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 Post subject: Learning in the school of hard coal
PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2014 8:46 am 
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Joined: Thu Apr 02, 2009 7:16 pm
Posts: 478
Location: Anthracite Region of PA
Learning in the school of hard coal

Area native Lou Scatena pens autobiography about working in coal mines
Last updated: November 15. 2014 4:24PM - 400 Views

By Mary Therese Biebel

For more information on Louis Scatena’s book, see

No, you won’t find an old building around here with a faded sign identifying it as “Anthracite Grade School.”

But author Louis Scatena, who grew up in the Pittston area, has given that name to the “school” at his father’s coal mine, the one where young Lou started working as a child.

“It was pretty obvious to me, as I was growing up, that my dad wanted to school me in hard work,” said Scatena, 72, who lives and works as a senior structural engineer in Arizona.

His book, “Anthracite Grade School on Irish Hill,” explains how, in 1951, when he was 9 years old, his father took him to a mine he owned.

“We called them dog holes; they were near the surface and treacherous,” Scatena said, remembering how his dad, Pete Scatena, taught him to run a mechanical loader that brought coal to the surface.

“There was an electric motor with two drums on it. I’d depress one lever and the drum would roll in a cable which would pull a sealed scoop out of the mine. It was capable of scooping up one ton of coal,” said Scatena who, after his introduction to the mine, worked “every summer, every weekend, every holiday.”

The youth didn’t mind. He was happy to spend time with his father and proud to work with him.

“I had tremendous respect and admiration for my dad,” he said. “Not too many 9 or 10-year-olds get to shovel coal alongside their dad. It was tedious, sometimes boring, but these are very fond memories.”

Excerpts from the book show the danger of the work. As Scatena related a 1954 event when he was sitting on the ground near the mine entrance, he “glanced up at the roof and saw the rock checker-boarding. I watched the cracks proliferate rapidly until three or four tons of rock suddenly crashed to the floor of the mine just a few feet in front of us.”

There’s humor in the story, too, as when the author recalls never hearing his father “utter a single curse word … in English. When a machine did not do what he wanted, however, the Italian threats to the demons in the machine flowed like the Susquehanna River. It sounded like a beautiful area; but I knew it was no ‘Pagliacci’.”

Sadly, he recalls the day in September 1959 when he was firing his M-1 on the rifle range in Marine Corps Boot Camp at Parris Island and the drill instructor told him simply “Your mother wants you home.” Scatena went home to Northeastern Pennsylvania and learned that his father, Pete Scatena, had died.

His father and other miners would always be his heroes, Scatena wrote. “Their perilous work environment parallels that of front-line combat soldiers. As the novel relates, their tough spirit, sense of humor and courage through a life of hard and dangerous work never waned.”

When he returns to the Wyoming Valley to visit his mother, Caroline Traglia of Jenkins Township, who is in her 90s, Scatena said he looks at “the huge wind turbines on the mountaintop slightly east of Irish Hill. I inevitably think of Dad and the other miners. Their images are as vivid as the turbines on the skyline, standing silent, tall, and strong.”

Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or Twitter@BiebelMT.

Scott K
"Watch Your Top"

 Post subject: Re: Learning in the school of hard coal
PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2014 4:25 am 

Joined: Mon Apr 16, 2012 4:53 pm
Posts: 272
Location: Ringgold GA
Sounds like that will be a good read.

May all those who have gone before us have a carbide lamp with an eternal flame.

 Post subject: Re: Learning in the school of hard coal
PostPosted: Wed May 04, 2022 7:37 am 

Joined: Wed Oct 16, 2019 3:03 pm
Posts: 12
Location: United States
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