Friday, October 16, 2009

Clairton Across the Decades

Snippets of Clairton History

Reflections of the past: Wednesday was a slow day this week. Company is coming and the house was clean and ready for them. Food was all in and ready for cooking. I ran out of things to do. My options were, “Do I poison pigeons in the park, or do a little blog research?” So I did a little joggin’ of the noggin and came up with the following pearls of past and parables of the residents of the City of Clairton. Sit back and see if any stir up YOUR memories. We’ll start long before you were born and offer an incident or two per decade.

May 23, 1902: The Bruce and Clairton Railroad merged to form the West Side Belt Railroad.

July 20, 1902: Vera Daerr was born in Wilson. In 1929 she married schoolteacher Frank Buchanan. Frank became mayor of McKeesport and later was elected to Congress form Pennsylvania’s 33d District in 1946. Upon his death in 1951, Vera was nominated to replace him and won a special election later that year. She won two subsequent elections overwhelmingly. Vera Daerr Buchanan, Clairton native, died in 1955.

October 9, 1912: U.S. Steel Finance Committee resolves to build a 200 oven byproduct plant north of its Clairton Iron and Steel Works.

May 7, 1916: Land sales ad from the Gazette Times, “We have it – right in the heart of town – not an undeveloped spot plotted only for the exploitation of the boomer. Clairton now has complete train service, trolley lines, schools, churches, fine homes and paved streets. 5,000 people live in this flourishing community. HERE IS YOUR CHANCE TO GET IN ON THE PROSPERITY. BUY CLAIRTON REAL ESTATE!” (Perhaps this ad should be rerun today…)

1918: Noble J. Dick Lines begin jitney operations. (NJD bus lines later became Clairton’s primary link to surrounding communities including “Dahntahn Pikksberg)

September 22, 1919: Rioting begins in Clairton steel strike. Pennsylvania State Police and laborers clashed during mass labor meetings. State troopers and mounted police charged a group of laborers and used their clubs vigorously, injuring a number in the crowd.

March 18, 1929: One building was destroyed and several others damaged when an explosion occurred in the business district of Clairton. The building next to the bank was destroyed and windows were blown out but nobody was fatally injured.

August 5, 1929: A plane with a student pilot landed safely in the Monongahela River after its landing gear was damaged.

October 31, 1921: A parade will take place as the new highway opens between Clairton and Pittsburgh. The parade will go from Hayes to Clairton and end with ceremonies held at the Clairton swimming pool. (This must have been Route 837 or “River Road.”)

September 5, 1937: Bishop Hugh C. Boyle blesses the newly opened St. Paulinas Church in Clairton. The church was designed by the parish priest and built by volunteers. (Still standing after all these years)

October 23, 1943: The undefeated, untied Clairton Bears football team won its 20th game in a row, beating Charleroi 18-0 before 5,000 fans. Lenny Kalcevich scored two touchdowns.

February 28, 1948: Ivan Bucar, a Yugoslav immigrant living in Clairton, disowned his 33-year old daughter Annabelle when she announced that she quit her job at the State Department’s United States Embassy in Moscow and married a Russian singer. The couple will reside in Russia where, the bride says she likes it better. The blonde ex-Clairton girl and Pitt grad made her letter of resignation public in the Russian newspapers. Bucar, a wealthy farmer and coal hauler who owns property in Jefferson Township has 12 children. He blames her decision on having too much education. (Fascinating. Had never heard this story. Will do more research expand it in future blogs)

February 1949: Several follow up articles were written about Annabelle Bucar, the Clairton woman and former U.S. Embassy employee in Moscow who married a Russian singer and chose to remain in Russia. According to a book she wrote, she charges that Embassy officials and U.S. Diplomats illegally profited by black market purchases and espionage. Her book was entitled, “The Truth about American Diplomats.” (We have ordered her book and will write more on this person in a future blog.)

February 10, 1951: Clairton resident Frank Orsini. Brother of police Chief Pete Orsini was among four people arrested in a raid on a suspected numbers operation.

August 23, 1952: Former Police Chief Pete Orsini who was demoted to patrolman July 22, asked that his salary be restored. Mayor John Mullen insisted that he had the authority to name his own police chief and Orsini was his man. (Here come da judge!)

March 21, 1953: The First Presbyterian Church marked its 50th anniversary with a week-long celebration. Three former ministers took part, Dr. Murray C. Reiter, Dr. John K. Bibby, and Rev. G. Karl Monroe. The current pastor is Rev. H.D. Hough. Keynote speaker was Dr. Edward Lee Roy Elson, former Clairtonian and current pastor of the Presbyterian church in Washington D.C. attended by President Eisenhower. (Will share excerpts from the 100th anniversary sermon by Clairtonian Rev. Robert Crilley in future blogs)

August 14, 1954: Dr. Karl Bohren, announced an anticipated 1,500 students will attend Clairton High School, the largest number in school history. (The growth continued until TJ was built to take many rural students)

January 21, 1956: Connie Kutsenkow, an architect from Clairton has many talents. She is a mother and an actress as well. This week she is starring in “The Cretan Woman” at the International Theater in Crafton Heights. During her studies at Carnegie Tech she acted at the Pittsburgh Playhouse. She is also working on a book that she calls “Women in Architecture.”

March 17, 1962: The Democratic Party began to track a worrisome trend in Clairton where 1,024 voters changed their registration from Democrat to Republican. Last year Clairton became one of 13 Pennsylvania cities that switched. Clairton voted in Republican mayor Robert Stokes. The Clairton picture will be studied by both parties for a clue to this year’s trend.

August 3, 1963: A freak tornado struck Clairton and Glassport and caused damage to the Irvin Works steel plant. (This writer was working my last shift as a summer worker at Irvin Works before returning for my senior year in college when the tornado hit, destroying the paint job and all the windows in my newly-purchased Rambler American)

June 22, 1968: The fourth annual Congress on Christian Education of the Allegheny Union Baptist Association will be held at the Morning Star Baptist Church on Shaw Avenue in Clairton. (Proving once more Clairton is the City of Prayer)

There you have 21 snippets of Clairton happenings, activities, and people up through the 1960s. Next week we will random items from the 1960s onward. Tune in.
A little blogging music Maestro… “Memories” by Sarah Brightman in The Phantom of the Opera.

Dr. Forgot

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