After an hour and half of listening to stories of their town, about 12 residents of West Pittston ended the meeting with a rousing rendition of their school’s alma mater.
Bill Yeomans, who lives across from the old West Pittston High School, wants to have at least 100 alums gather on the steps of their old school and sing the alma mater. Yeomans wants WVIA-TV to film the event and use it to lead off “Our Town West Pittston,” an hour-long documentary about the town, its people and its history.
WVIA-TV is compiling its latest Our Town show on West Pittston — the second town in Luzerne County to be featured on the series and the 189th overall. It’s scheduled to air in February, 2015.
About 55 people turned out Thursday night for a “white-board” session with WVIA representatives. A list of possible stories were told that will be considered for inclusion in the documentary.
Luzerne County President Judge Tom Burke said West Pittston is a town of great character.
“We all grew up in this town during a time when pride still mattered,” Burke said. “And that screams out through its people. West Pittston’s people have always been known to have a resiliency that inspires others, especially youth.”
Burke said West Pittston people were instilled with a sense to give back, not to just their home town, but to their communities, and to carry themselves in a respectable manner in their individual walks of life.
“It’s an intangible that everyone from West Pittston has,” Burke said. “It’s something very special.”
Lou Palmeri and his lifelong best friend, Harris Cutler, told about growing up in West Pittston. As young boys, their backyards connected and they became friends at an early age and remain close today.
Cutler is Jewish and he related how West Pittston didn’t have a synagogue. He said he and Palmeri, a Catholic, would often attend services at the Race Street Presbyterian Church.
“One day I was at home playing the piano and singing a song about Jesus when my grandfather came in,” Cutler said. “He told my parents that we had to send me to Hebrew school in Wilkes-Barre.”
The room filled with laughter at the story and people commented about how friendships have lasted lifetimes and how West Pittston has always been a town of friendly neighborhoods.
Palmeri brought his debit books from his days as a Times Leader paper boy. He and Cutler delivered some 260 papers in West Pittston and Palmeri still has the records.
Stories like these are exactly what WVIA producer Lisa Mazzarella is looking to be in the documentary.
“This is why we are here tonight,” she said. “To find out what the content of your film will be; to determine what will be in your documentary.”
Mazzarella said all stories need visual coverage — photos or videos — that help tell each tale.
“Because it’s television,” Mazzarella said.
WVIA showed a brief sample film of other Our Town projects to give the residents a feel for what they are looking for and what is needed.
“What you just saw is the end,” she said. “We are at the beginning.”
Neil Prisco, WVIA promotions director, then took over the session, logging every idea offered. Here are some of the story ideas:
• The West Pittston Library, said to be the oldest in Luzerne County.
• The West Pittston School System and how it has defined the community.
• The forest of West Pittston — a 100-yard wide, one mile stretch along the Susquehanna River that gives the town a natural habitat for wildlife and a fun place to walk.
• The vulnerability of the town to flooding and how it has come back each time from devastating floods.
• The businesses — past and present — of the town, with an emphasis on the historical architecture of buildings and special sites like Blue Ribbon and Grablick’s dairies.
• The annual Cherry Blossom Festival.
• West Pittston Little League, the first to have lights installed.
• Noted athletes and graduates of West Pittston High.