Sunday, November 29, 2009

Annabelle Bucar, Part II

More on Annabelle Bucar
From Clairton Bear to Russian Bear

Annabelle stays in the spotlight: In the early '60s a radio program called "Moscow Mailbag" was broadcast throughout the United States on the “Voice of Russia,” the Soviet answer to Voice of America. The show was hosted by Joe Adamov (In Russian that was Иосиф Адамов) and featured a female newsreader spoke with a Western Pennsylvania accent. Adamov interviewed many Americans on his program including President Eisenhower, Eleanor Roosevelt, Walter Cronkite, and Larry King. The woman who read the news and sometimes the questions to this program was Annabelle Bucar, who came from Clairton, Pennsylvania. In 2000 Adamov described her as, “A fine woman if ever there was one. She was a person everyone loved. And I'm not saying this just because she passed away over a year ago. After the war, she worked at the U.S. Embassy, married a singer from the operetta theater and soon joined our staff. (Her family) in the States are pretty well off. She visited her home only a few years before she died. When she first came to us, she was always accompanied by a bodyguard. Many years later, she told me, ‘I don't know whether they were guarding me, or seeing to it that I did nothing wrong; in other words, keeping a 24-hour eye on me.’” That description was a glimpse into the adult life of Clairton-born Annabelle Bucar.

Her family in the Clairton had been a large one. One sister, Emily, moved to California. Another, Barbara, had moved to Florida. A third sister, Eleanor, stayed in the area, in Baldwin. Each of those sisters, like Annabelle, lived into their eighties. Other siblings are still alive, but I purposely have not named them.

Prior to her marriage Annabelle was an Assistant Information Officer of the magazine America while serving in the American Embassy in Moscow. During her stint in the Embassy she saw what she believed to be a culture of anti-Soviet paranoia among members of the Diplomatic corps, who by definition were supposed to have been unbiased. Her disdain for fellow Embassy employees who, in her eyes were at least “Ugly Americans” for not bothering to master the language of the people in whose country they served, or appreciate the culture. At worst, she alleges that many were spies instead of diplomats, and worse yet, that many enriched themselves illegally by purchasing items on the black market, shipping them back under diplomatic cover, then converting the items for many times their value. Several excerpts from her book follow:

Charles Bohlen, Embassy chief, “Did everything he could to undermine President Roosevelt’s policies toward the Soviet Union.”

Frederick Reinhardt: “He is one of the most obnoxious of this group of obnoxious people.”

John Davies: “He will do anything to further his career no matter how low he has to stoop… Davies, furthermore is greatly influenced by his wife who is no less clever than he and just as interested in his career… Davies has the mentality of a stooge.”

“Another officer, Wallace by name, was expelled from Moscow by Embassy Staff after getting into a drunken brawl and nearly fracturing his skull.”

“All the strategic positions in the Embassy… have been for many years in the hands of the State Department anti-Soviet clique, namely Kennan, Durbrow, Bohlen, Reinhardt,”

“(Durbrow) is an exhibitionist among his other talents. He once showed up at a cocktail party dressed as a circus strongman with close-fitting tights inscribed with lipstick… This “expert” in Russian Affairs who does not know enough Russian language to sufficiently explain to his cook what he wants for dinner, and knows almost nothing about the Soviet Union, finds a willing audience in Washington for “reporting.”

“A security guard at the Embassy regularly made rounds of the offices after hours. Twice he found Durbrow’s safe open and unguarded and reported it to the State Department. Shortly thereafter the guard went on vacation and was quickly and unexpectedly transferred to another post.”

“Freddy” Reinhardt is most at home at diplomatic receptions and cocktail parties which somebody else pays for. Reinhardt is a ladies’ man who works the art of charming the wives of men helpful to his diplomatic career. He received much of his schooling, even elementary, in Western Europe. He speaks French, German, Italian, and Russian fluently. He knows practically nothing about America and probably cares less. He is pro Hitler, pro-Germany, and anti Russian.”

Regarding former Major in the U.S. Intelligence Service, Louise Luke, Bucar tells of a supposedly pleasure trip Luke took on the Trans-Siberian Railway. “When she returned to Moscow Louise Luke wrote a detailed report of what she had seen and heard during her trip...Luke herself admitted to me that she had invented many of the facts because en route she had met a pleasant couple with whom she spent most of the time drinking and playing cards.”

Bucar also accuses former chief of the information bureau, Elizabeth Egan, of returning to the U.S. and writing a long story in Coronet magazine which highlighted her many love affairs with Russian men and the facts she was able to glean. All such facts, says Bucar, were sheer imagination.

Government waste: Annabelle might have been considered one of the first whistleblowers. Her assignment in the Embassy included the Russian language magazine Amerika. The purpose was to provide a glimpse of America to the Soviet people. The magazine was reported to be self sustaining in the Embassy budget. This was done, according to Bucar, by not including the cost of editors, writers, and other personnel whjo worked on the magazine. Further, she alleges, the 50,000 copies per printing rarely found their way into the hands of Russians, leaving the U.S. taxpayer to foot the bill.

Other allegations of corruption: In chapter 6 of her book Bucar takes to task those employees of the Embassy who are speculators and war profiteers. This is done by trading cigarettes and even American cash for valuable heirlooms that can be resold in America for huge profits. An investigation into speculation was done at the Embassy and headed by previously mentioned Counselor Durbrow. She alleges that he himself had traveled to Moscow through Warsaw where he bought Russian rubles at one-tenth their value, then brought them to Moscow under the protection of diplomatic immunity, and resold the rubels at obscene profits. The investigation named one dentist’s assistant and a couple of low level workers and sent them home. Every person of diplomatic rank was exonerated.

Summary: Annabelle Bucar, it appears, was a bright, principled person who saw first hand the seamy underbelly of politics by virtue of working at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow during an historic time. Her allegations of bumbling incompetency within the federal government would hardly bring a yawn today as such incompetence is offered daily by cable TV. Her allegations of corruption within the ranks and a few lower level employees taking the fall have been repeated in instances such as the Abu Ghraib prison torture allegations. That her book created such a stir in the late 1940s and early 1950s probably had more to do with three factors: first, she happened to make those allegations in the height of the Cold War and McCarthy communism hysteria, second she chose to forsake her country of birth and live in Russia, America’s antithesis at the time – an unforgivable sin in the eyes of many patriotic Americans, and third her book attacked only American foibles and corruption without comparing them to those within the Russian government. The fact remains, however, that she was one of Clairton’s most famous, if not infamous, citizens.

A little blogging music, Maestro: America (My Country ‘Tis of Thee) played by John Phillip Souza.

Dr. Forgot,

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Let Us Give Thanks

Gobble, Gobble, Gobble

Happy Thanksgiving Day: Today we celebrate with turkey, pumpkin pie, cranberries, and football games. Tomorrow we brave the cold winter weather and hit the malls for Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year. Tradition! Of course it is called Black Friday because that is the day merchants hope to go from red ink to black. I think it should be called Green Friday in honor of losing those greenbacks in your wallet but I guess St. Patrick already spoke for that color.

Where do we begin: The first Thanksgiving Day celebration occurred somewhere around the year 1620. According to historical records, participants at the first Thanksgiving Day dinner included 53 Pilgrims and 90 Indians. The main course was probably some sort of fowl, but likely not turkey, there were no pumpkin pies, as there were no baking ovens, although there could have been some boiled pumpkin. Cranberries had not yet been introduced in the colonies and since flour was scarce, there was no bread at the table. More likely the feast included duck, geese, venison, fish, lobster, clams, swan, berries, dried fruit, pumpkin, squash, and other vegetables. There were no Lions in Detroit or anywhere else in the New World so the TV stayed in the off position during that first Thanksgiving dinner.

Thanksgiving Day had been celebrated primarily as a religious observation to give thanks to God for the farmers’ bounty but now is considered a secular holiday to give thanks for all blessings including food, fun, and family. It has been regularly celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November since 1863 but did not become a federal holiday until 1941, ironically just eleven days before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Guess they were ticked at not being invited to dinner.

Days of fife and drum: During the Revolutionary War the Continental Congress assigned one or more Thanksgivings each year until the First National Proclamation of Thanksgiving was issued by the Continental Congress in 1777. That one was inspired by George Washington to give thanks for defeating the British at Fort Saratoga. In the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be celebrated on the final Thursday of November, 1863. Every president who followed Lincoln continued the tradition of proclaiming the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day, until 1939. That year President Theodore Roosevelt broke with tradition. Since November had five Thursdays in 1939 Roosevelt declared the fourth one to be Thanksgiving, and in 1940 and 1941, since November had four Thursdays, he proclaimed Thanksgiving to be the third November Thursday in each of those years. Roosevelt’s thinking was that since the country was in the midst of the Great Depression, having Thanksgiving one week earlier would give merchants a longer period to sell their Christmas wares, as selling Christmas products before Thanksgiving was deemed inappropriate. Many states followed Roosevelt’s proclamation but 22 did not and celebrated the last Thursday in November and referred to the earlier date as “Franksgiving.” Texas declared both weekends as government holidays. I suspect they were still confused about the Alamo. On October 26, 1941 both houses of Congress passed a bill making Thanksgiving Day the last Thursday in November. The Senate later amended the bill to make it the fourth Thursday. (And you wonder why they can’t agree on the Health Care Bill?)

Thanksgiving Traditions: From football to turkey, Thanksgiving traditions are weaved into the fabric of our society. It is considered to be the family holiday and children gather in the homes of their parents, not helping with the dishes and reminding their parents that spring tuition will soon be due. As far as the parents... well, I came across a job description for parents that I’d like to share:

Mom, Mommy, Mama, Ma
Dad, Daddy, Dada, Pa, Pop

Long term, team players needed, for challenging permanent work in an, often chaotic environment.

Candidates must possess excellent communication and organizational skills and be willing to work variable hours, which will include evenings and weekends and frequent 24 hour shifts on call.

Some overnight travel required, including trips to primitive camping sites on rainy weekends and endless sports tournaments in far away cities!

Travel expenses not reimbursed.

Extensive courier duties also required.

The rest of your life.

Must be willing to be hated, at least temporarily, until someone needs $5.

Must be willing to bite tongue repeatedly.

Also, must possess the physical stamina of a pack mule and be able to go from zero to 60 mph in three seconds flat in case, this time, the screams from the backyard are not someone just crying wolf.

Must be willing to face stimulating technical challenges, such as small gadget repair, mysteriously sluggish toilets and stuck zippers.

Must screen phone calls, maintain calendars and coordinate production of multiple homework projects.

Must have ability to plan and organize social gatherings for clients of all ages and mental outlooks.

Must be willing to be indispensable one minute, an embarrassment the next.

Must handle assembly and product safety testing of a half million cheap, plastic toys, and battery operated devices.

Must always hope for the best but be prepared for the worst.

Must assume final, complete accountability for the quality of the end product.

Responsibilities also include floor maintenance and janitorial work throughout the facility.


Your job is to remain in the same position for years, without complaining, constantly retraining and updating your skills, so that those in your charge can ultimately surpass you

None required unfortunately.

On-the-job training offered on a continually exhausting basis.

Get this! You pay them!

Offering frequent raises and bonuses

A balloon payment is due when they turn 18 because of the assumption that college will help them become financially independent.

When you die, you give them whatever is left.

The oddest thing about this reverse-salary scheme is that you actually enjoy it and wish you could only do more.

While no health or dental insurance, no pension, no tuition reimbursement, no paid holidays and no stock options are offered; this job supplies limitless opportunities for personal growth, unconditional love, and free hugs and kisses for life if you play your cards right.


The above job description was written by Annette Clifford a contributor to Florida Today. Her web site is

A little blogging music Maestro: From every ice cream wagon in America, “Turkey in the Straw.”

Dr. Forgot

Sunday, November 22, 2009

More than one Bear

Annabelle Bucar – Clairton’s Mata Hari?
Or “Just another Woman in Love?”
Clairton Bear to Russian Bear

From a CIA memo: A memorandum in the files of the Central Intelligence Agency written by Leslie D. Weir and approved for release September 22, 1993, speaks to the book written by Clairton native Annabelle Bucar. It states in part, “The Soviets see verification of the relationship between diplomacy and espionage in such facts as General Smith's having been posted, after his tenure as Ambassador to the USSR, first to CIA and then to State, in Admiral Kirk's position in Naval Intelligence prior to his assignment as Ambassador to Moscow and his subsequent chairmanship of the American Committee for Liberation, and of course in the teaming of the Dulles brothers at the head of the twin foreign affairs agencies. Over the past eight years Soviet spokesmen have frequently quoted Annabelle Bucar's The Truth about American Diplomats, particularly the examples she gives to show that "intelligence agents are sent to the USSR under various guises: as counselors, second and third secretaries, attachés, and even ordinary clerks." Khrushchev's 9 May 1960 remark at the Czechoslovak Embassy exculpating Ambassador Thompson of complicity in the U-2 incident was a benign exception to the general view that there is no cleavage between U.S. diplomats and U.S. espionage.”

Story of a Clairton girl: Annabelle Bucar was born to Clairton resident Ivan Bucar in 1915. He had more than a dozen children most of whom became educated including Annabelle who graduated from Pitt and went into government service. She was sent to the American Embassy in Moscow in 1947 where she worked as a clerk. During her stint in Moscow she met and fell in love with Konstantin Lapshin, a singer in the Opera. They married and had one son. The son tragically was killed in an auto accident. Annabelle and Konstantin lived in Russia together for more than a half century. According to a Clairton resident who spoke to her by phone a decade ago – shortly before her death, she lived in a nice apartment overlooking Red Square. Annabelle lived to age 83. She lost her son to an auto accident long before her death and her husband predeceased her. According to another Clairton resident who lived near the Bucars, Ivan, the father who had immigrated from Croatia, near the Slovene border, had about 8 children when his wife became ill. He brought a girl to the U.S. from Croatia to nurse Mrs. Bucar, but she did not recover and passed away. Ivan married the nurse who had cared for his wife and had more children before his own death. The second wife still lives on and operates the Bucar farm.

Love is a many splendored thing: Although several Clairton residents remember the Bucar family – some remember Annabelle as well, the common reaction I received was, “What a shame she turned against her country.” Others spoke to Annabelle on her few trips back to the States and Clairton. They paint a picture of a girl who fell in love and perhaps followed her heart instead of her head. The policy in Russia at the time was to grant travel visas to only one family member at a time to insure that one would return, knowing that their family might face harm if they did not. Annabelle reportedly purchased items not available in the Soviet Union when she visited her hometown, particularly blue jeans for her son.

The not-so-liberal media: The press of the day excoriated Annabelle. She was accused of being a communist sympathizer if not a communist herself. Keep in mind that those were the days (late 1940s and early 1950s) of the beginning of the Cold War. McCarthyism ran rampant and anybody with a Slavic sounding name was suspect. To have chosen to live in the USSR was a sin the media and many Clairtonians were unable to forgive. If she had found sympathy among a few for being a foolish girl in love, that sympathy was dashed when her book was released. Although nobody to whom I spoke had actually read the book, all seemed to agree that it was nothing but communist propaganda probably written by the KGB. I was most curious about the book so I located a copy in England. It was a most interesting read.

“The Truth about American Diplomats” by Annabelle Bucar. The book is an easy read, only 174 pages in eight chapters. The last two chapters do read as though they might have been written by somebody on the staff of the Ministry of Propaganda within the USSR, but the rest of the book reads like that of an idealistic but disillusioned American State Department worker who was embarrassed and ashamed of the chicanery she witnessed within the American embassy at Moscow. She names names. Boy, does she name names. Loy Henderson, whom she describes as a WW-I draft dodger, was appointed as head of the Embassy. He was given three trainees, George Kennan, Charles Bohlen, and Edward Page as his anti-Soviet lackeys and underlings. After betting (wrongly) that Germany would overrun the Russian troops, Henderson was banished to Iraq, according to Bucar. She also names the following agents as either anti-Soviet or corrupt: Eldbridge Dubrow, Charles Thayer, Frederick Reinhardt, Francis Stevens, Richard Davis, Llewellyn Thompson and John Davies. They are described as bunglers who knew little and spoke poor Russian, rarely left the Embassy, and enriched themselves by buying rubles, gold, and Russian artifacts on the black market then reselling them at obscene profits.

Annabelle is not so naïve to think the OSS (forerunner to the CIA) did not serve a legitimate purpose. She recognizes the value of intelligence work. Her issue was with the State Department and diplomatic agencies that were supposed to have served as diplomats but who were so top heavy with spies and other intelligence workers that diplomacy became a joke. She claims that a core of anti-Soviet holdovers from WW-II formed a clique that ran the American Embassy in Moscow.

Anabelle also praised the free education system of the Soviet Union that rewarded academically inclined students with free education. She reflects on her struggles working and paying her own way through the University of Pittsburgh. She also lauds the medical care she received before, during and after the birth of her son.

Ms. Bucar is now gone, as is her son and her husband and most of those named in her book as corrupt. We will never know if her assessment was accurate or skewed by her love of her adopted country. One thing is sure, however, Annabelle Bucar is one Clairtonian who left her indelible mark on the world.

Thank you and hvala: Some of the Clairtonians who provided insights for this post include Jennie Peterson, Effie Batenich Liptak, Tom Nixon, and Kathy George. Thank you for your efforts in helping to piece together the story of this fascinating woman.

A little blogging music Maestro… “Back in the U.S.S.R.” by The Beatles.

Dr. Forgot

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Oh, Oh, Olio

Cliché Today

Oleo vs. Olio: Writing is about having fun. This blog is officially entitled Olio, which comes from the Spanish word olla, meaning pot – the kind you cook in, not the kind you light up. The mixture of ingredients in that pot is called olio. But the word also means A collection of various artistic or literary works or musical pieces; a miscellany. Oleo, on the other hand, is a spread made chiefly from vegetable oils and used as a substitute for butter. Writers sometimes resort to (not so) clever terms as well as clichés to describe things. Today’s blog post, taken from an earlier one, will walk you through an olio of clichés. Enjoy.

As American as apple pie: Although cliché is a French word Americans prefer a cliché to a soufflé. Today I’ll go against the grain and although I have no axe to grind, will give you the bottom line while we drill down to get the information that is on the money. Some clichés are as clear as mud and their meanings are rarely as pure as the driven snow. But today I will start at the crack of dawn and write, and though my thoughts may come as slow as molasses in January, I won’t beat around the bush, even if this column leaves me between a rock and a hard place.

Blood is thicker than water: The idea for today’s topic came from a relative whose emails could fill a bottomless pit. Though she sometimes can’t see the forest for the trees, at other times she can be the cat’s meow. Thus I will forget Clairton for today, which is for the birds, and sit back as cool as a cucumber to write today’s column come Hell or high water. Hopefully you’ll find this one funnier than a barrel of monkeys but I won’t count my chickens before they hatch. Compared to my other 400 posts this one is just a drop in the bucket. Oh, you might think that composing this is as easy as falling off a log but it is as hard as a rock to do this. Even a blind squirrel can find an acorn beneath an oak tree, so I’ll just get my feet wet and go with the flow.

A good rule of thumb: Before you leave this site remember the grass is always greener on the other side, so don’t be a stick-in-the-mud. Laugh and the world laughs with you. It can cause a ripple effect. Send this to your friends and give them something to crow about. Soon enough we’ll all be pushing up daisies. If it’s not one thing it’s another. Your sorrows will be just a drop in the bucket, knock on wood. Life is a bowl of cherries. Laugh and the world laughs with you and soon your troubles will be as hard to find as a needle in a haystack. Sorrow is not my cup of tea. There’s no use crying over spilt milk, let yourself go. Be as nutty as a fruitcake. Avoid bummers like the plague.

Wake up and smell the coffee: With the economy in disarray it is well to remember that a penny saved is a penny earned. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Don’t tempt fate, look out for number one. Times might be rough as a corn cob but it ain’t over till the fat lady sings. If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen. Politicians make me as nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof and the political parties that caused this mess are like two peas in a pod. Birds of a feather flock together. They pulled the wool over our eyes then told us to put that in our pipe and smoke it. The bank CEOs who caused this mess by trying to pull a fast one need to take their attitude and stick it where the sun don’t shine. As voters we need to tell those asking for a handout, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.” As we watched our 401K bite the dust until it bought the farm we needed to bite the bullet. Although there are dark clouds ahead every cloud has a silver lining. Do something to take your mind off your 401K. A watched pot never boils.

Take me out to the ball game: To take your mind off the economy, perhaps an athletic event is in order. Sit back, relax, and see who draws first blood. The game might be nip and tuck or a real barn burner. The teams might go at it like two heavyweights, fighting tooth and nail while the crowd goes wild as players give 110%. They certainly came to play. Yours is a blue collar team that shows flashes of brilliance but they are taking it one game at a time. Pretty soon your team will begin to take it to the next level. They thrive under pressure, rising to the occasion, and perhaps even breaking a record, as records are made to be broken. They control their own destiny. This is a must win situation. Your team was really dialed in. They left it all on the field.

Nothing ventured nothing gained: Now comes the time to wrap it up and put the pedal to the metal. We hope you enjoyed today’s column. Maybe we were pulling your leg a little. Maybe we were jerking your chain but don’t jump to conclusions. Was this satire or philosophy? You can’t judge a book by its cover. It is what it is. As for us, we’ll continue writing this tripe come Hell or high water. Most of what I write is on the tip of my tongue, and you can take that to the bank.

Next week we will get back to Clairton matters. Have a nice day.

A little blogging music Maestro... feel the pain--by my side--set me free--lost without you --broken heart--all we've been through--hold me close--my foolish pride--all night long--give you my heart--want you, need you, love you--all my love--more than friends--never let you go--more than words can say--when you walked into the room--when you came into my life--when I first saw you--dream come true--call on me--our love is forever, and the ever popular--oh baby....

Dr. Forgot

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Four Decades of History

More Snippets of Clairton History

Reflections of the past: Several posts ago we did a segment of snippets of happenings in Clairton’s history. It was not intended to be a complete history by any means but perhaps readers could pick out a memory or two from their youth or see what was happening in Clairton around their birth. We took you up to the 1960s and received several messages asking more. Beyond the 1960s things began to change dramatically, not only in Clairton but in the rest of the world. The 60s closed by putting a man on the moon but the 70s and onward had Viet Nam, hippies, Woodstock, the rise of foreign autos and the fall of the steel industry. Below are a few highlights:

September 1972: A Post Gazette article congratulated the Clairton Works on hammering out a consent decree on “charging” and “Pushing” operations at the coke works. “Charging” refers to loading materials into the coke ovens and “pushing” describes shoving out the finished product. Both phases are done with the doors open and noxious fumes escape. The Decree required an environmental plan to be in place within one year and the plan would clean up the air by 1977. Thirty-two years later they are still waiting.

April 8, 1973: Racial tensions at Clairton High School threaten to close the school down as white parents push for a boycott of the school. Several white and black students identified as “troublemakers” met and together appeared to work things out as the parents insisted on closing down the school. Hundreds of police planned to patrol the school when it opened the following day. By Wednesday the boycott appeared to be waning as 70% of students attended classes.

January 6, 1975: Pennsylvania Industrial Chemical Co. (PICCO) was fined $ 3,000 for violating federal water pollution standards. The plant was cited for failure to report to the U.S. Coast Guard two oil spills that occurred last February. PICCO had also been prosecuted for water standards violations in 1971.

September 9, 1975: Daniel Maurer, 20, of Clairton was charged in the severe beating of 17-year old Richard Heeter. The two carnival workers apparently had a dispute during an evening of drinking. Heeter had returned and was sleeping in his sleeping bag when Maurer apparently accosted him. The victim was hospitalized in critical condition.

April 2, 1979: The Deer Hunter movie put Clairton on the map. In anticipation of being deluged with visitors the downtown area was spruced up with a $500,000 commercial revitalization program initiated by the Allegheny County Planning Department. More than two dozen trees were planted on St. Clair Avenue and a like number on Miller Avenue. Since Clairton did not look decrepit enough for the image the movie makers wanted to portray, many scenes were shot in the Steubenville and Youngstown, Ohio areas.

November 3, 1982: Clairton is broke. Mayor Rose Bush and Councilman Daniel Pastore voted to lay off one Clairton policeman. The action was approved by solicitor Robert Baird. The City will be able to meet Friday’s $60,000 payroll but without a loan of $628,000, Clairton’s 83 employees will not be paid for the rest of the year. Last March the City furloughed 19 employees including 10 police and 4 firefighters.

November 20, 1984: A Lutheran Synod stepped in to take control of the strife-ridden Trinity Lutheran Church in Clairton. Rev. Douglas Roth, a pastor who encourages activism and confrontational tactics against corporate leaders to dramatize the plight of the unemployed, was given a 90-day jail sentence for defying an order to leave the church. The congregation of mostly retirees was sharply divided between support of Roth and opposing him.

September 10, 1985: Clairton laid off all police, firefighters and clerical workers because the City is broke. Mayor Daniel Pastore said the City is $750,000 in debt and bankrupt after teetering on the edge of bankruptcy for 3 years. Police Chief Ken Ujevich and police officer Armand Martin said they would voluntarily stay on if they could be paid retroactively out of next years budget but the offer was rejected. Instead State Police will patrol the community.

May 18, 1994: Clairton School District which is officially depressed, with a deficit of $2.3 million, has been recognized for their special education inclusion program. The state administrator who oversaw the inclusion program implementation remarked that “Clairton School District is rich in human resources.“ Administrator John Ogurchak, a Clairton High School product and former principal was particularly cited as having done an outstanding job.

November 18, 1999: More than half the students in the Clairton Education Center did not report to school after it was learned that school secretary Betty King had been hospitalized with bacterial meningitis. School Board member Andrew Ferraro urged parents to send their children to school, ant that according to County health officials there is no imminent danger to them. An official at the Health Department’s infectious disease unit said the disease is rarely communicable and no other cases have been reported.

January 16, 2002: City Manager Ralph Imbrogno noted that McDonald’s Corporation has announced plans for a McDonald’s restaurant to open in Clairton along Route 837. The proposed restaurant should include a convenience store and gas pumps.

March 6, 2002: Contrary to the declining numbers of ethnic clubs, St. George Lodge 248 of The Croatian Fraternal Union of America in Clairton has doubled its membership in the past 20 years. Part of the attraction are the many youth programs sponsored by the club.

March 27, 2009: Former football star player and favorite coach, the beloved DeMonje Rosser was fatally shot outside his home. No motive was cited and no suspects were identified.

August 6, 2009: Kevin Weatherspoon, Clairton’s outstanding wide receiver who helped the Bears to the WPIAL championship last year, made a verbal commitment to play football at the University of Pittsburgh after high school. The prize recruit was pursued by dozens of other schools but chose to stay near home.

There you have a few more snippets of Clairton happenings, activities, and people from the 1970s through 2009. Not all are pretty, but it gives one a sense of where Clairton has been and the hopes of its return to better days. Our hopes are with the residents of Clairton,

A little blogging music Maestro… “My Hometown” by the Boss, Bruce Springsteen.

Dr. Forgot

Thursday, November 5, 2009

First Presbyterian Centennial Sermon

Centennial Sermon, III

First Presbyterian, Clairton: On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Clairton First Presbyterian Church, Rev. Robert Crilley delivered the sermon. Rev. Crilley was not the pastor of the church but one of Clairton’s sons who had heard the calling of the ministry. His sermon that June 8, 2003 morning was moving, homey, and reflective. We have published it in segments and today we post the third and final segment. Judging from the feedback we’ve received, many Clairtonians of all faiths are able to relate to his words. Read and enjoy:
Centennial Sermon conclusion:

“I’ve talked about a few Pastors who were influential in our lives. All of us, of course, could compile our own list. But how about the people?

We live in a vastly different time than when this church was founded. Back then the titans of American industry were household names----the Mellons, the Carnegies, Kaufmans.

Today we live in a time of no names--certainly not names that stick in our memories.

Who’s the current CEO of U. S. Steel? A fellow by the name of Roy G. Dorrance. Most of us have never heard of him.

But this ignorance of names extends to every area of interest.

For all you jock types, who was last season’s most valuable player in the NFL? Can you name him? Rich Gannon--QB for the Oakland Raiders. I didn’t know that. The Google search instrument told me who it was.

Who was crowned Miss America last year? Katie Harman of Oregon.

But, the point is, I just know if I asked you to name three individuals in the life of this church, who made a mark on your life, who made a difference in who you are today you could do it in a wink.
For me that would mean Mrs. Morgan and Mrs. Licht and Mrs. Wagner---all teachers of the youngest ages.

Captain & Mrs. James Hynde, would be on my list, as would be W.B. Williams, Custodian, Miss Mary Jo Hennig, Secretary, Mary Catherine Smoyer, Organist, Herbert A Wilson, Director of Music---can‘t forget them.

One of the most influential people in my life was Mr. Richard Alcorn. He taught a Sunday School Class for Junior High boys here in the forties. I was a part of his class. He taught us to love the Bible and to think of Jesus as our friend---one who walks with us and talks with us and tells us that we are His own. Mr. Alcorn made for us little leather wallets that contained Scripture passages he had us memorize---”A thousand shall fall at thy side, 10,000 at thy right hand, but it will not come near you“ Psalm 91;

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.” Psalm 103.

In Senior High school, Mr. Robert Baird, an attorney, taught me not be afraid to use my mind. And Mr. Robert Ostermeyer taught me Christian generosity, courage and a quiet humility.

And how could anybody forget Mr. Stokes leading the Sunday School in what we called back then “Opening Exercises?”

My sister Betty wrote me an e-mail about Mr. Stokes. She said, “I remember, coming home from the hospital when Don was dying of cancer. I comforted myself by singing all the songs that Mr. Stokes taught us.

In this long list of treasured people, I’d have to number my own father among the great Christian influences in my life. He was the Secretary of the Sunday School for years and years, and served as Elder for several terms as well. My sisters remember him every Sunday afternoon, sitting at the dining room table, going through the Sunday School attendance records, carefully compiling the statistics.

But can’t you feel the presence of all these saints who from their labors rest, men and women? They’re all here with us now in Jesus Christ. In our remembering, they’re here.

So, as I come to the close, let me offer my services to you. If the committee for the 125th celebration would like me to be the speaker, I volunteer to do it. I’ll do the math for you. I’ll be 93.

But, be assured, one way or another, we’ll be here!
God bless us everyone!”

A little blogging music Maestro… The hymn, “Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott” written by Martin Luther in the year 1528 and translated into English to become, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”

Dr. Forgot

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Hundred Year Sermon - II

100- Year Celebration Sermon, continued

City of Prayer: Clairton calls itself the City of Prayer. There certainly seemed to be more churches per capita in our town than in others. We have spoken in previous blogs about some of the others but today we will continue our comments regarding one in particular. In our previous post we shared part of the sermon that was given by Rev. Robert Crilley, a Clairton lad who had gone into the ministry and was invited to give the sermon on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Clairton’s First Presbyterian church. The sermon continues:

Throughout the Christian world today, the opening verse of Acts 2 will be read. “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all gathered together in one place.”

Now, for me that verse can be taken in two ways; the first way is the obvious one---the early church was gathered together for worship when the power of the Holy Spirit descended with might upon them.

But there’s another sense to these words---“they were all gathered together in one place“---a sense more along the lines of the ending of the movie Places in the Heart. Some of you may have seen that film starring Sally Field, Danny Glover, Malkovich and others.

The closing scene takes place in a church. And as the camera slowly pans the congregation taking communion, the audience is suddenly shocked, actually stunned, because all the characters in the movie---the ones who died as well as the living---are sitting together in church celebrating and sharing Communion.

There’s one particularly poignant camera shot of a black man who was hung by the Ku Klux Klan. He is shown passing a morsel of Christ’s body to one of the men who hanged him, saying, “The peace of Christ.”

And while all this is going on the choir is singing “In the Garden”

And He walks with me,
And He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;

To me, all the people who blessed my life in this place---the living as well as those who have ascended to the heavenly father, are gathered together with us this morning. They’re here.

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all gathered together in one place.”

I think our Lord was trying to say something like that at His Last Supper. He said to his disciples, “When you do this in the future, do it in remembrance of me.”

What did he mean? Surely he wasn’t talking about taking some nostalgic stroll down memory lane. He wasn’t asking them to recall the details of the event itself– Peter, for example, saying to John, “Well, John, I think he broke the bread like this, and I think he held the cup in his left hand.”

No, no----- not that kind of remembering!

In the Greek “to remember” means to bring the past into the present. By “remembering” Him in the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the cup, Christ meant, “I will be with you. I‘ll be in your presence.”

And what’s truly thrilling is how the author of the book of Hebrews takes this thought and pushes it to a staggering conclusion.

He develops a word picture that suggests that not only is Christ present, but all our loved ones in Christ are, in very important ways, alive and witnessing these moments of ours here on earth.
He pictures the Resurrected in heavenly bleachers witnessing our earthly endeavors and urging us on to victory.

“Therefore,” he says, “since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith..”

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.”

Throughout my years in the ministry, I’ve had dozens of people ask me, “Rev. do you think I’ll see my loved one in heaven and be recognized by them?”

When I was a young Pastor I used to give a long, overly theological answer.

Now, when anybody asks me that, I say, “Will it be heaven if you can’t?”

On an anniversary occasion, surely we think of the Pastors who have served this church.

I think of the Rev. Karl Monroe. I was only six years old when he came to this church and when he left I was a sophomore in High School. I don’t remember a word of a single sermon of his---not one illustration, but I remember him, the man, his smile---his readiness to be helpful, his kindness, his dignity, his graciousness.

He taught our Communicant Class---helped us get ready for our first Communion every week for six weeks after school. I’ve never forgotten my first communion here. Maundy Thursday. We sat in the first row of pews---none of our feet could touch the floor. It was night time. A white, white table cloth glistened---it‘s folds perfectly arranged.. I sat mesmerized by the holy thing I was about to do. I remember the first time I tasted the bread--the body of Christ, and felt that thimble full of grape juice trickle down my throat---the blood of our Lord. Awesome. Awesome. In Seminary I would learn how Martin Luther was struck by the enormity of his first communion and it was my story.

And I remember the Rev. H. D. Hough. He served here from 1951 to 1956. He was something else that man---he was a kind of legend in his own time.

I remember how amazed we all were when, several weeks before the birth of his first child, he stood up in this pulpit and preached on the text, “Absalom, my son, my son,” and then boldly predicted to a stunned congregation that his first born would be a boy child.” This was way before those pictures that tell the gender of a child during pregnancy.

And his first child was a son! Blew us away is what it did.

Rev. Hough had a way of pushing limits. I remember one particular Sunday when he was preaching. I was here. Someone up the street began a carpentry project and soon you could see that the Rev. Hough was becoming increasingly unnerved by the noise of all that hammering and sawing.

Suddenly he stopped his sermon and said, “Would one of the ushers please go and tell that sinner to stop working on the Lord’s Day!” The congregation was stunned.

“I will not preach until he stops!” Rev. Hough said. Time stood still as we all waited. You could hear the movement of a fly’s wing. Suddenly the hammering stopped and the Rev. Hough resumed his sermon. What power. I never forgot it. No one ever pounded while I preached, but I tell you folks I was ready if it ever happened.
The conclusion of the sermon will appear in our next post.

A little blogging music Maestro… The hymn “Morning Has Broken,” written by Eleanor Farjeon.

Dr. Forgot