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

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