Christmas Shopping in Duquesne and McKeesport

When I was just a wee one in Duquesne, I remember shopping at Christmas with my mom. Although it is had to imagine if you visit Duquesne today, but as I was growing up, there were a number of shops and stores where my mom enjoyed. The shopping Mecca in Duquesne, as I remember it, was primarily located on First Street between Grant Avenue and Hamilton Avenue and on Grant Avenue between First and Second Streets. There were several other shops that Mom enjoyed going to that were further up Grant Ave. such as Salkowitz’s Dress Shop, but for the most part we stayed in main shopping area.

There were no such things as malls in those days. Stores were street front and we were exposed to the elements as we shopped from store to store. The stores I remember shopping in with my mother were Sally Fashions for her clothes and Adler-Green for men’s and boy’s clothes. There were two other stores that I remember that I enjoyed visiting. One was the G. C. Murphy 5 & 10 on First Street. I think it was located right behind Alexander’s Market which was on the corner of First and Grant. Just like Perry Como’s song “Its Beginning to Look A lot Like Christmas”, at Christmas, Murphy’s was glistening with candy canes and silver lanes aglow.

And then there was Elsie’s, otherwise known as Avenue News. Just two doors up from First Street on Grant Ave., Elsie’s wasn’t really a Christmas shopping destination, but rather a meeting place for the locals. I remember being in the vicinity of Avenue News around shift stage time at the mill. 7 a.m., 3 p.m. and 11 p.m. were the crazy time at Elsie’s. The steel workers who worked from 7 a.m. till 3 p.m. called it the “Daylight Shift.”  If they worked from 11 p.m. until 7 a.m., they worked “Night Turn.” But for some reason, the 3 p.m. until 11 p.m. shift was only know as “3 to 11.” Go figure! However, I’ve digressed…..

I have stronger childhood memories of Christmas shopping in McKeesport than in Duquesne. Shopping in McKeesport was our equivalent of shopping in New York City! What a wealth of stores; Cox’s, The Famous, Jaison’s, Immel;s, Katzman’s, David Israel’s, and Kadar’s. Then there were the specialty stores like; The Golden Rule, National Record Mart and the variety stores like; G.C.Murphy and H.L.Green,

I remember going to McKeesport with my dad once when he was Christmas shopping for my mother. Dad was never the type of guy who planned too much ahead. To this day, it never surprised me that we were shopping on Christmas Eve. It seemed perfectly normal. I remember going to Katzman’s with him to buy my mom a slip. The lingerie department was on the mezzanine of the store. The saleslady pulled out several different slips from the wall of drawers that lined the wall behind the glass showcases. She pulled out dozens until Dad finally settle on the perfect color. Leopard skin!!!! It was like the 1950’s of Victoria’s Secret!

Yet another early memory about Christmas shopping was my Christmas Club check. Every year, my mom would start a Christmas Savings Club account for my brother and I at Duquesne City Bank. She would put 25¢ a week in my club account and the same in my brother’s club account. By the time November rolled around, we each received a Duquesne City Bank check what we view as an astronomically large amount………… $12.50!!!! It was amazing how I was able to make that $12.50 cover all the gifts I wanted to buy; Mom, Dad, my brother, 3 of my aunts and 2 of my cousins. Bubble bath was always a top choice for Mom, big bottle, low price, the perfect combination. My dad used to roll his own cigarettes back then, so rolling papers were always a good and thrifty choice. (Today, I would be accused of trying to buy drug paraphernalia when I bought rolling papers, times have changed!) I was always able to find some kind of sports magazine or book for my brother and my aunt and cousins always seemed to end up with lavender soaps. I really made it stretch since there was always enough left for me to buy a pound or so of sugar wafers at the cookie counter at the 5 & 10!

It was always exciting counting the days down until Christmas. I remember that  on the very last page of the McKeesport Daily News, there was always a small block that indicated the number of shopping days left til Christmas along with a reminder to by Christmas seals. Oh, those were the days……..




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25 Responses to Christmas Shopping in Duquesne and McKeesport

  1. Lu Schorr says:

    You are all so young. So happy to see the name of my cousin, Carole Binkney and her mention of our cousin Carole Schulte Petrozza. I attended St. Joseph’s School which was designed and built by my Grandfather, Peter F. Snyder and his six sons. Three Daughters, Margaret, Wilhelmina, my Mother, and Loretta stayed home and learned cooking and sewing. When my Mother got a job with Westinghouse rolling coils for radios, her Father went to her place of work and brought her home. In those days it was a disgrace for a daughter to work outside the home, but WWII changed all that. Not too familiar with this new laptop. So long for now. I’ll try the big computer upstairs. Love you all. Lu Schorr.

  2. Sandi Algeri Bullard says:

    Oh my Goodness – Such great memories! Each post I read bring a tear to my eyes. Nothing has ever replaced those wonderful good old days. I Do So Miss them! Jim you are angel ! It does a heart good to go back to the good old days. Keep them coming and thank you for the blessing!

    • Claudia Repko Misage says:

      Hi Sandi,
      Yes it is me Claudia. I do remember you from high school. Have my year book right in front of me and looking at you now. Please reach me at and we can chat. I am not on face book or anything like that. Waiting to hear from you.

  3. Maureen Dowdle Strahl says:

    I lived in Duquesne most of my life, and still live nearby in West Mifflin, PA. Of all the stores that were mentioned by everyone, I think that Schink’s Hardware is the only one still open. It’s such a shame what has become of Duquesne. I don’t remember all of the things you mentioned because I was not born until 1965, but I do remember shopping at Sally Fashions, Avenue News, D&K, and the toy store. My mother, Jeanne Martin Dowdle, worked at Adler-Green’s, so we would hang out there sometimes while she worked. We also used to go to McKeesport to shop. Jaison’s was my favorite store. We went there with my grandmother and she would usually buy us whatever we wanted. I know we went school shopping and Christmas shopping there.

  4. Bob Salopek says:

    I remember all the “Mummy” movies at the spooky Grant Theater next to Avenue News. And those all-day double features, PLUS 2 cartoons, PLUS the Pathe Newsreel, PLUS maybe a RocketMan serial … all for TEN CENTS ! ! … at the Plaza. Maybe that was 1949 to 1951. When was the “B-I-G” snow? 1950 or ’51? We paid 5 bucks on First Street for a 9 foot tall Christmas tree. Today that’s probably over a hundred bucks. I bought a Lionel Santa Fe Twin Diesel for $35 at the Firestone store on 1st St. Today they sell for 3,4,5 hundred dollars on eBay. Then there was the pool room at the corner of Hamilton where my brother was warned about frequenting. I loved the streetcar tracks on the old Kennywood Bridge which would make your car swerve into the oncoming lane. THAT was exciting ! I delivered papers for Cole News on Auriles St from 1951 to 1956, and was an altarboy & a choirboy at St Joe’s across the street. Gerry Kosko was the quaterback from ’57 thru’59, graduation year. Ricky Dittman drove a ’51 Ford convertible and hung out with Porky Babyak. I watched the Zemps play baseball at Polish Hill Field when the left hand batting first baseman stroked a 500 foot homerun into right center. The only parking ticket I got in Duquesne cost me 50 cents ! My whole family is gone now, but my heart remains a Duke. One Woolsey nephew remains in Duquesne.

    Nice visiting here, and thanks.

  5. Claudia Repko Misage says:

    Loved, loved, loved reading all about good old Duquesne. Shopping at the 5 & 10 was the only place to buy everyone and I do mean everyone their Christmas. gifts. Mom Pond’s lotion, or a hankie, dad a hankie or a pack of Luckies which was .25 back then. I lived in Duquesne Place and as I used to say and still do, to those who know the area. I was exactly six blocks from Kennywood Park. Lived right where the three great big houses were that the Superintendences of US Steel lived. Had my wedding in Holy Trinity Church and the reception in the American Legion Hall. I am in the class of 1960. Thanks for all of the GREAT memories.

    • Jim says:

      Claudia, you are very welcome and thanks for the good thoughts about my blog. I love writing about our home town. With all of life’s experiences that we have each faced and endured, it’s wonderful to know that we have all had Dorothy’s ruby slippers in our hearts and just needed to click our heels and be transported back to those times. There’s no place like home.

  6. S. Vince Rickard says:

    The photos and b;pgs bring back a lot of memories. Thanks.
    Vince Rickard, class of 44.

  7. Tom Traeger says:

    Enjoyed reading this post, hope more will come. I was lucky enough to marry a girl from Duquesne, so I know much of what you speak of. Being from McKeesport and yes, I was a Tiger and played against some of the best players in the world that came from Duquesne. You’re Quarterback came to our side of the river, settled down and became mayor of the little Borough that I lived in, it’s called White Oak. How many of you remember the Quarterback? My wife Darol graduated in ’55 along w/Moon Boy whom I was in the Army Reserves with. Yeah, he caused trouble there as well. I always enjoyed attending her graduation reunions because of several friends I made while at Clarion State Teachers College, one of them forwarded this email to me. Thanks Danny. Now living in Marco Island Florida, paradise on Earth. We make trips to the area to visit family and friends, always stopping by “Jim’s” for one of those famous Hot Dogs. We always enjoyed it if Brian was working and we would talk about similar problems ,unfortunately the Lord wanted him for something cause he sure was a great young man to have left us so soon. I can still remember the original Jim when we ate our Dogs inside. My father knew him when he first opened in McKeesport oh so many years ago. OK, I’ve taken up a lot of space as well as time. Keep up the good work Jim! Tom Traeger.

    • Jim says:

      Tom, thanks so much for the compliment about my blog. I find it a pleasure to write and remember all the good things about growing up in the area. Keep those comments coming, I enjoy hearing from those who have the appreciation for Duquesne and the surrounding area!

  8. Barry Long says:

    It’s always wonderful to go back to your roots. Living in Kirkland WA; since 1968 & flying for Northwest Orient Airlines for 20 years, I was one of the STEELER fans & even my golf cart & locker have Super Bowl decals. SEAHAWK fans still cry about their loss when i wear my Bettis shirt. I quote Pres;Truman who said,”Never forget where you came from”. When I got Big Mike Sabol on the phone after not seeing him for 25 years, after identifying myself he said, “Barry, being raised in Duquesne PA; was the best preparation anyone could have for going out into the world”. I agree. Big Mike is now in Bakersfield CA; & we still call each other. I,m in Honolulu & await 6 FEB…………….GO STEELERS !!!!!!!!

  9. Bill Larkin says:

    Wow that brings up a lot of memories, my dad always took us to Kadars for our school clothes, and GC Murphys was the best,always had that smell of roasted peanuts mixed with some kind of cologne, my family lived on Kennedy Ave directly across from Hilltop Dairy, and on the other corner was Andy’s meat market the best chipped ham in town, and also the best Italian Sausage which you can’t really find a good Italian sausage here in Albuquerque New Mexico.

  10. judy kray lochner says:

    I worked at Duquesne City Bank. I started in 1964.The Meighen family owned the bank. You have taken me back to so many wonderful times, places and people. Keep it up. How about the old Plaza Show. On one side was I think Karen’s Shoes and the Plaza Jewlery on the other. If you were under 12 it was 25 cents to get in. You never went upstairs. It always had that red velvet rope across the steps.

    • Jerry Summerly says:

      Just a note that Barb Barder Harrington passed away last year. If you worked at the bank you may remember her. She was a great person.

      • judy kray lochner says:

        When I worked at the City Bank, I didn’t work with a Barb. I worked there from 1963 till 1972. Are you sure she didn’t work at the other bank that was down on Duquesnt Blvd? Remember the American Legion was down there and they used to have wedding receptions there. My sister had her wedding there.

      • Judy, I don’t remember the years she worked there, but my cousin’s name was Bobbie Carr. Ring any bells? I am certain she worked there since she was the one who always opened our Christmas Clubs for us. She lived in Duquesne Place on Clonmel Ave., the street right above the high school field.

        Jim Volk REALTOR, A.S.P. Shamrock Realty Group 410-641-3611

      • Carole Snyder Binkney says:

        I also worked at Duquesne City Bank in 1956-57 and again 59-60 and did work with Barbara Bardar Harrington. We had been friends ever since and her husband, John did inform me of her passing last year. I also worked with Carole Schulte Petrozza, the Meighen’s, Mr. Reed, Judy, Eleanor, Bill Hensler and Bill Davies. Wow, what memories and this site is unreal for nostalga; I just got all caught up in it tonight. I live in Ms. and have been here over 30 years.

  11. Janet (Nassida) Smith says:

    My bus stop was at the corner of First St. & Grant Ave. while attending Holy Name for elementary school. I used to love the city’s Christmas decorations on those streets.

  12. Bob Cusick says:

    You plenty funny. How about all of the drug stores and the Cherry Phosphates at Gallagher’s drug store. How about parking at the dump and watching all the cheer leaders and majorities after the games in front of Irena’s Pizza.

    • Ann Marie Scahill says:

      This is fabulous! What a wonderful walk down memory lane! How I’ve often thought of these wonderful places and the hundreds of times I walked from Cochran Street at Fifth Street to go ‘Downstreet’. I wish my sons could have experienced all that we did as kids in Duquesne when we were so young! The last store I shopped in was Sally’s Fashions when I received a business promotion, needing a whole new business wardrobe and moving to Kansas City! I believe the Salkowitz’s dress shop later became Sally’s. Correct me if I’m wrong! Thanks for the memories.

    • Paula (Manns) Niedoba says:

      HAHA…my brothers took me to see some scary movie at the Plaza when I was 4 of 5 years old. After we spent all the money on snacks I cried for them to take me home. I think we walked there from Burns Heights and walked back again. Can’t imagine that happening today.
      Karen’s shoes rocked. I think I should start my own blog…hmm

  13. Alexis says:

    WONDERFUL nostagic stories…..LOVED reading them. One additional thing I remember is going to the 2nd floor of Schinks Hardware on Grant Avenue to see all the toys at Christmas. Thank you!

    • Paula (Manns) Niedoba says:

      Oh my goodness…who could forget Schink’s Hardware? I would spend quality time in there with my dad! I think we did most of our father/daughter bonding at the counter of Schink’s Hardware. It was so great to head up those steps to the second floor and see the array of Christmas decs and toys. I remember one particular trip to pick up a pound of nails with dad. I came home with a gyroscope and dad came home with a light up Santa thingy for outside. Go figure, a gyroscope from Schink’s Hardware.

  14. Bob Nelis says:

    Quite a story teller Jim. I really enjoy the stories, and of course the similarities of growing up near Pittsburgh. McKeesport had a big “downtown” shopping area in those days. When I worked one summer at the Dravo Plant, I would shop there.

  15. Marianne says:

    Great stories Jim. I am really enjoying reading them. What great memories you have and it wonderful that you are documenting them so well.

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