The First West End Walking Tour

Kubek Tour Ticket
Ticket for “Emil Kubek’s Mahanoy City” (2015).

On Sunday, November 22, 2015, the Kubek Project held the first walking tour of Emil Kubek’s Mahanoy City. Over 100 individuals participated in the event, which was led by Nick Kupensky (Yale University), included speeches and presentations by Father James Carroll, OFM (St. Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church), Erin Frey (Bucknell University), Paul Coombe and Peg Grigalonis (Mahanoy Area Historical Society), and Michael Cheslock and Gary Senavites (owners of John Žinčak Smith’s mansion), and featured musical performances by Drew Skitko (Philadelphia Opera). St. Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church hosted the introductory lecture, Ruth and Derrek Davidson opened the West End Cafe for a degustation of Lithuanian boilo, Michael Cheslock and Gary Senavites invited the attendees into their home, formerly John Žinčak Smith’s mansion, and Mary Ellen Farnsworth and a team of volunteers prepared traditional Carpatho-Rusyn cuisine for a reception in Kubek’s honor at St. Mary’s Center. Emil Kubek’s birthday cake was donated by St. Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church, the Mahanoy Area Historical Society designed the tickets for the event and provided the Lithuanian boilo, Hungarian wine, and Schuylkill County beer, and Joan Goodman at the Kaier Mansion Bed and Breakfast provided accommodation for the organizers. The Center for Sustainability and the Environment provided the programs, Carol High (Bucknell University) arranged for Bucknell students, faculty, and staff to be transported from Lewisburg to Mahanoy City on a Bucknell shuttle, and Shaunna Barnhart (Bucknell University) coordinated the generous financial support of many departments and programs at Bucknell University, including the Provost’s Office, the Comparative Humanities Program, the English Department, the Place Studies Program, the Stadler Center for Poetry, the Center for Sustainability and the Environment, the History Department, and the Geography Department. In additional to these contributions, Kupensky and Frey’s research project in the summer of 2015 was supported by an ActionResearch@Bucknell grant, and Kupensky’s fieldwork in Slovakia was supported by a travel grant from the Comparative Humanities Program. In total, Emil Kubek’s Mahanoy City was the result of over $10,000 in grants, donations, and in-kind contributions.

 The Day Begins

St. Mary's - Nick Walking Through Church - 1
Kupensky walks through St. Mary’s. Photograph by Paul Coombe (2015).
St. Mary's - Nick Speaking (from choir loft) - 1
Kupensky speaks about Kubek’s life and recites his translation of Kubek’s “My Native Land” (1916). Photograph by Drew Skitko (2015).
Drew Skitko (Philadelphia Opera) gave the first documented performance of Michal Bilansky’s adaptation of Kubek’s “My Native Land.” While Bilansky’s piece is written in four-part harmony, Skitko adapted it for a single performer.
Bilansky - My Native Land (1917)
Michal Bilansky’s adaptation of Kubek’s “My Native Land” was published in the American Rusyn Messenger on January 4, 1917. The cantor at St. Mary’s during Kubek’s first years at the parish, Bilansky’s composition was awarded second prize, which came with a $10 honorarium.
St. Mary's - Nick on Art Glass Windows (Usalis) - 1
Kupensky draws the crowd’s attention to the Marian themes in the church’s art glass windows, which are echoed in Kubek’s poem “A Mother’s Love” (1923). Photograph by David McKeown (2015).
Our Lady of Mahanoy City
The icon of “Our Lady of Mahanoy City” was installed in St. Mary’s in 1991. In the icon, Christ holds a bucket of anthracite coal as he sits on the virgin mother’s lap. Kubek also recognized the great sacrifices and struggles endured by Mahanoy City’s miners, which he dramatizes in the poem “Lullaby to a Miner’s Child” (1908).
St. Mary's - Group Photo - 1
At the conclusion of the tour of St. Mary’s, the crowd processed to the steps of the church where they posed for a group photograph. This photograph replicates a similar image from the grand reopening of St. Mary’s in November 1931 (see below). Photograph by Ron Andruscavage (2015).
St. Mary's Celebration (1931)
The original photograph of the dedication of the new church on November 27, 1931. The festivities also included a banquet honoring Kubek’s 50th year in the priesthood and his 64th birthday. In St. Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church, Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania: Its History and Its People (1991).

St. Mary’s Rectory

Rectory - Nick (from Jon) - 1
Kupensky reads from Kubek’s “Autobiography” (1938) from the porch of St. Mary’s rectory, Kubek’s home for the last nine years of his life. Photograph by Jon Hagofsky (2015).

The West End Café

West End Cafe - Nick (from Jon) - 1
Kupensky talks about Slavic drinking culture in Mahanoy City, where in 1904 there were 148 saloons for a population of 18,904. Photograph by Jon Hagofsky (2015).
West End Cafe - Nick with Crowd (from Shaunna) - 1.jpg
Kupensky recites Kubek’s “The Good Dad” (1922) on the steps of the West End Cafe, Mahanoy City’s oldest barroom. Photograph by Shaunna Barnhart (2015).
West End Cafe - Martin and Candace Kubek (from David McKeown) - 1
Martin Kubek (the great-grandson of Emil Kubek) and his wife Candace Kubek toast each other with Lithuanian boilo, a Coal Region speciality, in the West End Cafe. Photograph by David McKeown (2015).

West Railroad Street

West Railroad Street - Nick and Erin (from Shaunna) - 1.jpg
Kupensky and Erin Frey (Bucknell University) discuss the ethnic composition of Mahanoy City’s West End on West Railroad Street. Photograph by Shaunna Barnhart (2015).
West Railroad Street - Erin (from Paul) - 1
Erin Frey talks about how the words most frequently used to describe Slavs in Coal Region newspapers were “strike,” “shot,” “killed,” “murder,” and “foreign.” Photograph by Paul Coombe (2015).
West Railroad Street - Paul (from Usalis) - 1
Paul Coombe (Mahanoy Area Historical Society) shows the crowd the neighborhood on West Railroad Street that inspired Kubek’s “An Easter Gift” (1921). Photograph by David McKeown (2015).
Lumber Company - 2
Kupensky reads a passage from “An Easter Gift” in front of the Mahanoy City Lumber Company. Photograph by Shaunna Barnhart (2015).

John Žinčak Smith’s Grocery Store

Smith's Store - Nick (from Maria) - 1
Kupensky talks about the life of John Smith (born Ioann Žinčak) at the site of Smith’s former grocery store, which served as the inspiration for Kubek’s short story “Merry Christmas” (1930). Mahanoy City’s wealthiest Carpatho-Rusyn, Smith played an instrumental role in founding St. Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church (1891) and helped found and served as the first president of both the Greek Catholic Union (1892) and the Russian Brotherhood Organization (1900). Photograph by Maria Silvestri (2015).

The American Rusyn Messenger

American Rusyn Messenger - Nick (from Maria) - 1 (1)
The tour visits the former site of the American Rusyn Messenger, which for the first two years of its existence (1892-1893) was published in Mahanoy City. Founded by John Žinčak Smith as the mouthpiece of the Greek Catholic Union, the American Rusyn Messenger was led by its editor, Paul Zhatkovich, who in the years to come would publish many of Kubek’s articles, poems, and short stories in the paper. Photograph by Maria Silvestri (2015).

John Žinčak Smith’s Mansion

Smith Mansion - Nick (from Jon) - 1
Kupensky stands on the steps of John Žinčak Smith’s mansion on Mahanoy City’s East End, where Smith moved his family in 1908. Smith’s rags to riches story likely inspired Kubek’s short story “Palko Rostoka” (1922), the title character of which shares a number of characteristics with Smith. The current owners, Michael Cheslock and Gary Senavites, have lovingly restored the home to its early 20th century grandeur and maintained the Smiths’ vision of the house. Photograph by Jon Hagofsky (2015).
Smith Mansion - Peg (from Diane Andruscavage) - 1
Peg Grigalonis (Mahanoy Area Historical Society) tells the crowd about the life of John Žinčak Smith at the Smith Mansion. Photograph by Diane Andruscavage (2015).
Smith Mansion - Staircase (from Maria) - 1
Detail of the master staircase at the Smith Mansion restored by Gary Senavites. Photograph by Maria Silvestri (2015).
Smith Mansion - Baba (from Maria) - 1
Portrait of John Žinčak Smith’s mother painted by his daughter Tekla. Photograph by Maria Silvestri (2015).

Kubek’s Grave

Cemetery - Reading (from Alf) - 1
Kupensky reads “No! We Won’t Die!” (1922) at Kubek’s grave as the sun goes down. The American Rusyn Messenger published this poem on July 25, 1940 in lieu of an obituary to announce his death. The crowd, led by Drew Skitko (right), sang “Vichnaia Pamiat’ | Eternal Memory” upon the conclusion of the poem. Photograph by Alf Siewers (2015).

Reception at St. Mary’s Center

Center - Father Carroll (from Nick)
Father James Carroll (St. Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church) says grace. Photograph by Nick Kupensky (2015).
Center - Paul Speaking (from Nick)
Paul Coombe (Mahanoy Area Historical Society) greets the crowd. Coombe’s father, Bill Coombe, served as the cantor under Father Anthony Kubek, Emil’s son. Coombe’s mother, Olga Gavula, worked in St. Mary’s rectory during Kubek’s time as a priest. Photograph by Nick Kupensky (2015).
Center - Dinner (from Nick)
Drew Skitko, Kate Bewley, and Jon Hagofsky marvel at the pascha bread. The dinner began when the crowd raised a glass of Hungarian Egri Bikavér (“Bull’s Blood”) wine in Kubek’s honor. Photograph by Nick Kupensky (2015).
Center - Pascha (from Jon) - 1
Pascha bread prepared by the volunteers at St. Mary’s Center. Photograph by Jon Hagofsky (2015).
Center - Food (from Jon) - 1
Traditional Carpatho-Rusyn dishes prepared by the volunteers at St. Mary’s Center. Photograph by Jon Hagofsky (2015).
Center - Happy Birthday (from Peg) - 1
Nick Kupensky, Martin Kubek, and Drew Skitko sing “Mnohaia lita | Happy Birthday” to Emil Kubek at 6 pm (that is, 12 am in Carpathian Rus’, making it November 23rd, Kubek’s birthday). Martin Kubek blew out the candle. Photograph by Peg Grigalonis (2015).
Center - Kubek Cake (from Nick)
The Emil Kubek cake, donated by St. Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church. Photograph by Nick Kupensky (2015).
Center - Cutting of the Cake (from Paul) - 1
The cutting of the cake. Photograph by Paul Coombe (2015).
Center - Drew Close-Up (from Nick)
Drew Skitko plays Carpatho-Rusyn folksongs on the accordion. Photograph by Nick Kupensky (2015).
Center - Ja Rusyn (from Nick)
… был, єсмь и буду.

For more information about the walking tour, read John Usalis’ article “Father Kubek’s Life, Talents Celebrated in Mahanoy City” published in the Pottsville Republican Herald on November 23, 2015. See also Paul Coombe’s Emil Kubek page at the Mahanoy Area Historical Society.



One thought on “The First West End Walking Tour

  1. The Father Emil Kubek Walking Tour was WONDERFUL! What a great way to learn about the history in Mahanoy City. I loved it! A huge THANK YOU for all of the hard work put in to make the day successful.. Grace


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s