## Archive for the ‘Reminiscences’ Category

### The Mud Pike as I Remember It 1932—1938

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

Parallel to the road and well behind the houses the mine dumped their waste from screening the coal. This was called the Slate Dump. It was 1000 feet long and 20 foot high and 50 foot wide. All of the older boys, including Fred and Basil and many of the fathers worked the pile reclaiming coal. Every one staked out their area and no one ever violated their diggings. After the summer of digging every morning they had enough coal to last the winter. Our house was one of the few that had a furnace. The others used Heatrolas, fireplaces, and kitchen stoves. Coal and wood had to be carried to the kitchen and basement every day.

Between the last house on the Pike and the mine were the beehive coke ovens. 150 ovens. These oven spewed fumes across the road onto a field that was turned into a six acre lot without a tree, bush or blade of grass. The Company houses were adjacent and beyond this desert. The rains washed deep inter connecting gullies thru the lot; some as deep as five foot. My friends and I being about 4 foot tall used these gullies to play in. They were called the Clay Ditches. The mine and ovens were not working in the mid 30’s. Hundreds of idle railroad coal cars were parked around the Beehive ovens. A elderly man, “Vinsect” converted two ovens into his home by removing the bricks between adjacent ovens. Each room was about 15 ft in diameter. Every one knew you never violated his privacy. Daily he walked slowly to Connellsville and back. He stopped in front of the Greek Church, which had a 15 foot tall crucifix in front of it, removed his cap,bowed his head and said a prayer every time he passed. I do not remember his talking to anyone except Mrs. Ann Matzko, who lived below us and fed him a meal every day. At most he spoke five or six words to her. He would not go into the house, but ate in the coal shed.

Of the forty houses on the pike three had phones that I know of. The Priest, The Justice of the Peace, and the Tax Collector. Everyone was poor but we kids didn’t know it. It was around this time FDR was elected and I remember putting a NRA sticker in the window. NRA meant National Recovery Act. I asked Uncle Joe what NRA meant and he said “Never run away”. I think this act was declared unconstitutional later on.

Milk was delivered every morning in quart glass bottles by the Model Dairy. In the winter it froze and had a 2 inch column of frozen cream on top. The cardboard lid of the bottle was sitting on top of the column. Some of the cream was always saved for coffee for the grownups. In the summer everyone washed jars during the season. First the Blackberry, which Basil and Fred picked at first light. If you waited till eight o’clock the berries would be gone. This was Blackberry Jam. Then wild Crab Apple and Elderberries. Vegetables were combined and canned as vegetable soup base. Tomatoes were next, then Grape jelly. In the summer at 80 to 100 degrees and with the coal stove going to boil the sterilizing water for the jars and cooking the mix, the kitchen became very hot. The vegetable garden was about one half acre in size. They raised tomatoes, peppers, corn ,cabbage, beans, onions, lettuce, radishes, and potatoes. In the early spring we smaller children watered the plants with a small can, running back to the end of the row after each plant was watered. We had no hose that would reach the interior of the garden. Many prayers were offered for rain. Basil and Fred did much of the work in the garden. We also raised chickens and several turkeys. I never liked gathering the eggs as I was told you could get lice in a chicken coop. The Ice wagon came by several days a week delivering 25 or 50 pounds of Ice. You put a card in your window if you wanted any with an indicator on the card for the quantity. The Ice Man would put the ice into the Ice Box. The Molinars ran a horse and van type wagon selling meat. My friend Sam Harry and I sat on the step to the door on the back of the wagon and rode up the street swinging our legs as we went along. We thought Mr. Molnar did not know we were there, but I am sure he did. Sam’s Grandmother was a customer and would buy a five cent box of animal cracker cookies from him occasionally. Sometimes Mr. Molnar gave us a hot dog, which we ate on the spot. This was the only time I ever ate a hot dog except once, I had a dime and bought one at the Greek Picnic. I didn’t understand the salesman and said ” yes” when he asked if I wanted onions. I ran home to scrape the onions off. I could not get the smell of onion out. I thought what a waste of money! Onions.

Bill Swan Appliance was delivering a GE refrigerator one afternoon around 3:30. My father arrived as they were taking it off the truck. Swan sent it out without his approval promising easy payments. It went back on the truck. My father never bought anything except for cash. Later we did get a refrigerator and I made Ice Cream from heated Evaporated milk using the recipe in the GE pamphlet. Adding berries or pineapple improved it. By todays standards it was not much, but we enjoyed it. I had never tasted real Ice Cream.

None of us ever went to a Doctor. If we stayed home from school we got a dose of Castor Oil and an orange to wash it down. It was years before I enjoyed oranges after that. Believe me there was no malingering. If we had bananas I would always slice mine and eat each slice slowly. They lasted longer that way.

Every now and then a scrap man, again with horse and wagon, would come by, buying scrap metal the older boys collected. They made a few pennies. If you heard a ringing bell, you ran and told your mother the knife and scissors sharpener was coming. He walked by once or twice a year carrying his wheel on his back. Fridays a man in a truck came by selling canned oysters. My dad liked them. At Christmas the only houses I knew to have a tree was the tax collector and the priest. Everyone went to see the tax collectors. We had two Blue Spruce trees in the front side yard. Uncle Joe bought several strings of blue outdoor lights and trimmed one of the trees. The Greek Priest’s boys celebrated RC Christmas and Greek Christmas in January. They also had two Easters. I celebrated with them. The church put out raffle punch cards. The prize was a five pound box of chocolates. Each punch had a girl’s name beside it. Prices ranged from one to 12 cents. I sold one card every year. In return I received a five pound box of chocolates which I gave to Else as her Christmas gift. I was a nice kid. I was not fond of the cream or jelly candies and was not experienced enough to distinguish the caramels from their shapes. So every bite was a chance.

The Radio was a Cathedral type Philco that sat on a table in the corner of the dining room. Mary, T, and I listened to Jack Armstrong-the all American boy, Little Orphan Annie, and Tom Mix. Each program was 15 minutes long. They were always offering premiums for coupons clipped from their products, The aluminum seal of the Ovaltine bottle, the box top of Ralston or Wheaties breakfast cereal. I once got a live turtle similar to the ones that saved Tom Mix’s life by leading him to fresh water in the desert. Mary had a secret decoder badge from Orphan Annie and was able to decipher the secret messages broadcast at the end of the programs. Jack Armstrong, Buddy, and his sister Betty were forever trapped on a high plateau in darkest Africa, waiting for Uncle Jim to rescue them. Uncle Joe, Else, and Dad listened to the news with Lowell Thomas, Easy Aces, Amos & Andy, and Spencer Keen-tracer of lost persons. Lowell Thomas sponsor was Blue Sunoco Gasoline; Easy Aces featured Anacin-Aspirin plus a special ingredient to speed up relief. Gang Busters came on around 8:00 with a blast of machine gun fire, blaring sirens and screeching tires–I was in bed 30 seconds later. Occasionally I could hear a muted siren from upstairs.

One day someone at school gave me a voucher and told me to take it to the Company store. They fitted me with a new pair of shoes and a pair of black stockings that came up to my knee. These shoes were ugly, the stocking worse. They probably had them since WW I. They were black, had funny toes, came up over my ankles. I had to wear them till they wore out. I got used to them. What I wanted was the Hi-Top boots with a side pocket and penknife. And an Aviator cap with goggles and side flaps that came down over my ears that I saw in the Sears & Roebuck catalog. Miraculously, the next year at Christmas, I got both, but somehow the knife never showed up. I never did find anything to put in that pocket. The other thing I wanted most was a small car with a gas motor that was advertised every Sunday in the comic section of the paper showing a small boy driving around an estate driveway; in color. Here, 70 years later my four year old grandson has that car with an electric motor. So– my prayers were answered, but a little slow.

One warm Spring morning on the way to school with Mary and others, we encountered an angry group of Miners in several cars and a dump truck, some waving shot guns, near the Leisenring mine. One guy noticing I was hiding behind Mary shouted “Don’t be afraid kid, we won’t hurt you.” This may have been the beginning of the 33 coal mine strike.

At the close of the school year the School District had an all day picnic at Kennywood Park. Admission was free and each student was given 10 free ride tickets. My brothers used my tickets as I was not allowed to go till fifth and sixth grade. We rode school buses to the Western Maryland/P&LE RR train station in Connellsville. We then rode the special train directly to the park. This was my first train ride. It was as exciting as the park. We packed a chip basket with our sandwiches and stuff and put the basket on a picnic table in the pavilion. We came back at noon and the basket was still there. My favorite ride was the Row boats. You could ride for an hour for two tickets. That seemed like a bargain to me. This was amazing with all these students and very few parents. Most of the teachers were around talking to each other. There were mirrors in one of the arcades that displayed a sign “see yourself as others see you” I put in a nickel and put my head in the hole. I waited and waited but no picture ever came out. I was up to 15 cents I wasted in my lifetime.

Every once in a while Uncles Mike and Tom would show up on a Saturday morning. They visited a while and left with Uncle Joe. Then to Connellsville to get Uncle Jack. They were all in trouble after that. One day Uncle Tom brought me a small red wagon.

1934 All of the older boys on the pike walked to Connellsville to swim in the Youghiegheny river. It was three miles each away. While returning from swimming at Flat Rock Basil, 12, is hit by a Train and suffered a head contusion. He was taken to the train station on the caboose and then to the hospital for stitches. At that time he was four or five years younger than the other boys. They probably ran across the tracks to beat the freight train, but Basil didn’t make it. He for ever after combed his hair in a pompadour to cover the scar. They took me once or twice. On hot days I wondered if it was worth it. They also dammed a creek on a nearby farm and had a moderate size hole for swimming. Smaller boys were not allowed near the hole. They also used old RR ties to build a cabin. I think I was allowed inside once. They had some kind of stove for heating. One night it burned down. They rebuilt it. They saved Octagon Soap coupons and used them to purchase a pair of clip-on Roller Skates at Loucks Hardware Store. Only two boys on the pike owned a bike. Half of the families owned a car. Uncle Joe had a Model T single seat black Ford. It was parked at the top of the yard by the lane. I never saw it run, but it made a nice play area. We had a small 29 Model A Ford Coupe modified by my father with a rumble seat. If it rained you rode inside with the lid closed. In 1938 after returning to work at the RR Fred bought a 1936 blue 4 door Ford V8. He sold this in 1943 as he could not drive because of poor peripheral vision after his cataract operation.

According to Mary this happened. I find it hard to believe, but maybe. Occasionally we were given a dime and Mary, Theresa, and I would go to Matzko’s store and spend the whole dime on penny candy. Three green leafs for a penny, or a small Tootsie roll, hard ball, or licorice whips. It would take quite a while to make the selection. John the owner was quite patient and the store rarely had other customers. We would take the poke of candy home. My Mother baked bread every week, but my friends, the Romza’s bought their bread. I loved it. One summer evening I was sent alone to the store for candy; I came back with a loaf of sliced white bread. I wonder if this is where the expression “The greatest thing since sliced bread” comes from.

The WPA sent Babe Lepara around recruiting girls from the area to take Tap Dancing lessons from him. The lessons were given at the Greek Church social hall for one hour every Saturday. Mary and about 20 others signed for the lessons. Twenty others watched. Cost was ten cents.

1936: Fred Donovan Scarry 18 enrolls in the Civilian Conservation Corps and works in Oakland, Maryland. He stays for three years. He earns $30 per month of which he keeps$5 and $25 is sent to his mother. This was a considerable amount of money being sent to his family. After his return he works at Anchor Hocking which recently reopened. He later goes to work for the Western Maryland Railroad as a Fireman. 1937: Frank 59 and family move to East Liverpoole, Ohio. Frank owned a early 30s Dodge with a Ram on the front water cap. In 1942 he worked in Warren, OH in a steel Mill. He later, at age 65, went to work in Newport News Boat Yard. The same place he worked during the first War. He was engaged in building Essex Class Aircraft Carriers. 1938: James Scarry dies at age 46. He worked for Stone & Work, a lumber & coal retailer at their Arch Street yards. He never owned a car, rode the Trolley which passed in front of the house, his job and the Elks Club. Joe Edward Scarry (me) lives with Attie for 9 months while he is in the seventh grade at Immaculate Conception School. Life couldn’t get any better than this. My personal concierge, valet, and cook. I had store bread, toasted in the gas range broiler every morning covered in real butter, not oleo, and packaged cereal from the store. I would go to Newmyers Ice Cream Parlor and bring back two cones covered with wax paper. Always Maple Nut for ATTIE even though the nuts got under her teeth plates. I joined the Troop 3 Boy scouts in January as soon as I turned 12 and became an Altar Boy. After Basil graduates from Dunbar Township HS in 1939 the rest of family moves to Race Street. Fred is still in CCC. The B&ORR recalls my father to work after a 8 year furlough. 1939: Fred Scarry 50 and family move from Mud Pike to 1121 Race St. His first job is to paint the house. Basil sells Christmas trees at the corner of Pittsburgh & Green St for the proprietor of the Bar. Later gets a job as a Soda Jerk at the Rexall drug store. Jack Donovan also worked there before leaving for the Army. He is the first person drafted from Connellsville. Another job Basil had was driving an elderly Clothes Salesman to nearby cities. He spent all of his money on clothes from the man. Then he left for the Army in 42. I wore the clothes. I got a job delivering the Pittsburgh Press. The route coveres half of the South side. I traveled about 3 miles delivering 30 papers for 3/4 cent each. The paper sold for 3 cents. We had to collect every Saturday and give our money to John White’s news agency. The first thing I did was save$27.50 for a red “Pilot” bike from the Firestone store. I then delivered the morning Post-gazette to customers in the center of town from Fayette St. to Fairview Ave, Water to Prospect. My last customer was Father Geibel, next to the school. I made about the same amount of money but had to pick my papers up before 7AM. I never received a tip from any customer even though I put every paper on the porch or inside the screen door if requested. I never collected from my mother. In the fall 1942 one customer, A. A. Clarke, offered me a job in his drug store. He needed two boys and my friend Sam Harry got the other job. I replaced Jim Mahokey (Mary’s cousin). In 1945 George Bailey (Mary’s brother) and Sally Swallop replaced me. Sally was the first female to ever work in the store since it opened in 1903. I worked from 4 to 10.30 MWF, 8AM to 10:30 PM on Saturday and the same every other Sunday during the school year. In the summer I worked from 8 am to 5 pm T-Th and 3 pm to 10:30 MWF, Saturday and every other Sunday 8-10:30. Summers I earned $16/week. The pharmacist earned$50. But I was doing better than the girls who worked all day Saturday in the 5&10 for $1.00. There were no paid vacations or holidays. In my three years I received a 10 cent tip. I worked there during my junior and senior years till I went into the Army. During the war we had no automobile. My mother did the family shopping at the A&P. She would walk to the store and carry the groceries home on the Trolley. I do not know how she managed this. There were several other smaller stores closer to us but their prices were much higher. If you purchased anything at Troutmans Dept. Store they would deliver any package, no matter how small, the next day. During the war the Government issued ration cards for shoes, meat, sugar, and coffee. This added to the inconvenience of shopping but did not have an effect on our lifestyle. For those with a car, gasoline and tires were also rationed. They started to deliver milk every other day during the war to conserve gas. They never went back to daily delivery. The milk was the same price at the store or delivered. After the War started we collected old newspapers for the “War Effort”. Sam Harry and friends built a huge wagon which we pulled around the neighborhood streets collecting the paper. We would spend all of Saturday morning on this project. One of his “friends” volunteered to store the paper in his garage till a collector picked it up in a truck. It was not till years later we found this “friend” was selling the collected paper. We were 15 years old. In school we practiced for air raids, even though the enemy never had planes capable of reaching our shores. We would gather in the hallway on the first floor sitting with our backs against the wall singing patriotic songs such as “Wing and a Prayer”, “White Cliffs of Dover” and others. Several times a year the city would have air raid exercise. All lights had to be turned off and no one was permitted on the street. Volunteer air raid wardens would patrol the streets. I suppose they did this in London and they thought it would be good for us to do also. Rose Brady (Mary’s aunt) at the suggestion of her brother, an Army Chaplain, organized a large group of ladies to meet all Troop Trains and regular passenger trains and gave the servicemen on board free coffee, sandwiches, cookies, cake, and fruit. These ladies worked around the clock and never failed to meet a train. Several younger women would take any serviceman who got off the train to their homes in the county. This organization required a large amount of work to raise the money, prepare the food and get the volunteers to the station. The troop train schedules were never posted in advance. These trains could have several hundred men on them and the volunteers would only receive several hours advance notice. My mother was one of the volunteers. No matter what the weather or schedule she had she would drop everything and walk the mile and a half to the station. She was 48 years old at this time. Weather in Connellsville could be severe, below 0-F in winter and a muggy 90 in the summer. Rain and snow came without notice, often. ### Oral History about Gates Patch Friday, April 23rd, 2010 by George J. Plava [b. 1920] June 18, 1999 Interview & transcription -Sheila Garred, corrected by Mr. Plava Additional information—[in brackets] supplied by Joseph E. Scarry October 2009) (Download a pdf version.) ### The Donovans Your grandfather (Mike Donovan, [b. 1883] Gates Asst. Superintendent) was very personable, a nice man. He used to walk around the patch in the evening to sure make sure everything was done—the horse-wagon had emptied the garbage and taken it to the dump that was alongside one of hillsides near the mine. Also that the ash boxes were whitewashed so everything looked bright and clean. He gave out whitewash to the people. Yes, people came to him to settle disputes, but the police would have been the first ones called. Jim [b. 1913 Mike’s oldest son] was a fireball. I saw him in several fights. I was right here on our porch, looking across the street (at the Hall). Some guy said “Just because your dad’s the Super you think you can do anything.” And Jim said, “Oh yeah? Wanna see?” They went off the porch and that guy knocked him on the ground and beat the stuffing right out of him. Pat [his brother] tried to help, but he couldn’t do much. Anna Grace [his sister] was very theatrical—and, Mrs. Plava [George’s wife] says, a great whistler during shows in Masontown. Camilla [another sister] was very reserved. Pat built the first canoe. He took barrel staves, covered them with canvas and then waterproofed it with tar. I went across the river in one of those canoes. I saw Pat dive off the icebreakers. You weren’t allowed up on the tipple. [The fight was probably when Jim was 14 years old.] ### The Plavas [George Plavic Sr. was born in 1889; he emigrated from Czechoslovakia in 1904] (Plava’s house still contains the outline of what was their store.) The store was 20 x 32, with a central double door with windows on either side, and a front porch. Shelves and counters lined the side walls, and on the back wall was the door to our kitchen. It jutted out on the far western side of their white, two-story house that then was surrounded by a white picket fence. Our previous store, in Masontown from 1918-1925, was a dry goods store that sold clothes, shoes, canned goods, milk, and bread. We moved to Gates in July 1925. The Gates store was a general store, selling candy, pop, miners’ gear such as hats, (lunch) buckets, pick handles. I remember people coming into the store with one-gallon kerosene cans (for their lanterns) that I filled from a drum in the basement. Electricity didn’t come to Gates until 1929. We knew a few words of each language, like Buena Sera. People came in and pointed to things. I still have a set of steel number-stamps we used to put a miner’s numbers on blank, brass checks (if they had lost theirs). The store closed in ’33 or ’35. Lots of stores closed in the Depression because a family could owe about$1,000 and you could have a dozen like that.

Then it became my dad’s barbershop and poolroom. Haircuts 25 cents, 15 cents a shave. He cut all the kids’ hair, many women, too. He was a trained barber. He went to barber school on Saturdays when we lived in Pittsburgh in 1915 and he worked as a steelworker during the week. He came from Spiska Stara Ves village at the foot of the Tatra Mountains in Slovakia, near the border with Poland. They were miners in that area, the Czechs around Prague were the cultured ones. He didn’t come to Plymouth Rock, at age 15 he came to Plymouth, which is in the anthracite coal region of Pennsylvania.

(Across the road from their house is Plava’s Hall, a white wooden building with a hip roof built in 1927.) The Hall had a maple floor. The shelves from our store were brought in when the Hall was used as a Relief Station in the ’30s. Out back, during Prohibition, was the Gates Social Club, a room where your grandfather and my dad and miners and friends used to sit and drink Dunbar moonshine. He didn’t allow any gambling, card playing or anything like that. My dad built some garages out back to make it level and then above them he built 2 bowling alleys in 1932. We had square dances. A country and western band came in. Hobe Smith was the caller. On Wednesday nights we showed movies. Glenn Easter came around all the patches in his car with his projector and 2 speakers in 3 suitcases. He showed serials like Tom Mix. Ten cents for kids and 15 for adults. The kids didn’t like to sit on the benches—they sat on the floor. When weddings were in the company houses they lasted 3-4 days, but [they lasted] just for Saturday when they rented the Hall.

I attended California State Teachers College beginning in 1933 [age 14]. My dad paid $394 for a semester. It took two years to get your Normal Certificate. I had jobs with the NYA (National Youth Association). I mowed the lawns, waited tables, cleaned dormitories. Many miners’ sons joined the CCC. Your grandfather gave me a job on the yard and plant crew in the summers. I painted houses, up on a 40-foot ladder. (The tenants painted the insides of the houses.) On rainy days the 10-member crew couldn’t paint, so we went down into the mine and went to work picking up the coal that fell out of the cars—they called it “gleaning the haulage.” It was hard for Catholics to get jobs. You know who got me my first job? Ed Mason, the Super at Edenborn—he was on the School Board. When I taught at Edenborn I was 18 years old, only 3 years older than some of my students. Then in 47 after the war I wrote them that I was coming back. They were supposed to save your job. I found out many years after that someone on the School Board said, “What does that Hunky want?” This was after I had been in the war for them. (Mr. Plava went on to teach 8th grade and became an official with the school system.) ### Touring Gates [in the ‘30s] Plava’s is located at the entrance to Gates, where the blacktop road intersects First Street. I bought Clyde Hartley’s property. He ran a 5-7’ slope mine during WWI. The Gates’ mine was 252 feet down and had a 9-foot seam. Before Plavas were Magda’s (later Garcher’s) and Richnafsky’s general stores. Also Harris Hill had a garage there. The blacktop road became cobblestone after it crossed First Street and went down the hill by the Catholic church and The Bottom. It later became red-dog—burned refuse from the slate dump. My main memory of the Depression is families lining up around the Hall with their burlap sacks. How embarrassed they were, being hard-working people. My dad was a member of the German Township Relief Board. The truck would pull up on Tuesday evenings with the food. On Wednesdays, they’d hand you their relief card and we marked it. [George was 12 years old then.] I worked at putting the supplies in groups, so they would be all lined up when people came in: so much bacon, hominy, oleo, flour, potatoes, cornmeal, dried beans. During the Depression they went into the scrap yard for old belts. They were thick rubber and they made them into soles for their shoes. People also went into the Hartley mine for coal or picked it off the Edenborn dump. We had horseshoe tournaments, baseball games, picked blackberries on the Strubel farm, and in the winter we picked Kieffer pears. They were hard pears; you wrapped them in newspaper for 3 weeks to ripen them. Across from the Hall on First Street was one of the Deputy Shantys, where the Frick policeman sat. The other one was at the bottom of Mine Hill. Gibby had day shift and his deputy, Will Cornute, was on nights. They’d walk the streets to patrol. If someone came into the patch they didn’t recognize, they’d ask what their business was. The shantys had telephones. We had a telephone, and a 1927 Studebaker we got used in 1931. Many people came to our store to use the wall phone. Here are the foundations for an outhouse, which was at the back of every property and next to that was their coalshack. Along First Street were three “shantys”—they were called shantys because “shacks” are in Kentucky or West Virginia! The first was Amacrelli’s shoe repair shop. The family lived behind the shop—their front room, behind that their kitchen and behind that their bedroom. The ballfield was behind those shantys, and next to it was the Frick playground, which went on behind the company store. Gates won the Frick Section 1 baseball championship in 1937. I was center fielder. [age 17] I still have my jacket (navy wool, with a red patch on the right side and on the left his name embroidered in red). We played all the mining patches: Palmer, Ronco, Edenborn, Leckrone, Lambert, Ralph. Here on my leg is a scar from when I was coming into home place and Jim Donovan was guarding the plate with his spikes up. He played for Buffington after he left home. Further down First Street is the red-brick, 2-story Union Supply (company) store. Mailboxes are still lined up across from the store. First and Second Street are about 3 blocks long and were red-dog. They were paved in the early 30s. The Donovan house is at the eastern-most end of Second Street. Behind it is an alley. View Larger Map Albert Vayda delivered mail from the sidecar of his motorcycle. The beer-man, Guy Funari, came round to make deliveries. The “honey-dippers” came at night, [to remove waste from the out houses. They had miner’s] lights on their hats. Bucket by bucket they loaded a wooden tank on a horse-drawn wagon. The hucksters [door to door salesman] were Syrians. Simon John came to the patch by taxi. He put his goods on his back, came round, said, “Mrs., I gotta nice (whatever), you want some?” [later Mr. John established a very successful Wholesale enterprise in Uniontown] The Prudential insurance man, Gene Hamilton, came once a month to collect his quarters. It was 5 cents a week for a$500 policy. I still have those policies.

What was the cobblestone street crosses First and Second Streets and then goes down the hill. Over to the right was the Catholic church, St. Mary’s, begun in 1906 and closed by the diocese in 1985. St. Albert’s, a brick church in Palmer, began in 1925. It was a company house whose porch was closed in and half of its second story removed to make a balcony. It had wooden benches but no kneelers—you knelt on the floor. It held about 100 people. Around the altar were varnished wood walls. Fr. Fabian Kondrola was pastor from 1927 to 1956. He seemed stern to us children. It was usually his assistant, Fr. Andrew Charnocki, who said Mass. The sermon was in English and Slovak for the old folks—he alternated. (The houses that were in the area after the church and before the school are gone.) Galbreath knocked the houses down in the early ’50s when no one would buy them because they were too expensive. There were 92 houses in Gates; now there are about 40. Galbreath also put the bathrooms on.

Out Fourth Street toward the east and Plava’s was the school, which was 2-story red brick with four rooms on each floor. It was torn down in the ’40s. Its total enrollment was 430 children—about 51 kids per class. The principal was Mr. D.I. McClelland, probably related to the family that founded McClellandtown. Some teachers I remember are the Britz sisters and Miss Stark. The teachers came in by taxi, or parked near our store because it was easier than going down the cobblestone road. The [cab] fare was about 50 cents each way. And Lucy Cavalcante’s husband Joe was the bus contractor. (Tony Cavalcante was an attorney who helped the Union.) The bus service to Gates, provided by the German Township School District, closed down from ’35 to ’38. I took the bus just my first year of senior high school (now Gallatin Junior High). Then I walked with my friend Bob (Barney) Barnhart. Quarter to eight we left, to get there at 8:30.

The bobsled run went from Rossini’s hill to Colored Bottom—a half mile. That was quite a ride! They got timber from the mine—with your grandfather’s permission it was OK. That bobsled must have held 6 people. It was quite a job getting it back up the hill.

The Croatians and the Italians made wine in their basements, which were just dirt, dug out, for their fruit cellars and washing. You washed in a big tub, unless the man washed at the Bath House. The Santellas made our wine because we didn’t know how. Brokers would go around and sign people up, for 25 or 50 boxes of grapes. We bought the grapes and then they made the wine.

Some patch nicknames? There was Pie-o, Deefy, Chick…

Hobos came in by train. They came to our house for handouts. Coal trains ran to and from the Pittsburgh steel mills through Brownsville and along the river to Fairmont, WV. Toad Christopher ran the ferry from Adah in Fayette Co. to Stringtown in Greene Co. The nice ferry was from Ronco to Nemacollin. They were steam-powered, with the cable underneath the river. Dr. Brown’s office was on the riverbank on the Bottom Road to Palmer. Further along this road was the colored church. Stoycos lived in Hartley Hollow.

Edenborn was a smoky patch, because their slate dump was burning. [Caused by spontanious combustion.] That was how you got red-dog, from burned slate. Their slate dump is being reclaimed. It used to be about 50 feet high. Gates wasn’t sooty. Gates dumped its slate along the hillsides and later trucked it to Edenborn.

### The Mine

Paul Nixon [Jim’s future father-in-law] was the stable boss, Pat Kelly was the yard boss and John Susa the machine boss and Stanley Cominsky the pit boss.

This is where the boardinghouse was (at what is now the end of the Bottom Road). It had a dance hall. It was the oldest building in the patch; not many lived there by my time. (Nearby up the hill is the brick dynamite shanty, and the cement piling of what was the incline. This is where the wooden steps went down also.) The incline was torn down when the labor troubles began, that’s my theory, because the company thought why be nice to people when they don’t appreciate it? They can walk down the hill. It caused a real conflict in the town. It divided us between what they called The Brotherhood and the United Mine Workers. I remember when they picketed our store because they said we were for The Brotherhoods.

Across the railroad tracks—further west, beyond where the barges would have been, is the ’BAB’—Bare Ass Beach, cause some of the boys used to swim that way. No, I never swam across the river, the current was too strong. Floods caused this drop-off; back then it was smooth. (Next would have come the stable and the office. Going west along the river, next are the foundations for the Boiler and Wash Houses. Next, where the tipple was, is the remains of a cement culvert for pumping wastewater out of the mine and into the river. Furthest east at the curve of the river, out in the water, is a foundation of an icebreaker.)

The icebreakers were made out of cribbon blocks, 8 by 8s, like railroad ties, and filled in with stones. They broke the current, so it was safe for the barges. The river froze over rarely, then the icebreakers would break it up. Tow boats would also help break up the ice. It’s 26 feet out in the channel, and that’s the deepest part. The Mon needs the locks to keep its level up. Hydrogen sulfide turns the water yellow. The river turned orange when the barges came by and stirred it up. It smelled like rotten eggs. The Trotter Water Co. pumped the water out of the river at Huron, near Ronco, up to the two water tanks on the hill. Those tanks, with the force of gravity, fed 4 patches.

The barges sat about 8 feet out of the water when they were empty and about 3 feet when they were full. My dad was a riverman. The ’barge mover’ was a steam engine cable system that moved the barges. Rivermen stood on top of each barge and helped tie the barges together after being filled and drifted into position below the tipple. The paddlewheel riverboat pushed the barges up the river [to the steel mills]. They were 6 to 12 together, usually about 9 of them. 17 railroad cars filled a barge.

### Detroit 1968

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

I’ve been listening for the last little while to KPLU in Tacoma/Seattle (Pacific Lutheran University, if you can believe that!). Here on the Central Coast with its (blessedly) relatively low population density, what’s available on the broadcast spectrum is a bit anemic (bright spot if you, like I, like classical guitar, is the show “La Guitarre” on Sundays at 1 PM, Pacific, at kcbx.org).

As a consequence, I’ve happily collected a whole bunch of URLs for radio stations all over the world that play music I like. A more recent addition was KPLU (as a passionate jazz buff, my long-time late night favorite has been WBGO, but it went down about a half hour ago).

Anyway, KPLU just played Nina Simone’s “Nobody’s Fault But Mine”. You may not know her name or her music, but I’ve been a fan for decades. She’d studied classical piano for years before she switched to jazz and started to sing, and it shows in her playing.

What all this leads up to is this: One night in 1968 (if my memory is still working halfway right), on one of my–by then–infrequent trips to the Detroit area to visit with my parents still living in Birmingham, MI, I persuaded them to go with me to a big Nina Simone concert in the big downtown Cobo Hall. I have no exact memory now of what the capacity of that venue is/was, but suffice it to say it was relatively huge (think 20,000). My parents had some misgivings from the gitgo, but trusted my judgment enough to go with me.

Now understand the background: only a few months before this, there had been a massive (mostly racial) riot throughout much of downtown Detroit—many millions of dollars worth of property damage—fires, looting…you get the picture.

So I get Mom, Dad, and me to Cobo Hall to see Nina Simone. We find ourselves maybe 1% of the white faces in Cobo. Mom and Dad are already looking visibly uneasy. (They brought me up in Atlanta and suburbs when there were still “White” and “Colored” drinking fountains and restrooms.)

I spent my last year in high school and all my undergraduate years prowling around downtown Detroit looking for jazz clubs that would at least let me listen at the front door. I was a minor most of that time and still couldn’t get in at most. One club, however, had a “no alcohol” section and no age limit. That was the “Minor Key”. What a great little club! In a converted former lingerie store in an inner-city Detroit venue. I stayed down there on multiple occasions literally until sunrise–since sometimes the music lasted that long. I saw may greats of the day there: Miles Davis, Cannonball Adderley, Maynard Ferguson, Nancy Wilson… the list goes on and on. I was never bothered whatsoever on any of my numerous visits to those clubs.

Mom and Dad were nervous going to Cobo that night, but not I. But then Nina comes on stage. After the initial cheering calms downs, her first words are:“Good evening Detroit! I’m PROUD of Y’ALL!!” This is weeks after the riots. The crowd went wild! Mom and Dad were trying to figure out to slink under their seats. Even I started to feel a little bit nervous, despite my previous experience prowling late night inner-city Detroit.

As I had expected, it all worked out just fine. Mom and Dad and I got back home without incident. I will never forget that experience, however.

After enduring all that palaver, you’ve more than earned a chance to hear Nina doing the song cited above.

### Milt’s Story

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

I remember that things are always changing. They change to larger, newer, and sometimes better. There was a time when my life was a lot different. Let’s travel down a street in Chicago called Lawrence Avenue. The year is 1935.

At the start of the block was Lew’s Pool Hall. Inside there were five pool tables and one billiard table. Renting one of the tables cost fifty cents an hour.

Next there was a shoe store featuring Buster Brown shoes. You could stand on an x-ray machine and see the bones of your feet. No one knew, at the time, that it was dangerous.

(Shoe Fluoroscope on display at the National Museum of Health and Medicine, manufactured by Adrian Shoe Fitter, Inc. circa 1938, that was used in a Washington, DC Shoe Store.)
(The shoe fitting fluoroscope was a common fixture in shoe stores during the 1930s, 1940s and early 1950s. A typical unit, like the Adrian machine shown here, consisted of a vertical wooden cabinet with an opening near the bottom into which the feet were placed. When you looked through one of the three viewing ports on the top of the cabinet (e.g., one for the child being fitted, one for the child’s mother, and the third for the shoe salesman), you would see a fluorescent image of the bones of the feet and the outline of the shoes. These machines were outlawed when the danger from the radiation they emitted was understood.)

Then there was the Tailor Shop also known as the local cleaners and dyers. The tailor could make you a suit or repair your clothing. To have a suit cleaned and pressed cost fifty cents. Dress shirts cost twenty-five cents with a choice of on or off a hanger. The place always smelled of cleaning fluid.

At the local grocery store you could tell the clerk (usually the owner) what food item you wished to buy. He would then take it off the shelf, put it in a paper bag and tell you the total price. Silver Cup white bread sold for fifteen cents a loaf. When the grocer bought new stock, he would pay the vendor in cash. He would write down his purchases on butcher paper. At the end of the month, the bookkeeper would take it off the spindle and tally it.

The barbershop had an aroma all its own. To me, it smelled like vitalis hair tonic. The shop contained three chairs and a sign that said “no waiting”. In front of the shop was a striped barber pole. A hair cut cost fifty cents and for an extra thirty-five cents it would include a shave. The shop also offered shoeshines for twenty-five cents. For one dollar and fifteen cents, you could feel like a king at that barbershop. It wasn’t until the forties that hair cuts went up to seventy-five cents.

When you walked into the Deli on Lawrence Avenue, the smell was heavenly and overwhelming. The Deli gave off an aroma from the pickles, sauerkraut, and green tomatoes, all in barrels. I still yearn for a new dill pickle! Behind the counter, the owner wore a white apron, but it never seemed to be all white. Behind the counter were huge salamis, a slicing machine, large piles of corned-beef and pastrami. If you wanted mustard with your takeout order, he would fold some butcher paper into the shape of a cone and pour in the mustard. The house special was an egg cream drink that was a mixture of cream, chocolate, and seltzer.

Moving on down the street was the Butcher Shop. The shop consisted of a large meat counter, wood chopping block, a meat saw, and several sharp knives. In back of the worktable was a large meat cooler. The floor was covered with sawdust. I often wondered if his thumb somehow found its way onto the scale. I grew up thinking that all meat and chicken could only be boiled. One day I found out there was such a thing called fried foods.

In the Fish Store, there was a large counter loaded with fresh fish sitting on a bed of chopped ice. When you told him what you wished to buy, he would scale and cut the fish to order. Then he would wrap it in newspaper.

One of the stores I never went into was a Corset Shop. I can’t say much about it, but the display windows were covered with various styles of corsets.

On the corner was a Sinclair Gas Station. There were two pumps. One was for regular and one was for super. The gas contained lead and was called ethyl. When you drove into the station, your auto would go over a rubber tube that would ring a bell inside telling the attendant you needed service. He would put the gas in your car, check your oil, put air in the tires, and clean your windshield—all for eighteen cents a gallon of gas. In front of the station was a picture of a large dinosaur.

Lawrence Avenue even had its own bookie! The place was called a card room. The game they played was gin rummy. It was a two-person game. The house would charge for use of the tables. You could place a bet on any sports event and horse races. The information would come in over a ticker tape. There were all types of people that frequented the card room. One of the characters was Overcoat Charley. If you needed a coat for a fee, he would find one for you. Just tell him the style, color, and size. The place never got raided. I always wondered why.

The Terminal Theater was the place for movies. There was a large sign on the marquee that said it was air-conditioned. On a hot summer day, it was the place to be. The first movie I remember was Cinderella. The Theater had a balcony where you could smoke in a special section. You could see a double feature, newsreel, cartoon, and coming attractions all for fifty cents. Children were admitted for twenty-five cents. On the weekend, they would feature children’s programs during the early part of the day. The serial suspense would go on forever. Each week you would have to return to see what happened. It was the baby-sitter of the times.

“The Terminal Theatre, one of the largest movie houses built in Chicago’s Albany Park neighborhood, opened in 1925, replacing the Ascher Brother’s earlier (1915) theater of the same name, which became the Metro after the new Terminal opened. Seating well over 2000, the Terminal was acquired from the Aschers not long after by the always-expanding Balaban & Katz chain, which ran this popular movie house into the 60s. The theater was demolished in the early 70s.” Source

I often wonder if there are still places operating such as the Chicken Store on Lawrence Avenue? There were many cages filled with large chickens. You made your selection and a man would take the chicken out of the cage, fold its wings, and then humanely kill it. He would pull out the feathers and then put it over a gas fire to rid it of pinfeathers. The chicken was then wrapped in brown butcher paper and your sale was over.

The Bowling Alley had twelve lanes. There were people who were pinsetters behind each lane. It wasn’t until the early forties that automatic pinsetters were installed. The cost was thirty-five cents per lane and shoes cost fifteen cents to rent. The afternoons and weekends were mostly for league bowling. All other times were called open bowling. A large part of their income came from the bar that was part of the Bowling Alley.

In the Center of Lawrence Avenue were electric car tracks for the streetcars. For seven cents you could ride for miles. The cars were painted red with a motorman in front and a conductor in the rear. The electricity came from an overhead line. The El Train was an elevated train ran from Lawrence Avenue to the Chicago Loop. The cost was ten cents.

The front section of the Drug Store had an ice cream soda bar. They specialized in hot fudge sundaes, sodas, and Cokes laced with lemon, cherry, or any flavor you might want. This was all for five cents. The malted milk was thick and made with real ice cream. The center of the drug store was stocked with general merchandise and the druggist was in the rear of the store. In front of the Drug Store was a U.S. Mail Box where kids would hang out. That is where the name Drugstore Cowboys came from.

Still another store was a Shoe Repair Shop. There were rows of shoes to be repaired and some finished that were sitting on a shelf. To keep the cost down, most people would order half soles. People would repair their shoes several times until the upper parts of the shoe would fall apart. The odor of tanned leather and rubber cement was always present.

If you had a problem with your coffee maker, toaster, Mixmaster, or other small appliance, you could take it to the Fix It Shop. The owner would repair it and make it like new again. Today, there are not any shops such as this around.

Things began to change during the mid forties. Prices started to rise. Gas went up to thirty-eight cents a gallon, but you still got all the service that went with it. The price of movie tickets advanced to fifty and seventy-five cents. The good part was that you still got a double feature for that price. Larger stores were being constructed. A & P and National Tea were building larger food markets.

I am sure that in sixty years from now people will say – remember how different things were in 2009!

Milton H. Shochet
24 July 2009