hung battleship grey sky, the last bit of orange and yellow
clinging to the mostly naked frames of oak and maple, a gentle rain on
a raw November morning - this is my kind of day! I’m heading northwest
on Route 248 through the quiet desolation of Pennsylvania coal country.
I pass stretches of abandoned track where once an endless stream of
railcars carried the black rock to the furnaces that fired the
juggernaut of American industry.
is a haunting beauty to this barren landscape. It reminds me of
the mountains around Virginia City, Nevada; mostly devoid of trees
because of the need for timber to shore up the shafts of the silver
mines during the heady and reckless days of the Comstock Lode.
ALL AMERICAN STEAK AND ALE HOUSE
suspect my wife is beginning to question my rationale for this
weekend road trip. As we pass through towns that are still exhibiting
the effects of industrial downturn I also begin to question my
judgment. A couple of miles beyond the town of Lehighton we begin our
descent into what once was the wealthiest town in America. The
contrasts with the other communities that have dotted our journey’s
path are startling. The now dormant ribbons of steel to the east give
way to an operating classic diesel locomotive waiting to pull its
vintage coaches north along the river to Glen Onoko. Here peacefully
nestled between the mountains above the Lehigh Gorge is a rich stock of
preserved and restored 19th century Federalist, Romanesque Revival,
Second Empire and Queen Anne homes, mansions and commercial buildings.
There is definitely a Brigadoon quality to this place.
The precipitation and personal predispositions cause Fran and I to seek
shelter. We discover a delightful haven inside JT’s All-American Steak
and Ale House located at the Hotel Switzerland. We settle in
afternoon of pints, pleasantries and Penn State football. Our affable
bartender answers inquires about the town with such detail that by the
time Paterno’s Nittany Lions have left the field I am somewhat versed
in the history and lore of Olde Mauch Chunk.
CLASSY BAR AT JT's
my zeal and enthusiasm, our host recommends that we do our best
to return in March for their Saint Patrick’s Day parade, claiming that
there is no finer celebration of the Irish tradition anywhere in
America. He regales us with stories of Hibernians, house parties and
hangings; but what really sparks my interest is the tale of “The Shot
According to the bartender, the owner of a bed and breakfast along the
route of the parade had begun a tradition of handing out shots of
whiskey to those interested adult participants parading down Broadway.
Entire pipe bands were known to pause for a dram or two.
For more on the JIM THORPE
St Patrick's Day Parade and the celebrated 'Shot Lady,'
'A SHOT FOR A VOLLEY'
check out the article in this month's issue of AMERICAN PUBLIC HOUSE
have seen many strange and wonderful things over the years while
viewing Irish convention. I’ve raised many a glass at wakes, and I’ve
stood alongside His Eminence Cardinal Cooke as he blessed the
multitudes marching up Fifth Avenue as they passed St. Patrick’s
Cathedral; but never had I witnessed a gesture on such a grand and
generous scale. I vowed that we would return for the revelry.
I was cautioned that it was unlikely at this late date that we
able to secure overnight accommodations. After countless telephone
responses of “sorry you need to book at least one year in advance,” I
spoke with Sheila O’Neil who, along with her partner Bob, owns the
Gilded Cupid. She informed me that it was her intention not to rent out
rooms that weekend because her family was coming up for the parade.
After a bit of kibitzing and mutual connecting she decided to make a
brisk Saturday morning near winter’s end Fran and I, along with
our friends John and Nancy arrive in Jim Thorpe. We stop for food and
drink at Molly Maguire’s Pub. As is usually the case, I strike up a
conversation with some charitable stranger at the bar. In this instance
that stranger turns out to be Sheila’s partner Bob. After a couple of
welcoming pints of Murphy’s Irish Amber he directs us to their
By early afternoon we are settled into our rooms. Sheila has provided
us with a thorough lay of the land and some personal coaching on how to
survive and flourish during Sunday’s parade. At some point during the
tutorial she asks if John and I might be available to assist with a
small chore in the morning. Consent turns to elation when I realize
that the task requires pouring several hundred shots of whiskey!
I head down to JT’s to herald our return and to toast our
STEAK & ALE HOUSE
at the HOTEL SWITZERLAND
5 Hazard Square
Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania 18229
HopBack Amber Ale
Our Flagship beer is
a hoppy, amber ale
with a fresh, spicy taste
and a rich caramel note.