Shickshinny, Pennsylvania is located on the west side of the Susquehanna River, opposite of Mocanaqua, which lies on the east side. It is downriver from Nanticoke and upriver from Wapwallopen; all these are examples of just a few of the Native American (Indian) names that are in the State.
The area along (and under) the Susquehanna River was once heavily mined for anthracite coal, evidenced by the slag piles from Scranton to Hazelton.
I grew up in Bloomingdale–it lies along a country road that runs from Sweet Valley in the north and the road to Muhlenberg in the east. Well, not quite, for the road to Muhlenberg ran roughly east-west from, as one might expect, Muhlenberg, but then on to, as one might not realize, Harveyville (or Sweet Valley, if you made the wrong turn). However, the Muhlenberg road also branched off from itself near the old silo, on what is now called Silo Road, and went through Bloomindale Corners to Broadway. Again, as one might find if driving carefully, the Broadway Corners could lead either back towards Sweet Valley, to the left towards Harveyville, or onward and downward to Patterson Grove.
That is, if you turned left after you go down Tauket’s Hill and go across the bridge. If you turn right you will go towards, eventually, Ricket’s Glen. However you should turn left because Patterson Grove is where the action lies, if there is to be any action found in the area. For at the Camp Meeting Ground in Patterson Grove there is a boarding hall, numerous cottages, a tabernacle and a pond. I know, because I was born there—not in the pond, but in a cottage owned by my maternal grandfather. It was during the Great Depression and my dad and mom had no where else to go, so four of us siblings were born there.
The tabernacle was the main gathering point, at least for those Methodists who wanted to gather. It had a sawdust floor, so you can envisage the “sawdust trail” that sinners were called upon to follow after every major service. There was also a board walk that led from the outer circle of cabins across a depression that sometimes flooded, to the Boarding Hall. Here people could board or be bored, buy a meal, or some ice cream. The board walk was the favorite meeting area of the young people. The adolescent males would sit along the top of the fence and whistle at the girls as they went by. And the girls would keep going by so that they could be whistled at.
But back to Shickshinny. It was about 7 or 8 miles from Bloomingdale and one got there by going to Muhlenberg Corners, turning right, continuing on through Reyburn and Koonsville, then out on to the main road, once called a turnpike, which ran from Shickshinny to Huntington Mills, which I will mention later.
According to the 2010 census, about 838 people now live in Shickshinny, down from its peak years of 2,451 in 1930, 2,254 in 1940 and 2,156 in 1950. There is a traffic light in ‘Shinny’, as we natives called it, so we kids liked to stand near it and watch the traffic. We would also shop for hardware and clothes, take our trapped skunk and muskrats for skinning and payments, or go to the bank and Post Office. In the last 10 or so years of my mom’s life before her retirement she taught school in Shinny.
My brother went to High School in Shinny for two years before joining me at Huntington Mills High School. I mentioned that the road from Bloomingdale runs to Huntington Mills and so does the road from Shinny, although it actually wants to get to Benton. But we will stop at Huntington Mills (which we called ‘Huniton’) briefly and have a look at our old High School.
It is now a furniture “factory”, meaning that some chairs and tables are put together in some parts of the building, but in its hey-day, Huntington had three stores, an auto shop, a meat packing and storage facility, and a beer garden near by. At one time there was also a Mill of some sort.
The school bus that carried us to Huntington also went to Shinny, so for the first two years I got off at the former and my brother went to the latter. My dad and mom thought we fought too much to be together but, happily, that changed during our last wo years and we both graduated from Huntington in 1950. I went off to college and my brother joined the Navy and went to the shores of Korea and served on an aircraft carrier for five years.
Shickshinny, the historians say, is so named because in the Indian language it means “five mountains”. For many years inhabitants could only count four until they realized they should also count the one they were standing on.
Over the years there have been major floods up and down the Susquehanna and Shickshinny has had its share. A high water mark some 6 feet up the side of the bank bears clear evidence to the height of the 1972 flood, although the 2010 flood is said to have been higher. When the river was in flood we couldn’t drive through Shinny but, wanting to see the flood, we would go out Muhlenberg road to Hunlock’s Creek and turn left on what was left of the main road. Looking towards Nanticoke we could see a wide flooded plain, with trash floating down it at considerable speeds.
The trash floated south, through Berwick, Bloomsburg, and on to the the capital city of Harrisburg. There it was collected by politicians and sold to garbage collectors from New Jersey—in this way the two States had a symbiotic relationship.
But if you are in Shinny, you won’t want to go to Berwick, especially now that a nuclear power plant is halfway between the two. There could be a meltdown any day and the population in Shinny could be diminished even more.
There was also a doctor in Shinny that I had to see after my appendix (and other assorted stuff once it broke) was removed. He would burn off all the flesh that piled up around the hole where the drainage tubes had been. There was also a doctor at Town Hill, which is off the Huntington-Benton road, but his waiting room was always full and he did nothing but dispense pills, which would not have helped.
There was at least two churches in the town, probably three if you counted the Catholics, which none of us did because they were Polish and played polka music all day.
A railroad track ran through Shinny so we kids were delighted when a train went through while we were there. Shinny was 99% white and some of them lived across the tracks, but we were never allowed to go there.
I should have also mentioned the State Police station and the movie theater, which were opposite each other on Main Street, or Route 11. The police sometimes came out to the country, especially if there was not much going on in Shinny. We were always impressed and scared when we saw the white police cars on our country roads.
The movie theater wasn’t much and it was not uncommon to go in halfway through a movie, watch it end, then start over until someone said “That’s where we came in”, then we would leave.
I know you would like to know more about Shinny, so go to the website at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shickshinny,_Pennsylvania. There are even a lot of pictures to examine.
Reflecting on Shinny