Dem Bones, Dem Bones, Dem Soup Bones

While most of the people in my area are mourning the passing of summer, I am reveling10102012_ENT_FallPhotos_DJB_1130_display that it’s finally over. There is something about this time of year that delights me more than I can imagine. It bugs the heck out of my co-workers when I come in the office expressing how much I enjoy the cold weather and can’t wait until the temperatures and snow begin to fall. Quite honestly, they think I’m nuts!

Today was a perfect example of what I mean. The temperatures hovered in the high 40’s and low 50’s. It drizzled, showered or teemed rain throughout most of the day. Everyone was miserable, whiney and complaining about the weather….. except me. I was loving it.

When I was a boy, whenever it turned chilly, rainy and gloomy like today, my mom would be hard at work preparing a belly-warming pot of soup. Good ol’ hunky beef noodle soup usually. The process took the better part of the day. She would begin after my brother and I went off to Holy Name School in the morning, and carefully and lovingly pare and chop the carrots, celery and parsley into the perfect bite size pieces. A large chuck of beef would be prepared by washing it down in the kitchen sink and then patting it dry so she could lightly brown it in her cast iron skillet. I never understood this step, but it always tasted so good, who cared.

beef-marrow-bonesThe Hrvatski Domaća Goveđa Juha (Croatian Homemade Beef Soup) that my mom made, along with every hunky I knew, had an ingredient that I never understood. Mom always said it was her “secret ingredient.” I’m referring to the “soup bone.” I recall grocery shopping with Mom at Kennedy Meat Market (a.k.a. Andy’s) and her asking for a soup bone at the meat counter. It seemed to be as key an ingredient as the beef itself.

Mom would place all of the chopped ingredients, the whole chunk of beef, a couple of peeled onions cut in half, the soup bone, a few spices and water into her soup pot and place it on the stove on a medium flame. She once told me that it was best to bring the picacCv5qwater to a boil very slowly in order to get the best flavor. Eventually, the water would come to a boil and then she would lower the flame and let the soup cook for hours.

At this time of the year, the temperature was in 40’s outside, leaves were falling and there was a definite autumn-like smell in the air. By the time I got home from school, I knew that we were having beef soup for supper. My dad had installed an exhaust fan in the kitchen that was capable of sucking the air out of an entire factory. The aroma of anything that Mom was cooking would be drawn out of the kitchen and blasted out into the chilly fall air. As I walked up the driveway toward the kitchen door, I would immediately be hit with the aroma of the soup as it seem to be suspended in the air between our house and Anna Yasko’s house next door.

When I passed our kitchen window and then stepped up to the kitchen door, the panes of glass would be dripping with condensation as the warmth of the kitchen air battled with the nippy outside temperature. Mom would always be in the kitchen, either stirring her kettle of soup or sitting at the kitchen table waiting for us with coffee cup in hand.

We arrived home after school about 2 hours before my dad got home from work. Mom would always tell us to do our homework when we first got home…. No rest for the wicked. Fortunately, this never took too long for me since I wasn’t quite as focused as a student as my brother was. I always believed that he was the intelligent one, while I was the creative one. However, both Steve and I would eventually make our way outside before dinner and before dark.

LeavesThe time between getting home from school and being called in for dinner seemed to go by so quickly. We barely had enough time to rake leaves together for a large enough pile before Mom was yelling for us to come inside and wash our hands. Somehow, every time we went outside to play in the fall, we’d always manage to have muddy hands and soggy, grubby stains on the knees of our pants.

 By the time we had cleaned-up after playing outside, Dad was usually home and going through his own clean-up routine at the stationary tubs in the basement. Since he worked at his garage all day, he was usually pretty grimy, looking like he had been pulled from a Gulf Coast oil spill. I can still smell the fragrance of Lava soap as he prepared for dinner each evening.

 While Dad was busy in the basement and Steve and I passed the time before dinner by bowl-beef-soupwatching TV in the living room, Mm would be busily boiling the noodles for dinner in her yellow kettle. She always used Pennsylvania Dutch brand noodles that were ultra-thin and were the perfect size in my opinion. She would have peeled, and quartered potatoes and have added them to the soup about 30 minutes before dinner so that when suppertime rolled around, she was 100% set.

 Our hunky soup dinner would always start with at least one or two bowls of the fabulousSoup beef soup. I even loved the carrots! Spoons would clanks against the side of the bowls as we ate and we were always allowed to lift our bowls and slurp to our heart’s content. Polite society be damned…… hunkys knew how to enjoy soup!!

After we had finished our bowl or bowls of soup, Mom would clear away our bowls leaving the dinner plates below. She would bring our large blue platter to the table that was loaded with the soup meat, potatoes and carrots that had been fished out of the soup kettle. I think that was my favorite part. I remember getting a hunk of beef and shredding the heck out of it. Since it had been cooking for hours, there really wasn’t a ton a flavor left in it, but smear some ketchup on it and a bit of salt and it was divine. Mom and Dad preferred to mix some horseradish into the shredded meat on their plates, but I didn’t have the stomach for that. The potatoes were placed on our plates, and we’d crush them with our forks, add a few pats of butter, salt and pepper and dig in. This was really “stick to your ribs” foods hunky style. Mom would have usually picked up a loaf of bread from Bon Bon Bakery in the Kroger Shopping Center across the street, have them slice it in their slicing machine. And allow us a few pieces with our meal.

These memories were provoked today by the weather report I saw online for Duquesne.Clouds over thye city There was an ever so slight chance of snow. I was so jealous when I saw it, and then began thinking of cold fall days in Duquesne. I miss the excitement of knowing there was a possibility of snow this early in the fall. I checked out one of the weather cameras from the Duquesne area and saw the familiar snow clouds looming over West Mifflin High School. I remember getting so excited when my dad would point to that type of cloud and tell me that whenever I saw them, it meant snow was on its way. Come on winter…bring it on!


Posted in Autumntime, Food and Restaurants | 25 Comments

The Last Time – I Promise


THANK YOU – THANK YOU – THANK YOU for all of your contributions to my walk. With only 1 1/2 days before the walk, the spirit of Duquesne’s love continues with donations of $1825.00 so far!



The last thing that I want to do, is anger you with a continual plea for something. I know you read this blog to join me in remembering the Duquesne of our youth. I assure you that my intention is to continue to share those memories with you. However, as I mentioned in my last blog, I am attempting to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Walk for the Cure to be held in Salisbury, MD in 5 days, October 26, 2013.

Many of you have made a donation already, and I cannot thank you enough!! Every dollar helps. However, with only a few short days remain to donate, I wanted to make my plea, ONE LAST TIME. In honor of my Aunt Peggy……………………….

Aunt Peggy has been my “other mother” for a long time now. Having lost my mother to heart disease when I was 12 years old, my aunt has been my rock and has always been there for me. Last week, I visited her in Pittsburgh, and was heartbroken to see how quickly her memory has faded. Although she is in an apartment currently, arrangements are being finalized to move her into an assisted living facility. She isn’t aware of the impending move, I know it won’t be well received by her, but it is the right thing to do in order to assure that she will be taken care of. As I sat with her and talked, I was reminded of the song, Hello In There: 

coupleYa’ know that old trees just grow stronger,

And old rivers grow wilder ev’ry day.

Old people just grow lonesome

Waiting for someone to say, “Hello in there, hello.”

So if you’re walking down the street sometime

And spot some hollow ancient eyes,

Please don’t just pass ’em by and stare

As if you didn’t care, say, “Hello in there, hello.”

Alzheimer’s has often been referred to as “the long goodbye.” I completely understand why. Those of us who live on the other side of the fog that clouds her mind feel helpless and unable to impact the course of the disease.

Along with my entire family, I will be participating in a fund-raising effort in Salisbury, MD that will attempt to raise money for Alzheimer research and the ultimate cure. The 2013 Walk to End Alzheimer’s Eastern Shore Walk takes place on Saturday, October 26, 2013. I am part of the Shamrock Realty Team, but trying to raise donations and find supporters for my part of the team’s walk.

If you are able to make a donation to my walk, I would be SO grateful. My family and I are participating in the walk in honor of Aunt Peggy, Uncle Joe, Uncle Gary and Aunt Helen. Your reason to donate might not only be for my aunts and uncles, but for a parent, a grandparent, a family member or for that special older person who was part of your life. Please consider a donation, please help and I promise, this will be the last time I ask… 

If you are able to help, please do the following:

1.     Click on the following link:

2.     You will connect to my team’s page. On the bottom left of the page, you will see a box contain my name – JIM VOLK. Click on my name.

3.     You will now be connected to my walk page. Click the green box on the right that reads    $-DONATE TO MY WALK.

4.     You will now be connected to the contribution page. You can choose your level of donation from the list provided or enter the amount wish. The rest of the form in self-explanatory.

5.     To finalize your donation, just press COMPLETE DONATION at the end of the form.



Posted in Miscellaneous | 3 Comments

Thanks for the Memories

I began my visit to Duquesne just a few days ago. So far, it has been enjoyable, but very bittersweet at times. I have spent most of my time with family members, old friends, and with my Aunt Peggy.

The weather has been unusually dreary, with a light misty rain falling nearly every day. Truthfully, it feels more like “A Rainy Day in London Town” than in Duquesne, with temperatures in the 50 during the day an in the low 40’s at night.

I’ve been able to visit a few places to photograph, but again, the weather has prevented me from capturing the shots I had hoped for. I’m on the road back home tomorrow, so I might have to wait until I return in December to reshoot some areas.

Aunt PeggyI wrote in my last blog that my Aunt Peggy, age 87, had been diagnosed with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Although this was devastating news to the family, it was not surprising. Several years ago, Aunt Peg, along with two of her siblings, Aunt Helen and Uncle Joe, was tested to access her vulnerability to the disease. At that time it was determined that she, along with at least two other siblings, had already acquired the disease. None of them at the time of the tests were displaying any overt symptoms, but all began taking a medication that would slow down the onset of the disease.

It was less than a year after those tests that my Aunt Helen and Uncle Joe began presenting symptoms, and by the end of the second year following the tests, both had been taken to health

facilities that provided 24 hour care and treatment for the disease. Sadly, my Uncle Joe died shortly after beginning his stay at the home, and Aunt Helen died the following year, both from Alzheimer’s.

Aunt Peggy, had not revealed any signs of Alzheimer’s disease in the five years since Aunt Helen’s death. Then, less than 4 months ago, the symptoms began to appear. In the last month, the intensity of the problems increased dramatically to the point that an assisted living facility will now be required.

I was able to spend time with Aunt Peggy during my visit, butPeg 1941 the issues of memory loss and confusion were VERY obvious. She had difficulty in remembering which state she was currently in, whose home she was staying at, and who some family members were when their name was brought up in conversation. It was heart-wrenching to say the least.

The fact that we/I can do nothing to stop the dreadful disease that this dear woman will now suffer through is incomprehensible. We can only hope that a form of treatment will be formulated to either eradicate or prevent the progression of the disease.

Ironically, prior to my visit to Duquesne this week, I signed-up to take part in a fund raising walk that will be taking place Saturday, October 26th in Salisbury, MD. The event is being held is the 2013 Walk to End Alzheimer’s Eastern Shore Walk. It is the first time I have participated in a walk, but one that is obviously near and dear to me due to my Aunt Peggy.

In what will soon be 3 years that I have been writing this post, I have never asked for any sort of contributions. However, since I have so many reasons to thank Aunt Peggy for her own memories as well as instilling the love of family and tradition in me, I am asking for you to consider making a pledge on Aunt Peggy’s behalf to the upcoming walk. My goal is to raise $100, however, I hope that the love and compassion that each of you have for the city you love will prompt you to help me well-exceed that goal.

If you are able to help, please do the following:

1.     Click on the following link:

2.     You will connect to my team’s page. On the bottom left of the page, you will see a box contain my name – Jim Volk. Click on my name.

3.     You will now be connected to my walk page. Click the green box on the right that reads $-DONATE TO MY WALK.

4.     You will now be connected to the contribution page. You can choose your level of donation from the list provided or enter the amount wish. The rest of the form in self-explanatory.

5.     To finalize your donation, just press COMPLETE DONATION at the end of the form.

I hope you will consider contributing to this walk. Since this blog is totally about the memories of our youth and the town we love, help to preserve those memories for everyone by helping to eliminate the disease that robs our seniors of those very recollections.

We love you Aunt Peggy!

My two favorite Aunt Peg stories –

Posted in Miscellaneous | 6 Comments

Heading Home

Heading Home


I am very excited. I am leaving for a trip to Duquesne in just a few days. I was able to visit with some of my cousins recently when they were in town attending my daughter’s wedding on September 21st. However, the event is such a whirlwind, I could never think of it as spending quality time with any one of them. That short little visit from them only whetted my appetite to spend more time with them.

About 5 days ago, a nor’easter arrived here at the shore and decided to park itself and hang around for over five days now. We went from bright, very warm sunny days to windy, rainy and cooler days in less than 24 hours. Personally, I welcomed the change. The cool air, the leaves blowing around the yard with every wind gust, all reminded me of how much I enjoy fall and winter weather. It also motivated me even more to make a trip back to my home.

As excited as I am about heading back to Duquesne, part of my time there will be bittersweet, as I visit my Aunt Peggy. For those of you who have been reading my blog for some time, Aunt Peggy is the last surviving sibling on my father’s side of my heritage. She is the last of the eight children of George and Anna Volk from Adrian, PA still surviving. About a year ago, I shared Aunt Peg’s memoires about her childhood and her family in a post titled Blueberries on the Hill – A Love Story  (click on the title to read the post.) Sadly, Aunt Peg has been diagnosed with the same dreadful, memory robbing disease that plagued three of her siblings. I am hoping against hope that she will still remember me so that we can share some very valuable time with one another. Please pray for her.

Aunt Peggy loved to reminisce about her family, about the places she lived and just about anything. Perhaps that is where I learned to appreciate and value the all of life’s lessons that were part of my youth. With that said, I assure you that as long as you are reading my ramblings and recollections, I will continue to share them. I hope my trip to Duquesne provides me with more stories to share with you that will warm your hearts and bring a smile to your face as you recall all of the things you loved about our town.

Here’s to you Aunt Peg!

Posted in My Hunky Family, Visits to Duquesne | 8 Comments

A Slow News Day

I cannot believe that it has been over two weeks since I’ve posted on my blog! Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa! My excuse however is the amount of time that I spent in preparation for my daughter Abby’s wedding on September 21st. I suppose that’s understandable and forgivable, however, the time since has been a period of recovery and laziness on my part. I was, and still am, somewhat drained of creativity. I promise you that I’ll rekindle my creativity and work past my current “writer’s block” soon.

I am planning a trip back to Duquesne in a few weeks, from October 13th through the 20th. During that time, I’m sure that I’ll recharged, and full of stories and recollections to pass along to you. In the meantime, I thought I’d share some tidbits from the Duquesne Times that you might enjoy and find interesting.

Let’s just say that it’s a slow news day on my blog right now. ….


Burns St. 1918

THE TIMES – 1951

Baseball 5-31-1951

As you can see, the caption is not real clear, but the names of these little sluggers from a 1951 edition of The Times are:

Richard Prokop, Tony Peck, George Ragan, Richard Butler, Richard Whitman, Paul Manns, Herman Daniels, Joe Michaels Jr., John Petrisko Jr., Richard Ivory, Charles Leech, James Faust, Dennis Layton, and Robert Brown. Assisting Mr. Foremsky in running the team are John Moran, “Cubs” Opalko and “Red” Mure.

There was an edition of The Duquesne Times published on my actual birthday, November 1, 1951. Here’s one of the photos from that day’s edition. Recognize anyone or anyone’s name?

Senior Class

I found the following photograph and ad very interesting and amusing! You know it had to be a REALLY slow news day when one of the front page photographs pays homage to a shipment of SOAP to Mann’s Brothers! To add even more “local charm” to that day’s edition of The Times from October 11, 1951, is the full page Mann’s Bros. ad that appeared in the same edition! Gotta love free press! Take a few minutes and check out the ad. It has been a LONG time since I’ve seen some of these brand names……

First, the front page photo and story…..

Manns PhotoAnd now, turning to page 7…..

Manns Ad 3And so, with memories of the scent of Spic and Span, Duz Detergent, and Woodbury soap racing through my mind, I promise renewed level of creativity on my part!!

Posted in Life in General, Stores and Businesses | 32 Comments

Tradition Deprived

Today I realized that it had been longer than normal since I last posted on my blog. However, I have a good excuse. In less than 72 hours, I will be walking my youngest daughter down the aisle on her wedding day! We have been knee deep in preparation for what seems like the last 20 years, but in all honesty, it has only been the last week that has gotten really crazy.

For that reason, I probably won’t be writing another post until after this Saturday’s wedding.  We are attempting to make it somewhat of hunky wedding, but I know that one of my favorite traditions will be missing…. the cookie table.  I guess I can only dream of how wonderful it would have been…….

Cookie Face

See you in a few days!

Posted in Hunky Celebrations | 9 Comments

The Bricks of My Foundation

Little Jimmy

Childhood was a time of simplicity

No cares, no woes, no anxiety.

When the world was neat and good to all,

When the universe was a chart on our classroom wall.

Childhood was a time when we lived in dreams

Our future hidden, behind steel mill steam.

When everyone appeared to be our friend

We didn’t have to consider what would happen in the end.

Childhood was a time when life was full of colors

We’d all depend on our devoted mothers.

When sorrows never knocked at our doors

We didn’t need to be concerned of wars.

Childhood was a time when school was benign

When desks were wood and in a straight line.

There were no such things as obligations

No need to fear life’s regulations.

Childhood was a time which is now long gone.

All of our friends and family have all moved on.

Childhood will never come back we are told,

But we’ll all have the memories, until we grow old.

It seems that I managed to get stuck behind a school bus every day last week. In our area, school began for all of the schools on Monday, August 26th. As I sat watched the kids climb aboard the bus, I thought that they looked so tiny while trying to board the huge school bus.

I couldn’t help but think about those first few days of the school year when I attending Holy Name SchoolHoly Name Grade School in Duquesne. Regardless of what grade I was in, I was immediately hit by the sensory impact of walking into the building After weeks and weeks of playing outside in the fresh(?) air, my nose was hit with the smell of fresh floor wax, oiled chalkboards, freshly wet-mopped wooden floors and the scent of Ivory soap from the nun’s meticulously scrubbed hands.

Week in and week out, the building always smelled clean. Between the good sisters and the dedicated custodian, they scrubbed, polished, and buffed our cathedral of learning to within an inch of its life!

I have written about Holy Name Grade School many times before, however I was reminded just how important those grade school years were to my life, to all of our lives recently. I was cleaning up the area around my front porch last week and came across 4 bricks that put an immediate smile on my face. I like to refer to them as “the bricks of my foundation.”

Back in 2005, while visiting relatives in Duquesne, I was headed down South 1st Street toward Grant Ave. when I came to a screeching halt in front of the Post Office. I was witnessing the demise of my childhood school. Just like the saying that I had heard so many times before, ”I didn’t want to look, but I couldn’t turn away.” As I stood there on the sidewalk with my mouth gapping open, I watched as an enormous crane moved from side to side, swinging brutally at the building, until huge chunks of plaster and brick fell to the ground. Piece by piece, my own cathedral of learning was dismantled. The huge windows that once served as the canvas for our Christmas artwork clung to the structure, Bricks of my Foundationrefusing to release their grip from the buildings framework. As the building’s back walls were completely eradicated and the individual classrooms lay bare for the world to see, remnants of desks, chalkboards and the glass block windows of the school hall were exposed.

I managed to work through the initial shock of what lay before me, and walked to the side of the remaining skeleton and decided to grab a tangible piece of my youth. A pile of bricks had fallen outside of the construction tape barrier that surrounded the school. I grabbed four bricks and sadly walked back to my car. I couldn’t watch any more. The 93 year old piece of Duquesne history met the same fate as the Duquesne Carneige Library did over 37 years earlier, reduced to rubble. I tossed the bricks into the back of my car, gave my alma mater one last glace and drove away just shaking my head.

Every trip I’ve made back to Duquesne since that day included a drive past the empty, barren plot of land where once stood Holy Name School. Nothing has been developed since it was torn down 8 years ago. Surrounding plots of land that were once occupied by other icons of my youth, such as Elsie’s Avenue News, Reed’s Insurance and Adler-Green’s suffered the same demise as Holy Name.

Despite the dismantling of my boyhood haunts, I still have those four bricks to serve as a Holy Name Steps without Circlereminder of the foundation of learning and life in general that they once were part of. The education that I received at Holy Name has stuck with me since childhood. Lessons imparted have been a part of my life since that time.

I’m reminded of a wonderful book that was published in 1989 by Robert Fulghum, titled ‘All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.’ In the book, the author explains how the world would be improved if adults adhered to the same basic rules as children, i.e. sharing, being kind to one another, cleaning up after themselves, and living “a balanced life” of work, play, and learning.

I reviewed his list of “lessons learned” again, and soon realized how accurate his thoughts were. Combined with a few more “pearls of wisdom” that were within the lessons imparted to us at Holy Name, they really were at the foundation of how I‘ve lived my life.

Allow me to share:

These are some of the things I learned in grade school:

• Share

• Play fair.

• Always remember that God, your mom and your dad love you.

• Don’t hit people, fighting is bad.

• Clean up your own mess.

• Don’t take things that aren’t yours.

• Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.

• Eat your vegetables.

• Honesty is the best policy.

• Pay attention and follow directions.

• Take time to play a little even, when you’re learning.

• The greatest literary works in English and American literature were all created with the same 26 letters we learned in first grade.

• When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.

• Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the paper cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.

• Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the paper cup – they all die. So do we.

• Say your prayers.

• Love God and Country

Posted in Church and School - Holy Name, Duquesne Buildings, Life in General, Miscellaneous, Visits to Duquesne | 22 Comments