History’s their game, the future’s their aim

June 27th, 2015 1:47 am

First Posted: 7/3/2013

The Greater Pittston Historical Society was formed in 2000, and for the first 12 or so years, remained a sort of underground movement. Organizers are hoping to make that low-key approach, well, history.

Two weeks ago the society had a reorganization meeting at Savo’s Pizza, in Pittston Plaza, where they anticipated perhaps five volunteers to show up. They got almost 30.

They hope to see that same enthusiasm when they meet again on Wednesday, July 10, at 7 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus home on Main Street, Pittston.

Up to now, almost half of the home of John Dziak, founder and program coordinator of the society, is filled with items the society has accumulated. There are stacks of books, photographs, papers, manuscripts, and in Dziak’s words “truckloads of negatives” that reach to the ceiling. Dziak said his home is the society’s headquarters for now.

“Right from the beginning, this area was unique,” Dziak said about the passion that drove the formation of the society. He delights in showing old maps of the area, indicating how Pittston was destined to become a booming city, even before the coal mining era.

The society has been in contact with other historical societies over the years, “but ,” Dziak said, “the main emphasis is still on Pittston history.” The society’s mission is to preserve as much of Greater Pittston’s past as possible.

Dziak says that they plan on digitizing everything from books to photographs and creating a digital program that could be accessed at the Pittston library. He also said that bringing everything to the internet would be very expensive.

Michael Savokinas, owner of Savo’s Pizza, is the treasurer and one of the five founding members of the group.

He, along with many others, owns a vast amount of photographs that are to become digitized.

Ron Faraday is one of the newest volunteers, becoming active 10 months ago. He says this has been a good year for the 13-year-old group.

Faraday echoes the need to digitize the historical material that has been collected. “God forbid there was a fire and we lost them all,” he said. “Each picture is special to someone, and all you need to do is read the comments on our Facebook page to see that.”

The Greater Pittston Historical Society’s Facebook page was started in early June and already there are many photographs on the site.

“We are going to need a negative transfer machine at some point to digitize negative photographs,” Faraday said. “But it costs a lot.”

Faraday said that the summer of 2014 is going to be a big one for the group. Fundraisers are being planned. “A History River Excursion is going to be our main activity,” he said.

The History River Excursion will be a kayak trip down the Susquehanna River ending in Riverfront Park, Pittston.

Another goal of the society is getting local history into the classrooms.

“We have a plan, now we need a market,” said Dziak. “We need to make our format both fun and educational.”

“Educating Educators” is what Dziak calls an attempt to develop classes for students of all ages. And he said he believes that video is the strongest way to introduce Pittston history to younger generations.

Dziak said, “Local schools are hard to get into, but colleges are even harder.”

Both Dziak and Faraday said the society is in need of volunteers, particularly professionals such as writers, editors, artists, photographers, video editors, and the like.