OK. I know I haven’t written for awhile, but things have been a little crazy on my end. Getting ready for the holidays has been a bit chaotic this year, and with a grandson who turned two in July, the concept of Christmas, Santa and toys has become VERY real in his little eyes.
I’ve been fortunate to have been able to spend a lot of time visiting my grandson over the past few weeks. There has been much going on at my daughter’s house in Exton, PA, so I have been helping her get ready for the holidays. We received the wonderful new that Jackson is about to become a Big Brother with grandson #2 scheduled to arrive in May, 2014!
One of the most enjoyable parts of visits with my grandson has been sharing his excitement about Christmas and Santa Claus’ upcoming visit. He and I began a long standing tradition of paging through toy catalogs while listening to Christmas music while I was there. I always enjoyed the anticipation of Christmas as a child. It would fill me with so much excitement and anticipation whenever a toy catalog would arrive in the mail or if I would see Christmas toy ads in the paper. The concept of TOYLAND was Utopia to me in those days.
I recall visiting many of the stores in Duquesne and McKeesport that loaded-up with toys for Christmas. Many stores that normally sold unrelated goods became marvelous havens for toys. The 2nd floor of Schink’s Hardware transformed each year. I remember the narrow steps that led too the second floor. They were to the left as you entered the store, somewhat tucked behind to front counter. I also recall occasional trips to a store near South Park at Christmas to look at toys. I believe it was normally a nursery/garden center called Versharons. What joy those visits brought me.
In order to share the excitement with you, why not pop on an old Christmas vinyl record album, grab a nice cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate, turn on the Christmas tree and leaf through the pages of a toy catalog from Schink’s from 1954 AND some Christmas Greeting ads from the Duquesne Times from that same year. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!
My name is Michael Tannous. My grandfather,Salim(Sam) Tannous and his two brothers owned a few businesses in Duquesne. I found out from a friend of mine, Steve Sikora, whose family was from Duquesne, stated that my great uncles, George, Jake and Asper Tannous owned a bowling in Duquesne. I was also told from my family that my grandfather owned a clothing store and a pool parlor. Never received anymore information about my grandfather and his brothers. I am curious to find out more information.
In 1953-54 we lived in an apartment on Grant, a door or two down from the fruit stand. I was too young to realize the toys I received at Christmas did not come from the North Pole but rather from Shinks right across the street. It wasn’t until a few years later after we moved to Goldstrohm Lane and I was allowed to accompany my father upstairs to shop for toys for my younger sister Evelyn that I found out where my 24″ Columbia bicycle and my American Flyer train set complete with a car that unloaded a fuel truck had came from. Sadly by the time my children were listening for sleigh bells and footsteps on the roof Santa had already closed down his Grant Avenue workshop.
Today on Turner Classic Movies there was a short titled” a Visit to the North Pole” . It showed a Christmas parade with high school bands and majorettes. Santa was riding on a float and in the background was a sign for the Hotel Penn McKee. Curious, I did a Goggle search and ended up here and your stories of life in the Mon Valley. Does anyone have any information on the short, A Visit To The North Pole.
Joe, I did some research and found the short on Youtube. The link is as follows: I found out that is was produced in 1963 by a gentleman by the name of Clem Williams. Apparently, there was a group of independent 16mm filmmakers who were producing shorts such as the one filmed in and about McKeesport. The actual title is “A Visit to Santa.” I must add, it is delightful! I recognize Cox’s, The Famous and the old YMCA too! I hope this at lease gives you a start to your research! CLICK HERE TO VIEW FILM – Jim Volk, the Duquesne Hunky
Thanks for the information about the short. It reminded me of my own childhood and the way life was in the 50’s. Thanks again!
I used to love going up to see the toys at Schinks. A big part of Christmas.
Your mention of Versharons lit up a Christmas candle in the foggy memories of 1968. My wife and I drove way out there to purchase a Lionel train set for my son. I went to the basement last night and got it off of the shelf. As I remembered we needed to replace the transformer, maybe this will be the year we will. It still looked good after 6 moves ending up now in Cortland Ohio.
As before, thanks for the lighting of another one of the candles.
These are before my time. I will love to show these ads to my mom and dad. My mom Joan worked the toys upstairs. Now I see why I got the call from Dave today. It’s nice to see the memories we left on the people of Duquesne.
Fasinating history Duquesnites all share from Gen Washington and the legend of Gen Braddocks treasure to land battles between early farmers and the railroads, the glass factory, and several Steel Plants. The farmers won the land battles in the PA Supreme Court.
Now we are left with memories of times gone by as we all are getting older. ( I prefer to use more mature rather than older).
But back to the point of Jim’s post, the ads in the times from the many Duquesne Businesses brings back many memories of the owners and families many of which we know and patronized. Every reader of this post has their own memory or experience with those business people who helped make Duquesne the City it once was.
Schinks Hardware is still in business at the same location from 1945 although they discontinued the toys on the second floor many years ago.
(It truly was great fun to go up to the second floor and dream about all those toys and make a wish that Santa would leave that special one)
Schinks Hardware are now three generations started by Paul Schink. Any customer could tell him their problem and he would have a solution and sell just what was needed.
Amazingly he knew just where everything was located from the smallest screw and paint to that bastard file and what it cost without a computer. You always got a hand written receipt.
Second generation is Gary Schink now 72 and still working, maybe some of us remember him. I don’t know the name of the third generation. It should matter as the Schinks are survivors after 68 years and hopefully they will be in business for years to come.
Thanks so much for the memories. All of your blogs are great, but this one is very special, especially at this time of the year. Thank you again, and a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy Healthy New Year to you and your family
It was great to see the ad for Kieffers Garage. Vince worked for my Dad for years and bought the business when my Dad retired. He was a friend to me that helped with my soap box derby car, flying model aircraft, and later repaired my vehicles when I needed help.
He later was the manager of the GBU for quite a while. A great all around person.
Jim, I saw the ad for your Dads place also.
The greatest Christmas surprise I ever received was to awake to a new American Flyer train set that Santa brought in and set up under the tree somehow, even though it was mounted to plywood.
I think my Dad, Vince Keiffer, and Schinks all did their part to create this lasting memory.
I wish you all your own special memories of Christmas past, present, and future.
I’m a third generation loyal Schink’s shopper after my father and grandfather and I was there in 1954 with them.
It’s great to wander down Memory Lane. I had forgotten all about Shinks Hardware. We didn’t have much growing up, but I remember one year my Dad helped me start a Christmas Club savings account. When I got my money for Christmas shopping, I thought I had a million dollars. Dad took me to Shinks hardware to shop for my brothers and sister. Who knew a hardware store had toys? The money didn’t go far, but it allowed me to give something to my brothers and sister. Thanks for the memories. Enjoy that grandson of yours, they grow even faster than our kids did.
Date: Wed, 11 Dec 2013 11:21:32 +0000 To: email@example.com
Jim, ….In 1954 I. Was a first year pharmacy student at Pitt. Served my apprentiship ( internship today) at Woodys Drug Store. My job assignment was to create the Window displays, which consisted of gift sets by Coty, Max Factor, Midnight In Paris, for the ladies, and Old Spice, English Leather, Jade East, and Jovan Musk Oil for the gentlemen. ……It wasn’t my favorite assignment as I was not very creative nor artistic………..But for some strange reason, THE STUFF SOLD…Thanks for the memories.
I believed you supplied all of your friends with free condoms!!!