A Trip Back Home -Part 2 – December 2011

Aunt Peggy

My visit to Duquesne this year lasted 4 nights and 5 days, however they seemed to rush by in a matter of hours. My mind produced destinations I wanted to visit faster that I could keep up with. In between the time I was visiting my Aunt Peg and other relatives, I managed to carve out time to explore some old haunts, connect with old friends and even meet and speak to a Duquesne legend who is an area guru when it comes to “all things Duquesne.”

 It was so heartening to know that some hunky traditions are still observed in the area. On Tuesday, I visited my cousin Jeff Volk and his wife Helen (nee’ Hruska) on Eliza Street in West Mifflin. A “Bobalki-fest,” for lack of a better description, was occurring at the time of my visit and this event definitely constitutes a tradition.

Bobalki (also spelled bobalky, babalki, babalky) are Slovak baked balls of dough. They can be served sweet with ground poppy seeds and honey, or savory with sauerkraut and onion. They are a favorite for Slovak Christmas Eve – Velija and every year, I looked forward to this Christmas Eve treat!

As I entered their home, I immediate was transported back to “Christmas Past,” just like Ebenezer Scrooge. I was hit with the unmistakable fragrance of yeast working its magic on the dough they were using to make the bobalki. I remember going into my Aunt Mary’s house on Martin Street and being hit with the same smell. She would be in the middle of baking her poppyseed rolls and nut rolls for the Holidays. The dough would be in a huge bowl on the kitchen counter, and a dish towel would be draped over the top of the bowl to keep in the warmth in order to help it rise.

When I entered Helen’s kitchen last week, she and two of her friends we completely focused on preparing and baking the bobalki balls. They had been baking since 9 a.m. that morning and had already prepared over 12 pounds of the tiny loaves. They had a goal of a total of 35 pounds of flour before they would call it quits for the day. Not only were they preparing the bobalki balls for their own family’s Christmas celebration, but they would distribute all of the bags throughout their extended family as well.

With assembly line precision that Henry Ford himself would be proud of, each person methodically completed their assigned task. Necessity was the mother of invention when it came to cutting the proper amount of dough to be baked into the bobalki loaves. One of the ladies discovered that an empty prescription medication bottle formed the perfectly sized dough ball for the recipe. One person was preparing and kneading the dough, one lady was rolling the dough and the last person cut and arranged the raw dough on the baking sheets. Each person’s job would shift at this point, and they would begin the baking process with same precision as the dough prep process. Cookie sheets were flying in and out of the oven, timers were being set and reset to assure proper baking times and one person was packing and sealing the final product once the baking was completed. Then, the process would begin all over again as another batch was started.

As much as the precision of the team impressed me, the entire visual impact of the scene impressed me even more. It was the epitome of “Home for the Holidays!” A toasty warm kitchen, family and friends gathered together baking for the holidays, Christmas carols playing on the radio, the heavenly smell of baking bread, even their little dog running around the kitchen quickly gobbling up the occasional little roll that would drop to the floor. Yet again, a picture perfect scene for Norman Rockwell to have painted for the Post. Thank you Helen and Jeff for that wonderful memory.

The following day, I had the pleasure of meeting an old friend, Denise Hudak-Ventura, for coffee and conversation, as well as being introduced to a new friend, the Duquesne guru I had mentioned earlier. On my way to meet Denise, I drove past the Duquesne Post Office on North First Street. There were several people making their way either up or down the front steps of the building. It reminded me of another Christmas event of my youth. Do you remember when our parents mailed out large amounts of Christmas cards? My mom and dad would mail them to every aunt and uncle (even though we would visit them during the holidays), to every cousin, neighbor, friend, distant relative, every doctor we went to, the nuns, and the priests at Holy Name. Each year, my job was to stamp and sort the cards for mailing after my mom had addressed them. I would separate the cards into piles by the city and state to which they were being mailed. Zip codes hadn’t been introduced yet, so the sorting assisted the post office in doing their job. I would secure the separate stacks by tying them with string so they stayed together. I remember that the post office supplied special labels that would be slipped under the string to identify the stacks as “Duquesne Only,” or “Out of Town,” or “Out of State.” Once my job was completed, my dad and I would make a trip to the Duquesne Post Office to mail the cards. We’d hand the cards over at one of the windows and soon, they were on their way.

To continue, I was on my way to meet my old friend Denise for coffee. We had gotten together last year during my visit and we resumed our conversation this year as if it had only been days since we last saw each other. We filled-in each other about what has been happening in our lives since we last met, and then understandably, moved on to “the good old days.” We each had stories to relate that we had long forgotten. It was such a refreshing conversation and time flew by quickly.

I was very excited for my next adventure that day. Denise had arranged for me to meet another lifetime resident of Duquesne, and a real expert on the city, the people and the history of Duquesne. We were soon on our way to Penn Taft Pharmacy on Pennsylvania Avenue. There, I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Bill Gallagher of Gallagher Drug Store fame!

As we entered Penn Taft, my mind immediately went back about 3 decades to the time when my dad was living and always would by his lottery tickets there. Whenever I visited him, he would send me to Penn Taft to buy them for him. His idea was that by someone else buying them for him, he’d be fooling the “Lottery gods” somehow and he’d win. Not a sound strategy if you ask me, especially since it never worked!

We approached the pharmacy counter and asked the young lady if Bill was available. After she quickly called his name, out popped Bill Gallagher from behind the counter. People seldom to appear as you expect them to be. For some reason, I expected Bill to be very tall and rather reserved. Instead, the gentleman that appeared exuded warmth and a booming personality immediately. He was about the same stature as my dad, standing about 5’ 8” and possessing a full head of white hair. With an outstretched welcoming hand, Bill immediately made me feel at home and as if we had been friends for a long time.

Bill invited me to have a seat in the row of chairs that stood in the aisle and served as a waiting area for their customers. Without much fanfare, we immediately began talking about “All things Duquesne,” his store, the people, the gossip from years ago and his history at Gallagher’s Drug Store. In the course of about 30 minutes or so, he provided me with so many interesting tidbits of information that my head was swimming.

We spoke a lot about people we knew in common. The conversation then turned to people who had commented on some of my posts that he knew. He spoke about Tom Lane and his “movie star looks” as Bill described them as well as other commenters that he knew. The conversation shifted to my childhood friend, Lou Andriko, and to no surprise, Bill acknowledged that he knew Lou as well. In fact, I had a surprise thrust upon me at the mention of Lou’s name. Bill indicated that Lou’s mom, Betty, worked at Penn Taft! In fact, she was working at that very moment. Bill stood up and called her name and out she came from behind the Pharmacy counter! I hadn’t seen her for at least 40 years! She looked at me with a puzzled look after Bill asked if she knew me. I quickly re-introduced myself to her, and the look of surprise, astonishment, love and warmth was immediate! The 40+ years that had separated our last see each other became non-existent. We gave each other the warmest of hugs and began to bridge the years with as much information about one another as we could absorb. The years have been very kind to Mrs. Andriko. She looks fantastic! After about 90 minutes or so, I said my goodbyes, and Denise and I departed. I have a good deal more to relate from that visit, but I will hang onto some tidbits for a later date.

I found an article from the Post-Gazette that addressed the closing of Gallagher’s. It will be two years since it closed in December of 2009. The article’s author does a great job of capturing the bitter sweet emotions of that event. I can only imagine how Bill must have felt at the moment he locked the doors of his store for the last time.

Here’s an idea, let’s all send our Christmas wishes, our memories and our thanks to Bill this Christmas. Send your greetings to Bill by writing a greeting in the comment section of this post. Bill checks and reads The Duquesne Hunky every day, and I’m sure he would love hearing from all of his friends.

I have included two pieces from the Post-Gazette for you to check out. The following is a very unique 360° photo of Bill’s ol’ work area at Gallagher’s. It is part of a series on the Post-Gazette’s website entitled “Pittsburgh Revolution.” It gives you a unique perspective into Bill’s world!

CLICK HERE TO VIEW BILL’S WORLD AT GALLAGHER’S!

I have also included the article that I referred to earlier, first published on 12-17-2009. Once you read it, I’m sure you’ll want to send your wishes to Bill. Let’s all let Bill know that he is appreciated and that truly, “It’s A Wonderful Life!”

Landmark Gallagher Pharmacy, a fixture for nearly nine decades in Duquesne, will close, soda fountain and all, Dec. 31

Thursday, December 17, 2009

By Kate McCaffrey, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

It’s Christmas Past that haunts Bill Gallagher.

Step into his Gallagher Pharmacy in Duquesne and you step back in time. The sounds of Frank Sinatra bounce off the tin ceiling. Black swivel stools line a wooden counter, which holds an old soda fountain. On the nearby pharmacy counter is a large laminated photo of Duquesne High School graduating class of 1932. It’s from a newspaper, and on the back are ads: 10 cents for three loaves of bread; dentures for $12.50; 45 percent off a round-trip ticket on the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Above the counter, a large illuminated sign reads “Prescriptions” in bold, black letters.

It’s behind this lit banner that Mr. Gallagher, a pharmacist, has spent most of his life — 61 years to be exact.

This is his store. They have aged together, he said.

Mr. Gallagher, 79, is retiring at the end of the month and closing this iconic part of Duquesne history. The pharmacy has been an integral part of the community for the past 87 years. It’s a landmark where townsfolk went for credit, coffee and company.

Cherry phosphates and ice cream sodas aren’t served anymore. Now the patrons who used to come here as high school kids looking for a date return for coffee and conversation.

Mr. Gallagher said if he had a quarter for every time a woman came in and told him she’d met her husband here, he’d be rich.

“Lots of very successful marriages have happened because of this store. With the exception of one, they were all fabulous marriages. They would meet at the table and introduce themselves and then would dance [on the dance floor] downstairs.”

Now Gallagher Pharmacy closes at 2 p.m. An “out of order” sign hangs from the soda fountain. The few shelves in the store hold only a couple of items — aspirin, Dr. Scholl’s foot pads, laundry detergent and paper towels. Mr. Gallagher recalls that his grandfather came from County Mayo, Ireland, and he’s quick to catch your name if it’s an Irish one. He admits he has the so-called Irish gift of gab: Everything in the store has a story, and he points each out, jumping from one history to another.

May 1, 1948. That was his first day of work at Gallagher Pharmacy. He was 18 and a “soda jerk” every night that summer from 5 to 10 p.m.

“It was a hot summer night. We had no air-conditioning back then, so everyone just wore a white T-shirt.”

He was paid 30 cents an hour — $1.50 a shift — to clean up spilled Cokes, round up the straws all over the floor and mop up the stickiness. Even though he already had a job working at a grocery store, he needed the additional money to pay for tuition at Duquesne University. He wanted to become a pharmacist, like his uncle, Matthew Gallagher, who founded the store.

It was his uncle who bought the 5,000-pound safe that sits behind the pharmacy counter. Its weight has cracked the tile floor and has forced Mr. Gallagher to reinforce it from below. He’s not entirely sure how he’s going to get it out when it’s time to close.

Matthew Gallagher bought the safe during Prohibition, a time when pharmacies would get shipments of Canadian whiskey, which doctors would prescribe as pain medicine. But every time Gallagher’s received a shipment, the pharmacy would be robbed. Cash and drugs were never stolen — just the whiskey.

Mr. Gallagher still uses the safe. Even so, he has been robbed at gunpoint three times, he said.

Across the room from the safe are three sturdy files, about 100 years old and filled with old credit bills.

Mr. Gallagher still uses those files. He said “an honest” fellow can still get store credit here. If a bill isn’t paid in 30 days and if Mr. Gallagher never sees that person again, well, that’s just the nature of business, he said. He doesn’t send bills by mail.

“These are all simply good people. When the doors close, I’m sure they’ll take care of me. It might take three or four months, but they’ll pay me. This is not an affluent community. A lot of these people live on $700 or $800 a month. They’re good people, but it’s a struggle for them,” he said.

He also makes house calls, delivering medication to “sweet old ladies” who can’t drive.

In the basement is a wall lined with boxes holding prescription forms written by doctors dating back decades. Each box holds 1,200, and Mr. Gallagher estimates he has about 70,000. He’d like to move them out and put them in his garage.

Downstairs has a history entirely its own. The basement has held a barber shop, dances, meetings, wedding celebrations, a spot for a band of 12 and dance studios. Now it holds an inventory of wheelchairs, crutches and a ladder.

After college and after working as a bacteriologist in the military, Mr. Gallagher returned to the pharmacy, which he bought from his uncle. He met his wife, Agnes, at the store. After they wed on Thanksgiving Day in 1961, she helped him at the pharmacy.

“My life is built around this store,” he said.

And that makes retiring a hard decision, he admitted.

“They say that what I should be doing is thinking that I’m opening up a whole new life. Well, you can’t shut out everything in the past. I like to hang onto nice memories, when I have a nice one, hang on to it …. They sustain you.”

Kate McCaffrey can be reached at kmccaffrey@post-gazette.com or 412-851-1867.

First published on December 17, 2009 at 10:10 am

 

I decided to include the recipe for Bobalki as well, just in case you feel especially industrious this week. Enjoy!

Sweet Bobalki Recipe – Slovak Bread Balls with Poppyseeds and Honey

Makes about 36 Slovak Sweet Bobalki

Prep Time: 15 minutes – Cook Time: 20 minutes – Total Time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

•2 cups water

•3 tablespoons plus 1 tablespoon sugar

•2 teaspoons salt

•5 tablespoons canola oil or butter (if not fasting)

•2 packages active dry yeast

•6 cups all-purpose flour

•1/2 cup poppyseeds

•1/2 cup honey

Preparation:

1. In a medium saucepan, bring to boil 2 cups water, 3 tablespoons sugar, salt and oil. Cool to lukewarm. Meanwhile, dissolve yeast in 1 tablespoon sugar and 1/2 cup warm water.

2. Place flour in the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl. Add lukewarm water-sugar mixture and yeast mixture. Combine thoroughly and knead until smooth, about 7 minutes in the mixer and at least 10 minutes by hand. Cover and let rise until doubled.

3. Punch down dough and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll dough to 1/2- to 1-inch thick and cut into pieces that will result in 1-inch balls when rolled between the palms of the hand.

4. Place on a parchment-lined or well-floured cookie sheet with dough ball sides touching. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Let rise, covered with oiled plastic wrap until nearly doubled. Bake 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely.

5. Meanwhile, grind poppyseeds in a mortar and pestle with a little water or milk and set aside. When bobalki are cool, break the balls apart and place in a colander. Pour just enough boiling water over bobalki to soften but not turn them into mush. Drain well. Pour warm honey and ground poppyseeds over all. Stir lightly and serve immediately.

6. Savory Bobalki: Instead of using poppyseeds and honey, rinse a 1-pound can sauerkraut and squeeze out all moisture. Sauté with chopped onion in butter (or oil if following a strict fast). Mix with bobalki and season with salt and pepper to taste. Source: Charlotte Pribish Conjelko, Indiana

Don’t forget to sent your comments and Holiday Wishes to Bill Gallagher by commenting below! Happy Hunky Holiday!!

This entry was posted in Duquesne's Special Citizens, Visits to Duquesne. Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to A Trip Back Home -Part 2 – December 2011

  1. Leslie Pirl-Roth says:

    Is Mr. Gallagher still alive? My mom would get emails from him periodically, but hasn’t for a while, so she’s a little concerned…

    • Jim says:

      Leslie, I have been in touch with a few people from Duquesne. It appears that Bill winters in the warmer southern climate but is expected back to his home on 7th Street in Duquesne very soon. I will keep you posted if I hear anything more.

  2. James Oates says:

    James Oates: My family was from Duquesne and my father Robert Oates always had such great tales of the “old country”. Mr. Gallagher was a friend and on all the visits by myself, my brother Dennis and my children he was so very gracious. Both my father and my great uncle, George Oeler, worked at the store. I will miss this link to the past history of my family. Thanks to you mam for your website.

    • Ken Denne says:

      Played ball with Paul Oates.Had a brother Gene.. They moved to Gary Indiana. They sold their house on W> Grant to the Napolis…

    • Barry Long says:

      We missed “Paulie, Gene & older brothers Dick & Bob when they moved.George Oeler the Chiropracter was my mothers cousin. Bob, your Dad, I heard became an attorney. Every time I visited the house, Bob was studying. My Aunt Gertie McCann owned the house before the Oelers moved in. My grandmother Elizabeth Kunkle was born in the house next door & was owned by Jimmy Marcella’s family during the 40’s & 50’s. Across Wilmot St on Grant Ave was Eddie Rusdakis’s family home. At that time I lived across Grant Av; at #1045 between Geyer’s Candy store & Danny Janacek’s Granma’s house & Danny & I survived RINKY’S wedding which lasted 3 days.The nearest wedding to equal it I saw in the movie “DEERHUNTER”(starring DeNiro).The movie also has scenes filmed in Duquesne & Clairton. Go rent it & you’ll see a shift change coming out of the mill gate & the wedding.

  3. Diann M. Topley says:

    TO BILL GALLAGHER:
    The counselor at school told me I could not become a pharmacist – I was a girl! But when I graduated from Duquesne High School in 1971 I lived for five years on the campus of Duquesne University and graduated in May 1976 with a B.S. in Pharmacy (I wish the computer would stop correcting my word – I do know how to spell). There were five other women who graduated with me and they were not nuns.
    You inspired me when I was only 4 years old to become a”druggist” (they made me say a pharmacist instead). My parents were Anna Mae Kilen and Roy Topley. I was very sick when I was a child and my Grandma Kilen would take me to a doctor. He would put something cold on my chest and told me he was listening to my heart and lungs. He talked to my Grandma in Russian (they did not think I would understand them but i did) and we took a few pieces of paper to your drugstore. We would sit at the Soda Fountain and my Grandma would buy me a root beer float.
    When we were done you would give some candy to Grandma and guess what? It made me better!
    I told Grandma Kilen that I wanted to be you when I grew up. She told me I could do anything I wanted to and I did.
    My fathers parents were Roy Gardner Topley and Ann McDermott. My professors told me that I imagined that there was a pharmacy on Grant Ave in Duquesne; I had to work in a hospital so I did. I worked at Shadsyside Hospital from 1976 through 1990; then I worked in so many different states – I cannot remember all of them. I was always the Director of Pharmacy – then they said I had go back to school and get a PharmD in 1992 so I did.
    I do not recall when I morphed from being a student to a teacher. I peaked in my chosen profession that I was so passionate about from 2003 through 2004 when I worked on an Indian reservation on the border of Idaho and Nevada.Once again I was humbled by how much they knew about medicine. I would send my patients to the medicine man and he would send his patients to me.
    I never wanted to retire but God made me stop when I was 50 and succumbed to PTSD.
    Once again I was humbled. They took away all of my possessions and i lived in a tent for 2 years (was I homeless?)
    I am now 58 years old and I live in a 2 Br apartment on Oak St in Stanton, TX. Dust storms do exist; it is God’s way of cleaning the land.
    Thank you so much for telling me yesIi can jump off the envelope!
    Diann Marie Topley

  4. Tom Ohrman says:

    Congratulations Mr. Gallagher. I remember the place well. Tom Ohrman

  5. Lou Andriko, RPh says:

    MERRY CHRISTMAS, BILL! Though I never worked at your pharmacy, I got my start in high school driving deliveries for Morris Gordon at Eagle Drugs, then after pharmacy school went to work for Chuck Traeger at Ayres Pharmacy in Christy Park, and did plenty of part time for Stan at PennTaft before moving to West Virginia. Seems like only yesterday, not 40 years ago! All of you have given me such inspiration to serve the local community…. God Bless.

  6. Denise Hudak Ventura says:

    Dear Bill and Jim, I am so glad you two finally met each other. You both remember the people and details of good old Duquesne, and now share it with others. What a great gift you give to all of us who read the blog. Thank you for all the great memories.

  7. Paula Smith says:

    Wonderful story Jim. And Blessed wishes to you Bill! My family used Penn Taft — and knew the Lefkovitz family very well. The photo of Gabe Medich reminds me of my Dad. Looks like him!
    Merry Christmas to all!

  8. Ralph DeRose says:

    Dear Bill: What a blessing you have been to not only me, but to the City of Duquesne for so many years. I appreciate the time and energy that you poured into me as a young man working with you. My only regret was that I never followed your advise to become a Pharmacist. Merry Christmas and a Healthy and Blessed New Years.

  9. Denise Hudak-Ventura says:

    To my friend Bill Gallagher
    Have a Blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year,
    I wanted to thank you and your uncle for all the kindness, advise, and great service you gave my family for 5 generations. You have helped not only my family but many families in Duquesne over the years. Thank you!

  10. David Marks says:

    Mr. Gallagher!

    You and the Gallagher Family are part of what has made Duquesne a wonderful town in its day. The Marks Family will always remember your genuine friendship and professional manner. Generations continue to cherish the memories of the store where banana splits and cherry phosphates were as important as the healing medicines you dispensed – at least they tasted better.

    You have been a blessing to us and we love you!

    I look forward to seeing you at G&M, along with Mr. Oeler, at least one more time before the changing of the guard. Then we can only hope the kitchen doesn’t change! See you soon!

  11. Raymond Isadore says:

    To my friend Bill Gallagher–such fond memories of days-gone-bye in Duquesne. We would stop by Gallaghers on the way home from mass @ St. Hedwig on Sunday mornings where my brother and I would purchase a comic book. Bill has been a long time family friend and I still recall being greeted by Agnes Gallagher when delivering grocery orders to Bill’s home on Saturdays. I now live in the North Hills but very often travel to Duquesne to visit with my mom Therese. I phoned my mom as soon as I read this article and will share this with her. Mom said “Hi Bill.” God bless you for all you have done for Duquesne and all of its people.
    Ray Isadore and the Isadore family

  12. Barry Long says:

    I went back to a store photo to see if the clock was still on the top corner of the cabinet at the end of the soda bar & came back to see my 1/2 finished comment was gone??? I can see a corner of the clock showing. I remember you told me WESTINGHOUSE couldn’t fix it so you just put a new plug on it & it ran. (You had turned down their offer of $1000. to buy it.) I hope this finds you in good stead.The 360* photo trip behind the counter gave me the feeling that i was bothering you while you were working. Cousin Noonie says this Technology stuff bothers her & it does me too. I retired from flying B-747s the last 11 years when they came out with an instrument panel of glass with projections on it from behind, of what I used to figure out in my head, & in COLOR. The future is here & it’s passing too quickly to catch up. I’ve had this Mac-Book 2 years & can barely figure how to E-mail. Can’t get downloads up to send out. ANYWAY MERRY XMAS & HAPPY NEW YEAR (2012 has to be better) DON”T FORGET TO VOTE!

    • Ken Denne says:

      Enjoyed the pictures of the baseball, basketball teams in the pharmacy. Bill, you gave me my first baseball glove. It was too small for you….

  13. Claudia Repko Misage says:

    Good-Morning—-Now you really got me going-talking about bobakly and how you make it since I made mine yesterday. Ours are really SMALL round balls. When you take a spoonful you would get five or more. Really small balls. Yes we do some with honey and poppyseed, some with sauerkraut and onions and some with cottage cheese. I also made the pirohy —some with chopped cabbage and onions, some with mashed potates and cheese and some with lekvar. We start our meal with the father dipping his thumb into honey and making the sign of the cross on your forehead and making a wish for you at the same time. Next is the oplatky. Everyone eats and dips it in honey if you like it that way. Sometimes the men eat some garlic with it. I did say somethimes. Then we have the mushroom soup,followed by the bobalky and pirohy. We also have navy beans and rice and since my daughter-in-laws have come into the family I do some fish just incase you do not care for the Slovak food. ( heaven forbid )Afterwards
    it is the nut rolls and cold dough cakes and coffee. Then we exchange and open one gift per person. Oh with the meal is wine, red or white whatever yoiu like. Then comes the cleaning up and getting ready for midnight Mass where you leave the house around ten just to get a seat in church. Y’all come on down to Texas where the weather is usually pretty nice. Oh after our Really dry summer have had some rain, but our lakes are still down about thirty-five feet or so.

    Okay now on to Mr. Gallagher. Sorry did not know Bill but his uncle Matt Gallagher I did know. On the side of Gallagher’s store were steps that lead to a dance studio. The McWilliams sisters ran it for many years in the 40’s. As a matter or fact as I am typing this I happen to have in front of me The McWiliams’s Sisters Danceland Revue from Wednesday and Thursday, June 1 and 2, 1949 held at the Carnegie Free Library. Our thanks went out to Matt Gallagher, Al Gabrelcik, Frank Kopriver Jr., the Mass’s Brothers phone number was 28484. Also a Carl and Ted’s Confectionery on First and Whitfield, Ackerman’s four big friendly stores, a Perla Cafe on Priscilla Avenue and many others. I could go on and on about Duquesne. Mostly about Duquesne Place but needless to say we did come across the Duquesne Place Bridge many. many times a day when necessary.

    I know I have told you before just how much reading about Duquesne has meant to me and too so many other people.You are doing such as wonderful, fantastic job. Love you for it and God bless you and your family not only during this time of the year but always.

    PS if any one remembers dancing with the McWilliams Sister let me know and I will tell you the name of the dance you did and with whom.

    • Jim says:

      Claudia, thanks so much for your kind remarks. When I was visiting my Aunt Peg,she told me a bit more about the velija supper, the beautiful Christmas Eve supper that’s steeped in tradition and ceremony. For Slovak Christians, it prepares them for the birth of the Christ Child. The dinner usually consists of 12 dishes, representing the number of apostles. It is a fasting meal since it is the last day of Advent, but it was by no means a meager meal. Mushroom soup and pea soup along with bobalki were always part of the menu. All of this now has me craving a poppyseed roll and a lig glass of milk!! MERRY CHRISTMAS!

      • cathy sturm says:

        My Polish gram used to say for the vejelia you were supposed to set an extra place at the table for Jesus …..12 courses for the apostles and Jesus! they knew what Christmas was all about ….she didn’t make the bolbaky for Christmas eve but she did make Halushki with little dough dumplings like spaetzle throughout the year with the cabbage & onions. … PS
        George at G&K used to sell the bolbaky at Christmas

    • Doris Kennedy Larsh says:

      Claudia
      I took tap lessons there in 1952 I think with dale obradovich (remember her). Only one year. I was awful
      Doris Kennedy Larsh

  14. Joe Haver says:

    What memories this stirred. We lived on Catherine St across from Matt Gallagher, Bills” uncle. In fact my dad, who was also a pharmacist, worked at Gallagher’s before he bought his own store in Homestead. It is great to hear Bill is doing well, Merry Christmas Bill !!!!!
    About Penn Taft, Stan Lefkovitz used to own that, and I believe his brother Bob took it over. As a pharmacist myself, growing up in Duquesne and having a family store in Homestead, Gallagers and Lefkovits were two big pharmacy names. What a great memory.

    • Lou Andriko, RPh says:

      Joe, just a quick FYI – Along with younger brother Bob, who is now retired, Stan owns PennTaft and still dispenses full time. Between Stan, Bill, my mom Betty Andriko, who started with me at Ayres Pharmacy in McKeesport almost 40 years ago and Sofie (nee Nickolich) Kovacs, who I worked with (for Morris Gordon at Eagle Drugs on Grant Ave.) they must have a total of almost 200 years experience behind the bench!

  15. Lou Andriko, RPh says:

    Jim, thanks SO much for your kind words about my mother; I knew you were coming ‘home’ but didn’t mention it to her as I had no way of knowing if you two would actually reconnect. When I spoke with her later that day, she was apologetic that she didn’t immediately recognize you; I reminded her that neither you nor I look exactly like our yearbook photos anymore! Again, “Puna Hvala!”

    • Jim says:

      You’re right Lou…… we have only improved with age, just like a fine wine! I can’t believe what a “nerd”/”geek” I looked like in high school. Merry Christmas to you my friend!!

      • Lou Andriko, RPh says:

        Ahhh, good thing you’re just speaking for yourself…. I think I just got more distinguished lookin’. LOL! Sretan Bozic!

  16. pete zewe says:

    Bill just got an e-mail from my friend about you and the store in THE DUQUESNE HUNKY. What a surprise to see you and my old hangout. God, what a memory jog. Those were some good old days. You look terrific. Hope you feel as aood as you look. If we can get together please get in touch with me. Sincerely, Pete Zewe CUZ.

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