Movin’ On Up to Duquesne Place

As I was growing up, Duquesne Place was always held in high regard by many of the residents of Duquesne, my parents included. Living in Duquesne Place was viewed the same as living in New York City’s Upper East Side. Compared to the busier and, dare I say, urban atmosphere of life in closer proximity to the mill, living in Duquesne Place offer a quieter and slightly less congested lifestyle.

There were some very large homes in Duquesne Place that stood majestically amid beautifully manicured yards. Even the names of the streets themselves evoked a more upscale area; Commonwealth Ave, Richford Ave, and Stockton Way, to name just a few.

I recall driving through many of the streets with my Aunt Mary, who seemed to be an expert on the various residents and homes throughout Duquesne Place. One home in particular that always impressed me with its size and grandeur was Dr. and Mrs. Linn’s home. It had these wonderful stately columns and was painted a pristine white. My aunt had lived on Commonwealth Ave. in Duquesne Place for a brief time while her husband, my Uncle Lou (Goldman), was in the service. I’m not sure if that was when she came to meet Mrs. Pat Linn or if it was when they were parishioners at Holy Name Church. I had never met Mrs. Linn until she moved to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. There, she opened a very upscale gift store. I visited her and introduced myself to her when my family and I were visiting Rehoboth one summer about 10 years ago. We would reminisce about my Aunt Mary, as well as Duquesne and Holy Name each time I visited her over the course of the next few years. There truly is a wonderfully warm and loving thread that connects all of us that were fortunate to grow up in Duquesne.

My Aunt Rose and Uncle Sam (Carr) moved to Duquesne Place when they built a home on Clonmel Ave., just above and overlooking the Duquesne High School Football Field in 1964. I think this was the first time that anyone in our family ever had a home built. Today, the home would be referred to as “Mid-Century Modern,” but as a brand new teenage, I just thought it to be so cool. I recall that there was this space age shaped ceiling light as you came in the front door. Sort of looked like the “Sputnik” satellite and totally neat.

I remember that my cousins Bobbie and Joanne Carr would invite me up to their house when Duquesne was playing a home game and we would watch the game from the kitchen window while they would bake chocolate chip cookies. Think about it, a wonderful game view, a cool and crisp autumn evening, warm chocolate chip cookies… ahh, heaven to a young boy. In fact, it was Bobbie and Joanne that taught me the joy of eating raw chocolate chip cookie dough. Yes, I know all about the dangers of eating uncooked eggs and all that jazz, but come on, our parents ate pig’s feet and coagulated blood sausage, so cut me a break!

It was Aunt Rose that allowed me to host my first Boy/Girl Party in her basement “Rec Room.” I think it was during my freshman year of high school, the year following my mom’s death. Aunt Rose was her oldest sister. They had just finished the room with the very latest trend in home fashion, wood paneling! It was the perfect place for a party and I took full advantage of it. I had my mom’s hi-fi stereo record player there and cranked it up, playing songs by the Association, the Righteous Brothers, the Four Tops, and the Supremes. Of course, none of the boys would fast dance with the girls, but slow songs got us quickly to our feet. If I recall correctly, the slow songs also managed to get either Aunt Rose or Uncle Sam to come down from upstairs to be sure we were not getting into trouble. By the time the evening wore on, the music shifted from playing 45’s to tuning into WMCK and Terry Lee’s “Music for Young Lovers” program, complete with its resplendent echo chamber.

Just like some scene from a retro sitcom today, at one point, we all sat down and played “spin the bottle.”  We didn’t know if that was something that was really done at parties, but we had heard so much about it, that we decided to try. We were naïve little freshmen. What did we know?!?  Since only half of Aunt Rose’s basement was finished, each randomly paired couple would retreat into the unfinished portion of the basement once they were matched. Of course, we were supposed to “make out” and then return to the party before the next couple entered. What I came to find out in later years, was that most couples just giggled and laughed at each other when they were out of the room amid my aunt and uncle’s hanging laundry.

To this day, I often wonder if the current residents of Aunt Rose’s home have ever discovered a hidden treasure that lurked in the basement. My cousin Bobbie is a very talented artist. Prior to the installation of the paneled walls, Bobbie had begun sketching a wall mural on one of the basement walls. It was of a collection of instruments, and was really quite good. However, being a perfectionist, she felt that she had made an error in the perspective of one of the instruments (the violin I believe) that could not be corrected. For that reason, she abandoned the project and it was eventually walled up and perhaps still lies beneath the walls.

It wasn’t until I was into 7th  or 8th grade and thereafter that I began to go to Duquesne Place more regularly. Prior to that time, my only exposure to that area was as a pass through on the way to Kennywood Park. I usually was so excited about going to Kennywood, that I didn’t pay much attention to my surroundings until we would pull into Kennywood’s parking lot. When I finally began to frequent Duquesne Place more often, one of the stops I would make with my friends would be the Dairy Queen on Duquesne Blvd. This was where I had my first “brain freeze” courtesy of one of their Mr. Misty ice drinks. I remember how much we enjoyed going there. No parents around, just a bunch of preteens trying to be cool. How sad was that?!? Dairy Queen is still operating in the same spot and the last time I was there, they were just as busy as when I was a kid. You just can’t beat those charbroiled burgers!

I thought you might enjoy seeing the old Duquesne High School Football Stadium as it stands today. It is actually pretty well maintained. Unfortunately, its one of the few places in Duquesne, except for the government builds, that are! Since I attended Serra Catholic High, I never went to a game at the stadium, but as I wrote earlier, I watched plenty from my aunt and uncle’s home. I remember hearing the crowds cheering, the sound of the band and the cheerleaders even encouraging more spirit, even though it seemed to fill the air already.

I had several friends who lived in Duquesne Place that I visited. Since my Uncle Sam Carr was in local politics, he introduced me to Nancy Staisey, Senator Staisey’s daughter. She and I became very good friends during high school. My Holy Name buddy, Geno Sabolcik was a D.P. resident as well as Alan Belancik, a high school friend. I sometimes would drive with my Aunt Mary when she would take my cousin Karla Goldman to Pat’s Dance Studio on Duquesne Blvd. I also remember going to Palchak’s Drug Store as well and taking advantage of their Soda Fountain.

In closing, I wanted to share an interesting article about an event that occurred at Palchak’s back in 1947. A bit before my time, but perhaps some of you might remember. In the meantime, I would love to hear some of your recollections about Duquesne Place. Be sure to post your comments AND most of all, be sure to keep on reading!  Later my Hunky friends!

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15 Responses to Movin’ On Up to Duquesne Place

  1. Frank Mullen says:

    Reading your thoughts about Duquesne Place, from your perspective, were totally enjoyable and intriguing. When you mentioned the Dairy Queen, I could relate, just like I could with every other single detail you and every other voice posting here mentioned.
    I lived two houses up from the white-brick apartments near the Dairy Queen on Miller Avenue, played on its empty lot before it was built, and made regular, pretty much daily, pilgrimages to its tasty wonders. (I never could decide if I liked a hot-fudge sunday the best or a strawberry parfait.)
    Palchak’s was a regular haunt, and my father and mother had a close relationship with Mr. Palchak. I used to enjoy sitting in the little dark-colored booths he had there for awhile, to eat ice cream. A showcase he had along one side of the store held perfume (actually, cologne and “toilet water”) presents I often gifted my mother with, including one called “Evening (Midnight?) in Paris,” too cheap and loud for her to wear, I eventually discovered, but the dark-blue bottles seemed exotic, to me, as a child.)
    Mr. Chermonitz put it well when he wrote, here, that Duquesne Place was “the center of the world to many of us.” It was, being always totally peaceful and safe, it seemed to me, as a child and adolescent. I got to know nearly every soul living from Commonwealth and Clonmel over to The Dump because I was their Daily News and Sunday’s Pittsburgh Press “paperboy” for several years, until I worked at Kennywood in the cafeteria. At Christmastime, I’d come home after making my “collections” with over a hundred dollars cash, in “tips,” handing it all over to my widowed (in 1955) mother with great satisfaction. (I believe I was your aunt and uncle Carr’s paperboy and watched that wonderfully new house go up, amazed at its modern features, like that light fixture.)
    The many (seemingly endless) wonders of Kennywood were a very brief walk away from home, accessible even during the non-season months because some of us boys knew how to enter undetected via a route that involved climbing under the Kennywood Bridge, down the hillside a bit, and back up and over the fence. I walked all along the Jack Rabbit, Racer, and Pippin roller-coasters, covertly, often, even in the snow.
    And yes, that railroad yard under the bridge was a playground, too, albeit very dangerous. I vividly recall a time I was climbing around its coal cars and cabooses with my dear friends Roger and Glenn. Roger was inside an empty hopper, about to escape through an open hatch, when a train came to include the car, slamming it good and hard to couple it. That jolt knocked Roger off his feet, and he had a difficult time scampering up its slick inside walls. Glenn reached in and rescued him, as I held onto them both to help them exit, just as the train began to move away.
    We three used to, also, adventure through those hillsides of “The Woods” above the yard, as we used to call them, swinging on vines over hillsides, and always being on the lookout for the legendary, “Man of the Woods” and the “Dog of the Woods.” The man, we eventually met, and the dog, we eventually met, too; both were harmless and seemingly lonely.
    The hills above Commonwealth Avenue, we explored endlessly, stepping carefully over the gaping, acrid smoking mine-fire fissures, and venturing through high-grass fields onward toward the bridge to West Mifflin which stood over the end of another rail-yard.
    Chief among my many childhood friends were: Robert Capristo; Bruce Capristo; David Ehrenworth; Jimmy & Bobby Sofer; Paule Lednak; Glenn & Terry Choate; Roger Selznik; Lee & Raymond Mackey; Charles Petraitis; Gary Luptak; Linda and “Punky” (Leslie) Silverman; Billy Sansbury; Howard Lehman; Billy Escowitz; Jay Wilson; David Finklestein.

    I’d better stop, now, before this turns into a novel.
    Frank Mullen
    105 Miller Avenue
    Duquesne Place (!)

  2. Kim Wright Mazel says:

    Claudia, it sounds like you lived next to the Tretinik family also! J.T. and Madge were wonderful folks and I spent a lot of time at their home starting in the 3rd grade. My brother Keith was dating Mary Ellen (they are married ’76). I became good friends with Mary Beth and of course, I always looked up to Rosemary & Mary Ellen! I remember sitting on their porch on Richford Street, which was a vibrant area. I grew up on Grant Avenue in the Bank Building and there weren’t any porches. But, in 1972 we moved to “Duquesne Place” after my father passed away. Our apartment was above Eskowitz Insurance Agency, which was next to the Gas Pump. I have so many great memories…..walking to the football field when I was a majorette…..meeting friends at the Dairy Queen…..watching Kennywood fireworks from our back porch……walking across the infamous wooded bridge when working at Kennywood and sitting on my front steps with my friend, Kathi Kovacs while watching all of the Duq. Blvd. traffic.

  3. Bob Chermonitz says:

    Aw, Duquesne Place, the center of the world to many of us. What you don’t realize is the extreme terror most of us kids lived through growing up there! During the day there were many terrifying things that could kill ya. Playing in the “flue dust” plant (over the hill from the baseball field outfield) where any number of us were buried alive , sinking as in quick sand, until our friends fought through to pull us to safety. The hill top (above Clomnel towards where the project apartments are today) would catch fire on a regular basis almost trapping the innocent among us who had no hand in it at all and no knowledge of who might have started the fire (at least a half dozen times per summer), yet the police and fire department grilled us endlessly! Would we all be put in Thorn Hill as the police chief threatened? And how about the “raids” down to the Union Railroad car shop under the Kennywood bridge? The Bulls would chase us everytime claiming we took all of the lanterns from the cabooses (sp), which we never did, either! Well, almost never, but the “pinup girl calendars were the real targets! I could go on and on. BUT the most terrifying of all things occured each summer on a regular basis and it scared every kid, boys & girls, almost to death every night for a week. It was the ROARRRRRRRRR of the Lions and Tigers at the circus located in the Kennywood parking lot or, sometimes, in the Kennywood dump!!!! No Duquesne Place kid, if truth be told, slept a wink those nights just waiting for that escaped cat to climb through our wide opened windows, right through our screens, and kill us dead, because most of us couldn’t talk our parents into the real need for a Red Ryder BB gun. And that, would teach ’em a lesson!! 🙂

    • Jim says:

      OK Bob! Spoken in the spirit of RALPHIE from A Christmas Story! LOL I never thought about it, but I am sure that it WAS scarey to hear the wild animals roaring. By the way, cabooses is spelled correctly. Sister Clementine would be proud!

  4. Bernie says:

    I remember the High School Football Stadium. We used to climb over the fence to avoid paying at the ticket booth, There was also an area where if you were small enough, go under the fence with someone holding it up. This was in the late ’50s

  5. Barry Long says:

    The photo of the Ticket Booths has a corner of the school in it. It was taken near my Aunt & Uncle Robinson’s house which looked directly in the entrance so it must be next house to the right. The summer of 1953 I was painting the top rail of the bleachers doing my job for the School Board when I saw Leonard Staisey’s wife with her young daughter [your friend] approach the swings by the grade school. She was having a great time but at the apogee of a swing her hands slipped off the chains & she fell backwards slowly turning & striking the ground face-first & making the most god-awful thud that I can still hear today & shudder. Her mother comforted her & then they left.Years later that terrible sight & sound made me a very nagging father when I took my son to the swings in our park. It was,” Don’t let go”or “Hold on”every time I pushed the swing.

    • William Kennedy says:

      Barry, I remember your Aunt & Uncle Robinson. Your uncle was a referee, sometimes officiating at the Duke’s games. They had two sons, Paul and Lee, aka “Thumper” When the Robinson’s moved to the suburbs, I stayed with them during a 50’s Christmas holiday. Their tree was flocked white and all the lights and bulbs were blue. Was your aunt’s name Lexie? I think she and my mother were in Women’s club together. I was impressed that they only grocery shopped once a week, since the store was so far away–probably a couple miles! My parents walked to Babic’c Market several times a day.

  6. Laurine E. says:

    I went to kindergarden in the Duquesne Place School and then on to first grade at the school on First Street between Grant and Hamilton where the Senior Citizen’s high rise is now. It was closed after the end of my fourth year of school and I then went to the Junior High School (what a long walk it seemed from the bottom of Kennedy (which by then ended at First Street) up the hill twice a day. Then on to DHS and a much shorter walk. My friend, Mary Ann Asmonga, lived on Clonmel, too. My neighbor, Mr. Mellon, (yes, his wife was Mrs. Mellon who taught Latin at the High School) used to take the neighborhood kids out to the Prebyterian Chuch for Square Dancing – yes, you heard me right – Square Dancing. It was a lot of fun, but those were about the only times I got out to Duquesne Place. ( Oh, and my pediatrician was Dr. Landay and I am pretty sure he lived on Clonmel, too!)

    • Claudia Repko Misage says:

      Yes, Dr Landay did live on Clonmel right next door to my aunt and uncle. He and his wife were the nicest folks. Did not know him professionaly just as nice neighbors. I lived on Oakmont Avenue, second street from the Duquesne Place Bridge and six streets down from the Kennywood Bridge.
      Where did the Mellon’s live? I remember the name but that is all——have a great day

      • Bob Chermonitz says:

        Claudia, You are correct. Dr Landay did indeed live on Clonmel. He had a son named Allen, I believe. If you recall The good doctor drove a VW Beetle in the middle to late 50’s. Sometime around 1957 or 1958 we were hit with the Asian Flu, if you recall. The hospitals were full and could not admit another soul. Dr Landay came to our home in his VW to check in on me. I recall laying on the couch unable to move at all while my dad and the good doctor sat on the coffee table staring at me, smoking cigarettes, and deciding to prescribe some medication that tasted like cherries. No kidding! If you can remember the TV commercials 9 out of 10 doctors recommended Winston cigarettes over other brands. How did we ever survive (tongue in cheek) our non-overprotective parents? And the mayor of NYC worries about Big Gulp soda. Go figure!

  7. Gene (Geno) Sabolcik says:

    I have hundreds of stories I could tell you about growing up in Duquesne Place, from finding old tires out in “the dump” and rolling them over the big hill off Clonmel into the Union Railroad Yard that was below the wooden bridge (and being chased by the Union Railroad Police), to jumping the fence at the football field to sneak into the Duquesne Ironmen semi-pro football games, to hanging out at the Dairy Queen -on our bicycles and later in our cars, to getting a ride with a salesman in a brand new 1963 Corvette Stingray the day they rolled off the car carrier at Schreiber Chevrolet, yada, yada, yada.

    But one of my best memories of Duquesne Place were playing baseball and football on Dunblane Street between Miller Avenue and Harden Avenue. Mike Babic lived at the corner of Miller and Dunblane, Dave Bonga and I lived on the 400 block of Miller Avenue, and we had a regular group of guys from our side of Duquesne Place (north of Commonwealth) that congregated to play ball. In addition to Mike, Dave, and I, some of the regulars included Bill Wernteges, Dean Rinelli, Frank (Frayo) Bergel, and whoever else was around on that particular day.

    The street was/is narrow, so you only needed 3 guys on a side to play- an outfielder, an infielder and a pitcher. Whoever wasn’t batting just acted as the catcher. Sometimes we didn’t even have a pitcher, we just tossed the ball (usually a tennis or rubber ball) up in the air and hit it. We played almost every day after school and during the summer. In the fall and winter, we played touch football, and occasionally we played a tackle football game right on the street! We also played large games of tackle football out in the Kennywood Park athletic field above the Kennywood parking lot with guys from every part of Duquesne. No helmets, no pads, just guys with a football.

    Man those were the days!

    • Bob Chermonitz says:

      Geno, you’re right, those were the days! As the snows would start to thaw our thoughts turned quickly to baseball. You played on the Pirates and Dave Bonga was a Dodger,as I remember, while I was a Yankee. While the cold still lingered we started to play “catch” in the alleys getting our hands stung all the while. But we were ready for spring and the crack of the bat! Life, as a kid, was much more simple. Today we tend to make things more complicated. Wouldn’t it be great to once again whittle life down to a simple thing like baseball? Did we ever think what our father’s were doing while we did that? And, did we ever think that we’d become like them? The old saying is true. Youth is wasted on the young. 🙂

  8. Dave Bonga says:

    Since so many of yinz on Jim’s blog seem to be Catholic school kids, let me talk a little bit about the Duquesne Place School. You can see part of that building in the last photo above, behind the old ticket office to the football field. The school consisted of 4 rooms. Kindergarten was in one room downstairs while 1st and second grade shared the other room on the first level. First grade faced one way and second grade the other. Third and fourth grades were set up the same way in one of the rooms upstairs while 5th grade occupied the other second floor room. Restrooms were in the basement. Of course everyone went home for lunch since the area was so small. When I finally reached 5th grade, I thought I was a big shot because I became Captain of the safety patrol and got to wear the blue-colored badge on my safety belt. 🙂 Many days we would walk down to Mary’s confectionary before afternoon classes to buy penny candy to sneak into class. I never wanted to get caught because I can still to this day recall the paddle sound from Principal Davies when some poor kid had to be taken out of the classroom and disciplined. Very scarey to a ten year old !!

  9. Claudia Repko Misage says:

    Now you really are bringing up memories. Duquesne Place was my home. I was born in McKeesport Hospital and brought to my first brand new house. Yep the way my mother told me the story was that the house was not even quite finished, by that I mean the front door was not on the house. For the first night I spent there she sat on the steps going upstairs all night long holding me. The very next day the new door was installed and all was safe.
    I had a uncle, aunt or cousin living on just about every street in Duquesne Place. Next door lived a uncle, on Richford was a cousin, Miller Ave had two, one aunt at the top and a aunt at the botton, now Harden Ave had a aunt at the very top, right below the Stacey’s house and at the bottom almost in a row was a uncle, aunt, cousin and aunt. On Liberty Rd and Clonmel were also aunts and uncles on them. I could never get away doing anything because one would call home and say Claudia just walked pasted my house and she should be home in six min. or less. My Uncle Al and Aunt Jay owned the J & L Service Station on Duquesne Blvd. right across the street from Palchak’s.
    I do believe there is still a gas station still on that spot.
    Skovranko’s Funeral home used to be almost in my back yard, for when Bill first started the business they lived on Overland Ave and their back yard and our back yards meet. I could remember before the Dairy Queen was there it was a big opened lot and we used to cut across it to go to Kennywood and then get ready to walk across the “wooden” bridge that swayed when the street cars used to go on it. There were wooden planks that you walked on and could see straight down and the sides where the railing were, well the bottom was opened. As kids we would run like crazy to get to the other side and wait for our mom’s as they walked a lot slower. Ah, those were the days.
    Don’t get me started on the football field, because that was where our play ground was at the school right there. Spent many and many a days there, morning, noon and into the evening.
    Had to ride the bus to school, first Holy Trinity, then the Jr High, and finally good old Duquesne High School. Had a good education riding back and forth to school. Walking sometimes across the other bridge over the rail road tracks. Waving to the men below, had another aunt living three house down from that bridge on 2nd street and stopping there to get a drink or water or something because the walk was sooooo far.
    I could go on and on about Duquesne Place and the circus that came to the “dump”, that was what the lot across from Kennywood was called before it was developed. Lots of good times there, and the smoke from the mines on the hill above Harden and Clonmel, and my aunt almost falling into one—oh I could go on and on but want to hear other stories from my neighbors who lived on Duquesne Place.
    Thanks for listening and giving me the chance to put some of my memories in “ink”
    Just cannot tell you how very much I enjoy reading each and every entry, I myself could go on and on, because my family lived on Mill Street before the steel mills
    were there. Thanks once again.

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