Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A busy long Labor Day weekend


The Labor Day weekend: Last Wednesday I flew back to Clairton for the long Labor Day Weekend. Trips back home are always refreshing. Yes, the community has been reduced from the booming metropolis of some 22,000 people, all of whom were as employed as they wished to be. There were three movie theaters “on the hill” and another one in Wilson. There were dozens of car dealerships of every stripe including Zupancic Lincoln Mercury right across the street from the football stadium. Ed Sullivan made a visit for their grand opening, as Lincoln-Mercury was one of his TV show’s sponsors. Today barely 8,000 residents call Clairton home and the media does its best to feature every shooting, drug bust, and other wart on the nose of the city. Many homes and businesses are abandoned and long gone are not only the theaters and car dealerships, but residents must go to Glassport, Elizabeth, or other communities to do their grocery shopping as no grocery store remains. The neighboring steel mills that once provided the tax revenue that was the lifeblood of our community have all closed except the Coke Works that continues to belch out pollution at a rate that makes the Clairton-Glassport air the third and fourth most polluted in the nation but offers little terms in a tax base.

The credit side of the ledger: New Orleans had Katrina, parts of Florida and the eastern seaboard have been inundated with storms from time to time but with the help of federal revenue, FEMA, and other assistance agencies, they have bounced back. Clairton has enjoyed none of the federal help and their trauma has caused injury not from one quick hit, but from decades of bleeding and with little outside help for recovery. But Clairton residents are strong. School Board President Richard Livingston, Vice President Paulette Bradford, and the other Board members work tirelessly to keep the schools on track. Most recently the Clairton schools made AYP (Annual Yearly Progress), which shows academic achievement and progress using national measures. The football team under the direction of head coach Tom Nola and his staff have won two consecutive state championships and came in second out of 163 schools in a tournament that included much larger schools.

Thursday pep talk: Thursday Jim Kelly came to town. Jim is one of two consensus All Americans who graduated from CHS. His is one of two photos and plaques that are above the entry gate to the stadium. Jim went on to star at Notre Dame and become a two-time All American while there. He was drafted 26th by the Steelers but was injured during his first season and was traded to the Eagles where further injuries cut short his pro career. Jim used himself as an example as he spoke to the team after practice. He stressed the importance of not only winning on the field, but also using athletics as a springboard to earn an education after high school. It was an inspirational speech and players listened intently.

Friday night game: The 1-A Bears rolled over the 3-A Washington Prexies by a score of 41-12. The game was well attended including several alumni who had come from around the country to attend the annual multi-year reunion held the following day at Clairton Park.

Saturday reunion: Everybody thinks their hometown is unique and special, but let them try to top this: For a couple of decades Clairton alumni have celebrated an annual reunion in Clairton Park. (This is in addition to the annual Clairton Reunion in Florida!) Each year more people came to reflect, visit old friends, and get caught up. This year all records were broken as more than 900 people attended with classes represented from 1935 to 1971. Once again my favorite attendee was Jennie Peterson, CHS class of 1935. She was a Prince before she became a princess. Many CHS alumni remember her brother, Joe Prince, local insurance agent and accordion player. Prince Printing on St. Clair Ave. remains as a family legacy although founder Ray Prince has moved on to national prominence in the printing industry and now lives in Dakota country.

In addition to the far reaches of PA, alumni came from Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia as well as Washington, D.C. and Toronto, Canada to attend this annual gala.

Others came for their class reunions; class of ’61 held their 50th reunion, Class of ’51 held their 60th and many used the event to celebrate with family and friends. But it was not all play and no work for some. Committee members did a superb planning for and managing the festivities, and the grub wasn’t bad either. (I saw who went back for seconds and thirds but your secret is safe with me)

Bill Bennett played a major part in seeing that the Bears received an invitation to play at the Dallas 7 on 7 tournament and that all their needs were met including food, shelter, and transportation. Alum Bob Yaksick, now a resident of Dallas, played host to the team and helped with the arrangements. When Red Bull decided to film the Bears and feature them on a national TV show, Bill arrived early from Phoenix, met the camera crew, and played host, scouting locations to film and helping to identify locals to interview. Jim Sieffert came from Tennessee, Geno Tolari from California, and Jim Kelly from New Jersey blended with locals Anna Marie Bochter, Ron and Adele Kunz, and a host of other locals to enjoy the weekend.

Among the many enjoying the reunion were Donald Taylor, Brian Weber, Carol Benedetto Walsh, Emily Planich Parks, Dr. Walter Cooper, Sue Wessel, Kathy Sutherland, Vanda Bennett, Bernice Mackintosh, Shelby Lancaster, Dorothy Smoyer, George and Peggy Herman Pacich, Judy Wolf, Roosevelt Boozer, Emanuel Belland, Bev Alcorn, Lenny Baughman, Dorothy Svacs King, Dick Smith, and John Casaldi.

The committee that worked so hard to set everything up and assure it went smoothly included 24 alumni from the classes of 1949, 51, 52, 54, 55, 56, 58, 60, 61, 64, 65, 68, 69, and 71; a classic example of the camaraderie of CHS alumni!

A little blogging music Maestro… “Come Go With Me,” by the Del Vikings.

Dr. Forgot

1 comment:

C.J. Williams said...

Wonderful, informative post! I moved to Clairton several years ago, and I am greatly enjoying reading about all the history this town has. Thanks for your excellent blog!