Voices from Duquesne – August 27, 2013

Hi Jim,

Thank you sooo much for your blog “Duquesne Hunky”.  Have really been enjoying reading the archives and reminiscing.

As I said in my post on the blog today, we lived on Orchard Court off of Center St until I Duq Crawford Mansion 1930swas 14 and my brother Tom was 10.  I was born in ’49 and my brother in ’53.  Do you know of any info about the Crawford Estate, which was demolished to build the homes on Orchard Court.  The wall at the bottom of the hill on Center St. is still standing and was part of the Estate.  My dad, at one time, had a newspaper article from the McKeesport Daily News showing a picture of the Estate and I would love to see it or get a copy of it.  I’ve tried going on Google, to no avail.  My brother and I used to swing on the gate to the left of the entrance of the street which was also part of the estate.  I’m not sure if its still there.

One of my fondest memories of Duquesne were the dances at St Mary’s in the summer.  This would have been the summers of ’63 and ’64, I think.  Doing all the dances of the times – The Pony, the Peppermint Twist, Mashed Potatoes, the Bristol Stomp, etc.  What a great time!

Thank you again,
Eileen Lilley


Hi Jim!

My name is Frank Fiori, but don’t let my name fool you – I am half Duquesne Hunky! (the other half Leechburg Italian)

My GrandPap who we just lost this winter (almost 98 and who I miss dearly every day) was, I believe, on one of the first ZEMPs teams.  He graduated from Duquesne High School in 1933 and went on to work for the CCC in central PA and later – sometime around 1938 started his 40+ year career at the Duquesne works.

Anyway, it has always been part of our family lore that before he began officially being a grownup he was quite the baseball player.  In fact, for as long as I can remember I have been hearing how he pitched a no-hitter which won the game for the team but put his arm out of commission (at least for baseball) for good.  Part of the lore is that there was an article in “The Paper” detailing the events of the game and his feat at pitching.

A few years ago I spent an afternoon at Renzie going through the archives of the McKeesport paper looking for the article to no avail.  Later I realized that perhaps I looked at the wrong paper, and after looking through your recent post about the ZEMPs I saw that there was a Duquesne paper then as well.  It just never dawned on me that there was such a publication, but I’m not surprised reflecting on what a vibrant town it was back then.

So my question is – are there any archives for the Duquesne Times?  Did it even exist in 1933?  If so I would be very interested in searching again.  I’m not sure exactly when this game would have occurred, but would have to be between 1933 and 1938.  Actually the only reason that he came home from the CCC is because the mill was starting up again so I’m thinking that the game must have taken place closer to ’33 when there was more “idle time” from the Depression.

I included my home email because I am not sure how much longer this (Heinz) account will be open.

Thanks Jim – Any info is greatly appreciated!

Frank Fiori



It was great hearing from you. I will be happy to check through the archives in pursuit of “the article.” If you could just clarify the specific name I am looking for, it would be great. Is it Fiori?

Jim Volk


His name was Steve Turlik – The oldest of 8 kids – (Steve, Marge, William, Thelma, Mildred, John, Evelyn, MaryAnne).  They lived at 1020 West Grant Avenue – Polish Hill was pretty much in their back yard. I know that there was a ball field behind the house. Unfortunately the house was torn down in the late 70’s and remains a vacant/parking lot.

His Uncle (spelled Turlick for some reason) had a store almost right across the street  from St. Joseph’s .

My Great-Grandfather was Steve Turlik as well – he followed his brother immigrated somewhere around 1910(?) and married Anna Frenna (1914?) who was born in Ohio but had moved to Duquesne.

Frank Fiori


I am from McKeesport, now living in NJ, but hung out a lot in Duquesne in 65.  I remember walking up the big hill which was the first left after the bridge. Can’t remember the names of those streets, but I never worried about getting jumped or anything. That last section of the avenue before entering the bridge back had row houses with really nice friendly people.  Now, I’m trying to reconnect with Sharon Nestor. We worked together at Balsono’s, dated on and off and saw her last at her wedding reception at the Duke. She graduated in 65.  Also Sandy Cherpak, Marliss Reuigg and Sue Valco. I’m sure I’m missing a few. Pass on my email address to anyone who’s interested. Thanks.

Ed Praysner



My husband John Yarosik was looking on your website and found the name Barbara Wirth who was in the 5th grade picture of Holy Name.  I have/had a sister whose name was Barbara Wirth.  In the blog you said that her brother was Ross.  Was he older than Barbara?  This probably is not the same person but I was just curious.  She would have been the same age as my sister.

My husband really enjoyed looking at the website and he graduated with Frank in 1962 from Duquesne High School.

Thank you,

Dannette Yarosik


4I was visiting Mom this past week and had a chance to take a few photos. Seems they’ve paved paradise and put up a parking lot where the War Memorial once stood, at the corner of 4th and Grant.

They did remove the brass plaque with names of WWI veterans KIA and there is now a much smaller memorial with with plaques remembering vets from WWII, Korea and Viet Nam located in a park next to the Municipal Bldg. between 2nd and 3rd Sts.

So, regarding Alan’s post about the ball, we may never know that story. But since it was erected as a WW I memorial, I doubt any of us were there for the dedication…

Dad never passed a chance to relate this amusing story about the MUNICIPAL BUILDING: I don’t remember the names of the people involved and that’s probably a good thing.

Seems one of the Mayors managed to get a relative a position on the police force who was well known and having less that average intelligence. One day a stranger approached him and asked if he knew where the Municipal Building was located. The officer thought an few minutes and replied, “Duquesne’s a small town and we might not have one of those. You better ask them over there at City Hall…”

Lou Andriko



Hello Jim . . . You have created a Time Machine with your website !  When I get onto your site (and spend hours viewing it) it transports me to another place and time in my existence.

I grew up on Polish Hill – the West Mifflin side (Sylvan Ave – close to the playground). My Dad was Andy Cheke and his family mostly lived on Polish Hill (Edgewood Ave).  I have a cousin Robert (Bobby) Cheke that may be about your age – I am 57 years old and he was older than me but I am not sure how much older.

My mother (Audrey) had a lot of relatives in Duquesne – her Dad was a Kosko and her Mother was a Kapolka , and she had 3 brothers – Richard (Koke) , Ronald (Dewey) , and Regis (there were a few pictures of him on your website – sports). I now live in Bedford County PA and I am a retired school teacher (Science) . . . I was mis-placed when the steel mills went under in the early 80’s . . . long story but good ending (by the way I enjoyed your article on “The Ship Hotel” . . . I live about 10 miles from where it used to be.

As a kid , I do remember Butler’s and Gallagher’s Stores , but I also remember Balchunos’sgallaghers interior Store (I’m sure that is spelled incorrectly – we referred to the store as “Baldies”) – great for penny candy selection – located on Grant Avenue (upper) near “The Dip Cafe”. On Polish Hill we had a little store called “Gazella’s” – she was a Burtus and she made and sold homemade fudge in the store – good stuff.  Also , I remember Sydney’s Store because we went to St. Hedwig’s Church , and Sydney’s was across the street from it AND he was the only store open on Sunday (to get candy , of course) since he was Jewish – at least that is what I was told as a kid.

I have a sister who still lives on Polish Hill – Lori Lippai , retired Postal Worker , her father-in-law was Charlie Lippai (deceased) , and so I do go back and visit “The Emerald City” (HA ! HA !) now and again . . . BUT I prefer to be transported by your Time Machine back to the Duquesne that I remember during those earlier years of my life !  Keep Up The Good Work AND Thanks A Bunch !

Andrew  F. Cheke  (Drew)


Dear Jim,

My name is Melody Hamel.  I am a Pittsburgh native currently on assignment for Bayer in Germany.

I am planning a memorabilia book for my mother’s 80th birthday next year.  My grandfather, Jim “Ham” DeBasi and his brothers George “Babe” and John, played sandlot football in the 1920s.  They played under the name “Kelly” because the team was supposed to be all Irish.  They may  have played for  teams such as Paul Muzzio’s West View, Duquesne Apprentices, McKeesport Olympics, and Lou Conley’s Valley Strip of Lawrenceville.

I am trying to find photos of my grandfather and his brothers from those times.  I recall an article about Bill Gallagher’s former pharmacy that closed in 2011, and it had sandlot photos back to 1914.  Are you still in contact with him? Do you have any other ideas?  Thanks.


Melody A. Hamel

Does anyone have any information or photos to share with Melody?


A few more tidbits of information from The Duquesne Hunky – – – – – – – –

Mercurochrome cedricI recall dreading the treatment I would sometimes get from my mom when I would get a cut, scrape or bruise that was a bit worse than a simple “boo-boo!” Whenever such an injury would occur, Mom would gently was the area and then would use that modern day torture device known as mercurochrome. Of course, compared to iodine, I remember it as being less painful. However, as a child, it was FAR from comforting!!

I recently came across a picture of an old bottle of mercurochrome and realized that I had not seen it or heard about it for years. When I researched the web about, I found the following information on Wikipedia:

Mercurochrome is a trade name of merbromin. The name is also commonly used for over-the-counter antiseptic solutions consisting of merbromin (typically at 2% concentration) dissolved in either ethyl alcohol (tincture) or water (aqueous).

Its antiseptic qualities were discovered by Johns Hopkins Hospital physician Hugh H. Young in 1918.[2] The chemical soon became popular among parents and physicians for everyday antiseptic uses, and it was commonly used for minor injuries in the schoolyard.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) removed it from the “generally recognized as safe” and into the “untested” classification to effectively halt its distribution in the United States on October 19, 1998 over fears of potential mercury poisoning. Sales were halted in Germany in 2003, and in France in 2006. It is readily available in most other countries.


There is a new movie that will be hitting the theatres soon that has several scenes that outofthefurnaceposterwere shot around the Pittsburgh area showcasing the steel mills. I watched the trailer for “Out of the Furnace” and immediately felt at home. As children  of “The Rust Belt,” I’m sure we all remember some of the sights, sounds and smoke that this film captures. The movie stars Christian Bale and Woody Harrelson and Forest Whitaker and begins in theatres on October 4, 2013.

To watch a short preview, just click below:



935129_357061311060811_417050447_nOverlooking several  cemeteries, Holy Name, St. Peter and Paul Byzantine Catholic, St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox, Holy Trinity and St. Hedwig, young Patti Salopek grew up. It appears that Patti and I share a common love for our hometown and our heritage.

Patti has launched a blog/website that I know you’ll enjoy. I have provided a link to the website in the BLOGROLL section in the right hand column of this page. Be sure to check it out. Great news, great posts and yet another great friend awaits. Just click on the link titled Patti!!!!


This entry was posted in Duquesne History, Duquesne's Special Citizens, Feedback From Our Friends, Miscellaneous, Movies, Music, Radio and TV, The Steel Mills. Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to Voices from Duquesne – August 27, 2013

  1. audrey shirey says:

    in 1933-1935 I lived in my grandfathers house – 208 Oliver Ave which goes down to the entrance of NIckly Hollow. It was once a complete small town but was washed out and never rebuilt. They used to haul slag into the hollow. In 1934 they had a ball field in which they played teams. My Uncle George Farrington was a member of one of the teams ( sorry I cannot remember the name of the team.

  2. pjangus says:

    Hey, Drew — I am friends with your sister Lori. Just saw her last summer when my husband and I spent some time in town. We lived right above you. I don’t remember many stores — just a lot of cemeteries! I dug up a little information on the Crawfords –George Crawford received 164 acres of farm from McKee (founder of McKeesport) on February 13 1794. I am not sure fi they were already living in the area prior to that or what. The Crawfords had a lot of influence on Duquesne for a very long time. I got this information from a Special Issue of Duquesne Times in honor of its 50th Anniversary — September 12, 1941.

    • Drew Cheke says:

      Thank You Patti . . . I enjoyed discovering information about The Crawfords and their mansion (even though I am pretty sure that my ancestors had a bad opinion of them – HA ! HA !). Yes , my sister Lori mentioned you when I told her that I enjoyed viewing the duquesnehunky site. By the way , I saw that you had an article about Carrie Furnace . . . I worked there right after I graduated from high school and also worked there when I came back from The Navy. It was quite an experience working there , but quite frankly , I was glad to get transferred to The 160 Inch Slab and Plate Mill in Homestead until 1982 , when my career as a “mill hunk” ended , along with many other workers from the area. By the way , Gazella’s store was right next to the playground and across from The Algieri’s house . . . it closed when I was fairly young , maybe 10 or so , I can’t remember for sure.

      • Marcia Bazylak Talboo says:

        Hi Drew. I remember you when I was the playground teacher and we took a hike and you and I came down with poison ivy. Lol. Thrilled that you ended up being a science teacher. I was a special Ed teacher and I married a science teacher and my son also teaches physics. My daughter is in Biotech. Glad to hear the info about you and your family. I still keep in touch with Bobby and Jane Cheke. I am retired and living in Florida now. My kids both live in VA.
        Polish Hill was a unique and friendly neighborhood. Glad some people remember it fondly also. I was born in 1949 just like many who posted here.

      • Michelle Brylanski Keith says:

        Hi Drew. I too remember Gazella’s store. I also remember when they built the Algieri”s and David Medich’s house across the little road from the playground. We sure did have a good life on Polish Hill my Mom Theresa Byrtus Brylanski and Uncle Val are about the only original’s left. Gazella was not a Byrtus she was a Kapolka.

  3. Eileen Tokar Lilley says:

    Thank you, Drew for the website for the history of the Crawford Estate. Here’s a little of what I read, just today in an excerpt of the book “Duquesne, the Rise of the Steel Unionorum”. (sp) In the 1790’s, the Crawford family owned land in what was to become Duquesne. The city of Duquesne was incorporated in 1891 and the first election was held in 1892 with John Crawford Sr. as election judge and John Jr. became the first mayor. The Crawford brothers – Edwin, James and John opened the first bank – the First Bank of Duquesne. They reigned over the politics for the first 13 years of Duquesne’s existence.

    In answer to your questions Linda, the houses in Orchard Court were built around 1946 long before the library was closed. Orchard Court is the first hump up Center St on the right. And yes, Crawford Ave, and Crawford Elementary School, where I went to school from first to fifth grade, (walking up Center St and sliding back down) were named after the Crawford family.

    • LInda (Negley) Gibb says:

      Thanks for the reply Eileen. Had a sr. moment there thinking the library was on Center Ave. LOL. Not! It was on Kennedy Ave. Duh me!
      Jim I want to thank you for finding all this very interesting info out on the mansion especially for the link to Karen C.’s paper. That was extremely interesting!

      • Drew Cheke says:

        Thanks Linda . . . I couldn’t locate a reply button under the comment that you left me , so I figured that I would just put it here. I believe you are correct . . . I had talked to my Mother (81 years old ) about Nickley Hollow yesterday and she said that there was a set of stairs that she walked from Polish Hill through Nickley Hollow to go to Kennywood , but she doesn’t remember the swimming pool , it may have been before her time. So , the information you gave me would coincide with what my Mom told me. Does anyone out there know the exact spelling of “Nickley Hollow” , or any history about it . . . how did it get that name ? Thanks Again , Linda . . . Drew Cheke

      • Jim says:

        Drew…. I know I have the history of that section of Duquesne somewhere. I just need to locate it. From what I vaguely recall, the area was originally called Oliver Hollow. There was a floor and some serious flooding devastation in July of 1928. The area eventually became known as “Nick Lee Hollow,” so named for a black gentleman who worked in the mills that settled in the area. I promise to keep on digging until I unearth the information. – Jim Volk

    • Eileen Tokar Lilley says:

      Linda, I also had a Sr moment – I said Orchard Court was on the right going up Center St – it’s the LEFT. On the right was an alleyway leading to Flora Malamusuro’s house where my mom got her hair done every week. This alleyway was also a shortcut to the back entrance of the store (don’t remember the name) where I purchased my candy with the returns on pop bottles

  4. LInda (Negley) Gibb says:

    Lou A. when I entered Center St.; Duquesne, PA. everything but Duquesne came up.

    • Lou A. says:

      Linda – type 15110 into search bar; entire city comes up outlined in dashes; zoom in and go anywhere you like,and drag/drop the little yellow man, but remember, street views get to be depressing…

      • LInda (Negley) Gibb says:

        Lou I had already figured out the zip code thing before finding this post of yours. Have never had to do that before when using google maps so I wonder if this is something new ? But thanks for replying back.

  5. LInda (Negley) Gibb says:

    Eileen Lilley, You are 6 yrs. younger than I & I just can’t place that lovely estate house that you have pictured here.. Jim could you find the history on this house & who built it & what they did for a living? Thanks, Linda Gibb

    • Eileen Tokar Lilley says:

      Hi Linda,
      My parents moved to Orchard Court before I was born so I never saw the Crawford Estate and only saw the picture my dad had from the newspaper article in the McKessport Daily News and don’t know what he ever did with it. It’s been more than 50 years since I saw it. You can imagine my surprise today when Jim posted it on his blog! It took my breath away and I said “OMG” at least six times. Yes, I also would like the history on that lovely estate and when it was demolished, the family who lived there etc. I think some of the trees were left when they built the houses, but, unfortunately I remember the day when the trees were cut down. I was only about 7 or 8 and I cried and cried. The street just didn’t seem the same. Those trees provided us with the much needed shade in those hot summers. Thank you, Jim, so much for the picture. I’ve never met you, but you just took my breath away. Don’t tell your wife and I won’t tell my husband. Lol, Eileen Tokar Lilley

    • Drew Cheke says:

      More info on “The Crawfords” . . . apparently they go WAY BACK based upon this article pertaining to the history of Duquesne . . . it is actually very interesting , even though a little dry and long , but worth taking the time to read it . . .

    • Lou A. says:

      FYI- the mansion was razed 70 yrs ago, during July and August, 1943.


      See right hand column half way down under “City of Duquesne News”

      • Drew Cheke says:

        Lou , I placed the URL address in my computer’s URL address window and it seemed to work for me . . . I am not sure why it did not underline . As far as The St Hedwig’s Church (or the old Polish Church) is concerned , I remember my Mother (born in 1932) told me it used to be up by the Duquesne Incinerator and she also said that it burnt down. There was also a Dance Hall next to the Church (on Polish Hill) , which was still there when I left Polish Hill (1975) . . . it was no longer being used for Church activities , but the city stored equipment in it. I went to The St. Hedwig’s Church in Duquesne as I was growing up. My Mom and Dad (and older relatives in general) told me many things about Duquesne and Polish Hill as I was growing up , but unfortunately , I have forgotten most of them. My Grandfather (Frank Kosko) had some old pictures of Duquesne , but they seemed to have disappeared over the years (too bad) . . . one that I do remember was of a crude public (?) swimming pool – quite large looking from the photograph . . . looked like it was made using railroad ties , and my Grandfather said it was located in “Nickly Hollow” (spelling ?) , which I have NO IDEA where that would be.

      • LInda (Negley) Gibb says:

        If my memory hasn’t failed me here is where I think Nickley Hollow is. If you are coming home to Duquesne from Kennywood & you go across the bridge & look over to your right down in that hoilow that WAS OR STILL IS NICKLEY HOLLOW.

      • pjangus says:

        Lou, I gotta thank you for that visual of little Joey Crawford. Made my day! Smiles!

      • Drew Cheke says:

        Lou , I found out where those swimming pools (or at least one of them) were located in Duquesne. I purchased the book “Duquesne by Daniel J. Burns” and he had some photos of one of them . . . I believe there may have been more than one. According to this book , Carnegie had built playgrounds and swimming pools for the community . . . the book had a picture of one that was located “below the tracks” at Superior and Water Streets. The book has a lot of good information and pics of early Duquesne.

  6. Frank Gricus says:

    Hi Jim,

    I enjoy the history that you bring to life in your blog. I read some the history included in this particular posting to my mom. She immediately caught an error in Drew Cheke’s letter. The owner of Gazella’s, Gazella Lazar, was my mom’s aunt and was a Kapolka. And we don’t remember her making fudge, but won’t argue that point. My mom also asks if Drew remembers that she used to drive him and my sister Phyllis to art school.

    Best regards, Frank Gricus

    • Drew Cheke says:

      Absolutely ! I stand corrected , Gazella’s last name would have been Lazar , and I believe that her husband’s name was Burt. But I do remember the fudge . . . there was a dark and a light version , I always got the dark. How could I ever forget Tam O’Shantern Art School . . . Phyllis Gricus , Karen Cheke , Joann Garcia , a Westerlund (spelling ?) girl , and myself – I may have missed someone , I can’t remember . . . THANK YOU , to all the parents that drove us every Saturday down to Oakland in hopes that their children would one day be famous artists (HA ! HA !). Frank , I do not remember you , but I do remember your Mother and Phyllis . . . tell them both “Hello” from an ex-Polish Hiller ! Drew Cheke

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