Saturday, January 26, 2013

Clairton Authors

Write right: We've spoken recently about several authors who have had works published of late. Dr. Bill King did a terrific autobiography of a lad growing up in Elrama and going to school in the "big city" of Clairton. Joann Little Angelo did a five part series of the Monongahela Chronicles which does a superb job of tracing union history and describing Wilson as it was at the turn of the century when there were little more than a few hollow where folks resided. Both authors' books are page turners.

Something new: As I was perusing the various research engines looking for something new about Clairton I stumbled across another Clairton author who had written an autobiography entitled "From Rings to Ringlets." The title captured my attention as did the fact that the author, Marcel (nee Jimmy) Haigy was a former Clairton resident, so I dug deeper.

The good news was that the first 50 pages of his book are available for free on the internet. The bad news is that after reading the first 50 pages I was hooked and made the purchase. Since I couldn't wait for a hard copy I ordered it through Barnes and Noble on my Nook. (note: Dr. William "Bill" King's book "SCHOOL DAYS: Coming of Age in the Mid-20th Century." is also available online through B&N, and Xlibris). The story is fascinating. Born Robert (Bobby) Haigy during the Great Depression on Clairton's Crest Street to a Turkish Muslim father and a Scottish/Welsh mother, he was the eldest of several siblings. He moved with his family to an apartment above the Blue Bird, then to an apartment above the store on the corner of Waddell and Third Street, and to a house on Toman Avenue. By his own admission Bobby was a free spirit at best and a tough little thug at worst. He was permanently banned from one of Clairton's pool halls for cracking the owner over the head with a blunt instrument, terrorized the Auto Shop teacher at CHS, left home and did a stint working for Zach Robinson at the Gold Coast, and a host of other rebellious activities before stumbling into the basement of the Colonial Theater where a rag-tag boxing gym had been set up. There he began his boxing career, hence the "Rings" in the title of his book.

Jimmy (Marcel would come later) did a stint in the Army during the Korean War but stayed stateside during his entire tenure. After being released from the Army, he followed a buddy to New York where on a lark they decided to go to cosmetology school. He became a hairdresser in New York (hence the "Ringlets" in the title) but in typical Clairton fashion he became one of the best, winning many national and international styling trophies and titles and purchasing a Cosmetology School. When he began doing hair and competing, he decided he needed a name that sounded French so he adopted "Marcel," as a handle. But there was another chapter or two in his life before he retired to Florida and wrote his autobiography at the urging of his wife. You must read the book to discover them.

I interviewed Mr. Haigy for this blog and found him to be as charming and interesting as his book was to read. He is still a dyed-in-the-wool Clairtonian who follows Bears football and returns for occasional visits. He had stories of Clairton that were not in the book, such as the Kaiser-Frazer dealership owner who kept snakes as pets. One got loose and.... well, you don't want to know what happened but suffice it to say it did not improve car sales. Perhaps that is one reason why Kaiser-Frazer went out of business.

It might be noted that if he had a rough start and spent the first chapter of his life as a ne'er do well, he spent the next chapter learning and growing and accomplished many goals he never dreamed he'd achieve, such as attending college at NYU, serving on numerous boards, consulting and helping establish rules that would enhance the safety of boxers, and many other areas of service. James "Marcel" Haigy's ledger is much heavier on the credit side than on the debit.

Don't forget: A note from CHS Alum Bev Alcorn: CHS ALUMNI & CLAIRTON BEARS FANS u r doing a great job in sending UR donations for the Championship Rings for our Fabulous Bears! Keep those donations coming. We will be accepting donations until the end of February. Remember any amount is fine, we know its a tough time for all of us, every dollar helps. Send UR donations to:
CLAIRTON Athletic Champions Club, PO BOX 303, Clairton, PA 15025

A little blogging music Maestro... "Hair" by the Cowsills.

Dr. Forgot