Shamokin ~ The Way It Was

I was born and raised and eventually moved back to a small town in Central Pennsylvania by the name of Shamokin. It was a wonderful place to grow up, the kind of town where everyone knew their neighbors, you didn’t lock your doors and people got involved in the community. As a child, I remember several local ice cream shops, numerous mom & pop stores, parades and plain ol’ small town charm.

That has all changed. Drastically. Over the last ten to fifteen years or so, our community has demonstrated an overall decomposition. It has become dirty, run-down and decayed. The homes have been taken over by absent landlords who will rent to anyone no matter what. Gangs have started to form. You don’t (or don’t want to) know your neighbors. The city is in financial crisis. And I could go on and on.

Where there used to be families sitting on their front porches, there are abandoned refrigerators. Where there used to be movie theaters, there are parking lots. Where there used to be hope, there is submission.

This has bothered me for quite some time. My husband and I have spoken to our community about gang awareness in an effort to reclaim our community. I have formed a small group of citizens that get together to share many things, the largest of which is the “neighbor helping neighbor” attitude. We meet twice per month. Unfortunately, overall interest is low.

When I drive or walk through my town, it makes me sad. When I read of the arrests made, it makes me suspicious of those around me. When I hear of residents being harassed or threatened, it makes me angry. I miss my town and everything that it was. So today, in an effort to regain my hope, I rode through my town in search of signs of the old Shamokin. Or at least a hint of normalcy that I felt was gone. I am happy to report that there is still some beauty, history and even normalcy to be found. Here’s what I saw today:







My town can be beautiful, you just have to look for it.









My town is historic.















My town still has some mom & pop establishments.








And my town still has some pride.










And luckily, my town still shows some signs of normalcy…





and even nostalgia.










My town could be what it was. If only people would take the time to help make it great again. Please don’t die Shamokin, not without a fight.




About finefrugality

I am a wife, mother, business owner, farmer, foster parent, retired probation officer and so much more. :-) I love to save money any way I can. I just don’t see the sense in handing my cash over to someone else when I don’t have to. I coupon, I grow and can food, I reuse and repurpose items, I scour thrift stores and during the warmer months, my Saturday mornings consist of yard sales and our local farmer’s market with my husband. I have organized local meetings which include coupon swaps, barter clubs and swap meets. Here is where I begin to share this life with the rest of the world. This is Fine Frugality. Because being frugal is not only fine. It is FINE.
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62 Responses to Shamokin ~ The Way It Was

  1. gerry snyder says:

    your right the town is going to hell nothing but welfare and out of town people the town needs help

    • We’re the only ones that can help. The residents need to reclaim the town. There is no reason why it can’t be cleaned up. I would love nothing more than to see the riff-raff out of here.

  2. Loved your post..I grew up in Brady…right outside of Shamokin…..I live in western PA now..great idea to get organized..chnage gas to come from within…many blessings …

  3. kzackuslheureux says:

    Oh my goodness, I had an Aunt that lived there. My Dad was born in Potsville, PA, but ended up at the Hershey’s boy’s home by the age of Twelve. Wonderful post!

  4. cherrie says:

    loved the story!!!! grew up in shamokin and it is sad to see it going to hell. maybe if people get together they can claim the town and bring it back to be like it was when i was growing up!!!

    • We can only try Cherrie! Thanks for stopping by!

      • Janet Hand says:

        Both my husband & I grew up in Shamokin. Yes it was a wonderful place to grow up in (even if you were poor). I think a lot of the blame can be placed on the people who run things there (mayor, council, police chief, others). They have the ability to see how things are going and had chances to change things. They could have reinvented this town in order to create new jobs, but no they kept on going and thinking that tomorrow will take care of itself. It doesn’t work that way. Now they are in such a deep hole that they probably will never get out of it.

      • You make a good point Janet. I think it’s everyone’s job to become involved too. I went to a neighborhood crime watch meeting to give a presentation on gangs in the area and only 6 people showed up. 6 people! No one wants to take on the responsibility anymore, not even for their own neighborhood. So very sad.

  5. Lisa says:

    I also grew up in Shamokin and still have family there. Restoring the beauty and charm in Shamokin sounds like a wonderful idea but first there needs to be jobs available to the community or people will never get off welfare and care like we used too! When I go to Shamokin to see my parents, daughter and grandchildren it saddens me to see what my hometown has become. what my brother and his family have become. I wish you the best in your efforts to make Shamokin the “Town” it once was!

    • Lisa, I happen to own a business in Shamokin and I’m here to say…the work ethic is not what it used to be! We call people to come in for interviews and they never show up, they just don’t come in to work one day and never return, etc. There are jobs, and more could be created. People are being referred here from other county welfare offices due to the availability of low income housing and needless to say…those aren’t exactly the type of residents that will help our economy. Thanks for stopping by and reading my post. Sometimes it helps just to vent. πŸ™‚

  6. Mike says:

    That’s what happens when you have Michael Corleone down in Sunbury and some other shady cats running things in Shamokin. Greed gets in the way of making a better community for the citizens.

  7. Mike Shaffer says:

    My wife also has a burden for the community as well, that’s one of the reasons that she is so passionate about the Anthracite Heritage Festival and other activities that the Northumberland County Council for the Arts does in the Shamokin area, However, a lot of time when things are being held at the Arts Center building only a handful of people will come out and support the activities. The Kids Theatre usually draws in a nice crowd but other activities don’t seem to get that kind of support. I wish more people would join the Arts Council as members and receive the newsletters. They try to get the word out in multiple ways, the News Item has been a big supporter as well as other local businesses that continue to support this worthy cause. Check out the website Thanks for your concern for the community. Keep up the good work!

    • Thank you so much for the input! Just a note. We live in the area of the Arts Center Building and only know when things are going on when there are cars parked there. The one time that we did wander over was when there was a sign outside announcing an art show. A lot of people don’t get the paper anymore and only read it online. Sometimes the good old fashioned way of advertising is best. Thanks again for your encouraging comments!

  8. LeeAnn Persavage says:

    This was a great! And so very true. I have just moved back to shamokin to raise my children where I felt safe growing up. Things have change and I don’t believe its to late. Itss never to late to make our community what is was, so the new generations can have everything and more. We love our children then we need to love our town also. Otherwise we aren’t. Going to be able to give them the fun,and the pride that come with our community. Bring back the golden days of community picnics, parades, neighborhood hide and seek, and playing in someone elses yard , and of course the natural trails.

  9. Mike says:

    You are so right. I LOVE the pictures. We walk through town almost every night. It is so sad what has happened to our once wonderful peaceful, clean little city. I would be the FIRST one to try to help REGAIN our community, BUT it must start with the city officials, code enforement and law enforcement FIRST!! Someone MUST start making the people that are causing the problems ACCOUNTABLE for their actions. Not just throwing the book at them, but beating ( figurativly speaking ) them with it. The way things currently are, we would only be beating OUR heads off the walls. As bad as things have gotten, I still think we have a great place to live. It is just NOT as good as it could be or once was.

  10. Stacey Poploskie says:

    I loved your post. It is beautifully written and shows hope. And really without hope, where are any of us? I am also a native Shamokin-ite and am proud of that. Do I like the way it is now? Of course not, but am proud of my heritage. When people unite to care and be proud of their town, that is when the change will happen. Good luck!

  11. Amy Reigle Burks says:

    I will be praying for transformation. Thank you for the walk through with pictures. It brought back so many great memories with all my best buds.

  12. Kim Shepard says:

    My husband was born, raised and eventually moved back to Shamokin also. 32 years ago it was quite different. I remember the Victoria theater downtown where we took our kids. There was pride in the community and people looked out for each other. Now it is so much different. Dilapidated buildings are bought, and rented to low income people who have no regard for property or neighbors properties. I have a house I am proud of and four run down homes surround me. Litter is left on my sidewalk and even my front steps! Obsenities shouted between people in anger as well as in social banter.

    But I also see the good in Shamokin. I enjoy eating at Harry’s, Brewsers, and OIP. We support our local fire stations by going there for dances, parties, fund raisers, or just to socialize. I have bought enough Dunkin Donuts coffee I feel like a part owner! Walking my dog through the beautiful park you have pictured is one of my pleasures in life! The kids at the skate park don’t bother me when I walk by, or they might ask to pet the dogs.

    If you look for good you will find it. You have done a great job with the pictures you posted.

    Thank you,
    Kim Shepard

    • Thank you Kim and I’m so happy that you are able to see the good things as well. That’s one thing that drove me to seek out the positive. I too have some of the same issues that you have mentioned and sometimes struggle to see past them. This was a way for me to do so. πŸ™‚ Have a great day!

  13. Meagan Baumgartner says:

    Great article! Maybe I am missing the byline but would love to know who wrote?

  14. Steve Kurtz says:

    I grew up in Shamokin and it is quite different now then it was then. (only 20 years ago) Seems nobody takes pride in anything anymore, even themselves. Would love to help in any way I can, although I live in Paxinos. As for the young ones that call themselves gangs, the cops need to get more involved as do the parents. If they want that crap, move back to Philly or wherever they came from.

    • I agree with you on the fact that pride seems to be at an all time low for sure. I’m just not sure why or where it comes from. Thanks taking the time to read my post. πŸ™‚

  15. kelly says:

    Awesome tribute to shamokin!! Born n raised!!!!!!

  16. John Dormer says:

    What a beautiful way to capture our “home” Vicki and the community that we grew up in. You are a resident and see it every day but, like you, it saddens and frustrates me to return home and see the decay that is allowed to continue whether it be turning a blind eye or apathy by residents and officials who figure “what’s the use in trying”. My grandmother always said “not everybody would be blessed to be rich financially, but there is never an excuse for being dirty”. Town is dirty or decaying, homes and former business buildings are allowed to decay to the point of endangering neighbors or adjoining residents and what’s being done about it. Maybe I don’t know enough about what’s being tried, and maybe my comments are unfair, but it seems long past time that code enforcement does what it is meant to do and hold people accountable for their properties. Residents can certainly help by reaching out mowing lawns and removing debris for those who can’t not for money but because it is the right thing to do. Power washing home fronts and businesses from time to time would help the overall first impressions for any business owner looking for a new home in which to operate. Don’t ever give up the fight to prevent gang development and drugs from entering the community…it may seem like a lost cause at times and that no one is listening but as long as you keep up awareness, maybe, the people involved in those affairs will figure Shamokin is too much trouble to remain in because its people care. Shamokin can return to the community that it once was but it will take the work and commitment to doing so by residents like you, Noel and others who don’t want to just wax nostalgic about what once was but want to provide their children and future generations a Shamokin that they can be proud of….a place they too can call home.

  17. JoAnne Rodman says:

    You are not alone. Many of us want to weep for the Shamokin we knew.The churches are having community prayer for Shamokin. We all have to ban to help restore Shamokin . Sunbury ‘s Mayor is on the right track!

  18. JoAnne Rodman says:

    Pray for our town! You are on the right track.The Mayor of Sunbury is holding landlords responsible for renting to drug dealers.He wants to run anyone who is convicted of drugs out of town.He is trying to shut down Memorial Acres with all the riftraft.Maybe the Mayors and communities to ban together and get this under control! The newspaper doesn’t help either they never post meetings ahead of time.We need some artiicles on tihis! Maybe you should write for the paper a series on this! You are not alone in this! The community prayer meetings are praying for Shamokin.You may be an answer to payer! Keep up the fight!

    • JoAnne…thank you so much for your kind words. I would love nothing more than to see my community, including our political heads, ban together to combat the negativity in our town! I’m a little confused as to what meetings you mean when you say the paper doesn’t post them ahead of time, but I do have to say that there’s not a lot of people that get the paper anymore. It’s read online and they look at only the sections that will interest them. I will never stop fighting the fight and will always have Shamokin in my heart. πŸ™‚ Thank you again for your very kind words and for reading my post.

  19. Holly Deppen says:

    I am a local business owner myself….It is very sad that this town is turning out the way it is…yes it starts with local officials and they need to be held accountable for what is going on! But everyone of us is also accountable…clean and maintain your property….why wouldn’t someone want their house to look good! It really is not that hard to do… help your neighbors that can’t do it themselves…remember its your town! I would love to see this town regain its riches and make it the town we can all be proud of! If you ever get a clean act together….let me know I will be glad to help!

    • Thanks for your input Holly! The main problem that I see right now is the fact that a lot of people that own the properties in town don’t live anywhere near here. As long as they’re getting the rent, nothing else matters. Drove down Market St today to see another once-beautiful building being demolished. So heart breaking!

  20. LILLIAN says:


  21. Tina Rosini says:

    I wasn’t going to post, but I decided to anyway. I bought a home (seven years ago) on the street that I grew up on. My street has always been a safe one to live on. The people moving in from the city has now flooded it. A few years ago someone broke into my house twice in one day. The first time I was at work, the second time was after me and my children went to bed! The cops did nothing! I was 99% sure of who did it and the police never even came to my house, I had to go to the police station to file the report. No follow-ups, no patrol, no arrests, no nothing. I am afraid to leave my windows open on nice days when I leave my house or go for a shower. I recently bought a 9 mil for protection.

    I have two abandoned houses right next door to me, one of them is owned by a person from NJ and the other is property of a bank due to a foreclosure. I have two windows in the alleyway between myself and the abandoned homes. The stench of mold, mildew, and cat urine fills the alleyway not allowing me to ever open those windows. These houses are so dilapidated that the foundation/sidewalk in the alley collapsed. Guess who was responsible to fix it? ME! I won’t even mention all the garbage along side of, and on the front porch of, the one house. Code enforcement has been contacted numerous times, with no success. There have been numerous reports to the police of drug addicts making their way into those houses to do “their business”. Again, nothing was done. We, as a community alone, can’t just make a difference. The law enforcement also need to step up and take our community back! I am more than willing to put time and effort into helping make this all happen! I am leaving my required information below, feel free to contact me!

    And this is to the people that have always resided here and are most likely to see this page, you know who you are when I say this…Clean up your dog crap when you take your dog for a walk! Also, if you have a cat, keep it in your house! Cat urine causes a lot of damage to the people that have pride in their homes! I could go on and on…thanks for the page! Sorry to rant :\

    • Thanks for your comments Tina and you make some very valid points indeed. I truly believe that regulations have to be set up for the absentee landlords, along with consequences if they fail to follow through.
      I am so very sorry for the troubles you are experiencing and especially for the break ins! It is such a shame that our community has come to this.
      And the more stories I hear, the more concerned I become. I am truly hoping that the residents of Shamokin wake up soon and decide to take this town back or there won’t be a town to speak of. And…you can rant any time! That’s what my post was…MY rant. πŸ™‚

  22. crystal barkow says:

    I loved reading this. Coming from NJ in 00′ I loved the small town nd comfort of knowing almost everyone! After high-school I moved to allentown to study criminal justice, and am now pregnant with my first child.. well children to be more specific spontaneous triplets! It is sad to see shamokin now .. when I come home to visit I can’t help but feel depressed. Gangs and out of towners are not the problem in shamokin I’m sorry to say but it is uneducated, lazy, DRUG ADDICTS. everyone I went to school with has a drug problem and it is heart breaking. Shamokin was a wonderful place to grow up in but I would never raise my own therw

  23. crystal barkow says:

    There* not now anyway. I pray shamokin cleans up nd gets back to the way it used to be!

  24. KW says:

    I guess the saying one bad Apple spoils a bunch is true. I’m not from shamokin but i lived there for a year. During the time i was there i kept a steady job..I volunteered and helped out wherever I could in the community. Even with all this I still felt unwelcomed because residents felt I was only there to cause trouble. I left because i could not deal with the racist attitudes in town.

    • First, as a Shamokin-ite, I apologize for the fact that you felt unwelcome in our town. Second, I can only assume that the attitude from residents is coming due to the fact that we have the whole bunch of bad apples, not just the one. That, perhaps, has made residents leery of new comers. I can only say, you would have loved what Shamokin once was. I hope you’re doing well in your new home. Thanks for taking the time to read my post and offering your opinion. πŸ™‚

      • KW says:

        Thanks I also hope the shamokin you grew up in returns. I also hope the long time residents learn to not assume one bad Apple doesn’t represent an entire race

  25. Amy Burks says:

    I now live in a “small town” in east Texas. I realized after living here for about 4 years that I had moved “home”. LOL! Not really, but Canton is a lot like Shamoking was. We too have to fight against things going down hill. A bunch of us got together a few years back and started what we called R.A.K. “Random Acts of Kindness”. We weren’t promoting our church, just the love of Christ through doing these Random Acts of Kindness in our own community. They ranged from setting up with a local gas station and pumping peoples gas to actually getting an entire crew together to clean up a property and do small home repairs. We would also get a bunch of us together and unload groceries at the local Walmart for the patrons. We used our own funds and would not accept donations. It was AMAZING at what the act of unconditional love did for people. They were at times dumfounded that people still cared and others were left in tears. Yes, there were some that thought we had motives and wouldn’t accept our help, but on the whole people were GREATLY affected! We just made up business cards that said that all we asked was for them to try and pay it forward. Do something nice for someone (ie: when going throught the drive through pay for the person behind you. They have already placed their order. πŸ™‚ ) It actually ends up being really fun! Just a suggestion. It was also something that other churches in the area started doing.
    Blessings and prayers coming your way!
    Amy Reigle Burks

  26. Tia Echols says:

    My family goes generations back in the Shamokin area. I only lived there for a few years when I was very young. It made such an impact on me though and I never forgot the cozy magical place of my too brief time there. My husband (not from the area) and I moved to Shamokin 10 years ago for a change of pace a fresh start. I loved it and the people as well. I managed the beauty salon in Walmart for awhile, the seeming hub of the town. I would often look out at the people in the store and wonder if any were my blood relations. I could see however the decline of the area and it would anger me and break my heart. So much history and so much to be proud of yet so many didn’t see it or didn’t care. Sadly my husbands new career took us back out west 5 years ago this month. I only have been back once and for a funeral. I miss the place and people and often think of coming back someday to live. I like the writer of this piece could walk down the street and see the beauty the history and pride of a once strong town. People in the area you don’t know what you have and are letting slip away. I have lived in a lot of places and have had a nicer house and a lot more modern conviences than I did in Shamokin. But I have never felt like I was part of place like I did there. I felt connected to the air the land the water everything somehow. I have studied the history of our wonderful area and what a colorful exciting place it once was. Please take pride in your roots instill that pride in your children. America is slipping away a little at a time and places like Shamokin will be but a memory. Its up to all of us and it starts with just caring for the land and each other. Being poor or coming from the wrong side of the tracks is not an excuse to live like a stereotype. Clean up and be kind is one way everyone can start. I hope to be back someday but till then my heart will be with Shamokin and all its wonderful people.

  27. Barb says:

    Loved your pictures, Vicki! It is so sad, that our children’s children will not have the same kind of memories that you and others who grew up here cherish. Hi to Rube

  28. Donna Rorke says:

    I wish you well Vicki, and certainly understand your plight, having lived in Sunbury most of my life, I commend you for taking on this challenge, and hope you can get your town behind you for together you can make a difference, I salute you my friend.

  29. Michelle says:

    I wasn’t born here. We moved here when I was 9. I have officially lived here 32 years and am so happy to be here raising my children. My mom was a single mom with three kids to raise but, the one thing she taught us was hard work. She sometimes worked two jobs at a time to keep a roof over our heads and clothes on our backs. I miss the days where you could walk downtown to Sun ray, Woolworths, Newberrys, Jupiter, JCPennys. I think its an absolute shame what’s going on in our community. It absolutely makes me angry when riff raff from even the city I was born in, come to town like they own the place. We were raised to help our neighbors, we still try to help our older neighbors who need it. I am trying to teach my children to help others, not to liter, to earn their way, and that just because their friends curse doesn’t mean they should. That last one is getting harder with a teenager. Your pictures of Shamokin are beautiful. I look forward to the celebration for this years 150th! May the riff raff not ruin it. I hope you do not mind a post from an import!

    • Thank you so much for your response and by the way…32 years later you are NOT considered an import. πŸ™‚ Thank you for taking pride in Shamokin and teaching your children good old fashioned manners and respect. If only all of us could simply be kind and respectful to others, what a wonderful place this would be!

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