30,000 Pounds of Bananas

On paper the idea of having a giant 70-mile long yard sale through the hills and valleys of Southern Kings County is laudable: you get a whole bunch of people out and about on a nice fall day, spending a little bit of money, eating in restaurants, buying gasoline and generally giving a boot to the local economy now that the tourists, by and large, have gone home.

The only problem is that the entire operation is based on the collected unwanted mechandise of the residents of Southern Kings County. And that, friends, is not a pretty picture.

Our informal survey of the sale route, starting just outside of Hazelbrook and driving although through Wood Islands, Murray Harbour, Murray River, and then looping up through Caledonia did, however reveal a lot about what’s not hot in consumer products this year.

Hot air popcorn makers. Fondue sets. Small microwave ovens. Kitchen sinks. Stuffed Disney toys. Typewriters. Clock radios. Bread makers. VHS videotapes. Music from the 1980s on CD. And copies of everything Danielle Steel has ever had published.

There was oodles and oodles of all that.

Along with endless, endless piles of clothes, chairs without seats, dead-looking plants. And even remnants of the Phentex revolution (wherein science found a wool that was cheaper, synthetic, and felt like cardboard and entranced knitting aunts from coast to coast).

The successful yard sale is based on the “your else’s junk is someone else’s treasure” principle. And when the 70-mile yard sale started seven years ago, there may indeed have been some treasure to be found on the tables. But what was on offer today wasn’t just “the stuff that people didn’t want any more” but also “the stuff that people didn’t want any more after they spent 6 years selling the good stuff they didn’t want any more.”

There were little bits of treasure here and there — our friend G. found some resaleable old books and a couple of good door handles in Vernon Bridge; Oliver and I found a box filled with Lego, toy trucks and a headless Barbie for $3 in Wood Islands. And the sausages and perogies at Phil’s Organic Garlic were second to none. Oliver, of course, is a mostly uncritical consumer at age four: anything that’s bright and colourful and/or branded by Disney or Henson meets his approval; he had lots of fun, punctuated by a brief tantrum as it came time to leave each waystation to prepare for the next.

And the day was beautiful. The people were nice. And Southern Kings is Prince Edward Island’s undiscovered jewel (the view from Phil’s place was worth the entire trip). And maybe that’s the secret of the event: it’s not really about the stuff at all, it’s simply a good excuse to go out for a Saturday drive in one of the most beautiful places on earth, see some people you know, and scarf down a pungent sausage or two.

Comments

kat's picture
kat on June 9, 2005 - 18:37

i’m from scranton pa and trying to find historical info on runaway banana truck…any sources?

nicole's picture
nicole on July 10, 2005 - 19:55

i don’t know if i’ve ever heard weather or not that story is true….but let me tell you something i’ve lived right off of moosic st. top bottom and in the middle and believe you me i’ve seen the signs..and in the snow that is the scariest street imaginable.. screw the snow when east mountain starts to melt and then it freezes again that’s even scarier…so…if the story is true by any means he obviously had never been down big bad moosic street aday in his life because he would have know better

houston's picture
houston on October 16, 2005 - 07:04

yes the story is extremly true, I have a picture of the wreck if you want it just send me some e-mail.

AB's picture
AB on January 19, 2006 - 06:21

The story is very true. I was there. It happened in the early 60’s between 60 and 64 (can’t remember for sure), the rig came to rest at the intersection of Moosic Street (the hill) and South Irving Avenue where it hit the house on the corner.

I lived 2 blocks away and was doing homework when the crash happened. Hearing the emergency vehicles I ran out of the house to the scene. I remember that one of the officers mentioned that the driver’s foot was in a shoe on the front porch of the home.

Yes, there were bananas everywhere. 30,000 pounds? You bet.
The truck barreled through a major intersection, Moosic Street and Crown Avenue, where it missed the bus and many motorists.

Mike's picture
Mike on August 4, 2006 - 19:48

Does anyone have any information about any news stories about the accident? Did the driver live?

Audrey Kaminski's picture
Audrey Kaminski on September 7, 2006 - 05:27

Oh no, dear. The driver died quite immediately. In case you didn’t catch the bits about dismembered limbs and an 18 wheeler flipping while going about 90 mph down hill.

The driver (who might have been a Charles Howell—I’m waiting for verification) is the most heroic guy I’ve ever heard of. He was about 20, and instead of putting other people’s lives in danger, he flipped the truck to stop it. He must have known that would kill him. I’m hoping to find out where his grave is, so leave some flowers or something. Pay my respects, you know? If he’d waited a second longer, neither I nor my dad would be here.

I got interested in this case this past Sunday. Apparently, my dad was in the house next door to the one destroyed when it happened. I’m emailing the Scranton Times and other local newspapers for articles concerning the accident. Get in touch with me and I’ll keep you updated on whatever I find, if I forget to post it here.

kacie capwell's picture
kacie capwell on October 22, 2006 - 11:20

you want info about the event and the song I am his grandaughter , daughter of michele seskey capwell his second child i can be contancted at anitiadic22@yahoo.com i’ll tell you the truth !

Tiffany's picture
Tiffany on October 23, 2006 - 02:35

First, I have to say I’m so excited to hear about people who know about this event! (Kacie… you can count on an email from me! :-))

I did a report on this accident a few years ago. The Scranton Library has (or at least had at the time) the microfische or microfilm or something. If you can’t find it, let me know. I have the copies of the articles and I can scan them if you’d like (I don’t know how well they’ll come out, but it’s worth a try). The date of the paper with the story is March 19th, 1965.

Brandon's picture
Brandon on November 8, 2006 - 16:25

I would like say that the incident is definately true. My grandfather Bill Shoemaker’s car was side swiped by the truck. it tore the car in half with my grandmother holding my mother who was only a month old and sent her flying out of the car and was buried under the bananas. Luckily a nurse heard her crying and found her. my grandfather recieved 100 stitches in his head and a few broken bones, my grandmother also had to get 30 stitches but my mother didnt even get scratched. to this day my grandmother will not drive down this street.

Peggy's picture
Peggy on December 10, 2006 - 20:45

Does nayone know where you can find the newspaper clipping of the story? I have the pic but am looking for the newspaper story. you can email it to me. thank you

Sam's picture
Sam on December 28, 2006 - 20:48

On March 18, 1965, on Moosic Street in Scranton, a tractor-trailer carrying 15 tons of bananas bound for the A&P lost control in rush hour traffic, hitting cars, houses, and wire poles before crashing into a home. The driver, Eugene P. Sesky (35), was killed and over 15 people were injured.

In 1974, singer/songwriter Harry Chapin (also famous for his classic song “Cat’s in the Cradle,” who would himself die in a crash in 1981) immortalized both the tragic events of 1965 and the city of Scranton in his song “30,000 Pound of Bananas.”

The lyrics to the song are on Harry Chapin’s website. The song was originally released on Chapin’s 1974 album Verities & Balderdash and was subsequently released on most of his live CDs thereafter (it appears to have been a favorite of Chapin’s to perform in concert).

Our Local History collection in the Reference Department includes a newspaper clippings file on “30,000 Pounds of Bananas,” including photocopies of the original Scranton newspaper articles from the crash in 1965. These articles can also be reproduced from the microfilm of the Scranton newspapers.

Tom's picture
Tom on January 1, 2007 - 14:29

Although this would only be to view, I recall seeing the front page of a newspaper describing this incident amongst the various trivia hanging on the wall at Coopers Seafood Restaurant in Scranton. Enter through the original entrance, turn right, about 10 feet down the hallway.

kacie capwell's picture
kacie capwell on February 11, 2007 - 08:36

yes the story is very ture and his name was eugene seskey and he was 32

he was my grandfather
if you need anymore info
contact me at anitiadic22@yahoo.com

thanks
kacie

kacie capwell's picture
kacie capwell on February 11, 2007 - 08:51

hi tiffany
i didnt get an e mail sorry my pc hasn’t been working but it is ok now i would love to see anyinfo that you have also
keep in touch
kacie

Greg Papadatos's picture
Greg Papadatos on March 30, 2007 - 16:44

I’m interested in seeing the newspaper clippings, if they’re available online anywhere.

I’ve also send an e-mail to Kacie Capwell, asking her to tell me the details of the story. I hope she replies.

Reminds me of the story of a 19th Century American train man named John Luther Jones…

brian's picture
brian on April 10, 2007 - 23:39

I remember hearing Chapin’s song about it. I thought it was awful to make money from a tragedy like this. Every time I hear his voice on the radio I turn it off immediately. I wonder how his wife at such a young age survived with a child and no husband. She must have been a very strong woman.

Jamie's picture
Jamie on May 4, 2007 - 19:06

This is a very true story. I know because my parents James and Diane Shoemaker were both in the accident along with my uncle William Shoemaker and Leslie Shoemaker. My mom was pregnant with my oldest siter Linda at the time of the accident. My dad sustained injuries to his face and my mom to one of her legs. They dont talk about the accident at all. My dad especially. My sister was fine and my mom had no problems as far as that is concerned. My dad always listens to Harry Chapin and i think 30000lbs of bananas is his favorite. I would really like some articles, pictures or info if anyone has it. My email is jlb14318510@yahoo.com

mft's picture
mft on July 20, 2007 - 13:40

My kids love this song. I think it’s better to sing about a tragedy and thereby try to make sense of it than just ignore it. That’s how all good protest songs are made, and remind people of positive values to emulate, such as self sacrifice. The awareness justifies the income from the song.

I guess those who thought it was offensive probably thought that the Illiad was an inappropriate way to make money off the Trojan war, too.

ZELL's picture
ZELL on August 15, 2007 - 16:47

I met a man from Scranton, who happened to live on that same street in Scranton where the incident happened. He claimed that the banana accident was not the only one that happened on the hill. He said there was also an incident with potatoes, and something else (I can’t quite remember). Can anyone verify if this is true?

And I do not believe that Harry Chapin’s song was offensive. I think of it as a simple reminder that someone died for the people of Scranton and that we should be grateful they’re alive.

Thank the Lord for Eugene Seskey.

Travis Finley's picture
Travis Finley on August 24, 2007 - 15:39

I grew up listening to this song and loved its memoriam. That, too, of “The Wreck of the Ed. Fitzgerald.” I now drive truck up and down I-80 and whenever this song comes on I am reminded of the importance of watching for signs.

Lucy Edwards's picture
Lucy Edwards on September 7, 2007 - 21:12

to those of you who believe that it is wrong to make money off tragedy and do not like Harry Chapin because of that song, I want to inform you that Harry was a philanthropist and ever since he started a foundation called World Hunger Year back in the late 70’s , half of his profits went to charity. Every other concert, every other ticket sale, every other dollar of a commission went to his charities.
He was awarded a gold medal of honor posthumously …. and many talented and famous musicians paid tribute to his honor. I understand that Harry was always nagging at them to do the same.
There are several websites that you can google.
One of the best that i found has several links attached. Check it out at www.harrychapin.com
or visit his familys website. his brothers still perform.

Lucy Edwards's picture
Lucy Edwards on September 8, 2007 - 00:20

ooops the website is www.harrychapinmusic.com
sorry.

Let me add my recollections of that day.

I was a 7th grade student at Nativity Grade School when the accident occurred. I was amazed to see the destruction below the accident site. I can confirm we were playing games with green bannas for at least a week.

I always found it intresting that my pals (and many others) always claimed to have been there at the time of the wreck, had seen the truck on the way down the hill, performed some heroic act to save bystanders, had nearly died as the truck wizzed by or had found gruesome parts in the bushes. Truth is most of us were eating dinner….but it made a great story!

Roger's picture
Roger on September 25, 2007 - 19:44

I would love to get a copy of the newspaper from that day … or a photo.
Anyone know where I could find one?

Edward J. Strausbaugh's picture
Edward J. Strau... on March 29, 2008 - 03:31

Does anyone know the Scranton Times’ website? I would like to email them and have them email me all of the articles and photos of the banana accident of that day. My email addr. is hymielipschutz00@yahoo.com. I used to be in Friendship House on Derby Ave. in the early 60’s, leaving there in early ‘63, and visit Scranton quite frequently, except that I haven’t been there for roughly the past five years, but I would have loved to have been there on that day just to have seen all this. Gosh!! Thank you, everyone, and I hope to hear from someone really soon.

T's picture
T on May 18, 2008 - 06:55

The Scranton Times will not help you to fidn any info via internet. You can go to their Main Building on the Corner of Spruce and Penn, but they’ll charge a fee. Your best bet is to visit the public library and ask to see the Microfilm of the Times from March 19th, 1965. They will help you and they have a special machine that can print it.

donna's picture
donna on June 18, 2008 - 22:51

i would like to have any information about this accident i wasnt born then but i remember my grandfather had told me for years later he wouldn’t eat bananas he just couldn’t believe that it happened he was friends of the man in the accident but sadly all the news paper clippings he had got lost and i have been looking for something ever since i lost my grandfather in 1987 and noone in my family will tell me anything about this story except what my grandfather always told us so any information would really help me out i love the song and have the words but the story would really help me to get closure about my grandfather thank you and email me anything you might have

Courtney's picture
Courtney on February 3, 2009 - 17:24

i heard about the accident in my science class because we were learning about inertia.. and i just found it interesting to learn more about it. so if anyone has any information just send it to my email…that would be wonderful
Thanks,
Courtney
country_chicka1992@yahoo.com

Thomas F Miller's picture
Thomas F Miller on July 6, 2009 - 21:48

Hi, I first heard this story via the song back in 1984 when I was about 10 and living in Scranton where I was born, about six years ago I met with the son of the driver in hopes of making a movie about his fathers story, since then I have graduated from film school and completed about half of the script. I would like to meet with Eugene or other family members about this script. I live in Philadelphia now but will be in Scranton next week to visit family, any help on this would be great. I can be reached at dontcallmefrancis@hotmail.com.

j.j.'s picture
j.j. on August 19, 2011 - 23:33

i my mind i belive mr. seski had an air pressure problem due to a broken air line or blown up air compressor. with no air pressure no brakes period. back in those days there wasn’t any emergency spring brakes (maxi brakes) to help slow down the truck and trailer.i didn’t read anywhere that his brakes were on fire as he came down off of the grade. surly someone would have seen if they were and it would have been reported. was there any kind of an investigation reported afterwards or was it just blown off as driver error. i don’t belive that it was driver error. to show the kind of man and driver mr. seski was he tried everything he could to slow that old brockway down, scraping against trees and poles just trying to stop it. he could have bailed out of that runaway as soon as he knew he had a problem but chose to ride it out. who knows how much worse things could have been if he jumped. he was the old school of driving. i know. i’ve been in a tractor trailer for the last 41 years. may you rest in peace mr. gene seski and may god bless your family.

bobby's picture
bobby on September 6, 2011 - 19:04

does any body know the make and model of the tractor trailer mr sesky drove when he wrecked?

j.j.'s picture
j.j. on September 17, 2011 - 16:02

a brockway. model 257 i belive.

Linda paone's picture
Linda paone on September 30, 2011 - 20:55

You indicated on this website that you have a photo from an old acccident involving a banana truck in Scranton. My parents were involved in the accident and it would be interesting to see a photo.

j.j.'s picture
j.j. on October 2, 2011 - 22:30

did you get a pic. yet linda?

Frank Cerynik's picture
Frank Cerynik on December 28, 2011 - 15:24

I was there along with many other people as school was out and everyone was headed home. Almost 50 years later the horror of the scene is still in my mind. Yes, the poor driver was torn to pieces. I won’t go into details of what I saw but will say it was bad. I don’t think you could make up a worse scene.

Barb Mattes's picture
Barb Mattes on August 5, 2012 - 19:14

If you have pictures I would love to see them. I was 12 years old, live 12 blocks away, and remembering seeing this horrific event, and remember seeing an arm in the road.

Years later I met, and became a friend of Harry Chapin, and told him of my encouter. Today,I’m listening to Harry’s songs, and just wondering more about this day.

I would love to pictures.

thanks.
Barb

John Pasko's picture
John Pasko on August 12, 2012 - 19:34

Driver’ s name was Gene Sesky of Scranton, Pa. He was returning from the piers in Weehawken, NJ where he had picked up the bananas. He was driving a truck owned by his boss Fred Carpentier, also of Scranton. The comments by jj are likely accurate; this was a long downgrade with no runaway truck ramp and the semi-trucks of that type used in those days had no backup systems on their brakes. I remember the wreck. “Been there…done that”.

Carolyn shay's picture
Carolyn shay on February 19, 2016 - 21:00

I bought the house that GeneSesky lived in when the accident happened... I heard about the accident a few months after I moved in. I went to the library got copies of the accident... I'm looking for a record or cd.of the song 30 thousands lbs of bananas .. I want to put them in a frame and put them on the wall.if any one can tell me where I can get the cd or record please let me know ..

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