It was another cold and sunny day the Sunday after Thanksgiving. I decided to again return to my dad’s birthplace, the tiny patch town of Crystal Ridge. Some of my earliest memories were riding on the this, the only road, into the tiny town to visit my grandmother. It was bumpy road and we called it the “rollercoaster” ride.
I parked my jeep alongside the road just outside of the town and walked into the tiny village of Crystal Ridge.
I was soon on the only street in this small former coal town were all the homes were owned by the mining companies. There are maybe a dozen homes remaining here. It was, and still is a close knit community.
I walked past my dad’s house which was now hidden with overgrown trees. I remember the many visits here in my early years, including Holy Supper on Christmas Eve. My grandmother had a coal stove and there was no indoor toilet. Yep, we had to use an out house and it was not pleasant.
I reflected on my own memories, and the many stories my dad and his six sisters told me about their childhood in Crystal Ridge. They were very poor but very happy. I continued my walk up the hill that led to the path to the large strip mine behind the homes on the south side of the town.
My dad called it “Baisley’s Strippin” and I heard many tales about his adventures in this huge strip mine. He ice skated, sledded and searched for crystals here. I researched the local newspapers and found no reference to “Baisley’s strippin” so if any of my readers have any information on the name please share with me. I did discover that one of the first strip mine in the entire Anthracite region began here in 1882, as evidenced by this link to an article I found. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/15777769/the_hazleton_sentinel/
I descended the steep, slate covered slope of the strip mine, as I did many years ago when my dad first took me down here to look for quartz crystals. The entire area was noted for the large crystals found here and my dad had some very large and beautiful ones he gathered while living here.
It seems most of the crystals, and large deposits of sulphur have been gathered by geologists and collectors over the years. I did not find any on my recent hike. A quick Google search of Crystal Ridge found some of the beautiful specimums found here. http://www.johnbetts-fineminerals.com/jhbnyc/mineralmuseum/picshow.php?id=28176
Over the years the residents of Crystal Ridge disposed of their thrash by throwing over the banks of the deep strip mine. I found many old items down here and wondered how old they were. Like this old chair. Who last sat on it? When and where was it purchased? How did it get down here?
My dad told be his and his friend once took a sled ride down this steep bank. He said sparks flew up from the sled as it hit rocks under the snow. He said it was a stupid thing to do. I often reminded him of it when scolded me on some of my adventures, or should I saw misadventures. Here is a link to some more photographs of my hike in “Baisley’s strippin”. Crystal Ridge part one November 26 2017.
I made my way to this large outcrop of rock.
It was a strange coincidence that the week after I took this hike, my aunt Betty, without knowing of my visit to Crystal Ridge, showed me this photograph of my aunt Mary and my cousin Josephine. It looks like my adventurous spirit runs in the family. I believe this photograph was made in the early 1940’s. Not much has changed.
Once again I reflected on my childhood memories in this small patch town as I saw the Green Ridge skyline in the distance. And once again I felt the deep sadness that many of those memories can no longer be shared. But, like the owners of the shoe, chair and pot I found in the strip mine, I too, will someday only be a memory. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike. Crystal Ridge hike part 2.
“The most difficult journey any of us ever take in our adulthood is the return to our parents’ house. A home visit makes us recall all of the childhood events that formed us. Returning home reacquaints us with family members and our former self.”
― Kilroy J. Oldster