Scranton Stories Oral Histories

Photo by Byron Maldonado“Scranton Stories” is part of a community-wide project, Scranton's Story, Our Nation's Story, which explored themes of history, belonging, identity, community, and democracy. These 25 "Scranton Stories" are excerpted from the oral history interviews of 33 individuals. Each give voice to a broad array of Scranton experiences that connect our city to our nation’s ongoing story, in anticipation of the 250th anniversary of the United States.

The 33 individuals interviewed have either lived or worked in Scranton. They have strong ties to the city related to their childhood, racial or ethnic community, civic involvement, vocation, or faith group. The collection includes individuals who have long standing family ties as descendants of industrial era European immigrants as well as African Americans with local roots that date as far back as the mid-1800’s. Also highlighted are the journeys of more recent immigrants and refugees coming to the area from Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. Some have been in Scranton for generations now and some are more recent arrivals. There are teachers, civic leaders, artists, small business owners, younger and older adults, multi-generational families and more. While the project is broad, it is not meant to be an exhaustive representation of Scranton’s many facets, nor does it present a conclusive collection of Scranton stories. Rather, it builds on the many excellent public history and humanities projects that have come before it, some of which are included on this resource list.

Each excerpted interview, provided below, includes the participant relaying their "Scranton Story" - as well as their hopes for the city of Scranton and their hopes for the nation. We thank them for generously giving of their time - and for their courage and graciousness in sharing their story with all of us. Their collective stories create a video snapshot - a small part of the mosaic of who we, as Scrantonians, are at this moment in history and what we still aspire to be as citizens of our nation.

The full oral history interviews will be archived at the Weinberg Memorial Library. “Scranton Stories” was made possible with a broad group of funders, supporters, community partners, and project team and committee members, detailed at the bottom of the page. View the videos, with their full descriptions, on YouTube and access the fall 2023 exhibition program booklet with each interview description here. 

Norma Jeffries

Norma Jeffries’ father came to Scranton to work in the coal mines but was soon injured and had to seek other employment. She grew up on Kressler Court in a large family...

Bernie McGurl

Now in the fifth generation of his family living in the United States since they immigrated from Ireland before the Potato Famine, Bernie McGurl fondly recalls swimming in Roaring Brook...

Sherman Wooden

As a youth, Sherman Wooden had a harsh stutter. His military family moved from Washington D.C. to Susquehanna County, where they encountered a friendly community...

Jerry Skotleski

Jerry Skotleski’s family is embedded in Scranton's South Side; the house they moved into in the 1880’s is still in the family to this day...

Steven Raby and James

Steven Raby and James unfold an intertwined story of reentry and recovery...They see Scranton as a place for those in need of healing, a place that provides opportunities so long as one is willing to do the work necessary to realize them...

Cathy Ann Hardaway

Cathy Ann Hardaway’s parents, a Black man whose family settled here in the early 1800’s and a white woman whose Welsh immigrant family arrived in the later 1800’s, met during a time...

Chandra Sitaula Sharma and Smriti Sitaula Sharma

After being forced from their home in Bhutan into a refugee camp in Nepal, Chandra Sitaula Sharma and his family tried relentlessly to return home...

John Pivovarnick

By 10 years old and while attending Catholic school, John Pivovarnick knew that he was gay. He did not feel comfortable coming out in Scranton, so he left for California...

Keith Williams

Keith Williams is a life-long wheelchair user. Born with arthrogryposis, a grouping of conditions that cause joint stiffness, Keith’s mother fought for his inclusion in the general student population...

Kitty Jenkins Purosky and Doreen Woodyatt Fazzi

Doreen Woodyatt Fazzi first crossed paths with Kitty Jenkins Purosky when their churches merged...

Carmen Castillo

Carmen Castillo’s work with the National Book Company brought her to Scranton when she sought to escape the noise of New York where she lived after being raised in Puerto Rico...

Sr. Donna Korba, IHM

In her youth, Sister Donna Marie Korba, IHM, loved visiting the halls of the Everhart Museum, remembering fondly the natural history and art exhibits, as well as Nay Aug Park...

Bill Cockerill

As a youth, Bill Cockerill would listen to his father speak at the dinner table about the myriad union meetings he had to attend as a business agent for the Int'l Assoc. of Machinists...

Maureen Duffy

Maureen Duffy was born into a large, happy Irish Catholic family in West Scranton where her family traditions of hospitality provided life lessons about making others feel welcome...

Ushu and Prisca Mukelo

After fleeing the Democratic Republic of the Congo due to political instability and rampant violence, and after living for 12 years in a Ugandan refugee camp...

Mike Washo

Having an interest in politics from a young age, Mike Washo recalled with a bit of humor how part of Scranton’s political culture...

Farouk Abedrabbo

On an exploratory excursion from Patterson NJ, where he lived and worked, Farouk Abedrabbo fell in love with the small-town charm that proliferated across neighboring Pennsylvania...

Mary-Pat Ward and Izzy DeFlice

After losing both of her parents early, Mary-Pat Ward moved to Northeastern PA with her infant daughter, Izzy DeFlice...

Dharti Ray

After hearing of the job opportunities available in Scranton, Dharti Ray and her family moved from Florida to the Electric City, having immigrated from India...

Ann Lebowitz Monsky

Ann Lebowitz Monsky was born and raised in the Hill Section, nourished by a close-knit Jewish community amidst a multi-cultural, accepting neighborhood...

Alex Molfetas

The house in Lake Ariel that served as a getaway for his Brooklyn-based family would be the first step in Alex Molfetas’ migration to Scranton...

Lawrence Pugliese

Lawrence Pugliese is a first generation American born to parents with southern Italian heritage. His mother’s father worked in the coal mines and was killed in an accident...

Ana Monge and Jenny Gonzalez Monge

Ana Monge came to Scranton from New York - after arriving first to Los Angeles from El Salvador - to find work, and to offer a better life to her daughter, Jenny...

Ana Becerril and Maria Luna

Driven by a desire to be reunited with her mother who had come to the U.S. a couple years earlier, Ana Becerril and her brother embarked on a long and difficult journey from Mexico...

Paula Morgan-Frazier and Sonia Morgan

Sonia Morgan and Paula Morgan-Frazier were both adopted. Their father worked at Tobyhanna Army Depot; their mother was a stay-at-home mom...

Scranton Stories Trailer

This trailer video provides an overview of the Scranton Stories collection of 25 oral history videos featuring 33 local resident participants.

A Lenape Story of Forced Removal: Curtis Zunigha

The Scranton Stories oral histories are not exhaustive. Due to the realities of forced removal and cultural erasure of original Indigenous inhabitants of the Scranton area, including the Lenape, Munsee, Shawnee and Susquehannocks, the oral histories do not include an Indigenous participant. Instead, we encourage watching the November 2022 keynote lecture, “Forced Removal of the Lenape People: History and Homecoming,” delivered by Curtis Zunigha (enrolled Delaware Tribe) and co-director of Lenape Center which provides an in-depth look at the impacts of displacement and colonialism.


Scranton Stories oral history initiative is a project of The University of Scranton and these community partners: Black Scranton Project, Lackawanna County Arts & Culture Department, Lackawanna Historical Society, Lackawanna County Immigrant Inclusion Committee, NeighborworksNortheastern Pennsylvania, and the Scranton Public Library.

The oral history project is funded in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy demands wisdom. Additional support is provided by the Scranton Area Community Foundation and the Lackawanna Heritage Valley.

Interview Portrait Photography: Byron Maldonado

Interview Videography: Posture Interactive

Original Song "Life Stories”: Written by Clarence Spady, Andy "Babe" Pace, William "Wes" Weller

Interview Abstracts Thanks To: Tyler Brady

Historic Photos Courtesy of: Lackawanna Historical Society, Black Scranton Project & Interviewees

News Clippings: Times Shamrock Communications

Spanish translations by: Cesar Reyes-Mateo

Project Director: Julie Schumacher Cohen

Oral Histories Coordinator: Kimberly Crafton

Interviews Conducted by: Julie Schumacher Cohen, Kimberly Crafton, Glynis Johns, Carolyn Bonacci,      Alejandra Marroquin, Sheli Pratt-McHugh

Interviews Edited by: Julie Schumacher Cohen, Kimberly Crafton, Glynis Johns, Alejandra Marroquin

Special Thanks to “Scranton Stories” Steering Committee Members:  Carolyn Bonacci, Colleen Farry, Jenny Gonzalez Monge, Gerard Hetman, Glynis Johns, Aiala Levy Ph.D.,  Alejandra Marroquin, Maureen McGuigan, Jessica Nolan Ph.D., Kimberly Pavlick Ph.D., Sarah Piccini, Sheli Pratt-McHugh, Mary Ann Savakinus, Scott Thomas. 

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the oral history interviews do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities, The University of Scranton or its project partners. The statements and viewpoints expressed in these oral history interviews are solely those of the interviewees.

Neighborworks Northeastern Pennsylvania

Neighborworks Northeastern Pennsylvania

Lackawanna County Dept. of Arts and Culture

Lackawanna County Dept. of Arts and Culture

Lackawanna Historical Society

Lackawanna Historical Society

Lackawanna County Immigrant Inclusion Committee

Lackawanna County Immigrant Inclusion Committee

Black Scranton Project

Black Scranton Project

Scranton Area Community Foundation

Scranton Area Community Foundation

Lackawanna Heritage Valley

Lackawanna Heritage Valley