Blueberries on the Hill – A Love Story

I have finally made plans for what is becoming my annual Christmas time trip to Duquesne! Currently, my plans are to arrive Friday evening, December 7th and to stay until Wednesday, December 12th.

I make this trip each year to visit with one of my two surviving aunts, Aunt Peggy. Aunt Peg is one of my dad’s isters and one of the eight children of Anna and George Volk. She lives in Munhall at St. Theresa Apartment’s which are located behind St. Theresa’s Catholic Church on Main Street.

Aunt Peggy Today

Every year as I was growing up, Aunt Peg would tell me stories associated with some of the ornaments. Among her treasures is a 12 inch strand of glass beads, some of which are broken, that my great grandmother brought with her when she arrived in the United States from Lubotin, Czechoslovakia when she arrived in the states in approximately 1868. There are also ornaments from every decade from the 1920s through the present day. She remembers every detail about each ornament including if she had purchased them, where and when she bought them, how much she paid and why they appealed to her at the time. If an ornament was given to her as a gift, she remembers who gave it to her, when they did and any story behind it. There are ornaments that were purchased throughout the United States, and many that were bought during family travels throughout Europe. With so many rich memories of Christmases past, I realize just HOW improtant it is for her to be able to appreciate them and recall the stories each year. Although I have heard them all many times before, I smile as she recounts the history of each one as we trim the tree each year.

I suppose that this is as good of a time as any to share a wonderful gift that was given to our family by Aunt Peg a few years ago. As the last surviving offspring of Anna and George Volk, Aunt Peg took on the task of writing her rememberances about her family during the years prior to the birth of her nieces and nephews. Over the course of several years, Aunt Peg would sit at her kitchen table and draw upon rememberances of what she termed “hearsay” tales that she recalled from her youth, as well as her own experiences as a young girl growing up in Jefferson County, northeast of Pittsburgh.

I consider her writings a family treasure and her love story to the family. As a result of her efforts, all of my children and the entire Volk family has a rich resource of stories to pass along for generations to come. I often read about the importance of assuring that family histories and recollections are documented for future generations. I would never be able to describe how much my Aunt Peg’s story means to all of the Volk’s.

As each of you gather with family during the upcoming holidays, I would encourage ALL of you to talk-up the idea of your family’s patriarchs and matriarchs collaborating on a similar task for your family. It will be well worth it.

And so, I give you our story. Thank you Aunt Peg for your words, your love and for keeping our history alive. I am taking some artistic license by renaming it:

Blueberries on the Hill

Our Family As I Remember by Peggy (Volk) Rusnica

Grandpa, Paul Volk, was born May 1st 1852 Lubotin, Czechoslovakia, south of Poland. Grandma Christina Volk was also born in Lubotin, Czechoslovakia on July 2nd 1854.

About a dozen years ago it was split into two countries, one is Czech and the other is Slovakia which is where our ancestors came from.

Paul and Christina immigrated at the same time. Don’t know how they settled in Delancey, PA but Christina was too young to get married. It must have been one of those pre-arranged deals that was formed at birth. She stayed with relatives. Don’t know how he acquired 6 acres or more on Volk’s hill but he built his house first and then he got married. He must have worked in the mines or at the coke oven. I don’t’ know too much that
far back or how the Coke ovens worked because they stopped using them. The coke ovens were located right below our home, I was afraid to go past them because sometimes Hobos stayed in them. They resembled bee hives with an opening in the top and front.

Paul and Christina had eight children. Steve, Paul, John, Catherine, Mary, George (our father), Julia, Ellen (must have died at birth or thereafter) and Bill (was adopted). I tried to get the dates of their births in order. May even get the day of Paul and Christina ~ wedding. They should have all the dates somewhere. Don’t know too much about Paul and Christina Volk except by Hearsay.

Paul was what is known now as a chiropractor. Christina cured all kinds of stomach trouble with herbs. She never verbalized her recipes so we don’t know what kind of herbs she used.

Most of George Volk’s siblings left and moved to Detroit and Flint (Hearsay from Dad’s sister). Aunt Catherine was a very good seamstress. Made my mother, Anna (Zrelak) Volk’s wedding dress also my brother Steve’s Christening outfit which was used for all eight baptisms. It still is in perfect condition and James Volk has it in his possession. Mrs. Anna (Zrelak) Volk wedding gown is  preserved in quite good condition, which James Volk also has at this time.

Hearsay – There were too strong men in the Adrian, PA community they were my grandfather, Paul Volk and Pete Kotula. Paul and Christina always walked to Punxsutawney, PA and did their shopping. One day some men dared a police officer to try to arrest Paul Volk in a trumped up charge, (this is where the story gets a little messy). Maybe Paul was by himself or Mr. Kotula was with Christina and Paul. The police officer approached Paul on the bridge and told him he was going to be arrested and taken to jail. Paul said he didn’t do anything and the police officer insisted. So the next thing Paul took off the police officer’s uniform, shoes, hat and threw him in the river. (End of story true
or false?)

This one is true because I remember it Grandpa used a lot of wood to heat up his home and after they discontinued using the street car from Adrian to Punxsutawney, the railway ties were still there. So Grandpa took his wheelbarrow and I went with him put 3 or 4 railway ties in his wheelbarrow and took them home. My brothers and some of his friends chopped them up for bundling for him. Some of my brother’s friends would visit him
and he would tell them stories. Naturally I was too young to be allowed to listen. I would go to visit him after I had lunch at home. Sometimes he would have candy and give me a piece and then I would go back to school. Grandpa died when I was ten years old. I don’t remember Grandma at all because she died when I was two months old.

My younger brother, Joe, was Grandpa’s shadow. Grandpa would walk around and Joe
would follow him. Both of them would have their hands behind their backs. It was very interesting to watch them (and as we all remember Joe walked that way all the days of his life).

Aunt Mary Yambrich built a house on Grandpa’s property. It was a beautiful home but was vacated by the time I was old enough to remember. Hearsay – They said she tried to have a little store with candy, etc. She left the candy cases in the room when she left. Don’t know too much about them, but the siblings said Aunt Margaret graduated from high school in
Punxsutawney, then the same year that my oldest brother Steve graduated, I’ll find out later if she was the oldest, I think Joe was the oldest, then Paul, Margaret and Bill. They all moved to Flint, Michigan and came to visit every year, when St. Adrian had the annual picnic and bazaar. Don’t remember too much about Dad’s brothers and sisters because they all moved away when I was still very young. I do remember Uncle John’s wife and daughters visited us in West Mifflin, PA. Uncle Bill came to visit us when Dad got sick and was told he had cancer of the stomach but that happened in later years.

Dad and Mom got married and built a house next to Grandpa’s. They say that the wedding lasted for three days, again that’s hearsay. Dad was born  May 30, 1890 and Mom was born August 16, 1890. They were married August  9, 1914. Dad was born on Volk’s hill and Mom immigrated from Lubotin, Czechoslovakia, when she was sixteen, went to see her dad who worked in the mines around the Greensburg, PA area. He went back to Lubotin,
Czechoslovakia and she stayed in the United States. She worked in the Hotel Henry in Pittsburgh, then went to Adrian to visit her cousins, met Dad and later got married. He said he bought her an ice cream cone and proposed. She did have an engagement ring. I may still have it but things got lost when I moved to St Therese Plaza, again I have pictures of our homes, hope they didn’t get lost. Our home on Volk’s Hill was built sometime after they got married. It had two rooms downstairs and two rooms upstairs. Mom needed a kitchen so Dad added an addition on. It was the length of the house and everyone spent the most time in it, like we still do today. The kitchen had a large kitchen stove which made it comfortable in the winter but very hot in the summer. Mom had a sewing machine in the kitchen which was used almost daily. The dining room had a heating stove in it which was used in the winter. Since we had three older brothers it was the job for them to bring in the wood and also to start the fire every day.

The living room was used mostly in the summer. The two bedrooms upstairs were very large and one was used for the boys and one for the girls and the younger boys. We also had a basement and was used mostly for canned goods and storing cabbage, apples and so on. My brother Hank had to churn the butter, don’t know who churned before he was old enough, one of the older boys I guess. We had some pigs, chickens and one cow. There was a hay barn, cow barn, and a chicken coop (that my brother Gary built) to raise chickens. He used Grandpa’s house as an incubator. Later, we got rid of the livestock and only had a garden. Grew some vegetables, strawberries. There was an early apple tree, a plum, and apple tree, mulberry bush, with three cherry trees, crabapple, & a blackberry. We had to go up the hill for blueberries. My two youngerst brothers, Mike and Joe, and I would go and pick them. Gary and Hank would go further onto a larger path of blueberries. Sometimes Helen and I would go, but not often. Our guardian angels must have been working overtime since snakes would wait in the bushes to get the birds. Didn’t know about the snakes until my later years. Blueberries were low growing bushes, and I knew where every
bush was located on the hill in back of our house. Mom used Grandpa’s house to wash and dry the clothes. Had a gasoline washer. In later years the boys used Aunt Mary’s house which they named the “Bar X”. An invitation was needed to enter. Mostly the lower part of Adrian was where all the club members lived.

Stephen Volk was born on April 28th 1915. Don’t know too much about him until later years. Yambrichs were still living in their house and Margaret Yambrich would go to St. Adrian’s school with Steve since they were the same age. Guess he was a holy terror in school and Aunt Margaret would tell Mom. They had a nun that loved sour apples and Steve would
bring her some and she would forgive all the pranks. He graduated from St. Cosmos and Damion High School in Punxsutawney, PA and did not want to work in the mines. He helped a roofer, then went on to be a mechanic. He had an old Indian brand motorcycle but would not give me a ride but he took Gary and Hank. We had a car, but it was only used when Mom went shopping in Punxsutawney. The boys drove her. During Halloween one year Steve and some guys went to a farmer’s house and took his wagon apart and put it
back together on the roof of his barn.

We moved to Nu Mine, PA in 1940 and Dad, John, and Gary worked in the mines but Steve went to Niagara Falls, NY and stayed there until he enlisted in the army. He worked as a mechanic when he enlisted they had him as head mechanic and he had a class of soldiers who repaired all the planes that were damaged. He stayed in Chanute Fields near Chicago all during the war years. When the war ended he relocated to Duquesne, PA, worked in a garage, and later bought it. He later sold it because he was too good-hearted and wouldn’t ask the customers to pay their bills. He went to work at Penney’s Auto Store and stayed there until he retired. He was head of the auto store. He met Mildred Puskaric from Hamilton Ave. in Duquesne and got married in October, 1947 and lived in West Mifflin for the remainder of his life. They bought a house on Thomas Street with three bedrooms. Stephen Volk, Jr. was born March 27, 1949. James was born November 1, 1951. 

The book “Glory Years” by Pittsburgh author Jim O’Brien has a story of Steve Volk which I would like to share with you:  

Steve Volk “I’m 110 percent”

A light rain fell all weekend on the fresh grave at St. Joseph’s Cemetery in West Mifflin. It soaked a small American flag that had been stuck in the mound so that the flag soon stopped flapping in the breeze.

The flag signified that the decreased man was a military veteran, one of those we ought to remember and pay tribute to on Memorial Day.

A larger American flag was folded in a triangle at the top of the casket, and had caught my eye, during the viewing earlier in the week at the Gregris Funeral Home in Duquesne. It’s the favored funeral home for Croatian Catholics in the community, across the street from the high school, up the steep hill from where the U.S. Steel Works once dominated the landscape.

Steve Volk, my wife’s uncle, had lived most of his 84 years in Duquesne, and once owned an automotive repair shop there. He later managed an automotive repair unit of J.C. Penney’s. He died in May of 1999.

During World War II, Volk trained airplane mechanics for the U.S. Army at an airfield near Chicago. Like most men and women who were in the military service, he was not a decorated war hero. He simply served his country as best he could and when he came back home he got a job and raised a family.                             

Steve Volk was no big shot, just a simple man. He was about 5′ 7″,  but walker tall and was a sociable fellow. I didn’t know him that well, but every time I saw him at a family get-together he wore a hat and a smile. When anyone asked how he was doing, he would reply, “I’m 110 percent.”

He was the sort of man NBC newscaster Tom Brokaw wrote about in his best-selling book, “The Greatest Generation.” It dealt with individual men and women who came of age during the Great Depression and World War II and went on to build modern America.  “This generation was united not only by a common purpose,” wrote Brokaw, “but also by common values — duty, honor, economy, courage, service, love of family and country~ and, above all, responsibility for oneself.”

Steve was the oldest of eight children. He was survived by his sisters,  Helen Volk and Peggy Rusnica, and his brothers, Gary and Joseph. He was  preceded in death by his brothers, John, Henry and Michael.

Volk did a great job of raising his sons, Steve and Jimmy, now in their mid-40’s. Young Steve was just 14 and Jimmy 12 when their mother, Mildred Volk, died. They’ve always been good kids, and now they  have wonderful families of their own. Their dad taught them how to do  that.

Steve has been a big success in the insurance business, and Jimmy has done just as well in the retail business. They have fond memories of their father. He was a simple man who
enjoyed hunting, fishing, golfing and smiling.

Seeing a movie like “Saving Private Ryan” makes one realize how lucky they were not to have been in combat. It’s the combat veterans who really rate our admiration. But people like Steve Volk did their best in a supportive way.

His sons are real sports fans, but their favorite hero has always been their dad.

John Volk was born September 3rd 1917. He went to St. Adrian’s school and later worked in the mines in DeLancey, PA. He enjoyed hunting with his best friend John. They were going through a fence and John’s gun went off and hit John, John Havrilla ran to the fanners home and called the ambulance. The bullet just missed his main artery and John almost lost his leg. He had a hole in his leg for the rest of his life. Doctor told Mom if he
lost his leg he was going to lose his life. John tried to join the armed forces but was refused and went to work in Niagara FalIs, NY. He also worked in some factories, then got a job at Walkers laundry as delivery man. He got mugged while on the job. Worked as a delivery man until he retired. He met Kay Arey at the laundry and got married September 26th 1947. He stayed in Niagara Falls for the remainder of his life. Died August 13th 1987 and was buried as member of St. Leo Church in Niagara Falls. We would go and visit Kay and John a few times a year. He would also take us to the Shrine and now has a plaque from all the nephews and nieces near the 3rd outdoor station. Kay came to West Miffiin and stayed at Gary and Helen’s house until she died June 20, 2005 and enjoyed herself immensely. She had cancer and was only bed ridded one week. She was in the funeral home here and then in Niagara Falls and was buried next to John.

Helen Volk was born October 7th 1919 and went to St. Adrian’s school and graduated and went to work in a restaurant in Punxsutawney. She then went to Niagara Falls and worked at the Ham and Eggs restaurant until the war and then worked at Belle aircraft. After the war she went back to being a waitress and came back to Nu Mine. Later she moved to West Mifflin and worked at Souffers until she retired. She was unmarried and traveled a lot to Mexico, California, Atlantic City, Vegas. She went on vacation with her two friends from Stouffers Clara and Millie every summer. She told me that the Mexico trip was awful. Last day of the trip the tour guide did not reserve a room for them. Two couples, Helen, and Clara had to share a room with two beds and not even a lock on the door. They had to sleep with their clothes on and hugging their luggage. Helen was very good-hearted to all the family. She told me not to take a job and help mom clean and help take care of the family. She bought me all my clothes. I was the best dressed lady in town and even had a fur jacket. If the boys needed a few extra dollars, they would always ask Helen. She was a very good waitress and Stouffers would send her to help open some new restaurants, and she would stay for a month or so. She went to New York, Cleveland and a few other places. Also Dayton, Ohio (More on extra page). Helen died in November of 2008.

George (Gary) Volk was born August 18, 1921 and went to St. Adrian’s school. He hated school and went to work for a fanner until the end of the school year. Worked around the home and Hank and he put in a pipe line from the well to our house until it went dry. Joined the CCC camp and then went to work in the mines. In the meantime he started raising chickens. Hatched them from eggs and had a chicken farm and sold eggs and chickens to the residents of Adrian, especially the superintendent of the mines. Gary also sold blueberries to the family. We went up the hill and Gary and Hank went further onto another area. He always told Hank to pick the berries from that area and he would find another. Hank would pick the berries and Gary would tell him stories. Steve, Gary and Hank went to Duquesne and Homestead. Steve worked in a garage and later bought it. All three stayed in a hotel until they got married. Gary was drafted in the army. His tour of duty was in Japan. When he returned from the tour he got a job at West Homestead bakery and then worked in the mill until he retired. He met Helen Mihailoff who worked in her mother’s restaurant, The Streamline Cafe on 8th Avenue in downtown Homestead. They were married April 10th 1948 and shortly after they bought the house on Kenny Street.

Mom, Dad, Joe and Mike moved in with them. It was a large house with a large living room and kitchen on the first floor. When Mom and Dad moved from Nu Mine they remodeled one of the bedrooms on the second floor and Mom had her kitchen there and also a bedroom on the second floor. They also had another small bedroom and a large attic. My husband Henry Rusnica, our son Kenny and I came to West Mifflin after the mines shut down and got a job in the mill and we could not find lodging and Mom wanted me to stay with her, so Gary rented me a small room and Dad, Joe and Mike stayed up in the attic. Henry, I and Ken (my son) slept in the room. We had a double bed and Ken had an army cot with a mattress. Mom, Dad, Helen and Joe got busy looking for a home. Mom
wanted me to stay with them so we had a rough time looking for a house that would accommodate all of us. I still was paying rent for our home in Nu Mine. We used it when we went to visit his Mom. Steve used it also when he went fishing with his buddies. One time we went to stay in our home and Steve and his buddy decided to go fishing but didn’t realize we were visiting also. So they slept overnight upstairs, I had a double bed
upstairs. We stayed in Gary’s home and finally found a home on Duquesne Avenue in West Mifflin around 1956. I had an apartment upstairs with two bedrooms and a kitchen. (More later when I get to my section.) Gary remodeled his home and died in 2004, we always had outdoor picnics and always had someone of the family visiting. Their oldest son Gary graduated from Bishop Boyle, went to College at Dayton, Ohio. He was in R.O.T.C program there. He finished off his army career and afterwards got married and visited them often. He currently lives in Missouri. Chris (Middle son) joined the Air Force after he graduated from Bishop Boyle, later married and bought a home in Greentree, Pa. When John died, Kay decided to come to live with Gary and Helen. At first she was going to buy a home which Gary and Helen talked her into staying with them after Jeff (youngest son) got married and they had an empty nest. Jeff graduated from West Mifflin North High School. Helen and Jeff bought a home down the street from Gary and Helen on Kenny Street. Gary lived in Missouri after his time in the army. Married Sue Ehlers and had three children. Chris married Ruth Ann Simpson and had two children. Jeff married Helen Hruska and have two children. Now Jeff and Helen reside in a large house in West Mifflin and have parties and gatherings following Helen and Gary’s footsteps. Gary died February 11,
2004. Helen’s 80th birthday party was at Jeff and Helen’s house August 2008. She died December 26, 2008 with family around her just as she lived with open arms and would welcome family.

Hank – 1944

Henry (Hank) Volk was born on September 24, 1924. Hank was always the quiet one, so I didn’t know too much about him. He went to school in St. Adrian’s and graduated from there also. We moved to NuMine 1940 and Henry went to Niagara Falls and worked in a factory there until he enlisted in the navy. His nickname was “Spirit” because he was always so quiet. When we lived in Adrian I had livestock I vaguely remember the cow and pigs and later Gary raised chickens. Mom
always saved the cream from the milk and Hank had to churn the butter. Later we got rid of the livestock and only had Gary’s chickens. We had a big barn but no more livestock. There was a large swing in there but I was afraid of snakes and stayed away.

Hank enlisted in the navy and was on a destroyer. Can’t remember the name but after the war he came back to Nu Mine and later joined Steve in Homestead. He saved a fellow navy man while in the service and had a friend for life.

Clara Hertz lived in the same street as the hotel where the boys had rooms, She met Hank and got married and lived with her parents for a while. They bought a home in Munhall with a Pittsburgh address and Clare and Etta still reside there. Had four children, Cheryl, Tom, Etta and Jerry. They all live around the area and visited their parents often until Hank died January 15th 1989, still today they get together every Sunday. They always
were a close-knit family. Etta had a pool installed and they still use it during the summer months.

(Margaret Volk Rusnica) was born on Volk’s hill on April 13th 1926, and attended St. Adrian’s School graduated from 8th grade with high honors. Was a very shy girl because of living on Volk’s hill, had very few friends because we lived almost a mile from the town. Had a few friends that lived on the edge of town near our home. One friend was born one day after my birthday. Her
first name was Margaret also so that is why I was called Peg. Mom never called me Peg. I was always Margaret. Grand-dad gave me an Indian Basket and I was so excited that I tripped and fell and broke it. My grand-mother died May 1926 so naturally I didn’t know her but was very close to my grandfather. I went to visit him almost every day. I was with him when he brought home rail-way ties and used them for heating purposes. We could have had free electricity but Grand-dad took the money instead because the telephone Co. put telephone poles on his property. There was blackberry patches on his property. We also had blackberry bushes up on the hill behind our home. I knew where everyone was located and took Joe and Mike with me and we picked them for Mom. I didn’t know until later years that snakes used to hide under them. After Grandpa died, Mom used his home to wash clothes. She had a gasoline-powered washer and Helen helped her. Guess I was too young to help. Grand-dad had two stoves and Mom heated the water and hung the clothes and used the other room to dry them in the winter months. There was a kitchen, dining room and formal parlor as they used to call it. Don’t remember the upstairs until Gary started the incubator and I would go up to watch the baby chicks break out of their
shells. Think he had a sun-porch but I’m not sure. After the Bar “X” was formed in Yambrich’s home, and again I was too young and not allowed to mingle. Mom was watchful and wouldn’t let me go up to mingle. They used to have dances with orchestra which was invitation only, I went to early Mass on Sunday and the pastor announced that Bar “X” was still singing”Roll Out the Barrel”. I wanted to crawl under the pews. Sometimes I would go to all the services. Stations and Mass, Vespers and missions. I
was very religious and had friends among the Mercy sisters. One nun had me join the choir at an early age because she said I could sing like a canary (where did my voice disappear to?)

We moved to Nu Mine after we lost all our wells. We had three wells and they all went dry. We moved to Nu Mine October 1939. We had a lot of friends because they all liked my brothers. I took up typing, shorthand and bookkeeping in Adrian when I entered my freshman years. I had to change schools and hated it because they had me take algebra and other subjects.

I couldn’t take typing at all until my junior year. I did take home-economics and made a pinafore and a full skirt and did a little cooking. Had to cook oatmeal and put sugar in it and eat (Hated it!), I never put sugar in it at home. With all the boys at home, Mom had me quit school in my junior year to help her. I didn’t mind because the high school subjects were very different from St. Adrian’s, Helen went to work in Niagara Falls and I stayed home and helped Mom. I didn’t have to do any cooking or baking. Mom said so, so I cleaned the house and helped with the laundry and she did all the cooking and baking. That’s why I had to learn after I got married. I did make cakes and cookies and was told by my family they were delicious. When we went to attend the war memorial they erected, I met my boyfriend. Went with him until he joined Marines. Only took rides with him, he was so afraid of my brothers. Only went with another couple during the afternoon on Sundays. He would dance with me at a regular Saturday night dances. When Gary started working in the mines he told the workers they got too friendly with me they had to answer to him.

When Steve, John and Hank went to Niagara Falls, Gary was the only one to look out for me. Helen also went to Niagara FaIls and worked there until the war ended and came back and worked in Stouffers until she retired. Now I will try to remember about De Lancey, PA post office but about Adrian the town. It was divided in half, one was Old Town, and the other was New Town. We had the company store and entrance to the mines in Old
Town. Also the superintendent of the mines and all had the big houses had a row of houses also the doctor had an office. Between Old Town and New Town was St. Adrian’s church and school also the public school was across the road. A small candy store was located across the road from the catholic church. The Presbyterian church was located nearby. When St. Adrian’s had their picnic on August 15th we had to go up thru New Town and they had a dance hall there. After awhile we had a young priest with ideas. He had a cement platform built right next to the church. We also had a swing set and a seesaw. There was about 100 homes total at the upper end of New Town they had a large home which they rented out to small families and single men who worked in the mines. They called it “the castle.” Don’t know whether it belonged to the mines because Ididn’t go up to that end. They also had an orchard there. Volk’s Hill, later called Bar “X” Ranch, was
located at the Old Town entrance. We had to walk up a large hill and through Old Town to get to the church and school. Had a small hill to get to our home.

Moved to Nu Mine October 1939 and Mom was very happy to finally live in town. We had a four bedroom house, a living room, dining room and kitchen. Steve was very talented and we had a mock fireplace in our living room and had a light in it. Had a large coal stove in the kitchen with a reservoir on the side for hot water. Had a garage and also an outside outhouse and coal shed. Had a small garden. There was a ball field down below our home and every time they hit a homerun someone had to come to the house to get the ball, occasional broke windows in our house.

We also had a company store and a small grocery store on Main Street. Also a soda shop, movie theater, catholic church, and non catholic church, also a doctor’s office. There was also a row of houses across the creek from Nu Mine, we called it Creekside. Mine entrance was also located in Nu Mine and a barber shop. Had four rows of houses on each side of the church and company store. Had a grade school but had to travel by bus to Sagamore which was about three miles from Nu Mine to the high school. Had dances every Saturday, and Sundays we roller skated.

After the war most of the men left town and then the mines closed and that’s when the town started to go downhill. I married a guy from Creekside (Henry Rusnica) and lived with Mom and Dad until I rented half of a double house. Ken, my son, was born a healthy boy and had some friends especially his cousins. After the mines closed Henry got a job in Homestead mill and we had a small bedroom in Gary’s home. Mom had a bedroom and kitchen upstairs and later bought a house on Duquesne Avenue. Mom wanted a large house so I could rent part of the upstairs. Had a kitchen and two bedrooms. Lived on Duquesne Avenue for the rest of our lives. Steve came and lived with us after he got sick. Mom and Dad died and he had a bedroom with us and still kept his home on Thomas Street in Duquesne and his sons came to visit him and stayed in his home until he died. They sold the home’ and moved. James started to work in Dayton, Ohio Steve was an
insurance man and other interest and later moved and retired in Florida.

When the steel workers went on strike, Mike got me a job in Kennywood. I was a waitress, then a hostess. I was only going to work until the strike was over but since it was seasonal work I worked there 29 years. I liked working with the young girls and boys. I had very good mangers until the last year. I had a manager who didn’t tell me when someone called off and messed up the schedule. My grand-daughter was born and I wanted to spend time with her. I enjoy my grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

Joseph Volk was born on Adrian Hill and went to school until we moved to Nu Mine had a grade school but had to go to Sagamore and later Rural Valley to get his education. Was a smart boy but had a speech impediment which made him shy. Had convulsion when he was about six months old and left him with a speech problem. He graduated from high school. Got a series of jobs as janitor, stock boy, etc. Finally got a job with West Mifflin Borough. We laughed because Ken went to see one of the bosses who lived on our street and told him to give Uncle Joe a job. He got a job on sanitation then had a inside job until he retired He traveled a lot during his vacation. He went on tours and covered most of the U.S, then started to go to Vegas with a group from St. Michael’s Church in Homestead. Played cards every week after bingo with the men’s club and came home mostly around 2 A.M. or later. Had a car but had a wreck and was told not to drive any more, then I would drive him with his car to bingo, card party, etc. Steve started coming to the house and took Joe to other places even to Wheeling, WV to the dog races. Heenjoyed having Steve around and we played cards every evening after our dinner with Cele, Helen, Steve, Joe and I. After Steve died he was very lonely but kept working at bingo.

When Joe was very young he looked up at an arrow Mike was playing with and it went into his eye. Had trouble with it all his life and got worse every year. He was blind later in his left eye. Couldn’t work as bingo caller and got transferred to the money room.

Kept losing his balance and falling and ended up in the same nursing home as Helen. Everyone loved Helen and Joe. Joe died before Helen in 2007, but Helen didn’t realize he was gone. Developed pneumonia and was gone in a week. I continued living on Duquesne Ave. until I got an apartment at St. Therese Plaza and sold the house with Jim Volk’s help. He has a job Staging Hands and did a lot of remodeling that helped to sell the house.

Michael Volk was born June 21, 1932 at Volk’s family home. Don’t know too much about him since I was only six years old when he was born. He was a beautiful baby with Big blue eyes. When Mom took him to church all the people in Adrian remarked how beautiful he was. He was always mischievous. He would hide and wouldn’t come out, one time Steve had to pull the car out and make believe we were going out etc. He attended St. Adrian’s grade school but we moved and he continued his schooling in Nu Mine Grade School. Then we moved again to West Mifflin and he graduated from Homestead trade school. He joined the Army and was sent overseas and was then inducted into NSA continued until his death with some time off in civilian life’. He worked in a cabinet shop in Homestead, then went to Fort Meade as a civilian and the rest was secret service. While he was home, he worked in Leona Theater, worked a few years in Kennywood, then went to Fort Meade as a civilian. He moved to Maryland and came home every weekend. He met Ann while they were both working at Fort Meade. They were married and continued living in the Maryland area. Lived in an apartment then bought a home always improving. They had four daughters and one son. He worked as a photographer (weddings only) and many pictures of his children.

Children of George & Anna Volk

Stephen Volk     April 28, 1915-May 18,1999

John Volk     September 2, 1917-August 13, 1987

Helen Volk     October 7, 1919-November 10, 2008

George (Gary) Volk     Aug. 18, 1921- February 11,2004

Henry Volk     September 24, 1924-January 15, 1989

Margaret (Volk) Rusnica   April 13, 1926

Joseph Volk     May 25, 1928-January 10, 2007

Michael Volk     June 21, 1932-October 25, 1993


In closing, because of this wonderful account by my Aunt Peg, I think I will always remember her as a young girl picking blueberries on the hill. Thank you Aunt Peg, we ALL love you!




This entry was posted in Life in General, Miscellaneous, My Hunky Family, Parents. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Blueberries on the Hill – A Love Story

  1. Margie yambrick says:

    Any relation to Paul volk and Christina cushner from puxetawny ?) Pennsylvania. He was a volk who was adopted and born in england.

    • Jim says:

      Margie – my dad’s whole family was from the Punxsutawney area. I believe Paul is the fellow I came to know as Uncle Paul. I thought he call Michigan or Ohio home in his later years.

  2. Erica Yambrick says:

    Thanks for posting this, interesting read! I don’t have too much to add but I’m a descendant of Mary (Volk) Yambrick. Joj up there is my uncle.
    I do know that prior to 1918, Czechoslovakia was actually considered part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but there was sort of an ethnic identity movement going on back then as well. Technically they were Austro-Hungarian but they’d want to be considered Czech, or Slovak, or what have you.
    This is a few years late but trying to get a better picture of the Yambrick/Yambrich/Jambrich/Jambrik/Jámbrik side of the family and this helped quite a bit– the five different ways of spelling the name through the years doesn’t help!

  3. Pingback: Thanks for the Memories | The Duquesne Hunky

  4. Pingback: Heading Home | The Duquesne Hunky

  5. Joj Yambrick says:

    Thank you. How valuable. I’m replying say thank you, but also in an effort to leave a foto of Paul Sr. and Christina, and a daughter (I think it’s julia or my great-grandmother, Mary). If I can’t attach it here anyone is welcome to email me and I’ll gladly send it along. There’s a crease in it thanks to time, but it’s still a good quality. Some of you might have it already.

  6. says:

    THAT was a beautiful story!

  7. Linda (Negley) Gibb says:

    your aunt truly did give your family a wonderful gift. I enjoyed tripping through the generations with you. How about making a video of her showing her ornaments & the stories behind them to share with your family & we your internet family? I’d love to see them & hear all about them for they are part of history!.

  8. Debra Faust-Clancy says:

    Jim, I loved reading your history and especially the stories by your Aunt Peggy. She has had a wonderful, interesting life and can remember so much. You were wise to ask her to write them down for you, as it would be so easy for all of those details to become lost to posterity. The details are great, like how they heated water and made butter and got heat for the house and thank goodness we didn’t ever have to do OUTHOUSES. Just think of how awful that must have been, especially in winter. It was a lot of work in those days to run households and get everyone clean and fed. I’m going to ask my Dad’s last remaining sister Hilda (Faust) Roble, who lives on Harvey St in Munhall with her husband Steve, if she can write down some of her remembrances of growing up with her very large family of 13 brothers and sisters. I’ve got bits and pieces of it, but it is best to get it all down on paper with birthdays and marriage dates if at all possible. Thanks again for putting this up for all us Duquesners to read and hold in our hearts. Now it is part of our history too. I do remember the shock of seeing a dead deer on our back porch hanging from the rafters bleeding out, right before I went to school early one cold late-autumn morning. My dad’s funny idea of a real “wake-up” was to have the thing hanging in your face as soon as you exited the door! He and my brother Tom really loved to go deer hunting together when Tom was growing up. A rite of passage as you say. I’ll be printing this out and putting it in some family Christmas cards for those who don’t “do the internet”…. I’m very glad you are putting your excellent writing skills to good use for all of us. Your well chosen words have ignited plenty of memories of my own… Have a wonderful Christmas and please continue posting photos of your adorable grandson Jackson for all of us to admire.

    • Jim says:

      Debra, thanks so much for your kind words. I was thinking the same thing as you about the difficulty of dealing with the things they did as our parents were growing up. Then I think about how my kids probably think the same thing about my live as a child; no air conditioning, tiny black and white tv, taking buses, ONLY one car, phones with dials and cords, no computers, having to go to the library instead to do reasearch for school instead of the computer, etc. To them, we were roughing it and clawing our way through those dark ages! I have Jackson’s Chrismas pictures they had taken, so watch for them on Facebook! He is such a joy!

  9. Cindy says:

    My mother-in-law Dorothy Macioce lives at St Theresa Plaza too, maybe they know each other?

  10. Colleen Byrne Travis says:

    Jim, What a great story. However, the 1957 thing has to be wrong. You were a year behind me @ HNS ans I am sure that I just turned 62 holy $%# on Saturday. However I would gladly take 1956. Keep it up. You are a great writer and we enjoy it. Your father was a great guy. Many an hour I spent in his garage with my dad waiting for repairs or inspections on our cars. Your mom was a great lady, too. I remember her volunteering at the HNS at lunch time. What great memories you have brought to us. Thank you. XO

    • Jim says:

      Colleen, you are absolutely right! (DARN!) I used an OCR (Optical Character Recognition program) to convert Aunt Peg’s document to text and somehow, it read the 1951 as 1957. Hey, it would have been great to erase 6 years from my current 61!! LOL Thanks for the kind words about my mom and dad too!

  11. Sharyn Manns says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this….brought back memories of my grandparents, uncles & aunts(Zubers) and all the stories they would tell.

  12. Barry Long says:

    What a wonderful story of a lovely family. It should be cherished & passed down through all the relatives so everyone knows their history. The great grandmother’s beads should be kept because besides the memories, they are probably an example of Czechoslovakia’s advanced technology in glassmaking at that time. I recall reading a Reader’s Digest article about the country at the end of the war stating that they could make beads so small that we could soon have highly reflective road signs made with these very small glass beads that the USA had yet to learn how to make. As a young “nationalist” it impressed me that we were not so smart in everything! You should all be proud of your GREATEST GENERATION.

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