Friday, April 1, 2011

Clairton and its Bears

It’s Clairton High School, the pride of every student here........
Three Amigos: Andy Nixon, CHS 60, Bob White CHS 60, Don Taylor CHS 49

I've read much about my old hometown of Clairton, PA. Opinion blogs have blasted the community as having no future. Media reports have damned it as having unsafe streets lined with vagrants and ne'r-do-wells. They were dissing the community where I had grown up. Clairton is a city that has deep roots to me - my parents built their house on an unpaved road in the late 1930s and early 1940s. They lived there their entire lives. My father worked for the City of Clairton for more than four decades and my mother taught school there. One of my siblings is a businesswoman nearby. So I had to spend a week there to see for myself what is going on.

Banner across Miller Avenue near Stadium

The occasion of my visit was also to see the local football team celebrate a state championship - their second in a row. Traditionally high school state champs are given a ring to commemorate their success. Times are tough in Clairton and the school district had no funds to purchase the rings so a booster group was established as The Clairton Athletic Championship Club in hopes of raising enough money to purchase rings for the players and staff. Community members and businesses gave what they were able but as the date for the awards banquet grew closer the goal seemed a bit too lofty in these difficult economic times. So the treasurer of the group contacted Beverly Alcorn whose Facebook page is read by many alumni. She contacted Don Taylor who contacted Bob White who contacted yours truly whose blog is read by hundreds more alumni. The result was that Clairton High School alumni from around the country and around the world, many of whom had not been back to Clairton for decades, responded to the clarion call. Thousands upon thousands of dollars poured in and the goal was met.

The trophy

Saturday, March 26, 2011 was proclaimed by Mayor Lattanzi to be "Clairton Bears Day" in the City of Clairton. A proclamation was given to each football player in an assembly at the school auditorium. But Clairton Bear Day started at noon with a parade that featured dignitaries including State Senator James R. Brewster (thanks Anna Marie) and State Representative Rick Saccone as well as School Board President Richard Livingston, the superintendant of schools, principals, and a host of other school employees. The band, Honeybears, cheerleaders, and others marched down Miller Avenue and Waddell to the school. In traditional Clairton fashion the route was lined with residents and several parade participants tossed candy to those who lined the way. That tradition has been in place for more than three quarters of a century.

Honneybears - Still the best

Prior to the parade I drove the streets of Clairton, Wilson, Newtown, and Coal Valley as I reflected on days gone by and tried to square the rumors and media reports that have permeated the press, talk radio, and the internet over the past decade or so. It is clear that Clairton is an economically depressed area. Yes, there are boarded up storefronts and homes. Yes, the mansion at the top of Mitchell Avenue, the Historic Home that was once the residence of the president of the mill has fallen into disrepair complete with a huge tree that has blown over in the sizeable back yard. Yes, all three movie houses are closed and even the Blue Bird has relocated to a town across the river. But there is also a credit side to the ledger.

WPIAL trophy

There is a spirit among the good people of Clairton that simply will not die. Churches offer strength and solitude to their congregations. Many a superb singer's voice can be heard wafting through the rafters on Sunday morning. New business have come to the community and several of the old ones, Russo's Hardware, Skapick's Department Store, Prince Printing among them have stayed. Then there is Bears Football. They actually lost a conference game - in 2005. Their statistics have been cited here before but the statistics I heard at the banquet were the most telling. One third of the team is performing academically at a "High Honors" level, meaning their grade point average is ABOVE 3.5 or A-. Another third of the team is performing at an honors level which places their grade point average above a 3.0 or B. Thirty-one percent are performing at an academic level of 2.5 or better, which means that 97% of this year's championship team are performing academically far above the standard requirement of 2.0

The archway. Signage by Don Taylor

A little blogging music Maestro… “Its Clairton High School,” by Clairton High School Marching Band

Dr. Forgot

1 comment:

twinkle556 said...

Ps..a little traveling music Maestro..."Don't Say Nuthin' bad about my Baby " by the Cookies