All Charged Up About Scranton

Something’s happening with Scranton. It started with the U.S. version of The Office, which is set in the “Electric City,” the nickname Scranton gave itself in 1886 after becoming home to the nation’s first electrified trolley system.

Then, at the end of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, when New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd dubbed her the “Scranton gal” because Clinton had struck a chord with Wal-Mart Moms, Scranton got another notch in its tattered belt.

The hometown of Delaware Senator Joe Biden, Scranton received some more high-voltage exposure over the weekend, thanks to the hilarious vice-presidential debate routine on Saturday Night Live.

In the skit, Biden, played by actor Jason Sudeikis, runs Scranton through the mud, calling it a “hell hole,” among other things, to establish his working-class street cred. From Scranton’s point of view, though, any publicity is good publicity.

While trawling the Net this morning, I discovered a T-shirt for a Police cover band called Scrantonicity on the Snorg Tees Web site that’s at the top of this post. Commenter Marge informs me that Scrantonicity is a “fake” Police cover band that Kevin from TV’s The Office plays in.

Still, the “icity” suffix in Scrantonicity suggests a Uranus transit for the hardscrabble city in Northeastern Pennsylvania, as does all the TV and Internet coverage. (Uranus is associated with electricity.)

Carolyn Dodson’s Horoscopes of the U.S. shows a Scranton chart with Neptune rising at 15 degrees of Virgo, just past a 14 degree Ascendant. The chart is set for noon on June 2, 1773, when an ordinance was adopted to establish the town. The noon time suggests that the actual time the ordinance was passed is unknown.

Even so, natal Neptune is getting an opposition from starmaker Uranus in Pisces. Bingo! Transiting Saturn is also conjuncting that Neptune as it moves toward an opposition with Uranus on Election Day. Maybe the presence of Saturn is why the buzz (Uranus) surrounding Scranton is of the backhanded-compliment kind.

The natal chart has a Sun/Venus conjunction at 12 and 11 degrees of Gemini, respectively, at the Midheaven, squaring Neptune in Virgo. My brother (there’s a Gemini word for you) once observed that Scranton had more bars and churches (both ruled by Neptune) per capita than any place he had ever visited.

The chart also features a Mercury/Uranus conjunction in Taurus in the Ninth House fortunately trined by Pluto in the fifth at 22 degrees of Capricorn. That Taurus/Capricorn aspect reflects the city’s wealth from coal and its reputation as a leading industrial center from 1846 until 1945, when the city began a long steady descent. By the 1970s, the city known for generating energy by producing coal was becoming an arson capital.

In recent years, Scranton’s fortunes have been revived somewhat by good old-fashioned pork barrel, which led to the creation of a new National Park Service site called Steamtown. Founded in 1986, Steamtown is dedicated to the history of steam railroading.

Evidently, millions of taxpayer dollars are being wasted to maintain Steamtown and its attendance figures have fallen short of the mark. Still, it’s a feather in Scranton’s newsboy cap.

In the spirit of disclosure, especially since the SNL skit labeled Scranton as a “genetic cesspool,” my grandfather emigrated from a part of Austria-Hungary that is now in Ukraine and became a coal miner in Scranton. Like Biden, my father clawed his way out of Scranton, actually a “suburb” called Peckville, but his exit strategy was to join the military.

In the SNL skit, “Biden” claims to be the only good thing ever to come out of Scranton. That’s not quite true. The city has produced a Pennsylvania political dynasty for the family that gave Scranton its name as well as some exceptional athletes. Gerry McNamara, who played for the Syracuse University Orangemen from 2002 to 2006, comes to mind.

No doubt some young punk or punkette is walking Scranton’s mean streets today, with just one goal: to get out of the Electric City and see his or her name in lights. Hey, I’ve got your back. We’re from the same genetic cesspool!

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9 comments on “All Charged Up About Scranton

  1. Pingback: Commodities » All Charged Up About Scranton

  2. How can Scranton be the “electric city” because they put in a trolley? That would make pretty much every city the “motor city,” because they have cars. As a Schenectadian (the one true Electric City), I must protest.

  3. Carl — My source on this is the often-unreliable Wiki: “The nation’s first successful, continuously-operating electrified streetcar (trolley) system was established in the city in 1886, giving it the nickname ‘The Electric City.'”

    I think Buffalo was known as the Electric City and the City of Light because of Niagara Falls generating electricity. Clearly, a lot of cities wanted to be Electric, but Scranton has hung on to the name, deserved it or not.

    Speaking of noteworthy Scrantonians, let’s not forget Jim Naughton, former Daily Orange editor, former New York Times sports writer, and all-around good guy! — Monica

  4. I’m glad to see that Carl has already chimed in on the matter. As a fellow Schenectadian, I concur with his assertion that Schenectady NY (aka “The Electric City”) is the “one, true” metropolis deserving of the moniker.

    I cite from the Schenectady Metroplex website (much more reliable than Wikipedia)

    “Some 125 years ago a light bulb clicked on and changed our world forever. No place felt the effects more than Schenectady, New York, which soon became the center of the electrical power generation industry.

    Thomas A. Edison and his partners moved their manufacturing to this upstate city in 1886. Soon Schenectady earned global repute as The Electric City, as Edison’s fledgling firm grew into the powerhouse known as General Electric.”

    George Westinghouse Jr. also set up shop there (before moving to Pittsburgh)–working for his father’s business, G. Westinghouse & Co..

    I believe that Scranton is known as the “Eclectic City”.

  5. Kevin — It’s hard to imagine that you’re such a whiz at images when you’re clearly a master of words as well! Must be the power of pentacles!– Monica

  6. I once had a compendium of upstate city nicknames and how they got them. Schenectady, of course, laid its claim to the fact that the machines that generated electricity, the research that went into its expansion, and some of the devices that used electricity were all manufactured there. We’ll let Scranton have its model railroad.

    The delays in creating a transmission system to move all that power down to Buffalo were a major factor in industries moving north along the Niagara, beginning early the process of sucking business out of Buffalo.

    Other notable nicknames up here included the Collar City, Flour City/Flower City, Spindle City, Rug City, and of course the Salt City. Albany, interestingly, has never had a positive nickname that stuck.

  7. Yeah, Monica, its the “pentacles”! *grin* Actually, I was a dual-major at SU–in journalism and illustration–which is why I’m now in advertising! I’m fairly certain that my modest turns as art director were a more appreciated contribution at the DO back in the day. Never has a place been more inordinately rife with incredible writing talent since the Algonquin Round Table. Sharing an office space with Carl and you was certainly a highlight of my tenure. Guantanamo Bay can’t hold a candle… LOL!

    Carl, as for Albany–you’re quite right–I’m unaware of any “official” nickname off the top of my head. In high school, we used to refer to it as “Smallbany” and Troy as “Troylet”. But hell, we were from “Scumnectady”–what did we know?

    Monica, my thanks for allowing such highbrow discourse.

  8. Marge — Well, I knew it was a Police cover band, but I didn’t know it came from The Office. Thanks for telling me! You’ve discovered my dirty secret: I don’t have a TV! I get all my information about popular culture from the Net and watch things like the NCAA playoffs and the Presidential debates on streaming video. Thanks for setting me straight! — Monica

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