From time to time I get in this weirdly reflective mood. Something very innocent will normally precipitate the mood, which is exactly what happened yesterday morning.  I was just relaxing and sipping my morning coffee and decided to go through some recent pictures and videos that my daughter Megan had sent me. While doing so, I came across a video of my newest grandson, Mason James, smiling for his mommy. I had watched the video many times before, but this time, was surprised with what I saw in his smile. His smile was just like the smile I saw so many times on my dad’s face when he was happy. It was as if Mason’s grin was cloned directly from his great-grandfather.

After seeing Mason smiling, I immediately began reflecting about my dad and the things that would put that same smile on his face. He was always a happy guy, but some things just would make him light up with a special joy. For instance:

SMILE SOURCE #1 – When my father had his garage on South First Street, he had a reputation of being an ace mechanic. It always made him feel good when customers would give him a compliment. Although I didn’t spend a great deal of time at the garage (testimony to my inability to do an oil change,) I was there on several occasions when my dad would be beaming.You see, my dad loved to cook. Even greater than that love, was his passion for feeding people. He would always get the brightest smile when one of his “buddies” would come into the shop around noon and accept my dad’s offer to cook them a steak for lunch.

griddleThe building that housed my father’s garage at one time sold automobiles. There was a very large room at the front of the building that he would refer to as ‘the showroom,” but the only item in the entire room was an old GE refrigerator. This ancient piece of equipment seemed to have a never ending stock of butter, steak and wieners. Dad managed somehow to buy steaks at wholesale initially from one of his butcher buddies and eventually from the GBU Club on the corner of Norman Street and Grant Avenue. He and the club president, Stanley Neff, had some sort of deal worked out that kept Dad in stock at all times.

Nevertheless, my dad would prepare steaks on his little griddle on top of his oily workbench for anyone who wanted one, and do so with the biggest smile. They we amazingly delicious, and so there was never a lack of hungry mouths to feed.  Between the steak and my dad’s beaming smile and personality, everyone enjoyed their “lunch with Steve!”
SMILE SOURCE #2 – My dad LOVED the Pirates. His idea of a wonderful evening would be sitting on the back porch on his metal chairs, legs propped up on a metal coffee table, and an icy cold Iron City beer in his hands. If either of his sons or any of his neighbors, brothers , sisters or in-laws would decide to join him, all the better.

12The mere sound of Bob Prince or Nellie King’s voice on that old radio that Dad kept on the porch would bring the biggest smile to his face that wouldn’t disappear until some Pirate played ticked him off with something he would do. Dad was the prototypical Pittsburgh fan… loved them when they were winning, but called them bums when they weren’t.

SMILE SOURCE #3 – My dad never touched a computer in his lifetime. Even though he
lived until 1999, he remained “roadkill on the computer highway” his entire life. Despite the fact that he didn’t know how to operate a computer, he was nonetheless fascinated byWesterns what they could do.

I recall sitting with my dad in front of computer at our house and watching his face as I would maneuver and surf the internet for something special that would delight him. Being able to instantly recall and play ANY song by ANY artist that he could remember or being able to instantly view episodes of his favorite western mesmerized Dad. When I would first connect to an old episode of Gunsmoke or Bonanza, the loudest “Geez” and biggest smile would come across his face as he rubbed his face with his hands as he always did when he got excited.

SMILE SOURCE #4 – A deck of cards and a bottle of beer would always bring a smile to my dad’s face. When I was in high school, EUCHRE was his game of choice and in his later years, a game called TICK became his favorite. It became such a familiar scene to see my Uncle Lou3dad, Uncle Lou, and my brother Steve sitting around our kitchen table enjoying an evening of playing cards. The menu was simple, a bottle of Iron City or a bottle of Regent Cream Soda, a bowl of Wise potato chips, and beside my Uncle Lou, a big ashtray for his cigar.

Dad was often called an “instigator” by his siblings and virtually anyone he played cards with. Nothing brought a bigger smile to his face than when he had the winning hand. He was never a sore loser, but was more of a gloating winner! When he was victorious, he never said a word, but usually got a grin on his face that was often called a “s**t eating grin!” That grin had an irritating effect on the other players, especially since he was very skilled and/or luck at cards.

After I was married and my career had taken my family and I to the south, both my dad and my mother-in-law, Jean, would come down for a visit at the same time. We always enjoyed these times since it would bring us all together and my daughters would be in heaven with both of their grandparents around. Once the girls were in bed for the evening, we would after convene at the kitchen table for a few games of TICK. My dad’s remarkable ability to immediately rile my mother-in-law was usually illustrated once we began. Jean was an equally skillful player, but a bit more focused than my dad. His greatest joy came when it got to the point that Jean began yelling at him for being so irritating when he won a hand. I have to tell you, he always had that grin on his face after the win and I had to chuckle, knowing that when I looked at Jean, I always saw those pursed lips of anger! Ahh….good times!

SMILE SOURCE #5 – Dance, dance, dance! This smile source is a tougher one to explain, but I’ll give it my best try.

Simply put, by dad liked to dance. He, in fact, was a very accomplished dancer in the opinion of all of my aunts and uncles. I am told that when they were dating and first married, my dad and mom and  my aunts and uncles would often find their way to The Kennywood Dance Pavilion many times to enjoy an evening of entertainment. In 2005, The Tube City Journal posted an article that mentioned the pavilion, and does a great job in addressing its fate:

The Kennywood dance hall — in Kennywood parlance, the “Pavilion” — was one of the first structures erected after the park opened in 1898. The two-story enclosed structure featured a clerestory with screened windows and a ceiling of rugged, exposed beams.

But its Victorian details were looking decidedly old-hat by the 1930s, and though the Great Depression meant Kennywood couldn’t buy many new rides, it could invest in its buildings. Indeed, park management credited the Pavilion with keeping Kennywood open during the Depression; people couldn’t afford to play games or buy ride tickets, but they could stand around and listen to music, or dance with their sweethearts.

So, the Pavilion was substantially remodeled and updated into the current Art Deco style, just in time for the so-called “golden ages” of both big bands and network radio. During the 1930s and ’40s, live dance bands did national broadcasts from the Kennywood dance hall, via the Sun-Telegraph’s radio station, WCAE, and the Mutual Broadcasting System.

Dozens of nationally-known band leaders and singers played there, including Benny Goodman, Rudy Vallee, Ozzie Nelson, and Les Brown “and his band of renown.” Lawrence Welk did a week there in 1938, while playing at the William Penn Hotel in Downtown Pittsburgh. (It was the same summer that someone coined the term “champagne music” to describe his bouncy, inoffensive melodies.) Bandleader Tommy Tucker, who employed a then-unknown arranger named Gerry Mulligan, was a regular at the Kennywood Pavilion.

For a long time, Kennywood refused to allow “swing music” to be played at the Pavilion, for fear that it would attract the wrong element, but that restriction was eventually relaxed. Smoking was strictly forbidden; so was alcohol. (And so, for a long time, were African-Americans.)

The war years were good years, and the Pavilion was modernized again. It hosted soldiers, sailors and Marines in town for training or home on leave, and was busy nearly every night. But with the end of the war came a new threat that would ultimately end dancing at Kennywood: Television.

Pittsburgh’s first station, WDTV, signed on at Channel 3 in 1949. Soon, instead of going out to Kennywood to dance in the evening, people were staying home to watch the tube. Then, too, tastes in music were changing. The big bands were in decline, and would soon be eclipsed by rock ‘n roll.

In 1954, Kennywood converted the Pavilion into a fun house called the “Enchanted Forest.” A few years later, it was gutted and a “dark ride” was installed. Passengers boarded little tram cars and rode through various “spooky” attractions. It would be remodeled twice more, and in 1967, was themed as something called the “Ghost Ship” — a sort of haunted pirate ship. A California Gold Rush themed ice cream parlor called “The Golden Nugget” was built into one end, and another ride called the “Road Runner” occupied part of the massive old dance hall.

I was only able to see my dad “cut a rug” at family gatherings. Weddings gave him a great Westernsvenue to dance, and my mom, aunts and other ladies would all take turns dancing with him. He was that good. In fact, when he was much younger, he used to teach people how to dance on roller skates. I suppose if you’re able to move like that on wheels, transferal to a dance floor came easy.

There was always this one moment, right before he would begin dancing arm-in-arm with a partner that my dad would get this big smile on his face. It was when he would place his hand around her waist, extend his hand, allow her to place her hand in his, and then begin to whirl around the floor in perfect unison with his partner. He would keep on smiling throughout the dance, and relish every moment.

A wonderful recording artist, Luther Vandross, released a song in 2003 that expresses the feeling that I had when watching my dad dance, especially with my mother. Unfortunately, shortly after he recorded the song, Luther suffered a stroke that eventually led to his death just two years later at age 54. The song, “Dance With My Father,” and the lyrics are as follows:

Back when I was a child, before life removed all the innocence
My father would lift me high and dance with my mother and me and then
Spin me around ‘til I fell asleep
Then up the stairs he would carry me
And I knew for sure I was loved
If I could get another chance, another walk, another dance with him
I’d play a song that would never, ever end
How I’d love, love, love
To dance with my father again
When I and my mother would disagree
To get my way, I would run from her to him
He’d make me laugh just to comfort me
Then finally make me do just what my mama said
Later that night when I was asleep
He left a dollar under my sheet
Never dreamed that he would be gone from me
If I could steal one final glance, one final step, one final dance with him
I’d play a song that would never, ever end
‘Cause I’d love, love, love
To dance with my father again
Sometimes I’d listen outside her door
And I’d hear how my mother cried for him
I pray for her even more than me
I pray for her even more than me
I know I’m praying for much too much
But could you send back the only man she loved
I know you don’t do it usually
But dear Lord she’s dying
To dance with my father again
Every night I fall asleep and this is all I ever dream

I really miss my dad. The fact that he was always funny, caring and lucid until the day he died was a gift that God gave to my brother and I. Fortunately, he never suffered from Altzheimer’s Disease as 4 of his 7 siblings did. I hope you’ll excuse what I call the weirdly reflective mood  of this post, and celebrate all of the wonderful family and Duquesne Memories that make YOU smile!




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Back-to-School Retrospective

In celebration of what used to be my favorite event of the year as a parent, I thought it would be appropriate to talk a bit about Back-to-School. Labor Day is behind us, and once again I’m stuck behind school buses that are loading and unloading the little ones in the neighborhood. I certainly don’t mind since it means that Fall and Winter aren’t far behind.

My recollections of going back to school at Holy Name are still pretty vivid in my mind. I still remember the names and mannerisms of each of the nuns or teachers that taught my grade. I’d be curious if those who had these same educators when they attended Holy Name, share the same thoughts and recollections as me:

  • FIRST GRADE – Sister Incarnata -Young and very kind

    Sister Martin dePorres and Sister Agnes Eugene 1961

    Sister Martin dePorres and Sister Agnes Eugene 1961

  • SECOND GRADE – Sister Martin de Porres – Very friendly and always smiling
  • THIRD GRADE – Sister Emily – Stern and tough
  • FOURTH GRADE – Mrs. Smith – Nice, but tough. Giggly upper arms (isn’t that awful that that’s what I remember?)
  • FIFTH GRADE – Mrs. Juliana – My favorite. Younger, fun and creative
  • SIXTH GRADE – Sister Clementine – a clone of Sister Emily (see Third Grade!)
  • SEVENTH GRADE – Sister Mary Immaculate – Some kids loved her, some… not so much! Unfortunately, I think she felt the same way about her students…. loved some of them, others… not so much.
  • EIGHTH GRADE – Sister Mary Daniel – Principle of the School -What a wonderful person. Jolly, happy, and yet stern when she needed to be. Definitely my favorite religious educator.

Walking back into Holy Name each grade year was similar to any other school in Duquesne.Project1 Desks were lined up in perfect straight lines, polished and as shiny as any decades old piece of wood could be. The huge double hung windows were sparkling clean and that long pole that we used to hook the top windows to open them stood at attention and ready for service in the corner of the room.

There was a distinct smell of furniture polish, blackboard conditioner, window cleaner and
liquid cleaner that seemed to hang in the air for weeks after school began. The aroma became quite different when I was in the 2nd and 5th grade however. Both class rooms were directly above the cafeteria exhaust fans, and although our menu was never announced beforehand, by mid-morning we all knew what was being prepared for our lunch. There was no mistaking the aroma of spaghetti sauce or beef stew as it was being prepared down below.

All of our books were either on our desk or seat, or in the desk itself, all destined to be in our bookbags by the end of the day. Each book would be carefully covered at home that night with brown grocery bags cut and folded to perfectly fit each book.

All seats were assigned beforehand, taking into account each student’s history of behavior, which I’m sure was discussed each evening by the good sisters as they enjoyed their evening meal together. Above each blackboard, the letters of the alphabet, both printed and in cursive, were perfectly placed, adhered and ready for the school year.

CaptureI have so many memories of my grade school years in Duquesne! Just think about how many schools populated our hometown! All of the Parochial have closed. Today, there remains only one school, the former Duquesne High School building. There are approximately 350+/- students enrolled in grades K through 6. Its kind of hard to believe when compared to the graduating class of 1940 when 355 young men and women finished their senior year at Duquesne High! The good news is that there is a strong Recovery Plan for the Duquesne School District that will help to resolve current issues within the district. If you’d like to review the plan, you can access the full report by clicking HERE!

I am reposting something I wrote back in 2011 regarding the dreaded preparation time before returning to school. Also, I am also including an article from The Duquesne Times that specifies teacher assignments in the public schools for the 1956-57 school year. How many teacher do you remember??


 Now, my 2011 post: 

Well, it’s August 10th, and as a young boy growing up in the Duquesne area, the last thing on my mind would have been going back to school. In August, I was still thinking about playing outside all day, perhaps looking forward to a family vacation at Presque Isle, or at the very least, one more outing to Kennywood combined with a few more Volk Clan picnics.

During those swelteringly hot August days, my mom did manage to jolt my brother and me into realizing that school would be beginning soon, by subjecting us to one of my most dreaded activities…… trying on school clothes that had been packed away from the previous year. I still contend that this was a form of child abuse. Had Mom traded her secrets with the government, I’m confident that this form of torture could have been elevated to a point that would have surpassed waterboarding!

Early in August, Mom would always let my brother and I know that we would be trying on clothes at some point during the month. Once she had decided on a day, she would always count down the days and remind us each day that “IT” was approaching. I think it was to build the anxiety in Steve and me, and it worked.

Having no air conditioning in our home, Mom would somehow manage to pick the hottest day of the year to torture us. Of course, we had to do it during the daytime since she insisted that “the light was better” and she could “see how they fit.” We would be summoned up to our parent’s bedroom on the 2nd floor of our non-air-conditioned home. Since hot air rises, this made it an especially “toasty” experience.

The storage chest that contained all of the pack away clothes was in an area that we called the “cubby hole.” Now that I think of it, what an appropriate name. A perfect place for animals to hibernate during an ice-cold winter since it provided extra warmth. Our “cubby hole” was no exception. It was at least 20 degrees hotter in there than in the bedroom itself. Fortunately, Mom didn’t make us try the clothes on in the cubby hole. She did however, keep the door open so all that extra heat would pour out into the bedroom and raise the temperature even higher.

Now, the purpose of this entire exercise was to determine what still fit my older brother and what articles of clothing were now considered “hand-me-downs.” That was where I stepped in. I was the “hand-me-down” recipient! Lucky me.

The clothing had been stored in a huge green trunk that my dad had gotten from someone. It was so large, that you could fit a small nation of children in it comfortably. Since hunkys would never throw anything out until it had exhausted all practical use, it contained layers and layers of clothing that would be reused at some point in my childhood.

To add insult to injury, Mom believed in protecting the clothing from being eaten by moths. Seriously, you and I both know that moths are attracted to wool. Considering that the majority of items in the trunk were either corduroy, flannel or cotton, no self-respecting moth would even consider dining in our trunk. Nonetheless, Mom protected the clothing “just in case” by hermetically sealing the clothing in the trunk each season along with a VERY liberal sprinkling of moth balls and moth crystals. By the time these garments had been stored in a virtual vacuum of naphthalene for at least 6 months in a room that reached temperatures that could melt soft metals, let’s just say the odor was rather… “heady” to say the very least.

In order to find out what still fit my older brother Steve and what items would become his fashion leftovers, a.k.a. hand-me-downs, Steve and I had the pleasure of stripping down to our tighty whities and trying on item, after item, after item in the sweltering hot 2nd floor bedroom that was teeming with the smell of mothballs and sweat.

Steve as always the first to try on any item. After all, his size was the determinant by which an article of clothing would be reused or handed down. For him, it was a quick try on, an inspection by Mom, and then he was on to the next item. For me, the process was a bit more arduous. If a pair of pants or a shirt appeared to be both too tight and beyond the point of being altered to fit Steve once again, it became a hand-me-down. It was at that point that I stepped into the picture in my tighty whities. For my mom to decide if a newly created hand-me-down would be used during the upcoming school year, I had to try the item on. Nothing felt worse than being told to try on an article of clothing that had just come off of another person’s sweaty body (sorry Steve, I still love ya), AND then have to wait for Mom to inspect and decide on the fate of said item. I used to pray that each shirt, jacket or pair of pants would fit. Not because I liked it, but because it meant that I could quickly remove it and expedite the end to this torture. You see, IF an item fit but was too long, I would have to wait while Mom would pin the hem each pants leg or perhaps mark how much an item had to be taken-in for it to fit. I loved my mom, but she was no Ernie Plastino when it came to her sewing abilities. As a result, the measuring and pinning procedure seemed to last forever.

When we had gotten to this stage, the whole process was most like a form of torture that could be used at Guantanamo. To make my point, consider all of the finer points of this picture:

• A 6 year old boy and an 8 year old boy forced to give up a day of playing outside with their friends

• An extraordinarily hot second floor bedroom in August

• Bright and hot sunlight beating down through the windows adding to the steaminess

• The pungent odor of mothballs filling the air

• A young mother being forced to control her two fidgety sons without yelling since her mouth was busy holding onto straight pins for the task at hand

• The six year old standing perfectly still, dressed only in his underwear and a heavy corduroy jacket that reeked of mothballs and damp with his brother’s perspiration and his mother trying to determine and pin the perfect sleeve length.


Yes, I believe my mom could have eventually broken Bin Laden if given the opportunity. Thanks for those special memories Mom!!

Each year, The Duquesne Times would publish the upcoming school year’s list of teacher assignments. Interestingly, the lists contained not only the school and grade assignment, but also included their individual salaries as well. I am posting the lists from the 1948-1949 school year for your enjoyment. I would think that you might recognize some your favorite teachers and further realize that compared to the national average of $4300 to $7400, Duquesne’s teachers were truely on the low end of the scale.

1948-1949 Teacher’s List

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Prayers and Ice for Fr. Dennis!

10635704_814143731964045_2569176374781110132_nIn previous posts, I have often written about Fr. Dennis, the current pastor of the of the Catholic churchs in Duquesne; Holy Name, St. Hedwig’s and St. Joseph’s. All three churchs are part of the Christ the Light of the World Parish.

Although I have not been a member of Holy Name since 1972, my heart and faith has always been deeply rooted in that parish.

The reason for why I feel this way, is due to Fr. Dennis, plain and simple. Fr. Dennis epitomizes the words “Father, Priest and Pastor.” When he first arrived on the scene at Holy Name over 31 years ago, every parishioner was like a deer in headlights. As Fr. Dennis began to introduce a more “enthusiastic” liturgy and celebration of the Mass, I know many of the older, more traditional Catholics, were scratching their heads and muttering “What the heck!!!!”

Since I wasn’t a parishioner when Fr. Dennis arrived, I had to rely on reports from by father and Aunt Mary to learn more about their new pastor. My dad seemed to be undaunted by Fr. Dennis and his larger-than-life persona. He loved to hear him sing and he enjoyed his sermons each week. My Aunt Mary (Goldman) on the other hand, was initially huffy-puffy about Father D. I remember her telling me….”I don’t understand him! He’s out in the front yard of the rectory releasing doves! ” or “People are clapping after his sermon, and he allows it!” In the 18 years that followed Fr. Dennis’ arrival before Aunt Mary’s death in December, 2000, she began to come around to the type of liturgy that Fr. Dennis brought to Holy Name with him.  

Aunt Mary ran the Holy Name Flea Market for about 10 years and worked very closely with Fr. Dennis. At first, her hackles were raised quite a bit! “Who does he think he is, telling me how to run a flea market!!” She complied nonetheless, and confessed to me a bit later that all of his ideas worked! Being bull-headed, that ticked her off too. Within a very short amount of time, Aunt Mary became a stanch supporter of Fr. Dennis and all of the wonderful changes that he made to the way people celebrated Christ.

In spite of the fact that I wasn’t a member of the parish, my admiration, love and respect for Fr. Dennis comes from a different perspective. First of all, I loved the fact that my dad thought the world of Fr. Dennis. I remember attending mass at St. Hedwig’s with my dad whenever I would visit. After Mass had ended and we were leaving the building, Fr. Dennis would always be standing at the exit and have a big smile and his hand out to shake my dad’s as he said “Hi Steve!” That simple act mean the world to my dad. I remember him say to me “See Jim, Fr. Dennis even knows my name!” THAT is the effect that Fr. Dennis has on people.

To this day, I still feel that Fr. Dennis’ celebration of the Eucharist stands in a class by itself for me. Hearing him speak, appreciating his passion for shepherding his parishioners and witnessing the involvement of the congregation in the rites of the Mass, is unparalleled. I contend that if you are fortunate enough to attend a Mass that is being celebrated by Fr. Dennis, you REALLY feel that you have been to Mass!!

As you know, in April of 2013, Fr. Dennis announced to his parish that he had received a preliminary diagnosis that indicated that he may have ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. ALS, is a disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement. ALS is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Unfortunately, as time unfolded, it was confirmed that Fr. Dennis did indeed have ALS.

Last year in a post titled “A Deluge of Prayers,” I wrote:

The power of prayer in itself is remarkable. I think we all believe that as part of our very being. However, the power of Duquesne prayer has proven itself to be very powerful. It was just 7 days ago that we all learned about the news of Fr. Dennis’ diagnosis. After the call for a Duquesne Deluge of Prayer, this blog saw its highest EVER viewing of a post since I first began the blog two and a half years ago. The post calling for prayers was viewed over 2500 times in less than one week!

I was thrilled when I saw an announcement scan0001on Facebook that announced a “Flicker of Hope” regarding Fr. Dennis’ diagnosis. I am posting his “From the Pastor’s Desk” column from Sunday’s bulletin. We need to continue with our prayers to assure that the “flicker of hope” turns quickly into a deluge of hope for Fr. Dennis. We did it once, so let’s not stop the momentum!!

From the Pastor’s Desk – April 14, 2013

Last weekend, when the “bomb” on my most recent health diagnosis was dropped, an immediate volcanic eruption of love and prayers for me was released into the universe. I truly FrDennis2005believe that this eruption has caused the “Flicker of Hope” that I received on Monday afternoon. On my visit to my primary care physician, he informed me that I have “lower body muscular neuron disease.” He informed me that the disease takes on many forms or personalities and sometimes masks itself as another disease. A definite diagnosis is confirmed only after a series of elimination tests. He told me at this point, based on the results and evidence “It is inconclusive that I have full-blown ALS/Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” This news is a “flicker of hope.” He was at a loss why the neurologist diagnosed me last Thursday with get your affairs in order, tell your family, you have 3 to 5 years. I believe that the eruption of prayers and love caused this flicker. The positive energy caused by the love and prayers is real and present. After one year of visiting various doctors and not receiving any positive results, I am going to hold on to this “good news” as a hopeful sign. I am going to live life to the best of my ability and to its fullest. When the time comes for my final diagnosis, then I will deal with it as best as I can.

Good things and blessings from this have already happened. People are talking to each other, people are praying more than they have in quite a while. Much more is there to be learned on this transitional journey.

Thank You: for the outpouring of love, prayers and concern….for the cards, emails, gifts, flowers, food, etc….for anyone who has offered help and assistance….I am humbled and grateful for your love and prayers.

The Next Steps: The next step in this ongoing process is that I have an appointment with the ALS Clinic and Dr. Lacomis in Pgh. on May 6 for testing, recommendations, etc. On June 10, I meet again with my PCP to go over the results and decide on the next steps and a course of action if necessary.

In the 15 months since my post and Fr. Dennis’ initial announce, a lot has changed in his life. The diagnosis of ALS was confirmed and he has been bravely dealing with all of the aspects of the disease without complaint. The sanctuary of Holy Name has been remodeled and an elevator installed in the rectory. He gets around with a walker or scooter and recently was fitted for a wheelchair. He no longer is able to drive because he’s lost use of his right leg. The loss of simple movements have left Fr. Dennis an undaunted spirit and determination to continue to minister to his parishioners. 

Recently, throughout the nation, there has been a outpouring in support of donations to the ALS Association via an internet viral sensation known as the “Ice Bucket Challange.” Simply stated, the “Ice Bucket Challange” is an activity involving dumping a bucket of ice water on one’s head to promote awareness of the disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and encourage donations to research. It went viral throughout social media during mid 2014. The challenge then dares nominated participants to be filmed having a bucket of ice water poured on their heads and challenging others to do the same. A common stipulation is that nominated people have 24 hours to comply or forfeit by way of a charitable financial donation.

On Saturday, August 23, 2014, the Christ the Light of the World Parish AND the City of Duquesne watched as the challenge took an unlikely twist. Fr. Dennis has challenged Bishop Zubik of the Diocese of Pittsburgh to the ice bucket challenge! The news of the challenge spread as far as San Francisco where the news appeared in a newspaper in San Francisco. I have posted a video of the challenge, few articles about Fr’ Dennis’ challange, as well as pictures of the “Mass of Healing” that was celebrated by Bishop Zubik at Holy Name, prior to the challange.

Please remember to keep Fr. Dennis in your prayers!

The Trib/Live

For Duquesne priest, Ice Bucket Challenge is personal

By Carol Waterloo Frazier Friday, Aug. 22, 2014, 3:46 a.m.

A Catholic priest in Duquesne has invited his bishop to take part in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge on Saturday.

The Rev. Dennis Colamarino, pastor of Christ the Light of the World Parish, has been living with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis for 15 months. He challenged Diocese of Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik to join him on Saturday after the parish’s 11 a.m. Mass to take the plunge.

The fundraising phenomenon began when a professional golfer in Florida was challenged by his swing coach to dump a bucket of ice water over his head. He did so for his wife’s cousin living with ALS. He then challenged three people and the rest is history. The Ice Bucket Challenge has exploded on social media, resulting in nearly $42 million in donations to the ALS Association since July 29. Children, athletes, celebrities and others have jumped on the Ice Bucket Challenge bandwagon, challenging others to dump ice water over their heads or donate $100 to the ALS Association.

“My parishioners and I are doing the Greater Pittsburgh Walk to Defeat ALS in September and I thought this would be a nice way to raise awareness,” Colamarino said. “I called the bishop and challenged him to join me and he said yes, that he’d like to do it with me.”

After Mass, the Duquesne Police Department will close traffic to South First Street — the church is located at 32 S. First St. — where Colamarino and Zubik will take their seats to await the frigid deluge.

“This is fun,” Colamarino said, “and it brings people together. I thought this was the right thing at the right time. It’s a little inane and fun. It’s something out of the ordinary for us uptight adults. It’s fun and everyone has fun with it. And it’s raising awareness and money for ALS.”

The Ice Bucket Challenge began on July 29. Through Thursday, the ALS Association has received $41.8 million in donations, compared to $2.1 million during the same time last year. There have been 739,275 new donors to the ALS Association.

ALS first was diagnosed in 1869, but it wasn’t until 1939 that Lou Gehrig brought attention to the disease — a progressive neurodegenerative disease that eventually can lead to total paralysis and death. The disease has claimed the lives of many, including Hall of Fame pitcher Jim “Catfish” Hunter, Sen. Jacob Javits, actors Michael Zaslow and David Niven and Sesame Street creator Jon Stone.

Colamarino has been in ministry for 41 years, 31 of them serving the parishioners at Christ the Light of the World and St. Joseph parishes in the city where he grew up. Since his diagnosis, they have stood by his side.

“I wouldn’t be able to be here if it weren’t for them. They are more than parishioners — they are my family,” he said, noting the sanctuary has been remodeled and an elevator installed in the rectory. He gets around with a walker or scooter and recently was fitted for a wheelchair. He no longer is able to drive because he’s lost use of his right leg.

He was not diagnosed immediately. Seeking medical care for a foot problem, Colamarino was not finding any relief. His primary care physician suggested going to a neurologist.

“I went and she said it was ALS. She said I would die in two years, so I should go home and make a will,” he said. “That was quite shocking.”

He made an appointment with an ALS specialist in Pittsburgh and goes every four months to determine if the debilitation is spreading. The disease has started to affect one of his hands.

Muscle weakness is a common early sign of ALS. Early symptoms can include tripping, dropping things, abnormal fatigue of the arms and/or legs, slurred speech, muscle cramps and twitches, and/or uncontrollable periods of laughing or crying. The hands and feet may be affected first and eventually speech, swallowing, chewing and breathing are impaired.

Despite mobility challenges, the priest continues to fulfill his duties. “I started to get tired, so I asked the bishop for a helper,” he said, noting the assistant is a Duquesne native and New Castle priest.

Referring to something his neurologist told him, Colamarino said, “This disease will not define who I am. Every morning I get up and say my morning prayer and thank God for another day.”

Reflecting on how ALS has changed his life, he classifies things as BD or AD — Before Disease or After Disease. “Before I would jog three times a week and cook meals. I love to cook for myself and friends. But that life is over. Now I can’t drive or lift a frying pan. When it comes to meals, everybody brings them to me. There’s not a day goes by that somebody calls to see what I need. Every day someone is bringing a meal and that gives us quality time to spend together.”

Although his life has changed dramatically, Colamarino remains upbeat. “We don’t get to choose our life so you just have to make the best of it. I’m surrounded by so much love. I often cry, not for myself but because I can’t believe I’m so loved.”

He doesn’t look too far down the road, but he is looking forward to Saturday and the ALS walk. “We’ve formed a team, Team Father Dennis, for the walk and we are leading in the amount of money raised. We set a goal of $10,000 and so far we’re up to $25,000. I think Saturday’s event may kick it up even more.

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – August 23, 2014

 — Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese Bishop David Zubik accepted the Ice Bucket Challenge to help a dear friend.

A total of 800 people showed up for the 11 a.m. Mass Saturday at the Christ the Light of the World Parish in Duquesne.

It wasn’t just about the Mass though, their main reason for being there is the parish priest.

“I can’t believe how much I am loved. But I think it’s… I told them I thought I loved them more than they loved me; but obviously, it’s pretty equal,” said Fr. Dennis Colamarino.

They came to support Fr. Dennis in his struggle with ALS – better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Bishop Zubik came, too. Afterwards, he took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

How’d the Bishop feel afterwards?

“That’s cold!” he said.

Not to be outdone, Fr. Dennis took the challenge, too.

“I’m the pastor and they’re parishioners, but it’s more than that. We are family and we love each other like family,” said Fr. Dennis.

Bishop Zubik compares the ice dump to a baptism.

“Water is a sign of Jesus. We take it beyond that sacrament to say what we do here and how we’re supposed to help people who are struggling, that becomes a sign of Jesus within us,” he said.

For Fr. Dennis, it was a blessing for Duquesne.

“It brought the community together, and I hope you all print this, something good happens in Duquesne,” he said.

Parishioners have started the Team Father Dennis Fund and have raised more than $10,000. Some will take part in the Walk to Defeat ALS on Sept. 6.

My special thanks to Tara Hoover, who administers Christ the Light of the World’s Facebook page for allowing the use of the photos from the Mass for Healing and the Ice Bucket Challange in this post! Visit their page by click here.

Holy Name





Bishop Zubik

Click here to view the entire event gallery on Christ the Light of the World’s Facebook page.

Watch the Challenge video below!

 Yes Fr. Dennis…You ARE loved!

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Eastland’s Slag Dump

This morning, one of our friends, Jack Schalk commented on my recent post –  Eastland – Always on our Minds

I left Duquesne in 1959 and never had a knowledge of Eastland or its environs. In my mind, I can’t even place the location from a map of the site. Cory Werling (above) mentioned that he could see Eastland from the top of Kennedy Ave in the evening and I just can’t relate to this vision. Does anyone have an older photo of the site prior to development as viewed from Duquesne?

Thanks to another of our friends, Bob Vislay, DHS Class of ’69, Jack and others can get a clear perspective of where the slag dump and eventually Eastland was located.

This is a picture looking down W. Grant Ave after the tornado of 1956:



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Eastland – Always on our Minds

Awhile ago, one of my friends on Facebook posted a comment as well as an article aboutcentury-iii-mall-57 some proposed changes to Century III Mall in West Mifflin. Although I have been to the mall many times over the years, I have never felt that it was a place that I could really feel any connection with. To me, it always has been an over-sized, confusing, cold and unwelcoming environment. I suppose that if Century III had been build when I was in my teens, I would feel differently, but considering that it didn’t open until 1979, I had moved away from the area and was living in Chicago.

In my retail career, I have managed many traditional department stores throughout the United States. From Lenox Square Mall in Atlanta, Georgia (248 stores/1,545,000 sq. ft.) to Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, Illinois (300 stores/2,200,000 sq. ft.), I have seen and worked in dozens of malls. However, the only mall/shopping center that resonates in my mind was Eastland Shopping Mall in  North Versailles, Pennsylvania.

In my mind, bigger is NOT always better! During my retail career, I constantly reminded my managers and selling associates to “think like a customer.” I wonder if the developers of some of the super-sized malls ever considered that customers just may not want to traverse over 2 million square feet of space to just buy a pair of shoes or a tube of lipstick?

The size of Eastland was perfect in my mind. There was an intimate quality about it. You were most likely able to find whatever it was that you were searching for and you also would probably run into someone you knew before the end of your shopping excursion. Rather than a enormous food court with dozens of fast food places, one could NEVER beat sitting in one of the booths or at the counter in Woolworths or Gimbels for a quick bite to eat or enjoy a wonderful meal at McSorleys Restaurant.

About three years ago, I published a post about Eastland that everyone seemed to enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed writing. I decided to resurrect that post and share it with you once again. I hope you enjoy it!


Did you know that there is an obituary of sorts for shopping malls? Seriously! The site is simply called! Who would have thought it would come to that? The only reason I know this is that I happened to be looking through some old photos that I found in a drawer and found one that was taken at Eastland Mall in North Versailles.

Eastland Shopping Plaza opened its doors for the first time on August 15, 1963. I remember going to Eastland with my mother and my Aunt Mary, and how they marveled at the size, the convenience and how much better it was than walking through downtown McKeesport. Unfortunately, many other people thought the same thing, and as a result, McKeesport’s business fell off dramatically. So many of the stores in Duquesne had closed or were about to close since the “redevelopment” had recently begun. First Street was less than a year from being razed, so residents were beginning to form new shopping habits.

As much as Mom liked Eastland Shopping Plaza, old habits were hard to break and she continued to frequent Sally Fashions and Salkowitz Dress Shop in Duquesne for her “preferred wardrobe.”  She also continued to shop at Adler-Greens for my dad, brother and I. When it came to items for the house, it was always the Golden Rule, Helmsteaders and Hirshbergs in McKeesport.

In 1964 when all of North First Street fell victim to the redevelopment’s bulldozer, so did my father’s business on South First Street. It was a VERY stressful and traumatic time for our family. My dad was devastated about closing his business without a choice in the matter. He had just turned 49 years of age and was forced to begin a new job. Fortunately, he was such an adept mechanic, and found work immediately at the J C Penney Auto Center in Eastland Shopping Plaza. There, he was promoted to Service Manager and continued in that role until his retirement in 1980.

For 16 years, Eastland was a part of our lives. I knew it well. In its heyday, Eastland Mall was a two-level, shopping plaza that was built on 57 acres of land at the peak of a hill overlooking the Monongahela River. There was an urban legend about the land that it was built on. Supposedly, the area was once a huge slag dump for the surrounding McKeesport steel mills. Duquesne Works had its own site to dump stag, so were not part of the legend. Every so often, someone would resurface the theory that the mall, in its entirety, would one day slip over the hill toward the Monongahela River due to its unstable foundation of shifting slag. That fate never materialized, and the mall suffered its own gradual and painful death on February 15, 2005, after 42 years.

Originally, Eastland Shopping Plaza was home to 4 department Stores and 52 other retail businesses. Eastland opened with stores such as Gimbels, Sears, J.C. Penneys, Wander Sales, F.W. Woolworth, May-Stern, McSorley’s Restaurant, Docktor Pet Center, Thom McAn (I always thought that was a strange spelling.) There was a Young Men’s store named Silberman’s as well as one called Standard Sportswear, Kinny Shoes, and a Richard’s Shoes. Immel’s had a location at Eastland along with National Record Mart. NRM was on the lower enclosed level of the mall along with a toy store that I can’t remember the name of. Was it Kay Bee? There was also a shoe repair on that level, Valley Shoe Repair that remained there from the first day Eastland opened in 1963 until the mall closed in 2005. That distinction was shared with only one other business, Marc Anthony’s Hair Salon.

In the winter of 1969, I turned 18 and was old enough to begin working at Eastland. At that time, it was still an open air shopping plaza. I decided not to go the route of nepotism and apply at J C Penneys, but took a leap and applied at Gimbels. To my surprise (as well as my dad’s), I managed to get hired on as a holiday seasonal! I was quite excited about working at Gimbels. It was always considered an upscale store and I enjoyed the excitement. Little did I know that the retail “bug” would bite me and cause me to continue into a retail career that lasted until 2007!

I recall how festive Gimbels and the mall looked at holiday time. The amount of customers during the holiday season was astounding. People came from all over the area to Eastland. I saw so many people that I knew from Duquesne while working there. Even some personalities made their way to the mall as well. I had the pleasure of waiting on Donna Jean Young during the holidays which was very exciting. Perhaps the most famous person I met was Hugh Geyer, lead singer for the Vogues. At that time, they were one of the most popular groups in the United States.

I remained at Gimbels while I was in college until 1971. When I left Gimbels after graduation, the store was feeling the bite of competition from Monroeville Mall which had opened in 1969. I remember the Eastland Mall Theatres that were tucked away in the far corner of the Shopping Plaza. They opened at the same time the shopping plaza opened. There were two screens. I remember that the entrance was very bright and was primarily white and gold and aqua(?)! I recall taking dates there, but only remember seeing one movie. What does that say about my dates?? The only movie I remember was Funny Girl in 1969.

For a short time, I worked at the Eastland Car Wash which was located to the right of the theatre. I worked there for about 6 months during the fall and winter. The conditions were crappy since we all were freezing most of the time. I would either be sloshing water on hubcaps at the start of the wash or be part of the detail crew at the end of the wash. Either chore had me exposed to the weather for the most part. As would be expected, it was a rather “motley” but really a fun crew that worked at the car wash. That’s where I learned all my bad habits as a means of survival. Instead of learning the 3 R’s as in school, I learned the 3 S’s. Swearing – Spitting – Smoking. I dressed like a bum, was as dirty as a pig and smelled like one too. But boy, we all had fun there! The car wash was destroyed by a fire in 1987.

A few years after I moved away from home, there was a fire at Eastland. It occurred on June 6, 1973 during the morning hours. It apparently started either at a dairy store or bakery that was located in the lower level mall. 27 stores were involved, 20 in the lower level and 7 on the upper level. Renovation had already been underway to enclose the upper area of the mall at the time of the fire. What eventually emerged from the renovations and restorations following the fire was an enclosed mall with a new “big box” store, Gee Bee, anchoring one end of the complex. The name changed from Eastland Shopping Plaza to Eastland Mall after the mall was enclosed.

After graduation from college in 1972, Eastland Mall and I parted ways. I entered into my “wanderlust” years and began a series of moves that were career associated. I remember returning to the area in 1977 and visiting Eastland with my then fiancée Judy. I believe that was my last visit to Eastland for many, many years.

As I indicated earlier, my father continued to work at Penney’s Auto Center until his retirement 1980. As I continued to travel and relocate to different parts of the country, Dad and my Aunt Mary would keep me abreast of what was happ ening to Eastland. Century III Mall in West Mifflin had opened in 1979 and between that new competition and the continued success of Monroeville Mall, Eastland had suffered a huge decline in business. That decline continued in subsequent years and culminated in 1986 when Gimbels went out of business and closed their doors at Eastland. With that final blow, most of the mall’s remaining tenants left.

The next time I visited what WAS Eastland Mall, things had changed quite dramatically. Stretched across the once pristine façade that was graced with the name of Gimbels, was a stark white sign that boasted “New Eastland.” In the corner of the parking lot was a boarded-up Penney’s Auto Center, once my dad’s bread and butter. Pathetically standing in the opposite corner of the parking area was the remnants of the Eastland Mall Theatres. I entered the front doors of what was a classically beautiful Gimbels and felt a little like George Bailey from “It’s A Wonderful Life” stepping into “Nick’s” the neighborhood bar that used to be “Martini’s.” Nothing was the same. In place of the sparkling aisles and well displayed departments was a maze of mismatched tables, recycled display racks. The noise was at a deafening level and the chaos was even more intense. The 2nd floor had been closed off by boarding up the escalator, but the lower level was still open and duplicated the scenario from the first floor. Believe me, I am a huge fan of flea markets and garage sales. I think they are a blast! However, the scene I encountered that day was a bit upsetting to me. I had seen the demise of the heart of Duquesne, and now to see yet another place I loved suffer the same fate was a bit disconcerting. In 2005, “New Eastland” became “No Eastland” when the entire site was razed. Eastland’s obituary has been written-up on several different sites on the internet. The following is from Wikipedia. Eastland was a grand old lady!

Eastland was located primarily around old mill towns. Many of these communities lost vast amounts of population during the lifetime of the Eastland Mall. Braddock, which East Pittsburgh-McKeesport Blvd leads directly into two miles (3 km) away, had approximately 12,000 residents in 1963. By the mall’s close in 2005 it had fewer than 3,000. This demographic change took with it, potential customers and employees of Eastland Mall. After Eastland Mall had already filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, its most devastating blow came in September 1986 when Gimbels, which had developed and owned the mall, went out of business, taking most of Eastland’s tenants along with it. Benderson Development Company of Buffalo, NY purchased the mall from the bankrupt Gimbels department store two years later. For the next 20 years Eastland tried to stay afloat with a variety of unique tenants – including a PennDOT state driver’s license testing center, a beer distributor (Beer World, located in the old J.C. Penney’s), a distribution center for Xerox, the local magistrate’s office, a professional wrestling center (PWX, owned by James Miller), a bingo parlor (Eastland Social Hall Bingo), and a low power TV station, WBYD-CA. Most notable was the addition of a two story indoor and spacious outdoor flea market in the space once occupied by Gimbels which, according to a flea market manager, drew 500 vendors and 2,000 customers per weekend at its peak. Many smaller retail stores then opened inside the mall, including Harper’s Bazaar (a mom-and-pop women’s clothing store run by Jim and Carol Harper), Kennywood Messenger Service (a notary and vehicle licensing service), Amer-a-Quick printing service, a barber shop, and a beauty parlor. The revival was temporary. In the 1990s, the flea market was moved off to the side in the old Gee Bee store, taking foot traffic away from the retail stores located inside the mall. The building then fell into a state of ruin. By the time the mall closed in 2005, it was only worth $1.38 million – less than the $1.4 million that Benderson Development Company paid for it 1988. By that point, trash cans holding water falling from the leaky roof abounded throughout the mall. Parts of the original Gimbels facade had collapsed and the walls were showing stress cracks. The walkway was no longer heated and the tiles were so broken and floor so uneven the heels of a shopper’s shoes often caught in the floor.

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What Was Your Favorite Kennywood Ride?

mJm-U3gHJdVNz5B_CnriPFAEveryone seemed to enjoy reading about Kennywood from my last post. I was discussing Kennywood’s rides with a friend that also grew-up in Duquesne after they had read the post. The discussion turned into a debate about what was the best/favorite ride when we were younger. I told them I would put it up for a vote from all of the Kennywood devotees that read my blog. So, check out the survey below and vote for YOUR favorite. If you don’t see it, you can add it to the list. Don’t forget to vote!!

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Kennywood On Our Minds


I have no idea what has prompted me to write about Kennywood again, but before the summer whizzes by us, permit me to share some personal recollection with you…….

My fondest and not-so-fond Kennywood memories in no particular order:

  1. Going to the Penny Arcade and getting a souvenir from one of the machines that was a gray metal horseshoe with a copper penny in the middle of it. I remember having to turn a dial on the machine to somehow personalize the horseshoe with either a date or a name. I remember the loud clunking sound it would make as it stamped out the letters and numbers and the anticipation I felt waiting for the finished product to emerge.
  2. It was in the early 1960’s when Kennywood introduced SPINART to park attendees. edd5ca2dadfd3de14e7fdda15f115b23Well before tie-dye and Jerry Garcia became part of our pop-culture, we were all “spinning” out brightly colored works of art from our trip to Kennywood. I only wish I had hung onto some of my early creations! They’d go well in my office.
  3. Being able to ride ANY ride in the park, regardless of how fast it would spin and never feeling like I had to throw-up. Nowadays, not so much!!
  4. Vintage_50s_Colors_Fiestaware_Forest_Green_Disk_Water_Pitcher_For_Sale_09Eating lunch at the Kennywood Restaurant on my school picnic day it was a REAL restaurant! My Aunt Fran and my Aunt Peg were waitresses at the restaurant and we always managed to sit at one of their tables. The tables were set with REAL white cloth tablecloths and silverware. Waitresses throughout the restaurant would scurry around carrying green Fiestaware disc pitchers full of ice water. I remember how the outside of the pitchers would be sweating from the cold water and how it would drip onto the tablecloths as they would fill each of our glasses.pool3
  5. I have said it before and I’ll say it again. I feel that Kennywood’s Sunlight Pool was THE most awesome pool ever. The size, the dives, the music, the food and the general excitement was unparalleled.
  6. On Kennywood’s opening night in April 23, 1961, the park’s bandstand, the music plaza,5173FQDVA3L burned to the ground. I vaguely remember that news. However, I believe a bandstand shell of some sort was built in the same spot, close to the Pippin. I say this because one of my favorite memories is going to see Little Peggy March sign her hit “I Will Follow Him.” Having some doubts about my memory on this, I did some research and found a small announcement in Billboard’s June 22, 1963 edition that confirms her appearance on July 7, 1963. If you look at the entire clipping, you’ll quickly realize just how BIG some of the stars were that appeared in what could be termed “our own back yard!” How lucky were we???? Glenn Miller, Peggy March, Bobby Rydell and The 4 Seasons! While I was checking out the Billboard publication, I decided to share the Top 30 list from that week. How many do YOU remember?
  7. I remember watching with total fascination, French Fries moving along a metal conveyor belt at the Midway Refreshment Stand near the Jack Rabbit. There were water fountains next to the window on the side of the refreshment stand and I was jackrabbitalways distracted from getting a sip of water. I deferred to staring at the mechanized marvel instead. Of course, the only thing better than watching them being made was eating them.
  8. There was a narrow passage between the Penny Arcade and the Jack Rabbit that would sometimes be filled with riders waiting to get on the Jack Rabbit. Although I remember the sights and sounds that were emanating from the coaster on the other side of the fence, I distinctly recall how there always seemed to be a distinctive odor of fresh tar as we would wait. I never knew if the smell was from the ride, the ground we were standing on or a nearby maintenance shack.
  9. When I was in my teens, I would often rent a rowboat, and attempt to maneuver around the lagoon. As I would continue to prove, well into my current years, I stink as a sailor. I never seem to be able to avoid other boats and/or objects and that was always the case when I would row a boat in the lagoon. My boat would always be “that boat” that ended up causing chaos for those around. When I finally managed to get back to the starting point at the end of the ride, I was exhausted, wet and totally certain I would never attempt the boats again…. But of course… I always did.
  10. I always managed to get to Kennywood on WTAE Days. It was so exciting to be able to 419032see local TV personalities and get their autographs. I remember that they always had an autograph booth set up near the Kennywood Railroad Train. They’d post a schedule indicating who would be signing autographs there, and I always seemed to be the first in line. I think my favorite recollection was when I was able to get Paul Shannon and Joe Negri’s signatures. To this day, I wonder what happened to all of those autographs.Howdy Sign
  11. Although I have no idea what year it occurred, I just remember how excited I was and how grown-up I felt when I finally surpassed Howdy Doody’s height and measured up to Henry! I was on the top of the world knowing that I would be able to ride any attraction in the park!
  12. I remember the simple thrill of plunking a coin into one of the foot massager machines near the restrooms that were beside Noah’s Ark. Oh, the pure joy!
  13. Part of my school picnic and ANY Kennywood visit was to be able to toss a coin into the wishing well that stood near the Kennywood Restaurant and the Park’s Administration Building.
  14. SalTruth be told, Laughing Sally scared the living daylights out of me. Although Sally now resides outside of the Kennywood Railroad selling tickets, when I was young, she was positioned right as you walked into the park after exiting the tunnel. Her heinous cackling would greet you from in front of The Laff In The Dark ride. I would always steer clear of her! I even recall having occasional nightmares in which I would be chased through Kennywood by Sally. I’m surprised that thoughts of Sally didn’t end up putting me in therapy!Chalk
  15. The best prize that I was ever able to win was a chalk statue of a horse. I must have been 9 or 10 years old, since I remember the big fuss my mom made about it. I won it by hitting some stacked milk bottles at the game to the right of the Penny Arcade. I have no idea what ever happened to it, but it retrospect, it was pretty hideous!
  16. Of course the fondest of all of my memories, was the one Thunderbolt-Kennywood2thrill that never grew old. The coasters of Kennywood. I’ll never forget the feeling I’d get in my stomach as I sped through the double dip on The Jack Rabbit, or yelled with excitement as I would lunge forward along with an entire train of cars on The Racer, trying to move into first place as we rolled into the loading station, or bravely raised both my hands above my head as The Thunderbolt roared around the twin circles and your seat partner crashed into your side due to the centrifugal force. Nothing surpassed those                                                                          memories and thrills for me.

Not everyone thinks of the roller coasters as their favorite rides. I enjoy hearing from all of you as to YOUR favorite. And just to refresh your memories, thanks to the folks at Wikipedia, here’s a complete list of all rides and attractions from 1898 through the present time. Here’s where you can tell us about your Kennywood “cheers” and “fears.”


1898: Kenny’s Grove opened by Monongahela Street Railway Co.

1899: Park renamed Kennywood, Merry-Go-Round* (G.A. Dentzel carousel),   Casino restaurant (now Parkside Cafe), Dancehall

1901: Old Mill (converted to Garfield’s Nightmare in 2004, also formerly named/themed as Hard Headed Harrold’s Horrendously Humorous Haunted Hideaway and Panama Canal)

1902: Figure Eight Toboggan (park’s first coaster, removed 1921)

1903: Steeplechase (removed 1904)

1904: Steeplechase removed

1905: Dip-the-Dips Scenic Railway (removed 1910)

1906: Fairyland Floats (re-themed Old Mill), Figure Eight Toboggan renamed to Gee Whizz Dip the Dips

1910: 1910 Racer (original version, removed 1926), Dip-the-Dips Scenic Railway removed

1911: Speed-O-Plane (removed 1923), Panama Canal (re-themed Old Mill)

1913: Merry-Go-Round** (original G.A. Dentzel carousel replaced by T.M. Harton model)

1914: Old Mill (re-themed Panama Canal)

1916: Wurlitzer Band Organ provides music for Merry-Go-Round

1918: Whip* (replaced in 1927)

1920: Jack Rabbit

1921: Gee Whizz Dip the Dips removed

1922: Dodgem (removed in 1929)

1923: Speed-O-Plane removed

1924: Pippin (converted to Thunderbolt in 1968), Kiddieland* (located near Jack Rabbit coaster)

1925: Sunlite Swimming Pool (removed 1973)

1926: 1910 Racer removed

1927: Merry-Go-Round(T.M. Harton carousel replaced by current William H. Dentzel model, Wurlitzer Band Organ is moved to new carousel), current Racer, Tumble Bug, larger 16 car Whip**, Kiddieland** (moved from near Jack Rabbit coaster to former location of original Racer coaster)

1928: Brownie Coaster (removed 1953 or later), Tilt-A-Whirl* (removed 1934)

1929: Dodgem removed

1930: Auto Race, Laff in the Dark (removed 1965)

1931: Tickler (roller coaster, removed 1952)

1935: Teddy Bear (roller coaster, removed in 1947), Skooter (removed 1979)

1936: Noah’s Ark (re-built in 1996), Loop-O-Plane* (removed 1950)

1937: 13 Spook Street, Kiddie Old Mill (Swan Boats, removed mid-1970s)

1938: Ridee-O (removed 1959)

1940: Rockets (Traver circle swing added to island in lagoon, removed 1978)

1941: Daffy Klub (replaces 13 Spook Street)

1945: Olde Kennywood Railroad

1946: Original facade on Racer loading platform replaced

1947: Teddy Bear removed

1948: Little Dipper (remodeled in 1958, removed in 1984), hills removed from Auto Race and car bodies replaced with current style bodies, Tumble Bug cars replaced with turtle-looking versions

1949: Tilt-A-Whirl** (removed 1963), Tumble Bug renamed Turtle

1950: Roll-O-Plane* (removed 1969)

1952: Octopus (removed 1965), Tickler removed

1953: Sunlite Pool closes to swimming due to maintenance problems and turned into U-Drivem boat concession

1955: Rotor* (removed 1958), Sunlite Pool reopens after rehab, Kiddie Cadillacs, Daffy Klub removed

1957: Round-Up* (replaced with new model in 1964)

1958: Wild Mouse (removed 1960), Little Dipper remodeled and renamed Dipper

1959: SkyDiver

1960: Wild Mouse removed, facade on Racer loading platform redesigned

1961: Bandshell destroyed in fire, Calypso (removed 1987), Old Mill gets new boats

1962: Kangaroo (only Flying Coaster flat ride in existence)

1964: Tornado dark ride (from defunct Freedomland, removed 1966), Round-Up** (replacing original Round-Up; damaged by the June 19, 1975 fire and replaced with Super Round-Up)

1965: Rotor** (removal date unknown), Popover (removed in 1976), Laff in the Dark removed

1966: Turnpike (Electric cars added in 1987)

1967: Road Runner (Cuddle Up), Ghost Ship (Replaced Tornado, Both rides destroyed in fire on June 19, 1975)

1968: Thunderbolt, rebuilt from Pippin. The four drops in the ravine and the lift hill remain intact from the original coaster. The new Thunderbolt track had a small hill in the inner helix that was removed in 1969.

1969: Noah’s Ark remodeled, Loop-O-Plane** (removed 1983)

1971: Roll-O-Plane** (removed 1985)

1972: Bayern Kurve*, Le Cachot Name means “The Dungeon” in French, replaced Safari dark ride. (removed 1998), Monster* (removed 1974)

1973: Gran Prix, Sunlite Swimming Pool removed

1974: Hardheaded Harold’s Horrendously Humorous Haunted Hideaway (theme change of park’s Old Mill), Kenny Kangaroo makes his debut as park mascot

1975: Log Jammer (first multi-million dollar ride in the park’s history) Carousel is completely stripped, and repainted, Wurlitzer Band Organ is completely rebuilt

1976: Tilt-A-Whirl*** (removed in 1988, moved to Idlewild), (Super) Round Up*** (moved to Idlewild 1985), SkyDiver replaced with new model and renamed Paratrooper

1977: Monster**; Nearby West View Park closes

1978: Enterprise (renamed Volcano in 2003), Rockets removed

1979: Monster***, renamed Monongahela Monster (removed 1989), Garden Stage (removed in 2006)

1980: Laser Loop.(Removed in 1990)

1981: Gold Rusher (removed in 2007), Paddle Boats

1982: Pirate, Wonder Bread trains on Racer replaced by new PTC models

1983: Ranger (lasts only one season)

1984: Wave Swinger, Swing Around* (removed at end of season, but returns five years later), Bayern Kurve** (original replaced), Dipper removed

1985: Raging Rapids, Super Round-Up removed

1986: Wonder Wheel (removed in 1999), Bayern Kurve** removed, geysers and waterfall added to Raging Rapids

1987: Musik Express, electric cars added to Turnpike and directions cars face on track reversed, Kennywood designated National Historic Landmark

1988: Flying Carpet (removed in 2006), Rotor*** (removed in 1994, eventually moved to Lake Compounce), Tilt-A-Whirl removed, Kennywood Memories is filmed and premieres 28 Sep. 1988

1989: Swing Around** (removed in 2005), Monster removed

1990: Great Balloon Race (removed in 1995, moved to Idlewild), Laser Loop removed, original facade on Racer loading platform restored

1991: Steel Phantom (quickly tops top 10 list, rebuilt as Phantom’s Revenge in 2001), Wurlitzer Band Organ undergoes extensive repairs

1992: Tri-Star (lasts only one season, moved to Idlewild in 1998), Old Mill (Haunted Hideaway renamed)

1993: WipeOut (removed 2009, relocated to Lake Compounce)

1994: SkyCoaster, Bayern Kurve*** (Removed in 2005)

1995: LOST KENNYWOOD expansion in former location of Sunlite Swimming Pool – Pittsburg Plunge, Phantom Phlyer (Removed in 1996, moved to Lake Compounce), Roll-O-Plane*** (removed in 2003), Whip and Wave Swinger moved to Lost Kennywood, Great Balloon Race removed

1996: Lil Phantom (Kiddieland), Kenny’s Parkway, Noah’s Ark remodeled, Phantom Phlyer removed

1997: Pitt Fall (Removed in 2011)

1998: Kennywood celebrates its 100th anniversary, Centennial Midway (one season), Le Cachot demolished

1999: Exterminator, Wonder Wheel removed.

2000: Aero 360, Dancing Waters relocated across from Grand Prix, Garfield and Odie added as park mascots

2001: Phantom’s Revenge (rebuilt from Steel Phantom), Crazy Trolley

2002: Garfield’s Pounce Bounce, Phantom Fright Nights debut

2003: King Kahuna (formerly Top Spin from Lake Compounce, removed 2010), Ham-on-Rye (removed in 2005), Volcano Valley themed area, Volcano (theme change from Enterprise), Roll-O-Plane removed, Miniature Golf removed

2004: Garfield’s Nightmare (theme change from Old Mill)

2005: New front gate structures built, Bayern Kurve*** and Swing Around removed, Merry-Go-Round undergoes a complete overhaul and is rebuilt, Wurlitzer Band Organ is repainted

2006: Swing Shot

2007: Cosmic Chaos, SS Kenny, roofing over the escalators to lot 2, Gold Rusher removed.

2008: Ghostwood Estate, new Kiddieland games building.

2009: Bayern Kurve****, WipeOut removed, original Phantom drop and second hill retracked.

2010: Sky Rocket, a new Steel Roller Coaster, Turnpike Removed and placed in storage with intent to be reinstalled. King Kahuna removed.

2011: Kandy Kaleidoscope is remodeled, Parkside Cafe is remodeled and becomes the park’s first air-conditioned food service location, Kiddieland restrooms are rebuilt to include a refreshment stand, Star Refreshment stand is renovated, Merry-Go-Round horses are refurbished, Pitt Fall removed, Holiday Lights debut, Wurlitzer Band Organ on Merry-Go-Round is completely rebuilt.

2012: Black Widow ride replaces Pitt Fall



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