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Local family supplies coal nuggets for the naughty

By Staff | Dec 24, 2014

John, Cloyd and Michael Sones, three generations of a family who stockpile various sizes of coal including large nuggets for the naughty.

MUNCY – Knowing coal is locally available for stuffing stockings is a warning to naughty children and adults. Though it may be a little late this Christmas, the announcement is just in time to assure good behavior throughout the coming year. Parents may inform children that, yes Virginia, coal really exists.

All youngsters of a few decades ago knew of the existence of coal for they’d often witnessed its unloading from trucks, sliding down chutes into cellars. Coal being the favored fuel source at the time, other sites where itl was commonly seen were at neighborhood coal yards. Usually, one or two were located in every town. On lower Market Street in Muncy, the successor of Ed Bailey’s coal business was a Mr. Nickels. Although a resident of Muncy, the location of Ted Anderson’s yard was just south of Hughesville. In the Hughesville Borough on the corner of West Water and Railroad Streets, the last purveyor which earlier had been Reeder Lumber Company, was Harold “Sonny” Fry.

Fry’s retirement resulted in the coal supplier seeking someone to provide a local outlet. “I was approached by Don Davison, a coal salesman with Stockdon Anthracite of Hazleton. That was six years ago,” said Cloyd Sones of the S. Sones Coal Yard.

“Selling coal gives us an income during the winter months. Our road paving business is mostly confined to warm weather work. Along with son Michael, Cloyd owns and operates their original business under the name Keystone Paving and Materials.

Sharing some of what it took to get into the coal business, Michael said, “We purchased scales from Eastern Industries after the stone quarry closed at Winfield.” Almost immediately, the mechanical truck scales needed to be converted to a digital system. The Pennsylvania Department of Weights and Measures required digital printouts given to customers, which meant the recently purchased scales needed changed. “We had to jack the scales up. remove the mechanics, then replace them with the digital system.”

The Sones’ also put coal into 50 pound bags. The platform scales on which they are weighed came from Sonny Fry who had purchased them from the late Milton Hoffman of Muncy, a dealer in seed, grain, fertilizer and other agricultural items.

“Due to the price of oil, many homeowners are going back to coal. People continue to use and buy stocker stoves which require tending once daily, ” Cloyd said. The Clarkstown area native, son of the late Carl and Leona Brown Sones, recalls a room stove used in heating at his childhood home. “We had a kitchen stove and a room Heatrola. Usually fire in the kitchen stove went out over night. For kitchen use, kindling and wood were used, but often dad put in coal attempting to hold the flame overnight.” Sones told of the family cutting, hauling, stacking and re-stacking wood.

Michael is the trucker taking the 144 mile round trip with a 25-ton dump trailer to bring the coal from Hazleton back to 241 Keener Drive west of the intersection of Route 44 and Susquehanna Trail. When registering the coal portion of their business, they could not use the ‘Sones Coal Yard’ name for an earlier distant relative already used it in Bloomsburg. So, using the initial “S”, wife Sandy’s first name, it was somewhat modified to ‘S. Sones Coal Yard’.

Most sale transactions occur on Saturdays and watching customers load their purchases can be interesting. Four-wheel gravity wagons, designed to haul and dump grain, also serve to transport coal. Some buyers hitch these wagons behind horses while others hook them to pickup trucks. Bag coal can be hoisted on truck beds or swung into car trunks. The dealer offers delivery of the premium low ash anthracite said to emit ‘cozy heat.’

Wether purchasing coal for home heating or to fill stockings, it’s good to know the availability of sizes. In graduating sizes from the smallest to the largest, they are Barley, Rice, Buckwheat, Pea, Nut, Stove with Egg being the largest. For heating, Sones recommends Rice for stockers and nut for heatrolas.

For stuffing stockings, the following criteria is suggested to buyers: For those with only a few discretions, small sizes are suggested. Egg size would be for the very naughty, and for the very, very horrid, special orders for large nuggets must be placed early.