Reflections of a Duquesne Hunky

As 2011 draws to a close, I’ve slipped into a rather “reflective” mood as one would expect. I have been writing and posting “The Duquesne Hunky” for over a year now. My first post was on 11-29-2010 when I declared that “Hunky Was Not A Four Letter Word.” Now, 122 posts later and 1,340 comments later I feel that I am once again “home,” within a community of friends, with common pasts, with a common love for their hometown and a common friendship even though they may have never met.

We are all Duquesne “Soul mates,” possessing a deep rooted admiration for not just a town, but for a way of life. In most cases, we have all taken paths that led our lives into directions neither we nor our parents would ever have dreamed of. We have all come to learn that the childhood we all hold dear and the moral compass we have all been given by the community in which we were raised, extends far across the nation and the globe; from Vermont to Florida to California, Washington State and Hawaii; throughout the United States to New Zealand and to London, England, Duquesne is there.

Who would of thought that the mention of Islay’s Chipped Ham, a hot dog from Jim’s, or Kennywood would bring a smile to the faces of such a large group of people. Sharing recollections, mutual friendships and family ties has become such a wonderful part of this blog. Truly, I’ve discovered that neighbors will always be neighbors and will span the longest distances and the longest periods of time. Personally, I’ve reconnected with many friends and neighbors from my youth and have picked-up as if we had never parted. To me, that makes this whole effort special beyond words to me.

During my recent visit to Duquesne, I sat in my hotel one evening and wrote the following:

 Remembering Duquesne 

A December wind wafts across my face as I cross Duquesne’s bricked main street. My spirit longs for my yesterdays as I visit my hometown.

In my memory, old friends stop by, but not long enough for my satisfaction. As I mentally reconnect to yesterday’s friends and neighbors, I am overwhelmed with love for this town, and for the people who have lived here.

My foundation, my youth, and most of life’s hard lessons, I learned in this town of smiling faces and orange skies. It is my solace, and makes me feel whole.

It is said that you can never go home again. However, I believe that home is the only place on earth and in your mind, where you can go to understand real love and true friendship.

Let me return time and time again, to the place where my family was always there to love me, friends and neighbors were there to welcome me, and a wee bit of heaven opened its arms to bless me and say, “Welcome home my child!”

                                                                                                     – Jim Volk

As we all wait for yet another year to come into being, I can’t help but think of the many New Year’s Eves I spent celebrating with my parents and relatives. The evening of December 31st was always spent at my Uncle Hank and Aunt Clare’s home on Lindberg Ave. in Munhall. All of my aunts and uncles would arrive with casserole and bottle in hand and all of the kids in tow, ready to “party,” hunky style.

My aunt and uncle had a finished basement that lent itself as the perfect place for a party. We would all begin the evening in the basement sharing all of the wonderful food Aunt Clare had prepared and that my aunts had brought. For the New Year celebration, the menu was modified to include the obligatory pork and sauerkraut. Mom always made sure that my brother and I were partaking in the pork and sauerkraut each year or God forbid, bad luck would have come our way!

We all would continue eating and visiting until late into the evening, after which, the “celebrating” would begin with shots and beers for the guys, and whiskey sours for the ladies. At this point, all of the kids were rounded up and taken upstairs to the living room to watch the New Year’s celebration on TV, “Direct from the Roosevelt Hotel” and featuring “Guy Lombardo and his Orchestra.” All my cousins as well as my brother and I had arrived at the party wearing pajamas and by the time we were plopped in front of the TV, we were already half asleep and ready to nod off. Usually, the youngest among us never stayed awake long enough to see the New Year arrive. The veterans among us however, did remain awake long enough to see all of the partyers at the Roosevelt toast to the New Year, kiss each other(yuck), and continue to dance and enjoy the evening in their fancy dresses and tuxedos. In the meantime, our parents continued to party deep into the night, all the while knowing that the kids were safely tucked in for the evening in a massive heap in the living room. Ahh… good times!

So, 2012 is just a breath away, and I hope that you ALL will continue to share with me, all of the memories that you hold dear. I hope too, that you will continue to follow my blog, put up with my ramblings and recollections, and most importantly, help me keep the “Spirit of Duquesne” and of the hometown we remember, alive and well.

                         HAPPY NEW YEAR MY FRIENDS!

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24 Responses to Reflections of a Duquesne Hunky

  1. Irene Milasincic says:

    Really loved these memories of New Years Eve. We’ve lost the closeness of families living near one another and enjoying being able to celebrate often as families. My family, like so many others are spread far and wide. Even we have lived in McCandless north of Pgh for most of our married life. Now we see our whole immediate family three, maybe four times a year. Thanks for the beautiful memories from a neighbor from McKeesport.

  2. millie says:

    Didn’t grow up in Duquesne, but met alot of great people from Duquesne over the years. I lived/grew up right next door on Eliza street in West Mifflin. I remember roller skating in Duquesne, can anyone verify that and the location. I am hoping I am not dreaming. Thanks for the memories. a west mifflin hunky and proud of it.

    • John (Jack) Berta says:

      Millie,
      There was a roller skating rink in Duquesne. It was located at the end of Seward St. (across Grant Ave. from St. Joe’s church). I didn’t know it existed until a tornado blew it apart in the late 50’s. and it became our source for wheels for the carts we made to ride down the newly blacktopped streets and alleys. Some years later it became a school bus garage.

  3. Becky says:

    Ahhh, Duquesne Hunky, what a service you provide for all of us who remember and cherish all you describe. Thank you I didn’t grow up in Duquesne, but Dravosburg…. However moved to Duquesne my junior year (imagine the trauma of moving at such a critical age) and graduated from DHS in ’71… Came to love it and all those values we now own and share. (Not going to mention walking that hill twice/day, lunchtime and home from school) Would love to see that phoenix rise, and will send positive energy that way;-) Had my pork&sauerkraut, time with children and grandchildren (who know not of these memories) and now Guy Lombardo too! Hakuna Matada, full circle! Cheers 2012

  4. Marsha Peroney Slish says:

    Totally enjoy your posts…..Brings back tons of good memories. I have lived in Fairmont, WV for over 35 yrs, but I still miss the days in Mckeesport. Thank you so much for bringing back very fond and happy memories.

  5. missbtisme says:

    Happy New Year, to you, too!

    Growing up in Pittsburgh our family never ate pork and sauerkraut for good luck for the coming year. Never even heard of doing that. And then…

    Our daughter brought a wonderful young man home with her at the holidays and he explained that it was very important that we have that very dish on January 1st. Absolutely we did- I located real kielbasa at an Eastern European market, no small feat in the desert. So hopefully we’ll have some good luck!

    I’m wondering if there’s a bit of Duquense in this young fellow’s family history 🙂

  6. Bob Chermonitz says:

    Oh, Good Grief! I’ve finally reached the age where I miss Guy Lombardo & his Royal Canadians!!
    Never thought I would but then again I never expected to get this old. My grandfather would look forward to the evening because of Guy Lombardo. New Year’s Eve seemed a little different then. People really dressed up to go out that night. We looked forward to the day we too could put on our best suit and, along with our favorite girl, dance the night away just like the other grownups. But even that passed when my own sons would be going out to celebrate New Year’s Eve with their own favorite girls and I’d sit at home waiting for the phone call saying all’s well. Ahh, the circle of life! And now I miss Guy Lombardo. Go figure. 🙂

  7. Well, the old year has passed and the new has begun. We celebrated it at home in Mesa, AZ with a mixed ethnic tradition. Russian, Polish/Hunky and American. Had BBQ’ed Lil’ Smokies and pumpkin -cream cheese pie desert for American, Kielbasa and Sauerkraut for Hunky, and Shuba (fish Seledka dish) and Akroshka (cold soup) and Pelmeni for Russian. And of course, wine, vodka and champagne. The only thing missing was Guy Lombardo and Jim Volk to make it perfect. Had Russian family and friends to help celebrate. Next year, may include Italian.

  8. Hi Jim,
    It’s nice to read about your nostalgia for Duquesne. I may be one of the few DHS grads (’64) that moved to CA 40 years ago but until last year, made frequent trips from CA to Duquesne to look in on my aging mom. After she sold her house on Hinerman Street, she went to live on 5th Ave at our old Duquesne Junior High School, which became a rather nice independent retirement community. During these visits, my personal memories became rather tainted by the deterioration of the city in general, as gentrification, I guess, was not in the cards for this once vibrant community. On the plus side, when my mom passed away in Sept. 2010, Tiechart-Gracan’s provided a warm welcome, and my mom, who died at 92, received a very grand service at Christ the Light of the World Catholic Church and a repast at the the old Duquesne Country Club. In Huntington Beach, CA where we have lived for the past 40 years, keeping in tradition with acient customs, my friends and neighbors tonight are celebrating New Years at our house with Hungarian stuffed cabbage (garnished with saur kraut) and Polish perogies, which my Huntington Beach friends have come to know and love so well.

    • Jim says:

      Darlene, it sounds like a special night for sure. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. Incidently, my hope has always been that some knight on a white hourse (and packing plenty of money)would swoop in on our once fair city to save it and enable it to rise from the ashes like a pheonix. If fairy tales only came true…….. Happy New Year – Jim

  9. Leslie says:

    I absolutely loved your “Remembering Duquesne”….brought tears to my eyes. I’m quite sure that there are many of u out there who long for the days when Duquesne was THE BEST PLACE IN THE WORLD TO LIVE! As long as we have our memories…we can keep the remembrances of our once beautiful city alive, at least in our hearts and in the corners of our minds.
    Please continue to share with us……I enjoy each and every segment! Many thanks!

  10. Michael Bashista says:

    A very Happy New Year to you, your family and all of our friends on this blog. I too have my pork, kielbasa and sauerkraut ready for the New Year. Be Safe and have a happy and prosperous 2012. We look forward to your musings and remeberances during 2012.

    • Michael, As soon as I saw your name, here, a big smile came over my face, remembering your very pleasant way of treating everybody in our Senior Class of !962. Your slogan, as stated in our yearbook was, “It’s a possibility.” I trust all the best possibilities worked out well for you, through all these years.
      Frank Mullen, a fellow Explorer and fan of Mr. Ondrey’s, too.

      We may not be able to “go home again,” but this venue sure makes for nice visits back, doesn’t it.

      • Michael Bashista says:

        Great hearing from “The Duke”. Hope all is well with you and the years have been kind to you. I also was looking thru my 1962 yearbook at all the old classmates and teachers. Hopefully I will see you and many of our old classmates at our “50th” reunion this year. Happy New Year>

      • Soooooo good to hear from you soon, Michael. I was hoping you might do so. I’m not certain about attending the reunion, but I may be returning to our hometown, in the Spring, for a nostalgic tour. Glenn Choate still lives in the area, as do a couple cousins, so I’ll have plenty of tour guides and kind hearts to enrich the experience. Are there many of the Class of ’62 still in the area? I’m not sure I’d know where to meet to say hello and have a nice meal, though, it’s all changed so very much. A few years ago, Glenn and Gloria took me to a nice restaurant in a mall that seemed to be within the footprint of the former Homestead Steel Mill, but I’m not positive. It sure would be pleasant to say hello in person and share a meal.
        Frank, a Duke of DHS (but not the Duke of Eaaarrrrlll)

  11. Vickie Brady says:

    Happy New year to you and your family. My memory of New Years eve was always watching Guy Lombardo and the ball drop no matter where we were. Have a Safe, Happy, Healthy New Year and keep posting I really enjoy reading these post, Thank You

  12. Wonderful Jim, Even though I am from “across the river” in McKeesport, your blog brings back so many good memories. My dad and step-mom are buried in the cemetery on the hill in Duquesne as with so many of my step moms Ondechek family. Please keep up the good work. May you and yours have a peaceful, healthy and prosperous 2012.

  13. Debra Faust-Clancy says:

    Jim, Once again your memories of the town we all grew up in have seared my heart and brought tears to my eyes. It seems so long ago because it was! Over half a century to be exact. These musings and writings will exist for your own new grandson to read and wonder over when he’s your age now. He will be amazed at how much you could remember for a geezer! Maybe it will inspire him to be a writer, or a photographer or just a memory-maker… Memories from our childhoods will always be precious to us since they contain loved-ones smiling faces who no longer walk the earth – only in our memories. But I am so grateful to have had those happy times and gratitude is the key, isn’t it, to a happy life? So Thank you Jim, for tugging out my own sweet memories and giving me the knowledge that my old friends and neighbors are still there remembering like I am. Happy New Year! I’ve got my sauerkraut and pork already cooked and waiting for at least one bite to ensure good luck in the coming year. Warmest wishes to you and your family.

  14. rc904@verizon.net says:

    Great work on the web site. We can all relate if you’re from Western PA and grew up in one of those mill towns when life was hard, but simple and true. I always wish the Country had the same values we grew up with. It would be a better place.

    • Jim says:

      Thanks Ron! Whether it was Duquesne or Jeannette, the values were there. Happy New Year to you and Paula! – Jim

      • And when you say “the values were there,” Jim, in my opinion, those values were centered on people, the hard-working, industrious, church and family-oriented, friend-blessed lives we enjoyed back then. I would dare further venture to suggest that the successful lives we live, today, have maintained those values, earning us lives rich with people, and likely, a few nice things, too. When I look back at my youth, nurtured in the Duquesne of the latter-40’s, the 50’s, and the 60’s, it is the peacefulness infused throughout the whole environment, contributed by ALL our neighbors and relatives, that made life valuable. I don’t recall as many of the THINGS that detailed life, back then, except for the landmarks, of course, as well as I remember how safe and at-home everywhere I walked in and around Duquesne and McKeesport were. The people we knew made all the difference. When we see the photos shared, here, of our hometown of decades ago, the streets and buildings have value, now, to us because of the people we remember having been there.
        Just my opinion.
        Frank

  15. sally morini says:

    Happy New Year to you and keep “The Duquesne Hunky” going. Thanks for your time wrting the articles…………

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