Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Open Letter to President Obama

A partial Solution to the Budget/Economic Crisis

Dear President Obama:

I’m not as smart as many of your current appointees but I may be a little smarter than some from the previous administration. I’m just an American, grandson of four immigrants whose legacy helped build this country and whose sons and grandsons fought to protect it, bled for it, and worked to improve it.

Somehow, sometime after the Korean conflict, we seemed to have lost our way in America. A cancer began to creep into our culture. People lauded the Great Society but did not realize that with greatness comes responsibility. We began to expect things – social security was designed as a supplement but became the primary source of income for many retirees. Welfare programs designed to give people a temporary boost became the primary source of income for multiple generations. As the government began to assist people, too many started to feel entitled to the help and many churches and benevolent organizations pulled away from their responsibility to help their fellow man. We as a nation grew to be less dependent on each other and to feel less responsibility for each other. The era of responsibility continued to slide until we no longer took responsibility for our own needs.

The wealthy felt entitled to tax cuts. Businessmen felt entitled to government contracts. Suppliers of goods and services felt entitled to top dollar regardless of quality. The middle class felt entitled to rich work contracts complete with lifetime health benefits and guaranteed retirement funding. The poor felt entitled to the various forms of welfare to which they had become addicted. Everybody felt entitled. Nobody felt responsible. The recipe for financial disaster had been written and needed only time to run up huge mortgage Ponzi schemes, housing bubbles, stock market returns built on what corporations refer to as “blue sky,” and hospitals that charged hundreds of dollars for a single aspirin or other items available for pennies in a regular grocery store.

The Health care system became bloated. Doctors ceased to become physicians and became corporations who limited the time with patients according to insurance company dictates and cut corners for maximum profits. Health care became a misnomer, for only the tiniest portion of manpower and time was devoted to patient care. The vast majority was spent filling out insurance forms, meeting with drug salespeople, and taking part in outside business enterprises. The patient became the least of the concern of the medical profession, inc.

Schools which once produced students who were the envy of the world now have dropout rates that often surpass 50% and those who do complete their education rank at the bottom among graduates from so-called first-world countries. Parents sue teachers because their children are entitled to “A” grades regardless of the level at which they achieve. Teachers are pressured to have their students score at certain levels on standardized tests regardless of abilities, lest the school fail to meet “Adequate Yearly Progress.” Disruptive students are required to attend class with their peers who want to learn. Classrooms are bursting at the seams with overcrowding and budget cuts threaten to exacerbate the situation.

Much noise has been made of the billions of dollars that have been spent in support of a war that has been fought largely by the 21st century equivalent of Hessian soldiers; that is, “security forces” such as those supplied by Blackwater and other favored corporations, often with no-bid contracts and frequently with little oversight of either where money is spent or the behavior of the non-military combat security.

So here you are Mr. President. A few months into your term and so many problems dumped into your lap. You have offered plans which have been lauded by some and attacked by others. However it must be noted that those who would attack your plans do not offer viable alternatives. You have asked the public as well as some of the greatest minds in the country to offer suggestions. I cannot offer a panacea to the problems or even a plan for more than one issue at a time, so I will take a stab at how we might jump help the economy.

According to globalsecurity.org, U.S. troops are located in nearly 130 countries around the world. Some of the deployments have lasted 50 years or so. More than 150,000 American troops are posted in Germany, South Korea, and Japan. Another 25,000 or so are stationed in Italy and Britain and miscellaneous other countries for a total of about 200,000 troops in Europe and Asia and another 200,000 or so in Iraq. Our “peacetime” budget for American troops, mostly abroad, exceeds half a trillion dollars per year. In case you are unable to grasp that figure, let me write it out: 500,000,000,000.

Every troop worldwide must be fed, clothed, and housed. Local foreign economies worldwide thrive on the commerce brought to them by our troops and of course, ultimately the taxpayers. During WW-II soldiers cooked, cleaned, and were generally self sufficient. No longer. Nearly everything needed to support a large contingency of soldiers is outsourced, with contracts often going to favored companies and many times with no competitive bid required. When all contingencies are added in the half-trillion dollars spent annually increases dramatically.

According to a Heritage Foundation blurb, “Many of our installations in Germany and South Korea are remnants from a bygone era. For example, Yongsan Army Garrison in downtown Seoul was built by the colonial Japanese army long before World War II. Tank and artillery ranges where our forces train in Germany were first used by the Bavarian army more than 100 years ago. Today, these training areas are wholly inadequate to accommodate the extended reach of our current generation of weapons and the rapid pace of modern maneuver warfare.”

Many foreign bases do not support our mission and some countries are openly hostile to our troops being stationed in their country. Imagine how you would feel if Chinese or Russian troops were posted on our soil. But costs do not end with the keeping of bases on foreign soil. For those in combat, additional costs are incurred for material and arms destroyed, soldier deaths, and injuries which often require treatment for the rest of the life of the afflicted veteran.

So Mr. President, my suggestion is to start by reviewing all the antiquated policies. Your G-20 trip might be a good time to start. Just because U.S. troops “have always been there” does not mean they must always be there. We are the most powerful nation in the world, but not the only one. We must maintain a strong army on alert in the event of attack, but we are not the world’s policemen. Bring home most of our men and women from around the world. End the U.S. combat involvement in Iraq and if you must do so temporarily, keep the required number of non-combat troops in Afghanistan. Those actions alone would pay for upgrading our education system and infrastructure. Continue to rework the moribund health system, and to the persistent naysayers, who go off hourly like a cuckoo clock, ignore them.

I’ll close with a musical suggestion:

A little blogging music Maestro… “Time to Say Goodbye,” by Andrea Bocelli

Dr. Forgot

Saturday, March 28, 2009

100 Years and Counting

One Hundred Years of Clairton

Oil drums along the river: In the early 1900s the settlement along the Monongahela River that would become Clairton thrived. Most of the commerce was agrarian but several factories sprang up and faded away including a piano factory and brickyard. Once Carnegie Steel opened its plant, however, the community was destined to be a one-industry town. By 1904 City fathers decided the community needed a school and a fine three-story brick building housed the first graduating class of Clairton High School. Students would eventually outgrow the building and it would become Fifth Street Grade School. As the community grew other schools opened. Shaw Avenue in 1909; Miller Avenue in 1919; Walnut Avenue in 1920; Short Street in 1926; the new (present) high school in 1925 and the first addition to the high school, 1927.

In celebration of the fiftieth year reunion of the first CHS graduating class, the following was written by the Mifflin Township Historical Society: “Today [1957] some fifteen years later [editor’s note – after the bombing of Pearl Harbor], we have unbelievable prosperity, uninhibited youth, rock and roll, calypso, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, the paradox of the exquisitely feminine fashions of “My Fair Lady” and tight jeans and leather coats, Edsel Ford’s little car able to do 120 miles an hour, and the war babies coming to school. School buildings are gaping; harassed administrators and school boards are trying to desperately but nobly to keep pace. From Clairton there has been an exodus to township suburbs where schools are under construction, but Clairton schools are still serving [Mifflin] township children as well as those who have come to live in the town houses they vacated. In the fall our building housed 2,095 junior and senior high school students and a faculty of 80. Our class this June will probably number more than 400 graduates. If the present rate continues, by 1960 Clairton High School will have granted more than 10,000 diplomas . . . In 1907 there were four graduates.”

Today the Clairton High School includes grades 9-12 and houses about 250 students with 24 full time teachers.

The first CHS graduates: The inaugural graduating class of 1907 included Emma Briner Barrett, whose five children graduated from CHS including son Briner Barrett who graduated as CHS student body vice president in 1929 and Rose Colcord Weibel, who attended Drexel, Smith College, and Pitt, then returned to Clairton to teach the third grade. She lived in the Colcord family home on Halcomb Avenue.

Austin Cort, the only male graduate of the first CHS graduating class followed his father’s footsteps and became a physician. After a stint in the army during WW-I he returned to Clairton and resided and practiced medicine in Wilson. His wife, Caralena Goldstrohm was a teacher, president, and secretary of the School Board. The fourth member of the initial graduating class, Mary Newlin moved to Indiana after graduation where she taught school before becoming the first female elected official as Township Trustee. She completed her career in Indiana as Employment Manager and Personnel Director of Bear Brand Hosiery. For more history of the first CHS graduation class and to see a photo of the school and its first grads, go to the following website: http://www.mifflintownship.org/CLAIRTON/Schools/History1957/

One hundred years and counting: One hundred years after that first graduating class cited above, Clairton was again rife with hope for its graduates and alumni. During the Homecoming Game the school’s 100th anniversary celebration included recognition of fifteen former CHS Homecoming Queens. They were: Suzan Taylor Petersen, 1966; Mary Elizabeth Szegedy Lappa, 1967; Ruby Anderson Young, 1970; Hazel Hampton-East, 1981; Erin Pittman Koonz, 1988; Andrea Saputo Kehoe, 1989; Sherry Trimble Assenti, 1991; Jamie Devine, 1997; Carly Gimiliano, 1999; Carla Sumpter Sims, 2000; Symone Solomon, 2001; Erin Boyce, 2002; Kristy Benack, 2003; Juanita Brody, 2004; and Melissa Dawson, 2005.

Of particular note was Ruby Anderson Young who was the 1970 Homecoming Queen and the first African American chosen for that honor. Also of note was the 1966 Queen Suzan Taylor Peterson who was then principal at Pleasant Hills Middle School. The 100th anniversary celebration also included alumni band members and former Honeybears. The Honeybears were the award winning majorette baton twirling team.

Happy-go-lucky cop, judge: Armand Martin was the class clown. I remember him well because we had several classes together at Clairton Junior High School. The junior high was on the third floor of CHS and the high school occupied the bottom two floors. Armand had a great personality but like so many of us in high school we would have probably guessed wrong had we predicted what course his life would follow. He was a gifted athlete and upon graduation was drafted into the army, then became a Clairton police officer. He was also the voice of the Clairton Bears football team. After a 17-year career on the police force Armand was elected District Judge and served three terms. During his tenure as judge he ruled on more than 30,000 cases, often turning troubled youngsters onto the correct path.

Armand Martin, Vietnam era veteran, police officer who captured two bank robbers, athlete and singer was just another Clairton boy. Armand passed away Thanksgiving Day 2007 from complications related to non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

A true Ambassador of good will: CHS Class of 1955 spawned several successful grads, not the least of whom was the class president Harry J. Gilmore. He left CHS to attend Pitt then did graduate work in Russian and Eastern European Studies at Indiana University and George Washington University. As did many other Clairtonians, Harry dedicated his life to public service, as a Foreign Service officer and served as the first U. S. Ambassador to the Republic of Armenia. He also served in various capacities in the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade, Budapest, Moscow, and Ankara. Perhaps his most memorable posting was as U.S. Minister and Deputy Commandant of the American Sector in Berlin.

A brief history lesson: August 1961. During the Cold War a wall was built down the center of the city of Berlin Germany which separated communist East Germany from West Germany. It was the symbol of the Cold War and known historically simply as “The Berlin Wall.” The border crossing between East and West was known as “Checkpoint Charlie.” In a speech at the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin, broadcast June 12, 1987, on the occasion of the 750th anniversary of Berlin, President Reagan sent a challenge to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “Tear down this wall.”

CHS graduate Harry Gilmore was the highest ranking American diplomat/ Department of State official in West Berlin before and during that speech and witnessed the new era of d├ętente as the wall fell. He was also the last person to officially pass through Checkpoint Charlie. This highly decorated civil servant’s awards include the Berlin Distinguished Service Medal; the Department of the Army’s Superior Civilian Service Award and Outstanding Civilian Service Medal; and two Department of State Superior Honor Awards. Harry Gilmore, Clairton boy.

A little blogging music Maestro… Bette Middler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings.”

Dr. Forgot

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Brian's Song

Son of Pianist turns Fighter

Uncle Pete, one of many brothers: My Dad had a passel of brothers. All were born of immigrant parents during or near the First World War years. That made them all draft age when the Second World War began. The brothers scattered throughout the world, serving in most of the theaters of war. My own father served by staying home and protecting the citizens of Clairton, PA as a local policeman. All uncles returned safely and settled in their home area, save one – Uncle Pete. He fell in love with a gal from Long Island, NY and settled there. He joined his father-in-law’s business and helped grow it from one-man-show to one of the most prominent businesses on Long Island.

Father to son: Uncle Pete named his firstborn son after himself. Cousin Peter and I had lots in common – both were saddled with being juniors, thus both had a family nickname. Both were restless souls who saw opportunity outside our community, and both went on to college and careers. But there were differences as well. While my musical ability was limited to playing the radio, Cousin Peter was a most talented pianist as a youngster. Many relatives thought he would be the first virtuoso in the family, and although my pre-teen and teen years were not steeped in the evaluation of musicians, he seemed awfully talented to me. But Peter eschewed a career in music for one in business, becoming a successful businessman and having a family of his own including son Brian.

Brian also had a song to sing: Brian by all accounts was a precocious youth. A bit athletic. A great personality. A fun loving gifted guy with a strong mind. He was the envy of many and the pride of his parents. But nobody realized what a fighter Brian would become and how, in the face of adversity he would stay upbeat, positive, and a loving husband, father, son, and friend. Brian graduated from Virginia Tech, married, and had children. He had a great job as an engineer and a wonderful life but began having recurring symptoms that he could not explain. Two years ago this month he was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Brian’s own words and those of his wife capture his journey much more effectively than can I. Thus, I will excerpt from Brian’s Journal. For further information about the disease or how you can help, see the following web site: http://www.alsa.org/als/what.cfm

Excerpts from Brian’s blog: “I have been diagnosed with ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. My hope is to educate myself and anyone else interested along the way through many different vehicles. This “journal” is, I hope, a start. It is also to give me a way to convey what’s going on physically, emotionally and familially.

“Around the first of the year, I started noticing that my right hand was very stiff and was behaving oddly. I think it started with the computer mouse. It felt like I couldn’t move my right index finger and my right middle finger independently. Everyone who has ever operated a mouse knows that will drive you nuts as I was constantly right- and left- clicking at the same time, which again as most people will know, slows things down considerably. It then started going from stiffness to weakness. Things like gripping a pen or opening an unopened bottle of water were starting to become difficult. The worst thing was turning the key in the ignition of Jameela’s car. My car was, and continues to be, fine, but I’d have to reach over with my left hand to start her car.”

(Brian’s work and life centered on the computer so initial diagnoses suggested the possibility of carpal tunnel syndrome. Further tests were administered which diagnosed the ALS as the probable issue. An excerpt reflects Brian’s outlook on life.)

“I was accused today of being “oddly positive,” something that I know was meant with the greatest and most loving of intentions. And I kinda like that term. What better way to go through anything than with an attitude that is all things positive, even at those toughest and oddest of times. I’m sure there will be bumps on Oddly Positive Street, but it’s one that I’m going to plan to move to and hope to see many neighbors there with me... Thankfully ALS does not attack mental capacities so I will continue to work.... From what I have learned, there is no one true test for ALS. The diagnosis is made by putting all the various pieces of the puzzle together and ruling out other possible diagnoses and that is just what the neurologist did. At this point, it remains only my hands and arms that are weak. So far, there are no signs that it has progressed to the legs or face or beyond. From what I can deduce, the fact that it started in the hands and not closer to the core, means that it will progress a little more slowly..

“Today is the day we circle the wagons and start fighting. Rest assured that I am not in the middle of the circle with everyone surrounding, protecting and fighting around me, but at the 12:00 high noon position leading the fight. I couldn’t ask for better people to be in this with me. I know this will be tough, but no one is luckier than I am....”

(Brian tells what ALS ISN’T)

“Yes, ALS is a terrible disease and who knows where it will take us, but here’s what it isn’t:
*It isn’t painful;
*It isn’t numbing;
*It isn’t immediately physically disabling;
*It isn’t mentally incapacitating;
*It isn’t unknown to the research community; and
*It isn’t short on support groups.

“Sunday were my first “why me?” and “why us?” moments. They were bound to happen eventually, it’s not like they were unexpected. But they are not fun thoughts to have. Must be the engineer in me who needs answers and there just doesn’t seem to be an answer to that question. I’m not sure what’s more frustrating, the disease or the lack of an answer to the “why me?” question. I know I can’t dwell on it, and I won’t, but you can’t help but let it creep in once and a while.

One final ironic story. We’re at dinner tonight and I notice Jameela’s t-shirt. Turns out it’s from a fundraiser walk for ALS from a number of years ago up in Philadelphia. If I remember correctly, my father played in a tournament sponsored by Curt Schilling (see a few updates ago) and came home with a few t-shirts for us. There’s Jameela wearing it unknowingly tonight. Pretty ironic, isn’t it. She hasn’t worn it in years.

Fast forward two years. Brian is still courageous and family and friends are still fighting alongside him. The family is preparing for the “Walk to Defeat ALS.” Quoting from last week’s blog:

“Hey Everyone,

The 2009 Upstate Walk to Defeat ALS is a mere 6 weeks away. Brian's Blarney Blokes is off to a good start with 13 team members, BUT WE NEED YOU. Last year we pushed the 100 people number. Help us hit that again. There will be a potluck bar-b-que the evening before for all team members.

Or, if you are so inclined, why not create your own team. Get folks from work, school, church, the gym, anywhere, and give the Blokes a run for their money when it comes to having the biggest team or raising the most money. You and your team just might be invited to the BBQ as well.

To join the Blokes, go to http://web.alsa.org/site/TR?sid=4321&type=fr_informational&pg=informational&fr_id=5839
and follow the links to register. That same link will take you through setting up your own team as well. Or, if you'd like to support any one of the Blokes who are already signed up, there is a link for that to. Just go to http://web.alsa.org/site/TR/Walks/SouthCarolinaWalk?team_id=113130&pg=team&fr_id=5839
and choose the walker you wish to support. I sincerely hope you'll consider doing one or the other.



We encourage everybody who reads this blog to support Brian and to support the Walk to Defeat ALS.

A little blogging music Maestro… “Hero, Through the Rain, Can't Take That Away, and Fly Like A Bird” all by Mariah Carey

Dr. Forgot

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Of Hometowns, Politics, and Basketball

A Weekend Wasted isn’t a Wasted Weekend

Clairton Bits of Tid: We have written about our hometown in the past, mostly about the heyday of the 1950s when the steel mills paid hefty property taxes which in turn allowed the community to thrive and prosper and pretend they were uppity, although they knew they were humble. Then as every boom turns to bust so did the steel making industry in the U.S. With the property taxes from the mill no longer a source of income personal property taxes were unable to fill the gap. Civil services were sliced and diced until at one point Clairton could not even maintain its own police force and the county assumed those duties. The brain trust that left to attend college settled elsewhere in jobs nad professions not sustainable in Clairton. The City withered.

Some chose to stay and fight: Many second, third, and even fourth generation Clairtonians stood valiantly against the coming times as business closed and population dwindled. But the pride of the Clairton Bears and its athletic teams continued to fight on as though the ghost of Ken Stilley, Jim Kelly, Andy Berchock, Judge Dickson, and the many other football stars cheered them on. The team overcame odds as CHS repeatedly whipped opponents whose schools were larger. Their economy might be dying but their hearts are strong. But that damn economy!

Few bad mortgages here: As the housing bubble burst in other parts of the country, toxic mortgage loans in Clairton were nearly nonexistent for their values had sunk to prices considerably less than the price of a new car years earlier. My good friend and former CHS classmate Dr. Ron recently sent me a newspaper clipping that summarized housing values in Clairton and surrounding communities. In 2007 Elizabeth Borough and Glassport, just across the river from Clairton the median price for homes were $ 54,000 and $ 38,000 respectively, while the mean price of a home in Clairton was $ 19,000. In 2008 Elizabeth Borough median housing price rose to $ 58,000 while Clairton’s median price dropped to $ 16,500, or 25% less than a used Honda. With housing at such levels, and some beautiful, well kept homes in Clairton, I would not be surprised for a renaissance in housing as the economy grows.

Ah, March Madness: This was a near-perfect weekend. Plenty of good college basketball filled the television screen. We celebrated my goddaughter’s fortieth birthday, a good friend’s sixtieth, and a neighbor’s eightieth. Most of those near and dear to my heart have employment, and college basketball dominated the weekend. Of course all my teams did not win thus I didn’t win any pools, but the weather was nice. And, oh yes, my federal income taxes have been filed. My 401K sucks. Probably should have invested my money in a Ponzi scheme. But life is good overall. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Wrath of Basketball Gods: March Madness is a phrase that probably very few jocks or basketball fans know is borrowed from the Bard. That’s Shakespeare’s Hamlet for those of you who were absent that day. Not to be confused with his Julius Caesar who was told to “Beware of the Ides of March.” That refers to March 15, 44 B.C. the date Caesar was murdered. So Sunday was the 2,053nd anniversary of his death. But for fans today is the last day for amateur bracketologists to try to figure out which teams will advance to the NCAA Big Dance. As usual the cigar-chewing fat and pompous cats from the NCAA loaded up on conference favorites – as many as 7 per, and largely ignored those who happen to be out of the Eastern Standard time slot. Also, with all the talk about saving money and energy by keeping teams close to their home campus.... not so much.

Need some new material: The past eight years have been heaven for talk show hosts, pundits, and others that make fun of politicians. One of the lines about former President Bush was that he received a memo that 2 Brazilian soldiers were injured in a skirmish. His response was, “How many is a Brazillion?” Well, the never-ending circulation of opposition emails by the Bushies has taken a page from that spoof and decided to attribute it to President Obama. The joke was that Obama didn’t know the difference between a trillion and a Brazilian. It had something to do with the bailout but the joke fell flat. Let’s face it; Democrats are better at partying, joking and having a good time and Republicans are better at being corporate. When they try to invade each others territory neither does it well.

Material for the Republican jokesters: Ok, let me try to help the Republicans out: AIG was able to justify the $ 165 million in bonuses because they just made $ 170 billion – in bailout money. Iowa Senator suggested AIG execs should follow the Japanese model and either resign and apologize or commit hara-kiri (suicide). Fellow Republicans thought he’d given them too many choices. AIG promised to use some of the bailout money for a public works project. They plan to build a big toilet to flush the rest of the money down. After several setbacks for Cabinet appointments, Obama is going for a safe bet to head the Food and Drug Administration; Rush Limbaugh. The hardcore Southern Conservative Republicans are said to be searching their grandfather’s trunks for confederate money. There is talk that the cost of books in the George W. Bush library could exceed $ 30.President Bush has made the transition to ranch smoothly but Dick Cheney is having a hard time not being president any longer. AIG is changing its name to AICG fos “All I can Get.” Nancy Pelosi and J. Edgar Hoover wear the same style of dress. America now has its first minority president and first vice president with hair plugs.

Before today’s curtain drops: I have a friend who boasts that he was living with a cute girl for several months – until she realized he was there. Reader Sandra admits she has a short fuse. She wonders if you choke a smurf, what color will it become? Then there was my friend Pete who was such a sadist he refused to beat a masochist. Ok, ok, that’s enough for today.

A little blogging music Maestro... “Basketball Jones,” featuring Tyrone Shoelaces.

Dr. Forgot

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Boy's Memories

Kennywood’s Open

A small departure: In response to several comments about Clairton nostalgia I’m going to try something different. I’ve got several projects open including a semi-autobiographical novel about a boy growing up in Clairton in the late 50s. The post that follows is an excerpt from that work in progress. It comes from the chapter entitled “Kennywood’s Open:”

When I was a kid there was a poster on my teacher’s wall. It showed a boy flying a kite and in block letters it said, “March is Kite-Flying Time.” But to me March is something else – boring. Seems like a century since we got out for Christmas. Seems like two centuries till we’ll get out for summer. Boring, boring, boring. Mrs. Massara gave me an INC on my arithmetic homework because I forgot to put in the decimal points. Mr. Balta said if I don’t get the paper in by Friday he’s going to call my parents. I hate it when they do that. Just because he knows my parents he doesn’t have to squeal on me for every little thing.

Alan Ambrose can drive his father’s car. It is a ’53 Ford and the steering wheel has a pendant on the middle post with gold writing that says, “50 Years of Excellence – Ford Motor Company.” He gets to drive it in the field out past the cemetery. Bobby Brundage’s Dad got a ’54 white Merc convertible that he says will be his when he learns how to drive. They park it in the alley between Waddell and St. Clair behind the Chevy dealership. I walk home from school that way now every day just so I can get a look at it. Sam Lauderbaugh and Don Chiapetta’s Dad’s both have Chryslers. They get to drive them sometimes too. Sam’s Dad’s is a blue and white ‘55 convertible – a really sharp car. Don’s Dad’s is new and has a record player in it. Wow. It only plays 78s but I’ll bet that in a few years every car in America will come with a record player.

Oh, oh, Miss Opacic is giving me “the look.” I’ll pretend I’m trying to figure out the answer and hope she doesn’t call on me because I don’t have a clue what she’s been talking about. Oh, good. She’s looking at Alex now. If she asks a question one of the girls will raise their hands to answer it. Probably Rosalyn. She’s really smart. I can’t wait for the bell to ring. Pretty soon it will be one day closer to Kennywood Picnic day.

Kennywood is really famous. Whenever a guy walks out of the Boy’s Room and forgets to zip up his fly we yell, “Kennywood’s open!” My best buddy Jay says there’s a place in Gill Hall they call “Little Kennywood.” It is a small meadow next to a creek where the big kids go to park. He says they call it Little Kennywood because the guys who park there get a free ride. The real Kennywood is over by Munhall. We call it Mudhole when we play them in football, but the name is really Munhall.

Some years we would all go to Kennywood as a family. My Dad would park in the lot then we’d have to walk through the tunnel to get into the park. The first stop was always in the grove to get a good picnic table where we’d set down our picnic basket then go on the rides. I hated that I had to go with my sisters. All they wanted to do is ride the Merry-Go-Round and the rowboats and stuff. Nothing scary. They might as well have just gone to Kiddieland and stayed there for all the fun they had. I liked the bumper cars and the Jack Rabbit. After a while we’d go to the picnic table for lunch. I always wondered how everybody knew whose basket was whose and nobody ever bothered one that didn’t belong to them. Food always tastes better at a picnic.

The Best Day of the Year: This year we took the train to Kennywood. My buddy Jay came to my house. His parents drove him in their blue ’53 Plymouth. Jay said his Dad was going to teach him how to drive it. Then they drove us down to the bottom of St. Clair Ave. to catch the train. I don’t remember riding a real train before but this was fun. It was filled with kids and we had a great time. I think the guy who worked on the train was somebody’s grandpa because when we did crazy stuff like pretending to pop out our eyeballs or put Johnny Porzio up where the luggage was supposed to ride, he didn’t get mad at us or anything. He just shook his head and said, “Kids!”

As we pulled out of the Clairton station, probably none of us realized but that was the very spot that many of our grandparents and even some of our parents saw Clairton for the first time. They rode the rails into Clairton from Ellis Island. For some of them it might have been their first train ride too – coming to a place where the people spoke a different language and one that held hope for their future and the future of their offspring. But for us the rails were an adventure. We rolled along side the Monongahela River through Wilson, and could see Glassport across the river. Most of us weren’t looking at the sites as we passed Bud’s Red Hots and followed Route 837 toward the McKeesport Bridge. We couldn’t see Paule’s Lookout from the train either, although it would be where many of us would have a romantic dinner when we got older.

Finally the train pulled to a stop and what seemed like thousands of kids scrambled off and up the steep hill that seemed to go on for miles, especially when trying to run up it to be among the first to enter through the back entrance of the park. Jay and I were among the first into the park. He had his tickets that were purchased in school. I also had mine. Some of the rides took two or three tickets for one ride but I had a special book of tickets. Mrs. Lowry was an art teacher and was friends with my parents. Teachers got a special book of tickets for free and she gave it to my parents. Those tickets were good on any ride – one ticket per ride no matter what the ride! So when Jay ran out of his tickets and I ran out of mine, we shared teacher’s book.

We spent the day on every action ride in the park starting with the Jackrabbit. We went on the rowboats and were almost thrown off for splashing some of the other kids with the oars, and one kid was acting stupid and fell into the lake. But other than getting wet and having to call his parents he didn’t get hurt because the lake is only about 2 feet deep. We spent some time in the Penny Arcade and made a good luck penny. It was inside a horseshoe that said, “Keep me and you’ll never go broke.” We met a couple of girls from another school and talked them into going into the Old Mill with us. Once the boats started we told them that last summer they found snakes in the Old Mill. The plan was to get them to snuggle but they shrieked and somebody who worked inside the ride shined a flashlight on us. That was a bust.

After a long hard day playing, riding, walking, watching “The Amazing Mr. Cannonball” get shot out of a cannon and into a net, eating junk, and generally having a good time, we headed back to the train. The walk down the hill was a lot easier and nobody was running. We boarded the train for the short trip back to Clairton. The kids were mostly quiet. Some dozed off. My parents were among the many waiting for the train when we arrived in Clairton. They drove Jay home then we went home and I spent the night dreaming of one the best days of my life.

A little blogging music Maestro… An old Gypsy song that was translated from Russian and became a hit in the late 60s, “Those Were the Days My Friend…”

Dr. Forgot

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Birth of a City

Clairton – Over my shoulder a backward glance

Know your Clairton History: Some 25 years ago Noah Thompson compiled a history of the Clairton area. If you are not a Clairtonian, read on anyhow. I’ve taken excerpts of his work to provide a background of our community. I’ve edited it for the sake of brevity. His entire text can be found at: http://www.15122.com/YOHOGANIA/ClairtonHistory/clairtonhistory.htm#.

Land occupancy in the Clairton Area began in the third quarter of the eighteenth century. The first survey record is dated September 27, 1769. It resulted in the “Ravensburg” patent granted on February 10, 1791. This patent covered land known as Wilson. A second tract was surveyed on December 8, 1783. A third tract was surveyed by Samuel St. Clair, September 8, 1784, and was conveyed to Samuel Willie (Wylie) on September 22, 1788. A fourth tract was surveyed on September 20, 1787.

The Borough of Clairton was erected on April 25, 1903, the Borough of Wilson (including the unincorporated towns of Wilson, Coal Valley, and Peters Creek or Mendelssohn) was chartered on January 4, 1907; and the Blair District became the Borough of North Clairton on March 27, 1915.

Thus the Clairton Area was divided politically into three separate jurisdictions, each of which was free to enact ordinances and set tax levies independent of the others. Duplication of municipal service for schools, public works, and public safety became costly and uneconomic. By the close of World War I, the separation of a single community into three political jurisdictions had become evident and a movement toward municipal unification was begun. An election was held in November 1920 and the three boroughs voted to merge them in a single municipality. In January, 1922 the City of Clairton was incorporated with a population estimated at approximately 11,000 souls.

Citizen Soldiers: The Clairton community has been represented in every war in which the United States has been engaged, from the French and Indian hostilities, the Revolution, as well as in the War of 1812. Clairton was represented in the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, Korea, Viet Nam, and Iraq. Local war hero Reggie Desiderio won the nation’s highest honor as mentioned in previous posts.

Business history: In the early 1900s Park Avenue was largely the business street in Clairton with S. C. Wilson’s grocery, Bennet’s pharmacy and Glenn’s furniture store. The Clairton Branch of Carnegie Library and school rooms were located in the basement of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. At Third and Miller was the Bedell Feed Store, and across Third was Brouker’s Bakery. Mitchell Avenue had a number of company houses for local businesses.

The most overcrowded building in the town stood on Waddell Avenue. It was at once the St. Clair Improvement Co. Office, the bank, post office, two school rooms, and housed the congregation of the First Presbyterian Church. By 1905 all its denizens had found other quarters and it served only as a Chinese Laundry. Eventually it was moved to Halcomb Avenue and Third Street.

Education: By 1905 the new High School Building on Fifth Street was completed, the principal being Prof. E. H. Knoch. The rapid growth of the town soon demanded additional space and by 1913 the Shaw Avenue School was opened. The opening of the Vankirk Street section of the town resulted in the building of the Miller Avenue School.

Boom and Bust: With the announcement of a railroad terminal to be built in Blair which would be a vital link in coast to coast railroad travel, property values in Blair sky-rocketed-—changing hands in some instances two and three or more times within a month. But the reality did not match the hype and Blair settled down to a dull existence as a sort of across-the-track section for Clairton. With the construction of the Coke works and the importation of laborers from many sections of the country, many did not find work, so Blair had a resurgence with gambling houses and more colorful places which operated under the guise of “coffee house” and “boarding house” until a prominent magazine, did a survey concluded that Blair was the wickedest spot in the U. S. That caused the city fathers to redefine Blair and government housing in the form of projects were later built.

Remembering the Dead: Three cemeteries are located in Clairton. Peters Creek Cemetery is the oldest burial ground in this region with the oldest tombstone dated 1789. The burial plot is an odd formation, a knoll of less than one acre in area, rising abruptly from the former shores of Peters Creek. Greek Catholics, re¬siding in Clairton, as members of the Ascension Church, on Feb. 17, 1909 received an option for some five or more acres of ground for a cemetery. St. Clare’s Cemetery is located on the north side of Worthington Avenue just inside the city limits and comprises approximately five acres of land purchased by St. Clare’s Church. The cemetery was opened in the summer of 1909 and is used as a burying place by the three congregations—St. Clare’s, St. Joseph’s and St. Paulinus.

Clairton Park: Clairton takes pride, in declaring that this beautiful recreational creation is the equal or superior of any pleasure grounds enjoyed by the residents of other cities in Pennsylvania the size of Clairton. The park, portions of the former McGogney and Wilson Farms, com¬prises approximately 137 acres of land, which about 75 years ago, were tillable fields. The park is nearly 75 years old, and was created following the optioning of 99 acres by the city from the Phipps Pennsylvania Trust. Remaining land was purchased from the Wilson estate. Civic organizations aided in re¬moving underbrush and other preliminary work.

Swimming pool construction began in 1929, and it opened on May 30, 1930. It was remodeled and upgraded decades later. The Clairton Lions Club helped promote the project by selling $2,000 worth of advanced season tickets. The original pool cost a total of $107,000 including improvements and the pool was 210 feet long and 130 feet wide. A separate baby pool 130 feet long and 15 feet wide was built at the shallow end.

Even today the pool is one of the most outstanding in the state. AS originally built the pool held 1,300,000 gallons of water and had a change of water every 11 ¼ hours, and was constantly chlorinated to safeguard health of swimmers. Twenty-nine lights illuminated the pool, along with 88 underwater lights, islands, diving hoards and towers, benches for lolling swimmers, and guard stations were features of the big pool. The bathhouse was of tapestry brick, and ac¬commodated 2,200 swimmers. There was a first-aid room with full equipment. A refreshment stand was later added along with other improvements, including pillars at the Walnut Avenue entrance and seats for spectators along the hill overlooking the pool.

Terraces with concrete walks and shrubbery were installed, and parking space is provided for vehicles. Peak attendance has been 2,400 daily and upwards of 70,000 bathers has enjoyed the center in one season. Over the years the park has been updated and improved with recreation facilities and beauty spots. Nine shelter houses stand in convenient spots, each provided with tables and a rustic cooking stove. A kitchen stands on Mem¬orial Hill for special occasions. There is a softball field as well as a baseball field. New improvements include two clay tennis courts and an outdoor stage built for the Silver Jubilee. Children enjoy the park playground adjacent to the swimming pool daily throughout the summer months.

A beauty spot is Memorial Hill, at the South end of the park where small tablets, with a tree planted beside each, are placed in memory of the dead of World War II. An honor roll for the dead of World War I has been placed at a central spot on the hill. Encircled by a driveway, Memorial Hill contains a Memorial Star, flower display, a gold-fish pond, and other picturesque settings. Two pillars have been erected from stone taken from the old Morris and Bailey Mill office, once located north of the Benzol Plant.

The park lodge is a rustic cabin, situated at the east entrance of the park. It is used by citizens and organizations of the city for social affairs, and is very popular, being in use nearly every evening.

An addition was the fishing pond between the pool and Memorial Hill. Used for the pleasure of children during the summer, it becomes a skating rink in winter months. Flood-lights and music add to the setting.

A tragedy bit the Park in May, 1936, when the big dance pavilion, located on the present Memorial Hill, was destroyed by fire. The Lions Club had been active in clearing the site for building of the dance pavilion.

We hope the above information has given you a sense of Clairton before your family settled there, and we hope you enjoyed the walk down Memory Lane.

A little blogging music Maestro… “Memories” by Barbara Streisand.

Dr. Forgot

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Where Have All the Republicans Gone?

Fair and Balanced

We have frequently discussed the issue of partisanship in politics and the importance of setting it aside to give the president a chance to heal the country. Pastor and author Frank Shaeffer, a former lock step Republican, has written a letter to his peers. I was so moved that I offer it to you:

An open letter to Republicans from Frank Schaeffer:

"You Republicans are the arsonists who burned down our national home. You combined the failed ideologies of the Religious Right, so-called free market deregulation and the Neoconservative love of war to light a fire that has consumed America. Now you have the nerve to criticize the "architect" America just hired -- President Obama -- to rebuild from the ashes. You do nothing constructive, just try to hinder the one person willing and able to fix the mess you created.

I used to be one of you. As recently as 2000 I worked to get Senator McCain elected in that year's primary. (McCain and Gen. Tommy Franks wrote glowing endorsements regarding my book about military service, AWOL.). I have a file of handwritten thank you notes from Presidents Ford, Reagan, Bush I and II. In the 1970s and early 80s I hung out with Jack Kemp and bought into his "supply side" myth and even wrote a book he endorsed pushing his ideas.) There's more, but take it from me; my parents (evangelical leaders Francis and Edith Schaeffer) and I were about as tight with -- and useful to -- the Republican Party as anyone. We played a big part creating the Religious Right.

In the mid 1980s I left the Religious Right, after I realized just how very anti-American they are, (the theme I explore in my book Crazy For God). They wanted America to fail in order to prove they were right about America's "moral decline." Soon after McCain lost in 2000 I re-registered as an independent in disgust with W. Bush. But I still respected many Republicans. Not today.

How can anyone who loves our country support the Republicans now? Barry Goldwater, William F. Buckley and Ronald Reagan defined the modern conservatism that used to be what the Republican Party I belonged to was about. Today no actual conservative can be a Republican. Reagan would despise today's wholly negative Republican Party. And can you picture the gentlemanly and always polite Ronald Reagan, endorsing a radio hate-jock slob who crudely mocked a man with Parkinson's and who now says he wants an American president to fail?!

With people like Limbaugh as the loudmouth image of the Republican Party -- you need no enemies. But something far more serious has happened than an image problem: the Republican Party has become the party of obstruction at just the time when all Americans should be pulling together for the good of our country. Instead, Republicans are today's fifth column sabotaging American renewal.

President Obama has been in office barely 45 days and the Republican Party has the nerve to blame him for the economic and military cataclysm he inherited. I say economic and military cataclysm because without the needless war in Iraq you all backed we would not be in the economic mess we're in today. If that money had been spent here at home on renovating our infrastructure, taking us toward a green economy, putting our health-care system in order we'd be a very different situation.
As the father of a Marine who served in George W. Bush's misbegotten wars let me say this: if President Obama's strategy to repair our economy, infrastructure and healthcare fails that will put our troops at far greater risk because the world will become a far more dangerous place. So for all you flag-waving Republicans who are trying to undermine the President at home -- if you succeed more of our troops will be killed abroad.

When your new leader Rush Limbaugh calls for President Obama to fail he's calling for more flag-draped coffins. Limbaugh is the new "Hanoi Jane."

For the party that created our crises of misbegotten war, mismanaged economy, the lack of regulation of our banking industry, handing our country to rich crooks... to obstruct the one person who is trying to repair the damage is obscene.

Just imagine where America would be today if the 14 to 20 million voters -- "the rube base" who slavishly follow the likes of Limbaugh -- had not voted as a block year after year thus empowering the Republican fiasco. We would have a regulated banking industry and would have avoided our current financial crisis; some 4000 of our killed military men and women would be alive; over to 35,000 wounded Americans would be whole; we would have been leaders in the environmental movement; we would be in the middle of a green technology boom fueling a huge expansion of our economy and stopping our dependence on foreign oil, and our health-care system would be reformed.

After Obama was elected, you Republican leaders had a unique last chance to send a patriotic message of unity to the world -- and to all Americans. You could have backed our president's economic recovery plan. Since we all know that half of our problem is one of lost confidence and perception, nothing would have done more to calm the markets and project resolve and confidence than if you had been big enough to take Obama's offered hand and had work with him -- even if you disagreed ideologically. You had the chance to put our country first. You utterly failed to rise to the occasion.

The worsening economic situation is your fault and your fault alone. The Republicans created this mess through 8 years of backing the worst president in our history and now, because you put partisan ideology ahead of the good of our country, you have blown your last chance to redeem yourselves. You deserve the banishment to the political wilderness that awaits all traitors."

Frank Schaeffer is the author of CRAZY FOR GOD-How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It Back.

A little blogging music Maestro, "Wake Up Little Suzie" by the Everly Brothers.

Dr. Forgot

Monday, March 9, 2009

Look Before You Leap

Your Hard-Earned Money

Buddy can you spare a dime: There is no question that we are living in troubled financial times. Everybody is hurting including charities. Everybody is looking for ways to enhance their dwindling income stream so it is not unusual to see a plethora of advertisements in both snail mail and your inbox as well as requests for donations to charities that you may or may not have heard of. The question becomes not only, “Do I still have discretionary income to share?” but also, “Where is my hard earned money going and how well will it be used?” My good friend and regular kibitzer Myron forwarded me a copy of a list of charities and their ratings. In the interest of community service I offer the information to my blog readers with a thank you to Myron.

Read and Learn: The American Institute of Philanthropy, a leading charity watchdog, issued a report card for 29 veterans and military charities. Letter grades were based largely on the charities' fundraising costs and the percentage of money raised that was spent on charitable activities. The charities that received failing grades are preceded by an asterisk (*).

Air Force Aid Society (A+)

*American Ex-Prisoners of War Service Foundation (F)

*American Veterans Coalition (F)

*American Veterans Relief Foundation (F)

*AMVETS National Service Foundation (F)

Armed Services YMCA of the USA (A-)

Army Emergency Relief (A+)

Blinded Veterans Association (D)

Disabled American Veterans (D)

*Disabled Veterans Association (F)

Fisher House Foundation (A+)

*Freedom Alliance (F)

*Help Hospitalized Veterans/Coalition to Salute America's Heroes (F)

Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund (A+)

*Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation (F)

National Military Family Association (A)

*National Veterans Services Fund (F)

National Vietnam Veterans Committee (D)

Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society (A+)

*NCOA National Defense Foundation (F)

*Paralyzed Veterans of America (F)

Soldiers' Angels (D)

United Spinal Association' s Wounded Warrior Project (D)

USO (United Service Organization) (C+)

Veterans of Foreign Wars and Foundation (C-)

Veterans of the Vietnam War & the Veterans Coalition (D)

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (D)

*VietNow National Headquarters (F)

World War II Veterans Committee (D)

Additional information is available at: http://www.charitywatch.org/articles/veterans.html

Congressional Hearings on the matter: In a statement before congress, Daniel Borochoff, President, American Institute of Philanthropy, Chicago, Illinois testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Hearing on Veterans Charities. His remarks can be found at the following web site along with the ratings: http://oversight.house.gov/documents/20071213131834.pdf

Among other things, the rating chart shows fund raising costs per $100 raised for each charity.

Americans gave millions of dollars in the past year to veterans charities designed to help troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, but several of the groups spent relatively little money on the wounded, according to a leading watchdog organization and federal tax filings.

Eight veterans charities, including some of the nation's largest, gave less than a third of the money raised to the causes they champion, far below the recommended standard, the American Institute of Philanthropy says in a report. One group passed along 1 cent for every dollar raised, the report says. Another paid its founder and his wife a combined $540,000 in compensation and benefits last year, a Washington Post analysis of tax filings showed.

Richard H. Esau Jr., executive director of the Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation, based in Annandale , said the cost of fundraising limits how much his group can spend on charitable causes. 'Do you have any idea how much money it costs to advertise? It's unbelievable the amount of money it takes to advertise in the print and electronic media,' he said. 'I'm very proud of what we do, and we certainly do look after everybody. The point is we do the right thing by veterans.'

Borochoff said many veterans charities are 'woefully inefficient, ' spending large sums on costly direct-mail advertising. 'They over-solicit. They love to send out a lot of trinkets and stickers and greeting cards and flags and things that waste a lot of money that they get little return on,' said Borochoff, who plans to testify before Congress today.

The philanthropy institute gave F's to 12 of the 29 military charities
reviewed and D's to eight. Five were awarded A-pluses, including the Fisher House Foundation in Rockville, which the institute says directs more than 90 percent of its income to charitable causes.

One group received an A, and one received an A-minus.

Jim Weiskopf, spokesman for Fisher House, said the charity does not use direct-mail advertising. 'As soon as you do direct mail, your fundraising expenses go up astronomically, ' he said.

One egregious example, Borochoff said, is Help Hospitalized Veterans, which was founded in 1971 by Roger Chapin, a veteran of the Army Finance Corps and a San Diego real estate developer. The charity, which provides therapeutic arts and crafts kits to hospitalized veterans, reported income of $71.3 million last year and spent about one-third of that money on charitable work, the philanthropy institute said.

In its tax filings, Help Hospitalized Veterans reported paying more than $4 million to direct-mail fundraising consultants. The group also has run television advertisements featuring several celebrities.

Our military service people are considered the most hallowed of nearly any profession in America. Many are called, some volunteer, but they all serve their country, often placed in harm’s way. The numbers who sacrifice their lives is tragic, but the numbers who return home in need of medical services and rehabilitation is staggering. Many of the organizations listed above began with good intentions but too often as small groups become successful they turn into bureaucracies, often becoming unwieldy and top heavy with administrative costs. The reprint of the above information is an effort to encourage continued giving to worthy charities, but also to do your due diligence before giving away money to organizations that would use it for purposes other than those you intended.

A little blogging music Maestro... “Battle Hymn of the Republic” played by John Phillip Sousa.

Dr. Forgot

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Stand Together or Hang Separately

The Party of NO! A Nation of Can’t

A brief presidential history: Whether or not it is deserved the pundits who make their living reporting and commenting on politics have tagged the Republican Party with the moniker, “The Party of No.” It is true that currently the Republican Party is in disarray. Like any culture the American culture is a living, breathing entity that grows and changes as it matures. When I travel through Europe, the Middle East and Asia I see paintings, buildings and artifacts that are older than our country. In modern America – that is, the America many of us living here can remember, the post World War was given Hell by Harry then decided that they liked Ike who campaigned on a platform of “Korea, Communism, and Corruption.” Ike coasted to a second victory in 1956. Ike’s heir apparent and vice president Tricky Dick lost a squeaker to young, brash Jack Kennedy. In ’64 the country went all the way with LBJ and in ’68 Nixon was the one to dump the Hump.

More on presidents: Nixon won in ’72 and by his side was VP Agnew. Nixon’s liberal economic policies and Watergate plumbers stopped him up in ’74. He drove away leaving a Ford behind. Mr. Peanut removed the Ford from office in ’76 and The Gipper returned the favor in 1980 then stomped on Wally’s world in ’84. In 1988 GHWB continued the stomping, but in 1992 Willie slickly slid into home and stayed there in ’96. “W” or as his opponent’s called him, “King George II” held the next two terms until the current president changed the complexion of politics.

To change or not to change, that is the question: While the Democrats were taking a thrashing on the national scene the Republicans were riding high. Their nerdy brain trust discovered strategies that worked. White males, who had dominated the party, discovered strength in electing politicians from the buckle of the Bible Belt. The Republicans were like big American cars with powerful engines that arrogantly kicked aside all comers. They became NASCAR both literally and figuratively. They were untouchable – until they were touched.

Desperately Seeking Swagger: Democrats tried to rip a page from their opponent’s book by running a Tennessee Stud in Al Gore. He didn’t even carry his home state. Then they tried running a war hero but he was shot down in flames by the nerdy brain trust. Finally, almost by accident they nominated a candidate who was right for the time. But the new president inherited social and economic problems on a scale not seen in this country since before World War II. The problems are reflected in countries worldwide and the president has put forth plans designed to address them. As the old country and western song says, “That’s where your heartaches begin.”

Blood, toil, sweat, and tears: Our country is young but it has been faced with many crises in its brief history. The very birth of our nation was a struggle of overwhelming odds with England – the world’s foremost power of the day – determined to keep America as one of her colonies. “The sun never sets on the English Empire” was the slogan of the day and she wanted to keep it that way. But the Americans stood side by side and fought seemingly insurmountable odds before earning the young country’s first victory. From Independence to the War of 1812 the new Americans struggled with their identity. They feared contamination from the old world and proceeded with cautious optimism. All parties stood as one and shaped this great country. When Britain became heavy handed with the young country, the United States of America declared war on Britain in 1812. Once again the odds favored Britain but once again Americans stood united and defeated their foe. The country threatened to implode over the slavery issue in the mid-19th century and the civil war saw the nation hang by a thread, but again America overcame the crisis and in the mix a coast-to-coast railroad was built.

Our country has weathered many other crises. The economic collapse of the late 19th century, World Wars I and II, the Great Depression, and the 9/11 attacks to name a few. But each time the country emerged stronger than it had been before the crisis and each time it had done so because Americans stood side by side and, to paraphrase a line from our president’s campaign speeches, we did so not because we had a red America and a blue America, but we did so as the United States of America.

All we are saying is give him a chance: We must once again become Americans first and Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and other political parties second. The president has put forth a plan to try to repair the damage and heal the ills that have accumulated over the past decades of excesses. The plan put forth may or may not work, but it stands even less a chance of being successful with so many Americans spewing vitriol rather than constructive criticism.

The secretary of State is currently on a world tour trying, among other goals, to get nations to lay down their arms against other nations and attempt to talk productively. That very philosophy must be applied to our own backyard if we are to survive this economic crisis, healthcare crisis, home mortgage crisis, energy crisis, and related crises. To hear Hannity, Maher, Limbaugh, Olberlin, O’Reilly et. al. spew forth daily with their half truths, and propaganda without ever offering a constructive alternative plan is divisive, not uniting. To see Republicans vote in a solid bloc, 100% no without reviewing, digesting, and offering viable alternatives is to push the goal of mending this country’s crises farther away.

Unite, but don’t become a zealot: The nation is in a peril the magnitude of which has been rarely seen in our country’s history. However, each time we have faced crises in the past we have stood together as Americans and overcome them. That is the constant – unity. We must stand together in these troubled times if we are to overcome them. We must support our country’s leaders and make it work as we have in the past. We must not attack the ideas put forth simply because they come from members of “the other” political party. But neither should we blindly follow. Just as success requires unity so does it require checks and balances. Our president is a brilliant man with a good heart, but he is not, as some might say, the messiah nor is he infallible. I implore those on both sides of the aisle to review and offer constructive suggestions and criticisms where they are merited. But the Hatfield and McCoy type sniping must stop. Only then do we have a chance to remain “One nation under God indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

A little blogging music Maestro... “This is My Country” with words by Don Raye and music by Al Jacobs.

Dr. Forgot

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Test Your Clairton IQ


If you did not grow up in Clairton, PA you will probably want to skip this one. If you DID grow up there, test your memory:

1) The ORIGINAL CHS mascot was:
a. Bears
b. Cobras
c. Jaguars
d. Coke Workers

2) Malmady Village was?
a. Located down “the hollow.”
b. Post WW-II housing for vets.
c. Located near Clairton, France
d. A shopping center

3) Keenan Field was:
a. A place for baseball
b. Location of a water tower
c. Lovers Lane
d. All of the above

4) Crawling was a sport that involved:
a. Childs play
b. Spying on lovers in Lovers Lane
c. Going slow in traffic
d. None of the above

5) Wilson was half a word. The other half was:
a. Mason
b. Dixon
c. Newtown
d. Adidas

6) The bus line that served Clairton was:
a. Royal Carriage
b. Clairton Bus Lines
c. Pleasant Hills Express
d. Nobel J. Dick

7) What CHS football player was in the Rose Bowl twice?
a. Ken Stilley
b. Jim Kelley
c. Judge Dixon
d. Joe Belland

8) What was the name of the group that marched in front of the band?
a. Pep Club
b. Clairton Clovers
c. Majorettes
d. Honeybears

9) Name the movie theater in Clairton.
a. Capital
b. Colonial
c. State
d. All of the above

10) Name the memorial on the corner of St. Clair and Miller
a. Vietnam Memorial
b. Roll of Honor
c. Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
d. Thrift Drug Store

11. Which was a hiousing development in Clairton?
a. Bickerton Plan
b. Constitution Circle
c. Woodland Terrace
d. All of the above

12) Which school was in Wilson
a. Walnut Avenue
b. Fifth Street
c. Miller Avenue
e. St. Joseph

13) The CHS Sophomore class of 1958 became the first graduating class of
a. Elizabeth Forward
b. Allegheny
c. Elizabeth Seton
d. Thomas Jefferson

14) CHS was the only school in the area that had
a. Two gymnasiums
b. An auditorium with a balcony
c. A swimming pool
d. Electric Shop

15) CHS students came from:
a. Wilson
b. Elrama
c. Finleyville
d. Jefferson Borough
e. All of the above

16) Required swimwear for boys in swim class was:
a. Wool trunks
b. Gym shorts
c. Bathing caps
d. Janzen suits
e. None of the above

17) Clairton car dealerships included all but:
a. Zupancic Mercury
b. Gumbel Chevrolet
c. Gregg Chrysler
d. Kaiser-Frazer
e. Hudson
f. Volkswagen

18) The Spur gas station was on
a. Miller Avenue
b. State Street
c. Shaw Avenue
d. Vankirk

19) Clairton was the home of
a. A congressional Medal of Honor winner
b. A professional football player called “The Little General”
c. A major singing group
d. An internationally famous trumpet player
e. All of the above

20). The annual Kennywood picnic also offered
a. Train transport
b. Streetcar transport
c. Local taxi service
d. None of the above.

Answers: 1: B, 2: B, 3: D, 4: B, 5: C, 6: D, 7: C, 8: D, 9: D, 10: B, 11: D, 12: A, 13: D, 14: C, 15: E, 16: E, 17: F, 18: B, 19: E, 20: A

If you got 90-100% you’re a real Clairtonian. If you scored less than 50% you’re still a real Clairtonian but with not so much of a memory.

A few Clairton facts: The original mascot was the Cobra, which I kind of like for the alliteration. Malmady Village no longer exists. The housing was temporary for returning GIs and has been replaced with some very nice homes. “Crawling” was a coming of age sport for boys which included sneaking up on cars in Lovers Lane (Keenan Field) to try to learn the facts of life. Noble J. Dick bus lines are long gone but the Dick Corporation remains a stalwart in the community. Jim Kelley was the All American at both CHS and Notre Dame, Ken Stilley was a former Steeler scout, and Joe Belland was recruited by legendary coach Frank Kush to Arizona State. But it was Judge Dickson who played fullback for the Minnesota Gophers who helped his team go from worst to first and then to the Rose Bowl. Baby boomers swelled Clairton High School’s classrooms to the point where each day included study halls in the auditorium just to contain the hordes of teens. Relief came when Thomas Jefferson opened with CHS sophomores-turned-juniors who had been traveling from Jefferson Borough and Pleasant Hills. Thus in 1960 the first TJ graduating class included former CHS kids. Boys swam in the nude. Am still trying to figure that one out. Any misbehavior or horseplay was rewarded with a sharp swat with Mr. Porter’s paddle across raw hide. Car dealerships in Clairton included Hudson, Kaiser-Frazer, Packard, Studebaker, Chevrolet, Pontiac, Chrysler, Ford, Lincoln Mercury, Dodge Nash/Rambler, Dodge, and Desoto. When Ed Zupancic opened his Lincoln Mercury dealership on Miller Avenue across from Miller Avenue School, fanfare included a visit from Ed Sullivan. Lincoln Mercury was a sponsor of his TV show. The Spur gas station gave away glasses with a fillup and was located across State Street from the Ford dealership.

The Congressional Medal of Honor was awarded posthumously to Capt. Reginald Desiderio. A Nike missile stands as a memorial to him in “Triangle Park” across the street from the onetime Dodge dealership. “The Little General” and folk hero of Canadian football is Ron Lancaster. Several singing groups including the Holidays had Clairton roots. Michael Green became a renowned trumpet player. Finally, in what must have been one of the last passenger trains to serve Clairton, kids were treated to a ride to Kennywood Park followed by a trek up a steep hill to get to the park.

A little blogging Maestro… “My Little Town” by Simon and Garfunkle.

Dr. Forgot