Saturday, June 12, 2010

Clairton People and Activities

More on the City of Prayer

A horse with no name: Well, not exactly but our previous post (see below) started with a Clairton Progress newspaper advertisement of an event that took place June 7 and 8, 1926. The accompanying article includes the following information: Allah Rageh was billed as “the man who sees tomorrow.” On Monday and Tuesday June 7 and 8, he drove a brand new Studebaker from the local dealership, Wilson Auto Company on State Street, to the Clairton Inn and back to the Monarch Theater. He made the drive while he was completely blindfolded. The blindfold was available for inspection by the general public at the car dealership before the race and at the Monarch Theater afterwards. Although every traffic rule and regulation was to be observed, bystanders were cautioned to stay on the sidewalks as he passed. Rageh held private meetings for those who wished to buy tickets to hear him lecture before the event, including a special matinee event for women only. Absolutely no tickets for the women’s event would be sold to men and men would not be permitted into the women’s lecture. At all events except the drive, he was accompanied by Belly Dancer Sarissa, who performed her famous “Magic Crystal” dance.

Clairton at the movies: After we posted the photo of the promotional advertisement last week, a question that has nagged at us since the blog began was finally answered. There were three movie theaters that we knew of in Clairton, the State on St. Clair Avenue, the Colonial on the Corner of Miller and Halcomb Avenues, and the Capital, also on Miller Avenue between Waddell and Large Avenues. We had heard rumors that a movie theater also existed in Wilson but were never able to confirm it. Eagle-eyed reader Bev Huffman Hibar spotted the mention of the Monarch Theater in the ad for the blindfolded driver and wrote to let us know that not only was that the missing Wilson movie theater, but she was able to give us a bit of its history. Located on State Street between Elm and Carnegie, the theater was built in the 1920s and a contest was run to select a name for it. Charles A. Huffman, Bev’s father, won the contest with the name Monarch. His prize was a lifetime free pass to the theater. Unfortunately the “lifetime” was that of the theater, not Charles, as he lived to a ripe old age and passed away in 1990 long after the demise of the Monarch. Neither did the prize allow for any free movies for any of his eight children. They had to pay a dime to see a movie at the Monarch like everybody else.

Clairton Man pays it forward: Bob White was a classmate of mine at CHS. We were in a couple of plays together and though he was a big guy, he was not a football hero. He grew up in a single parent family and after high school studied at Drexel. Bob had to earn his way through school with scholarships and work, and the Clairton work ethic helped him earn a degree in Industrial Engineering, then enter Villanova’s law school, and establish himself as one of the premier maritime and personal injury attorneys on the East Coast. He never forgot his struggles to succeed – a bright kid from an economically challenged home.

In his more than four decades as a successful lawyer Bob has given back in many ways, including contributions to the CHS Class of 1960 and the colleges that both he and his wife attended. But perhaps his proudest moments have been spent mentoring high school students from impoverished homes in inner-city Philadelphia. It began eight years ago as he listened to an interview with an attorney who was taking part in a mentoring program with an organization called Philadelphia Futures, who had been paired with a bright but raw inner city law student. Inspired by what he’d heard, Bob made a sizeable enough donation to the organization to sponsor one student’s tutoring, counseling and college expenses for a year. He has since sponsored another seven students then got down to the nitty gritty – giving of his own time to mentor a couple more. His mentorship continued after the students left high school. One student recently graduated with a degree from Gettysburg College. The other was an impoverished lad who, during Bob’s mentorship, went through the divorce of his parents and two moves but Bob sensed the fire in his belly, hunger for knowledge, intelligence, and memory, so he continued to work with the young man.

They went on monthly adventures to current thought-provoking movies, and discussed classic books. The young man earned a scholarship to Gettysburg College for his freshman year and is currently spending the summer in Bath, England studying film, history, and architecture.

Philadelphia Futures recently honored Bob White at a graduation ceremony with its annual "Hat's Off to You" award for all his service. Bob White, Clairton boy.

Six and one-half hours: It takes a minimum of 40 hours of flight time to earn a private pilot’s license. The first 20 of those hours are usually spent in the cockpit aside a flight instructor, after which the student pilot solos and completes the balance of the hours practicing for the final exam. But Mrs. Dewitt T. Snyder of Clairton is no ordinary flight student. In a Byrd plane – an exact replica of the plane Charles Lindberg presented to his own wife, Mrs. Snyder soloed after just six and one half hours of instructor flying time. She has spent many hours in the air as a passenger but this remarkable woman may now work toward the completion of her private license. Mrs. Dewitt T. Snyder, Clairton’s first aviatrix.

The above story about Mrs. Snyder was provided courtesy of the Mifflin Township Historical Society’s President, Jim Hartman. The story first appeared in the Clairton Progress August 14, 1930.

A little blogging music Maestro... “My Little Town” by Simon and Garfunkel

Dr. Forgot

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