С Рождеством and Happy New Year everyone!
Well, it’s official. We have reached the close of the “Hunky Holiday Season.” Friday, January 06, 2012, is the Epiphany, the 7th will be the Orthodox Russian Christmas, and the following day will be the day that the party was over in Duquesne. Once this date had arrived, most residents began the process of packing away their Christmas decorations, and one by one, dried tree carcasses began appearing outside of everyone’s home.
I remember sitting on the floor with my mother and helping her pack away the Christmas ornaments each year. She would carefully wrap each and every ornament, usually with some old tissue paper that had been saved from gifts from previous years. That was a time before the “BIC disposable everything” mentality most people have today. The ornaments were cherished and were always handled with “TLC” to assure that no damage would occur during their eleven month hibernation in our basement’s “fruit cellar.”
Along with the holidays this year, I have made my fair share of New Year’s resolutions, many of which I’ve already failed to keep. However, I made one resolution that I am determined to keep, without fail. I am bound and determined to continue writing my blog and hopefully increase the number of people reading it by leaps and bounds. My plan is:
- I have secured a direct web address for the blog. Going forward, you can reach The Duquesne Hunky blog by simply using duquesnehunky.com as the link. It just makes it more accessible.
- I will provide more information about our hometown that you might find interesting or fascinating. After all, we are all part of Duquesne’s Family Tree and it would be nice to know more about the components that were part of our culture and roots.
- I will continue to find as many photographs as I can, to share with you. I have recently found more resources and hopefully will have additional photos from our era to share.
- Realizing that it is not just current or former Duquesne residents that are reading this blog, I hope to include more perspectives about the surrounding communities that were part of our lives such as McKeesport, Dravosburg, West Mifflin, Munhall, etc.
So, in order to begin the new year right, I would like to share with you, an article that was part of a special section of the Duquesne Observer, and published in 1902. The Duquesne Observer was published from 18?? to 1912. I believe it may have first been published in 1890, but cannot confirm that date. The Observer eventually merged with the Duquesne Times in 1912.
In 1902, the special edition was titled “The Industrial, Historical Supplement to The Observer.” The publication contained a wealth of information about our hometown; however the section that immediately captured my attention was the part that addressed our beloved library. I realize that I have written about the library previously, but that was basically from a personal perspective. Until I read this article, I never realized the magnitude of our loss when the library was torn down. I’m sure you’ll be feeling as “violated” as I did once you read the article.
It was VERY evident that there was already a deep love for the library even before it opened its doors for the first time on Saturday, May 14, 1904. Following the article, I have included a front page article from The Observer which describes the opening day ceremonies. When the library was demolished, it was a mere 64 years of age. For some reason, I always thought it to be much older. We have all said it before; the demolition of the Carnegie Library of Duquesne was among the greatest travesty’s that occurred in Duquesne. These two articles further exemplify that fact…….
THE DUQUESNE LIBRARY
The ground has been broken and actual work of erection commenced upon the Duquesne public library building, and the indications are that the institution will have been completed and dedicated to the use of the people within another year. The proposed arrangement of the edifice has received the sanction and approval of the donor, Andrew Carnegie, and as a whole, the building will take high rank among the libraries of the world. The structure will be sub-divided as follows:
• Swimming Pool
• Shower baths
• Individual dressing rooms
• Bath rooms
• Wash Rooms
• Men’s and Women’s retiring rooms
• Boiler room
• Engine room
• Two bowling alleys
• Unpacking rooms
• Cataloguing rooms
• The library
• Stack room
• Adults’ reading room
• Children’s reading room
• Librarian’s room
• Attendant’s room
• Billiard room
• Game room
• Reception room
• The office
• The foyer
• The loggia*
• The vestibule
• The music hall
• Dressing rooms
• The gymnasium and locker room
• Physical director’s room
• Balcony of music hall
• Two class rooms
• One lecture room
*Note – Loggia is the name given to an architectural feature, originally of Minoan design. They are often a gallery or corridor at ground level, sometimes higher, on the facade of a building and open to the air on one side, where it is supported by columns or pierced openings in the wall.
A wondrously beautiful and magnificent gift is that which Andrew Carnegie, the prince of the iron and steel world, is about to bestow upon Duquesne. It is a library building, fashioned after the most pleasing and approved models of architecture, substantially constructed, attractive to the eye, stocked with pleasure-giving and strength-bestowing equipment, and furnished in the most luxurious manner – a home for the people, and particularly those who may desire a greater development of mind and body.
The cost of the elegant structure and institution, exclusive of the books with which the library is to be stocked, the apparatus which is to find a place in the gymnasium, the fine pipe organ which is to ornament the music hall, and the grading of the grounds surrounding the building will be $250,000. With these things added, however, the total expenditure to be made by Mr. Carnegie in favor of the town will aggregate considerably more than $300,000. Nothing is to be left undone that will add to the beauty of the edifice or the comfort and enjoyment of those whom Mr. Carnegie seeks to reach. It will be not only a fine institution, but beyond a peradventure, one of the greatest and most complete of its kind in the world, and one of which the people may well afford to be proud. It will likewise be an enduring monument to the munificence of the donor and his intense interest in the intellectual, moral and physical welfare of the workmen through whose efforts and co-operation he has risen to such heights of fame.
THE LIBRARY GROUNDS
The building is to be erected on the elevation bounded by South Second and South Third streets and Kennedy and Whitfield avenues at a point whence it may be seen for a considerable distance in all directions. The ground between the entrance and South Duquesne avenue is to be graded off to a gently falling slope, all the houses now within the limits of the park are to be removed and a 100-foot boulevard is to be opened, running from South Duquesne avenue to the library. The side streets will likewise be open, giving easy access to the building. Spacious lawns will also be laid out, beds of flowers and other of nature’s choicest gifts will be sprinkled about here and there and the surroundings made just as attractive and beautiful as possible.
At the head of the 100-foot boulevard and facing South Second street and the east will be the building itself. The structure will be in the form of the letter “T” inverted, the main part extending along South Second street and the music hall reaching back towards Third street. Its greatest length will be 230 feet and its greatest depth 136 feet. The ends will be circular in form. The walls will be pressed red brick and stone and the roof of tile. At the main entrance an offset, 59 feet in length and 20 feet in depth, is provided, so that the sameness of the front might be relieved. Scores of windows make certain an abundance of good light, not only in the first and second floors, but also in the basement.
The architects have created a pleasing entrance for the building and one that cannot but be greatly admired. It is 59 feet wide, and leading up are a number of stone steps, planted in which are two electro-plated bronze posts, holding aloft, clusters of brilliant electric lamps. At the head of the steps are eight stone pillars, which act as supports for a balcony over the entrance. The passageway into the building is separated into three entrances, the one on the left leading to the library proper, the one in the center leading to the music hall, and the one on the right leading to the gymnasium and billiards hall. These three vestibules, however, are provided with swinging doors, thus giving access from one to the other. They may, also, be all thrown into one, should the occasion require.
THE GREAT BASEMENT
The basement occupies all the space under the entire building and is fitted up in a manner that is keeping with the entire institution. In it are the swimming pool, the dressing rooms, the shower baths, the bath tubs, the wash rooms, the lavatories, the retiring rooms, the boiler and engine rooms, two bowling alleys, the work room and the cataloging room. The swimming pool is situated in the northern end of the basement. It is 60×28 feet. Around the pool is a marble coping, and the pool itself is lined with white enameled tile. The water in the basin will vary in depth from four to six feet. Around three sides of the room are 46 individual dressing rooms, and connected with the apartment are two shower baths. To the west of the pool is the men’s bath room, I8 x 5O feet containing 11 individual bath tubs and three shower baths. Back of this are the men’s lavatory and wash rooms. From the bath room leads a circular stairway to the gymnasium on the second floor. In the rear of the basement are the men’s and women’s retiring rooms, which are connected by stairways with the stage in the music hall on the first floor.
Large boiler and engine rooms are situated under the music hall and two bowling alleys occupy the space under the entrance. These alleys are 85 x 18 feet and are provided with comfortable seats for both spectators and players. To the south of this little pleasure resort is a work room, 40×20 feet, and immediately adjoining it is the unpacking room, 28×20 feet, where all books and furniture may be received and unpacked. In the southern circular end of the basement is a commodious cataloguing room. Here all books will be properly catalogued, marked and placed in bookcases, preparatory to being sent to the library by means of an elevator.
THE FIRST FLOOR
The first floor, the most important of the institution, is separated into the library, the main reading room, the librarian’s room, the children’s reading room, the game room, an office, the foyer, the music hall and dressing rooms, all elaborately furnished, finished and decorated.
The library proper occupies the entire southern wings of the building, and in the circular part is the stack room, which is provided with huge bookcases for the proper care and listing of the books. Its greatest dimensions are 42×21 feet at the entrance to the apartment are the delivery clerks’ desks, and adjoining these desks is the delivery room, 66×14 feet. A person wishing to obtain a book may pass from the delivery room (by means of turn doors) into the stack room, where he may look through the bookcases and select whatever volume he may desire, the same being delivered to him by the delivery clerics, of whom there will possibly be three. At the start 20,000 volumes will be placed at the disposal of the public.
In the eastern part of this end of the building is the main reading room, 48×20 feet. It is for the use of adults only and is provided with numerous bookcases for periodicals and books. Fourteen tables are arranged at different points for readers. Adjoining this apartment on the north is the librarian’s room, 8×20 feet. To the west of the delivery room is the children’s reading room, 48×20 feet. This apartment is for the use of children only, is provided with necessary bookcases and twelve tables. The chairs, tables, washstands and all the furniture are smaller and lower, to suit the convenience of the little folks. Adjoining this room on the north is the attendants’ room, 8×20 feet.
From the entrance vestibules of the building one is ushered into the foyer or reception hall, which is 40×22 feet. It is beautifully decorated and brilliantly lighted. Two stairways lead from it into the balcony of the music hall.
The music hall is in that end of the building west of the foyer. Its greatest dimensions, from door to stage, are 52x6O feet. It will be seated with comfortable opera chairs and have two main and two side aisles. Its seating capacity will be 850. At the western end of the hall is the stage, 65 feet wide and 22 feet deep, with dressing rooms on either side. At the left of the stage room is provided, also, for a large pipe organ, which is to be presented by Mrs. Carnegie. The balcony extends out over a part of the rear of the hall and is also provided with opera chairs. The decorations of the music hall will be very fine.
The billiard and pool room is situated in the northern end of the first floor and is 52×56 feet in dimensions. On its floor are five billiard and two pool tables, with seats in the circular end of the room for spectators. Persons will be allowed the use of the tables for 20 minutes at a time —that is, if there be others waiting their turn; otherwise they may play as long as they wish. Adjoining the billiard room on the south is a parlor, or more properly, a reception room. It is 21×21 feet.
Adjoining this reception room on the east is the game room, which promises to become very popular with all classes. It is a commodious apartment and will be provided with all sorts of innocent games and amusements. Next comes an office 8×20 feet, and a coat room of the same dimensions. A vestibule, 14×02 feet, extends all the way from the billiard room to the delivery room of the library proper.
THE SECOND FLOOR
The second floor is fully as spacious as the first floor and contains much of interest. Included within its walls are a complete gymnasium and locker room, a physical director’s office, the balcony of the music hall, two class rooms and one lecture room.
The gymnasium is located in the northern wing and immediately over the billiard room. Its dimensions are 80×55 feet, and around three sides of it are forty lockers, or closets, in which the members may keep their clothing and valuables under lock and key. It is fitted up with the very latest apparatus, such as horizontal bars, parallel bars, swinging rings, Indian clubs, dumb bells, weights, etc. A flight of stairs leads from one end of the room directly to the swimming pool and bath rooms in the basement, making access from the gymnasium to the baths very easy. The gymnasium will be in charge, of course, of a physical director whose office will adjoin the gymnasium. The rear wing of this floor is taken up with the upper part or the music hall and the balcony of the same.
In the southern wing is a lecture room, 53×28 feet. It is to be seated with chairs and is for the use of smaller gatherings than would require such a large room as the music hall. Alongside of it are two class rooms, each of which is 29×20 feet. These are for the use of different classes which it is proposed to organize for study of various subjects.
The floors in both stories of the building will be of yellow pine, except in the loggia (just inside the entrance), the foyer and the vestibule on the first floor, in which case marble is to be used.
The contract for the heating and ventilating apparatus has been awarded to Baker, Smith & Co. of New York. It will, of course, be of the very latest design and of the most approved pattern. Steam heat will be employed. Electricity will be used for lighting both the building and grounds, the current to be supplied from the Carnegie works. Weldon & Kelly of Pittsburg have the contract for the plumbing of the institution, and it goes with the saying that it will be complete in every detail.
MODE OF CONDUCTING
This great building and its furnishings are to be presented to the people of Duquesne free of all cost, but it cannot be expected that all the privileges of the same are to be extended gratis. A board of directors will be in control and will have charge of all affairs relating to the conduct of the institution. These directors will probably be six in number, three coming from the Carnegie works and the remaining ones from the town. The privileges of the library proper and the reading rooms will be absolutely free to those who care to make use of them Any reputable person—man, woman or child — may take out one book per day, providing he or she return it, in good condition, within a certain length of time, say one or two weeks. Otherwise the lease on the book must be renewed or a fine paid.
Immediately after the dedication of the building an organization will be formed, to be known probably as the Duquesne Library Athletic club, the members of which will be granted the use and privileges not only of the library, but also every remaining department of the building, including the gymnasium, the baths, the billiard parlors, the bowling alleys, etc. Rates of membership in this organization will be about as follows: For employees of the Carnegie works, $1 per quarter; for residents of the town, not employees of the Carnegie works, $2 per quarter.
HISTORY OF THE PROJECT
On November 12, 1898, a committee of citizens called upon Mr. Carnegie at the Carnegie offices in Pittsburg, and through Dr. L. H. Botkin, their spokesman, made known the fact that Duquesne desired a library at the hands of the steel king. On the committee were: Messrs. John W. Crawford, L. H. Botkin, L. Kurlong, Rev. Father D. Shanahan, Prof. W. D. Brightwell, W. C. Libengood, G. W. Richards, A. E. Freeman, Wm. Dell, C. S. Harrop, P. H. Gilday and A. M. Blair.
The committee was introduced to Mr. Carnegie by Jos. E. Schwab, then general superintendent of the Duquesne steel works, and was soon informed that the town would be presented with a library building fully as good as that which had been erected at Homestead. The matter of arranging the details for the erection of the library was left by Mr. Carnegie in charge of Supt. Schwab who, after consulting with leading citizens, selected for the site that plot of ground surrounded by South Third street, Kennedy avenue, South Duquesne avenue and Line alley (now Whitfield avenue). The property was purchased from Mrs. Priscilla Kennedy and Miss Zella Bovard, at a cost of about $80,000. The plans for the building were prepared by Alden A Harlow of Pittsburg, and the contract for the erection of the edifice was awarded to Miller & Sons of the same city. The actual work of construction was commenced on July 10, 1901, and is now progressing in a satisfactory manner.
THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE APPEARED IN THE OBSERVER ON FRIDAY, MAY 20, 1904. IT ADDRESSES THE OPENING DAY CEREMONIES FOR THE DUQUESNE LIBRARY:
The picture under “The Library Grounds” was one of the first sights I ever saw. I was born in Duquesne and lived at the corner of Library Place, right across the street in that direction. Moved out before I learned how to read, so I never availed myself of the books or the pool. But it was a fond memory anyway.
Upon further reflection about the mill and the library in Duquesne, I must say, I can’t, for the life of me, dissect what it was about living in Duquesne, back in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, that made it so special. Yet, very special it was – almost “sacramental,” if you ask me. Was it a child’s view of life back then which colors my vision looking backwards, now? Somehow, I don’t believe so.
From my perspective, I felt safe everywhere, no matter where I explored. Every “Duquesne-day” was an adventure for me. Every nook-and-cranny was interesting. For example, one day, after a whole afternoon of seeing movies (and the attendant “Previews of Coming Attractions” and the cartoons) at The Plaza Theater (I loved all that interior “Mediterranean-style” detailing, esp. the muted blue lighting of the niches,) my friends and I went crawling around behind the bank and the theater. We had decided it was a space we had inadvertently ignored previously, which immediately required full inspection. We discovered the spaces contained no transients housed in cubbyholes; no urine marked walls; no garbage; just a bunch of black metal fire escapes and corners to peer around.
Later in life, when I was a teenager, I felt comfortable, and even energized, by walking from Duquesne Place, down the boulevard to Duquesne; then, up the hill to West Mifflin, past Kopriever’s Florist, and onward to the top of the hill where a bakery at the modest strip-mall had the best thumb-print cookies ever. Next, I’d walk down the hill and across the bridge (at another time, I’d explore what was underneath it) all the way to West Mifflin’s handsome, modern, new high school, and then continue down Commonwealth Ave. to my home on Miller Ave. I had “taken in the sights” and enjoyed every step.
Those were two lackluster “ventures,” surely, in some folks’ minds, I imagine; yet, they have remained enjoyable, precious memories for me to this day. And I cannot explain why. Can anybody?
I still remember my Duquesne Library number — 7959. We were allowed to go to the Library from Holy Name during lunch. And, don’t forget stopping at Mrs. Parker’s store (across the street from tne Library) for penny candy on the way. The store was a little sun porch on the front of her house. She had a Cocker Spaniel who was always there. That library was beautiful. I learned to swim there as did my older brothers, Tom and Pat. To look at these pictures of that beautiful structure that was demolished makes me sick.
Oh My Now I remember The Candy store! My Mom and I would stand in front of it waiting for the Bus to take us Downtown Pittsburgh Shopping!!!! Coming home from Pittsburgh we would get off the bus at Woodys Drug store next to the Movie theater!
Very good article. I stumbled onto your website while searching for information about the Carnegie Library of Duquesne. In the summers of ’65 and ’66 I had summer jobs at the Duquesne Works. I preferred the 3-11 shift (hated getting up in the mornings) and would trade other summer guys for that shift. I commuted to work from Mt. Lebanon and would often arrive a couple of hours early and go to the Duquesne Library to read. It was a peaceful majestic place to read. I could sit on the front steps and contemplate another sweaty shift in the checkers and channels of the open hearth. The Library seemed to be an eternal place, but, alas, not so. Apparently I enjoyed its atmosphere in the years just before it was torn down. Sic transit gloria mundi.
“Thus passes the glory of the world.” Ain’t it the truth?
Mr.Coffman, Hearing about your observations and experiences while you worked at the Duquesne Works would be interesting, no doubt. I find it marvelous that you would read at the library before going to work, which seems exceptional, to me. My impression (as a teenager at the time) was that many men opted for a few beers or shots before entering the soot-dusted gates of the mills (or was that after their shifts?)
Also, hearing from anybody else who worked at the Duquesne mill, or at the other steel mills in McKeesport or Homestead, for example, would be a unique trip down memory-lane, too.
Frank, I agree 100%! I would really enjoy to hear more and more about the experiences. – Jim
I finally got a chance to return to your blog and saw your reply to my post.
I was fresh out of high school the summer of ’65 thus precluded from enjoying the local bars. I can only imagine how dangerous I would have been in the open hearth with the addition of a couple of drinks. However, I was familiar with those who had their “eyeopeners” before work, both in the mill and in later summer jobs on the railroad. As to memories of working at Duquesne Works, time has dulled some of the memories but I do remember the sirens, noise and alarms on the charging floor of the open hearth. It was initially overwhelming but one quickly became accustomed to the activity. We summer guys were issued our brown hard hats, green stiff coats and pants, goggles with screens on the sides and safety boots. You could get some sort of pink citation if you were caught working with out any of the safety gear. I remember the locker room with its large circular communal wash sinks.
Watching the furnaces being tapped and the molten steel pouring into the ladles and then being transferred into the molds sitting on railway cars was always fascinating. As I mentioned in the previous post, cleaning out the checkers and channels under the furnaces was a hot and arduous job. The checkers were a checkerboard pattern of refractory bricks where the solid byproducts of the steel making process would collect. There was a domed roof over the checkers that wasn’t high enough to allow standing up. Two guys would go into the space (without any respiratory protective equipment!!) and sit on mental buckets topped with a board. The buckets would get too hot to sit on directly. A pneumatic hammer with a round tip having a small chain attached would be lowered and pulled up in the checker via its air hose by one guy while the other guy activated the trigger to make the end of the hammer spin around causing the chain to knock off all the accretions in the checkers. Care was taken not to activate the hammer before being inserted into the next checker of else you could have a nasty leg injury. Much dust and debris would blow up out of the checker into your face, leaving your mouth coated with a black grime. Each team could only stay in the area above the checkers for 5 or 10 minutes before the heat was too intense to endure. The conditions in the checkers probably provided good business for pulmonologists in subsequent years. But, hey, we were young and tough.
Other memories include, being sent to the commissary to get various snacks for the men; watching the men waiting at the gates at quitting time and once the whistle blew and the gates opened, many actually sprinted to their cars to get out of there (not sure
what the hurry was); going home tired in the morning after the 11-7 shift (sometimes very cold on the two wheelers I motored around on in those days). One night when overtime was offered, one of the summer guys, eager to get home and so some summer socializing, asked the straw boss if you ‘had’ to work overtime. The straw boss was incredulous that anyone would would consider turning down overtime, and gave a most colorful (or off-color answer) to the effect of, “Do you ‘have’ to work overtime? No you don’t ‘have’ to work overtime, and if you have your (certain body part) in a (certain body part) you don’t have to (verb) it either.” (My apologies to the more delicate readers of this blog.)
I realize I was privileged to work in the mill and make good money those two summers. I was part of something that was the centerpiece of American industry at one time. As the library went, so went the mill. I remember driving into Duquesne some days when the air was smokey and smelled of the mill and thinking that those smells were the smells of livelihood and a sense of place for generations of families in and around Duquesne.
I enjoy your blog because it captures life at a simpler, and subjectively to me, better time. As you say, there was something about growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, in Duquesne and elsewhere that was qualitatively different (the dangers of nostalgic distortion notwithstanding). The slower pace and the sense of shared community and values are things I miss.
Thanks so much for you very vivid description of life in the mills. Although the majority of my uncles spent their entire working career at USS, I never had the opportunity to experience any part of that world except as a spectator on the other side of the gates!
I have several photos of the “life on the inside of the mill” that I can’t wait to share with my blog’s readers. You’ve inspired me and I can’t wait to share them with all of you. Keep reading AND writing. I enjoy you point of view and your writing style.
Jim Volk – A Duquesne Hunky!
Hi Frank, I graduated with you and I did work in the Duquesne works and the note by Rod is exactly how I remember it. As I wrote before, my experience was a little different because I had an accident on 3 JUly 1963 at 3PM. Lots of 3’s there. I almost lost my middle (third) finger in an accident involving the train that shuttled the poured ingots to the stripping mill. My job was to disconnect the cars as they got in place and the one I was working on, had molten steel in the coupling mechanism, and as I pulled it to uncouple, the couple snapped back and pulled my hand into the side of the car. The bar squeezed my hand into the side of the car and it really stung. I kept trying to uncouple the car and then realized that my hand was hurting. I took off my glove and blood was pouring down my hand. I held it up to my engine operator and he freaked out. He jumped out of the cab and ran toward me without putting on the brake. The train starte to roll down the tracks with no one in the engine! He ran back and put the brake on and then tended to me. He rushed me to the first aid station which was only about a hundred yards away.
He ran in screaming for a doctor and I just sat down. When the doc came out he thought my engineer was the one hurt since he was in a fit! He finally realized it was me who was hurt. Up til then, I did not feel much pain, but when the doc took off my glove and cleaned the wound and then took the top of my finger off the bone, I nearly passed out! The wound was so bad that they could not stich it, so they put a butterfly bandaid over it and sent me back to work!! Yes, they did not want a “lost time” injury so I sat in the foremans office for the rest of the day. Big investigation and they cleaned up all the bad couplers after that. It was the way it worked back then, and I walked away with a desire to not be a mill hunk… tom
Hey Tom, Of course, I remember you as a member of our graduating class (!) and am horrified to learn that you were injured in the mill, especially so seriously – and only a year after graduation, no less! You were as cool, well-liked, friendly, popular, and clean-cut as anybody in our Class of ’62. Thinking of you as going through such a trauma is distressing, even now. Those miils were dangerous, scary places that a person sure needed all his wits to navigate, so when even a young man with your intelligence could get injured, some procedure was missing or wrong somewhere, it would seem. I’ll bet the lawsuits would be a-flyin’ if that happpened today, especially considering that back-to-work directive imposed upon the injured you.
You and I had working at Kennywood, as well as working at a local steel miil, in common. Such employment imbued a strong work-ethic in a person, didn’t it. I loved my time at Kennywood; fled as fast as I could any thought of working beyond one summer at U.S. Steel National Tube Works , in McKeesport, beneath the “scaling pits” (I think they were called,) which was scary, incredibly dirty, and totally exhausting hard-labor. Like you said, not being a “mill hunk” for too long suited me just fine, too. However, I certainly did learn a sincere respect for those who worked most of their lives in the mills, like my father and uncles. Where did such self-discipline, courage, and intellectual and physical power come from in those workers?
After my short tenure at National Tube, I worked at McKeesport Hospital, in Respiratory Therapy, and appreciated those responsibilties there very much. Many lives were touched by that hospital.
I don’t think I saw a completely dark night sky until I went to college in Ohio. Before then, looking toward McKeesport from my home in Duquesne Place always seemed to present an undulating orange glow at the horizon and upward. The mills were omnipresent in our lives, back then, weren’t they, and those orange skies seemed to symbolize it.
Hi Mame; How’s your Mom. Your Dad was one of my favorite cousins..
Hope you and family are in good health. Friend always,
Spent most of my young life there, having worked there too($1.00/hr) I got to see it all, the attic was huge, got to lower the chandeliers down using the hand crank hoists change a couple bulbs & crank it back up. If we were lucky enough to get extra help 3 or 4 of us would cut the grass & hedges, all by hand, no self propelled back then. When I came back from Nan it was gone, what a shame. Thanks for all the posts.
I loved that building! And was so sorry to see it torn down. I learned to swim in the pool and for a brief time was a member of the Duquesne Dolphins. I also would stay for hours exploring all of the wonderful books. Great article Jim – and I learned there was so much more to that beautiful building.
The houses that replaced the library didn’t help to rejuvenate Duquesne. That magnificent building would have brought more joy to the citizens of Duquesne, than all those houses have.
We can, all, learn a great lesson here.
Linda, I had long left Duquesne when I heard that the library was being demolished. That news astounded me, I didn’t understand the decision then and I don’t understand it now. I have fond memories of waiting on the steps to load onto buses to take us to scout camp in Rector.
You may or may not remember me but I remember you from hanging out on the corner in front of your house with Jim McAllen, Eugene Tutera, Jerry Oxford, Stephen Babyock and others…..sometimes enjoying Irene’s Pizza as we shivered on a cold winter night.
I never used the “books” area of the library that much,just the pool. There was swimming for boys and men on some weeknights and for a couple of hours on Saturday. We lived “up the hill” near the West Mifflin boarder and naturally walked both ways. There was a Chinese laundry around 3rd or 4th street and as we approached it on Saturday afternoons we would all agree not to taunt the China-man because we were dead tired from swimming in the warm water and he would always respond to our taunts of “Ching Chang China-man” by chasing us up Kennedy avenue. Never the less it never failed one of the guys would taunt him just the same,and he’d oblige with a foot chase,if I remember correctly,hot iron in hand.
Jim, thanks for the great article on the library. I don’t remember a gym or bowling alleys. I do have very fond memories of the book area, both kids & adults; the swimming pool & the music hall/auditorium on the upper level with the wonderful double stairway coming down to the middle floor.
Whomever issued the order to tear down that wonderful building ought to be locked up in the pen. for life!!!! What a crime & shame that was!
great article jim about the library. i have to say that building was my whole life as a child growing up in duquesne and west mifflin.i can remember pete chote and john madaya were my swimming instructors at 4-5 years old, and then i had dancing classes at miss pats dance school, learning jazz, ballet, and tapp, then i went on to use the great library itself with many books.i eventually went to the library for my brownie and girl scout meetings, and we used the stage for plays and banquets. i also remember using the gymnasium on the 2nd floor. i forgot about the bowling allys. i must not have gotten there too often. oh but i think i was in that pool every day, well i’m almost 60 now and i think that library was one of the greatest gifts ever given to a city, its really too bad the children today couldn’t enjoy it the way we did back in the 50’s and 60’s. when they tore it down, i think a lot of children that went there for so many things, felt like a part of them was gone. its really a shame its gone. but we will always have the great memories of the library remembering our childhoods in our hearts forever!!!!
Regarding that beautiful Duquesne Carnegie Library building, I can still smell the fragrance of the chlorine wafting up from the pool, greeting visitors as soon as we entered the front doors from the loggia. Also, I recall, clearly, how serious the librarians were about patrons – children and adults – being quiet, and how rewarded we felt when we were granted permission to transfer from the “Children’s Dept.” to the “Adult Reading” rooms across the center aisle (I believe my memory of that arrangement is correct.) The white marble – nearly everywhere, it seemed – was one of the factors that bestowed upon the building and its visitors an impression of formal-yet-available elegance. The thick, greenish, translucent glass floors among levels of the stacks were exceptional features, too. To me, the whole place was an irreplaceable treasure.
I was present for a few hours when they were demolishing it.
Frank Mullen, of Miller Avenue, Duquesne Place
Never knew there were books in the Library. After school left out at 3:20 at the High School I sped over to the gym and picked up BB games with the steelworkers from the 7-3 shift Occasionally went to the pool or the pool tables. Never did find the books!! Ken Denne
Hi Ken Denne! This is Mamie Denne Donohue! Nice to “hear” from you or at least see your name in print!
Many folks, through the years, bring your name up to me. My Dad always thought so much of you.
It is sad but so nice to read all of the replys regarding the library. I also enjoyed many hours swimming and reading there. I used to think that I was going to be a poet!! That is so funny now that I think of that. It all came from reading poetry in the adult section when I was a kid.
I’ll bet that you are still a Steeler fan? Lets hope that we all enjoy the game tomorrow!
I find this article very interesting for the fact I have just learned so much more about the Library in Duquesne. I was unaware that there was so much more to the library. I knew about the swimming pool and of course the library and all its rooms but I was unaware of all the other activities it held. Like they say you learn something new every day Thank you Jim for me learning another small part of Duquesne History
When the library opened in 1904 my paternal grandfather, John Chermonitz, was four months old. He was was born below the tracks when houses still occupied areas which the Duquesne mill would take over in the future. I too always thought that the library was much older. My grandfather lived until 1978. Too bad the library didn’t. They both were a big part of my life!
Jim, sorry to correct you but January 7th is Christmas Day for the Greek Orthodox. January 6th is their Christmas Eve. I know this because the story of my traumatic entrance into the world was told over and over again. Dr. Provasnik was taken away from his Christms Eve celebration to help my Mom bring me into this world. I was to be born at home but because of the bad time I was giving my Mom the doctor had to drive her to the McKeesport hospital where I was born on 2:10 a.m. Christmas Day, January 7, 1938. After making sure all was well, the good doctor and my Dad then went out to continue their Greek Christmas celebration. The date is according to the Julian calendar not Epiphany.
Thanks for the story about the library. We were just discussing it the other evening with friends and they couldn’t believe a library was so magnificent. Now I have the proof!
Barbara – thanks for the info about Jan 7th. I will definately correct my post! – Jim
Hello Barbara, I was baptized at St Peter & Paul Greek Catholic Church. January 7th was the “second” Christmas for me as a kid. My Mom , however, being Roman Catholic made certain I got a good “Irish” Catholic education at Holy Name School where I was a classmate of Jim Volk. My paternal grandparents and my father and our extended family honored the tradition for many years. Orthodox Christmas was a much more somber holiday than was Dec. 25th. No gifts but all family and alot of homemade food. Today I always leave the Christmas decorations up until January 7th has passed. My wife put them all away today. I’ll always remember what we called “Russian Christmas” as long as I live. And thank you for your reminder.
What an interesting article about the Duquesne Library. The city lost a real gem when they tore it down. Along with the Duquesne City Bank building they were two fabulous pieces of architecture.