Voices of Duquesne – Christmas 2017

Hi James,

I am in need of a recipe for Christmas Eve mushroom soup that uses fresh mushrooms and NO sauerkraut. That was my mothers recipe from a long time ago. My mother was born in Slovakia and must have gotten that recipe from her youth.

My wife has struggled with a reproduction for many years. My mother did not write down a lot of things.

I now need something written for a grandson attending college. My extended family is growing up.

Edward (Ed) Salaj , (Homestead Hunky)

Lincoln Place

Hi Ed. Merry Christmas! My Aunt Peg was always in charge of the mushroom soup on Christmas Eve. The recipe below is the one she always followed, however she would omit the sauerkraut juice. Everytime I taste it I think of family, snowy Christmas Eves and warm memories. Good luck. Let me know if you like it.

Merry Christmas Jim and to all the hunkys in Duquesne & West Mifflin. This blog always brings back extremely fond memories especially at Christmas. This posting was virtually identical to my recollection in my mind’s eye. Again, thank you and your contributors. I have a question however, what is the hunky name of the fried dough cakes sprinkled with powdered sugar? I have seen various names however none ring a bell with me.

Again, Merry Christmas and a safe and Happy New Year

Mike Korinko

Hi Mike! Merry Christmas to you too! 

I think you are refering to Cheregis. I remember my dad getting them from a church in Duquesne on Fridays. I still remember the brown paper bags, spotted with frying oil,  full of cheregis that were covered with powdered sugar!

Now here’s a challenge for you Mike…… I found two different recipes for cheregi in an old Slovak cookbook I have. You need to make Vera proud and whip up a batch to enjoy over the holidays! Good luck!!

Good Morning, Merry Christmas.

My parents and grandparents were all from Duquesne and I had many other relatives that lived there… Most all worked for Duquesne Works U.S. Steel. I also lived there with my parents as a child. I worked there during college summer vacations.

Although I moved with a job many years ago, I always went home for Christmas with the family, and still have very fond memories. Most of my family is now gone as I am 70 years old, and haven’t been back for some time… 

Anyway, I’m writing to ask if you can give me the name of a Bakery that would sell Christmas rolls, cookies and especially bobalki. One of my favorite “Pittsburgh” ethnic Bakeries is in McKeesport called Minerva’s… but they don’t ship/sell on-like. If you know of a place and can share, I would really appreciate it.


Ron Yurick

Hi Ron, here is my Aunt Peggy’s recipe for bobalki. I used to look forward to it every Chirstmas Eve. Enjoy!

I’m trying to figure out at what point did the GBU start accepting Hunky members. My father, my grandfather and I all belonged. Lots of strong inexpensive drinks, lots of bosses and union reps talking civilly with each other, great bartenders and free sandwiches. You had to be sponsored and risked the chance of a blackball, which was common. My father told me a little about the GBU being investigated by the feds for ties to subversive German American Bunds in the late 30s. He also talked about the pressures put on German management in the Duquesne Works. Is there something to this?

Mike Bilcsik, Late 70’s


 Submitted by Colleen Byrne Travis                                                                                           Written by: Steve Mellon                         Published: September 12, 2017  / Yinz

This is from a special section of The Digs featuring images provided by their readers.

Heartbreak and tenderness in a steel town

Murt Shaughnessy Jr. and little brother Michael. (Courtesy Eileen Connelly)

Finches hopping on a cracked sidewalk in Duquesne’s devastated business district took flight one morning last week, the birds flapping upward as a cluster toward Grant Avenue, several narrowly avoiding a fast-moving sedan. Then the cluster disappeared behind a storefront building that stood defiant and alone, a middle finger to departure.

Duquesne these days is a monument to a thousand goodbyes. So many vacant lots, vibrant green in the morning sun. Library Place minus its library. The pharmacy empty, spiderweb cracks across its storefront windows.

Truth is, folks here have been saying painful goodbyes for decades, long before the steel mill stopped shooting its vibrations through town, long before endless fluorescent isles of inexpensive goods and easy parking in the suburbs drained the business district of people and prosperity.

Farewell stories flutter from this battered community’s history. They offer glimpses of perseverance, compassion and hope in the face of overwhelming sadness.

Rosemary Terza (now Fuga) grew up in Duquesne. One of seven children brought into the world by Sylvester and Elizabeth Terza, she remembers the day in January 1941 when her sister Jean bathed 3-year-old brother Johnny and noticed a boil on the boy’s leg. Jean, 13 years old, knew the boil was trouble. She immediately told her mother, who summoned a doctor.

The open boil oozed liquid. Blood poisoning, said the doctor. Don’t move the boy or the poison will spread.

Alarmed family members pushed two chairs together and created a small bed in the living room of the family’s home on a hillside above the rumbling mill. There Johnny would stay, watched over, fed and bathed by his parents and siblings.

The doctor visited every day for two weeks and treated Johnny with sulfa drugs. But the boy couldn’t be saved. He died in his makeshift bed shortly after 7 p.m. on Feb. 6, 1941.


Johnny Terza. (Courtesy the Terza family)

The loss devastated Sylvester and Elizabeth. For months they grieved. Rosemary was 12 at the time, and to her the sadness seemed unbearable. Guilt and depression wracked Elizabeth. Rosemary wondered, would happiness ever return to the family’s Overland Avenue home?

Family friend Murt Shaughnessy noticed the the gloom enveloping the Terza family. Murt owned and operated a funeral home on North Duquesne Avenue. He embalmed, restored and dressed the bodies of those whose days were ended by disease, old age, auto crashes, industrial mishaps or suicide. Grief to him was unavoidable in the way sawdust is unavoidable to a carpenter.

But something about the Terza family’s sadness moved him. One day early in the summer of ‘41, Murt stopped by the Duquesne post office, where Sylvester worked as a mail carrier.

“Have your family ready on Friday afternoon,” Murt told Sylvester. “I’m going to take you up to the mountains to our cabin.” Murt owned a small cabin in Stahlstown, about 50 miles from Pittsburgh.

The prospect of a vacation shot a bolt of excitement through the Terza house. The family had little money, no car and no phone. Vacation was a dream.

On Friday, Murt arrived at the Terza home in a big funeral car. The Terzas piled in and, after a drive that seemed to last forever, Murt dropped off the family at his small cabin. “I’ll be back in two weeks to take you home,” he said.

The mountains buoyed the family’s spirits. The kids played in a creek, splashed in a swimming hole, the parents walked among pine trees, attended square dances. Sylvester was a skilled carpenter and, as a gesture of gratitude, made a few repairs on the cabin.

“It was a complete change for all of us,” recalls Rosemary. Her family eventually acquired land near Stahlstown and built its own cabin. “Murt was so wonderful to have that insight.”

Murt Shaughnessy with son Murt Jr. and daughter Eileen. (Courtesy Eileen Connelly)

In addition to running a funeral business, Murt and his wife Margaret were raising three children of their own — daughter Eileen and two sons, Murt Jr. and Michael. On a snowy Friday, Jan. 25, 1946, Murt Sr. drove past a section of Mifflin Street where 10-year-old Murt Jr. and several of his friends were sledding.

The day was a special one — students had been dismissed from school early after completing exams, and a blanket of snow covered the Mon Valley. Murt Sr. stopped his car and spoke briefly to his son, who said he was having a great time. Then the father continued on his way.

A few hours later, around 5 p.m., Murt and Margaret received a phone call. It was from McKeesport Hospital. Murt Jr. had lost control of his sled and plowed into a fire hydrant. The impact fractured the boy’s skull. The parents were urged to come quickly to the boy’s side.

Murt and Margaret kept a vigil, waited for their son to regain consciousness after surgery. Friday night passed, then came Saturday. Priests visited, anointed the boy and gave him Holy Communion. The next day, Sunday, daughter Eileen, 12, saw her father break down and cry. At 8:40 p.m., Murt Jr. died.

The parents found rosary beads in the boy’s coat pocket. Murt laid out his son, a devoted altar-boy, in a white casket. The child was dressed in a cassock and surplice.

Murt Jr.’s death shocked Duquesne. Over a three day period, hundreds of friends and residents arrived to say goodbye to the boy and offer comfort and condolences to the family.

Thursday, Jan. 31, arrived bright and clear, the sky blue. By 9 a.m. Holy Trinity church was packed with mourners and students who’d been dismissed from school to say goodbye to a classmate. Six altar boys served as pallbearers.

Shaughnessy Funeral Home on North Duquesne Avenue. (Courtesy Eileen Connell

Seven decades later, Eileen (now Connelly) remembers her attempts to ease her mother’s grief by lying next to her in bed and telling silly jokes. Murt, Eileen says, made a number of changes to his life. He sold the building that housed his funeral home on North DuquesneAvenue and moved the business to Second Street, across from the police station. He sold the family cabin in Stahlstown, quit drinking and attended Mass every day.

Murt remained an active member of the community and in 1983 was named “Man of the Year” by the Duquesne/West Mifflin Chamber of Commerce. He died in 1987, three years after the silencing of the town’s famous mill.

— Steve Mellon  


My Grandfather, Steve Turlik, was one of the original members of the Zemps.  Family folklore has it that he once pitched a no-hitter and that it made the newspaper.

I tried some years ago to find this article, but at that time I assumed it was in the McKeesport paper (I didn’t know about the Duquesne paper).

I would love to find an early roster with his name on it or even the elusive article recapping that big game.

Would you know of any resources that I could use to investigate those early teams?

Thank you!

Frank Fiori

Hickory PA

Hi Jim

My name is Cheryl Wilson and I am the great granddaughter of Lawrence Furlong. He was the first Burgess of Duquesne, and responsible for bringing gas street lights to Duquesne, and also went around lighting them.  He also brought the first doctor (Dr. Botkin)  to Duquesne.

Attached is a copy of that article of their anniversary, but as you can see it is very hard to see the picture and also the writing. I was wondering if you might have any idea where we could get a clearer copy for our family bible and also to pass on to family who have are in family history.

I think it might have been in either the Duquesne Times of the McKeesport Daily News, since they would have been the only two newspapers in the area at the time.  I know that the picture would have been taken at their home on Earl Street.

I recently did my DNA thru Ancestry and one of the names on my list and also my cousin Bob Woods is the granddaughter of a lady in the picture, so we would balso like to get a copy for her.

Thank you for any help that you might be able to give us.

Cheryl D. Wilson


                                                                                                                                                       I recently did a Google web-search, for:

Ruben’s Quality Furniture – McKeesport, PA since 1902

I didn’t see any specific mention of …. Ruben’s ??

Do you know when it closed , or where I could locate a news article, or something (anything) about it ??  

I recently discovered a piece of furniture, with their “tag” on it …….. and was wanting to get any idea, of how-old …. it might be.


I just posted this on Monongehela WordPress regarding Holy Trinity Church in Duquesne. Thought you’d be interested. Love your website. The research you have done is amazing. 

Ann Marie

I’m late to the party here, I realize, but I’d like to comment that in all the articles I have read on this subject, no one has mentioned one of the main reasons that Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Duquesne was relocated to the West Mifflin location on West Grant Avenue, and there were several. And Vatican II changes had nothing to do with the move. 

When the church was built in the early 1900’s, it was built in one of the finest parts of town, with many gorgeous mansions and a beautifully landscaped area. Over the years, especially in the 60’s the area declined greatly, along with other areas of the cities. It was not safe to walk in that area at night, there were very few parking spots near the church and to worship, you had to walk several blocks sometimes. There was an illegal abortionist ‘clinic’ just a few doors down the street and drug sales in this area were rampant, not to mention the homeless and alcoholics we had to pass, who even sat on the church steps as we entered and exited for services.

In addition, the structure of the church was already declining: the wooden altar (not marble) was falling apart and had to be ‘topped’. The organ pipes were disintegrating and became like ‘sugar’ particles. The choir loft was no longer safe.

The pastor at the time held a vote of all the congregation, and it was nearly unanimous, save SEVEN parishioners: build at the cemetery, where there was plenty of land which the church owned and would not have to purchase anywhere else. The location was not far from the core of the congregation which was already visiting its deceased relatives there anyway as well as moving more north toward the West Mifflin area if not leaving the area completely. 

The church was sold to a local (Baptist?) group, deconsecrated, and few looked back. The Catholic Church in the entire Pittsburgh area was declining at the time. Decisions had to be made. I recently was ‘home’ and drove past the lot where the beautiful church stood. No one wishes more than I that that church still stood and would have been remodeled to its previous glory that some of us remember from our very early childhood. (I was an organist for the church for nearly 10 years.) But if it had been remodeled, it would almost be a stand-alone structure with nothing around it to support it, and for what purpose? The best we can say about Duquesne today is that the population seems to have stabilized recently with no further dramatic drop. Another good thing we can say is that we have many, many wonderful memories of a church structure that served many immigrant Slovaks well in their faith. Mine was planted and nourished there.


I enjoy reading “The Duquesne Hunky” and I hope you will keep it current again. 

I did not live in Duquesne but, I had a relative that did Sophie Evkovich Vargo – she was a clerk at Sally’s Fashion.  Her first husband was Steve Robert Vislay and her second husband was Roy Merle Vargo.

Roy Merle Vargo parents were George Vargo Jr. and Olga Margaret Furia. He had a brother Edgar George Vargo.   The Vargo family owned the Vargo Insurance in Duquesne, Pennsylvania.

I’m doing my family genealogy and any information you have on the Vargo Family or Sophie Evkovich Vargo I would truly appreciate.

Attached is the recent death notice for Roy Merle Vargo.  Maybe your readers will remember this family.


Denise Gotch

Jim, there’s way too much on your site to go through everything and so if this is old news, sorry. You mentioned listening to music or rather lack of, Terry Lee was doing an internet thing once or twice a week. I haven’t sought it out for quite a while (Pandora is easier) but it was pretty cool. He’s was selling reverse mortgages or some kind of thing for all of us old people.

BTW, don’t come to Florida waxing the virtues of our youth in Duquesne. No one has even heard of Pittsburgh, let alone Duquesne down here. If we see three Pennsylvania plates a season (when the snow birds attack us), it’s a miracle.

I was born on Polish Hill and spent most of my “growing up” across from the water tank on Highland Avenue near Mayor Kopriver’s home. His son “Buddy” used to go down to Kennedy News (or something like that) right on the corner of Peter St and Kennedy Ave and buy up all the baseball cards. We’d go with him and he’d give us the duplicates he already had. Before someone asks, no, it was not Kennedy Market, it was catty corner to them, small place, junk food for kids, I think that’s where I saw my first “Playboy” magazine.

Does anyone remember Boy Scout Week in the 50’s? Everyone had a retailer’s window down on Second Avenue; one of the images that glides past my brain every once in a while.

Cheerio, Alex Baranyi


      Good site on Duquesne.  My Dad’s parents lived on Priscilla Ave, I can remember having to walk to St Peter and Paul Church for my Saturday classes.  As for my Dad, he passed a few years ago; born and died in Duquesne.  But I’m sure he would of wanted no other way.  And was wondering if you ever heard our name, Pinkovsky, he worked at the bar mill gate.  Ok, good site and keep up the great work, you take care.

Tony Pinkovsky



I have enjoyed your site, Thanks for your time and effort. I was born in 1959 with a lineage from Duquesne that starts with a Slovak emigrant Grandfather named Andrej Polakovic whom had 2 sons. One was John Polakovic (who changed his name to Plake) and my dad Stephen Polakovic. My uncle was the one and only teacher John Plake, and my dad worked at homestead. My childhood on 2nd street has many memories; Holy Trinity school, the barber in the alley, the Slovak club Christmas parties, etc. Once our family moved out of Duquesne to West Mifflin it never really felt the same. Anyhow, I get the Hunky part, we were all the same, just trying to live the dream. I am very proud of my roots and try to explain it to my adult 4 daughters but they somehow don’t get it. In ending, thanks again.

Mark Polakovic

Good afternoon James!

I came across your blog about Duquesne, Pennsylvania while doing some genealogical research on my great-great-grandfather. His name was John/Johan Peter Viktor Stabler and he lived on Mill Street near River Avenue. I’m trying to find out any information about that section of town. Johan subsequently moved to Clairton about 1899/1900 but I can’t seem to find information about what happened to that section of town.

If you have any information that may shed some light, I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you!


Ashley Stabler


Recently discovered a living legend who was born in Duquesne, PA.  His name is James Ragan and he is an internationally acclaimed poet.  If you have not already done so, perhaps you might do a feature with him and the other three VIP intellectuals from Duquesne. (of course, I am not one of them) He is a super nice person and resides in LA.  His poetry, that I have read, is as fluid a Spring’s breeze. I like it – a lot. Perhaps, with his permission, you might in your publication, quote some of his earlier work that deals with his youth in Duquesne. 


George Bornyek  








This entry was posted in Christmas Memories, Church and School - Holy Trinity, Feedback From Our Friends, Food and Restaurants, Hunky Celebrations, Miscellaneous. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Voices of Duquesne – Christmas 2017

  1. Janet Coleman says:

    My name is Janet Coleman daughter of Harold Coleman and mother Emily Vargo Coleman. Roy and Edgar Vargo were my first cousins from George Vargo and Olga Furia Vargo. My grandparents George Vargo Sr and Mary Hartis Vargo lived in 2 different houses on Catherine St and finally on Maryland Ave. My grandfather worked in the steel mill and also built many houses in Duquesne. My aunt Ann Vargo 1899-1967 lived with them and never married. George Vargo Jr was my uncle was 2nd oldest. Then Mary who died at 18. Next a stillborn Emily. Then my mother Emily who lived to 85. Then Robert and finally Mildred.
    I laughed when someone wrote that in Florida no one has heard of Duquesne. I play bridge with s women from McKeesport. At church many Pittsburgers. I am sure that Edgar has passed. Did not know about Corky.
    We left the Pittsburgh Mt Lebanon area in 1955 and moved to East Lansing Michigan. I moved to The Villages Florida in 2008 where I still live. If any of you want more information email me at skiladymsu@yahoo.com. I have great memories of my visits to Duquesne. Looking down at the river and steel mills from the bluff above, the “what ya want” candy store, my Uncle George’s Insursnce office, everyone around me speaking Slovak.
    When I first came to The Villages my handyman was John Chabola who lived on the same street as I do. His mother grew up on Duquesne. I will have to find out her maiden name. Hope some of this helps your gathering of info. My daughter in Orlando has most of the family albums of the Vargos. Jan

  2. Jane Cappellano says:

    Not sure how to join the conversation on the Hunky website!!?? BUT I NOTICED A COUSIN OF MINE (Mike Bilcsik) did a post! Since we have lost touch I will try to get back to him! I will check on FB TOO!!

    Sent from my iPhone


  3. Norman Lazor says:

    Have thoroughly enjoyed the “Duquesne Hunky.” Never miss an issue!
    You recently mentioned Murt Shaughnessy and the terrible sledding accident. Well, I have never forgotten that because Murt used my sled. We were great friends. Shared bikes and sleds.
    My family lived on Crawford as it was known then. Later it was changed to Pennsylvania Ave. That
    became the boundary for West Mifflin. Mine was the fifth house from Mifflin St. My brother and I went sledding with Murt and he was on my sled. My Uncle Joe and brother Jack had made a spectacular toboggan which we were using. After this incident, my Dad chopped up all our sleds
    including the toboggan and we were never allowed to sled on Mifflin St. again.

  4. attyoates says:

    I am the son of a Duquesne native and had family in Duquesne and West Mifflin for years.  I was friends with Billy Ghallagher of the drugstore fame, and visited the area frequently over the years as I worked in the Courts in Pittsburgh.

    My father’s name  was  Robert Oates.  He had brothers, my uncles, Dick, Gene, Paul and a good family friend by the name of Elmer Szalay.  My grandmother’s maiden name was Oeler.  My grandfather was Eugene Oates, and my great Uncle was Goerge Oeler who was a chiropractor in West Mifflin

    Enjoy your work

    Jim Oates

  5. rjk@whidbey.com says:

    mushrooms (variety) butter no flour vinegar (apple cider) near end of cooking kholbasi in soup near end s and p to taste

    ron kasprisin


  6. Cammy Airhart Vaughn says:

    To answer Alex Barany. It was the Hilltop Dairy store. Diagonally Across the street from Kennedy Meat Market. They had a bench out front and it was always filled with young and old guys. My mother would not let me go in when I was young.
    Thanks for sharing all these posts. For those who no longer live in Duquesne it brings back wonderful memories of our youth. Look forward to hearing more

    • Dennis F Stanko says:

      Lived on Kennedy Avenue from age 7-19. Went to Hilltop Dairy quite frequently as my uncle would buy us a triple header chocolate ice cream cone. Johnny hilltop or his wife or sister in law made them and and charged a whopping 20 cents! The years were late 50’s to mid 60’s. He gave me a dollar bill and 2 cones at 20 cents each plus 12 candy bars or bags of peanuts at 5 cents each cost a dollar.Walked past Danny’s Bar every time…my uncle Bill’s hangout after working in the mill.
      Aw, the memories.

  7. Barbara Ruhe says:

    Reply to Ron Yurick – ButtermaidBakery.com has wonderful nut/poppyseed, etc. rolls like Grandma used to make. They are still taking Christmas orders. Also kifli cookies. They are rather expensive but worth it. phone is 1-844-NutRoll . They ship all over US, arrive fresh and delicious. Hope this helps.
    Barbara Ruhe

  8. Joseph J Kulha says:

    Ashely The below tracks people were evicted after Japan Bombed Pearl Harbor US Steel erected
    The Electric Furnaces There we moved out when I was 2 years old there are some pictures on
    This Duquesne Hunky Site JKulha@aol.com

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