Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Death is a Fact of Life

Mostly Personal – Goodbye Joe

Death is Nature’s way of telling us to slow down: I received an email today from a friend and high school classmate. Clairton High School was the pride of the area in the 1950s and 60s. It was one of the only schools in the area that boasted a swimming pool. The other was Mount Lebanon, home of the Blue Devils and all the rich kids. But Clairton’s students were mostly children of blue collar workers and grandchildren of immigrants – Italians, Slavs, Irish, Russians, and a host of other ethnicities including a healthy number of African Americans. Clairton was a microcosm of what American projected as its very being – a melting pot of people living for the most part in harmony.

U.S. Steel reigned supreme: Personal taxes in Clairton were low in large part because the biggest taxpayers were United States Steel and a chemical plant whose acronym spelled PICCO. Every kid in CHS who wanted to go to college applied for a PICCO scholarship and most families had at least one who was awarded. There were at least three movie theaters and more than a dozen car dealerships in the community of 20,000. Life was good in the village along the Monongehela River.

Diversity was economic as well: Although most parents of Clairton High School students were blue collar workers in one of the nearby steel mills, rural kids were bused in from nearby Elrama and Finleyville and a trailer park in Large. Uppity kids whose parents’ were upper middle class drove their own cars to school from the hoity toity community of Pleasant Hills. Together CHS students won championships and awards and left high school for college, service, or marriage and for the most part did not return. Such was the composition of CHS in the 1950s and 60s.

Class Leadership: The CHS Class of 1960 had strong leadership. President Joe Ancrile, VEEP Jim Schultz, Stephanie Grunsky and Mary Lou Skapik were class officers. The Reunion Committee has arranged well attended class reunions every half decade for nearly 50 years. Robert White became an attorney and M.C. in residence. Class graduates included successes in all fields including parenting.

The Other Side of Life: The CHS Class of 1960 had its sad side as well. Mickey Hrvacic drowned before graduation, Connie Bindrum was killed in an auto accident, Allen Lancaster died of a debilitating disease.... all told, more than 40 classmates are gone. The most recent, according to an email I received today from Donna Lancianese Lajak, is class president Joe Ancrile. Rest in Peace, classmates. You’ve left a proud legacy.

A little blogging music Maestro... From the Clairton High School Alma Mater: “... With loyalty unfailing, And love that shall not die.”

Dr. Forgot

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