An enjoyable stop in the Poconos stirs unexpected memories of 9/11

The effects of 9/11 linger in many ways, some trivial, some profound, some that surprise. I was reminded of this recently as I drove through East Stroudsburg, in the heart of the Pennsylvania Poconos.

It was a Sunday, and Father’s Day, so when I saw a golf shop open in the picturesque village, Wife L gave the OK to stop. I wandered in and the store manager quickly engaged in conversation, telling me that his shop was closing for good in a few weeks, hence the big sales. He blamed the Internet,  and customers shopping online to avoid sales tax that his shop has to charge.

The manager, though, also told me that more than 100 customers were killed in the 9/11 bombings. They were more than names in the store database, they were regular customers who were serious golfers who drove the hour and a half from Manhattan on weekends to play the region’s many courses.

The region has since seen a population increase, a lot of folks who fled New York City out of fear of more attacks or to avoid memories that refuse to recede.

The store manager said that the new residents, by and large, aren’t golfers. Or if they are, they can’t commit five hours to play 18 holes on the weekend, not when time is so precious. The recession stung, and the weekend golfers still living in the NYC region stopped coming as regularly or sold their second homes.

The manager ticked off about seven area courses that are closed or for sale. The others are struggling.

The Crystal Street Diner is next to the Lackawanna Hotel.

The Crystal Street Diner is next to the Lackawanna Hotel.

Not sure why this resonated with me. Maybe because of the unexpected reminder of the attacks, and the ripples they still create today. Maybe because I was sorry to hear that a local shop was closing in a village that had pleasantly surprised us as we slowly drove through, eager to get off I-80 for a while.

We had first wandered into the Crystal Street Diner in the village for breakfast, and were greeted by a smiling waitresses and historic images of East Stroudsburg on the walls. The diner had recently reopened after a hiatus, and the regulars enjoying their coffees seemed happy to be back.

Breakfast at Crystal Street Diner.

Breakfast at Crystal Street Diner.

I thoroughly enjoyed my full delicious breakfast — eggs, sausage, home fries, and toast — while Wife L opted for the open-faced turkey sandwich and fries. It was a great stop that inspired us to wander around town a bit more.

I walked across the street and stepped into the much more modern Trackside Station Grill and Liquid Restaurant and Martini Bar. One of the waiters there filled me in about the sleek and modern restaurant, telling me that a train depot on the site had been badly damaged by fire and was physically moved just a couple blocks away. In fact you can see the historic structure from the bar’s windows, a terrific bow to the history of the area.

The new building now houses a sports bar and family restaurant on one side, and a high-end fine dining spot on the other. It all opened just last year. The place looked spectacular, and seemed like a perfect spot for a lunch or dinner on another trip. The waiter said that they do draw students and staff from nearby East Stroudsburg University, though it’s not a college bar by any stretch.

We later drove through the campus, and were surprised at how it was much more expansive than it appears from its main entrance. It is a sprawling place, with an interesting mix of newer and older buildings. I loved seeing a statue of a cheerleader dressed in blue that stands, cheering, of course, outside the physical education building. It was a quirky element to a handsome historic building that brought a smile to my face as I drove back toward I-80,  ready to head home to CNY while working through some disturbing 9/11 memories of my own. 

A faux cheerleader greets visitors to the phys ed building at East Stroudsburg University.

A faux cheerleader, at bottom right, greets visitors to the phys ed building at East Stroudsburg University.

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