Editor's note: This is the second part of a column which began last week chronicling a Jan. 13 trip taken by Advocate editor Ken Lahmers and News Leader editor Eric Marotta to Eastern Ohio.
After leaving the coal museum in the basement of the Cadiz Library, Eric and I headed south on Route 9 past several mines being reclaimed, and it was then I realized another big change since the days I was in the area.
Where before 1977 there were ugly high walls and scarred land from early stripmining operations, there are now productive hayfields, the result of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act.
West of New Athens we stopped at the Harrison Coal and Reclamation Historical Park for about an hour, walking the soggy grounds observing many pieces of small and large mining equipment.
One machine was a Marion 111-M crawler dragline, the same model my best friend's dad used in his mining operations. An old Marion 7200 walking dragline is in the process of being reassembled there.
Continuing on Route 9 toward St. Clairsville, we passed the site where the GEM of Egypt was cut up for scrap in 1991 as the surroundings became more Appalachian-like.
Trailers, ramshackle homes and collapsing/burned down old barns and former businesses are abundant.
Old stomping grounds
In St. Clairsville, it appeared the office across the street from the courthouse where I worked from September 1975 to March 1977 is vacant.
A pizza shop and Dairy Queen where I ate many times were still there, as was St. Clair Lanes and Riesbeck's supermarket (although in another location).
The Ohio Valley Mall now sets on the east side of St. C, as the locals call it. It was built a couple of years after I moved , and I covered many county commissioners' meetings at which the project was discussed.
Just 4 miles to the east of St. C is the Lancing Valley, where Major League Baseball's most successful pitching brothers -- Phil and Joe Niekro -- grew up, and nearby Bridgeport is the boyhood home of Ohio State and NBA standout John Havlicek.
We went past my old apartment, through East Richland -- where Gasber's Restaurant is still in existence -- and out along I-70 near Hendrysburg.
We sat in the car along Route 40 (the National Road) and gazed at reclaimed land in the same spot from where a cover photo on the February 1973 edition of Smithsonian magazine was taken of the GEM of Egypt at work.
Shortly after that photo was taken, the GEM was moved about 14 miles northeast to another mine site, an incredible task which took 80 days to complete.
It was eerie to compare the photo of the hill being stripped to its smoother, more pleasing condition of today.
A couple of miles west along I-70, I showed Eric where the Mountaineer crossed the interstate in 1973. I went to see the shovel two days after the much-publicized crossing.
Heading back north, I took Eric on another windy road -- Route 800 -- through Smyrna, Freeport, Tippecanoe, Stillwater and Dennison. The latter once boasted one of the busiest train yards in Ohio, a spot through which thousands of soldiers passed on their way home from World War II.
We grabbed a bite to eat in the late afternoon in my hometown of New Philadelphia before heading north on I-77 to Canton and, on Route 43 through Hartville and back to Portage County.
For me, the trip was pure Pollyanna and an eye-opener as to socio-economic differences between regions just two hours apart.
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