Monday, April 10, 2006

Coasters, coal fires, and a Midwest string band

Sometimes you come across music in the most unexpected ways. This evening I was planning a few things to do with the family this summer and thought I'd look into our favorite amusement park, Knoebels. Nestled in the rolling hills of the anthracite coal area of central Pennsylvania, Knoebels, is an old fashion family amusement park and campground, known for their preservation of classic wooden roller coasters, including the Phoenix pictured here. No fancy theme park, Knoebels was originally opened during the depression on a family owned, heavily wooded hillside.

Somehow, I got sidetracked in my research and started looking into the town of Centralia, Pennsylvania, located about 15 miles from Knoebels. For those of you not familiar with Centralia, it is a town that is no more due to a fire deep in the earth. You see Centralia and the surrounding area have been mined for generations, extracting the anthracite coal beneath. Most of the mines have been shut down for decades, but they still pose a threat. Back in 1962, a trash fire was set on an exposed coal seam and it ignited the coal seam. The fire has spread and moved along the seam, under the town. Hot and toxic smoke rises from fissures in the ground. As the coal slowly burns away, the ground above sinks into the cavern left behind. After decades of trying to slow or stop the fire, the town was evacuated and most of the buildings demolished. Only the slow burn remains beneath the deserted streets. For the whole story read this. I was reading about Centralia, when I came across a string band from the flatlands of central Illinois, who had composed a song for the Pennsylvania town.

Finally, the music! Bet you thought I'd never get around to it.
Well, the Big Sky Stringband are grounded in the flat farmland of central Illinois. Another one to add to our recent look at younger folks playing old time and string band music. These talented guys have a more modern take on the style, using some electric instruments. Read more about them here.

Big Sky Stringband - Centralia.mp3

1 Comments:

Blogger Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

I guess Centralia is a city that became a metaphor. And I thought Vancouver was a smoking city!

April 11, 2006 10:55 PM  

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