Taking the Easy Way

I have been 100% uninspired over the past several weeks. You haven’t heard from me and my writer’s block seems to become a wall for now. I am so sorry.

However, I am heading to Duquesne tomorrow, Friday, 4/11/2014 for a family get-together! We are going to be celebrating my Aunt Peg’s 88th birthday on Sunday. Aside from the excitement I’m feeling about being with my whole family for the weekend, I am hoping to get rejuvenated about writing once again.  I miss it.

In the meantime, I have resurrected (appropriate for Eastertime) some past Eastertime posts just to provide you with a bit of nostalgia and a fantastic Eastertime comfort food the Bubba’s used to make.

I hope you don’t mind the “reruns” but hopefully I’ll be full of inspiration upon my return!

From 2012…………………

Richard Terek added a comment yesterday, March 20, 2012, in response to my posting about the wonderful treats our mothers and grandmothers used to make at Eastertime. Specifically, he mentioned the hot cross buns and the puska. Richard then added:

” I remember my grandmother making Sirecz (Egg Cheese) for Easter too!”

In honor of your grandmother and all of our “Bubbas” and mothers who cooked from their hearts, I found a recipe that duplicates the Easter Egg Cheese of our youths.


Called cirek, sirets, sirok, sirecz, Hrudka or just Easter egg cheese since it traditionally served on Paska (Easter Bread) A traditional Slovak Easter Cheese served with the Easter meal. This is served sliced and cold. It tastes like a sweet custard.”


12 eggs

1 quart milk

1 cup white sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 pinch ground nutmeg


1. In an electric mixer, beat the eggs until mixed well.

2. Transfer the eggs to a double boiler and stir in milk, sugar, vanilla and nutmeg. Cook over a medium heat for 30 minutes. Use a metal slotted spoon and constantly stir the bottom of the pan to prevent scorching.

3. When the mixture looks just like cooked scrambled eggs, pour it carefully into a cheesecloth-lined colander. Carefully gather the ends of the cheesecloth in your hands and pull them together until the cheese forms into a ball. Tie the cheesecloth tightly at the top of the ball. Tie the cheesecloth ends over a faucet or to the handle of a kitchen cabinet (place a bowl under to catch the whey dripping down) and let hang for about 3 hours.

4. Untie the cheesecloth and wrap the cheesecloth ball in plastic wrap before refrigerating. The cheese will keep for about a week. Slice and serve.


Today, my wife and I had to stop by Walmart to pick-up a few items we needed for an Easter basket that we were preparing. As I was walking through aisle after aisle of Easter candy, treats, baskets, decorations and God knows what else, I realized that the previously simple job of buying Easter goodies had become a very complicated task. One could no longer just go and purchase a bag of jelly beans, we tried, and it’s impossible! There had to be at least 30 to 40 different types of jelly beans at Walmart! They had every flavor, every color, and every brand imaginable. Seriously, jellybeans are simple items. Red ones are supposed to taste like cherries, orange ones like oranges and black ones like licorice! That’s not the case anymore. I found red ones that were passion fruit flavored, orange ones that were mango-tangerine flavored and black ones that were espresso flavored. I don’t get it!!!!

 I thought back to when I was still the recipient of an Easter basket back home in Duquesne, and what exactly did I receive. Of course, there was the traditional milk chocolate bunny. It always depended on whether my dad’s business was having a good year or bad year that determined if I would a solid chocolate rabbit or a hollow one. (Gotta love those good years!)

This photo was taken in our living room in 1954. I was 3 years old and apparently mighty happy with the candy I was eating based on my chocolate covered mouth!

Mom would recycle our Easter baskets from year to year for my brother and I. The only change would be the color of the cellophane Easter grass, and every so often, the basket would be wrapped in a huge sheet of cellophane. When Steve and I would wake-up on Easter morning, once we were given permission, we’d race down the stairs and into the dining room to be greeted by two large baskets brimming with goodies. We would run and grab our baskets and then high-tail it back to the sofa, taking just a few minutes to peer through the cellophane to assess what the Easter Bunny had brought us.

 In contrast to the HUGE array of treats available today, the candy assortment we received at Easter was rather simple. The centerpiece was always the chocolate bunny standing proudly in the center of the basket, poised and ready to become an earless hare in a matter of minutes. Surrounding the bunny was an array of smaller chocolate critters to include baby bunnies, lambs and chicks. They were normally milk chocolate, but occasionally the lamb would be white chocolate. The rest of the basket would be made up of foil covered chocolate eggs, fruit flavored jellybeans (a.k.a. Jelly Bird Eggs), chocolate covered marshmallow eggs, and speckled eggs (a.k.a. Robin Eggs) that tasted like malted balls when you bit into them minus the chocolate covering. The truth be told, I wasn’t a big fan of them and Mom and Dad usually ended up eating them. In fact, I believe they purposely loaded the baskets with them so they could munch on them without feeling guilty.

I recall that there were often large boxed candy eggs sitting on the dining room table. They were usually Fruit and Nut eggs. The inside was filled with a dense white nougat that was surrounding dried fruits and nuts. The entire egg was then dipped in milk chocolate, decorated with a few sugar flowers, wrapped in cellophane and then boxed for Easter. I never ate them since I hated nuts. Besides, they reminded me of fruitcake at Christmas time and probably weighed as much!

 I was always amazed how Mom was able to keep track of how much candy we had consumed from the basket. Since I had no concept of moderation, I would have eaten the entire contents of the basket on Easter morning if Mom hadn’t placed specific limitations on how much my brother and I could eat. Her strategy must have been to get us wired on an appropriate amount of sugar so that we were “nearly” bouncing off the walls just prior to visiting my grandparents. It usually worked!

After the excitement of reviewing our Easter baskets on Easter morning, we would be hustled up to our room to begin getting ready for church. My mom always made sure we were all “gussied-up” for Mass, so extra time was always needed to prepare. Mom and Dad also would don their very best for Easter that morning and we would all proudly march down our driveway into the family car as if we were conducting our own “Easter Parade” on Thomas Street.

 As a very young child, I remember entering Holy Name Church on Easter morning and being overwhelmed by the amount of flowers that decorated the altar and sanctuary. Huge white Easter lilies were everywhere and the pungent scent of fresh flowers filled the entire church. All of the ladies and young girls had their Easter bonnets in place along with their prettiest dresses and every male member of the congregation looked very dapper.

I remember becoming very fidgety during the Mass on Easter. I was usually well-behaved for Masses of normal length; however Easter meant that the Mass had much more content, more music and more pomp and ceremony. All of those “extras,” coupled with the kick I was feeling from my morning dose of Easter basket sugar, didn’t help the situation. Usually by Communion time, my parents were ready to pull their hair out, and as a result, we would often make a quick retreat out of the church immediately after Mom and Dad had received communion. Not the best example to set for us, but much better than strangling your kids in church because they’re driving you crazy!

The remainder of Easter Sunday was spent at my grandfather’s house on Duquesne Ave. in West Mifflin with the entire Volk extended family as well as several family friends. We’d all arrive in our Easter finery and immediately begin posing for pictures. The trick was to take our pictures upon arrival and before we began digging into the numerous baskets of candy and other treats that were scattered around the house. Also, once we began playing outside, it was a lost cause to think they could round us up for a picture or expect us to look like anything except a disheveled mess! 

Dinner was usually served around 4 p.m. and consisted of all of the Hunky basics; slices of ham, stuffed cabbage rolls, kielbasa, mashed potatoes, beets with horseradish, sirecz, hard-boiled Easter eggs, and tons of baked goods including poppyseed and nut rolls and paska. Everyone would have a special Easter egg that had our name on it. At the meal, we would peel our egg and then cut it into several pieces. We would then share a piece of our egg with every family member present and they would do the same with their egg. This was a tradition that was carried on every year. 

Life was good, we didn’t know what we didn’t have. All we knew was that we were surrounded by a loving family of hunkies that made every day of our lives in Duquesne, a lifetime special memory.

I hope that you all have a very blessed holiday with family and friends, and that you enjoy many, many more to come! Nádherný veľkonočné požehnanie všetkým svojim priateľom! HAPPY EASTER!

                      And remember to share and share alike – STEVE!!!


As a Catholic child, a student of Holy Name Grade School, and an altar boy, the three days prior to Easter marked the most  pious and important days of the liturgical year. Although Holy Week officially began on Palm Sunday, the solemnness of the week really was felt and exhibited on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.

I remember the seriousness and significance of the meaning of each day. The good sisters at Holy Name drilled the importance into our impressionable minds throughout our eight years of attendance. My mother and father reinforced those beliefs and certainly, as an altar server, I was fortunate to be part of the observances during Holy Week.

Good Friday stands out as the day that I truly felt the most stirred, and to a degree, frightened by the history of events that occurred that day in the life of Jesus Christ. I remember watching how everything would stop in our home, and an eerie silence would occur in our neighborhood and in the City of Duquesne from noon until 3 p.m. that day. Parents, priests, neighbors, friends all focused on the fact that the crucifixion had taken place at this point in time.

I remember how I would watch the skies at this time. I recall how very often, it seemed toEaster at St. Joseph be either a rainy or cloudy day. The coincidence of the weather with day’s history always made an impression on me. In fact, the photograph below was taken on Good Friday in 1970 during the 12 to 3 p.m. timeframe. I had walked up to the statue of the Passion in St. Joseph’s Cemetery and snapped this photo of an approaching store. I found the original copy of this photo recently and noticed that it was dated 3/27/70 on the back. When I check out the date, besides being my brother’s birthday, it was also Good Friday that year.

If you are like me, so much has changed in our lives since the days of our youth. It is so helpful to me to recall all of those things that made this time of year so important in our lives. It restores and  my faith to even greater degree. To me, it is comforting that those doctrines of our faith were embraced and observed throughout our hometown.

After our steadfast observances of the Rites of Easter during Holy Week, like any child, my brother and I looked forward to waking Easter morning to all of the expected and traditional delights of the day. Carefully wrapped cellophane covered Easter baskets were always perched on the dining room table each year. Steve and I would peer through the colorful cellophane wrapping to try to see what was waiting for us inside the basket. We were never allowed to unwrap the basket before we went to Mass, however, before we were old enough to receive Holy Communion, Mom would always have some “spare” chocolate Easter eggs to tide us over.

Walking into Holy Name on Easter Sunday was sensory delight. The fragrances of Spring flowers filled the air. Hyacinths, Easter lilies and tulips graced every altar in the church. Combined with the sometimes “over-the-top” hats that the ladies would wear, the church was alive with color. The pews were packed and the celebration of Easter Mass was truly inspiring. I can still picture it all to this day. Once we returned home from Mass, the events of Volk Family traditions took effect and our day continued to hold one adventure after another that was shared with our entire extended family of Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and Cousins. These are memories I will never forget!

The following are random images that might conjure up some Easter time memories for you, followed by a synopsis of the history and the rites of Holy Week.

To all of my Duquesne and Hunky friends, Have a Wonderful Easter Holiday!!


Holy Name Altar


HT Church 60s


 The Rites of Holy Week – Wikipedia

Holy Week in Latin Rite Catholicism 

Palm Sunday (Passion Sunday)

Holy Week begins with what in the Roman Rite is now called Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord. Before 1955 it was known simply as Palm Sunday, and the preceding Sunday as Passion Sunday. From 1955 to 1971 it was called Second Sunday in Passiontide or Palm Sunday.

 To commemorate the entrance of the Messiah into Jerusalem, to accomplish his paschal mystery, it is customary to have before Mass a blessing of palm leaves (or other branches, for example olive branches). The blessing ceremony, preferably held outside the church includes the reading of a Gospel account of how Jesus rode into Jerusalem humbly on a donkey, reminiscent of a Davidic victory procession, and how people placed palms on the ground in front of him. Immediately following this great time of celebration in the entering of Jesus into Jerusalemé, he begins his journey to the cross. This is followed by a procession or solemn entrance into the church, with the participants holding the blessed branches in their hands.

 The Mass itself includes a reading of the Passion, the narrative of Jesus’ capture, sufferings and death, as recounted in one of the Synoptic Gospels.

 Before the reform of the rite by Pope Pius XI, the blessing of the palms occurred inside the church within a service that followed the general outline of a Mass, with Collect, Epistle and Gospel, as far as the Sanctus. The palms were then blessed with five prayers, and a procession went out of the church and on its return included a ceremony for the reopening of the doors, which had meantime been shut. After this the normal Mass was celebrated. 

Monday to Wednesday

The days between Palm Sunday and Holy Thursday are known as Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday, and Holy Wednesday. The Gospels of these days recount events not all of which occurred on the corresponding days between Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and his Last Supper. For instance, the Monday Gospel tells of the Anointing at Bethany (John 12:1-9), which occurred before the Palm Sunday event described in John 12:12-19.

 The Chrism Mass, whose texts the Roman Missal now gives under Holy Thursday, may be brought forward to one of these days, to facilitate participation by as many as possible of the clergy of the diocese together with the bishop. This Mass was not included in editions of the Roman Missal before the time of Pope Pius XII. In this Mass the bishop blesses separate oils for the sick (used in Anointing of the Sick), for catechumens (used in Baptism) and chrism (used in Baptism, but especially in Confirmation and Holy Orders, as well as in rites such as the blessing of an altar and a church).


When the principal services of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil were celebrated in the morning, the office of Matins and Lauds of each day was celebrated on the evening of the preceding day in the service known as Tenebrae (Latin, “Darkness”).

Maundy (Holy) Thursday 

Mass of the Lord’s Supper 

On this day the private celebration of Mass is forbidden. Thus, apart from the Chrism Mass for the blessing of the Holy Oils that the diocesan bishop may celebrate on the morning of Holy Thursday, but also on some other day close to Easter, the only Mass on this day is the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, which inaugurates the period of three days, known as the Easter Triduum, that includes Good Friday (seen as beginning with the service of the preceding evening), Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday up to evening prayer on that day. 

The Mass of the Lord’s Supper commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus with his Twelve Apostles, “the institution of the Eucharist, the institution of the priesthood, and the commandment of brotherly love that Jesus gave after washing the feet of his disciples.”

 All the bells of the church, including altar bells, may be rung during the Gloria in Excelsis Deo of the Mass (the Gloria is not traditionally sung during the entire Lenten season). The bells and the organ then fall silent until the Gloria at the Easter Vigil. In some countries, children are sometimes told: “The bells have flown to Rome.”

The Roman Missal recommends that, if considered pastorally appropriate, the priest should, immediately after the homily, celebrate the rite of washing the feet of an unspecified number of men, customarily twelve, recalling the number of the Apostles.

A sufficient number of hosts are consecrated for use also in the Good Friday service, and at the conclusion the Blessed Sacrament is carried in procession to a place of reposition away from the main body of the church, which, if it involves an altar, is often called an “altar of repose”.

The altars of the church (except the one used for altar of repose) are later stripped quite bare and, to the extent possible, crosses are removed from the church or veiled. (In the pre-Vatican II rite, crucifixes and statues are covered with violet covers during Passion time, but the crucifix covers can be white instead of violet on Holy Thursday.)

Good Friday 

Roman Catholic Christians treat Good Friday as a fast day, which is defined as only having one full meal with, if needed, two small snacks that together do not make a full meal. 

The Catholic Good Friday in the Roman Rite afternoon service involves a series of readings and meditations, as well as the (sung) reading of the Passion account from the Gospel of John which is often read dramatically, with the priest, one or more readers, and the congregation all taking part. In the traditional Latin liturgy, the Passion is read by the priest facing the altar, with three deacons chanting in the sanctuary facing the people. Unlike Roman Catholic services on other days, the Good Friday service is not a Mass, and in fact, celebration of Catholic Mass on Good Friday is forbidden. Eucharist consecrated the night before (Holy Thursday) may be distributed. The cross is presented, with the people given an opportunity to venerate it. The services also include a long series of formal intercessions. The solemnity and somberness of the occasion has led to a phenomenon whereby in the course of history the liturgical provisions have a tendency to persist without substantial modification, even over the centuries. Some churches hold a three-hour mediation from midday, the Three Hours’ Agony. In some countries, such as Malta, Philippines, Italy and Spain, processions with statues representing the Passion of Christ are held.

The only sacraments celebrated are Penance and Anointing of the Sick. While there is no celebration of the Eucharist, Holy Communion is distributed to the faithful only in the Service of the Passion of the Lord, but can be taken at any hour to the sick who are unable to attend this service.

The altar remains completely bare, without texts, candlesticks, or altar cloths.

It is customary to empty the holy water fonts in preparation of the blessing of the water at the Easter Vigil.

The Stations of the Cross are often prayed either in the church or outside.

The Celebration of the Passion of the Lord takes place in the afternoon, ideally at three o’clock, but for pastoral reasons a later hour may be chosen.

Since 1970, the color of the vestments is red. Previously it was black. If a bishop celebrates, he wears a plain miter.

‘The liturgy consists of three parts in the Roman Rite: the Liturgy of the Word, the Veneration of the Cross, and Holy Communion.

The readings from Isaiah 53 (about the Suffering Servant) and the Epistle to the Hebrews are read. The Passion narrative of the Gospel of John is sung or read, often divided between more than one singer or reader. General Intercessions: The congregation prays for the Church, the Pope, the Jews, non-Christians, unbelievers and others. Veneration of the Cross: A crucifix is solemnly unveiled before the congregation. The people venerate it on their knees. During this part, the “Reproaches” are often sung. Communion service: Hosts consecrated at the Mass of the previous day are distributed to the people. (Before the reform of Pope Pius XII, only the priest received Communion in the framework of what was called the “Mass of the Presanctified”, which included the usual Offertory prayers, with the placing of wine in the chalice, but which omitted the Canon of the Mass.)Even if music is used in the Liturgy, it is not used to open and close the Liturgy, nor is there a formal recessional (closing procession).

It was once customary in some countries, especially England, to place a veiled monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament or a cross in a Holy Sepulchre”.

If crucifixes were covered starting with the next to last Sunday in Lent, they are unveiled without ceremony after the Good Friday service.

Holy Saturday 

Mass is not celebrated on what is liturgically Holy Saturday. The celebration of Easter begins after sundown on what, though still Saturday in the civil calendar, is liturgically Easter Sunday. 

On Holy Saturday the Church waits at the Lord’s tomb in prayer and fasting, meditating on his Passion and Death and on his Descent into Hell, and awaiting his Resurrection.

The Church abstains from the Sacrifice of the Mass, with the sacred table left bare, until after the solemn Vigil, that is, the anticipation by night of the Resurrection, when the time comes for paschal joys, the abundance of which overflows to occupy fifty days.

 In some Anglican churches, including the Episcopal Church in the United States, there is provision for a simple liturgy of the word with readings commemorating the burial of Christ.

The tabernacle is left empty and open. The lamp or candle usually situated next to the tabernacle denoting the Presence of Christ is put out, and the remaining Eucharistic Hosts consecrated on Holy Thursday are kept elsewhere, usually the sacristy, with a lamp or candle burning before it, so that, in cases of the danger of death, they may be given as viaticum.

Easter Vigil 

In the Roman Catholic tradition, the Easter Vigil, the longest and most solemn of the Catholic Church’s liturgical services, lasting up to three or four hours, consists of four parts:

1. The Service of Light

2. The Liturgy of the Word

3. The Liturgy of Baptism: The sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation for new members of the Church and the Renewal of Baptismal Promises by the entire congregation.

4. Holy Eucharist


The Liturgy begins after sundown on Holy Saturday as the crowd gathers inside the unlit church. In the darkness (often in a side chapel of the church building or, preferably, outside the church), a new fire is kindled and blessed by the priest. This new fire symbolizes the light of salvation and hope that God brought into the world through Christ’s Resurrection, dispelling the darkness of sin and death. From this fire is lit the Paschal candle, symbolizing the Light of Christ. This Paschal candle will be used throughout the season of Easter, remaining in the sanctuary of the Church or near the lectern, and throughout the coming year at baptisms and funerals, reminding all that that Christ is “light and life.”






All baptized Catholics present (i.e. those who have received the “Light of Christ”) receive candles which are lit from the Paschal candle. As this symbolic “Light of Christ” spreads throughout those gathered, the darkness is decreased. A deacon, or the priest if there is no deacon, carries the Paschal Candle at the head of the entrance procession and, at three points, stops and chants the proclamation “Light of Christ” or “Christ our Light”, to which the people respond “Thanks be to God.” Once the procession concludes, the deacon or a cantor chants the Exultet (also called the “Easter Proclamation”), and, the church remaining lit only by the people’s candles and the Paschal candle, the people take their seats for the Liturgy of the Word.


The Liturgy of the Word consists of between two and seven readings from the Old Testament. The account of the Exodus is given particular attention in the readings since it is considered to be the Old Testament antetype of Christian salvation. Each reading is followed by a psalm and a prayer relating what has been read in the Old Testament to the Mystery of Christ. After these readings conclude, a fanfare may sound on the organ and additional musical instruments and the Gloria in Excelsis Deo is sung. During this outburst of musical jubilation the congregation’s candles are extinguished, the church lights are turned on, and bells rung while the church’s decorative funnings — altar frontals, the reredos, lectern hangings, processional banners, statues and paintings — which had been stripped or covered during Holy Week, are ceremonially replaced and unveiled and flowers are placed on altars and elsewhere. (In the pre-Vatican II rite, the statues, which have been covered during Passion Time, are unveiled at this time. In some places, the church removes the covering of statues and puts Easter flowers and decorations on the day of Holy Saturday before the Easter Vigil celebration. Also, in the current ritual the lights are turned on after the last proclamation of ‘Christ our Light’.) Members of the congregation may have been encouraged to bring flowers which are also brought forward and placed about the sanctuary and side altars. A reading from the Epistle to the Romans is proclaimed. The Alleluia is sung for the first time since the beginning of Lent (or, in the pre-Vatican II rite, since Septuagesima). The Gospel of the Resurrection then follows, along with a homily.


After the conclusion of the Liturgy of the Word, the water of the baptismal font is consecrated and any catechumens or candidates for full communion are initiated into the church, by baptism and/or confirmation, respectively. After the celebration of these sacraments of initiation, the congregation renews their baptismal vows and receives the sprinkling of baptismal water. The general intercessions follow.


After the Liturgy of Baptism, the Liturgy of the Eucharist continues as usual. This is the first Mass of Easter Day. During the Eucharist, the newly baptized receive Holy Communion for the first time. According to the rubrics of the Missal, the Eucharist should finish before dawn.


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LIFE in Duquesne

Last week, many of us made our annual midweek trip to Church to obtain the mark of our humanity and mortality. Ash Wednesday, as a child of Holy Name Grade School, was an ashevent that unlike five of the seven sacraments, was not age restricted. Wee ones were able to approach the altar side-by-side with parents and siblings, older kids, teens and adults alike. 

The good sisters at Holy Name did an outstanding job of helping every child understand the solemnity and significance of the Ash Wednesday. I can still hear Sister Martin DePorres telling us the reason behind the ashes as we sat in her 2nd grade classroom. At that age, ANYTHING that a nun would tell us was gospel in our minds. So with awe and wonderment we would proudly wear our ashes throughout the day and spontaneously begin all of our Lenten rituals and responsibilities. 

As a child, I remember the big decision I had to make at the start of each Lenten season. What was I going to give up for Lent? Of course my first inclination was to give up things like spinach or brussel sprouts, but those were never given the thumbs-up from Mom or the nuns since I would NEVER, EVER, consider eating them in the first place. My final choice was usually a STRONLY suggested one from Mom. Candy, cookies, donuts or cake were usually her “go-to” items. The 40 days of Lent were the longest I could ever imagine as a child. 

Here’s a bit of trivia about the 40 days of Lent that unfortunately, I learned too late in life. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia: 

Question: Lent, the period of prayer and fasting in preparation for Easter, is 40 days long, but there are 46 days between Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent in the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar, and Easter. So how are the 40 days of Lent calculated? 

Answer: The answer takes us back to the earliest days of the Church. Christ’s original disciples, who were Jewish, grew up with the idea that the Sabbath—the day of worship and of rest—was Saturday, the seventh day of the week, since the account of creation in Genesis says that God rested on the seventh day. 

Christ rose from the dead, however, on Sunday, the first day of the week, and the early Christians, starting with the apostles (those original disciples), saw Christ’s Resurrection as a new creation, and so they transferred the day of rest and worship from Saturday to Sunday. 

Since all Sundays—and not simply Easter Sunday—were days to celebrate Christ’s Resurrection, Christians were forbidden to fast and do other forms of penance on those days. Therefore, when the Church expanded the period of fasting and prayer in preparation for Easter from a few days to 40 days (to mirror Christ’s fasting in the desert, before He began His public ministry), Sundays could not be included in the count. 

Thus, in order for Lent to include 40 days on which fasting could occur, it had to be expanded to six full weeks (with six days of fasting in each week) plus four extra days—Ash Wednesday and the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday that follow it. Six times six is thirty-six, plus four equals forty. And that’s how we arrive at the 40 days of Lent! 

Had I known this as a child, I would have definitely used this tidbit as a way to eat sweets on Sundays. DARN!!!! 

I have to toss out a big “thank you” to Mike Ferchak for the comment he made earlier this 4-18-60week. He reminded me of a Duquesne institution of sorts, and one that was featured in LIFE Magazine in April of 1960. Aside from the rudimentary aspects of the Lenten Season that I remember, I also recall attending one of the performances of the Passion Play at Duquesne Library with my parents. I was able to unearth the article from the April 18, 1960 issue of LIFE and wanted to share it with you.

Just in case your eyesight is as dicey as mine, I’ve transcribed the text from the article so that you can read it more easily.


For centuries, the story of Christ’s betrayal, trial and crucifixion has been retold during Lent in passion plays acted by laymen. This year an unusual troupe in Pittsburgh has given the play a special kind of homely realism. The actors are mostly steelworkers whose rugged bearing gives them a look that the apostles – who were workingmen – and Roman soldiers might have had. And their involvement in the roles gives their portrayals a sincerity that more than makes up for their lack of polish.

The play, called Calvery, was written in the early 19th Century by an Augustinian priest. A member of the Duquesne-West Mifflin chapter of the Knights of Columbus, which is putting on the play, had read it as a youth and saw his chance of producing when he became a chapter official. It took a great deal of coaxing to get the steelworkers to join the cast, but once they agreed, they worked hard. Preformed seven times during Lent, the play was gripped audiences – and also the actors. Long after the curtain has dropped, they find themselves still caught up in the play and their parts, as they explained in the captions with their pictures.

Passion Play 1


Foreman – Judas

The role of the traitorous apostle, above, counting his 30 pieces of silver, is played by John Ponist, a 47-year-old foreman at U.S.Steel’s Hempstead plant. He finds his role runs him “emotionally dry. . . . . . It takes something out of you to play the part of a man who committed the greatest injustice in history. You can’t help but feel the torture that was racking Judas’ soul.”


Guard – Christ

The 44-year-old policeman at U.S.Steel’s Duquesne Works and brother of the man who plays Judas. Joseph Ponist took the part of Christ only because he “figured somebody had to do it.” Now he finds that it “seems to have made me better. Every once in a while a guy cusses but now I watch myself on that. When you play that role you can’t help but act up to it.”

 Passion Play 2


Foreman – Abiron the Leper

Trainor, 36, a foreman at U.S.Steel’s Irvin Works, plays the part of a leper stoned by the Pharisees because he has overheard their plot. His part was originally a small one but it was made bigger as the rehearsals went on. The play made him “stop and think. . . . Now we know what Calvary is all about. It’s made better Christians of all of us.”



Draftsman – a Chief Priest

The Pharisee leader shown below stoning Abiron the Leper is played by a 31-year-old draftsman at the Ceco Steel Products Corp. in Pittsburgh. A friend persuaded him to try for the part. The play, he says, “really moves you . . . brings you a spiritual lift.” It has given him a sense of history that he did not have, “a feeling for what Calvary was.”

Passion Play 3

MEMBERS OF THE CAST assemble in the final scene (above) and on a Pittsburgh street after work (below).In the foreground of the stage is John Matico, the director of the play, who also plays a high priest. The Christ on the cross (Joe Ponist) stands on the far left in the picture below. The thief on the cross at right (Peter Kanski) stands next to him in the street. Next are Joe Timko (Saint Peter) and Larry Trainor (leper). The others had small parts.

Thank you again Mike for reminding me to remember! I can’t help but wonder if the “Pittsburgh Street” identified in the last picture was actually taken in Duquesne. Any thoughts?


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They Paved Paradise!

Obviously, it has been a while since I’ve posted anything new, and I feel horrible about that. I was going to chalk it up to “writer’s block,” but to be perfectly honest, my absence would be better described as “shell shock” after my wife and I received a “kick in the gut.” In spite of the fact that there has been nothing new posted, I appreciate the fact that you all are still taking the time to visit The Duquesne Hunky blog.

Since I began this blog over three years ago, I have tried to write about my appreciation for Duquesne, the city, the people, the spirit, the way of life. In a city that now exists as a shattered artifact of what was once the very foundation of our existence, my hope was to be able to conjure up memories of why a smile creeps across your face when thinking about our hometown.

 As I was considering what had happened to my creative juices, I thought of a question that had been raised about this blog, the need to be more relevant, and my motivations for reliving and/or dredging up the past. As I was driving home from visiting the kids in Philadelphia, I had a lot of time to just think. During that journey, I had a cathartic moment regarding what motivates me to write.

Certainly, this blog allows me to share snippets of a city that I love, a period of time that I relish, and the family and friends that became the foundation of my very being. Although that sounds very deep and philosophical, the realization of why I write this blog is actually very different than those stated reasons.

I have come to realize, that with each and every passing year, I am becoming invisible; obviously, not in a physical sense, but more so as it would refer to relevancy. Oprah Winfrey once said that every person want one thing in life, “we all just want to know that we matter.”

There came a point in my life that I realized that I would never be rich, famous, brilliant or accomplish anything noteworthy. As I advanced in years, I became more and more mindful of the fact that my past experience in my career field had surpassed a point that it was considered a benefit. It had become an issue and encumbrance that was looked upon as being archaic, outdated and antiquated.

Before I realized it, the type of people I used to seek out to hire, had become the very ones who were now making the decisions about hiring me. In what appeared to be just overnight, I had transitioned from a person whose insight and understanding was sought out, to a person whose point-of-view and mere presence at an interview was perceived as worthy of empathy from the interviewer.

All of this soul searching brought back memories of the turmoil that my father had experienced when he had to face the extinction of his business in Duquesne, due to the “Redevelopment” effort that was to happen. In his late 50’s, he was faced with having to find a job immediately. He was a “single-father” (although that term wasn’t in existence back then.) It was the late 60’s, my brother and I were attending Serra High School, and Dad had an enormous amount of responsibilities, both personal and financial that he was dealing with.

It was approximately 1966 or 67 when my dad was notified that government was garageexercising Eminent Domain, and taking his property and converting it into public use. In the truest sense, the lyrics from Joni Mitchell’s song from her Big Yellow Taxi album came to fruition; they paved my dad’s paradise and put up a parking lot! My father’s business was closed in order to build a parking area to serve as a parking lot for USS employees. Ironically, the lot that sat between S First Street and South Duquesne Blvd was rarely used by the steelworkers.

The news was devastating to Dad, and a punch to the gut that was hard to recover from. Dad never burdened us with his business issues, but I knew that he was shattered. You could see it in his face. Rather than retreat from the obstacles that he had to face, Dad met them head on. He secured the only job that he was able to find based on his experience, and went to work as an auto mechanic at the JCPenney Auto Center in the Eastland Shopping Plaza. Although he was the oldest member of the staff, he was given the opportunity to show his stuff and exceled as a mechanic; after all, it was what he had been doing his entire life. After a few years, he was promoted to Service Manager and remained in that position until he retired in 1981. As I reflect on his career at Penney’s, it is heartening to know that his experience and work ethic was viewed as an asset in the minds of upper management, in spite of his age.

Judging from the countless articles about the redevelopment, the intent was to revitalize and maintain a thriving town for all of the residents to enjoy. The program was NOT the brainchild of our city leaders, but rather a plan that was proposed by the Allegheny County Redevelopment Authority. I have discovered articles about the plans as far back as 1952, but it appears that the plan didn’t come to fruition until 1960 when the first wave of building demotions occurred on Tuesday, May 31, 1960. The first building chosen for demolition on that day was the Salopek Tailoring Shop at 33 N. Duquesne Avenue. The shop had closed many years earlier when it was forced out of business due to the Defense Plant Corporation’s acquisition of all properties below the tracks.


There are many theories among us about what happened to the Duquesne that we all loved as children. I now believe that it was not just one misfortune that caused the downfall of our hometown, but rather a series of flawed judgment calls that created a “perfect storm” that resulted in the city that exists today; Union and Management clashes, a failed redevelopment effort, the demolition of the Carnegie Library which was Duquesne’s cultural and architectural pride, and the onset of rapid and sweeping unemployment with the slow death of the mill. It is for all of those reasons that I will continue to write this blog and hopefully keep the spirit of our once great city alive. Thank you for reading and continuing to hang in there during my hiatus!






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Cold Weather – Warm Memories – Past and Yet To Come

For many of us, the weather over the last two weeks has been a bit “brisk” to say the least. I would imagine that many of you have had to dig out of considerable snowfall amounts and/or battle inhumane, freezing temperatures.

Quiet After the Storm 2-11-10

View of our frozen canal!!!!

It’s no different where I live. Here on the Eastern Shore, we have had to content with the same crazy weather. The temperature very early yesterday morning was -5°! That was WITHOUT the wind chill factor. If I just stayed in my house with the fire going and a hot cup of coffee, it wouldn’t have bothered me. However, as my luck would have it, that was the exact time that one of my dogs decided they needed to relieve themselves.

Bravely, I bundled myself up much like our mothers did when we were little. In lieu of the thermals I didn’t own, I kept on my flannel pajama bottoms and pulled my jeans over them. Next came a thick pair of socks that barely allowed me to pull my boots on. I pulled on a turtle neck and then focused on my outerwear. By this time, my poor dog’s eyes and legs were crossed as she looked at me pleadingly.

A few years ago, I attended a Halloween costume party and dressed as Ozzy Osborne. The costume included a very long black leather coat, down lined, that I found at Goodwill for $35.00. When the weather gets crazy cold, only in the dark of night or very early in the morning when everyone in the neighborhood is still sleeping, I’ll venture out of the house wearing that coat which is incredibly warm. I pulled on my Ozzy coat, my black ski mask, my faux fur aviator hat, complete with ear flaps and my insulated gloves and was at last ready to face the cold. I was happy and warm and my dogs were thoroughly relieved! So knowing that both of my daughters would be totally humiliated if they were present, I threw open the door and bravely tackled the skin numbing temperatures.

 I know we had similar days in Duquesne when we were young, but I don’t ever recall the temperature being so bone chilling! Perhaps it was because our bones were a lot younger back then and impervious to the frigid temperatures.

 This type of weather would have been perfect for creating “ice tracks” in Prune Alley, directly behind Holy Name Church, convent and school. Much to chagrin of the good sisters, the older boys at Holy Name were very adept at building awesome ice tracks that we would “foot ski” along on. We knew the very best incline was from about the middle of the back of the church down to start of the garage that sat behind the convent. Prime space! During freezing temperatures, we’d all toss handfuls of snow onto the track which would be packed down and ultimately ice up under the continuous slide of our shoes over its surface. We were masters of our craft. Quite honestly, I am surprised that ice track sliding never became an Olympic event!

 Well, it’s time to warm up a bit. Thanks to one of friends and readers, Eileen TOKAR Lilley, we have some very heartwarming memories and one potential event that would be so much fun. Eileen had sent me some wonderful family pictures to share with all of you, but the perfect opportunity had never risen to do so until now. Seeing them will certainly bring back some very warm memories of being a child in Duquesne and the backyard and neighborhood adventures we used to have. But first, I wanted to share a bit of current news that Eileen wanted to suggest. A few days ago, Eileen sent me the follow message and idea:



I don’t know if you are planning a trip to Duquesne, but I thought what an idea to try to bring some of the “Duquesne Hunky bloggers” together at the tribute dance for TL. If you could include my previous e-mail in your blog to get the word out, that would be great. Maybe they could even set up a reserved table or 2 or 20 for us bloggers. What fun!

tl 1

 tl 3

I think it would be SO much fun for us to get together for this event. I certainly am going to try to make it back home for this tribute. I hope some of you are able to come as well. If you are interested, please drop me an email at duquesnehunky@gmail.com and let me know. I’ll keep you all updated on the interest level. Considering that on March 8 last year, the low temperature was 29°, it will be great to warm-up together while listening to the TL Sound once again. 

Now here’s a special treat for you. Eileen sent some wonderful photos to share with all of you. Fortunately, they were all taken when the weather was warm, bright and sunny, so they’ll instantly remind you of the warmer days to come. She also included captions for each of the pictures. If anyone else has pictures to share, I would love to be the vehicle to do so. You can scan and email them to me or send them to me and I promise to return them if you want me to. Your call. Now, grab a hot cup of coffee or any beverage of your choice and enjoy this little trip back to Duquesne. Location –Orchard Court – Off of Center Street!


Compare this picture to the one you have of the Crawford Mansion and you’ll see the twist in the middle branch of the tree to my right is what’s exactly on the picture. There’s one of the stone columns with the gate which are gone now.



Here’s the other stone column. Our house was the 2nd on the left on both this and the preceding picture. I’m standing on the far right of the front yard. There’s a hill behind me which slopes down to the front yard of the house next to ours. This picture was taken approx. 1952.


(Note from Jim – I superimposed the column that Eileen is referring to onto the picture of the Crawford Mansion. I’m convinced that it was certainly part of Duquesne’s history! Good going Eileen! Take a look for yourself.)

Compare to Mansion

(Note from Jim: To gain the perspective of where the majority of Eileen’s photos were taken, I pulled up a Google map to illustrate:)

Orchard Ct

The next three pictures are called “Steeltown Cowgirl.” You can see the mill in the background of #6. #7 is me standing on the edge of the middle of my front yard with the street behind me and seeing the house across the street. I’m facing our house. The last picture was taken in Kennywood to the left as you first walked in to Kiddieland. (Note from Jim – The pony doesn’t seem to be too thrilled with his “profession! Also, notice the politically incorrect little guy in the front yard in the 2nd picture. Times were so much more innocent then. )




I’m on the right. The girl on the left lived in the first house on the opposite side of the street, but only for a short time. I don’t remember her name. (Does anyone know her?) AT the far left is a wall that stops before the swimming pool. Could it have possibly been part of the Crawford’s Mansion or grounds?


This caption should read “I hope someone is watching us or we are going to roll down the hill to Kennywood!” This was taken at my Grandma’s house in West Mifflin on Glencairn, the street going up the hill out of the old back gate off of the parking lot at Kennywood. You can see part of the bathouse of the Kennywood swimming pool in the background. Can you imagine the view we had of the fireworks? This taken in 1950.


This is a photo of me standing in our front yard, ready for church. This was before the trees were cut down. My dad painted something on the tree to prevent disease, but their real killer was the utility company who had them all cut down.



For this picture, my dad was standing in our neighbor’s front yard to take it. Notice the wall is the same as the ones across the street and again, could have been part of the Crawford Mansion.


This is the first day of school as I began 4th grade in 1958 at Crawford Elementary. Mrs. McGowan is holding the door. Notice the segregation ? White girls in the middle, white boys to the far right, black girls to the far left and finally, black boys to the far right. That’s Vincent Kollar next to Mrs. McGowan.


 I hope you all enjoyed these photos as much as I did. Eileen’s surroundings evoked so many memories. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU EILEEN!!!! I hope you will consider sharing some of your own photos as well.

Don’t forget to think about the TL Tribute Dance in March!!

I thought I’d close this post with two screen shots of Center Street as it is today. Still as awesome as it was when we were kids.

Center Street View 1

 Center Street View 2















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Them’s Fightin’ Words!!

OpinionsIn my last post, I mentioned how I constantly get spam comments and how I filter out all of the garbage so it doesn’t hit our blog. However, I occasionally get comments or emails that intrigue me. One such email came to me and my curiosity was peaked due to vagueness of the content. I am purposely not including the author’s name or website information, as to not incite a debate with them beyond what has already occurred.

Let me begin………………………….

In an email dated January 2, 2014, I received the following statement:


While your weblog is both lovely and interesting, I can’t help but wonder why you claim to be “Hunky” if you are Slovak and Croatian….



I was curious about the statement and being stubborn, I just couldn’t let it drop without further inquiry. I responded with the following on January 2, 2014 in reply:


I don’t quite understand your email, so I’m not really able to respond.


I felt it was a fair reply. Non-confrontational, but clearly stating my confusion about the statement. I really didn’t expect a response and I thought the matter was over. Lo and behold, the very next day brought a reply and a clarification of the previous statement’s intent. The email contained the following statement:

Someone posted a link to your weblog “The Duquesne Hunky” in Delphi Forums. I looked through it, in fact, bookmarked it.

“Hunky” nationally usually means Hungarian or Magyar, not Slovak or Croatian. The customs are somewhat similar and all are often tinged with Austrian, but the languages and historically the people are different. That’s why the latter voted themselves independent after the first world war.

Although many Slovak and Croatian people have been able to speak Hungarian — in later imperial years Hungary administered half of the empire homeland — and even have Hungarian blood lines, Hungary wasn’t exactly beloved.

I just found it strange that someone rather clearly not Magyar would rather generally claim be so in this day and age. Slovak is a Slavic (Indo-European) language like Polish or Russian. Hungarian or Magyar is Ural-Altaic (one of just four such languages in all of Europe). It was invasion from the east.



Now, I have often been accused of being overly sensitive. I accept that as one of my faults. However, I became rather offended about being accused of incorrectly calling myself a hunky after 62 years of existence. How could anyone be so naive as to not recognize people of Slovak, Croatian and other Slavic heritages as hunkies!! I took a bit of time and composed myself. I only wish I had some cabbage rolls to eat to remind me of my roots and gain inspiration before responding, however that was not in the cards. Instead, I settled for some holiday ham, a hard-boiled egg and some frozen perogies as motivation. I finished my meal and proceeded to respond as follows:


Thank you so much for helping me to understand how you view the historical etymology of the term “Hunky.”

My blog is intended as homage to my hometown and the era that I grew up in. My hometown, Duquesne, was a typical industrial town located in western Pennsylvania. The vast majority of the male residents were employed by USS (United States Steel,) and were of East-Central European descent. USS had a major facility in Duquesne called The Duquesne Works. You can read more about The Duquesne Works at this site: The Duquesne Works.

I explored the web a bit about the term Hunky and found the following on Wikipedia (not that Wikipedia is the definitive source for etymology):

“It originated in the coal regions of Pennsylvania and West Virginia, where Poles and other immigrants from East-Central Europe (Hungarians (Magyar), Rusyns, Slovaks) came to perform hard manual labor on the mines. They were called hunkies by the American public which lumped them together into a category of Slavic immigrants, irrespective of their individual ethnic background. The use of the term as an ethnic slur has fallen into disuse, but the term hunky and the public image associated with it has historic relevance in the perception of Slavic immigrants in the United States. There is some usage of the term in other forms; for example, it is used to describe any mill worker in regions of Pennsylvania. The term would be Mill Hunky.

The term Hunky or Bohunk can be applied to various Slavic and Hungarian immigrants who moved to America from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The immigrants came en masse prior to the turn of the twentieth century (starting around 1880) seeking opportunity and religious freedom.”

“The overwhelming majority of these economic immigrants (initially 85%, later 65%) consisted of young working age men. Originally they planned to spend only a few years in America, and then return to Hungary with enough capital to transform themselves into independent farmers or self-employed artisans. This was precisely the reason why, instead of moving into agriculture in line with their traditions, they went to work in the coal mines and steel mills. Only in heavy industry did they have a chance to collect enough money to be able to fulfill their goals back in the Old Country.” – Wikipedia

Although I am certain that when the city was originally settled by the immigrants, their cultural and political differences were an issue as evidenced by the nationality based churches that were established. However, by the time that first generation Americans, our parents, were working at the Duquesne Works, the name Hunky had come to mean ANYONE of East-Central European descent, regardless of their parent’s original country or region of origin.

When I decided to write my blog, I had come to think of the term Hunkies as a word that was synonymous for all the citizens of Duquesne who embraced and demonstrated the strength, unity, love of family and formidable moral fiber, that WAS our parents. Coupled with this awe-inspired respect for its people, my blog is intended as a tribute and to serve as a recollection of the environment of friendship and the actual bricks and mortar of our city.

With all of that said, I hope you read through some of my posts. Take them for what they are intended, a loving heart-felt tribute to the town I grew up in and to the very people that provided my moral basis.

Keep well and Happy New Year!


I thought to myself after sending my reply, that I had clearly stated my point-of-view without being offensive. I had provided historical information to substantiate just WHY we all call ourselves hunkies. I felt that I had been victorious in defending my heritage and had set the story straight. But alas, I was wrong. On January 7th, the gauntlet was thrown down with the following:

Hi, again!

I’m sure you were well-intentioned with your weblog, just missing a little background information.

I wrote because someone actually mostly Hungarian (like me) looking for information is mislead. I did look at (partly skimming) the first of your work and saw nothing I would call Hungarian. …But, of course I don’t know everything.

……… Personally speaking, if it were me, I would alter your title to read something like “The Duquesne Mill Hunky” and stick a few words of explanation somewhere. No regular reader would particularly notice the difference.

Good luck to you in the new year.



I have stewed for a while now, debating whether I should respond to this “person” or just angry-babylet it go. I decided to take the high road and not stir the haluski any further. Instead, I decided to seek affirmation and comfort among all of you, my circle of friends! Whether our ancestors were Polish, Bulgarian, Hungarian, Slovakian, Croatian, Serbian, or of another  heritage, we ALL are Duquesne. We come together to remember, reconnect and rekindle friendships. It has been over three years that we’ve shared stories, thoughts and recollections. That’s what makes this blog, “The Duquesne Hunky,” appropriate and correct! I know we’ve got each other’s back!

Posted in Duquesne History, Miscellaneous, My Hunky Family, Surveys and Opinions | 64 Comments

Duquesne – FIT FOR A KING!!


We have all come to realize that our beloved hometown, Duquesne, has fallen into a serious state of disorder and ruin. The Duquesne that existed when we were being raised in the city is a mere shadow or skeleton of what it was. 

The population of Duquesne has dwindled to a mere 5,565 citizens according to the 2010 census. History indicated that Duquesne was very much a boomtown however in the early 20th century. The population, according to the 1920 US Census was just over 19,000 people, just shy of a 21% increase from the 1910 census. Again, the population grew during the 1920’s by another 12.5% from 1921 to 1930 to 21,396 citizens! The numbers areFit for a King staggering but not surprising. 

Just after Christmas, I received an email from the great grand-daughter of a former Duquesne resident. As you will read, one thing led to another, and I discovered a piece of Duquesne history that I was totally unaware of. I hope that you enjoy reading about this piece of Duquesne history.



I have an old photo taken outside the Duquesne Mill at the turn of the century and I would love your help finding out who the VIPs in the picture are. My great grandfather, who was an orderly in the hospital, is in the picture, so it is a family heirloom, but the story has been lost. Some say it might be the King of Belgium. May I email it to you with more detail? Perhaps you can refer me to some historians or archivists. 


Krista Ruhe

Albert at Mill


Attached is the picture. My great grandfather, John Wargo, an immigrant from Hungary, is the young man in white standing in the doorway. He worked as an orderly in the mill infirmary after he lost his leg in an accident while on the job. He built a house on First Street just a few blocks from the mill. 

I circulated the picture to my uncle and mom’s first cousins. I have pasted below their theories about the picture. It is so easy to lose old stories! 

At the foot of the photo it says Carnegie Steel. From what I have read Carnegie sold to US Steel in 1901 so this photo must pre-date the sale. 

Response 1:

Very vaguely I remember a story Uncle Jim told me on a visit to Mich. several years ago. Apparently the King of Belgium was touring the Duquesne Mill (which King and when I do not know). This may be a picture from that occasion. 

The King had a limp and when he got to the mill infirmary ( a stop on the tour – Dr. Botkin was doctor and probably is in the picture), Grand pap asked one of the King’s aides about the limp. He was told that the King had an infection that the Belgium doctors were having problems healing. Grand pap was granted permission, and treated the wound with some “black salve “ of his own making. The King returned home shortly thereafter and in a few days the infection was healed. Apparently the King sent a letter and possible a medal that was presented to Grand pap. I believe I saw a picture of that presentation. If these relics still exist (or ever did), Jim would most likely have had them. Anyway, it makes a good story.


Response 2:

Believe the central figure may be George Farris a contemporary of Andrew Carnegie

I decided to share these emails, the photograph and all of the stories connected to it with all of you. I do so as a way of expressing pride in our hometown. The fact that Duquesne hosted true royalty on two different occasions speaks to the vibrancy it once possessed.

The Wargo family’s heirloom photograph is indeed an image of the October 23, 1919 visit

The King and Queen with the Gov. Stephens of California

The King and Queen with the Governer of California

to Duquesne by KING ALBERT I, King of Belgium and QUEEN ELISABETH OF BAVARIA, his wife.  From September 23 through November 13, 1919, King Albert, Queen Elisabeth of Bavaria, and their son Prince Leopold took an official visit to the United States. During their 51 day tour of the United States, the Royal Family traveled coast to coast touring major manufacturing facilities and points-of-interest throughout the county.

The news of the royal visit was covered in The Duquesne Times, and the articles provide a thorough understanding of the historic event. I hope you find the articles as interesting as I did.

 1919 King Albert Visit

Another article that appeared the same day as the one above explains the chance encounter of King Albert I and Duquesne’s own Robert Walker. I wonder if his desire to visit Duquesne was to be able to once again see the young man who helped him during World War I?

They Met Before - King

Also appearing in The Duquesne Times was a recap of the visit of then Prince Leopold prior to becoming King Albert I of Belgium.

1898 King Albert Visit

It was obvious that the King and Queen’s visit caused a frenzy of excitement in Duquesne based on the number of articles written about the event. One week after the visit, the following article appeared in The Times and provided further insight into the day of the visit.

Week After Visit

Inserted below is additional information about the King and Queen. I found it to be interesting reading, so I encourage you to check it out. What a source of pride I’ll now feel about the importance of “Little Ol’ Duquesne.”



Albert I (April 8, 1875 – February 17, 1934) reigned as King of the Belgians from 1909 to 1934. This was an eventful period in the History of Belgium since it included the period of World War I (1914 – 1918), when 99 percent of Belgium was overrun, occupied, and ruled by the German Empire. Other crucial issues included the adoption of the Treaty of Versailles, the ruling of the Belgian Congo as an overseas possession of the Kingdom of Belgium along with the League of Nations mandate of Ruanda-Urundi, the reconstruction of Belgium following the war, and the first five years of the Great Depression (1929 – 1934). King Albert was killed in a mountaineering accident in eastern Belgium in 1934, at the age of 58, and he was succeeded by his son Leopold.

Born Albert Léopold Clément Marie Meinrad (in German Albrecht Leopold Clemens Marie Meinrad) in Brussels, he was the fifth child and second son of Prince Philippe, Count of Flanders, and his wife, Princess Marie of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen. Prince Philippe was the third (second surviving) son of Leopold I, the first King of the Belgians, and his wife, Marie-Louise of France, and the younger brother of King Leopold II of Belgium. Princess Marie was a relative of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, and a member of the non-reigning, Catholic branch of the Hohenzollern family. Albert grew up in the Palace of Flanders, initially as fourth in the line of succession to the Belgian throne. When, however, the only legitimate son of his uncle, Leopold II, died as a child, and Albert’s older brother, Prince Baudouin of Belgium, who had been subsequently prepared for the throne, also died young, Albert, at the age of 16, unexpectedly became second in line (after his father) to the Belgian Crown.

Retiring and studious, Albert prepared himself strenuously for the task of kingship. In his youth, Albert was seriously concerned with the situation of the working classes in Belgium, and personally travelled around working class districts incognito, to observe the living conditions of the people.[1] Shortly before his accession to the throne in 1909, Albert undertook an extensive tour of the Belgian Congo, which had been annexed by Belgium in 1908 (after having been previously owned by King Leopold II of Belgium as his personal property), finding the area in poor condition. Upon his return to Belgium, he recommended reforms to protect the native population and to further technological progress in the colony.[2]

He was the 1,152nd Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece in Austria and the 851st Knight of the Order of the Garter in 1914.


Albert was married in Munich on 2 October 1900 to Duchess Elisabeth Gabrielle Valérie Marie in Bavaria, a Wittelsbach princess whom he had met at a family funeral. A daughter of Karl-Theodor, Duke in Bavaria, and his wife, the Infanta Maria Josepha of Portugal, she was born at Possenhofen Castle, Bavaria, Germany, on 25 July 1876, and died on 23 November 1965. Based on the letters written during their engagement and marriage (cited extensively in the memoirs of their daughter, Marie-José) the young couple appear to have been deeply in love. The letters express a deep mutual affection based on a rare affinity of spirit.[3] They also make clear that Albert and Elisabeth continually supported and encouraged each other in their challenging and difficult roles as king and queen. The spouses shared an intense commitment to their country and family and a keen interest in human progress of all kinds. Together, they cultivated the friendship of prominent scientists, artists, mathematicians, musicians, and philosophers, turning their court at Laeken into a kind of cultural salon.[3][4]


Albert and Elisabeth had three children:

• Léopold Philippe Charles Albert Meinrad Hubertus Marie Miguel, Duke of Brabant, Prince of Belgium, who became later the fourth king of the Belgians as Leopold III (born 3 November 1901, and died at Woluwe-Saint-Lambert on 25 September 1983).

• Charles-Théodore Henri Antoine Meinrad, Count of Flanders, Prince of Belgium, Regent of Belgium (born Brussels 10 October 1903, and died at Ostend on 1 June 1983).

• Marie-José Charlotte Sophie Amélie Henriette Gabrielle, Princess of Belgium (born Ostend 4 August 1906 – 27 January 2001). She was married at Rome, Italy on 8 January 1930 to Prince Umberto Nicola Tommaso Giovanni Maria, Prince of Piemonte (born 15 September 1904 and died on 18 March 1983 at Geneva, Switzerland). He became King Umberto II of Italy.


Following the death of his uncle, Leopold II, Albert succeeded to the Belgian throne in December 1909, since Albert’s own father had already died in 1905. Previous Belgian kings had taken the royal accession oath only in French; Albert innovated by taking it in Dutch as well.[1] He and his wife, Queen Elisabeth, were popular in Belgium due to their simple, unassuming lifestyle and their harmonious family life, which stood in marked contrast to the aloof, autocratic manner and the irregular private life of Leopold II. An important aspect of the early years of Albert’s reign was his institution of many reforms in the administration of the Belgian Congo, Belgium’s only colonial possession.[5]


King Albert was a devout Catholic.[3][6][7] Many stories illustrate his deep and tender piety. For instance, when his former tutor General De Grunne, in his old age, entered the Benedictine monastery of Maredsous in Belgium, King Albert wrote a letter to him in which he spoke of the joy of giving oneself to God.[6] He said: “May you spend many years at Maredsous in the supreme comfort of soul that is given, to natures touched by grace, by faith in God’s infinite power and confidence in His goodness”.[7] To another friend, a Chinese diplomat, who became a Catholic monk, Albert wrote: “Consecrating oneself wholly to the service of Our Lord gives, to those touched by grace, the peace of soul which is the supreme happiness here below”.[7] Albert used to tell his children: “As you nourish your body, so you should nourish your soul.”[3] In an interesting meditation on what he viewed as the harm which would result if Christian ideals were abandoned in Belgium, he said: “Every time society has distanced itself from the Gospel, which preached humility, fraternity, and peace, the people have been unhappy, because the pagan civilization of ancient Rome, which they wanted to replace it with, is based only on pride and the abuse of force” (Commemorative speech for the war dead of the Battle of the Yser, given by Dom Marie-Albert, Abbot of Orval Abbey, Belgium, in 1936 ).

World War I

AlbertJust before World War I, Albert complied with a British demand that he not acquiesce to a German request to move troops through Belgium in order to attack Britain’s ally,[citation needed] France, which Germany anticipated was about to declare war on Germany in support of Russia; Britain was one of several European Great Powers guaranteeing Belgian neutrality under an 1839 treaty. King Albert refused passage of the Kaiser’s, his uncle’s, soldiers through his nation. When Germany subsequently invaded Belgium, King Albert, as prescribed by the Belgian constitution, took personal command of the Belgian army, and held the Germans off long enough for Britain and France to prepare for the Battle of the Marne (6–9 September 1914). He led his army through the Siege of Antwerp and the Battle of the Yser, when the Belgian army was driven back to a last, tiny strip of Belgian territory, near the North Sea. Here the Belgians, in collaboration with the armies of the Triple Entente, took up a war of position, in the trenches behind the River Yser, remaining there for the next four years. During this period, King Albert fought with his troops and shared their dangers, while his wife, Queen Elisabeth, worked as a nurse at the front. During his time on the front, rumors spread on both sides of the lines that the German soldiers never fired upon him out of respect for him being the highest ranked commander in harms way, while others feared risking punishment by the Kaiser himself. The King also allowed his 14-year-old son, Prince Leopold, to enlist in the Belgian army as a private and fight in the ranks.[2][5]

The war inflicted great suffering on Belgium, which was subjected to a harsh German occupation. The King, fearing the destructive results of the war for Belgium and Europe and appalled by the huge casualty rates, worked through secret diplomatic channels for a negotiated peace between Germany and the Entente based on the “no victors, no vanquished” concept. He considered that such a resolution to the conflict would best protect the interests of Belgium and the future peace and stability of Europe. Since, however, neither Germany nor the Entente were favorable to the idea, tending, instead to seek total victory, Albert’s attempts to further a negotiated peace were unsuccessful. At the end of the war, as commander of the Army Group Flanders, consisting of Belgian, British and French divisions, Albert led the final offensive of the war that liberated occupied Belgium. King Albert, Queen Elisabeth, and their children then re-entered Brussels to a hero’s welcome.

Post-War years

Upon his return to Brussels, King Albert made a speech in which he outlined the reforms he desired to see implemented in Belgium, including universal suffrage and the establishment of a Flemish University in Ghent.

Postwar trip to the United States

From September 23 through November 13, 1919, King Albert, Queen Elisabeth of Bavaria, and their son Prince Leopold took an official visit to the United States. During a visit of the historic Indian pueblo of Isleta Pueblo, New Mexico, King Albert decorated father Anton Docher with the Order of Léopold.[8] Docher offered the King a turquoise cross mounted in silver made by the Tiwas Indians.[9][10] Ten thousand people traveled to Isleta for this occasion.

Introduction of universal suffrage

In 1918, King Albert forged a post-war “Government of National Union” made up of members of the three main parties in Belgium, the Catholics, the Liberals, and the Socialists.[1][5] Albert I remembered the Belgian general strike of 1913, and the promise following that of a Constitutional reform for an actual one man, one vote universal suffrage.

On April 18, 1893, at the end of the Belgian general strike of 1893, universal suffrage, approved by the Belgian Parliament, gave plural votes to individuals based on their wealth, education, and age, but this was clearly not a universal suffrage.[11]

The King Albert attempted to mediate between the parties in favor of universal suffrage, or those opposed to it, in order to bring about one man one vote universal suffrage. King Albert succeeded in this.[12] Some people have named this the “conspiracy of Loppem” because the one man, one vote suffrage was effected without changing the Constitution of Belgium.

Paris Peace Conference

The Belgian government sent the King to the Paris Peace Conference in April 1919, where he met with the leaders of France, Britain and the United States. He had four strategic goals: 1 to restore and expand the Belgian economy using cash reparations from Germany; 2 to assure Belgium’s security by the creation of a new buffer state on the left bank of the Rhine; 3 to revise the obsolete treaty of 1839; 4 to promote a ‘rapprochement’ between Belgium and the Grand duchy of Luxemburg. He strongly advised against a harsh, punitive treaty against Germany that would eventually provoke German revenge.[13] He also considered that the dethronement of the princes of Central Europe and, in particular, the dissolution of the Habsburg Empire would constitute a serious menace to peace and stability on the continent.[6] The Allies considered Belgium to be the chief victim of the war, and it aroused enormous popular sympathy, but the King’s advice played a small role in Paris.[14]

Albert spent much of the remainder of his reign assisting in the post-war reconstruction of Belgium.

Albert was a committed conservationist and in 1925, influenced by the ideas of Carl E. Akeley, he founded Africa’s first national park, now known as Virunga National Park, in what is now Democratic Republic of Congo. During this period he was also the first European monarch to visit the United States.[15]


A passionate alpinist, King Albert I died in a mountaineering accident while climbing alone on the Roche du Vieux Bon Dieu at Marche-les-Dames, in the Ardennes region of Belgium near Namur. His death shocked the world and he was deeply mourned, both in Belgium and abroad. Because King Albert was an expert climber, some questioned the official version of his death. Nonetheless, rumors of murder have been dismissed by most historians. There are two possible explanations for his death: the first was he leaned against a boulder at the top of the mountain which became dislodged; or two, the pinnacle to which his rope was belayed had broken, causing him to fall about sixty feet.[16] King Albert is interred in the Royal Crypt at the Church of Our Lady of Laeken in Brussels.

In 1935, prominent Belgian author Emile Cammaerts published a widely acclaimed biography of King Albert I, titled “Albert of Belgium: Defender of Right.” In 1993, a close climbing companion of the King, Walter Amstutz, founded the King Albert I Memorial Foundation, an association based in Switzerland and dedicated to honoring distinguished individuals in the mountaineering world.

Celebrating 175 years of Belgian Dynasty and the 100th anniversary of his accession, Albert I was recently selected as the main motif of a high-value collectors’ coin: the Belgian 12.5 euro Albert I commemorative coin, minted in 2008. The obverse shows a portrait of the King.

Queen Elizabeth

Monarch Profile: King Albert I of the Belgians 

King Albert IThe future third King of the Belgians was born Prince Albert Leopold Clement Marie Meinrad on April 8, 1875 to Prince Philippe Count of Flanders and Princess Marie of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen. On the surface he would have seemed unlikely to ever become a monarch. He was the second son out of five siblings in his own family and his own father was the third son of the first Belgian king. However, after the death of the only son of King Leopold II and the death of his father and older brother Prince Baudouin, Prince Albert became heir to the Belgian throne. He was only 16 when his father became heir to the throne but even by that time he had the makings of a great monarch. His parents ensured that he was well grounded and sincerely religious. He was serious and studied hard and from the first moment he knew he would become king someday he set to work preparing himself for that task. The reputation of the Belgian monarchy had suffered during the reign of Leopold II and Albert was determined, even as a young man, to set a new tone. 

Part of this new tone was to be the domestic life of the Royal Family. In 1900 he marriedQueenElisabethofBelgium1929 Duchess Elisabeth of Bavaria in Munich, beginning what would be a very long, happy and fruitful marriage marked by mutual respect and devotion. The succession was also quickly secured as the following year Princess Elisabeth gave birth to the future King Leopold III. In 1903 another son was born, Prince Charles Theodore, giving Belgium an “heir and a spare”. In 1906 the family was completed with the birth of Princess Maria Jose, the future Queen of Italy. Albert was a very devoted husband and father who set a fine example in his private life. This, in itself, was quite significant given the unhappy marriage of King Leopold II and Queen Marie Henriette of Austria. Together, Albert and Elisabeth would project a united front of domestic fidelity. 

Prince Albert also made himself familiar with every section of Belgian society. He studied the problems of the working class and came up with recommendations to improve their working and living conditions. A firm believer in the principle of “go thyself”, in 1909 he traveled to the recently annexed Belgian Congo to see the situation for himself and what conditions were like for the natives. He had, perhaps, learned from the experience of his uncle, King Leopold II, that it was not safe to simply take the word of officials as to what life was like in the central African colony. He took seriously his duties to all of his future subjects, Belgians and Africans alike, and when he returned home presented a detailed report and recommendations on improving the lives of the natives and for further modernization in the Congo. His role in the rapid improvement in conditions in the Congo is not often stated but it was significant. 

Later that year, in December 1909, King Leopold II passed away and his nephew was formally sworn in as King Albert I of the Belgians. Whereas Leopold II wanted his reign to be known for grandeur and greatness, King Albert I, at least in his own life, was best known for his simplicity and moderation. He was a hard working monarch not at all enthralled by pomp and ceremony. He was also a very humble man, reluctant to accept any praise or adulation no matter how well deserved. He wanted peace, prosperity and contentment in Belgium but he was not blind to the growing threat across the border in Germany. He tried to strengthen the Belgian army and give them more up-to-date weapons but was hampered by an uncooperative government and the fact that Germany itself was the source of most of their rifles and artillery. In 1912 his generals estimated that it would not be until 1918 that the military was fully prepared to successfully defend the national territory. As we know, Belgium was not to have that long. 

In August of 1914 the ultimatum arrived from Germany stating that Belgian neutrality would be violated and that if resistance was met Germany would consider Belgium an enemy. No effective resistance was expected. King Albert I, however, boldly rejected the ultimatum, famously stating that “Belgium is a country, not a road”. A very upright and moral man, he had no other option. Belgium was bound to neutrality by treaty and if the Belgians had simply stood aside and allowed the Germans to pass through in order to attack France this would be a violation of that neutrality, not only by Germany but by Belgium as well as they would be passively cooperating in the invasion of France. Despite the impossible odds arrayed against them, King Albert I took command of the Belgian army and led a heroic defense of his country. The tall, serene soldier-king of “brave little Belgium” was tailor-made for the newspapers of the day and he quickly became a hero amongst the Allied nations for the stubborn defense of his country. The German timetable was upset and French and British forces had just enough time to rally in front of Paris to defeat the invasion force at the First Battle of the Marne.


King Albert, after being forced to withdraw from Antwerp, pulled back behind the Yser River and established a defensive line on the last corner of his native soil from which the Germans could never dislodge them. It was important to him to remain at the front, with his soldiers, on Belgian soil. He oversaw the rebuilding of the army which had been shattered in the initial invasion and in time they were better armed and equipped than they were at the outset. This was an extraordinary feat considering that almost the entire country was under German occupation and the sector the Belgians had to defend, the Flanders coast, was easily the most miserable on the western front, low, open and constantly waterlogged. As commander-in-chief he also had to oversee the operations of the Belgian colonial forces in Africa, where they met much success. It was a very trying time for the King, but his deep and sincere faith helped sustain him. A devout Catholic, King Albert impressed the importance of religion on his children and when Pope Benedict XV called for a peaceful end to the war he was the only Allied head-of-state to take the issue seriously. Unfortunately, his efforts to arrange peace with the Emperor Charles of Austria-Hungary were thwarted by the other Allied powers. 

In 1918, since Belgian troops could only legally be commanded by their King, Albert was made commander of “Army Group Flanders” made up of the Belgian army and elements of the British II Army and French VI Army and he led these forces in a series of successful advances as part of the overall “Grand Offensive” or “Hundred Days Offensive” which brought the war to a successful conclusion by the Allies. There were wild celebrations in Brussels as the King rode in at the head of his army to liberate the country. However, there was no rest for the King as he immediately set to work rebuilding the devastated Belgian economy. He implemented government reforms such as universal suffrage and at the peace conference in Paris obtained reparations payments for Belgium but also showed his magnanimity by opposing overly-harsh treatment of the Germans. He could see, if none of his fellow Allied heads of state could, that the downfall of the German princes and the dissolution of the Hapsburg empire would dangerously destabilize all of central Europe. Alas, his warnings in this area went unheeded.

The interwar years were a period of recovery and King Albert I was kept very busy. He became the first reigning European monarch to visit the United States, paying tribute to the men of the AEF who helped clinch the Allied victory in the war, he opened the first national park in Africa in the Belgian Congo and he showed solidarity with the Dutch-speaking community of Flanders whose region had suffered the most in the war. He also saw his son Leopold married to Princess Astrid of Sweden and his daughter married to Crown Prince Umberto of Italy. When he did have some time for himself he loved mountain climbing. He was climbing in the Ardennes, near Namur, when, on February 17, 1934 he died in a tragic accident. His sudden death was a cause of great mourning and it is probably accurate to say that he was the most beloved King the Belgians ever had up to that time. He was upright, hard-working, devoted to his God, his family and his country, courageous in the face of disaster and humble in the face of praise and adulation. He was a great man and a great king.






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2013 In Review

First of all – - – - -


The WordPress.com Stats Helper Monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for my blog. Since YOU all have helped me by faithfully reading and spreading the word about The Duquesne Hunky Blog, I had to share the information with you.

A special “call out” and thank you to Colleen Byrne Travis, Ken Denne,   Bob Chermonitz ,  Lou Andriko  & Frank Mullen for sharing their thoughts with us and for being the top 5 commenters!

I also wanted to mention one other thing regarding comments. I know it can be frustrating whenever you make a comment and you don’t see it appear right away. The reason is that I have this blog set-up in a way that I need to see comments before they are posted. The purpose of that is so that SPAM comments do not get posted. Since I began this blog, I have received over 37,000 SPAM comments!!! Can you imagine have to wade through all of those? So, I promise to get to YOUR comments and get them posted as quickly as I can.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 120,000 times in 2013. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 5 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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