A 618-page book titled “In the Time of the Americans”, written in 1995 by David Fromkin, is a history of World War I to the time of American power and actions following World War II. It follows many presidential administrations and examines history as if this were fiction, but it was quite real.
It is an astonishing portrayal of American life and times that confronts people we all recognize as heroes and non-heroes who contributed to life and times of turbulence during the Great Depression and the New Deal, and how the results of World War I contributed to World War II. It hearkens to the turbulence of the Pocono-Northeast and the drama and heroes of more recent times, especially since 1960. It teaches lessons applied to this region. The region became a key part of the economy of the commonwealth and Pennsylvania became a significant segment of the United States.
The process continues today as the United Nations followed Woodrow Wilson’s League of Nations and his 14 Points, following the end of “ the war to end all wars” which, of course, never happened. The book travels trough presidents such as Teddy Roosevelt, Harry Truman and others and captures the heart and soul of America and foreign nations and many countries that have become headlines for print, electronic and social media.
Consider what two heroes of this region did following World War II. They were radio enthusiast Roy Morgan, who started WILK, and television adherent Tom Shelburne who started WNEP-TV. Life changed as these regional pioneers achieved stardom, recording both corporate and civic achievements, after serving their country in federal positions during World War II. They returned to civilian life and made exciting steps for their hometown, their region, state and nation. Of course, they were not the only ones to enhance their home geography. Many more did the same such as Ed Dessen in Hazleton, Sandy Sutherland in the Pocono Mountains, Ernie Preate Sr. in Lackawanna County and a host of other regional heroes.
This region has distinguished itself in many ways and should be proud of all that has flourished, bringing the region back from a series of recessions and losses of population, Some 250,000 people left the region between 1930 and 1970, mainly employables ages 25 to 45. Someone like Fromkin should write the modern history of this region and point out how this comeback occurred and who the heroes were across the whole region. Perhaps, the recent Wilkes-Barre Connection Conference may lead to this process as new and highly skilled leaders become the heroes across the entire regional landscape. For example, every county in the region has a community foundation, the colleges dominate much of the region and more assets exist than the past list of liabilities. All of this should be compiled and brought to the attention of the 1 million-plus citizens in the region.
Here are a few examples of what modern history has brought to the Pocono-Northeast.
• The flood of 1972 and Tropical Storm Agnes, which was labeled at the time the greatest disaster in the history of the nation. But it has been surpassed many times since both in this nation and others.
• A significant rail crisis occurred twice in 1973 and 1980, which led to saving the railroads through the efforts of leaders such a former Gov. William W. Scranton.
• The development of Montage as a creative economic project, a crowning achievement regionally which continues to grow as a regional capstone in Lackawanna County.
• The saving of the largest employer in the region in 1995, Tobyhanna Army Depot, through citizen support and other factors, led by a the blue ribbon task force.
• An image improvement campaign in the 1970s and ‘80s that established the Pocono-Northeast: A Place to Grow. Currently, a new role has been developed under the title of Discover NEPA, started by real estate developer Rob Mericle.
• The Pocono-Northeast community awards program was created to honor excellence in projects in many categories regionally for several decades.
• The establishment of the nonprofit and community assistance center, which has grown as a significant way to offer assistance to the growing nonprofit community in the region.
• An enterprise development program of business loans, exporting assistance, procurement, and other techniques to advance business development in the region.
These are examples of a larger context of actions designed to advance community and economic development through programs that can lead to new jobs and income growth. A quote in Fromkin’s applies to this region. Referring to the Marshall Plan and other factors in European recovery after World War II, he stated that “the merit of their policy was that it reflected an enlightened view of self-interest.” Clearly, this region has a self-interest in declaring a policy of strength and action that allows steps toward positive change and reflection beyond anything tried in the past. It can build upon the history that has made the region more competitive globally and domestically.