Saturday, March 31, 2012

In with the new...

As I’ve previously written, my life has taken a dramatic turn that has included spending much more time at the Las Vegas Smith Center for the Performing Arts and less time at the helm of my computer. Thus my blogs have become posted with less frequency, fewer photos, and fewer facts, as my time for research has also diminished. I considered bringing Dr. Forgot to a sleeping standstill but every time a gap occurs between posts I begin to ger emails asking where I’ve been. So I will try a different tact. I invite readers to submit blogs to me and I in turn will publish them with full credit given to the writer. I’ve done this in the past (turned the blog over to a guest blogger) on occasion but my intention is to do it on a more regular basis. The first guest blog, offered below, is written by CHS Alum Joanie Jordan. Her brother, Nick and I attended college together and were roommates for a year. Nick married CHS Alum Jean Gazda, they settled in Atlanta, and Nick, a picture of health and fitness, passed away way too early.

Before turning the blog over to Joanie, I will cite some recent news of our home town. The first is sent to us by Bob White by way of CHS Athletic Director (who recently announced his retirement) Jim Wessell:
2011 Clairton Bears

*Finished in 2nd place at the National 7 on 7 Red Bull Gamebreakers Tournament in Texas, losing to only one team and beating many 4a, 5a, and 6a schools

*Enacted the mercy rule in 10 of 16 games in 2011

*Recorded 35 Shutouts in 4 years

*33 consecutive conference wins, last loss came in October of 2005

*62 wins in the last 4 seasons, the most in Pennsylvania

*597 All time wins ranks 27th all time in Pennsylvania high school football history, 9th in WPIAL history and 1st all time in Allegheny County

*705 points scored is the most in the state in 2011

*78 points allowed is the fewest in the state in 2011over 16 games

*Became the first school in Pennsylvania history to record 600 or more points in 4 consecutive seasons
2,697 points scored is the most ever over a 4 year span in Pennsylvania

*Only WPIAL School to win 4 consecutive Class A titles

*Brought home the 9th WPIAL Championship in Clairton’s 17th Championship game appearance

*47 game winning streak is currently the longest winning streak in the country and is the longest in WPIAL history

*1st WPIAL School and 4th school in Pennsylvania to win 3 consecutive PIAA State Championships

*Tyler Boyd was named Mr. Pennsylvania Football for the A/AA classes in 2011

*Carvan Thompson set a WPIAL, State and what is believed to be a National record by starting 64 consecutive games at the high school level

*This 2011 Senior Class holds the best 4 year record in the state (and best 4 year record in WPIAL history) at 62-2, holds the best WPIAL record (against WPIAL teams) at 51-1, won 4 WPIAL titles, went to 4 straight PIAA Championship games, and won 3 straight PIAA Class A State Championships


Next, sent to us by a reader who chooses anonymity, comes a series of Clairton news:

* Andrew E. Jerome of Mt. Lebanon, a World War II veteran who worked as a pipefitter at U.S. Steel Clairton Works, died Wednesday, March 21, 2012, from natural causes. He was 91.
Mr. Jerome died 60 days after his wife of 63 years, Agnes.

* Pittsburgh's rivers have become such popular spots for recreation that it's been easy to assume that toxin-laden waters were a relic of the region's past. Sadly, says a study released Thursday by the PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center, not nearly enough has changed in the 40 years since the federal Clean Water Act was adopted to make America's rivers, streams, lakes and estuaries safe for fishing and swimming by 1983.

*There is a price to be paid for neglecting the nation's aging system of locks and dams, an economic engine in desperate need of a tune-up. On the Monongahela River, the price tag could be as high as $1 billion annually if the breakdown of a lock or dam puts the river off limits to barges delivering coal to power plants, according to a study performed last year for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

* Rudolph J. "Rudy" Ricci of Clairton, a writer and filmmaker who was part of the idea mill behind the horror classic, died March 8 following a fall likely exacerbated by health problems. He was 72.

*Thelma Albert was the favorite aunt who took her nieces and nephews shopping Downtown, stopping for lunch at Stouffer's tearoom. Clearly she knew a thing or two about shopping and was always fashionably dressed, thanks to those trips Downtown and to the stores that dotted McKeesport, including Rubinstein's, Jaison's and Cox's. Last Thursday, Thelma Albert turned 100. She was born March 15, 1912, in Clairton, the second of Elizabeth and Phil "Shorty" Bateman's six children. Called "Teb" by her family -- for her initials -- she graduated from Clairton High School and earned a Pennsylvania teaching certificate from California State Teacher's College. After graduation, she taught at Miller Avenue School in Clairton.

Dr. Forgot.

And now, our superb guest post:

As long as I can recall, I have been attracted to, and mystified by, old things. By “old” I mean things that are older than me. Way older.

Growing up, I never much appreciated my home town; in fact, I rarely thought about it. If it weren’t for our playing football teams in otherwise unheard of, faraway places (such as “Brownsville”), I never would have thought outside of our little Clairtonian box. But eventually I grew up and subsequently learned that going “downtown” no longer meant “McKeesport” but a place across a river (that I had only heard about and never seen) called “Pittsburgh”.

And now that I am older, and Clairton is even older still, I realize that we have lost most of another generation, the World War II
generation. A generation of great story-tellers and great stories. This sense of loss makes me rather sad. I don’t know if you have had this experience or not, but upon visiting homes that I lived in as a child, and finding that they have been torn down, I felt a keen sense of there being no evidence that I had ever been there. The evidence is gone; the history is lost. All we have are photographs. But where are they?

When I purchased my first computer, I began “searching” for all kinds of things! Serendipitously, I found the written history of our childhood home, told along with that of West Jefferson Hills and Homestead and Mifflin Townships

( I was thrilled! But there are no pictures; no artists’ renderings. No visuals at all!
Then, sometime later, I discovered a series of books published in sepia tone by Arcadia publications. I purchased the “Ross Township” book because Ross is my home now. And I learned that my church history is inextricably linked to the history of Ross. And I began to think about Clairton. And then I thought it would be good if Clairton had a book, too. But Arcadia wants pictures – 168 to be exact – with brief narratives (less than 50 words to each photo).

To that end, I established a Facebook group called “Clairton History”. (When you look for it, you may notice that I chose a football for an identifying icon. As far as I know, Clairton has always had an outstanding football team.) The purpose of the “Clairton History” Facebook group is to designate a place for all of us to post our “old” photographs and accompanying narratives. It is my hope that someday soon, Clairton will have its own Arcadia book, dedicated to our hard working ancestors who helped ensure that our lives were built on strong foundations. Please join me in gathering and sharing the history of our schools, our churches, our neighborhoods – our town.

Joanie Jordan
CHS Class of ‘68

Monday, March 12, 2012

Mostly personal

I write a total of five blogs. On one of my other blogs I posted the following a couple of weeks ago:

"I was first introduced to her when I was barely a teen. I fell hard. She did things to me and made me do things I had never done before.

We rode our intense passion throughout high school but then the time came when I was forced to leave her and home behind and move on to the world of college, adulthood, marriage, career, and fulfilling expectations set by society. But I never forgot her and would occasionally sneak back to enjoy the pleasures only she could offer me.

Even throughout marriage and adulthood I would sometimes seek out the comfort, pleasure, and passion only she was able to offer me. My wife said she understood and tolerated my dalliances but I knew it was something she was unable to understand.

There were times in my life when I sought her out to calm my nerves and help me deal with the challenges of career and adulthood. She was always there for me, calming my anxieties and feeding my need for passion.

Life goes on and as I now approach the autumn of my own I find that with my career behind me, my wife a seasoned veteran of marriage, the kids grown and gone, and grandkids involved in technology I'll never understand, I find myself wondering about her. I have not seen her for many years. Is she still energetic? Beautiful? Passionate? Could she still make my heart flutter and ny head tingle? I decided to find out. To seek her out and see if she is real or just a fantasy that I'd created and imagined in my mind. Was she real or the false equivalent of a blow-up doll?

So I went to her. There she stood. Her beauty radiating with the same splendor she held for me in my youth. My passion, my love.... The theater.

Now that I have the time, and with my wife's full blessings, I have returned to the theater. She holds the same level of passion and love for me that she held when I did Agatha Christie's "Ten Little Indians;" I was barely a teen. But these days I embrace her not as an actor but as an usher, for though she still reeks of passion and intensity, mine has faded through the years. I am, as I always have been, devoted to the theater. I'll remain her loyal patron."

The particular theater with which I've become associated is The Smith Center for the performing arts. You can see the web page at

Las Vegas has changed in many ways in the 40+ years I've lived here. I've watched the community grow and mature from the mob era to the Howard Hughes era to the Steve Wynn era to the unbridled growth era to the most recent economic hard times era.

During those times we've offered the best entertainment in the world but have always been considered a bit short on cultural venues. Our local university, UNLV, filled in some of the cracks but Las Vegas was not known for cultural events, but rather "What happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas..."

That all began to change 18 years ago when several events served as a confluence of change not on the Strip, but in the old railroad yard behind the blue collar downtown hotels. Our then mayor, Oscar Goodman was as avid a creative thinker as mayor as he had been during his days when he was referred to as "lawyer to the mob." The Union Plaza is built at the head of Fremont street downtown, the location of the former Union Train Station. Behind the Plaza was the train switching yard that had endured there for nearly 200 years. But as the community grew Mayor Goodman played an active role in having the area moved and what remained was given an 18 million dollar sanitizing of the contaminated earth. Soon the World Market, County government building and a mall went up in the area followed by the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health - Keep Memory Alive. Still, nothing of a cultural nature.

That began to change when Elaine Wynn offered a $50 million grant and the Don Reynolds Corporation foundation added $ 100 million to the pot and it was "game on!" Eighteen years in the making the $ 480 million Smith Center for the Performing Arts opened with a list of more than 10,000 patron subscribers and NO DEBT! I am honored and fortunate to be associated with it in my own small way.

Last Friday was the gala grand opening - a black tie affair that saw performers including Willie Nelson, Carol King, Martina McBride, Jennifer Hudson, violin virtuoso, Joshua Bell, Train, Josh Fogerty, and many others on stage doing what they do best. The eclectic mix of performers were representative of the future players at the Center. The venue, which concluded with cake pops and most champagne ran until after midnight in the main venire, Reynolds Hall, which seats 2,050 and every seat was occupied.

Other venues in the Center for the Performing Arts include Boman Pavilion which includes the Troesh Studio Theater which will accommodate the Nevada Dance Theater performances as well as other performances, and the Cabaret room which will feature jazz bands.

So my focus has become the theater and it stems from my first performance in the CHS auditorium in "The People vs. Maxine Lowe," starring Bob White as a lawyer. Bob went on to become - a lawyer! That means I will be writing fewer blog posts about Clairton. I will still try to post monthly and encourage all who are interested in their hometown to follow the Facebook postings of those who are trying to constantly improve the city and CHS students to excel in their post-secondary pursuits.

Don't forget, the Awards Festivities will take place March 24 starting with a parade from the stadium to the high school for a pep rally and concluding with dinner and awards presentations to the Bears football team who won an unprecedented third state championship last season.

A little blogging music Maestro, "Back to Before" from the musical "Ragtime."

Dr. Forgot