Yes, I’m from Scranton. Nowadays, upon learning that, most people ask if I know Joe Biden. (I don’t but do have some interesting connections with his family). It used to be that people would mention the TV show The Office and ask if that is really Scranton at the beginning. (Yes, it is).
Scranton roots are blue collar roots. I have grown to treasure them. I learned many lessons from my blue collar relatives — my uncle the fireman, my uncle the coal miner who died of black lung disease, my aunts all devoted to family and to kindness to strangers, my great-aunt who was an independent woman at a time when they were rare.
I also treasure those roots when I think of my job as a mailman, dealing with people anxious to get their welfare checks. Dealing with immigrants struggling with English. Meeting one old coal miner sitting on his porch on an oxygen machine yet still willing to pass the time of day. Meeting another man who wished me a Merry Christmas using a throat microphone to compensate for his throat cancer.
I think too of the men and women at Consolidated Molding. This was a plastics factory which made, among other things, the linings for Claymore mines being used in Viet Nam while at the same time producing plastic crucifixes. The ladies didn’t dwell on such contradictions. They worked piecemeal, making sure that each tiny plastic gizmo was shaped correctly. My job was to keep them supplied. A lady might get annoyed if I was slow getting her the next box to inspect but usually they were kind.
I think of the men I met in that factory, the ones who operated the presses. All the former press operators were missing fingers. Yes, they might come in hung over but they showed up and did their jobs.
I understand why in Scranton it was a big deal to have someone who graduated from college. My father attended one college class (“Got an A”, he’d say proudly). That was the extent of college education among my parents, aunts, and uncles. It was really something when my cousin Bob Ruane was the first family member to graduate from college.
These blue collar Scranton roots taught me much about caring for family, about working so that the next generation would have it easier. I learned about the courage it takes to do the same job over and over, to punch out at the end of the day, and to punch in the next day to start all over.
So, yes, I’m proud to be from Scranton but not because of Joe Biden. I’m proud because of what those many blue collars taught me about life and family.
In honor of the women of Consolidated Molding, I’ll close by sharing this beautiful piece from “Working”.