When Duquesne Was Young

Many of you share the same  perspective in time as I do about Duquesne. For the most part, the 40’s, 50’s and early 60’s are the “Golden Days of Duquesne” in our memories. If compared to the City of Duquesne’s present conditions, the differences are monumentally dramatic. When I was born in 1951, the city was 60 years old. The memory of what Duquesne looked like in the 50’s is forever etched in my mind, as if I always appeared that way. However, I was amazed at the beauty of the city just 36 years earlier in 1915.

Thanks to the generosity of Jim Hartman from the Mifflin Township Historical Society, I have been able to share countless photos and articles that illustrate the Duquesne we all remember. I will forever indebted to him for his kindness.

As I was sifting through some of these photographs, I found a group that struck me as such a striking array of images. It dawned on me that as special a place that Duquesne holds in our minds, we may have a skewed perspective on how incredible it really was!

Duquesne was incorporated in 1891. The pictures I was looking at were taken in 1915 when the city was a mere 24 years old. In August of 1915, the city sponsored a “City Beautiful Contest.” Four years earlier in 1911, the Board of Commerce made the determination that “there were not enough flowers raised in this town to assemble a respectable bouquet from.” At that point, they formed a City Beautiful committee to address the issue. The committee encouraged the propagation of plants and flowers throughout the city, and the following year, began their annual “City Beautiful Contest. As you can see from the photos, by 1915, a virtual hunky rainforest had been created by some citizens!

In addition to the photographs, I was able to find an article from the year they were taken that speaks to the contest and the entire concept of beautifying Duquesne. Unfortunately, I was not able to find a photo of the prize winning home of Felix Tarantino, but you’ll certainly get a flavor of what it was like.

I hope you enjoy looking through these. It was very hard for me to recognize any of the homes as they were. I ended up viewing them either on the PA Tax records or with Google Earth to see what they looked like today. I decided to refrain from sharing those “todays” with you. It was far too sad.

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11 Responses to When Duquesne Was Young

  1. Sharyn Kelley Manns says:

    Lora – I remember your dad – he & my dad (Dave Kelley) were friends. Once we got a car – we only got gas @ “Tarry’s”, and I remember the tornado and the damage done to the station. I went with my dad to see what had happened. Great memories of good times & good friends.

  2. L. Tarantino says:

    Felix Tarantino was my grandfather; he passed away prior to my father’s return from WWII. He prized that photo of his home and its vast garden as we do now. When I have access to share as an attachment, you will too. It’s a sweet thought that when a memory is shared, it lives again. One day in your post I hope to see mention of my father at his beloved Tarry’s Service Station and Tire Center on Homestead Road. We still have the large letters from out front and other items, along with the very carbon pads used to issue billing statements — but few photos. Not far from there is where my first five years were spent living at the home of my maternal grandparents on Lowery Street. That Hungarian household and my mother welcomed the Italian son-in-law with open arms. The house was situated on a double lot with what seemed then to my sister and I to be a cavernous shaded front porch. Photos show me sitting on those very front steps, totally captivated by my big brother, who sadly passed away suddenly this past September. He is frozen in that moment of time, proudly sporting the Tarry’s Little League Baseball Team uniform. And just like that moment in “Our Town” when Emily sees back to an everday moment when all those she loved were alive with life, so I wish Duquesne would awaken to find itself back in a better place. Reading your column takes us there, no matter the city or town or time in our life, it finds us. Thank you.

  3. Lora Tarantino says:

    Felix Tarantino was my grandfather; he passed away prior to my father’s return from WWII. He prized that photo of his home and its vast garden as we do now. When I have access to share as an attachment, you will too. It’s a sweet thought that when a memory is shared, it lives again. One day in your post I hope to see mention of my father at his beloved Tarry’s Service Station and Tire Center on Homestead Road. We still have the large letters from out front and other items, along with the very carbon pads used to issue billing statements — but few photos. Not far from there is where my first five years were spent living at the home of my maternal grandparents on Lowery Street. That Hungarian household and my mother welcomed the Italian son-in-law with open arms. The house was situated on a double lot with what seemed then to my sister and I to be a cavernous shaded front porch. Photos show me sitting on those very front steps, totally captivated by my big brother, who sadly passed away suddenly this past September. He is frozen in that moment of time, proudly sporting the Tarry’s Little League Baseball Team uniform. And just like that moment in “Our Town” when Emily sees back to an everday moment when all those she loved were alive with life, so I wish Duquesne would awaken to find itself back in a better place. Reading your column takes us there, no matter the city or town or time in our life, it finds us. Thank you.
    -Lora Tarantino
    NY

  4. Lora Tarantino says:

    Felix and Carmela Tarantino were my grandparents; he passed away prior to my father’s return from duty with the Marines at the end of WWII. He prized that photo of his home and its vast garden as we do now. When I have access to share as an attachment, you will too.It’s a sweet thought that when a memory is shared, it lives again. One day in your post I hope to see mention of my father (Adam Tarantino) at his beloved Tarry’s Service Station and Tire Center on Homestead Road. We still have the large letters from out front and other items from out front, along with the very carbon pads used to issue billing statements – but few photos. Not far from there is where my first five years (1957-1962), living at the home of my maternal grandparents, Andrew and Mary Perhacs at 1117.Lowery Street. That Hungarian household and my mother, then Olga Perhacs, welcomed the Italian son-in-law with open arms. The house was situated on a double lot with what seemed then to my sister Lisa and I to be a cavernous shaded front porch. Photos show me sitting on those very front steps, totally captivated by my big brother Mark,who sadly passed away suddenly this past September. He is frozen in that moment of time, proudly sporting the Tarry’s Little League Baseball Team uniform. And just like that moment in “Our Town” when Emily sees back to an everday moment when all those she loved were alive with life, so I wish Duquesne would awaken to find itself back in a better place. Reading your column takes us there, no matter the city or town or time in our life,it finds us. Thank you.
    -Lora Tarantino
    Astoria, NY

  5. Snooky V says:

    Thanks for these wonderful photos! I was born in 1949, so like you I remember the Duquesne of the ’50s and ’60s. In 1915 my dad was 4 years old and my mother was not yet born. So this is the Duquesne of my grandparents when they were young adults. My dad’s parent’s house is in the shot of N. 3rd St. Thanks for giving me this view into my grandparent’s world.

  6. Paula N says:

    Oh well, at least we have our memories of the way things used to be. My father passed away 10 years ago and we sold the house on Aurilles Street. I drove past it about a year ago and it broke my heart. The neighborhood was going downhill while he was still there but now it looks so much worse. I feel bad for the ones who are still trying to maintain their properties. That whole area really needs for one of those gas drillers to come in and utilize the old steel mill site somehow and put people to work again.

  7. Garalynn V Tomas says:

    Your site, its pictures and stories are incredible! I cannot wait to share with my mother who is 80 years old and talks of the ‘old Duquesne’ and living “below the tracks”. Of course, there are no pictures of these places but we do have some postcards of the ‘old Duquesne’.
    Thank you for these great stories!

  8. Bob Chermonitz says:

    Where have all the flowers gone, long time ago? There was a time when a family’s home, neighborhood, and community meant something to people. Just look at these pictures. Each worth at least a thousand words, speaking volumes about the people who lived there then. Pride in ownership used to go a long way towards results like these but so did peer pressure. “What will the neighbors say?” was a phrase that society should embrace once again. But, alas, it won’t happen anytime soon. I believe after the mills went down things began to change rapidly in Duquesne. For awhile, before the older generation began to move or pass on, the city and it’s leaders held most of it together but then the bottom fell out. There are still very good people and families there today who keep things up as they have for years, however, they are in the minority.

    In our day we tried to emmulate to the upperclass in Duquesne (and there were upperclass there). Today people do there own thing and don’t expect they can do better and they frown on those who
    try . Or maybe they just gave up. We were never allowed to give up.

  9. Leslie says:

    I love this edition of the Duquesne Hunky……you’ve repeated so many things that my father used to tell our family as we were growing up. He was Duquesne, born & bred. We moved away for a while, but I came back inn 1975. Things sure have changed, even since 1975. Sadly, instead of changing for the better it’s gone the other way. :o(

    • Tom Ohrman says:

      Amazing Jim. My grandparents house at 46 N. 2nd. the last time I was back. I’ve been going through boxes of old photos trying to find some to give kids and here you have a few on here. Thanks for this site and the memories.

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