Friday, July 27, 2007

"Pencils Come From Pencilvania"

There’s a song I heard on “A Prairie Home Companion” some years ago. The show was being done from Rhode Island and they sang “Rhode Island Is Famous For You.” The song takes a few liberties with its facts, to make things work out, but did get one thing right: “Pencils / come from Pennsylvania.”

Lyricist Howard Dietz may have used an Eberhard Faber pencil now and then, but I doubt he knew it was made just outside Wilkes-Barre, in the mythical place called “Mountaintop,” which is actually two townships, a school district and a post office named Mountaintop. Eberhard jr., known to friends as Tim, still lives here, although the pencils are now made in Mexico.

Back down here in the Valley (Duryea, to be exact), is the Topps chewing gum factory. As in Bazooka Joe, with the patch over his eye. As in the kind of gum I never bought; didn’t like the flavor, didn’t like Bazooka Joe for some reason, did like Double Bubble and its cartoon characters. Anyway, lots of people here make Topps gum and if you are ever asked where it comes from, Duryea (“duree-ay”) is the location.

Cable tv is another local product; invented here sixty years ago and the same company is still in operation. Some 35 years ago, it carried the first HBO program to the first 365 subscribers here in the city; I understand HBO has grown a bit over the years.

Pencils do, indeed, come from Pencilvania.


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