McKeesport’s 5th Ave

Depending on where you are living, the mention of 5th Avenue conjures-up different memories:

• To the world’s population, it most likely makes them think about New York City’s famous thoroughfare. The avenue, especially between 49th Street and 60th Streets, is lined with prestigious shops and is regularly ranked among the most expensive shopping streets in the world. 5th Avenue is home to notable NYC points of interest such as Greenwich Village, Washington Square, the Empire State Building, Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman. Central Park, and the Guggenheim Museum.

• To chocolate lovers everywhere, 5th Avenue simply means the Milk Chocolate Crunchy Peanut Butter Bars were first introduced in 1936 and are currently made and marketed by the Hershey Company.

• To Pittsburghers it was “home”, and to many Duquesners, 5th Ave brings to mind adventures, big city excitement and Christmas displays that rivaled New York. Fifth Avenue is one of the longest streets in Pittsburgh. It begins downtown and moves eastward for over five miles. Fifth Avenue passes by the former Warner Theatre, Kaufmann’s Department Store, Carlow University, the very recognizable Litchfield Towers dormitories at the University of Pittsburgh, the Cathedral of Learning and other buildings of the University of Pittsburgh in Oakland, then forms the borders between Shadyside on the north and Squirrel Hill and Point Breeze to the south. Finally, after passing Chatham University, The Ellis School, and Mellon Park, it turns north and forms the border between Larimer on the west and North Point Breeze and Homewood (Pittsburgh) on the east.

 And then there is OUR 5th Avenue – 5th Avenue in McKeesport, Pa. By big city standards, 5th Avenue in McKeesport would have been considered “small potatoes” but for all of us, it held treasures, experiences and adventures too numerous to count.

I’ve written about McKeesport many times before, but I was once again reminded of how special a place it was to me when Barry Long emailed me a large group of pictures of “Old McKeesport.” The album contained 248 photos and I hope to share many of them in coming posts. There were 3 photos in the group that immediately grabbed my attention however. The 3 photos were taken in different years, but all 3 instantly transported me to the downtown McKeesport we ALL grew to love, remember and think of as our home away from home.

As you can see from the first picture, downtown McKeesport looked very different than it does in recent years. I was struck with the VERY apparent cleanliness of the city. No litter, no debris; just a pristine environment that exuded pride in ownership and community.

As I scanned the storefronts, there were so many familiar names and building facades. In some cases, there were some surprises as well. For instance, although the logo for Jaison’s looks exactly as I recall, the location is not the same and the size of the store is different from the Jaison’s of my youth. By the time I was old enough to remember the store, it had moved and expanded to a large storefront that graced 5th Ave with their familiar logo on a white and yellow woven background.

Just beyond Jaison’s in this photo is a W.T.Grant Co. 5&10 Cent Store. It was located just a few stores west of the H.L.Green 5&10 Cent Store. I don’t recall the Grant’s store at all. By the time I went on shopping expeditions with my mom, there were only a Murphy’s and a Green’s on 5th Ave.

I think we shopped primarily on the north side of 5th Ave since I barely recall the stores opposite Jaison’s. I’m not sure what type of store Neuman’s was, but I immediately recognized the Isaly’s logo next to Neuman’s. There was always a place for selling chipped ham and ice cream cones!

This next photo was probably taken at the same time as the first photo. Since the stores around the tracks were those that were the most familiar to me, I was surprised to see some that I was unaware of. I don’t recall ever going into the Rexall or Thrift Drug Stores. There also appears to be a store named Michael’s that apparently is a clothing store. Again, I don’t recall this store and would love to learn more about it. Just west of the Rexall is the G.C. Murphy 5&10 Cent Store that I remember so well, along with the most distant store shown, H.L.Green.

After a very long career in retailing, I was amazed that there were three home furnishings stores located within the same block on 5th Ave. R.E.Kaplan’s, Hirshberg’s and Ruben’s all sold furniture from what I recall. I suppose they peacefully co-existed for years since they all had a long history on the streets of McKeesport. Of these three stores, I became most familiar with Hirshberg’s. My mom and dad shopped there for most of their major purchases, from lampshades to full rooms of furniture. I don’t remember much about the store’s interior except for the long bank of display windows that lined both sides of the entrance to the store.

The only store visible on the south side of 5th Ave is Samuel’s. I may be incorrect, but I think that Samuel’s was a shoe store. I remember that my mother loved to buy shoes, a recessive gene that must have been passed on to her granddaughters! If anyone has more insight into Samuel’s, please clue me in!

This final picture that shows the removal of the railroad tracks in downtown McKeesport. Although it shows the most chaos, there are so many memories. To the extreme right, the National Record Mart sign is partially visible. I purchased my very first 45 rpm record here. Telstar, by the Tornados, was recorded in 1962 and was one of my favorites. Of course, I was only 11 years old, but I remember playing the record over and over again on my Mom’s new pink hi-fi record player.

NRM became the source for the majority of my 45 rpm record collection, which I still own to this day. The store eventually relocated to a storefront that was near Cox’s on the south side of 5th Ave.

“Book Sale” was always one of my favorite stores during my teenage years. Back in the days of REAL books, and when people actually would READ as a form of entertainment, Book Sale provided a cheap source of reading material. Every wall was lined with rows and rows of wooden shelving, and contained countless paperback books that were separated by category. Since every cover had been ripped off of the paperback books, one would actually have to read a synopsis that was on the back cover in order to determine if the book interested you. Only the spines of the books were visible, whether they were shelved on the wall or housed on the many flat bin tables on the selling floor.

 I believe that they only books that were available that still had a cover attached were the all too familiar “Cliff Notes.” As a high school student, Cliff Notes were often a constant companion for me. They saved me from the daunting task of not only having to read many of Shakespeare’s works, but having to actually understand what in the heck he was talking about. Somehow, Shakespeare and being a hunky was not a good mix.

 As a student at Serra Catholic High School, I think it is now safe to admit that not only did I use Cliff Notes for my English classes, I was a firm believer in using the annotated Latin/English versions of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. Hopefully, my high school diploma will not be recalled or invalidated after letting loose with this 43 year old secret!

 In closing, I know we would all enjoy hearing about other McKeesport stores of your youth. I’m sure there are stories about Cox’s and their fashion shows, Immel’s, Kadar’s, The Famous and many more. Please share!


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111 Responses to McKeesport’s 5th Ave

  1. Linda says:

    McKeesport’s Fifth Avenue plays a major role in my dreams. Shame you missed out on a shrimp burger and vanilla phosphate at Thrift drugstore. And I loved the chiffon pies in Murphy’s upstairs restaurant. You asked about Samuel’s shoe store… I don’t know if it was Samuel’s or Rubenstein’s, but one of them had an x-ray machine that would allow you to see how your feet fit in the shoes! I often wonder whatever happened to those radiation makers. BTW, where I live now, in Canada, they have no idea what a hunky is!!

  2. Dwight Overmoyer says:

    I was born in Mckeesport. My father owned Sieberg’s — an upscale men’s clothing store on 5th Ave, late 1950s through mid 1960s. I was there a lot when I was a kid. I remember the newspaper building having an outdoor goldfish pool in the summer. There was a small Chinese restaurant (Jinx’s?) and I remember walking up a long flight of stairs to get there as it was on the top floor. Chinese paintings on the cracked walls. But the food was tremendous. We ate there 2 -3 times per year. The parades on 5th Ave were great and people were packed in like NYC. Amazing times back then.

  3. Tony Marino says:

    I was a True Mckeesporter !
    Born & Raised , After Vietnam i returned and Was a Employee
    Of National Tube Works.
    What a Place to Grow up in the 50ties &60ties & 70ties

  4. Michael Coslov says:

    Samuels Shoe Store was owned by Harry P Samuels. He was called HP
    What was unique it was ion the second floor. At Easter a policeman was posted at the door to let one person as one came out. The store had 99 chairs. HP owned many buildings in Fifth Avenue and could have been at street level but said that customers were used to climbing the steps. He ate lunch ever day with the three merchants at Murphy’s cafeteria. I have so many memories of the great town. The movie theaters Memorial, Capital, Liberty and the Victor. The Star restaurant was right across from Balsamo’s. I loved the town
    So sad
    Thanks fir the pictures

  5. Melanie Einzig says:

    My Grandfather had a shoe store called Vogue. My dad said it was across from Balsamos super Market on 5th Avenue. His name was James Einzig but he died early in his 50s. Anyone remember the store?And would love to know you have any photos! Thanks

  6. jeff wasilko says:

    I remember 2 taverns at both ends of the 15th Street Bridge. “Svetz’s” was on the Port Vue side, and “The Johnny Who” was on the McKeesport side.

    • Richard W. Mondak says:

      Wasilko sucks suds of Schlitz at Svetz’s?
      I think there was another name for the baron the McKeesport side – Sir Gene’s – or was that in a different location?

      • jeffrey wasilko says:

        Richard, I remember there being (for a short time) a “Topless Bar” in Liberty Boro, it was near “The Slip”, called “Marquettes”. I remember being in there once or twice! It was an old house, they made into a bar. The Police were there everyday, mainly because people that lived on that road couldn’t find a place to park. If you parked on the road below, you had to walk up through peoples yards to the front street, and it was a long andsteep walk. Anyhow, “Marquette’s” Didn’t last long, but it was Great while it lasted!

  7. Richard says:

    Gant shirts👍🏼
    What did it mean if your “fruit loop” was pulled? A lot of stories about that!

    • Mike Bacon says:

      And here I thought it was the fruit loop that called “the gant” 🙂 Shows how much I knew as a teen!

      • Rich Mondak says:

        If a girl pulled your Fruit Loop off your Gant shirt, it meant she liked you.
        Unfortunately, a girl in our class at Holy Trinity pulled my friend’s and the whole back of the shirt was ripped off!

  8. pat j wichas says:

    Julia Angelo Praza or a Gerald Praza. Gerald sold alcohol to restaurants and later had a bar. I don’t know the name of the bar and I’m not sure it was in McKeesport but I just found out he was my birth father and am trying to find any info about his life. He is dead now a long time but he was in that area in the 50’s. If anyone remembers him let me know please.

  9. george vortolomei says:

    how about the AOH dances penguiun club at the ymca sams hot dogs palasades christy park my home thanks george living in fla

  10. Gary Clay says:

    I remember a very distinct men’s store down by Henry B Klein’s. It was Kalstein’s. The store was on the corner and was a triangle shape. You came in the front door to a narrow opening. The store got bigger as you went to the back. Great store for Gant shirts. As a 1967 McKeesport High graduate they were a must. Also Barracuda jackets, wool socks with penny loafers. My mother worked at Samuels before I was born. She is 89 and still talks about what a special man Mr. Samuels was to work for. She had size 5 1/2 feet and all of the sample shoes came in very small sizes. Mr. Samuels would let her take some home to keep when he changed the display cases. Great memories.

    • mike bacon says:

      Hi Gary, A name from the past from a fellow Versailles Boro school mate– Mike Bacon now living in northern Arizona. Yes…great memories indeed of a fine childhood in growing up in the area.

    • Victor William Roberts says:

      I played baseball for the Henry B Klein’s baseball team. A lot of my late relatives that I knew when I was a young boy were Klein’s.

  11. Jamie Black says:

    OK McKeesporters…help me out here. I am Jamie Black. I grew up “in” McKeesport and Versailles cemetery. My Dad, James Black, was the Superintendent of the cemetery until we left McKeesport in the early 70’s. We lived in the grand old house at the cemetery entrance that was eventually torn down…That address was 1612 5th Avenue. The “office” section still remains today. Here’s my question…does anyone remember the men’s clothing store just up the street towards the downtown. As I recall, it was a Jewish name, I think, and I bought a lot of shirts and suits for High school proms and such there. It was a higher end store as I recall. Everyone in my school (McKeesport Sr High) was “required” (socially) to wear Gant shirts…properly starched and with the “loop” on the back pleat. Girls (if they liked you) would pull this off…basically ruin the shirt!…LOL. Anyway, glad to have found this page. You all (or should I say yinz) take me back a lot of years. BTW, I graduated in ’69…50 year reunion coming up next year. Now living in Wine Country CA. north of San Francisco.

    • Jamie Black says:

      OK…well, after an hour os so, it came to me that this was Henry B. Klein”s

      • Jim Flohr says:

        Mona Black Gladys Mc CLLEN Walter Biddle do any of those names mean anythig to you

    • Monica Barnes says:

      Henry B. Klein? That house and office at the cemetery always intrigued me. In the 1950s there was also a similar, grand 19th century portal with caretaker’s house at the Richland Cemetery in Dravosburg. It’s been replaced by a small, functional, 1960s, yellow brick home. Most of the most impressive buildings that once stood in Dravosburg are gone now–the Victorian mansions along the river, a log cabin where a very poor family lived back then, and the beloved Third Street School. Amity Presbyterian Church remains and that’s a nice, if newer, building. Other survivors are the stone mansion on Pittsburgh-McKeesport Boulevard that is now a branch of Striffler’s funeral home, and an adjacent modernist home once occupied by a physician.

    • Kenny Hill says:

      I believe the name of the other Jewish clothing store was David Israel’s which was up the street from the hospital on 5th ave. My history teacher at Mck High Mrs Israel was the wife of the owner of store.

    • Cliff Lang says:

      There were two men’s stores quite close to each other. Henry B. Klein and David Israel.

      • jeff wasilko says:

        My Mom n Dad liked David Israel’s. When I started working at National Tube in 74, I was buying my dress clothes there. They always spent time with all the customers, and they “fitted” you. I was a Disco Dancer in those days, and I wanted to look sharp.

  12. bob Lynch says:

    When I was in high school I used to work at Siebergs clothing store on 5th avenue. Still worked there in the summer when I was in undergraduate school… a great town back then Bob Lynch

    • Frank Mullen says:

      I’ve heard it is far too dangerous to walk down Fifth Avenue, nowadays, even at high noon, let alone at night, and have been advised, most emphatically, not to visit family graves in the McKeesport and Versailles Cemetery (1608 5th Ave), for fear of being carjacked and robbed. Have I been misinformed or advised poorly? If so, would anybody here encourage me to make such a visit?

    • Dwight Overmoyer says:

      Hi Bob:

      My father was co-owner of Sieberg’s in the mid 1950’s through the mid 1960’s. I was there a lot when I was a kid. Incredible to hear you worked there.

  13. Judy truesdale says:

    My grandparents lived on 5th Avenue above klines clothing store. I was born in the hospital not far from there. My grandfather worked at the steel mill. I remember going up on the roof to watch different parades that came down 5th Avenue. I use to walk to school in the snow. Such fond memories.

  14. Cindy Bowen Giammario says:

    Neuman’s was a children’s clothing store. Samuel’s and Reubenstein’s were the shoe stores in McKeesport. My grandfather was J P Mooney, a car dealer in McKeesport. Are there any photos of his dealership?

    • Carl Lofstrom says:

      Hi Cindy,
      My father bought his last Packard from the JP Mooney dealership located at the red light on the corner of 5th Avenue and Hartman Street. I drove past the showroom almost everyday on the way to my fathers L&B Dairy Store located on Fifth Avenue towards East McKeesport. I can see the showroom in my mind but unfortunately I do not have a photograph.

      • Richard Mondak says:

        My parents Joe Mondak and Lena Corsaro) met in the early 1950s at L&B Dairy when my mother worked there while a HS student. I remember going there for foot-long hot dogs and milk shakes with my Dad. We lived on Ridge Street, then Pirl Street and moved to Port Vue in the 60s. I went to Holy Trinity School through 8th grade.

  15. Ed says:

    If any of you remember Minerva’s Bakery on 5th Avenue, it’s still around.

  16. Frank Mullen says:

    Deliberately deciding to immerse myself in nostalgia, a few days after Memorial Day, I have just finished reading every one of the 54 replies,here, from Dennis E. Andrison, of August 2012, to Tom Miller, of February 2016, and the trip was well worth it. The amount or respect and deep affection for the people and places of the McKeesport of so many decades ago was palpable, in the heart as well as the intellect.
    Did we know, during our days of childhood in the 50’s, that we were so lucky to be a part of such a community? I suggest that we knew.
    Duquesne, McKeesport, Homestaed, Glassport, Braddock, and so on, up and down the Monongahela, Allegheny, and Youghiogheny rivers of our hometown area, everywhere populated by hard-working people and the good – very, very good – families who joined them in making a house or apartment a HOME, wherein everybody knew their place and knew where we all fit into society itself, all of that was a treasure.
    I suggest, we saw and sensed the quality of it all, for example, even as children, when we visited that little extra shine the McKeesport shopping district had for us.
    On a couple trips back home to Duquesne Place to visit for DHS Class Reunions, I was astonished to see empty lots, weeds, and strip-malls sprouting where the mills once stood.
    I can’t even imagine how people earn a living, now. And I can see that a great deal is absent.
    However, what is not absent, at least not from my heart and memory, are the people and places that meant “hometown” to us. I’ll bet that the work-ethic, alone, has been alive and well in every one of us, for all these decades, serving us well as we continue to be successful, largely because of what we learned in the hometowns alongside those noisy, glow-at-night mills of our youth.
    We knew we were lucky because everybody knows when they have been given an important gift, and gift it was to be raised there, with all those good people.

    • Ray says:

      It is so bittersweet to see what has become of the city, once so vibrant, busy, hard-working, god-fearing and proud. No one could imagine an end to the industrial heart of the city and resultant marked post-industrial decline. So so sad to see the demolition of such beautiful period architecture…that may never be seen again.
      In time, it is right to…let it go…rather than visit the city to stand on a cherished corner and weep yet again. We will always remember the start we received here, what we carry in us and will remember in our hearts the strength and the warmth of the people that made it great.
      The Tube City.

      • Monica Barnes says:

        My father was an electrical millwright at the National [Tube] Works. In the early 1960s he began telling people that he was certain that the Pittsburgh area steel mills would be closed. How did he know? He was being ordered to make temporary repairs instead of the solid, lasting, more expensive ones that would have kept the mill going for another decade or two. He also mentioned that the old, inefficient steel-making equipment wasn’t being replaced with new technology. He was aware of the more modern mills in Korea and other foreign countries through articles in his union paper, Steel Labor. He was a little wrong about the timing, though. Once the Vietnam War heated up the mills had a reprieve for a while. Because of his seniority he was one of the last people at work in National Tube, mothballing the place that had employed himself, his grandfathers, his father-in-law, and his brother-in-law and best buddy. Many of the people on this site have probably read Hohn P. Hoerr’s And the Wolf Finally Came: The Decline of the American Steel Industry.

        It is sad to see the beautiful churches, synagogues, houses, banks, stores, schools and clubs demolished. One of my grandfathers was a regular at that railing outside Loft’s Candy. The old guys would stand there for hours.

      • kathy wasilko says:

        Does anyone remember Buck O’Neal who ran a bar in town?
        He was my great grandfather.


        Kathy Wasilko

    • Diana Traeger Hughen says:

      Very well said. Thank you .

    • Cheryl Johnson Oxford says:

      Dear Frank, this is Cheryl Johnson Oxford. I went to Duquesne High School. I absolutely loved reading what you wrote. It is beautifully written, and it truly exemplifies what our “hometown” meant to all of us. It captures feelings places, and people in such warm ways, that only we can share , as past inhabitants of the area of Duquesne and surrounding areas. I come away with remembering how very special and kind the people were , that we grew up with. You are certainly one of those people. Much love, Cheryl

  17. Tom Miller says:

    Somewhere in the mid 50’s i recall a gentleman by the name of Stanley Conrad who played the piano every Saturday morning in the front window of R. E. Kaplan’s furniture store. It was broadcast live on WMCK.

  18. Kathy Wasilko says:

    Looking for the name of the tavern/restaurant and hotel at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Tube Works Street.
    My great grandfather, James “Buck” O’Neal owned it…

    • Pamela says:

      Do you know of anything that was a used car dealer ship. A gentlemen by the name or nick name went by Nick the Syrian. Very important I find him or his family. Please please see if you can find anything out. It would of been in 1956.


  19. Carol Richardson says:

    Jaisons 2nd store replaced Grant’s 5 & 10 store.

  20. Monica Barnes says:

    Oddo’s Hobby Store — they also sold craft kits. Some were imported from England. I thought that was very exotic.

    • Patricia says:

      I remember Oddo’s. They used to sell Barbie doll clothes. I think I remember them being all the way up on Locust St.

      • Tom Miller says:

        Oddo’s Hobby Shop was on the corner of Locust St.and Shaw Ave. Lou Otto was a great guy. I was into model airplanes when I was young and he was always very patient and helpful. The one thing that stands out in my mind is the aroma of his pipe when you came into the store. Apparently, smoking didn’t do much harm because he was 99 when he passed. His niece has a FB page called White Oak Memories.

  21. John Wargo says:

    Does anyone eremember Oddo’s. They had fake boos in the window and a big but with a smouch mark on it. You could by an assorted array for firewors there along with the fake vomit and doggie doo doo.

    • Ray says:

      Oddos! What a great place!
      Yes, I remember the fake butt cheeks! I offered to buy one, but Oddo told me my mom would be pissed and suggested I not buy them.
      I did buy the fake vomit, that we then wetted and placed on the floor for each babysitter. The poopoo cushions got her too. Fake poop, yep, bought some.
      He would sell you fireworks only if he knew you. WE would take the smoke b_mbs and hide in the tall grass along a city street and whip them out into the middle of the street.
      Great HO train stuff, models.
      Oddos: a kids paradise.

      • Richard W. Mondak says:

        Lou with the permanent stogie remnant in the corner of his mouth. He tried to look grumpy but wasn’t very good at it. Great selection of models and other toys. He also had a shop on Smithfield St in Pittsburgh for a while.

  22. Pamela says:

    Can someone anyone PLEASE let me know if they remember a salesman that went by the name of NICK. He is my father and I desp looking for him. He would be in his 80’s now if still alive. Please someone contact me. He was on Fith Ave

  23. Kathleen McDaniel Martin says:

    Does anybody remember a store in downtown McKeesport , that sold the same type of stuff as the golden rule, in the late 50s and early 60s.please email me at thank YOU .

  24. Ray Wargovich says:

    So, McKeesport Candy Co. still in business on 5th Ave. Wholesale or retail or both?
    And Dorothy’s Candies out on Long Run Blvd.
    Do you know when the trolleys were removed from Tube City. What were the routes? One came up 6th to Union, then turned out Versailles?
    Great public transportation ahead of its time. Buses were so loud and full of dirty exhaust fumed.

    • C Scotti says:

      One ran from McKeesport to Glassport. Went to the East End area (Crawford Village and turned around, went through 5th avenue to Glassport and turned around and returned again. I wrote a story about that trolley; was in Reminisce Magazine a long time ago.

    • C Scotti says:

      are you related to the doctor from McKeesport.

    • Carl Lofstrom says:

      I would visit the McKeesport Candy on Fifth Avenue every week with my father. He would buy boxes of candy for his stores. I can still remember waking in and seeing box of candy stacked on the shelves from the floor to the ceiling. Sometimes we could not find a parking place in the front of the store and had to park behind on Lyle Blvd.

      • Monica Barnes says:

        And don’t forget that Minerva Bakery is still in business and still produces delicious goodies. Sadly, though, you can always find a parking place right out front.

  25. Pam says:

    Is there any members on here that would be in their 80;s from the 5th avenue area? I am looking for a person that use to sell used cars in 1956. Desperately looking for his daughters. Or him. He had a nick name and I believe it was Nick the Syrian. Any information PLEASE PLEASE contact me.

    • Pam says:

      Is this website still open?

      • Jim says:

        Sure is Pam. I’ve had a lazy summer.

      • Pam says:

        Hi Jim, I am still trying to have someone help me locate my siblings. I live in Texas but I cannot do anything from here. I do not know of anyone who is still around that would be in their 80’s to maybe know of someone who was this person in 1956. I am very desperate. thanks

  26. Mort weiss says:

    I was born April 1935 at the McKeesport Hospital and lived there -till 1945 and I remember- Yep sure do\my grand Parent’s owned the Walnut Service station -I lived at 1819 Powers St off of Jenny Lind – went to George Washington school-remember the war years and the factories going full (Blast furnace) 24/7 Memorial and Liberty movie houses- Schwarts Delicatessen on Market st. accross from the Elks Club and on and on-Mort Weiss

  27. Monica Barnes says:

    Enjoyed your post. Neuman’s was a children’s clothing store. It must have been open at least until 1960 or so because my mother took me there to select special outfits when I was small. I think that one of the cars in the second photo is a 1953 model. If I’m right, then the photo couldn’t have been taken before that year.

  28. Cara M says:

    Does anyone remember the name of the restaurant on Ringold St, between Locust and Sinclair circa 1950s? It was on the same block and on the same side as the “bus depot” in the confectionary. It’s also on the opposite side of the street from the Confectionary Hotel/Mckeesporter. Hopefully someone remembers!

  29. Patricia McBride Burrescia says:

    I lived at 809 Fifth Avenue – above Bashers (sp.) store. It was right where Coursin Street and Fifth Avenue met. Across the street was the funeral home. On the right side was a small store called ‘Blind Mikes’ my brother, Jim McBride, used to ‘hang out’ there all the time. On our side of the street next door was Barb’s conf. store, the other side was ‘Modern Lunch’ …at the corner was a hotel – I remember Sammy & Jimmy Zeiger (sp) lived there. We moved to California in 1954 and when we when back for a visit many years later they had removed our ‘home’ and Coursin Street went straight through to ‘The Boulevard’…..Patricia McBride Burrescia

    • Tom says:

      Great article and photo’s I accidently found here. Thanks.

      I grew up in Liberty Boro, and spent a lot of time in McKeesport growing up. My first job was at Cox’s (selling shoes)in the early 70’s when the town and 5th Avenue was jumping. I used to take shoes to be polished and repaired to a shop on 5th Ave. Went to many movies at the Memorial.
      Had to wait for the trains to cross Lysle Blvd.
      I went to school at St. Peters on Market St. when I was small.

      When I was a kid, I used to ride the street car into town from Bowman Ave. with my Grandmother. Lots of great stores and restaurants. I used to have lunch at Joey Bertones when I worked there.
      Great memories. What a shame it has turned into Mon Yough Mental health. Shootings every day, like the two last night.
      When I was a kid, my dad always had a scanner, and it was a rarity to hear of a shooting.

      • Victor William Roberts says:

        I lived on Owens Ave in the boro. Went to the grade school on liberty way. My uncle owned the pensoil gas station and for a number of years my dad was a police officer. Vick

    • Patricia Florchak Champion says:

      I grew up and lived at 641 Fifth Avenue which was on top of the beer garden my grandmother owned and then sold it to a family called Kolassa (spelling). I remember Blind Mike and Barbara’s store. I lived directly across from Steve’s Candy Store. There were steps across from my house that like went forever to another area of town. I used to walk to school sometimes up Coursin Street. Redevelopment took over, my dad died and me, my sister and mother moved to Bailey Ave and then out to California and now Florida. I see pics online of old downtown but for some reason, pics never show the 600 block.

      Hope someone reads this reply. We might have actually played for awhile. There was a little girl up the street who had a cat and brought it down to my house. It could have been you.

      Patricia Florchak Champion

      • Patricia McBride Burrescia says:

        I remember those stairs. Did you live in a brick building? I had a friend that live across from the stairs also. Her name is Jackie Whitney. Did you know her?

      • says:

        To Patricia McBride Burrescia: I didn’t live in a brick building. There were apartments down to the right of my place. I lived directly across from those stairs. It was a house/beer garden and their was a uniform store which was owned by Yecey (spelling). Janice Yecey’s father actually owned the store. There were apartments across the street also and Kathy Mitchell lived in their. I did see an old picture of Rod’s Appliance Store which was just a ways down. I used to roller skate down and into the store’s entrace. If you google coursin st mckeesport pa, it will take you right to the spot as it stands now and keep moving your mouse all the way downtown and see all the closed up shops. It’s scary. We might have met or played briefly at some point or another. Hope you get this message.

        Patricia Florchak Champion

      • says:

        Oh, I forget..I graduated in 1969 and my sister in 1967. How about you?

      • Pam says:

        Can anyone tell me if they remember a used car lot back in 1956 on 5th avenue, and a salesman that went by the name of Nick. Or Nick the syrian?

  30. Bruce Thomas says:

    Samuel’s shoe store had an xray machine to look at the bones in your feet with a new pair of shoes or just go in and wiggle your toe bones in your old shoes(flouroscopic xray). I’m surprised that there is not an epidemic of foot cancer in McKeesportites!

  31. Jan (Snyder) Brewer, class of '57. says:

    I was just browsing and came upon this article. I have so many memories of McKeesport.
    There was Samuel’s shoe store, Jason’s, Immel’s, Cox’s, Murphy’s 5 & 10 (my first job). The Memorial Theater, the trains, Balsamo’s,I saly’s, the L& B, Reuben’s (who gave graduating girls a small cedar chest, the size of a jewelry box).
    I was devistated when several years ago I rode along 5th avnue.

    Erie, PA

  32. Lisa says:

    My cousins owned The Golden Rule, on Walnut Street near Fifth Avenue. You could buy dishes and linens, draperies, carpets, and awnings. For many years my dad sold carpets there. I still make a point of supporting small businesses wherever I go. It just feels more real.

    I remember waiting in Tube Works Alley behind the store for the trains to go through town. It was a big event when they took out the tracks — we all got the day off school.

    • Jim says:

      I remember The Golden Rule very well. It was my mom’s favorite place to shop. I recall that she had a yardstick from The Golden Rule that she used all of the time and lasted throughtout my entire childhood!
      Jim – The Duquesne Hunky

    • patricia begandy says:

      Lisa, is your Dad’s name Bill an your mom’s Phyllis?

  33. Francis G. Greco says:

    What a great article.Many thanks to all who contributed.I remember the theaters in town,esp. the Capital.They always had westerns on Saturday with news,shorts,a serial-I remember Flash Gordon,the Green Hornet,Fu Manchu. They always ended with the hero in trouble so you would come back next week to see what happened. Movies were a dime in the 40’s.I worked at the Isaly’s near the Liberty theater .Got those delicious Isaly’s meals and treats for half price.Occasionally I would sneak across the street to Eddie’s ,I think, for a fabulous ham sandwich .It was a fabulous bar.Lived there during the Golden years but was too young and dumb to realize it then.

    • jeff wasilko says:

      Any relation to Gerald “Corky” Greco? He is a Very Good Friend of mine! I don’t remember going to The Capitol. We always went to The Memorial Theater…WoW! Biggest and Nicest Theater I was ever in!

  34. Bob Chermonitz says:

    As a boy, stepping off of the old streetcar with my Grandmother, McKeesport was to me the Emerald City. All dressed up we made the rounds to all those magic stores. Shopping, movie houses, and wonderful food and smells were all there. I recall the department store with an elevator, Cox’s I believe, (a real treat for a kid) with it’s own operator. My grandfather and father had accounts at David Israels’s mens store. Later after college I had one, too. Our salesman was nicknamed “Zip” and he would call and mail you with “specials” for years after until the late 80’s or early 90’s as I recall. Speaking of college, I started at CCAC in Mckeesport right behind the Penn-McKee Hotel in a school building built when Abe Lincoln was president. One semester and transferred to California State. Prior to CCAC I worked at National Tube with my father. I can still recall men running out of the bars to beat the train on Lyle Blvd. in order to punch into the mill on time. I actually had a buddy at Cal who told me his grandfather was hit and killed by that train. What a great town it was, but then they all were to us back then.

    • cliff warner says:

      The school you mentioned was red brick and in the mid 60’s went by the name of “Market Street School”. I went to night school for a year there 1965 to 1966 in order to earn a McKeesport High School diploma,not a GED through a great Society Program called Experiment In Human Resources that allowed high school drop-outs a second chance. The first week was like old home week with guys from Duquesne who many here might remember. Denny Matthey , Danny King etc.. We soon dwindled down to two diehards,myself and Johnny (aka “The Jet”) Jackson from North second street. The school had a Junior Achievement class on the lower floor at the time. Guys from our program would do things like throw snowballs at the visitors going into funeral home across the street while we were on our hourly smoke break and the poor Junior Achievers would get blamed after we went back to classes upstairs. That old building had many lives, I was sad to see it go.

  35. Very good of you, Jim, to pen a posting about McKeesport’s 5th Avenue. In my memory, McKeesport was as much a part of life in Duquesne as was West Mifflin’s Kennywood, at the other end of town, each being integral parts of life for a Duquesne Hunky.

    If we were “going shopping,” we would say we were “going downtown” (pronounced in a unique way/accent that I cannot figure out how to spell for use here, but I can hear it in my head.) However, that could have meant we were traveling (via trolley, or later in time, by bus) to downtown Pittsburgh, or Duquesne, or McKeesport. And as Colleen alluded to, we were dressed in our Sunday-best when we went “downtown.” In fact, I clearly recall that all the ladies in our famliy wore white cotton gloves when “going shopping downtown,” back in the 50’s. My mother even wore those gloves with her “sundresses,” complete with little matching jackets, when we went on adventures to Kennywood.

    Once in McKeesport, we’d make bee-lines for Murphy’s (my father gave me the nickname “Murph” after a favorite toy tin soldier he bought me from there) and Green’s, one of which (or was it both?) had a large staircase very near the front doors, which lead to the toy department downstairs. An aluminum railing marking its 3-sided perimeter had chairs for older folks along it to sit down and relax. I always thought that was nice thing for a store to provide.

    Cliff’s remarks about parking being “tight” reminded me that, on more than a few occasions, all the passengers aboard a trolley had to get up and move to the side of the car along the center of the street if the motorman had determined that automobiles had been parked in too cavalier a fashion along the curb, thus sticking out too far (a few precious inches,) on the driver’s side, tempting a sideswiping by a trolley as it attempted to travel down the rails. I always thought the patience involved, on the part of the motorman, proceeding slowly and cautiously, as well as of the accommodating passengers, spoke of a pretty co-operative, pleasant time in daily life in our beloved hometown area.

    My strongest memory of Balsimo’s includes the bins of spices that were at eye-level for me as a child. I never knew anyone who purchased spices (like paprika) from them, but I sure enjoyed being near their colorful contents and fragrances. They seemd to be made of glass (plexiglass?) panels with wooden frames.

    Lastly, that photo of the men leaning on the railing outside Lofts’ was a favorite and familiar site for me because, if you were especially deft, you could reach over or around the railing and touch a slow-moving train as it passed by. Did anybody else do that?

    And YES, everything was neat and clean along 5th Ave. in McKeesport. We never even heard of graffiti when I was a kid back in the 50’s. Nobody I knew of would have dared mark-up somebody else’s property; at least, not in my experience or circle of friends and family.
    Frank (DHS’s “Duke,” 1962.)

    • Lou A. RPh says:

      Recently saw a program on WQED where a linguistics professor maintained that this particular pronunciation is THE determining factor in Pittsburghese: IE, dahn-tahn = downtown, Sahside = Southside, clahdy = cloudy, hahs = house, etc.
      Yinz, yenz or yunz is just our way of differentiating YOU = Frank, from YUNZ = everybody else now reading this!

  36. Bob Dougherty Class of '50 St. Joe's; Class of '54 DHS says:

    McKeesport memories. Remember traveling to that thriving retail center many a time on a Duquesne Motor Coach painted with its distinctive Orange and White colors and alighting at the Fifth Avenue side of the Famous Dept. Store. If you turned and walked to the right you would pass the Penn-McKee Hotel where I worked for about two weeks as a bell hop. A little further on you would come to the Palisades which was a roller rink and dance hall – could never find the courage to ask the older girls (I was still in H.S) to dance – besides I wasn’t a very good dancer. I believe that radio station WMCK broadcast for a while from the Penn-McKee. Across Fifth Avenue from the Famous was Hirschberg’s (sp?) furniture store and cati-corner from the Famous was a Rexall drug store. Across Market Street which bordered the Famous on its north side was Kadar’s men store. As I recall there were 3 movie theaters on Fifth Avenue – The Memorial, the Victor and the Liberty. I remember taking a girl to see “Stalag 17” at the Memorial – pretty romantic considering I could have taken her to see “An Affair to Remember”. Hey, what can I say? Like some of you I remember going up the stairs to Samuel’s shoe store and having my feet x-rayed inside the various shoes that I tried on, eating an ice craam sundae or drinking a milk shake at Balsamo’s dairy bar or going down to the basement area at Rubensteins to buy a winter coat. I can still see the McKeesport Daily News plant sitting at the corner of Lysle Blvd. and Walnut Street and working as a stringer for Luke Quay (sports writer/editor) reporting on the results of the DHS football team. Ah the football season in the steel valley – Duquesne, McKeesport, Clairton, Homestead, Braddock, Munhall, Scott (later known as North Braddock), Monessen, Turtle Creek but the big game of the season was always Duquesne v Mckeesport and during the week leading up to the “big game” the Daily News would fan the emotions of the teams supporters with their srories about the teams, the players and the coaches. Ironically, the nickname for the McKeesport head coach when I attended DHS was “Duke”. I believe his last name was Weigle. Duquesne’s head coach was John Donell whose brother, Aldo, was the head coach at Duquesne University. Ala Bob Hope, “Thanks For The Memories”. .

    • Jack Schalk says:

      Bob, your mind had that street floor plan indelibly etched. Perfect recall.
      I remember the Daily News building as being constructed of some light colored porcelain covered brick or panels. It was very modern looking compared to the brick buildings that were in the majority.
      Don’t forget to add the “i” to coach Donellis name. He would have come up with some just punishment for that.

  37. Linda Perhacs says:

    Oh, how I miss the shopping experience in McKeesport. Shopping, today, is no fun. We have such great memories, let’s not lose them.

  38. Paula Goldman Smith says:

    Good article Jim! I worked at Cox’s for a bit after leaving People’s Union Bank and Trust Company, also located in McKeesport. Memories for me were taking two buses to get to work and two to get back home. (How many kids would do that today I wonder?). Working at Cox’s was an eye opener. I don’t know how you worked in retail for so long Jim. It was brutal. Very little inventory control and the cash registers were old clunkers that provided very little in information.
    But, during Christmas, all of the stores were beautiful. Lights and trees were everywhere.
    Ahhh, the good old days.

  39. Jack Schalk says:

    In the top photo, the newest car I see is a ’49 Ford going away from the camera. The others are all older. This is how McKeesport remains in my mind.
    I’m a bit older than some of you but I can’t remember the name of the shoe store that my mother would take me to for Buster Brown shoes, It was upstairs on 5th Ave and they had an xray machine so Mom could check for fit. My toes should have fallen off by now.
    The railroad crossing reminded me of my having to wait in my car for a train to unload its passengers after dark and being able to see the occupants inside the cars including one lady who didn’t realize she was putting on a show.
    My favorite 5th Ave store was an Army-Navy surplus store where you could buy anything left over from WW2 and also outdoor gear. I still have a set of binoculars that I bought there in 1951.
    Thanks Jim and Barry for your efforts and for saving that many photos.

    • Bill Boyd says:

      Samuels shoe store, I remember it well, Johnny Burnside the shoe salesman let me look at my feet multiple times on the fluoroscope.

  40. Harold West says:

    My Uncle Ray sold furniture at Hirchbergs. JC Penney was also downtown until they moved to Eastland.

  41. CAROL LANCZ says:

    I think we have a theme song. Listen to Bob Dylan’s song “Duquesne Whistle.”

    • Jim says:

      Carol, I was so thrilled to hear that Dylan had recorded song titled Duquesne Whistle!! I have heard that it was written as a tribute to Duquesne’s famous son, Earl Hines, one of the most influential figures in the development of modern jazz piano and, according to one major source, is “one of a small number of pianists whose playing shaped the history of jazz”.

      Did you know there was yet another recording that put Duquesne on the musical map? Country singer Hank Snow wrote and recorded a song titled Duquesne, Pennsylvania! I have the recording on an album by Hank Snow but have not been able to find an MP3 verision to download to share with all of you. I recently purchased a turntable that allows me to download directly to my computer, so after I figure the darn thing out, I certainly will share it with everyone!

      Thanks for sharing Dylan’s recording with us. It’s good to hear that time hasn’t improved his voice! LOL

  42. Bob Salopek says:

    Balsamo’s was THE store for baked goods in my memory. Home of the 85 cent LARGE layer cakes. 65 cents if you wanted the “little” 9 inch layer cake ! ! WHAT a bargain ! Those jelly sandwich cookies were to die for. And they had an item called “Lady Fingers”, I believe. They were flaky cylinders about 6″ long, filled with the most delightful light and airy whipped cream. I would drive my Mom there to shop for groceries in my ’40 Pontiac, somehow never contacting the streetcars as my car squiggled along the tracks. Parking was really tight. And if I was lucky, a gloriously roaring GM F7 Diesel-Electric pulling Pullmans would come to a stop right there at Balsamo’s, holding up all car and pedestrian traffic on 5th Ave. But you know, nobody minded. Everyone would just stare and watch as passengers embarked and disembarked. What a time it was for our Mon Valley bustling towns.

  43. Cliff Warner says:

    You are correct,Samuels was a shoe store. The entrance was at street level but you had to go up a set of stairs to the showroom if I remember correctly. The had an x-ray machine, I think it was called a flora-scope that you could view your feet right through your shoes to see how they fit.. I went through shoes like nobodies business when growing up and had my feet x-rayed many times too often.. I remember parking was so bad in downtown McKeesport in the bustling 1950’s that my father would drop my mother and I off and ride around the block while we bought my shoes. Of course gas was under .25 a gallon then too.

  44. Diane Maydew Belliveau says:

    I think the second picture was just a bit later… car looks like mid 50’s. And yes, Samuel’s was a shoe store. What great memories of 5th Avenue!!! Thank you, Jim, or your continuing posts!!

  45. Colleen Byrne Travis says:

    I remember going to McKeesport on Saturday evenings. My father would wear a suit and tie, hat and top coat. We were all dressed to the nines. I frequently shop in Footloose in Shadyside. The owner of that store, Jill’s grandfather owned Ruebinsteins shoe store in McKeesport. We shopped there frequently. What about Balsimo’s? My mom would buy those great raisin squares and a chocolate roll cake. Our next door neighbor on Omar Street always said that she wished she had a dime for every Jaison’s bag that she saw go into our house. All of our furniture came from Ruben’s. Then, of course we ended the evening @ Isaly’s. Hot chocolate made with REAL milk topped with whipped cream. My older brothers always got a hot fudge sundae 35 cents. I could never figure out hoe they finished that big helping of ice cream. My father bought most of his clothes at David Isreal’s. Let’s not forget Cox’s and the Famous!

  46. Dennis E. Andrison says:

    I lived in an apartment above Yiece’s ( I have forgotten the spelling) Clothing store at 703 Fifth Avenue. I hope someone has a picture of that part of Fifth Avenue….if you do please share it.

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