Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Clairton Heroes

Our Own Dandy Don

Don Taylor was a medium height skinny kid who lived at the upper end of Farnsworth Avenue near Malmady Village, the temporary housing built for returning WW-II GIs. He had a great personality and a penchant for music so he took part in the famous Clairton High School Marching Band during the 1940s. He reflects on his days in the marching band and how what goes around comes around.

Says Taylor, "In 1946, the band was all set to parade up Miller Avenue but the person to carry the American flag was sick. Since I was undoubtedly the worst trombone player to ever play in the band, I volunteered to carry the flag. Sixty years later, CHS celebrated its 100th anniversary with a gigantic parade over a mile long walk from the school to the stadium. Among the participants were people from the past. Leading the parade and carrying the flag was the oldest participant -- yours truly and wearing the shako, plume and pants from 1946! Who would have thought when I was 16 that 60 years later I would have that same honor!"

Whatever Don did was done with flair – not the braggadocio kind, but the kind of flair that set him apart from the rest of the pack. And he was very loyal to his high school even after graduation. In fact, when he finished college, Don returned to Clairton to teach at his alma mater.

Don Taylor the band member became Mr. Taylor the teacher but he did not lose his flair. He became part of the history that he taught and soon was one of the most popular teachers at Clairton High School. It was a two-way street. Just as his students were inspired by and devoted to him, Mr. Taylor put every ounce of his knowledge and personality into his teaching. To this day, mention the name of a student and chances are he will be able to tell you that student’s strengths, what s/he did after graduation and where s/he sat in his classroom. Don Taylor continued to be an asset to CHS until his retirement and beyond. He’s been a tremendous supporter of academics and athletics at the school. But teaching at CHS was just his day job.

After the sun set Don would head out across Ravensburg Bridge and up 885 to the Community College of Allegheny County where he again became one of the favorite faculty members on the campus. Together (high school and college) he taught for nearly six decades, 44 of which were at Community College of Allegheny County. All together he reached some 10,000 students. He would reach them with his interesting lectures but also by getting into the characters about which he taught – literally. While serving as Chair of the department he assumed his teaching duties in uniform – he would sometimes dress as the characters of whom he taught and never failed to spice up his lectures with little-known factoids about figures and events. For example, when he lectured on the Old West and General George Armstrong Custer, “Two-gun Taylor” would don a Wyatt Earp vest, a Dodge City badge, cowboy hat and boots, and strap a replica Colt .45 Peacemaker to his hip.

Don felt ownership to CCAC as he and 16 others started the local campus using West Mifflin Middle School as their first venue. The following year the venue was changed to a condemned elementary school building in McKeesport and in 1973 moved to the current location in West Mifflin. Besides teaching and serving as an administrator, the professor wrote curriculum and prepared his own “Taylor Made” exams for his courses. Professor Mr. Taylor might have had 80 birthdays but his energy level and commitment to Clairton and education has never aged. Don Taylor, Clairton boy.

BEARS STILL SHINE: Bill Bennett played football at CHS and Rutgers and although he’s spend most of his adult life in California and Arizona, he remains close to CHS and the athletic program, particularly the academic side of the program. Bill arranged for a couple dozen CHS 1960 alumni to have a tailgate in the Hershey football field parking lot before the game. He was also a crucial component of getting the Bears to Dallas for their 7 on 7 victories. He recently sent me an email that included a 15-minute summary of the championship game done by Steeler media. Click on the link to enjoy: http://www.steelers.com/video-and-audio/videos/Youth-Football-in-Steelers-Country-Clairton-Bears/86b2e4ac-6f86-4569-8e7e-ff95f3745dea

GENEROSITY: Clairton High School has fundraisers each year. The monies generated go to help the school in every phase from academics, to extra curricular activities. Many blog readers and CHS Alumni have contributed in the past to assist their alma mater. This year Nanette Gordon (Lhromer) and Barry Lhromer presented the School District with a very generous donation to kick off 2012. Their gift will go toward sorely needed items. On behalf of the Clairton School District we thank the Lhromer family.

In case the name does not ring a bell, Archie Lohrmer ran the Busy Beaver business on State Street at the bottom of St. Clair Avenue that provided building materials. He was a business icon for many decades and a pillar of the community. It is great to see his family carry on the tradition. The Boosters and alumni have also helped in the past and continue with their generosity.

BROAD AGENDA: The Clairton Athletic Champions Club and the Athletic Booster Club met last week and discussed a variety of topics including championship rings for the football team. The team has really brought the community together and made all of us proud to see such positive focus on Clairton. To refresh your memory, the team has broken multiple records including having the longest winning streak (47) of any team in the country at any level – high school, college, or professional. A tip of the helmet to our guys and the guys, gals, and adults who support them. The Athletic Boosters and football parents do a tremendous job of supporting the Board and the players.

The Awards Banquet will take place this spring. A speaker is being contacted and I don’t want to spill the beans but my sources tell me it is somebody who is highly recognizable and it will be a coup to have this person address our Bears. Last year’s speaker, Bill Shay, an educator and the winningest coach in Western PA, delivered a moving speech that had many of the players on the edge of their seats.

GET YOUR CHS SWEATSHIRTS WHILE THEY LAST: Champion Sweatshirts are now available for $25 each (2X and 3X sizes are $30 each). A check or money order, made payable to the Clairton Athletic Champions Club or CACC, can be sent to Clairton Education Center, 501 Waddell Avenue, Clairton PA 15025, Attn: CACC. Any other questions about the sweatshirts can be addressed to Paulette Bradford; email at bradfordp@clairton.k12.pa.us. Visit the Clairton Bears Football Facebook page.

The trophies in the case will eventually tarnish, the sweatshirts will eventually fade but the memories that our players have created will live on for a lifetime.

A little blogging music Maestro… “Green Green Grass of Home,” by Tom Jones.

Dr. Forgot
email: drforgot@cox.net

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