Narrative 8: “Now when you drive through you don’t see anybody”

My name is Sean. I’m 27 and I was born here. My immediate family lives here, but my friends, not so much anymore. They’re all Norrie- and Selinsgrove-bound. I have a few in Harrisburg I keep in touch with. I would love to move. The sooner the better, but my wife can’t leave the state without our children’s father’s permission.

We have four kids and we finally got them into a good school. A year before that our oldest boy got kicked out of kindergarten because of his attitude. He has anger problems. I’m his step dad and his dad’s not here. Before me he was the man of the house, and he’s the oldest kid in the class so he wants to be the boss. Our oldest daughter is starting middle school this year, but everyone else will be in elementary.

I went to school in Sunbury. I’m not a big fan of the schools. I feel like I should have been held back a year and they pretty much pushed me through just to get the numbers. And now that we have kids…

But I won’t say it’s not a good place to grow up. I like it. There’s a lot of stuff for kids to do now as far as the pool, playgrounds, and everything. There was stuff when I was growing up, but now you have a skate park. That got built in 2002, 2001 – somewhere in there. Actually, a few guys in my class had a lot to do with it. They were tired of going to the park in Mifflinburg. They wanted somewhere to go, something close.

Compared to what I grew up with, downtown is dead. When when I was growing up everybody used to hang out there and now when you drive through you don’t see anybody. Businesses are closing left and right, but you’re starting to see more shops move in. They might not be there long, but another one comes in quick. You always have the Jas – the Jasmine-Aire.

You’re starting to see different ethnicities. We had a couple of Spanish restaurants on Market Street; they didn’t last long. There was the grocery store where you can get Mexican food. I never knew that was there until we went by and it had newspapers in the window.

Sunbury’s getting smaller, but with a bigger city feel to it. It has a lot to offer. You’re getting city guys coming down, but it seems like everybody still knows everybody’s business, though.

There are negatives to Sunbury, but I think it’s getting better. A lot of people are against what’s going on with the riverfront, but I like what I’m starting to see. They’re putting in a walkway, an amphitheater, a garden… I think it’s going to be nice, getting an amphitheater. Cameron Park just got redone; not that it was terrible but it was starting to look pretty run down. They had a fountain when I was growing up, but it was all rusted and stuff so I don’t know if they’re going to put it back in. The guy who has it offered to redo all the metal work for free, but the city doesn’t want it for some reason. They just want to spend money, I think. <laughter>

Before I went to McCann for an AA in criminal justice, I worked at X Video for about 7 years. I was actually living down in Harrisburg 2005, 2006. I used to work at the State House as a messenger for Representative Phillips who was pretty much born and raised around this area. I actually went to school with one of the guys in his office staff. So yeah, I did that.

It’s been over a year since I graduated, and for my profession, the job market around here is terrible. It’s absolutely horrendous. It’s hard for anybody, but it would be nice to see the police force grow. That would obviously help me. Trucking companies are always a plus around here. People are willing to travel. I mean, it’s a hard-working area. Sunbury is the coal region. Everybody grew up surrounded by coal mining. Around here you have Shamokin, Ashland, all those… So a lot of people around here are pretty hands-on workers. When they work they work hard.

Wages are pretty fair for the area. They could be better with some of the businesses we have here. Like X factory: they pay you good, but they could pay better. There’s a lot of modular home construction around here. Celotex paid good but obviously they closed down.

I don’t know about the effect of the mall on the work force. It helps, I think. A lot of places over on the strip are restaurants so you’ve got to take a pay cut to work there; you’re not going to get $11 an hour to work at Wendy’s. Some people think they’re above it, but if you want to work, it’s there.

City officials need to get everything together. Right now we’re going through a budget crisis. People are getting laid off. The controller is not… I think there’s only one person in that office and that’s a temp. It’s getting bad. They need to look at that stuff for a second.

I’d like to see the government get more businesses in. We used to be bigger than Philadelphia. I don’t know if you knew that. We had FDR come through here on a train. We had all these hotels; Third Street was littered with them. But there’s a limit on the amount of people to be a city in Pennsylvania. Sunbury is actually declining, so we’re starting to go back into a town.