It’s Electric, and a City!
[I work most weekend’s out of the federal court building in Downtown Scranton, but only because It has wifi and the guards don’t kick me out. I recently became with friends one of the judges who works in the building; he’s 35 years old, single, and requested specifically to be placed in Scranton. He has family ties to the area, and was appointed to the bench by Donald Trump. The judge (who has requested to remain anonymous) believes his time in the city will enable him to “connect with his roots”. With his permission, I wrote up his response to some questions I had about his relation to Scranton.]
Scranton, though primarily Irish now, used to be heavily Ukrainian; my relative, Oliver (he took that name when he immigrated) Croanek came here from the Ukraine in the 1900. He was 18 at the time.
Oliver was somewhat of a local celebrity. He got his start in business after he won a dilapidated general store in a craps game. Oliver then made a fortune during the great Anthracite Strike,when he sold dynamite and ammunition to both union militias and strike breakers. He was named Lackawanna County’s “Businessman of the Month” in September of 1902. He was later known as “The Butcher of Scranton” after introducing the concept of a ‘Deli counter’ to the city.
In 1907, he became the first American citizen to be tried for mail fraud. The most famous trial lawyer of all time, Clarence Darrow, was retained to defend him, but was unable to appear before the court after catching a case of what his doctors referred to as “the Portuguese gout”. It is not known what current medical professionals would refer to this disease as; many Darrow scholars believe that the legendary attorney simply forged a doctor’s note to get out of traveling to Scranton. Oliver was subsequently represented in the proceedings by Mr. Darrow’s intern, Richard. Richard was only in his second year of law school, and technically unable to practice, but the district court judge (to quote his remarks from the bench on the matter directly) decided to “give [Richard] a pass this time”, as long as he promised to “not do this again”.
Richard’s sister, Irma, traveled with him to Scranton, and fell in love with Oliver. They married in the fall of 1909, shortly after Richard completed his week-long jail sentence for practicing law without a license. At this point, Oliver’s retail empire had grown from a single general store into a series of department stores that covered the Northeastern section of Pennsylvania. The chain was named “Jermyn Retailers” after the town Oliver settled in with his wife. The chain was broadly unremarkable. It eventually failed and was absorbed by Boscov’s in the 1981’s, but the stores did achieve brief notoriety for selling pornography in their back rooms during the 1970’s. [NB: Several successful boycotts led by members of the Mothers against Masturbation advocacy group, coupled with the excommunication of several store managers from the Catholic Church, forced the chain to cease selling pornography in 1979. It went bankrupt shortly thereafter. Oliver and Irma had six children between 1910 and 1921, the last of whom was my grandfather.
Oliver, being a shrewd business man, had a revelation that physical retail would soon be killed by mail catalogues; In 1928 he sold the chain in its entirety. After considerable study of economics, he determined that the stock market was a sure-fire investment and began using his money for day trading. The market collapse eventually ruined him and forced the family to sell what little assets it had left. Ultimately, his children ended up managing what used to be the family general store; it had been converted into the first Rite-Aid.
My grandfather left Scranton to fight in the navy during World War II. He never saw combat due to a freight-loading accident. Y two men using a winch to lift an anvil were distracted by a passing woman, causing them to drop the anvil. It landed on to my grandfather’s foot; he married the nurse who attended to him after the accident.
The couple settled down in San Francisco, where they raised my mother and her two sisters. My grandfather swore that he would never return to Scranton because “it was a dead-end town”; based off some recent research I’ve done it appears more likely that he never went back home due to several outstanding warrants.
My mother only visited Scranton once, and she found the place unremarkable. However, she did say that the deli meat was second to none, and most butchers were more than willing to give free samples to the “Butcher of Scranton”s granddaughter. Anyway, I love it here, and whenever I visit the guys down at the deli on Spruce, they treat me like royalty, because hell, I guess I am.