Saturday, April 24, 2010

Clairton Connections

If Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right, Try Three

First order of business: One of my all-time favorite movies is “Lawrence of Arabia.” One of my favorite lines in that movie was uttered by an Arab chief to Lawrence, “You lied! You’re NOT perfect.” In that spirit I must say that I heard from several readers last week regarding my reflections of Clairton. In one Jean Jordan writes: “Enjoyed reading your blog - you mentioned the 1960 football team but forgot about the great marching band & Honeybears. It was one of the best in the tri-state area with Ben E. Benack & Mr. Rotili, who once in a while would direct - even in his advancing years. Then, there was Audrey Smith who choreographed our routines - who could forget those giant dice & our routine to Peter Gunn. It was great fun. Still to this day I get teary-eyed every time I hear ‘When the Saints Go Marching In?’ I just want to get up & march!!!” Well, Jean, you are absolutely right. How could I have overlooked the Honeybears and the excellent staff of musicians and music teachers who taught us? I must admit, however, that their teaching was pretty well lost on me. The only instrument I ever played was the radio, and that was usually off key.

My parents decided that they would pay to have a piano teacher come to the house each Saturday to teach the basics to us. My three sisters were able to master the blasted instrument but after my second lesson the piano teacher pulled my mother aside and, nodding toward me trying to play a scale said, “Save your money with that one.”

Next order of business: Reverend Abe Allende helped me remember two doctors whom I did not mention, He writes, “You were right in that there were ‘at least’ five (physicians in Clairton). Two other very significant omissions were Dr. Booker and Dr. Sessions, both African-American doctors who, of course, treated African-American patients not only from Clairton, but from the surrounding area. That era in which you and I lived in Clairton pre-dated the age of "cultural competency" and, quite frankly, white doctors did not have a significant clientele of African-American patients. This was not due to intentional prejudice, but I'm guessing they may not have felt comfortable treating black patients and I'm certain black patients, to be quite candid, felt more comfortable with a black doctor.”

Over my shoulder a backward glance: Clairton residents had little else if not a strong work ethic. Nearly everybody of my era did something outside the home to help the family income. Some scooped ice cream at Isaly’s, others checked grocery items, delivered papers, pumped gas, baby sat, or did one of a myriad of activities. My outside activities included working as Haines Super Market on Route 51 and delivering The Daily News. When I was 14 my father became the Daily News distributor in Clairton and 2,000 papers were delivered each day to our garage, counted, repackaged, and distributed to paperboys (and a few girls) and stores. Most of the stores that sold individual papers were drug stores and they included Thrift Drug, Livingston’s, Webb’s, and others. Webb’ was one of the more difficult stores to deliver as it was on the corner of Maple Avenue and State Street and in front of the mill gate, so there was always traffic. It was necessary to stop for as long as it took somebody to hop out of the blue Jeep, run the papers in, and run back out to the Jeep. If you happened to catch the red light just right it was ok, but most of the time that did not happen. The proprietor and pharmacist was an African American gentleman named Benny Webb.

Fast forward 40 years: I worked at a university in Las Vegas for about three decades. During that time I was a professor and an administrator at the school. My duties also included marketing and overseeing their Doctoral program in Organizational Leadership and one in Educational Administration. As I was reviewing an application preparing to interview a potential Doctoral candidate I noticed he was from Greensburg, PA. We began to chat about Western PA and I told him I had grown up in Clairton. He said, “My uncle owned a pharmacy in Clairton. Perhaps you remember Benny Webb.” Small world.

More Clairton Stuff: Readers of this blog frequently ask me where and how I uncover the trivia and other items for the Clairton blog posts. Many suggestions come from readers who tell me about Clairtonians they remember or accomplishments of those with whom they’ve gone to CHS. Others have been kind enough to forward resumes, news clips, and photos of current and former Clairton citizens. A few have access to certain research programs that scour the internet, and they are kind enough to forward any information a “Clairton” search yields. There are also several generally available websites that include Clairton history and current topics. includes many photos and discussion topics. is an active site maintained by Jim Hartman and includes a wealth of information about the area including Clairton. Jim has also converted many editions of the Clairton Progress and made them available. Old photos and interesting facts abound at their site. Current news stories and forums can be found at another interesting website, The City, School District, and Library all have their own websites. There is lots of neat stuff about Clairton floating around in cyberspace.

Don’t forget: The CHS Class of 1960 will celebrate their 50th reunion this June and a multi-year get together will be held at Clairton Park Saturday September 4. This is a great opportunity to renew old acquaintances. Further information can be found at

A little blogging music Maestro... “My Hometown” by Bruce Springsteen.

Dr. Forgot

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Unions and Reunions

The Tie that Binds

Reader comments: We get regular feedback from readers. Sometimes the blog misbehaves and refuses to accept the comments. Fortunately, when that happens I often get an email, such as the one recently from my editor in chief and occasional guest blogger Jill Urso. In response to a previous week’s blog on Easter traditions she writes, “My mother was the organist for the Lutheran church on Walnut Avenue in Wilson. I remember sunrise services on Memorial Hill at Clairton Park. They would rent her a portable organ and she would have to pump it with her feet to keep it going!!! We never missed a year even though sometimes it was freezing!”

Reunions and other ties: I’m not sure how unique Clairton residents and former residents are about keeping in touch with their roots. If Mrs. Dr. Forgot’s high school is any indication, Clairton is unique. Her graduating class, which got their diplomas a few years and a couple of thousand miles away from mine has had exactly one formal reunion in the decades that followed graduation. They also had a recent brunch with a couple dozen classmates getting together one morning at a local country club. But Clairton denizens, past and present seem to have a proclivity to get together more often.

Bears across the years: Each year at Clairton Park a multi-year reunion is held at the Lodge. This year it will be held Saturday, September 4 starting at 11:00 a.m. Although the focus is on graduating classes between 1934 and 1970, members of other classes have never been turned away. It is a casual, multi-family affair with folks bringing their own lawn chairs, drinks, and spouses. It is said that a class reunion is the true measure of the love of a spouse or partner, as it can be their most boring experience ever. Not so the multi-year CHS reunions. So many families, spouses, colleagues and friends stop by that being bored simply is not an option. The sponsors of the Multi-year Reunion Picnic have a web site:

Bears across the miles: So many ex-pat Clairtonians have migrated to the Sunshine State that a Clairton reunion is held annually in Ft. Desoto Park, Florida. This one is held when the chill is on in Clairton – the third Saturday in February every year. For photos, directions, and other information, see the website that discusses the CHS Florida Reunion:

Golden Bears to meet this summer: The Clairton High School class of 1960 was unique in a variety of ways. Students came from Finleyville, Elrama, West Mifflin, Jefferson Borough, Pleasant Hills and other parts of the globe to attend CHS in the closing days of the 1950s. As sophomores the Class of 1960 was so large that the school administration had to resort to creative scheduling to accommodate the huge number of World War II babies. This was accomplished by opening the theater up for use as a study hall. The theater had wooden floors that slanted toward the stage, that also doubled as gym class (then called “phys ed”) as well as serving as the basketball floor for high school basketball games. A few ne’er-do-well lads would sit in the back rows during study hall and roll marbles down the wooden floors, disrupting the few studies that actually occurred.

To alleviate the CHS overcrowding a brand new school was built out in the sticks. It was named Thomas Jefferson High School and the inaugural class was carved out of the sophomore CHS Class of 1960.

A half century in the blink of an eye: This June the CHS class of 1960 will celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of their graduation with a reunion. This class is both unique and special in that starting with the 10th anniversary the class has held a reunion every five years. Every reunion was well planned by a core of hard working class officers and well attended by alums who had roamed the globe – from California to France to Africa, and even a core group of locals who stayed nearby but attend each reunion. In the interest of full disclosure we must confess that we are a member of this class, but we also have a mailing list of well over 200 CHS alumni who read this blog regularly and we hear from others who have received the blog in an email. To those CHS classmates from 1960 who have not yet made plans to attend I encourage you to make your reservation soon. This one promises to be the best yet. Information can be found on the 1960 CHS website:

A Clairton Bear Football Legacy: Back in the “good old days” when men were men and women were glad of it, and you could tell one from the other even at a quick glance, Clairton was an athletic powerhouse. Swimming, track, basketball, football, and other sports were consistent winners in the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League (WPIAL) but none were ever state champs. That was only because there were no state championships until recently. The Bears football team came close a couple of times, getting knocked out in the semis or finals, but fame did not elude them long. The week before Christmas saw the Bears, which had previously won six WPIAL championships, win it all against Bishop McCourt. They are keeping up a rich tradition. So will the 1960 graduates reflect on the wins, losses, cheers, and tears this June. Hope to see you there.

A little blogging music Maestro… “Be True to Your School” by the Beach Boys.

Dr. Forgot

Friday, April 9, 2010

Test Your Clairton/Pittsburgh IQ

A Closed Mind is a Good Thing to Lose

Mostly Personal: It is a safe bet that many blog readers are either current or former residents of Clairton, PA and the Greater Pittsburgh area and their families. We always appreciate hearing from Clairtonians whether current or expatriate. Reader Jill Urso sent us a Pittsburgh IQ quiz. While not exactly Clairton, Pittsburgh is that little town down the Monongahela. Or if you’re not up for a swim, that little village can be reached by driving the River Road (aka Route 837) or the more modern, more congested Route 51. Once you arrive “dawntawn” you are to look around and see how many of these questions you can answer. In the spirit of final exams, which will be coming up soon, here is a Pittsburgh practice test:

1) Newscaster Bill Burns used to end his newscasts with what phrase?

2) Name 2 members of the Rooney family.

3) Pittsburgh once had a bridge to ______________.

4) Name Ricki Wertz dog.

5) Captain Jim sailed on the ship____________.

6) Famous Pittsburgh DJ, Clark _____________.

7) Bill Cardille's nickname was___________________.

8) What pro wrestling champ was from Pittsburgh ?

9) Paul Long's news partner was Don ________________.

10) "It's 11 pm. Do you know where ______________________?”

11) Name the parts of a Primanti sandwhich.

12) Bob Prince's nickname was ______________?

13) Myron Cope invented the Terrible _____________.

14) What tunnels are on the Parkway West?

15) What tunnels are on the Parkway East?

16) What are the former call letters of WPXI Channel 11.

17) What is the Pittsburgh subway system called?

18) Paul Shannon hosted _________________.

19) Nosmo King was played by ___________________.

20) What was Bob Prince's call after a Bucco's win?

21) What famous Market Square Restaurant can a street person eat at the same table as a business executive?

22) In what part of Pittsburgh was Forbes Field located?

23) Where is Forbes Field's home plate now?

24) In what part of Pittsburgh was Three Rivers Stadium?

25) Name the 3 rivers whose confluence is in Pittsburgh .

26) What was the popular hamburger joint in Pittsburgh prior to McDonald's?

27) What number did Roberto Clemente wear?

28) What number did Joe Greene wear?

29) Where will the UP Incline take you?

30) What state park is located in downtown Pittsburgh?

31) What was the name of the local 11:30 pm Saturday show in 60's & 70's?

32) Name the 1st radio station in Pittsburgh .

33) During the 70's, what radio station encouraged listeners to answer their phones with, "I listen to the new sound of _________."

34) What was the nickname of KQV during the groovy 60's & 70's?

35) The host of Dialing for Dollars was Del ______________.

36) The host of Bowling for Dollars was Nick________________?

37) What would you receive if you answered a question incorrectly on Dialing/Bowling for Dollars?

38) Name the late night KDKA radio talk show host.

39) The host of Popeye and Knish was Hank ______________?

40) Jack Lambert said quarterbacks should wear _________________.

41) A Saturday morning Tarzan Theater was hosted by Don ________________?

42) The minor league hockey team in Pittsburgh was the _________________.

43) The 2 ABA franchises in Pittsburgh were _____________ & _______________?

44) Chicken on the Hill with _______________?

45) Who had to "leave town" in April after advising Pittsburghers to remove their snow tires the same week Pittsburgh received a 12" snowfall?

46) Name the show that was on every Sunday at 1 pm with
Ricki Wertz and competing students.

47) What was the name of the "Castle Prankster" on Chiller Theater?

48) Where could you send your letters to Santa where they would be loaded on a rocket ship and sent to the North Pole?

49) Name the tart sold by KDKA radio morning DJ's during Christmas season.

50) Who was Bill Burn's co-host before his daughter Patty?

51) Who can?

52) Ring-a-ling-a-ling give ______ a ring.

53) Century Three Cheverolet.

54) Eat and Park, the place for ______________?

55) What cabaret type showroom was located in Monroeville ?

56) Name 4 quaterbacks from the Pittsburgh area who played in the Super Bowl (there are more than 4).

57) Who played Handy Man Negri on Mister Rogers Neighborhood?

58) What section of Pittsburgh would you go to buy fruits and vegetables?

59) The Civic Arena is located just below what area of Pittsburgh ?

60) What 3 Pittsburgh colleges play Division 1 basketball?

61) Wholey's is known for ___________________.

62) What hotel is famous for its dancers?

63) The 1st owner of the Steelers was _______________________.

64) The paddle boats of the rivers are the _________ Fleet.

65) The Pittsburgh USFL team was the _______________.

66) Pittsburgh railroad workers did a dance while they worked. It became known as the __________.

67) "John Naretto __________________."

68) In an early book about the Steel Mills, Pittsburgh was described as “________ with the lid off.”

69) Who hit the home run in the bottom of the ninth to give the Pirates a World Series victory in 1960?

70) Who did the Pirates beat in that World Series?

Ok, now exchange papers and let’s check your answers:

1) Goodnight, Good Luck & Good News tomorrow.
2) Dan & Art
3) Nowhere
4) Copper
5) Nancy Bee
6) Race
7) Chilly Billy
8) Bruno Samartino
9) Cannon
10) Your children are?
11) Italian bread, meat, cheese, tomato,coleslaw & french frie
12) The Gunner
13) Towel
14) Fort Pitt
15) Squirrel Hill
16) WIIC (The Ones to Watch)
17) T
18) Adventure Time
19) Paul Shannon
20) We had 'em all the way!
21) The Oyster House
22) Oakland
23) Forbes Quad - Univ of Pgh
24) North Side
25) Allegheny, Monongahela meet to form the Ohio
26) Winky's
27) 21
28) 75
29) Mt Washington
30) Point State Park
31) Chiller Theater
32) KDKA
33) 13Q or Keen, Quick, Vital
34) 14K
35) Del Taylor
36) Nick Perry
37) BD gallon Islay 's Ice Cream
38) Perry Marshall
39) Hank Stohl
40) Skirts
41) Don Riggs
42) Hornets
43) Pipers & Condors
44 Willie Stargell
45) Bob Kudzma
46) Junior High Quiz
47) Stefan
48) Paul Shannon at Adventure Time
49) Farkleberry Frump
50) Marie Torre
51) Ameri-can (Heating Company...spokesman Pie Traynor)
52) Roth
53) Lebanon Church Road
54) Smiles
55) Holiday House
56) John Unitas, Joe Montana, Terry Hanratty, Jim Kelly,
George Blanda, Scott Zolak, Joe Namath
57) Joe Negri
58) The Strip
59) Hill District
60) Pitt, Duquesne & Robert Morris
61) Seafood
62) Edison
63) Art Rooney
64) Gateway Clipper Fleet
65) Maulers
66) Gandy Dancer
67) Cares
68) Hell
68) Bill Mazeroski
70) New York Yankees
We are grading on the curve so if if you missed fewer than 10 give yourself an A. If you missed more than 30 you have to visit the old Burgh more often.

A little blogging music Maestro… Guy Mitchell’s “Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.”

And just in case you’ve forgotten, the melody was hijacked by Malvina Reynolds who did “Little Boxes.” As a bonus, the words to the song are:

There's a pawnshop on a corner in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
And I walk up and down 'neath the clock
By the pawnshop on a corner in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
But I ain't got a thing left to hock

She was peaches, she was honey, and she cost me all my money
'cause a whirl 'round the town was her dream (was her dream)
Took her dancin', took her dinin' till her blue eyes were shinin'
With the sights that they never had seen (never seen)
If you should run into a golden-haired angel
And ask her tonight for a date
She'll tell you somewhere there's a rich millionaire
Who is calling again about eight

(There's a pawnshop on a corner in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
And I've just gotta get five or ten (five or ten)
(From the pawnshop on a corner in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
Gotta be with my angel again

Dr. Forgot

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter in Clairton

Reflections of Easter in Clairton

As mentioned in this space previously, I was born in Clairton, PA during World War II. I was born at home (not some fancy McKeesport Hospital) because I wanted to be near my mother when it happened. I therefore grew up in 1950s Clairton and most of my memories of my hometown are from that era. It was a wonderful time and place to grow up. My family was bilingual as were so many families who were children and grandchildren of European immigrants.

All four of my grandparents migrated from an area of Europe that during their lifetime was called Austria-Hungary, The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, and after the conclusion of World War I, Yugoslavia. In the 1990s, after all grandparents had passed, Yugoslavia encountered a civil war that resulted in each state therein becoming its own sovereign country. Serbia retained the name Yugoslavia but Croatia, Bosnia, et al became individual countries.

Clairton was made up of a wealth of diverse people and nearly two dozen different churches. My maternal grandparents attended the Serbian Orthodox Church and my paternal grandparents attended the Roman Catholic Church so as children we attended both. As we got older we were encouraged to attend church with our peers and I attended the Methodist, Presbyterian, and Lutheran churches with my friends and classmates.

Eventually the church attended by all my siblings that became our primary place of worship was First Presbyterian on Mitchell Avenue. During my teen years our entire family officially joined and became active in that church.

Easter Sunrise services were a part of many Clairton churches including the Methodist and Presbyterian. I recall attending those services with my family as well as with my high school buddy Jay who attended the Methodist church. Once we got drivers licenses a group of peers would attend various Easter Sunrise Services together.

As a family we visited our grandparents on holidays. My memory includes vivid reflections of the Serbian Orthodox grandparents who always prepared holiday dinners for the extended family. Delicacies included dishes that I am unable to spell as well as lamb, a staple of their homeland.

Religious pictures and icons decorated the walls of my grandparents’ homes and we would occasionally attend services at their respective churches. I must admit that as a lad this was not my first preference as the Serbian priest had a long beard which was kind of scary to a kid and he swung a container of incense back and forth which trailed smoke and whose odor did not do good things to my stomach. Ditto the Catholic Church where the priest spoke in Latin and it seemed we were kneeling, sitting and standing so often that my knees ached. The Presbyterian and Methodist services were much less traumatic for a youngster.

Regardless of the churches attended I loved the beautiful musical oratorios of Hayden, Bach, and of course Handel’s Hallelujah played on an organ. Every church I attended had a choir that was simply outstanding. Those were some of the fondest memories of my Clairton church days at Easter.

Eggs were always a part of Easter. Easter egg hunts and rolls were part of every child’s ritual. But before such activities other rituals took place. The family gathered around the kitchen table to dye Easter eggs. Mine lacked any sort of artistic flair but those of my siblings were often creative. Other Easter activities were held. One is a Serbian Orthodox custom. In Serbia, the first dyed egg is kept until next Easter, guaranteeing family security and health. All the rest hard boiled dyed eggs are used in a traditional game, known as egg dumping, where each player hits the other players’ egg with their own. The winner is the holder of the last intact egg. The losers get to eat their eggs. This is a common practice in all Christian Orthodox countries on Easter Sunday.

Whether it was sunrise services, visits to grandparents or attending church to the strains of beautiful Easter music, Easter in Clairton was a very pleasant time.

A little blogging music Maestro: Handel’s “Messiah.”

Dr. Forgot

Comment by reader Jill: My mother was the organist for the Lutheran church on Walnut Avenue in Wilson. I remember sunrise services on Memorial Hill at Clairton Park. They would rent her a portable organ and she would have to pump it with her feet to keep it going!!! We never missed a year even though sometimes it was freezing!