Narrative 7: “We liked it pretty much the way it was”

I’m Emily. I’m white, Polish-American, and I just turned 65. Harry, my husband, is 60. He’s African American and Indian – Native American. I have a daughter who’s grown, but Harry, he never had kids. He has four cats. <laughter> His family lives back in New Jersey. Well, he has a brother in Connecticut and his father’s in Florida. Before moving to Sunbury, I lived downriver on the outskirts of Heardon. In the 1990s I got divorced and moved to Sunbury.

Actually, I consider nearby Trevorton to be my hometown because that’s where I was raised. I lived there up until I first got married and moved to Hearndon. Trevorton was the head of the coal region because there was a coal mine at the end of town. There’s nothing like that here. Harry and I, we’ve been married 10 years. He’s been here about 15 years. He came because he had a friend who lived here.

Sunbury is not what it used to be. It has gone downhill. Crime has gotten worse. When I first moved here I felt safer. There was some crime and drugs then, but not bad. There was a double murder two years ago and another last year. It’s been 2 years already, 2 and a half years and still hasn’t come to trial. There was a murder this year not too far away from here: a cop killed his wife.

Down the street is a drug house where they’ve made arrests but are still collecting evidence. The street’s quiet now because those people are gone, but the drug dealing still happens around another house in alley. The police are still collecting evidence. How many times have they been here already? What is it, three?

I’d say Sunbury is still a good place to raise your children. The school system needs work with reading and math, but parents have to take an active part in that at home. You have a responsibility to your kids. When my daughter started kindergarten she knew the alphabet already; she knew her home address and her phone number.

There are some sections of the city better than others. The Hill section up here is one of the better ones. I think it’s like that in any town. I like the upper end of town where you have stores like Weis, Family Dollar… a ton of stores. I’d like downtown to be better. There used to be a department store, an A&P… there used to be a men’s store in town, and…

They’re building an amphitheater down there now. I think it’s stupid. They can do better things with the money. I think it’s going to be a haven for drug and alcohol parties when it’s not in use because it’s on the other side of the flood wall. And I honestly don’t know what entertainment they’re going to bring here because there isn’t anywhere to park down there. You can’t park along Front Street. Where are you going to park?

They’re really cleaning things up down there, though. They’re trying, but they’ve got a long way to go. Very slowly with new sidewalks, trees and stuff, but I don’t see anything new coming in. I don’t see any new stores in the buildings they’re cleaning up. They don’t have anything in them.

There’s a lot of slum landowners and people who have moved away and abandoned their homes. If they wanted to clean up the city, wanted to beautify it, they could use grant money for that. Work on that problem. Don’t worry about an amphitheater and new sidewalks and landscaping; that will come in due time. Get the landlords to fix up their properties so they don’t look like problems. Or you could tear them down and sell the lot to somebody who’ll build a house here.

We don’t have anything to draw people here. They used to have the Peppermint Lounge down here. That burned. It was in 2009 because not too long after that the Salvation Army thrift store burned. Thank god there haven’t been any deaths. Thank god nobody was hurt.

Downtown has changed: it’s is the major area that has changed. Putting something in there, people will frequent downtown instead of always running to the mall. That’s what the amphitheater is for, I guess.

I would go to a department store downtown. That building at 4th and Market – the big tall building right across from the bank – that’s where a women’s department store had been. I would go down there and go shopping. The county bought it to make a government office, but then they went and built a new thing. I wouldn’t go to the mall if they had something here.

I’d like them to work on bringing more jobs to Sunbury. I don’t know how they’re going to do it, but putting that amphitheater in isn’t going to bring new jobs. It’ll give jobs to people that are doing it, but I don’t think it’ll bring jobs once everything is finished. I don’t know – maybe they could do something to help X factory to expand somehow.

I worked for the Line Mountain School District for 39 years in administration. It encompasses Trevorton. At first the district office was outside of Hearndon, a 25-30 minute drive away. But then they rented a part of the middle school in Trevorton, so then it was just a ten minute drive, if that. My daughter graduated from Line Mountain. I retired a little over 2 years ago.

Harry works down the street here at X factory. He can walk to work. He’s on vacation this week. When we first got married he worked at Y factory. He only worked there, what, not quite a year before they closed? A lot of places have closed down.

Harry gets paid pretty good, but other than that I think wages around here aren’t too good. Weis starts you at minimum wage. He gets a raise every year, and they have good benefits and salaries. I think that’s one of the main reasons the union hasn’t been able to come in. He actually made more money when he started there than I earned when I retired from the school district!

We liked it pretty much the way it was. We had talked about maybe moving some place around here, where it’s quieter. Across the river in Shamokin Dam there’s a new development back in the… That’s where our friends live – just a couple minutes from here.

But I think probably we’ll just stay here. It’s easier for Harry to get back and forth to work. This is our first house. I wish I could keep the house not really considering the neighborhood.