Other Dimensions of Patchtown Life, Part 3: the Second World War

In our last blogpost we talked about the way the Second World War affected the communities of Pardeesville and Lattimer. The war was a busy time for the region’s industries, working at full capacity to supply the war effort with energy, labor and manufactured goods.  As mentioned before, government media asserted the work of coal miners as an equivalent effort to the soldiers fighting overseas. And for younger generations, some of whom were the first or second generations born on this soil, serving the country served as a chance to demonstrate their patriotism. It may have also meant a way out of the coal mines, if not a chance to visit other places and meet other people before returning.

In our work, we find a great deal of different sorts of objects. Some of them can seem quite unconnected to the everyday life of workers, wives, and children in an obvious way. The bricks, nails, glass and stone they built their houses with are much like any other objects we find doing archaeology. It is their arrangement in the soil and relative amounts that make them interesting and unique to the site and the landscape.

DSC_8389We also find objects that are a little more personal: toys, tobacco pipes, drinking glasses, combs, etc. They tell us a bit more about

the objects these families engaged with in their daily and intimate lives.  To the left is a toy truck we excavated from Church Street in Pardeesville. It dates to sometime after the Second World War. (click on image to expand it)

To the right are fragments of a Blue Willow pattern plate, for which we have most of  the pieces. On the base of this plate, is the inscription, “Made in Japan”.  

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Again, these are artifacts found on many  sites all over the country at a  similar time period. These items suggest that the folks on Canal Street took an active role in shopping, furnishing their homes, and letting their children play to the best of their financial abilities as much of the country did in the period of relative wealth and stability during and following the World War.

It is the special combinations and arrangements of these objects that tell us about how people lived their everyday lives. It is also the inclusion of items that don’t always fit that demonstrate something more about the material lives of archaeological sites.

Sometimes we find a singular object marked by the life of a single individual. In one of our excavations in Pardeesville we found a curious item discarded in a pit in the rear of the lot. World War II dog tags belonging to Anthony Simone were found among other items that appeared to have been cleaned out of the house before it was renovated or demolished and deposited into an open pit in the rear.  Here are a couple images of the tags:

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After cleaning up the tags in the lab we were able to discern a few bits of text on the tags.

Name: “Simone, Anthony F.”

Serial Number: “…..43 646”

It shows that he received his tetanus shot in 1942 (“T42”) and his blood type is (“O”).

Folks growing up in the neighborhood remember the Simones’ living in this house, though no one we have spoken with remembers an Anthony living there. A quick search of the records revealed the that Mr. Simone enlisted in February of 1942 at Fort Meade in Maryland. A veteran’s gravesite report indicates that he fought in Battalion D of the 639th Anti-Aircraft Cannon Battalion of the Army between February 21, 1942 to December 18, 1942. At some point after this time, he returned stateside and lived in Hazleton until his passing in 1996.

We don’t really know how the tags ended up in the backyard pit, but it appears that the demolition of a portion of the house sometime in the 1960s resulted in the discard of materials from previous occupants, followed by architectural rubble.

It can be a surprise to find something so personal buried deep beneath the ground, especially an item that must have traveled so far and was so closely tied with their identity. For us as researchers it underscores the deep and penetrating role global historical events had on the communities, families and individuals, of Lattimer and Pardeesville. What we cannot know is how the tags ended up here. Were they accidentally lost, perhaps slipping between floorboards of a house addition and discarded when it was demolished? Or were they discarded by Mr. Simone, connected to an experience or an identity that no longer held interest after so many years? These answers we may never know.

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About LM Project

The LMP is a collaborative endeavor which aims to recognize the events surrounding the Lattimer Massacre, an incident that changed the labor movement and impacted the world by bringing to light economic disparities and ethnic tensions in the anthracite region of PA.
This entry was posted in Artifacts, other dimensions of patchtown life, Uncategorized, World War II. Bookmark the permalink.

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