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A Real-Time Chat with …

James C. Kevlin, III

The Pottsville REPUBLICAN & Evening Herald

Ms. Ferryman's 3rd and 4th grade students ended the school year with an energetic real time chat with newspaper editor Jim Kevlin.  In preparation for the chat, the students read Jim's E-Letter From Home #72 (June 1, 2002).  They asked questions about anthracite, historical buildings, origin of names and much more.

Stephanie: Hello, and welcome to another Imagiverse chat! Today's guest is Jim Kevlin, a newspaper editor.

Stephanie: I'll be moderating the chat today. Jim, are you there?

Jim: This is Jim -- go ahead!

MSOC Elementary: Hello from Montessori School of Corona.

Jim: Hi, kids!

MSOC Elementary: Where is Veterans Stadium?

Jim: In Philadelphia. Veterans Stadium is only 90 minutes from here and lots of people go down to see the Phils. General admission is only $6, so it's pretty reasonable. A new stadium, however, opens in 2004 and I'm sure prices will go up then.

MSOC Elementary: Have you been to Hershey, Pennsylvania? Have you been to Reading, Pennsylvania?

Jim: Yes, we go to Hershey and Reading often. Hershey is home to Chocolate World, a tour of the chocolate-making process. Good fun. Reading is the factory outlet center of the universe, so my wife MJ enjoys it.

Jim: How many of you are playing Little League?

MSOC Elementary: We counted. Seven play Little League.

MSOC Elementary: What do you "mean" Carolynn G. Grube, Orwigsburg, walked the full 24 hours?

Jim: Carolynn Grube participated in the Relay for Life, where participants get sponsors ($1 an hour, for instance) to donate money to the American Cancer Society based on the number of hours participants walk. Caroylnn walked from Friday afternoon, all night, all day through Saturday afternoon. Not an easy task. When the Relay started 10 years ago, it raised $16,000; this year, it raised $257,000.

MSOC Elementary: Wow! That's unbelievable.

MSOC Elementary: How big is Pottsville?

Jim: Pottsville is in the middle of a county of 150,000 people in Pennsylvania, which -- I think -- has about 8 million people. It is the fifth or sixth biggest state.

Jim: Pottsville is in Schuylkill County. Schuylkill is Dutch for Hidden (schuyl) River (kill).

MSOC Elementary: Where is the Majestic Theatre?

Jim: The Majestic Theatre was a nickelodeon in downtown Pottsville. From 1910 to 1930, it used to show serials -- movies broken into 5 or 10-minute segments. If you saw part I this Saturday, you'd have to come back next Saturday to see Part II. Star Wars/The Clone Wars would take forever at that rate.

Jim: Schuylkill County was the center of anthracite mining for more than 100 years. Anthracite is very hard coal that, because it is almost pure carbon, burns with a hot, clean flame.

MSOC Elementary: We researched about coal and want to know a bit about anthracite and mining in Pottsville. What is the difference between hard and soft coal? Where was coal discovered? What materials can coal be made from?

Jim: Anthracite is very hard coal, which means it originally was trees, plants and ferns that died, decomposed, and were squeezed very tightly between harder rocks during prehistoric times.

When people heated their homes with coal, anthracite was very popular because it burned with a very clean flame.

Jim: Anthracite is only found in the Pottsville area, and in parts of Vietnam.

Jim: Softer coal is called "bituminous" and is the most common type found in western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio. Peat is very low-grade coal that burns with a very smoky flame.

MSOC Elementary: Have you ever been to the Stonehedge Garden in South Tamaqua?

Jim: No, I've never been to Stonehedge, but it's supposed to be very nice.

MSOC Elementary: Is Dick Higgins still alive so he can make it happen in 2006?

Jim: Dick Higgins is still alive and, with a little luck, will make it to 2006. [Former county commissioner Higgins led a fundraising effort to have the image of novelist John O'Hara cast in bronze for the Pottsville bicentennial in 2006.]

MSOC Elementary: Is the Philadelphia Water Company more careful about what goes in the water?

Jim: I don't think they know what goes into the waste water that become sludge, and that's the issue around here. The plan is to spread it as fertilizer, but who knows what's in the fertilizer? Organic material dies within a month of being exposed in the outdoors, but if various poisonous heavy metals were in the original sewage, they may survive much longer.

Jim: People are worried about biosolids, but it's unclear how much they have to be. The EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] is finishing up a study that is due out this month.

MSOC Elementary: What are biosolids?

Jim: Biosolids are what's left over when sewage-treatment plants finish treating the sewage -- I guess that's the most genteel way to put it.

MSOC Elementary: Where is Mahantongo?

Jim: Mahantongo is the street right out in front of the newspaper office where I'm sitting now. It's 111 Mahantongo; I live a few blocks from here on Mahantongo too.

Jim: Mahantongo means, "the place where they ate red meat," meaning these were Native American (Lenni Lenape) hunting grounds.

MSOC Elementary: Can coal be the color of gold?

Jim: I have a piece of coal around here somewhere called a "sulfur crystal," which looks like there are flecks of gold in it. I think that was fool's gold that used to fool miners.

MSOC Elementary: Is coal always found way deep in the ground?

Jim: Coal is in veins -- some are upright, some are flat; some are buried beneath the ground, some are near the surface. You may have heard of strip mining: that's when a vein is flat and near the surface and can be mined with a backhoe.

Jim: To imagine the anthracite fields, imagine 12 blankets, one on top of the other. Four to five of those blankets are coal, the rest are various types of rock.

Jim: Then take those blankets and push them in from all four ends. That's what the 12 rock layers of the anthracite region look like.

MSOC Elementary: How many schools were built during the Civil War?

Jim: I don't know, but the Female Grammar School, now the new Historical Society headquarters, was. It was just for girls at first, then it became the Centre Street School, for boys and girls.

MSOC Elementary: We were reading about the new Historical Society headquarters in Pottsville and had several questions including: Who is General George A. Joulwan? What was the Bosnian War? What is NATO?

Jim: Gen. George Joulwan was NATO supreme allied commander during the Bosnian War in the 1990s.

Jim: NATO is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, formed after World War II by European nations in self-protection against the Soviet Union.

Jim: George Joulwan was raised in Pottsville, played football for Pottsville Area, went to West Point, did 2-3 tours in Vietnam, then went up the ladder.

MSOC Elementary: What is the Preservation Pennsylvania's statewide awards?

Jim: Preservation Pennsylvania is a statewide organization that tries to preserve historic buildings.

Jim: Pennsylvania was one of the original 13 states, which means we have a lot of buildings around here 200 years old and older. The oldest street in Philadelphia -- Elfreth Alley -- is celebrating its 300th birthday.

Jim: Every year, Preservation Pennsylvania gives awards to noteworthy efforts to restore old buildings.

MSOC Elementary: Did you see the eclipse?

Jim: When was the eclipse?!
[Jim is located in the Eastern time zone.  In Pennsylvania, the sun had set hours before the eclipse.  The students in California were able to view the eclipse just before sunset on the west coast.  For more info about this and other solar eclipses, see:]

MSOC Elementary: The eclipse was June 10 between about 6 and 7 PM here. There won't be another until 2012!

Jim: What are you planning to do this summer? I guess school ends for all of you tomorrow.

Jim: My boy Joe finished school last Thursday and is at basketball camp, 9 a.m to 3 p.m. daily this week. He's taking next week off, and then is going to golf camp. Later, he's going to soccer camp. Finally, in August, is scout camp. On vacation in mid July, he wants to see Niagara Falls, then continue on to Toronto to the Hockey Hall of Fame. He's started reading the "Jedi Apprentice" series. He's on Book One; 16 books to go.

MSOC Elementary: Joe does a lot of stuff!

Jim: And he's learning the violin. And he wants to play the piano!

Jim: He's going through a batting slump in Minor Leagues right now. Any tips for him?

MSOC Elementary: Tomorrow's family fun day.

Jim: What's family fun day?

MSOC Elementary: Family fun day is our end of the year party. First we have graduation for Kindergarten and 6th grade and awards ceremony where we get Red Reading Ribbons for doing all our book reports during the year. Then we have lunch and games, dunk tank, bouncy room and other fun things. We have a lot of fun and our parents, friends and relatives come to celebrate with us.

MSOC Elementary: What is "the '30s-era art deco"? [Referring to the closing of "the school on the hill".]

Jim: Art deco was an architectural form. You've seen Batman: That architecture is art deco, streamlined with sharp angles. The school on the hill looks a little like a stretched out rocket ship.

MSOC Elementary: What did the beams look like?

Jim: They were like rough-cut tree trunks. I got the impression that would be a very hard building to knock down.

MSOC Elementary: We were wondering about the origin of many of the places you mention in your newsletter. What language [does] Shenandoah come from?

MSOC Elementary: We read about the canonization of Amabile Visintainer. What does canonization mean?

Jim: When the Catholic Church makes someone a saint, that's canonization. [ Amabile Visintainer was known as Mother Pauline. She founded a religious order in Brazil and passed away in 1948. Pope John Paul II designated her as Saint Pauline. Her distant cousin, Al Visintainer, operates Visintainer's Motel in Mount Carmel.]

MSOC Elementary: Where does Amabile Visintainer come from (ancestry)?

Jim: She was Italian, and her family moved to Brazil when she was a girl.

MSOC Elementary: Many students wanted to know the origin of names such as Shenandoah, Tamaqua, and Mahanoy.

Jim: I'm not sure what Shenandoah means. Tamaqua means "land of running water." McAdoo, I think, was named after the one-time secretary of the treasury who invested in coal lands.

Jim: Pottsville was named after John Pott, who built a sawmill on the Schuylkill River in 1790.

Jim: Brian Smith, a reporter here, tells me Shenandoah was named after the Shenandoah River in Virginia. Maybe the mountainous country here reminded the settlers of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Jim: Delano, another township, was named after relatives of Franklin Delano Roosevelt who also owned coal lands. Most wealthy people in the 19th century had some money in coal.

MSOC Elementary: What does nickelodeon mean?

Jim: Odeon comes from the ancient Greek word for a place where performances were held. And it cost a Nickel to see the show.

Jim: These movies -- westerns like Hop-Along Cassidy and adventure flicks like Tarzan -- were silent movies, no audio.

Jim: A pianist used to sit in the front and try to play music to match the action on the screen. Neat trick.

Jim: When "talkies" -- movies with sound -- came into being in around 1930, that's when the nickelodeons -- like the Majestic -- went out of business.

Stephanie: Anymore questions, kids?

MSOC Elementary: Not for now. Thank you.

Stephanie: Well, it looks like we've answered everyone's questions. I'd like to thank Jim for participating in this chat.

Stephanie: MSOC, thanks for all the great questions. You researched well.

Jim: Thanks kids, I enjoyed it. Have a good summer!

Stephanie: Okay, Jim, thanks a lot. We're done.

Jim: Super, Stephanie. So long!

MSOC Elementary: Thank you, Jim. The students really enjoyed the chat!!!

Jim: Good fun!

Stephanie: Bye! If this is the last time we chat before summer break, have a wonderful holiday!

MSOC Elementary: Thank you from Montessori School of Corona!!!! So long for now!

Jim: Signing off!!

Biography | Interview | Q&A

- 12 June 2002


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Last Updated:
29 June 2002

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