Sunday, November 18, 2007

P-A in Need of Marketing Makeover

We live about 10 miles from the Pennsylvania border, and every time we drive through Pennsylvania (or "P-A" as 100% of the locals call it) I am astonished at how freaking terrible the local names are. I mean, BAD. Consider these examples, which I've grouped into categories, for your reading pleasure:

Names that invoke the terrible industrial legacy of the down-on-its-luck, "rust belt" state:
Carbondale
Ironville
Irondale
Mechanics Grove
Mechanicsburg
Mechanicsville
Woodchoppertown

Towns with impossible-to-pronounce Welsh names:
Burgettstn
Cynwyd
Gwynedd
Tredyffrin
Uwchlan

Towns with impossible-to-pronounce and/or -spell, hard-on-the-palate (apparently) Native American names:
Connoquenessing
Conshohocken
Manayunk
Tulpehocken
Tunkannock

Names of P-A towns that are just generally ridiculous:
Butztown
Cheesetown
Gnatstown
Griesemersville
Grimesville
Grimville

These names are just one more barrier-to-entry that the struggling Pennsylvania economy does not need. What kind of business wants to set up shop in "Tredyffrin" and who wants to tell their friends they are moving to "Grimville"- is that some kind of joke? So I thought it would be brilliant if some of these little towns gave themselves a good ol' California-style image makeover by giving themselves some snappier names. California seems to know that you can make just about anything sound exotic and beautiful just by putting a "San" or, better yet, a "Santa" in front of it, right?

Turns out, I'm not the first to prescribe this for ailing P-A. Check it out: In 1953, the boroughs of Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk (GREAT names to get rid of, obviously) merged into one, and took the name of Jim Thorpe. The combined borough is now the county seat of- wait for it . . . Carbon County, of course!

Here's the crazy backstory:
Jim Thorpe was considered to be the greatest athlete of the first half of the 20th century, excelling in just about every sport and event you can think of. Although he won a boatload of medals at the 1912 Olympics, they were stripped due to allegations that he wasn't an "amateur" at the time (but really it was just about anti-Native American sentiment- did you know that Native Americans weren't US citizens until 1924? and couldn't even VOTE until 1954? WOW. Did not know that.)

Flash forward to 1953, when Jim Thorpe dies, penniless, living in a Lomita, California trailer park. At the same time, his wife hears that these two Pennsylvania towns were down on their luck and looking for a marketing gimmick. Savvy third wife strikes a deal to have his remains moved to newly-minted Jim Thorpe, PA in a snappy mausoleum and voila! A marketing campaign is launched to bring tourism to the former Mauch Chunks.

1 comment:

Carrie said...

My hometown was called Yucaipa. LOL I feel for the folks in P-A!