GNA helps students connect to their local history

Pictured from left to right: Kamea Paresa, Xavier Skillens, and Alycia Knorr.

According to the Poudre Landmarks Foundation, “local history matters because a city is not a community without an understanding of its past. The traditions, stories, and civic commemorations transform a city into a community. Telling these stories and continuing these local traditions help strengthen community connections.” 

At the Greater Nanticoke Area School District, students, teachers, staff, and administrators have come up with a unique and interactive way to connect students to their local history. The district has collaborated with the City of Nanticoke, particularly the Nanticoke Historical Society, to set up a display case in the main hallway of the high school. GNA Law Studies teacher, James Litchofski, and Principal, Amy Scibek, reached out to Chet Zaremba of the Nanticoke Historical Society to create the exhibit. Over the past several years, the historical display case has evolved into a rotating display of the people, places, and things that have shaped our local community. 

According to James Litchofski, the purpose of these display cases is “to emphasize the importance of our local history,” and to “show how history teaches students about their community.” Locations and objects in each community, sometimes things as common as names of pizza places, can reflect the long heritage of past generations where students live. Studying local history offers answers to questions and dilemmas by examining how the past has shaped and continues to shape, local relationships between societies and people. This overview of Nanticoke helps to give current generations an insight into the history and form of the city in the past, as well as to connect students with their community.

In its most recent display, Law Studies teacher, James Litchkofski, and math teacher, Barb Warman, worked together with National Honor Society students Cassidy McDonald, Addie Bugdonovitch, Jake Middleton, and Sarah Vick to create a display representing the history of Nanticoke.

Pictured from left to right: Jake Middleton, Cassidy McDonald, Sarah Vick, and Addie Bugdonovitch.

The project was named “Nanticoke by the Numbers” and presented a timeline of important historical facts about the city. The display case contains several pictures and artifacts of Nanticoke throughout the 1900s. The timeline showcases photos of miners throughout the 1900s and includes a list of facts about those who worked in the mines. Nanticoke was known to be a major coal-mining center, so presenting this information allows students to get a better understanding of the significant effect coal mining had on the city.

The timeline also incorporated important businesses that still run today, such as Sanitary Bakery. The bakery opened back in 1920, making it 100 years old and one of the oldest bakeries in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Along with the bakery, Nanticoke is known for the multiple pizza restaurants that are located in the township. Throughout the city, there are nine pizza places that can be found, allowing local residents to order pizza as they please, as they have been for decades.

Maps of the city, as well as an aerial view, are also displayed in the case. The photo of the aerial view of Nanticoke happened to be taken in 1960. Looking at Nanticoke from afar gives students a different perspective of the small town, and shows its growth over the decades.

Previous historical display cases held various artifacts of yesteryear offering a glimpse into the rich past of the community. Here is a list of some themes put on display throughout the project: 


Trollies and Trains – During the holidays, the GNA community had the opportunity to look back at Nanticoke in the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s. Nanticoke was a booming city with trollies running throughout the city.

Photo by: Alycia Knorr


Veterans of Nanticoke – For Veteran’s Day, GNA honored local Veterans by displaying memorabilia from World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. Featured were papers, flags, uniforms, and other artifacts from the respective wars. 

Photo by: Alycia Knorr

Athlete, Educator, Coach – A Memorial to Dan Distasio – In honor of the new scoreboard unveiled at the football stadium, GNA dedicated the display case to legendary teacher and coach, Dan Distasio. Many know the name, but students got a detailed look at his accomplishments and dedication to GNA. Along with his achievements, students were also able to view retro football jerseys and helmets from the Dan Distasio years. 

Photo by: Alycia Knorr

A look back at Nanticoke State Hospital – Some might remember the Nanticoke State General Hospital. Nanticoke State General Hospital opened in 1909 and closed in 1990.  Even though it is vacant, the hospital still stands in Nanticoke today. This display was dedicated to all of the doctors and nurses of the past who worked there. 

Courtesy of the Nanticoke Historical Society

Nanticoke Football, “Before there were Trojans” – GNA dedicated the display case to Nanticoke, Newport, and Harter High School’s football teams. Featuring a team photo from 1906, other items included a program from the Nanticoke vs. Newport game, trophies, a jersey, a letterman’s jacket, and various other football-related memorabilia. The original Lincoln Stadium sign was on display. Finally, the display showcased the NFL connection, picturing the four players from Nanticoke who played in the National Football league.  

Courtesy of the Nanticoke Historical Society

Hometown Heroes – GNA honored various Veterans including the principal of the Educational Center, Mr. Ronald Bruza, who graciously donated some photos and items from his time serving our country. Alongside Mr. Bruza, a grandfather and granddaughter had their uniforms on display. SGT Margaret Rose Haydock is a GNA graduate who served in Operation Enduring Freedom. Her grandfather was CPL John Haydock, a World War II veteran. Along with SGT Haydock, Nanticoke graduate, Dave Warren, had his uniform on display. He enlisted in 2009 and is still actively serving to this day.

Courtesy of the Nanticoke Historical Society

Map Out the Town – Many might wonder what Nanticoke used to look like. This display case gave students a chance to view various old maps and photos throughout the local area. Students were able to observe the layout of the local coal mines that defined our town. The opening of the original four coal breakers – Loomis, Bliss, Auchincloss, and Truesdale – brought jobs and life to the small town of Nanticoke.

Courtesy of the Nanticoke Historical Society

John F. Kennedy in Nanticoke – How many people knew that President John F. Kennedy came to Nanticoke on October 28th, 1960? Photos of President Kennedy’s parade route, household items with the President and First Lady painted on them, and biographies and memoirs were on display. Also showcased were a Kennedy doll, campaign posters, and mementos of his historical visit to Nanticoke, PA. 

Courtesy of the Nanticoke Historical Society

Nanticoke’s Baseball Legends – Did you know that Nanticoke produced two major league baseball players? This display case featured highlights from the careers of Steve Bilko and Pete Gray. Bilko holds the record in the Pacific Coast League for the most home runs in one season. He was voted into their Hall of Fame in 2003. He signed with the St. Louis Cardinals shortly after World War II. Bilko wore jerseys for the St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Angels, LA Dodgers, and Chicago Cubs. He played from 1949 to 1962 with a career batting average of .249 with 432 hits in 482 games. Pete Gray was the first one-armed baseball player in the Major League. He played for the Memphis Chicks and was voted the most valuable player in the Southern Association. He played 77 games for the St. Louis Browns with a batting average of .218 with 51 hits. He had 162 putouts and had an average of .959. Pete’s glove is in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. 

Courtesy of the Nanticoke Historical Society

A Tribute to Basketball – Nanticoke is known for having excellent men’s and women’s basketball teams. Over the years, Nanticoke has had success on the court and has boasted some of the best teams in local sports history. This display presented jerseys, trophies, and team photos from over the years. From a 1907 team photo of the boy’s basketball team to newspaper clippings of the famous 1990 Trojanettes, this case had it all. 

Courtesy of the Nanticoke Historical Society

Then and Now, Views Around the Town – This display case gave new meaning to the phrase, “Blast from the Past.” Showcased were numerous photographs of Nanticoke from years gone by. A picture looking down Main Street in 1899 was displayed.  A view from downtown Nanticoke during the 1914 Independence Day parade could be found. There was also a section dedicated to life in Nanticoke during the World War II years. Thanks to the Nanticoke Historical Society, students had the chance to see how the community has changed over the years.

Photo courtesy of the Nanticoke Historical Society

According to Amy Scibek, principal of Greater Nanticoke Area High School, the display case project is going to continue in the future. “The display case has given this generation of students the chance to see various aspects of the Nanticoke community.” As a result of the connection made between the Greater Nanticoke Area School District and the Nanticoke Historical Society, the local history project has given current students an insight into the history of the city and connected them to their community. With the project set to continue, new students will be able to examine how the past has shaped the city they have come to know and love.