A Bubba In McKeesport


I have been searching since I began this blog, and I have finally located a photograph (below) that I took when I was attending Community College of Allegheny County back in 1970.

I was taking photography classes and was given an assignment to capture “winter” in a single photograph. As I was standing in front of The Famous building, across from Kelly & Cohen, on 5th Avenue waiting for the bus home, the snow was falling pretty heavily. I saw a little old lady approaching with a very determined look on her face. I had been randomly shooting photographs of the snow event as I waited and decided to capture the moment as she passed in front of me.

She walked into and out of my life in an instant. I never knew who she was.

I attended photography classes in the building that was to the right of the Penn McKee Hotel on 5th Avenue. I believe it was/is the old YMCA. The college had a complete darkroom set-up available to their photography students, and so the day after my snow storm shoot, I proceeded to develop my film, hoping that I had captured an image that would appropriately represent the word “winter.”

As I reviewed all of the images on the roll of film that day, the photo of the little old lady jumped out. I immediately knew that she would be THE ONE to guarantee me an “A” for the assignment. I carefully cropped, composed and enhanced the black and white image, completed an 11×14 print, and submitted it to Mike Friedlander,  the professor, for grading. The good news? I aced the assignment!

I kept the picture tucked away for years at my childhood home on Thomas Street. It wasn’t until 1999, as I was packing-up Dad’s house after his death, that I was reconnected with the image of the little old lady.

As I stared at her face, I realized that since it had been 29 years since the picture was taken, she had probably passed away. Perhaps it was due to the fact that I had just lost my father, but I began to stare into her face and wonder who this little “bubba” was.

With her babushka tied tightly under her chin, I imagined that she was making her way down the streets of McKeesport to Balsamo’s Market. The snow was pelting down on her, but she was determined to make it to the market to purchase what she needed to prepare a huge pot of stuffed cabbage for her family that would be visiting her the next day. Or, perhaps she was on her way to St. Peter’s Catholic Church to attend morning mass?

By posting this photograph, I hope that someone recognizes this precious little lady. I am certain that she was a VERY important part of a family’s life. She certainly has meant a lot to me. I haven’t forgotten her for over 40 years, and I don’t even know her name.

There is an old Serbian rhyme that pays tribute to one grand lady in all of our lives, our Bubba!

Stara baba stara je,
Kad se ljubi mlada je!
Tebi baba volecu,
Od ljubavi umrecu!


 A bubba is old,
But when she kisses you, she’s young!
Bubba, I’ll love you,
I’ll die of love for you!


This entry was posted in Life in General, McKeesport, Miscellaneous. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to A Bubba In McKeesport

  1. gary stojakovich says:

    That is an absolute, my bubba was also precious to all of us she left this earth for a place with the Redeemer and I know that I will see her again.

  2. KRISTEN LYNCH says:

    My family and I believe this is a picture of my great grandmother. Feel free to email me

  3. Rejuvenating! From a relocated Pittsburgh hunky living in West Virginia.

  4. margaret ondrej ferguson says:

    a babushka, wow! I haven’t heard that word in a long time. I love it! my mom always had a least 2 on. thanks for great memories.

  5. Linda Miller says:

    That is a great story. I also went to CCAC when it was in McKeesport from 1970 to 1973. I was an older student and always felts it was a really good education. I did go on to graduate from Pitt and always felt the professors at CCAC were as good or better. Mr. Taylor and Mr. Fleckenstien(spelling?) come to mind.

    • Bob Chermonitz says:

      Linda, Mr Fleckenstein (sp) (sociology) and Mr. Henry Hopkins (history) influenced me so much that I went on to become a teacher. Both were at CCAC in the fall of 1969.

  6. Cool picture and story, Jim! My mom went to CCAC down there at the same time as you. I remember going there with her when she’d have meetings with her instructors in the Penn Mckee, and her taking me to a fair there, and I remember them putting up a screen outside and we watched Fiddler On the Roof, because I was TERRIFIED of the scene in cemetary. )of course, I was 4, so…)

  7. Bob Chermonitz says:

    Jim, my Bubba was, at the same time, the most dignified and scarey person I ever knew. She was my grandfather’s mother. She never spoke English yet she accumulated enough wealth to build a 3 story home (204 Commonwealth Ave) in Duquesne Place. She dressed in black ( my greatgrandfather having died in 1935), wore her gray hair in a tight bun along with wire rim glasses. As with many Duquesne families, ours was matriarchal in effect. Bubba Helen Chermonitz died in 1957, but not before she taught me lessons that crossed decades. If nothing else this old Slovak taught me to hold my head up high. To be a good person. Believe in family. And that America offers unlimited possibilities! God bless America and God bless Bubbas!

  8. Lou Weber says:

    Jim, my mom’s mother, my grandmother was affectionately called “Bubba” and I loved her deeply. She not only was a superb gardener but also cooked those great Slovak foods that she knew in the old country. Never became a citizen but did have a green card. She was a big fan of the old Studio wrestling show and rabid fan of Bruno Samartino. I used to watch it with her up until Lawrence Welk would come on and I’d go out. She taught me the basics of cooking and sewing which served me well when I entered the service and in my single life. I was devastated when she passed away. Here’s to all those “Babas” that made such a difference in our lives.

  9. patty dennis says:

    Hi … I can’t believe you used the words: “studda bubba” because I have used those words sooo many times, but I spell bubba “baba”….I am a 70-year-old “baba”. I loved the story and hope you find this special lady…..have a blessed day, patty

  10. Linda (Negley) Gibb says:

    Jim that could’ve been anyone’s grandma not necessarily a bubba because in those times all old women wore babushkas in inclement weather.

  11. Debra Faust-Clancy says:

    Jim, your bubba is wearing a babushka. I can’t tell if it was covered with one of those plastic pleated numbers that ladies wore to keep their heads dry in snow and rain. They were folded into a hundred folds and fit into a package the size of a flash drive. I think they cost a dime. Insurance companies would give them out with their name on it. They were God-Awful! But ALL the Duquesne church ladies wore ’em. LOL Thanks for a great story, a wonderful photo and some great memories. Hope you get some info on her identity…

  12. Polly Pirl Artuso says:

    Fabulous photo and as usual, a wonderful story. I hope that you find “your Bubba”…..

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