Duquesne’s Got Talent

I am fortunate to be the father of two wonderful daughters. They have both grown up to be spectacular women and I couldn’t be prouder. I enjoyed every aspect of their childhood and look back on their childhood adventures with great fondness. Both Megan and Abby were outstanding students, involved in our church, avid sports team members, and passionate dance students. Both girls took years of dance lessons ranging from ballet to flamenco dancing. They attended dance lessons in local dance studios in the areas we lived in, and every Spring, took part in the dance school recitals.

I believe that in America, it has become a rite of passage for young ladies and sometimes, young men, to be enrolled in dance classes. The Duquesne of my youth was no different. I remember attending dance recitals when my cousin Karla took lessons at “Pat’s Dance Studio” in Duquesne Place. They were held at the library, and there was always an air of excitment and a “Broadway” type feeling in the theatre on the night of the event. 

I dug through some issues of the Duquesne Times and discovered that two sisters owned a dance studio in Duquesne called The McWilliams Sister’s School of Dance. Claudia Repko Misage, once posted a comment about these  sisters, so I know they are familiar to some of you. Cassie and Ann McWilliams started their School of Dance in 1936, and their very first “Danceland Review” took place at the Duquesne Library in June, 1937.

For your enjoyment, I am posting two different articles from The Duquesne Times regarding the McWilliams sisters. The first was published in 1937, and announces the very first of their annual Danceland Reviews that featured their students. The second article outlines the progam and participants from their 1952 production of the Danceland Review, held 60 years ago. I am sure you will recognize many of the student’s names and for most of you who were participants, I’m sure a smile will lighten you face.  My apologies to any of the guys out there who had hoped their dance review days were long forgotten. However, with the popularity of programs such as Dancing With The Stars, there’s an entirely new found admiration for the dancer in all of us.

THE DUQUESNE TIMES – MAY 21, 1937

THE DUQUESNE TIMES – THURSDAY, MAY 29, 1952

I never saw any of the productions of Danceland Review when I was growing up. The dance recitals I remember were presented at the Carnegie Library by the students of “Pat’s School of Dance,” which was located on Kennywood Blvd in Duquesne Place. I remember both my cousin Paula and Karla Goldman attended the school, and I often went with my Aunt Mary as she observed the classes in session.

The school’s owner was a Duquesne High School 1961 graduate, Pat Kelleher. Pat later married and became Pat Dynoske. She operated the school for 43 and stepped down in 2003. The article below was published in 2003 and paid tribute to one of Duquesne’s own.

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15 Responses to Duquesne’s Got Talent

  1. George Bornyek says:

    WoW,
    This was sent to me by James Resko. We were neighbors and class mates through the eight grade and just recently reconnected. James was a pharmacist in NOLA and I reside in San Diego, CA. I thought that I only performed in one number in the McWilliam’s Review.
    I took dance classes because I did not want a beer belly like my dad.
    Frances Bornyek my sister was in the same show and I had no idea that she even took dance lessons. I was in my own little world.
    I though Barbara Rohosky, my cousin was in the same show. Where is Mary France Reed, Joan Andrea Yurich, and Barbara Rohosky?
    This is where the McWilliams Sister’s lead me: What’s The Rush – Pgh Play House,, Toured with the Ice Capades, Summer stock in Los Angeles, worked in West Side Story and Music Man films. TV dancer, Vegas worked on show that never opened at Tally HO produced by Parker, Shirlely McClain’s husband, Night club act in Tokyo, USO work in Korea, Switching to Art – Best Photograph, Oil painting and best in show at the U of So Nevada, Did portraits of Madaline Bordillo, Governor’s wife of Guam, Portrait of their Daughter Deborah, Received MA at U of Guam-Art Ed, Portrait of Leopoldo Villa Real – Texas, Portrait of his son, Worked 30+ years at Hyatt in San Diego and now trying to get my body functioning. I need 5 operations.
    And how are you?
    bornyek@att.net

    • Jim says:

      George,
      What a rich history and life you have had so far! It is so impressive that the talent of Duquesne’s family has reached so far! Thanks for touching base with us and letting all of your childhood friends know about all of your very rich adventures!
      Jim Volk – The Duquesne Hunky!

  2. I remember taking dance lessons at Pat’s. I also remember getting stage fright and refusing to perform every time there was a recital. My Mom would get so mad that she had to buy the costume and then I would never go on stage. I remember Pat teaching me tap lessons specifically the grapevine step. Those were the good old days, thanks for the memories. I love reading this blog. I grew up on Overland Ave. In Duquesne Place.

  3. Claudia Repko Misage says:

    Finally getting to writing about the dance studios. I have programs from Wed and Thurs June 2 and 3 1948 and also from Wed and Thurs June 1 and 2 , 1949. At that time at the piano was Cassie Mc Williams Thompson, Sax was played by Paul Wallace, they also had the drums played by Ben Boden and Bob Monroe. You know what I still have all my outfits that I wore and the little black book my mom wrote down all the dance steps and words to the songs I sang. Mom made everything I wore and needless to say was at all the dance lessons. I was only 5 and 6 and could to this day remember it all. The library was beautiful all the lights lit up on the outside and the stage and being back stage and all the gifts I got afterwards.It was always called the Danceland Revue. I laughed when I saw the phone number to the place. 35971. Of course Frank Kopiver and Matt Gallagher, Al Gabreleik and the Duquesne Times newspaper were all mentioned. Kopriver Flowers are still the best and they are still in business and we are using them at a golden jubliee celebration we are having for my brother Fr. Cyril Repko, OFM Cap. at Holy Trinity Church this June. Yey, we will all be in Duquesne at this time. Once again GREAT JOB you are doing Jim.

    • Jim says:

      Claudia, thanks for the compliment. Please be sure to congratulate your brother on behalf of all his fellow Duquesners!

  4. Rome Sikora says:

    Another outstanding article, Jim. The name of George Bornyek rings a bell. He may have gone on to dance professionally in NYC. Can anyone verify?

  5. Jack Schalk says:

    I mentioned a while back, in another topic, that my favorite dance partner in high school was Dorothy Vehec. Now I know why.
    She had two solo dance routines and danced in many of the revues from what the article says.

    Jim, your reference to the old songs sung by Ruble, Connick, etc. leads me to believe that you also enjoy these. For really good listening of the standards check out a CD by Linda Ronstat (doesn’t sound plausible).
    The entire CD is composed of standards.
    It is commonplace for me to come into the house and be welcomed by the tones of Frank Sinatra at any stage in his career, or Mel Torme for that matter. My wife and I are big band lovers.

  6. Colleen Byrne Travis says:

    I took dance lessons in the basement of Gallagher’s Drug Store. Of course, the recitals were held at the Duquesne City (Carnegie Free) Library. I don’t remember the teacher’s name, but, a high school girl played the piano while we danced. Her name was Lana Kubasik( SP??). What fun! I have pictures of those recitals.
    Wasn’t that great — our parents lived from pay to pay depending upon the progress of the mill. If there was a lay-off or a strike, things were tough for our parents to “make ends meet”. But, they did, including giving us lessons. I also took piano lessons from the Sisters of Saint Joseph. Enjoying the blog, Jim. sometimes with tears, but still enjoying it. Keep it coming.

    • Jim says:

      Colleen, I find it amazing how simple it is to recall the happy times of our youth. I glad you are enjoying my blog. Perhaps I should subtitle it “Enjoying Our Second Childhood!” – Jim

  7. Frank Mullen says:

    Hi Jim, Reading over the repertoire of those dance numbers, one caught my attention in particular, “Hey Good Looking.” It reminded me of the many songs from the 40’s and 50’s, like “Hey Good Lookin’, whatcha got cookin’,,. howz ’bout cookin’ somethin’ up for meee…” that apparently seeped into my consciousness while I was a child. In fact, I have often found myself humming, whistling, or actually singing those old tunes without too much provocation (and I bet I’m not alone in that regard,) Of course, when I do, few people much younger than I ever heard of the songs. I also laugh at myself because I remember scoffing at much of the music my folks liked back then, since I was “into” Rock-n-Roll, and thought the old stuff was, well, OLD. Nowadays, I find myself CHERISHING the music of my parents and grandparents. Have I become my parents?!
    Frank
    P.S. The music, in particular, of the 40’s, seems to me to be largely focused on the deep love folks seem to have had for one another, back then. Most of the ballads seem to me to be about strong relationships and missing one another. I have concluded that WWll must have had an effect in that regard, but I have no idea if I am correct.

    • Jim says:

      Frank, when you think about some of the current entertainers such as Michael Buble, Harry Connick Jr. and even former rocker Rod Stewart, “Everything old IS new again!” Who would have thought that certain songs,certain scents and certain foods would be vehicles with which to travel back in time?

      • Frank Mullen says:

        Who would have thought that “…certain scents and certain foods would be vehicles with which to travel back in time,” is certainly true and a very astute point to make, Jim. To this day, if I experience the fragrance of meatballs being fried, I can tell you within minute shades and subtleties just how close they are to the ultimate meatball flavor (for me) which is what I used experience wafting out of Marie Capristo’s kitchen right next door to us, back in the 50’s. Once that fragrance began, Marie would soon find me with begging-eyes at her backdoor, smiling. She’d already have one situated atop a fork ready for me to slowly savor and devour. To this day, no meatball quite measures up unless it is very close to hers. Of course, it was Marie’s own deep, welcoming, neighbourly warmth that made all the difference.

        The same power of remembered flavors and fragrances is true, for me, of oatmeal cookies, nutrolls, poppyseed-rolls, and apricot-rolls that my Hungarian mother used to make in our kitchen. Sometimes, I do find those that measure up, and I am transported back to my mother’s side, peeking into her Roper range (which my father won at The Plaza moviehouse in Duquesne,) watching for that particular light brown edging to the crescent shapes that announced they were ready. The same strong memory is true for her mother’s chicken-n-dumplings, with gravy; her sister-in-law, Dorothy’s, roast pork, sauerkraut, and dumplings, all cooked in the same pot, wth the dumplings floating on top. Perfection. All of it.

        I’ve heard it said that all our favorite foods are those that remind us, by flavor and fragrance, of our childhood homes, and that we keep searching for those precise reminders.
        Frank

  8. Debra Faust-Clancy says:

    Hey Jim, Thanks for a wonderful article on dancing classes in Duquesne. Pat’s Dance Studio was part of my life for a few years as I took both tap and ballet from her. Mary Woolsey was a year older than me and Roseann was a year younger and both were fabulous dancers – with the straight posture and long limbs required to look elegant. I know they kept up their training and were very diligent about practice and being disciplined–not one of my virtues. Plus, I was short and when I held out my arms during ballet, Pat asked me “Are you holding them straight out?” I guess they must have some Hunky problem with the elbows…! So I knew from an early age that dance was NOT in my future. How fascinating to hear that the Woolsey girls went on to be Rockettes. I bet that was an interesting life experience! I do remember, prior to Pat’s, there were some dancing classes being held at the GBU (Greater Beneficial Union) on Grant Ave. I remember my tap class as being 50 cents and one little girl crying because her father had been laid off and dancing classes were one of those non-essential activities that had to be cut from the now tighter budget. Isn’t it funny the things that stick out in your memory? We were all so lucky to live in a kinder gentler time surrounded by folks who cared for one another. Another A+ for you Jim.

    • Jim says:

      Debra, thanks so much for sharing your own recollections with us. Speaking of the GBU, wasn’t there also a barber shop on the 7th street side of the GBU?

  9. Lou Weber says:

    Love the articles no matter what the subject, keep them coming they’re greatly appreciated.

    Lou Weber

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