance for her – and the fundraiser helped with some of her bills. She’s still behind, and now she can’t work for 3 more weeks. Creditors are brutal when you don’t work.