This attraction is well-known in local circles, but we had never managed it. We almost missed it due to my fascination with the tuxedo warehouse, but we arrived just in the nick of time to purchase tickets for the last trip at 2:55 pm (if you go: it is open from 10 am to 3 pm).
I didn't let on to Terzo, but one of the reasons we hadn't done it was that I was a bit intimidated by the thought of travelling down into the bowels of the earth. Desperate times, i.e., a trip to Scranton on a holiday weekend, call for desperate measures. This hole in the side of the mountain,which is the only way down to the tour, did nothing to reassure me. Nothing like having a slightly nervous kid in tow to help you put on a brave face, however.
The fully-enclosed car, when it appeared at the end of the hoist rope, was a little more reassuring, though it was still a steep and dark ride down.
The tour guide did an excellent job of bringing the danger and toil of the anthracite coal mines alive. Terzo was fascinated and hung onto his every word, which is not always an easy task for him in a large tour group.
One of the reasons I wanted to bring Terzo was to help him understand the choices one of his ancestors had made. His great-great-grandfather had come from Italy, straight to work in the coal mines in western Pennsylvania. He lasted a week, before he declared that it was so awful that he would never go down again. He pressed on further west, to the factories in northeastern Ohio.
After an hour underground, we completely appreciated his choice. We were thrilled to see the "light at the end of the tunnel" as the car made its way back above ground.
For further reading on this subject, Robbing the Pillars, an article in the Philadelphia Review of Books, provides a more detailed description of the tour and information about surrounding communities and coal-mining history in the region.