Carving out the past

June 27th, 2015 1:51 am

First Posted: 8/20/2013

Call him a small town coal miner.

Very small town.

Jim Chimento, 91, of Pittston, has been spending some of his free time over the past year carving a miniature mining work site out of wood, complete with a breaker, locomotive and even some mules.

Chimento whittled the miniature scene from his younger days working at the former Packer Coal Company in the Laflin/Plains Township area.

“I worked in the mines years and years ago,” he said. “ I patterned it after where I used to work.”

His tools were few: a knife, a drill, some sandpaper and glue, and a jig saw. And a few dry alphabet soup letters to make the sign letters.

Chimento was born in Yatesville and moved to Pine Street in Pittston when he married his wife, Julie, in 1948.

They have 5 children, Marie, John, Charles, Lucille and Julieanne; grandchildren, Vincenzo, Christina, Jamie, Elizabeth, Joseph, Julia, R.J., James and Julia; and three great-grandchildren, Andrew, Isabelle and Joseph.

Chimento worked in the coal mines in his early years, but later entered the military. He is a U.S. Navy veteran of World War II. He served in the European Theater of Operations aboard a troop ship.

After the war, he sold furniture at Barton’s on Main Street in Pittston before joining the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

He worked there for nearly 34 years, first at the Wyoming Valley interchange, then the Wilkes-Barre interchanged. He was made the senior officer at the Wyoming Valley site, where he retired.

And that’s when he had some free time. When he wasn’t on the golf course, Chimento would carve the coal items, little by little.

“I used ordinary wood I found around,” he said. “Mostly 2x4s or plywood.”

He carved the locomotive, or “lokie” as he called it, out of a piece of wood and kept adding on. Then he carved the breaker. A steam shovel. The coal carts. The rails. Drag lines.

“The coal would come out of the mines in the cars,” he said. “The cars would be moved to the breaker where the coal would be broken down into smaller pieces.”

He even painted little rocks with shiny black paint to give the appearance of coal.

“From the breaker it would come down a chute and be loaded onto train cars. And it would be ready for delivery.”

The mules, a little out of place in mining timeline, were the most fun to carve, he said.

His wife, Julie, said she couldn’t be prouder.

“He did it all by hand,” she said. “He sure has a lot of patience.”

What are his plans for the carvings?

“When I started it, there was nothing else to do,” Chimento said. “I don’t know what I’m going to do with them. Maybe a local mining museum. Or maybe give it to my grandchildren. It would be nice to keep it in the family.”