They Paved Paradise!

Obviously, it has been a while since I’ve posted anything new, and I feel horrible about that. I was going to chalk it up to “writer’s block,” but to be perfectly honest, my absence would be better described as “shell shock” after my wife and I received a “kick in the gut.” In spite of the fact that there has been nothing new posted, I appreciate the fact that you all are still taking the time to visit The Duquesne Hunky blog.

Since I began this blog over three years ago, I have tried to write about my appreciation for Duquesne, the city, the people, the spirit, the way of life. In a city that now exists as a shattered artifact of what was once the very foundation of our existence, my hope was to be able to conjure up memories of why a smile creeps across your face when thinking about our hometown.

 As I was considering what had happened to my creative juices, I thought of a question that had been raised about this blog, the need to be more relevant, and my motivations for reliving and/or dredging up the past. As I was driving home from visiting the kids in Philadelphia, I had a lot of time to just think. During that journey, I had a cathartic moment regarding what motivates me to write.

Certainly, this blog allows me to share snippets of a city that I love, a period of time that I relish, and the family and friends that became the foundation of my very being. Although that sounds very deep and philosophical, the realization of why I write this blog is actually very different than those stated reasons.

I have come to realize, that with each and every passing year, I am becoming invisible; obviously, not in a physical sense, but more so as it would refer to relevancy. Oprah Winfrey once said that every person want one thing in life, “we all just want to know that we matter.”

There came a point in my life that I realized that I would never be rich, famous, brilliant or accomplish anything noteworthy. As I advanced in years, I became more and more mindful of the fact that my past experience in my career field had surpassed a point that it was considered a benefit. It had become an issue and encumbrance that was looked upon as being archaic, outdated and antiquated.

Before I realized it, the type of people I used to seek out to hire, had become the very ones who were now making the decisions about hiring me. In what appeared to be just overnight, I had transitioned from a person whose insight and understanding was sought out, to a person whose point-of-view and mere presence at an interview was perceived as worthy of empathy from the interviewer.

All of this soul searching brought back memories of the turmoil that my father had experienced when he had to face the extinction of his business in Duquesne, due to the “Redevelopment” effort that was to happen. In his late 50’s, he was faced with having to find a job immediately. He was a “single-father” (although that term wasn’t in existence back then.) It was the late 60’s, my brother and I were attending Serra High School, and Dad had an enormous amount of responsibilities, both personal and financial that he was dealing with.

It was approximately 1966 or 67 when my dad was notified that government was garageexercising Eminent Domain, and taking his property and converting it into public use. In the truest sense, the lyrics from Joni Mitchell’s song from her Big Yellow Taxi album came to fruition; they paved my dad’s paradise and put up a parking lot! My father’s business was closed in order to build a parking area to serve as a parking lot for USS employees. Ironically, the lot that sat between S First Street and South Duquesne Blvd was rarely used by the steelworkers.

The news was devastating to Dad, and a punch to the gut that was hard to recover from. Dad never burdened us with his business issues, but I knew that he was shattered. You could see it in his face. Rather than retreat from the obstacles that he had to face, Dad met them head on. He secured the only job that he was able to find based on his experience, and went to work as an auto mechanic at the JCPenney Auto Center in the Eastland Shopping Plaza. Although he was the oldest member of the staff, he was given the opportunity to show his stuff and exceled as a mechanic; after all, it was what he had been doing his entire life. After a few years, he was promoted to Service Manager and remained in that position until he retired in 1981. As I reflect on his career at Penney’s, it is heartening to know that his experience and work ethic was viewed as an asset in the minds of upper management, in spite of his age.

Judging from the countless articles about the redevelopment, the intent was to revitalize and maintain a thriving town for all of the residents to enjoy. The program was NOT the brainchild of our city leaders, but rather a plan that was proposed by the Allegheny County Redevelopment Authority. I have discovered articles about the plans as far back as 1952, but it appears that the plan didn’t come to fruition until 1960 when the first wave of building demotions occurred on Tuesday, May 31, 1960. The first building chosen for demolition on that day was the Salopek Tailoring Shop at 33 N. Duquesne Avenue. The shop had closed many years earlier when it was forced out of business due to the Defense Plant Corporation’s acquisition of all properties below the tracks.

Redevelopment 

There are many theories among us about what happened to the Duquesne that we all loved as children. I now believe that it was not just one misfortune that caused the downfall of our hometown, but rather a series of flawed judgment calls that created a “perfect storm” that resulted in the city that exists today; Union and Management clashes, a failed redevelopment effort, the demolition of the Carnegie Library which was Duquesne’s cultural and architectural pride, and the onset of rapid and sweeping unemployment with the slow death of the mill. It is for all of those reasons that I will continue to write this blog and hopefully keep the spirit of our once great city alive. Thank you for reading and continuing to hang in there during my hiatus!

 

 

 

 

 

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57 Responses to They Paved Paradise!

  1. Roberta says:

    I consider myself part of the class of 1960, though I left high school before graduation when I became pregnant. I later got my GED & worked at various secretarial jobs. I didn’t know how much the education we received at DHS (as well as those from certain other suburbs of Pgh.) was considered superior & sought out by the U.S. Gov’t.

    I never realized it until I was offered a secretarial position by a NM defense contractor in the early 80’s. When their contract ended, I went to work for another defense contractor there, as a salaried staff member. When that contract ended, I went to NV looking for work. In 1988 I applied & was hired by Reynolds Electrical & Engineering Co. (REECo), the prime contractor for the Nevada Nuclear Test Site (NTS) at that time. The Human Resources Dept. Mgr. told me that they were always seeking out girls for work in their offices who had been primarily educated in schools from certain suburbs of Pgh., as they all possessed superior skills to other candidates. That was the main reason I was hired, she stated, over the influx of others applying for the job, & said she saw confirmation of that fact from my pre-employment testing.

    After working in different areas of the test site, I settled in at their main downtown Las Vegas office for several years. Each office worker had her own cubicle & we all chatted with each other at times. That Human Resources Mgr. hit the nail right on the head when she stated the gov’t. sought out girls for NV Test Site offices who were educated in the Pgh. area. After talking with the other girls, I learned they were NEARLY ALL from different suburbs of Pgh.

    A few years later & after 50 years of REECo being the prime NTS contractor, they were replaced by another defense contractor. I ended my employment with them at that time. Having had my fill of gov’t. defense contractors, I went to work for a bldg. contractor for 10+ yrs., then retired.

    So even though Duquesne has seen its better days, the quality of education we received there years ago is known about throughout the U.S., even if one didn’t ‘finish with their class.’

    • Michael Bashista says:

      Small world Roberta, In 1986 I went to world for a database company, Britton Lee, in Los Gatos Ca. One of our customers was Reynolds {REECo] and I use to drop down to Las Vegas periodically to service the machines in the Las Vegas office and out at the test site on rare occasions. Had a great time and almost took a job with them, as the IT mgr wanted me to come down full time. Can’t remember Bob’s last name but he really knew Vegas. He had actually worked in the clubs as a musician. we always got put up at the Hacienda while there.

  2. eva yokimcus says:

    JIM,
    I WORKED AT MURPHY’S ON FIRST STREET 1953-1959 UNTIL WE MOVED TO WEST MIFFLIN. I WENT TO HOLY NAME SCHOOL UNTIL 1949. MY OLDEST BROTHER.STANLEY YOKIMCUS WORKED WITH YOUR DAD UNTIL 1955. IT WAS NICE HAVING AN HONEST PERSON TO WORK ON YOUR CAR THAT KNEW THEIR BUSINESS. MY BROTHER TOLD ME THE WAY THAT YOUR FATHER GOT THE JOB WAS TO REASSEMBLE A CAR THAT WAS COMPLETELY TAKEN APART. IT WAS A PLEASURE TO VISIT STEVE’S GARAGE WHILE I WORKED IN DUQUESNE. MY FAMILY LIVED ON OAK ALLEY BETWEEN S.FIRST AND S.SECOND STREET. WE HAD EIGHT BOYS AND THREE GIRLS IN OUR FAMILY. I REMEMBER THE A AND P ALEXANDER’S PLAZA SHOW WOODY’S DRUG STORE DUQUESNE CITY BANK WHERE I GOT A LOAN FOR MY FIRST CAR. THE LOAN WAS 425.00. THAT WAS A BIG DEAL IN 1959. THEN THERE WAS JERRY AND BUDS DONUT SHOP AND GOLTZ’S FRUIT MARKET, ELSIES NEXT TO THE GRANT THEATER. WHEN I GO TO DUQUESNE IT MAKES MY HEART SICK.

    EVA YOKIMCUS

  3. Marilyn Wisbar Kurutz says:

    I’m still in Duquesne and if it had a theme song, it would be B.J. Thomas’ “Everybody’s Out of Town.” Just live here and you’ll realize it.

  4. Darlene Sadlo says:

    Jim, I think you are a terrif and poignant writer…you usually bring a lump in my throat as your feelings are right out there for everyone to read. Just know that you have touched many people’s lives- near and far- and we do appreciate you.

    Darlene Sadlo, Plantation, Florida
    descendant of the John and Barbara Thomas family, on Barbara Street, Duquesne.

  5. Ken Denne says:

    Duquesne in the 40;s, 50;s and into the 60;s was the closest thing to Utopia you could find.. You walked to school, to church, to the movies. There were playgrounds galore and manned. I remember the steel strike in ;52 and most of the summer the basketball courts at Polish Hill were saturated with 18, 19, 20 year olds. My basketball background was enhanced by the intensity playing with with these older fellows.
    We were fortunate to have outstanding teachers in the schools along with quality coaches. Remember the super athletic families???Gedmans, Genitos, Connollys, Pacachas, Schoderbeks, et. al and Davey Maurer who ,is in the College Football Hall of Fame..

  6. Dave Forgash DHS '62 says:

    Jim,
    This is your comment from your latest post.
    “There came a point in my life that I realized that I would never be rich, famous, brilliant or accomplish anything noteworthy.” Pretty hard on yourself I would say.
    You are RICH, with family and friends, you have over 500 Linkedin connections and many followers on this site with whom you share and we share RICH memories of our past. There are more than a handful of people who you helped succeed in their professional and personal careers and they are RICHER for the experience.
    No one is really FAMOUS as “All Glory is Fleeting” Some of your blog followers may have made exceptional contributions but as we mature in age, no one is going to care or remember what we did. Well maybe a few followers will be famous or infamous, but in another 50 years none your current readers will have much to say about it, but your blog and contents will FAMOUSLY live on. Considering the long history of Duquesne and what I read most of us are in at most in a small twenty year window (1950-1970) where we can visualize, remember appreciate and share our stories with you and other followers. This as we know just a blip in time, but you are helping us all make the best of this short window of time.
    BRILLIANT…..Similar to genius, there is a fine line between genius and insanity. Brilliant also means to shine brightly and your blog shines brightly to all of us who read and enjoy.
    NOTEWORTHY ACCOMPLISHMENTS, I already mentioned the careers of those you have touched by mentoring and your blog is an accomplishment that is also noteworthy. We are all noteworthy in some way and to somebody.
    I will tell you what motivates you, (pretty bold of me huh?) Just like other writers, you like to write so keep writing, and just like other writers of true stories you write about your experiences and what you know and that IS WHAT MATTERS.
    l like reading the way your blog has helped people to reconnect to their old friends and you and contributors help appreciate and preserve our rich historical HUNKY culture. Keep up the good work.

  7. Liz Shiner says:

    Jim, inspite of what anyone else may say, I find your blog a real treat. You reawaken memories of things I haven’t thought about in many, many years. Some of the memories aren’t pleasant, but most open my minds eye to things I took for granted when I was younger. We grew up in a time when our Mothers were home, not outside the house working. I attribute most of what’s going wrong with the youngsters now, to the fact that Mom isn’t there to keep us in line. Back then the Dads were the bread winners and Mom took care of everything else. I wish my grandchildren could experience life as it was for us. You’ve never told a story or brought back a memory, needing to interject the profanity that seems to be second nature to the youth today. I can’t figure out why the need to swear so much. And on that subject, we would never think of using profanity when speaking to our parents or any other adult. Mom would be waiting at the door for us and we didn’t need to ask what we had done, we knew! It was also a time when we were taught good from bad, right from wrong, when to be seen and when to be heard…we were children and we were treated as such. And in the off chance Mom couldn’t be there, an adult was there to keep us in line, we were never left to our own devices. We need to get Moms back in the home, get the children re-educated in the fine art of being a child and get back to being disciplined by all adults, teachers included. When a 5 year old tells an adult “you aren’t allowed to touch me”, when all you’re trying to do is get that child to sit down and focus on what you’re trying to teach them…well, I say things are lost and we’re on our way down the drain. It frightens me to think about the youth of today being the future of mankind. So, I for one, say keep writing and bringing back those good memories, I love them.

    Date: Sat, 8 Mar 2014 02:56:45 +0000 To: shinere@hotmail.com

  8. John aka Jack Berta DHS '62 says:

    Jim,
    I would like to add to the chorus my thank you for doing such a wonderful job keeping our Duquesne memories alive. Keep stirring the pot my friend.

  9. Diane A Fedor says:

    And so continues the saga…..of once a fine town. Still today the wreaking ball fly”s clearing homes into flat fields….Who put thought into that arena?….”Flat Stanley” is the only thing that will be able to survive in Duquesne in a few years….But, lets talk truth….POLITICIAN’S…go ahead and say the word….How does that feel knowing… votes made the difference in your hometown. Then all I heard was, ” its time to move away”. So, every one moved away….to the turn of ” its getting bad we’ve got to sale.”
    And it did get bad in Duquesne, but its was , in my view, because the people let it happen, It was because of no one was left to pay taxes. It was because, the fine management of the town’s leadership with their “no plans for Duquesne’s future.” The answer isn’t simple but obvious.

    It sickens me as I drive up Grant Street. Who stopped the politicians? No One! Who stops them now? No One! Who actually has or ever had a futuristic plan that wasnt compromised by Allegheny County Politicians….No One…Ever. When Duquesne prospered, it was by the hands of the people. The citizens of the town were the shakers. My parents stayed there by choice. They moved out two years before their deaths. It was there town. They helped build it. My Dad loved DHS and the students that he touched through education. and was truly loved back by each student. He was proud of his home town.. His home…our home, is a mess. Often I say, “My Dad has to be sick about the schools and the plow town Duquesne has become/”.

    So with that in mind,…what needs to be done!!! Everyone has a finger to point, an article to blame, but who do you think is responsible for the demise of Duquesne!

    As, we get older we now see things through our parents eyes.. Except, our parents took care of us until their deaths, So who is gonna do it now? I’ll answer that , no one. No you,.Not him nor her. Simply,…No one…because it would take an army….but it could be doable.

    So lets continue on with the fine memories of our parents,….because none of their children ever did anything to promote the welfare of their town of memories! Yeah, Yeah Yeah…SAVE IT . .

    • Jim says:

      I understand your frustration Diane. In retrospect many of us coulda, woulda, shoulda done something to improve Duquesne’s lot, but were restricted by the life we had created. Our responsibilities to our spouses and our children was a priority we couldn’t ignore. Doing so would violate the moral principles of family and strong work ethics that our parent’s and the community in Duquesne developed in us. Wishing and hoping didn’t create jobs or pay the bills in Duquesne, and we all had to seek out greener pastures in order to provide a life for our families. I believe it is unfair to assign blame for Duquesne’s situation to the apathy or lack of responsiveness on the part of the former citizens, or the children of the city. I would be hard pressed to believe that any one of us would have wanted our hometown to fall into its present state. – Jim

      • Dave Forgash DHS '62 says:

        Some of us have been trying to fix blame on the demise of Duquesne. Tom Lane makes some interesting points while Diane Fedor is completely frustrated. (Nothing personal intended) Some of the answers to our questions lie in a book titled “AND THE WOLF FINALLY CAME”. It was named one of the Best Business Books of 1988 by USA Today. The book is about the decline of the American Steel industry particularly in the Monongahela Valley of Southwestern Pennsylvania. Published in 1988 and written by John P Hoerr, a native of Mckeesport, it is a fascinating read and still available on Amazon. At the time Hoerr was a veteran reporter of Business Week and conducted scores of interviews in the book with steelworkers, company managers at all levels, and union officials who were present at many of the crucial events he describes. My copy is pretty dog eared as any time I saw or heard a story about the steel mills I went to my new Bible and on one of the 680 pages I would find more valuable information to reinforce or debunk the comments of what I heard or read.
        I will relate an interesting interview in the book, regarding complacency and the reelection of incumbent mayors up and down the valley at told by Andrew Greeky Jakomis, Mckeesport Mayor from 1954 to 1966 The numbers racket chiefs assured nothing would change by providing campaign funds for incumbents to be reelected, this meant all those down the line from police chief to dog catcher would keep their job and on occasion get a relative on the payroll.
        Jakomis tells Hoerr in detail that every four years, Jakomis would let the police chief know how much money was needed for the campaign and $30,000 or $40,000 would SOMEHOW appear in several payments. Incumbents got reelected this way and nothing changed, as someone else posted, no one rocked the boat. Jakomis goes on to say all mayors before him did it this way and when one mayor tried to shake down the numbers men and he was not reelected.
        Duquesne’s one term mayor Joe Sabol said in a previous 1965 interview with Hoerr he had become disillusioned by corruption and the lack of civic cooperation to solve the valley’s growing problems. Hoerr quotes Sabol, “Without the numbers in this valley you wouldn’t have city government in this valley, they are the big boys, numbers are an industry around here. They make the biggest campaign contributions, and they put people in office.” Quoting again form the book, Sabol paused and added vehemently, “They’re a cancer!”
        . As we have come to understand, the unemployed steel workers logically moved away to find new jobs and without the significant tax revenue from the shutdown Steel Industry, there was no way to pay for Duquesne’s infrastructure and schools, let alone provide much needed repairs at the library.
        While in college, I spent two summers working at the Yorkville, Ohio rolling mill. But like so many others, I had already decided I would not return to Duquesne. So, NO, I did not lift a finger to save The City of Duquesne and therefore I am not qualified to place blame on anyone or anything.
        Today thanks to Jim and the posts of others I can let the movies of my mind play over and over the good relatives, friends, thoughts, stories, sights, smells, food, and people of Duquesne PA where I spent my youth and teen years and appreciate just how lucky I am to be a hunky from Duquesne,Pa.

      • Jim says:

        Dave, your single comment hit me like a ton of bricks. It makes total sense, and I now see the connections. I often remember asking my dad about “the numbers” and what it all meant. I was usually given a rather cryptic response, and never put two and two together. WOW! Talk about an eye opening response. – Thank you!

      • Tom Lane says:

        Glad to see Dave’s comments on this. We were in the same class of ’62. I remember my parents “playing the numbers”, and I even remember taking a quarter to the Hilltop to put on some number. I had no idea what I was doing and no idea the scale of that racket and the influence on the politics of the area. I also, do not doubt that. I can remember the “adults” talking about who really ran things. I was too young and too uninterested to really get that. Like you Jim, it did not register with me. That old system of good ol boys and the payoffs was doomed to fail, along with our grand city. It added no value, produced nothing to sell in the broader market, and did turn out to be a cancer on our childhood home. I wonder what happened to all those “numbers guys”. Is that in the book, Dave?

    • Tom Lane says:

      I spent my most of my career in consulting to large system changes. That means trying to help turn around companies like Ford, Chrysler, Goodyear, and many others who had drifted into a non competitive situation. When I would talk to people in these companies and try to figure out what happened, how did they fall from their glory days? There is no simple answer to that, just like there is no simple answer to the downfall of Duquesne.
      Many, many factors played a role, as many have pointed out in these comments, but one of the common ones that I found in these companies, was that when things were good, most believed that they would always be good. It was a complacency that over took the leaders, managers, and workers. Everyone was doing well, and no one wanted to rock the boat. Old habits that once worked, now became barriers to new things. The older workers/management were not interested in reinventing themselves. Only a few more years to retirement, was the mantra.
      For most people, like us growing up in Duquesne, we do not see the system we live in and the many ways it is eroding, until it is too late. We thought the mill would be there forever. We thought the high school would be there forever. Etc, etc. Who is to blame is not a useful question, but one that was asked by the “new management” who would bring me in. I found it much more important to find leadership that had a vision, persistence, and discipline to follow through. And that was pretty rare talent. We did not have that in Duquesne.
      I left right after high school, but most of my family stayed around. I did not want to work in the mill, and wanted new opportunities. Many of us on this blog are that way, including Jim. Life keeps changing and we keep moving on. We were all blessed with a moment in time when it was a great place to grow up. We can take those memories and make other places, great places to grow up for other people. tom

      • Jack Schalk says:

        Well said Tom.
        It was easy to be “non involved” in Duquesne.

      • Dave Forgash DHS '62 says:

        Tom,
        No the Author of “AND THE WOLF FINALLY CAME” does not name names or say what became of the key members of the numbers racket of our era. With the advent of the lottery most numbers writers and bag men were out of business. But remember if you hit the pay off would be 600 to 1 and that was tax free money. The last three digits of the horse racing handle made up the number for the day. He points out the local police were conspicuously absent at collection and pay off time and writes that the banks would open their doors after hours to accept deposits by the chief bag men who were of all ethnicity. So with no numbers to write, poker card rooms became the demon of choice.
        With a little research of my own on Google years later the younger tough guys turned to dealing drugs. If you are curious just do a little research on Google.
        Here is what I learned, a steel worker may stop for a shot and beer before or more than one after work and play numbers or play the punch boards, (the fore runner to scratch off lotto tickets).The only news article I could find about numbers in Duquesne goes back to the Pittsburgh Press August 13,1946 when Rev RA Grabill appeared in council chambers and accused the then mayor of knowingly permitting such things as numbers, punch boards and slot machines to operate in Duquesne. The Mayor flat out called Grabill a liar and said he knew for a fact there had been no slot machines in Duquesne for the at least the past 25 years. The reason Grabill appeared before council and the Mayor was to complain that some workers were spending too much money gambling and their wives had complained to Grabill that in some cases there was not enough money for food or clothes for the children.
        As a kid and teenager in the early 60’s working on the milk truck on Saturdays and moping floors and cleaning toilets in some of the luncheonettes, confectionery stores, and bars during the week I had access behind the counters where I saw a lot of comings and goings of certain individuals with last names you might know and I can not mention. At the time I still had no idea of the magnitude of what was going on until years later.
        One last thing, there is another book I have, claiming to be a novel, you can get it on Amazon (it is as much fact as fiction) titled “Steel Mill Mafia” for someone from Duquesne it is fascinating but why the co-author decided to write it at age 70 is a mystery. Look it up and Google his history if you are interested.
        Now if you are interested look up the questions you might have and as far as I am concerned the subject is closed. So let’s get back to more Happy memories.

  10. Dennis Kerrigan says:

    Jim, your Dad was forced to do earlier what so many had to do in the following decades, change jobs in later life. My Dad was older than yours so he was retired by the time the area really started downhill. I had to leave the area in the 70s after my third company was closed down. I learned to swim at the Carnegie Library in Duquesne and remember my parents taking me there before I was even in school. Most people couldn’t understand the decision to tear that building down. Not many people living in or around Duquesne and West Mifflin in the 50s or 60s could foresee what it has become. Keep up the good work, Jim, you are helping many of us to remember the good times in Duquesne……not a bad legacy

  11. schaumb@comcast.net says:

    Hope your “kick in the gut” can be turned into a “love pat.”  I will send prayers your way.  I LOVE reading your blog and wish more people wrote blogs about the Mon Valley.  The towns and people in the Mon Valley are incomparable to anything else in the country if you ask me.  If people were still raised with the values that were cherished and honored by the people of the Mon Valley, the world would be a more peaceful, loveable planet.

  12. Jack Schalk says:

    Jim,
    I can’t believe that you are looking to take on more responsibilities then you have now.
    I’m 77 and the only reason I work is that my clients can’t do it without me. LOL

    You, Sir, are the catch basket of information for this itinerant group of Duquesners, the purveyor of all facts pertinent to living in an area where Monday is known as wash day , the scribe that relays all feelings both good and bad about an area that we all cherish.

    This we thank you for and hope that you are aware of the fact.

  13. Harold West says:

    The 837 widening took out the business district and replaced it with a four lane highway and a strip shopping center. The Carnegie trust that ran the Braddock. Homestead and Duquesne Libraries decided to sell two of those libraries to the school districts in the mid 60’s because they did not have the money to operate all three. The Duquesne School district tore down the library because they did not have the money to preserve it. They tried to use the land to build an annex with a new and larger gym but could not obtain funding. The books from the library spent years in boxes in the basement restrooms of the Duquesne Place School. The Duquesne Place school was closed down because it was too small and had a wooden staircase that could not pass state fire code. Better transportation, (cheap cars, and gas) and a rising standard of living doomed the small towns. Duquesne’s population peaked around 1950. A baby boom and VA subsidized mortgage loans to WW II vets prompted a housing boom that moved people into suburbia and away from small towns like Duquesne. Meanwhile those same WWII and Korean War Veterans were using the G.I. Bill education benefits to attend college and technical schools lessening their desire to take low skilled manufacturing jobs. The mill closed because there was excess capacity and it was too old to be competitive. Everything changes and nothing stays the same. The Duquesne of tomorrow will not look like anything like the Duquesne of today or yesterday. Keep writing I enjoy the history.

  14. Jim Rickard says:

    Hi Jim, it was very nice to see you back. I lived on 2nd St near the Oliver School. I remember your father very well, as he worked on my cars. Thanks for the trips down memory lane Jim Rickard

  15. Mike Ferchak says:

    The demolition of Duquesne’s Carnegie Library was a tragic loss for the community. We students at Holy Trinity School next door would walk over during lunch and browse the shelves of wonderful books. Perhaps your readers recall the “Steelworkers’ Passion Play” produced in the library auditorium and featured in Life Magazine (April 18, 1960 issue). It was a memorable place of culture, education, beauty, yet multi-functional.

    • Colleen Byrne Travis says:

      We also walked to the Library from Holy Name. Also, a stop at Mrs. Parker’s store across the street from the Library.

    • Ken Denne says:

      Got out of school a little after 3:00. Rushed over to the Library Gym. The steelworkers were off at 3:00 and the first 10 players made up the first game. The next 5 would play the winners of the first game. This went on Sept. Oct. until basketball practice started. Never knew there were books in the Library!!
      Ken :55

  16. Jack percival says:

    Very interesting articles. I grew up in Homestead Park and West Mifflin, working summers in the Duquesne Blast Furnaces labor gangs while going to West Virginia Tech. . When I graduated, USS offered me a mgt. job in the Conditioning department in Duquesne in 1971. Worked thru supervisory jobs in Heat Treating, Carriers.. I was transferred to National Tube , conditioning. Then back to Duquesne 46/36/21 as mill foreman, pits, stripper, shipping and mtce. From there I was moved to the 45″ mill as foreman, stripper, soaking pits, mtce, hot scarfer and whatever thrown our way. I hated Homestead Wks. . Had many friends at Duquesne wks. Spent many a night after 3-11 and 11-7 in Nick and Doitys (sp), Babe’s, GBU. Pickedup tons of fish sandwiches at Vets for our mill crews. Laid down tons of salt in winter on Heat Treating walkways to 5 shipping and 5 mill. Take care. jack Percival, metalmanjwp@q.com, phoenix, Az

  17. Sarajane Fields says:

    I always enjoy reading your blogs! I think as we age we all love reading about things from our past.! Even though I grew up in Mckeesport(class of 62), I can relate to many of your stories. Keep up the good work and continue writing as we all love to reminisce!!

  18. Lou Andriko says:

    Found it! Turn up the speakers!

  19. Paul Duffy says:

    Good post, Jim. No need for remorse about your hiatus. Erato is a fickle muse, prone to flood and ebb, and wickedly averse to our will. C’est la vie.

    Thoughts on the source of the downfall can and do vary (I certainly have my own), but one little ray of sunshine is that it (the downfall) undeniably provides a vast and rewarding canvas for insight and reflection.

  20. Dennis Kuzma says:

    Jim, you definitely have a way with words & I too enjoy your articles. Welcome back & Thank You.

  21. Karen Miller says:

    I can certainly relate to all of your latest post Jim and I appreciate you putting into words what was on my heart. Your blog has brought back great memories for me, and I’m glad to see you are posting again! Really enjoy this site.!

  22. Paula N says:

    “Hello, we’re from the government and we’re here to help. “

  23. Lolly says:

    Loved the photo of Dad’s auto body shop! I don’t recall ever seeing it.
    Please keep writing, Jim. You are a gift to all of us!

    • Colleen Byrne Travis says:

      I certainly recall seeing it — it was directly across the street from Holy Name. We parked in Volk’s lot every Sunday for mass. Of course, Steve Volk did all of our car repairs inspections, etc. Steve was a great guy.

  24. Lou Andriko says:

    Jim, Take comfort in knowing that any time I’m in town and attend Mass at HN, we park in that lot and I remember your Dad….

  25. Donn Nemchick says:

    Hang in there buddy. Us guys from the valley don’t go down without a fight…keep swinging and stay strong.

  26. Jan Brewer says:

    Hi Jim, I enjoy reading your blog. Just found it recently. I was raised in McKeesport, (your football rival), however, I like to kabitz about the past. McKeesport did not fare any better. I go on line to google maps and travel around the city . All of the places I remember, the movie theaters, the department stores, shoe store, Balsimo’s, etc. Where did they go.
    I have lived in Erie since 1979 and I see the same thing happening here. It is nice to have our memories of days gone by.

  27. marilyn hunt dorato says:

    I think for many of us the demolition of the Library was the tipping point. All of the unique old buildings that gave the town some architectural and historic significance were torn down. I Believe that is true of so many towns across the country. One town is beginning to look like another and not in a good way.

    • Larry McConnell says:

      Thank God you,re back Jim. I was getting worried.This blog is one of the greatest.Yes. 837 needed widened, but not at the expense of the whole town! Do you remember the statement “You can’t buy a spool of thread in Duquesne any more”? Well that was true after the so called re-development. It was true. When I think of all those big beautiful homes and thriving stores that were wiped out I feel very sad. When the mill closed some 20 years later it was even worse but I believe those years would have been so much better without the re-development. Then the library! That can never be justified.

      • Colleen Byrne Travis says:

        Larry McConnell and I were back and forth on email wondering if you were o.k.(Larry and my brother Patrick were in the same class at Holy Name) Patrick R.I.P passed away two years ago, yesterday. I miss him every day.

        So glad that you are back and writing, again. So sad what happened to Duquesne and all of the small towns along the Mon. We used to go to McKeesport on a Saturday night when I was a little girl. So many people on the street. My dad used to wear a suit and tie, over coat, and we were all dressed up for “town”. McKeesport was great in those days. The last time I drove through downtown McKeesport, I was depressed for three days. I am soooooo glad that we had the privilege to have enjoyed those times. Thank you Jim for bringing those times back to us.

  28. Colleen Byrne Travis says:

    You were missed, Jim. Keep it up!

  29. Julia D. Pickup says:

    We missed you Jim. Welcome back.

  30. Michael Bashista says:

    Great article as usual Jim. You observed, as is so often the case, that there is rarely a singular cause for terrible things that occur to our cities, lives, and often our society. So often it is a series of normal [if often bad] events that occur and many bad observations and therefore wrong decisions on how to fix it. Now a days the quick fix is required and rarely the long view and consequences are worried about. It then has to run it’s course until it reaches a point where a renewal or rebirth can occur or in some rare occasions a true leader and visionary can change the course. For many of us now, it really is remembering about those simpler and gentler times while coping with what life has become. We can form our observations based on the wisdom of age and experience; not the rashness and impatience of youth. Thank you for being our chronicler of our past and its many joys, and some of those great times we all enjoyed, even with some of its rough edges. Keep it up and we all look forward to your new posts.

  31. Robert Salopek says:

    Hello Jim … I’m Robert Salopek, and was curious about the Salopek Tailor Shop in the latest issue, at 33 N. Duquesne Blvd. I was graduated in 1959, and departed Duquesne soon after that, so was not very aware of the demolitions which were beginning. I’m # nine of ten kids who lived at 16 Auriles Street , across from the side door of St Joseph’s Church. My whole family groans when any discussion of Duqesne’s demise comes up. I was a paperboy for five years along Viola, Priscilla and the next street over paralleling, between Auriles and Fifth streets. Cole News at 20 Auriles was the HQ for the paperboy crews. I now live in Albuquerque.

    • pjangus says:

      Hi Robert, That Tailor Shop at 33 N. Duquesne Blvd. was owned by Anthony Salopek born August 15, 1882 and married to Marija Poljak Salopek. Children: Walter, Nancy, and Rose.

  32. Mary says:

    I tried to post but I do not think they ever were on the blog.. so I sort of gave up.. nice to b see you are posting again jim.. I believe I asked coleen byrnes if shevwas related to beccky byrnes.. dont think I ever got a response

    • Colleen Byrne Travis says:

      Yes, I am related to Becky. Her father Arthur (Buddy) is mt first cousin. She was three years ahead of me at Holy Name. Then, they moved. I don’t know how it started, but people always put an “s” at the end of our name. I guess we just didn’t correct them.

      • Mary says:

        Colleen sorry about the s at the end of your name.. should known that.. we were pretty good friends.. I thought she had a sister colleen ..Do you see her at all??

      • Colleen Byrne Travis says:

        Becky had four sisters and one brother. They lived on Kennedy ave when Becky was little. When the family started to grow they moved to Irwin. We were close when we were young but I haven’t seen any of them in years. After my parents passed away, we lost touch. I do know her parents still live in the same house in Irwin.

  33. Debbie Stewart says:

    Glad you are back Jim! You were missed!!

  34. charliesimeral says:

    Very sad, but very true. Regard..

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