Saturday, March 20, 2010

Clairton's Rich Heritage

Clairton History

Today’s blog holds dual significance for me. It is the 400th post on this blog and the 66th post about Clairton. It is also significant because a dear, longtime friend and blog reader has agreed to share a bit of her family’s heritage.

We have written dozens of blogs about our hometown, Clairton, PA. Part of the richness of Clairton came from the amalgamation of individuals from varied backgrounds into one community. There were Catholics, Protestants, Baptists, Mormons, and all manner of religions, as well as Anglos, Middle and Eastern Europeans, African Americans, Arabs, Jews, and all manner of ethnicities. They worked side by side in the mills and operated businesses that served the community. Sometimes they married into one another’s culture. They established and built many of Clairton’s landmarks and when their adopted country went to war they served with honor.

Today’s blog is written by Donna Lancianese Lajcack whose family was so typical of so many World War II era Clairtonians. Read and enjoy.

When my Dad, Roman Lancianese, was nine years old, he immigrated from Abruzzo province in Italy with his mother, Inocenzza, and his brothers during the 1918 World Flu Epidemic. My grandfather, Pierino, had come to America and worked for two years to pay his family's passage. As they sailed into the New York City harbor, with his name pinned to his coat, my Dad stepped onto his new homeland at Ellis Island and began his new life of opportunity. In 1990, I had his name placed on a plaque. On a bus tour to Ellis Island that year, he found his name. ALL his friends and my Mother took a photo as they all pointed to his name. My Dad was so PROUD!

His family came to Clairton, PA; my dad loved his adopted country. Always curious and engaging, he worked as a "water boy" when the Glassport, PA bridge was being built in the Wilson area of Clairton. Like others, he helped to build the St. Paulinus Church, as he had lived nearby and worked in his dad's businesses. Eventually, he owned/worked in a bowling alley, bar/restaurant, flower shop, hair salon, barber, beautician and more. His smile was extraordinary and he had a passion for life and new adventures. He captured my Mother's attention (Rose Marie) when she happened to meet him at St. Paulinus Church when she was 17; he always called her, "his beautiful Rose." They married on Feb. 2, 1942 and had four children---Donna, Ramon, Gloria and Perry.

During World War II my Dad could not serve in our USA Armed Forces because of his eyesight. He stayed behind and helped others at home. One was his cousin who also emigrated from Italy. After becoming an American citizen his cousin was drafted into the US Army at age 37 and was shipped overseas to Italy, to fight in his former homeland! He became a POW within six months and remained there until the war had ended. During this period, my Dad had not only worked in his own business, but he also worked in his cousin's business. When his cousin returned, my Dad gave him ALL the money he had earned from his cousin's business during those war order to help his cousin to begin his life anew. How many of us today would have made all those same sacrifices, even for a relative?!

My Dad was always aware of historical significance. He traveled to the "Chicago's World Fair," standing in front of Admiral Byrd's boat for a classic photo. He walked the ten miles from Clairton to the Allegheny County airport as a young man to see Lindbergh's stop on his way into history. Years later at that same airport, he carried my 18 month old brother, Ray, in his arms and held my hand when President Harry S. Truman came out and stood on the plane's top step and waved vigorously to the crowd. In my yellow dress and a large yellow ribbon in my long hair of curls, I remember looking up to my Dad as he told me to smile and wave to our President; I was almost three years old. I clearly remember how President Truman waved his hand back and forth over his hat to the small crowd. I then looked upwards to my Dad; his smile was always so extraordinary and captivating. It was "a moment in time" that was burned into my memory as a young child and never forgotten. My Dad always continued forever to show his respect and pride for HIS adopted and beloved country...the United States of America. He loved and lived life so large.

My Dad worked long business hours, but he continued to assist others in need throughout his life, by loaning them money in their need. He learned to play golf at 40, and he taught everyone he knew how to play golf, including his children and my husband, Denis. My brothers, Ray and Perry, became golf professionals. When my Dad celebrated his 90th birthday in 2000 on a Pittsburgh golf course with friends, he hit "his third life-time hole in one!" His golf-mates were celebrating ALL the way to the clubhouse! The Pittsburgh Press noted this special birthday event the next day in their newspaper. My Dad passed away in 2004

His vision in teaching others through kindness, a friend to all, a "hands up" to those in need, his wonderful sense of humor, a willingness to work hard to give his family the best that he could, his graciousness to everyone he met, and his extraordinary smile to bring loving joy to so many people, made my Italian immigrant Dad, Roman Lancianese, this wonderful, respectful and hard-working immigrant Citizen of his beloved...."America the Beautiful!"

Donna Lancianese Lajcak

A little blogging music Maestro… “That’s Amore,” by Dean Martin.


Anonymous said...

i like this.

Anonymous said...

I grew up playing golf at South Hills Country Club, where Ramon Lancianese became the Head Golf Professional. He was there throughout my teen years, and it was a memorable relationship. This article by his sister is quite remarkable, and something I never knew. Where is Ramon now.

Barrett Mcgrath