The Town that Was

I felt a bit bad, looking back at my last post. Depending on how you read it, it sounds like I’m describing the devastation of the environment and community of Centralia, PA as “random stuff I just love.”

That was hardly my intention, of course. Anyway, I’ll make amends by offering this link to the website for a new feature-length documentary on Centralia that was released this year, The Town that Was. I hope to see it soon.

S.N.P.J., PA

This is the kind of random stuff I just love.

A few weeks ago I spent some time reading about Centralia, PA, a town that has dwindled to almost nothing over the past several decades due to an underground fire in a coal mine that has been burning there since the 1960s. I was just once again reading the entry on Centralia in Wikipedia, and I found this line interesting:

Centralia is now the least-populous municipality in Pennsylvania, with four fewer residents than the borough of S.N.P.J.

OK, there’s a borough (a distinction for municipalities that does not exist where I live, but basically, in other words, a “town”) in Pennsylvania called “S.N.P.J.”? I had to find out more about this. So I did.

S.N.P.J. stands for Slovenska Narodna Podporna Jednota which means “Slovene National Benefit Society.” OK, nothing wrong there (and I am trying not to think about Borat). But what’s really crazy about it is that according to the 2000 census, the municipality has a population of zero (although the borough itself claims 13 residents), which makes a little bit more sense when you understand its history:

The society applied to have their 500 acre recreation center in western Pennsylvania designated as a separate municipality in 1977. The S.N.P.J. borough was created so that the society could, among other things, get their own liquor license. North Beaver Township, Pennsylvania, the municipality in which the center was originally located, restricted the sale of alcohol on Sundays.

Wow. That’s almost as crazy as the guy I knew in California whose last name was Church, who filed paperwork with the IRS to get himself tax-exempt status. (Apparently, it worked.)

Well, the borough may be sparsely populated, but it (or at least, the organization behind it), does have its own website.