Thursday, January 27, 2011


We moved from Brackenridge after my freshman year at St. Joseph HS.  I don't know why as there was never any discussion.  As a matter of fact, I cannot recall any family talks, etc.  There was no weekly family counsel and calendering of events; no family prayers morning or night and never a blessing asked before a meal, though the Catholic Church had a "standardized" one to use. What My dad earned working in three different factories is  a mystery as any sales/profits earned from 'Frank's Boat Work's," or the "stand"-which is what the little drive up food place was always referred to. When we moved to Espyville Station, PA., I have no idea of how the address was located. When it was purchased the house stood close to a 'T" in the road, with the wrap around sun porch the existing eatery.  The lady?/owner was quite a liar saying she made $150.00 alone, just on selling french fries on a Sunday. Of course it was a lie, since her crappy parking lot could only hold 3 cars at a time.  After we "modernized" by tearing out the bushes and putting in draining pipes to fill in the ditches, we could hold about 15 cars.  I think the first week day we were opened, we made $7.20 in sales.  Pymatuning Lake was a must come and visit tourist area and only really busy during the summer months. Today, it is a ghost town and no one even fishes the Lake anymore.  As I said before, we painted the brown sun porch white and put in 4 'x4' windows, replacing the old panes.  The entire house was brown wood shingles.  We found out that when a section started to fade, Mrs Early "Re stained it," with used motor oil-just hand me a match, please!  Away from the house was a two story barn-cement block on the bottom and vertical wood boards on top.The first time we went up (with Mrs Early), the floor was about 6" deep-with bat droppings-she"kept meaning to clean it out"  At night, 100's and 100's of bats flew out of their perches which were spaces in the wood boards. We tried everything to kill or get rid of them: shooting them with 22 buckshot, sulfur candles, and all kinds of sprays. It is a wonder that none of us ever got bitten and had to get a rabies shot. About 1972, my dad decided to move the house and stand and have a normal looking small sit down eatery built. called the "Duck Inn."  Mistake, as in a very expensive error. I remember an 80 year old man came and jacked up the house and put roller logs underneath so it could be pushed to it's present location.  The nearby Amish community came and completely removed the barn for the price of keeping all the wood and blocks.  They didn't let the bats bother them one bit.  The other pests: mosquitoes. Attracted by the stands lights at night.  We had two electric units with black lights and it would attract and zap them-about 5 lbs/night.  we should have just let the bats alone to eat them. The house and barn stood on 5 acre's of land, mostly overgrown, with a section of a creek passing through where we would spear suckers in the spring spawning season.  Total cost for it all:$15,000 or 150/ month.  The dinning room had wall paper-turquoise background with giant sea shells They say that Mr. Early(I think they were divorced or separated) drank a lot. I would too, looking either at Mrs Early(bath water? What's that) or go in the dinning room, which is where he slept when around.  A banker in Pittsburgh told my dad to have enough cash to live on for 3 years and my great uncle Balash(grocer), said 5 years.  They were right; he didn't. We about starved the first winter and the house had no insulation and it was heated by oil, which we went through like water-even with hanging blankets on the windows to keep out the cold winds The inside of the house was like living in a ghetto.  When dad finally got a steady job, in a couple of years, he, Bill, and me completely gutted the inside of the house smashing down the walls with sledge hammers, iron bars, and keeping a rag over our mouth and nose so as not to breath in the 75 year old plaster.  Then it was insulated, rewired and plastered with new thermal windows.  Guess how much Bill and I got paid? That's right, nothing-and we worked till the blisters on our hands bled and we constantly blew the plaster dust from our noses.  I worked in the stand-for free.  When the new one was built, Bill, who was now an electrician, completely wired the place-material and labor?  Free.  It annoys me as I look back at those first3-5 years because my parents were going to lose the house several times for non payment of the mortgage.  They didn't, because grandparents came to the rescue-paid the mortgage and drove the 135 mile trip loaded down with food..I only bring this up because I asked my parents for money-once.  I lost my job and needed $40.00 to make the rent payment. No kids yet. So I called home. Mom answered and when I asked, she gave me a lecture and then hung up on me, not even saying good-bye.  We lived in our car that week until friends gave us shelter and I landed a new job. After that phone call, I NEVER AGAIN asked my parents for anything, despite the 1000's of hours I worked for free for them from the time I was 7 years old-first the boat works and then the "stand." That incident always hurt me to the core, because without my granddad's money and grandma's help, my folks would have never been able to build or buy three houses-that, and my granddad hacked down almost all the weeds and tall grass at the Espyville property for free and by hand-he used a cy-cycle(sic) just like he learned to do in the "old country" of Europe. Then a push mower.  Side Note: From my great grandparents and on,(and probably way before that) it was the pattern that the previous generation help by working hard and saving what they could to help the next(their kids) when they married, to buy a house and some land.  That custom ended with my parents, who refused to help out their children even with a loaf of bread.  And I can prove it.  Because, if I needed something to eat, I would ask grandma, not call home. Their choice: A 600,000 house (worth about 90 now), on the lake, a Lincoln in the garage, thousands spent on fur coats and the best woman's clothing and shoe's, their championship bred cats and dogs-so I guess it is no wonder they were to broke to help their children out if needed.  Bitter? No, just reality and we decided if OUR children needed some help-if we had it, we gave it.  Like the lady who gave me a ride home as I stood helpless on I-74 with braces and holding a cane, in the bitter cold wind, 2 days ago, with a flat van tire), said: "it's what I do and I won't take any money"-just "pass it  on."(YOUR turn to help someone if they are in need.)  In closing, always remember the number "5" What(1) would(2) the(3) Master(4) do?(5)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

the ugly brown coat and Viet Nam

Mom hated the color and material of my photographer's jacket. To me, it was a part of my skin. March, 1969, I bought a new VW bug, white with red interior. I think the total "new" price was about $1500.00  I was working 3 jobs while in college.  On March 13, 1969 a teacher didn't show and I left early to go to work-the company made the plastic holders for milk, each one holding four one gallon jugs.  12th and Pittsburgh avenue.  4 lanes.  At the light, I was in the inside lane to make a left turn,  As I did, a lady driving a Fleetwood Cadillac, hit me broadside.  She was going 80 in a 40 mph zone.Left 200' of tire marks on the road, trying to stop.  MY HEAD HIT THE DRIVER SIDE WINDOW, AND TO THIS DAY MY LEFT SIDE IS FLAT, NOT ROUNDED LIKE THE RIGHT SIDE.(DA** CAPS KEYS LOCK. She spun me around and put a 4' "V" in the back where the engine was located.  Then she hit and spun me around again-I whip lashed so hard, I yanked the seat from it's rails.  I came to rest in a  ditch, which had an old metal sign pole sticking out of the ground. It kept me from flipping over.  The only thing that was left of the car was a rear side window, which blew out on impact(smart German engineers).  I called my foreman and friend from the hospital to go and pick it up. I still have it today.  The shoulder belt smashed 3 of my ribs. The car she was driving belonged to her brother, the owner of a Cadillac firm. No problem with me wanting to sue: one obstacle-back then you had to be totoally responsible for a wreck.  She wasn't. Why?  She had the "right of way."
My good Jewish boss of the motel got me an attorney.  We could not have a case.  And He was smart: ended up a PA. Supreme Court judge.
When I met with the State Farm Agent, the first thing he asked: "Well, do you want to get it fixed?"(Bent frame, cracked motor, besides all the visible damage.)  My reply: "write me out a check for the full price as the car was 9 weeks old. And press hard-third copy is yours.  What next to do? I bought another and this was a promotional bug with a lightning symbol followed by the word"bug," on the trunk.  It was light blue with black racing stripes, a solid walnut steering wheel, wood dash, and Bosh chrome horns mounted on the front bumper. Black seats.  And this car made heads turn because the first "Herbie, the Love Bug," movie just came out.  This was a one in a million production car that drove like blazes and handle right angle turns with ease on its Michelin tires It was my third, out of owning four VW's.  I called my mother to tell her I was in a very bad car wreck: she started to cry over the phone. I told her to bake a cake and put black icing on it. It was her birthday.
OK, the jacket. It was the color of new baby poop and had about the same feel, and it was about to take a long trip in the VW with 4 others: we were going to Washington, D.C. for the huge Viet Nam War protest. I was going to photograph the events as I still tried to keep a neutral stance about the war. Until President Johnson, who, as commander-in-chief, said it was a "limited engagement."  In other words, we could "almost" be allowed to win, but when the enemy ran to hide in China, we had to turn back and quit fighting them. Reason. Johnson "feared a world war with china. Right. We are the richest, most powerful nation on earth.  Real translation: it was a political war. Period.  When I seen pixs of the coca-cola and Pepsi machines and the U.S. selling Minute Rice to the Vietnamese, I realized then it was not a war to save anyone or thing, just let the politicians make some American companies richer. Afterall, we could have bought the country for $4/acre.  Over 58,00 kids dead and more than 300,000 brain or mentally screw up for life. A girl who worked in our little drive in had a brother come back.  And almost every night they would go out and find him crawling on his belly, crying and screaming out of his mind through the corn fields.  Those who were not mental usually became heroin addicts. Johnson was a master politician and one of the most evil men I came to know. When VP Hubert Humphrey came to lecture at Gannon College, I had a clearance badge I had to wear from the secret service. If it was Johnson instead, I toyed with the idea of using my large Graflex camera, which had bellows, long enough to conceal, well use your imagination.  It was a terrible time for us to be alive at our ages because we never knew if we would have a tomorrow.  When mom and I were dating, we always tried to stay together until midnight, so we could say we had a new day together.
Once we arrived in D.C., we found a place to crash with some "hippies."  I went into the kitchen to see if there was any food for our dinner.  The counters were brown.  Then I saw them moving; they were covered with cockroaches.  Some of us found a supermarket where we got bleach, bug killer sprays and enough food to make a 5 gallon pot of beef stew.  There was a big pot and once we got things clean and the food cooking, the da** roaches couldn't crawl up the side or under the lid. The Army (illegal) was bombing DuPont Circle where a lot a kids were protesting against DuPont, the seller to the government of napalm, which is a gelled gasoline product used to burn people alive and wipe out their entire villages.  They were bombing us with tear gas canisters and the night city lights revealed the dense tear gas fog.  I grabbed my camera stuff and jumped on the back of someone's motorcycle to flee from the chocking gas.  The next day, 100,000's gathered around the Washington Monument for peaceful demonstrations.  I have no idea where all my film ended up-probably taken and classified as top secret and buried in a filing cabinet somewhere.   Interesting side note.  There was an American flag which someone completely covered with "protest pins" or buttons-about the size of a merit badge.This was just plain wrong to me and I removed all of them and pinned them to my photographer's jacket-not enough room in the pockets.  It was time to go back to Erie, Pa. It was November and I was hired to work the Christmas season in Grant's department store-their photo center.  So I put on my nice Eagle brand trench coat, over my coat with all the pins.  I saw my future wife sitting in one of the restaurant booths and sat down across from her, Opened my trench coat and her jaw dropped.  The only pin she saw for sure and which I gave her, said, "Frodo Lives." She was a die hard Lord of the Rings fan.  Never knew what happened to that pin, but about 40 years or more later, I hand made a duplicate-same colors, style.  Put it in a jewelry box, wrapped it up for a Christmas present.  She opened it, not knowing what to expect. Then she cried. I always have been a sentimental fool, just most don't know it or recognize it in me. Oh well, such is life-it is the small, important treasures that give life to the person we cherish and love.

time to leave

it's time to leave Brackenridge and move to Espyville Station, Pa. on Pymatuning lake. Pop. 220.  The gone post office was someone's sun porch. The word station was added because it was by railroad tracks.  Otherwise, we just called it Espyville.  Today, it is a part of Linesville, another pimple on the map.
But before leaving the "Valley," I had three friends that I would consider to be "close.  Terry Huet and his family moved into their grandfather's old framed house while they built a country home on 10 acre's.  I spent a couple overnight's in their new home; once in the summer and then to sled ride in the winter. I was absolutely amazed how many stars are visible minus city lights. Allen had a moth collection and they would turn a spotlight on out back at night to attract them.  I just could not believe how BIG a lunar moth is-about a 6" wing span with the ends shaped like comma's. Mr. Huet was a big brass for his company and weighed at least 280 lbs., compared to his 90 lb. wife.  When they (and we) moved, I never saw or spoke with Terry again.One quirk about the family: NO TV was allowed in the house or rock and roll music played.  Classical music was turned on at 6 Am and played non stop till bed time.  They moved out of state because his dad died in his 40's:( Our favorite activity was playing next door at the Thompson cement block company.  We would rearrange the blocks to make forts and also stack them behind the Legion as steps so we could go on the roof.  Why? to throw water balloons at the Bingo players as they left the building every Tuesday night. Then we would race to hide in our club house and no one thought to look inside because, after all, it was an old chicken coop.  Naturally, the cement company did not appreciate us rearranging their stacks of cement blocks and would put them back-which made us mad cause we would have to redo everything again and again.
Second friend-Oddie(sic) Meyers.  Never new his real first name. His dad was police chief and the second floor of his garage was a complete darkroom set up. His dad also died suddenly while in his prime and Oddie showed me how a darkroom works.  His mom became a barber, setup in the basement-also in the basement, in a 3' steel tub was a 3', 3 leg alligator which belonged to his younger brother, who could easily be on Animal Planet. The tub was covered with a sheet and if you lifted it up, the 'gator would loudly hiss at you, with breath that could wilt a flower.  It would always escape, nstinctively finding the river.  Some one would always bring it back because it was the only 3 legged alligator in town.  When he ordered a small monkey(ads were in all the comic books-19.95, mom had enough when it tore up the house Back then, there were no government programs to help single mom''s.  After the money collected during the funeral, she had to find a way to feed her kids. Back to the darkroom. When I saw my first photographs coming to life, I was hooked, and photography was a way of life for me. In college, I always wore a faded camel color sports-like jacket, and my 35mm camera was ALWAYS HUNG OVER MY LEFT SHOULDER.  I became the college photographer for public relations, the school newspaper and the yearbook.  I was the highest paid student employee.  The college provided everything, including the darkroom, and I was paid 1.00/picture, even if they only used 2 and I printed 50.  My second year, at Christmas break, I went home with more than 400 dollars-which in 1966, was a lot of money.  Of course it had other perks: I just showed my press pass and got into everything free-lectures, concerts, ball games And I did spend a lot of time beforehand learning my skill: I took a photography course from NYI-New York Institute of Photography, and my school gold and blue pin was always on my lapel. I built my own dark room at my parents house in the basement and subscribed to "Popular Photography" magazine since it had tons of ads of where to buy supplies.  Mom never liked the mag because at times it had photo's of girls who could be wearing more.  When I would come home from HS class and it arrived in the mail, she would inform me that my "slut' magazine came today.Back in the 60's/70's everything was done in black and white and the film had to go through a lengthy process, compared with the point and shoot camera's of today: take the picture, put the SD card in your computer, photo shop if necessary, and hit the "print" button.  I think I spent more time in the school's darkroom than the classrooms. I had several favorite photo's that I will relate later and also my last of three friends, Stephie Bednariak.  He lived about a half a block from St. Joe's, above the family grocery store.  He always smiled and made "shrines" of the Virgin Mary, putting the statue inside a decorated shoe box. The nuns had contests. He had a mental birth defect and 3 days after we moved to Pymatuning Lake, my mother came into the drive-in and said Aunt Margie just called and said Stevie died. Her next statement hurt me: "You don't want to go back for the funeral. do you?"  In other words. she needed me more to work and didn't want to be inconvenienced.  Yes, I did want to go back and say, "good-bye.' But I said nothing.  Years later his older sister would see me and I know she wondered why I was not there at the service. A quick side note: Granddad smoked non filtered, Camel brand cigarettes, which I mentioned before. He kept his carton of them in a metal drawer beneath the kitchen sink.  It was almost impossible to open that drawer without it's loud screech, waking the neighborhood.  But on a warm, dark evening, when granddad and grandma were in the living room, I would sneak in by opening the back, kitchen,  screen door.  With all the will at my command, I would manage to get the drawer open and "borrow" a pack of 20 cigarettes.  After accomplishing our sinful deed, we would run to the Tarentum stadium.  Terry would stand at one end and I the other, beneath the metal seats it total darkness.  WE WOULD THEN EACH SMOKE ten cigarettes each, one after the other, keeping far away from one another as not to have our clothes smell of smoke.  It's a wonder we didn't die of nicotine poison right then.  Next thing: chew a big wad of double-bubble chewing gum to freshen our breath.  Then, when it was soft enough(the stuff was always hard as a brick, we would rub it all over our face to eliminate any last trace of sin. Across the street was Sam Curusso's Pizza Shop.  Sam had a day job and sold pizza by the slice or by the pie in the evening's. His pizza sucked, but it did the job we wanted it to do Cost" 10 cents/ slice. We would both eat two slices and sprinkle hot peppers on top as an added assurance our folks could not tell what we just did. Burned like blazes, but it worked.  Sam was also a great chess player and would always set up a game as we ate-we never won. Sad ending-he died in his thirties. Probably from drinking Allegheny River water. Coming soon: the Master's of making candy, especially at Easter-a closely guarded skill they brought from Europe.  There is not a brand of candy made today that would equal it's texture, variety, and flavors.
PS-IT WAS NOT MY INTENTION TO OFFEND ANYONE WITH YESTERDAY'S ENTRY.  JUST FEELING "DOWN' AT NOT BEING ABLE TO SEE, WRITE, AND WORK. the BIGGEST PROBLEM, ACCORDING TO TO NEURO OPTHOMOLOGIST TODAY, IS I CAN'T GET MY EYES TO CONVERGE(WORK IN HARMONY. He said I probably had it all my life, but now it is getting worse.I want some new "genes." And the seconded biggest problem was a flat tire coming home on I-74 in the Van.  There goes $218.00 in a heartbeat.  A good Samaritan gave me a ride home as I stood there in braces, holding a cane.  She refused compensation and said, "just pass it on."-help someone I see who needs help.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


this is a departure from my normal memory trips that \\i hope will turn into some kind of family history.  I always wanted to go back with a video camera and mike and record everything; that didn't happen and now it won't.  I type with my right eye closed so I can see the keyboard and am grateful for spell check for sensing half of my mistakes,then I go back to find the one's I missed.  I am glad Alex has agreed to correct anything I missed, which seems to be a lot
It is my desire that ALL my family read this: it is important to me and I hope of some value to you.
I think every man wants to leave his 'mark' on the world or a legacy as not to be forgotten in a few weeks or a year after he departs this mortal existence.  I guess something where people would say, "let's erect a statute of him," so we always remember what he did for us.  I know that will not happen.  I have been thinking of my dad, and mom.  So many billions of us do the few simple things before we "leave.: We are born; mate live, trying to raise our children on the go, since they don't come with an owner's manual.  Then we die.  Worse: then in a little while, we are forgotten, except, maybe when it is time to check the grave for weeds and put out some plastic flowers, throwing the faded ones away. Dad was a robust man who thought nothing of cutting down and stacking 3-4 cords of firewood.  He had ONE joy in life: fishing for musky's.  I think that is the real reason for moving to Pymatuning Lake-the largest in the state, shaped like Africa, with an ear in Ohio.  When mom became helplessly sick, he became her caretaker: counting out her meds, taking her to the bathroom, fixing her meals and feeding her.  Several years ago, he told me he was afraid to go outside and cut the grass: she might fall and get hurt while he was doing so.  It was then that I realized that his fishing days were over, probably for at least 20 years or more.  He spent 64 days without ever leaving a hospital bed.  Rita, Tim's wife was his angel always making sure he was shaved and looking his best when they started radiation on his brain-which I knew that he would never again go home alive. He waited until everyone left the room before he departed. Just before, Rita kissed his cheek and said I love you Dad.  He briefly opened his eyes and uttered his final words: "I want to die!" This from a man who always said he would live to be a 100.
As I look over my own life, I thought I would always do something great or big.  At one time, during my college years I wanted to be a country music  entertainer and would visualize myself on stage.  I traded that for mom and you.  Even now, I have been playing my 42 year old guitar in the bedroom, composing music.  while in college, mom and others would sit around the living room of our apartment and listen and sometimes sing along; I loved to do, the TV doesn't even get turned off, so quietly I strum and hum the words in my mind in the bedroom for as long as my fingers can take it. Thanks grandma valencic for genetic arthritis!
Church:  Here is another place where I thought I could be considered worthy enough to be a Bishop or so, and use my organizational skills along with my speaking abilities and gift of discernment, to heal the ward, bring us ALL back into fellowship and then preach, not teach, this generation how critical it is to prepare our children and grandchildren to PREPARE.  That the coming devastation's will not slowly creep up on us but be there all at once-and we have to be ready and to know our brothers and sisters well enough to work together with them as a team to save our neighborhood's.  But I realize that my past sins, shortcoming's and sometimes the necessity to ask for church help put me out of the running. I guess I felt the Lord wasn't going to call on someone to manage  a ward if he couldn't manage his own home.  Just my believe.  Then again, it is almost a miracle for me to last through all three meetings. Right now, I am bracing myself up to see Adam and Meredeth's new baby and wondering how I will get to Utah when Amanda's child is born.  And although Kansas City is closer than Amarillo, it was a trip I just couldn't handle and I knew since Tom asked mom, in her stubbornness, she would do it alone, even if it did cost us $270.00 and she tends to fall asleep on long drives.. I wish my children would ask ME first instead of mom-so I could tell them what we are up against.  I was thinking tonight if Christ knows what it is like to be old since He left this world in His prime. Sure, He died for our sins and pains, but does He really know what it feels like to be old and hurt 24/7?  Or, since He is a God, He can imagine it. Right?
I guess when it is my time to leave, I want my grave marker to say more than: He was born; married and had children, then got weak and old and died.
Funny.  We seem to see things differently at 63 than 33 or so-when we were invincible and could do anything.
If I had a magic lamp with just one wish, it would be that all of our children come to church.  Just think of the simple logic: God is always the same. Has to be.  Since He is, then all church's would teach exactly the same thing about Him and the Lord's church and pure gospel would be just like He set it up when he was on earth.  Well, we know all church's teach all different things.  Therefore, they can't be true.  To paraphrase Isaiah, the great Old Testament prophet, he said it would get so bad in the last days(now) that the church would have to be restored, or in other words, start all over, fresh. Build and organize it just as Jesus Christ did.  And that is where we come in: the Church with the keys of priesthood authority, were restored through the Prophet, Joseph Smith.  Don't take my word for it but the challenge of the Book of Mormon(Moroni 10,3-4) Read the book-YOU. then you get on your knees and pray to God IN THE NAME OF HIS SON, JESUS CHRIST, IF IT IS TRUE OR NOT.  And the truthfulness will be made know unto you. It's just that simple and you just need the courage to do it and not listen to anybody's opinions. Forgive me for speaking boldly and with plainness; no matter what your choices, we'll always love you. Just because.It's getting late. time for some more pills and a few hours of sleep.  I see a neurophthalmologist in the morning so he can tell me why I am loosing my ability to see.I hope.

Monday, January 24, 2011


Kennywood is an amusement park located in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh. The park first opened in 1898 as a "trolley park" at the end of the Monogahela Street Railway. The park was purchased in 1906 by F.W. Henninger and Andrew McSwigan and thus began the Kennywood Entertainment company that has remained a closely held family business for over 100 years. This traditional amusement park still has structures and rides dating back to its opening and the early 1900s. Along with Rye Playland Park, it is one of only two amusement parks listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
I tok this first part off the internet to show just how old kennywood is -PPG glass Co would hold a yearly company picnic there and supposedly our family went but I remember it not, just the trips by the school crossing guard kids and sometimes the boy scouts.  Then as a dad, I took my own family there except Ariana, who wasn't with us yet.  As a kid, all the roller coasters were made of wood framing and it was not till the 1990's that steel rail coasters appeared(now 3).  They still have the original merry go round and Noah's Ark which perched up high with mechanical animal heads bobbing from windows.  The ride sucked, but it still was a landmark,  Another neat thing was the placement of the Ferris wheel: as you got to the top you could see a giant clock with the day and date above-made entirely out of flowers except the clock hands.  The flowers were re dug everyday to change the date and day.
There was no easy way to get there from Brackenridge, but to go through a bunch of small towns and crossing 2 of Pittsburgh;s 3 rivers.  But, all along the way through the small towns were yellow arrows with black "Kenneywood Park" written on them, pointing the way.  Now, as you began crossing the Monongahela river, you first view is the steep incline and almost vertical descent of the park's first steely, the Phantom.  First drop over 85mph! I have never been on a steely-I love the creaking noises of the wooden coasters.  Besides, on a steely, you cannot see the tract either in front or on your sides.  On one trip to the Park, a lady was so scared, when the Phantom ride ended they had to break her fingers to get them off the holding bar.
One ride looked almost like a Ferris wheel on it''s side.  Everyone took their place inside the big circle ride.  It had a loose leather belt going across your midriff, which really offered no safety.  As it started going around, it went faster and gradually you were almost going around vertically. Centrifugal force was what held you in place.  Right before one of the patrol boys got on, he had 2 hot dogs and a bottle of chocolate soda pop.  I remember because he got sick on the ride and threw up.  his big problem: centrifugal force made his vomit come right back to his face-until the ride lowered and went slower, it ran down the front of him. It was really gross, but still kind of funny.
Anyway, the entire park has a family slow life to it, making it a relaxing fun day.The worst moment: taking Alex with me on the Thunderbolt, a woody. I told him it wasn't that bad.  well it was a lot faster and shakier than I remembered and Alex screamed at me from the first drop until the end.  Don't blame him.  At least it wasn't the Jackrabbit which has a double dip hill and you fly out of your seat about a foot.  real good idea to use the seat belt. The park has a center lake and a scaled down train that goes completely around the park, along with picnic shelters-bring your own lunch because even an empty glass for water cost the same as if it was a drink of lemonade-cups are counted and employees are accountable for their numbers.  Bottom line-i would never go to the Pittsburgh area and not visit Kennywood Park(during the season).  Next: Pig Island in the middle of the Allegheny River, about 7 miles from downtown Pittsburgh and home of Irish Brand Hams and bacon.  Along with Iron City Beer, Irish Brand is no more.

almost time

it's about time to leave the hills of Breckenridge and move on-but many things of our youth affect us for life.Grandma's house- to the right, the Messo's, Italian family moved in, just an ordinary blue collar gang, and of course, that big old house where I first lived up on the third floor and don't remember-except the cute 4 year old girl down below , who I had a crush on.
Mrs. Messso and a ladies group went to Kennywood park one day and they have a mechanical gypsy  woman in a glass booth, who, for a quarter would spit out card with your  fortune. Her card came out saying something  bad would happen today. She had a son, about 14 and a greaser, who went swimming with bunch  of his "tough" buddies above the dam. Johnny could not swim and when mom came home from Kennywood, she was informed he was dead-he drowned,  She went nuts with grief and swore never use that gypsy lady again. They dragged for his body by throwing a long rope with tri-hooks and caught him by his swim trunks below the dam. A very sad experience.  But the saddest was that the American Legion bought all the houses,  destroyed them all and made more parking paces for the members- to go in and booze it up since private clubs were exempt from the State's alcohol serving times.  Everything I cherished went-the homes, gardens and flower beds. Gotta make room for more drinkers, altho my dad and mom were members of the American Legion  all of their lives, yet neither drank alcoholic drinks.  The Legion was for fishing shows and to get ice in the ice chest when we went up north to fish.
Side Note" if your ever around Pittsburgh, two MUST VISIT places are Kennywood Park and the Carnegie-Melon Museum. They have the largest Real collection of dinosaur bones of any place. It will blow you away.  And so will Kennywood, the wooden roller coaster capital of the world, spotlessly clean and at least 60 years old.More about Kennywood later.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

the boat

I wish i could have this down in cronilogical order, but that is for someone else to do, if they wish.  I gave Alex permission to correct grammer since i have to type with my right eye closed.  I see a neoropthalmologist this week. I feel I am losing my vision
WHEN bILL AND i STARTRTED 7TH AND 8TH GRADE(darn caps key! dad said if we got good grades* he would give us our own row boat for the river; which he did and it not only opened up a new world, but made it easier to get to the other side of the river, instead of walking the 4 or more miles across the Tarentum bridge and down the cliffs.  I think we also had use of a small outboard motor for the boat to speed things up and we would go all the way to Brauburn beach by the dam where the water was fresh enough to swim in.  When we were younger, Uncle Lou would drive us down Brauburn Road and we would walk the tracks as he ran his hunting dog, "Voda," which means water in Slovak.  Stupid mutt would tear butt after a rabbit up the hillside, throught the sulfer sreams and come out smelling worse that a Beagle usually smells. Besides, now being orange and black.  And, of course Lou had his 22 pistol straped in his holster-snakes and snapping turtles. The only good thing a turle was useful was to make turtle soup because they ate tropthy fish eggs, like bass and musky's. We "disposed" of one snapper which was at least a 1' across. The top if their mouth was like a beak and they could bite your finger in two before knew it.  Sometimes we carried my dad's old 16 gauge shot gun for the same reason or just for target practice.  Lou didn't marry untill in his 30's so when we were yonger he kinda adopted us and bougth us things and took us places.  Once he married, we were s.o.l since his attention went to where it rightly belonged-his wife
Did you ever put your finger under a upside down glass and lower it in sink water? comes out dry becuse the cup/glass forms an air pocket.  well some of us got the bright idea that if we cut out the bottom of a 5 gal. metal can, cut out and glued on a swim face mask, we could lower it over our head and walk on the river bottom. a gargden hose, attached to a hand pump in the boat would maintain pressue, whie giving us "fresh" air to breath.  We were not stupid: just inventive and crazy as could be.  I never went under because I almost drowned when I was about 9 years old at crooked creek state park beach.  It had crystal clear water until someone walked into the water-which had a layer of brown silt on the bottom.  There was probaably499 people in the water at the same time-and another 1000 on the sandy beach..  One time, mom had on a full size white swimsuit-she walked into the water, turned around and walked out wih a brown swim suit. Bill and I would smim out to our necks and throw a foot long stick about ten feet further(over our head), grab it, and swim back to where we  coud touch the river botom with our toes. Safe-I did not know how to swim.  I threw out my stick, not realizing that as I padled out, the stick went futher out.  Grabbbed it and swam back to safety. Wrong.  Bill couldn't help me and my parents kinda "froze" on their beach blanket with tim, who was a baby at the time.  I was screaming for help and i went under the third and I was sure, the last time.  Out of nowher, a man grabbed me, tucked me under his arm and knew exactly where my parents blanket was at on the beach. I NEVER SAW HIS FACE AND HE JUST VANISHED IN THE THRONGS OF PEOPLE ON THE BEACH, NEVER SAYING A WORD.
I thought of this incident after joining the true church of Jesus Christ,  and I swear it must have been one of the Three Nephites-or at least my Guardian Angel.  To this very day, I am afraid to go in water over my head, unless I have the the security of some kind of personal floatation device.  A pool is not so bad because the depths are marked.  So don't laugh at me if we are swiming in a river or lake and egg me to go in over my head. I won't. *"A's" were next to impossible to get from one of the mean old nuns, most of who died when they reached the age of 100, but refused to fall down, so they just kept teaching and beating us when approapriate-which to them. was all the time, but i found all twelve of my mother 's report cards(She also went to St.Joseph and raising her sister and taking care of the house when her mother died when she was Ten. Her lowest grade was an "A" and I say lowest because most were "A+" Oh well, she could just out run them, right?
FYI: the "Bear" who was principal was actualy Sister Mary Dennis.  There goes that "Mary" thing again. She had to be 6'3" and weigh atleast 425 lbs-and a 150 lbs of that was just her chest-which her starched white bib convenietly covered. And a 100lbs for each bicep. She probably lifted weights and worked out by hitting a stuffed dummy swinging from a rope, with a steel pipe! Think I am aggerating?Just ask my brother Bill.  She could have won the Viet Nam War all by herself: when the Viet Cong saw her a coming, they would run like hell into China to hide. And surrender.

rich and smelly

First, my parent's BR. on the 2nd floor, faced the river and there was a place to sit and look out, almost like a bay window. I was about 5-b.s.(before school, anyway) and would go in their room during the day because they had a clock radio about 8" x 12" and it just amazed me the sounds that came from it; I pretended their were "little people" inside giving the news and making the music, were inside.  Quite a few for a full piece orchestra!  Then one day, and I don't know what  it was about, my folks had quite a violent or heated argument. My dad yanked the radio from the wall, smashed it to pieces, then threw it in the trash.  There was NO music from the outside world coming into our house until about 1966, when we were living @ Pymatuning Lake.  They bought one of those 6' long combo's-TV(color never worked quite right), with a 78 RPM record player on the top left and an AM/FM radio in the right;speakers(stereo) were underneath.  Anyway, "Puff," the over priced Persian cat came in the room.  Previously, my dad bough mom a bottle of expensive perfume-about$25.00/half ounce.  I thought Puff could smell better and i shook the entire bottle out on him NO ONE was happy with me, especially the cat.  To Bad.  We had one other Persian cat named Chi Chi (don't ask), that was a pig, never cleaning itself off or any other kind of grooming.  He disappeared to somewhere. Side Note: the cats were purchased from a breeder in Blanox(along route 28 towards Pittsburgh. Besides her house, she had a large heated garage with about 75 cages with cats in them. The place smelled worse than a pit style outhouse at a State Park, with about 150 championship bloodline cats all total.  The first cat she showed my dad was her pride and joy: a Manx cat which was multi-shades of brown and they have no tail!
My dad, not one for words, told her it looked like a rat(it did, just a little bigger-and the "Butcher's Wife," got it besides the three blind mice!

Friday, January 21, 2011

"R" rated fish

Cherry street seems to be the dividing line between Brackenridge and Tarentum-it end at River Road and then there is the parks.  If you keep on walking past the park, you will fall down a small mud/hill that meets  the Allegheny River.  There is also a concrete faced drain for "rain" runoff water from the streets.  The drain hole is about 4' in diameter and it goes to the river with sloping cement sides set at an angle.  Usually the water is only about 6" deep and 2' wide-unless there is a good rain, then all the street water is channeled to the drain-and they didn't make it 4' in diameter for a reason!  And that reason is for us kids to straddle the water and see how far we can walk up the drain-about 8-9 blocks was my limit.  You could hear traffic above as you passed under a manhole cover.  Yes, we had flashlights, and sometimes a kerosene or Coleman gas lantern: which was insane, because there was more than rain water, that is, of course, if no one lifted off a manhole cover and took a dump. And the stuff dumps are made off produce methane gas as a byproduct-which means a light producing a flame could have sent us into the next world, or at least through a manhole cover, if we were lucky. Scene: the funeral home.  "And just how did your boy die?  A turd got him while the jerk used fire to crawl through the sewer system.  Ka-boom!.  Which is why we yell at our kids when they do something dangerous: like use the stairs or get into a car, sit down or go to sleep:)  Anyway, the town's home's had to be connected as a relief when the sewer plant couldn't handle the load, and those turds would float between our old sneaker's as we straddled the sewer.  Told you this was going to be adult rated.  Below the Lock and dam, there were no game fish and the bottom feeders like carp and low level scavenger's-opp! I was thinking of lawyer's when I meant catfish, were so toxic from industrial waste being dumped in the water, they were poison. I don't know how the folks on "4th Avenue" ate them unless the hot grease absorbed the pollutants. There was a third kind of fish, which usually stayed on top of the water, and occasionally, we would snag one with our fishing line-which meant we had to cut it off and loose a hook, because we were not about to touch them.  We called them, "Allegheny Whitefish."  They floated out of the sewers and they were discarded, used, condoms.  When some yelled out they caught a "White Fish," no explaining was needed:  everyone of us kids new the meaning.  We just couldn't figure out how they got in a rain water sewer! Side Note:  when you got so far up in the 4' sewer pipe you could not hear if it was raining outside:  until all of a sudden you seen this wall of water come at you and and you ran like h*** to outrun it before you got washed into the river!  Did our parents know what we were doing? Of course not, just like we did not know most of the time what our kids were doing growing up.  At least they didn't live on the river and go into sewer pipes! Another, "why are we still alive?":  Bill and I were in our grandparents basement, filling a kerosene lantern, probably to go sewering, when granddad came down the steps-he probably wanted to know where the smell of gasoline was coming from-that's right, Bill filled the KEROSENE lantern with gasoline and was trying to light the wick.  He(Frana-Slovene for Frank), was not a happy camper,or use bad word's like, "gosh," darn," as not only would we blow ourselves up but probably burn down his house.  If anyone says there is no such thing as Guardian Angels, we proved time and time again that there existence is real with the stupid a** things we did as kids.  Hey! How else to learn, but to kill yourselves a few times? Next the clock radio and the $100/oz smelling "Puff," and the 1921 Silver dollar rip-off for a quart of perfume for mom when she was in the hospital after giving birth to Tim. The hospital staff probably haz-med it by pouring it in the sewer lines to kill the "Allegheny White Fish."  Some of them even had "noses," so you know they were alive at one time, before they drowned-the only fish of record to drown in water! My families always taqxidermed their record fish by mounting them on a nicely cut board, with the the stats on a gold plate under it. I should have done that to one of our record breaking catches of Allegheny White Fish!I suppose that woulde be stretching the truth somewhat......

Thursday, January 20, 2011

park and cats

Besides walkways and benched to sit and view the river, the park had one more feature in addition to the fountain: a monument.  You had to walk up a step to the main floor and in the middle, separated by an arch at the top was two round castle type, round stone columns.  For years, they had cuts outs for brass plates, like the name markers you would see in a cemetery.  They finally raised the money for them:  the left one(they were about one and a half by two feet) said; "Lest we forget."  The other one had the names of all the men and women who served in WW II, from Brackenridge, in alphabetical order.  And towards the end were the names of Frank(my dad), Stephen, and Louis Valencic.  All brothers.  And all three of them did not have a star after their name:  if they did did, they were dead, killed in action.  Dad and Steve were in the Navy and Lou was in the Merchant Marines.  Grandma said she prayed for them constantly, and it seemed the ship in front and back of the one they were on got bombed.  No one talked about the wars-not my granddad(who was awarded all kinds of metals) nor any of his three sons.  I guess the horrors they witness were just to much and they would rather forget about them.  Once in awhile, one would let out a few details of what they went through, but rarely.  Supposedly. when my grandfather died, the youngest son grabbed all his metals, including a purple heart and one for bravery-he was a "Sargent," and got his men and himself out of a prison camp. Side Note: I was named after my great grandfather, Andrew.  He and a bunch of others were in a concentration camp-I don't know if it was the Nazi's or in Italy.  One day, they killed everyone in the camp, except a young boy, whose family was already executed, and who the Valencic's adopted, he, along with Andrew, were allowed to live-the oldest and the youngest I suppose.  As I often said, nothing happens in God's world by chance-and because of this act, I am alive, and so are most of you-if you are a Valencic.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


One day, dad told bill  and I to hop in the car(probably the old green Chevy), that he wanted to show us something-of a surprise.  I don't know which house or even what town it was, but there was our surprise to pick: a cocker spaniel puppy. There were two maybe three.  I know there was a light color blond one and a reddish hair one. We picked the red one.  Don't know why, we just did.  He was not allowed in the house;  mom got nervous when grand kids were in the house(but not her pet cats), so dad built a dog house under the big apple tree and boose was given a length of chain that went from his collar to the house. I know his name was short for caboose, the end car of a series of trains.  I remember he was a good dog, playful and kept himself clean.  Shortly after we got him, tragedy struck: he got distemper and it was gut wrenching to see him dying.  He could not keep down water and that"s about all that came out.  So he had to be "Put to sleep," but in Brackenridge back then, you did not take him to a vet; you took him to the police station.  I think my dad told me the "how" and if I wanted to go: NO. They put an animal in a box and hooked a hose from it to the police car exhaust.  You can pretty much visualize the rest.  We did go back and buy the "blond" puppy but he was just not the same.  He kept himself pretty dirty and jumped at the chance to eat anything of plastic.  We had no attachment to him and I don't know whatever became of him-probably was donated to some farm.  From a happy surprise to a sad ending.  We never has another dog for a pet as kids.  Side Note: More people are bitten by Cocker Spaniels than that of any other breed.  In case you are thinking of getting one for a family pet!  The only other "pet," were mom's Persian cats, championship bloodlines, of course. And the one I liked at all, was "Puff.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

two's and killers

this will be short(HA!) but there have been a lot of two's in my life, except Sharon(mom), my One and only. Growing up in the Allegheny Mountains-the outskirts. They get really Hilly as you drive down towards Maryland-and in the late fall, the colors of the trees is unlike anything you see in the Midwest, where they just turn brown and a good rain strips them from the tree's  There are a lot of evergreen tree's dotted  throughout the mountains, which only highlight the colors.
My folks seemed to have TWO sets of boys: Bill, I followed 17months later, but R.(ichard) Timothy did not pop out till eight years later and Jaime Mark-mom thought it was pronounced seeeen when Robert Sean entered the world and both  were born in Grenville. , which is why she like it (Sean). She was a little disappointed it was pronounced, "Shawn,"  Dad once commented he felt guilty that he didn't take the fishing  time and teach the carpenter skills with me and Bill. He was, after all, a Master carpenter, and did beautiful finishing work on houses and boats.  His last house was so well built the general contractor said he should be able to heat it in the winter withe a toaster,  Wrong.
 Two's: Bill and I did one of two things: work for my dad for free from the time we were in second grade and,  when able, play our dangerous activities and games, some of which I covered.
Work for free: the first thing was the boat shop and then hammering dry wall by hand on two spec houses that a  friend of dad was building, cause dad needed the work and money.  And by hand, I mean till our shoulder hurt from the hammer and the blister's on our hands burst open,. No automation here.
It seems we did two things in the boat shop: Dad would go along and drill holes-lets say he was putting the bottom on the boat;  Bill and I would follow with a large box of brass screws and a bar of bee's wax.  We would scrap the side of the screw with bee's wax( it would go in easier, the plywood would not split, and the wax helped seal the holes.  We would then start the screw in with our thumb and index finger. Yes, they got pretty sore. Then dad would change from a drill bit to a Phillips head and screw down the wood Sometimes, before putting in the screws he would use a countersink bit so eventually, the screw would be flush with the wood.  When the boat was done being built, we would paint the entire thing with a clear wood sealer so the final finish coats would not sink in to the wood thereby requiring more paint.  The sealer stunk and the fumes made me nauseous.  It wasn't till we were older, did he trust us to apply the finish boat paint(Petitt was the brand name). 
The adjoining room was the "sales floor,"  where the fishing type boats were leaned up against the wall with a few on the floor.  The "ritzy" boats with molded plywood and mahogany decks and chrome handles, were never stacked along the wall.  The decks had  grooves every 2" which dad filled in perfectly with a white wood filler prior to it's final finish.  The sales floor also had paint and boating supplies like outboard motors, lights, and chrome hardware.  We, "minded" shop when dad gt called into work at PPG, the glass factory.  Seems he was laid off more than he worked there.  Of course, this gave us some free time to play like normal kids!  I also attended two different schools, but that is for another time. FYI: it was a good mile walk from our house on River Road to the Boat store on 4th St. in Tarentum. And we would walk alone with the store key in our pocket.  Side Note:  We had a paint called "Dead Grass." Dull and ugly, but really the best color for fishing and fowl hunting. But more people tended to buy the brighter colors, like white with bright red trim. I guess they thought it gave the game a sporting chance of seeing the fisherman or hunter  instead of the camouflage color. Jerks! One day, a couple of guys just walked in and bought a boat.  When dad came in from the factory he asked where the boat was: I told him I "sold" it.  He was thrilled and gave me one dollar.  Of all the years I worked in the boat store and later, the little drive in ice cream stand, that was the ONLY time I Ever got any compensation from my folks.  And the ice cream stand @ Pymatuning was from morning till 1 or 2 AM, 7 days a week.  Plus I did their "books" for them Free  Even till my junior year in college when Tim would bring in a half dozen grocery bags of receipts and register tapes to our apartment, and I would enter them in a ledger-they never bothered to write any numbers down.  No wonder we never made any money and Dad working at North American Rockwell, Astabula,OH.(35 miles away-his paycheck kept the place opened.  Over 30 years ago an x-ray showed asbestos in his lung.  On October 17, 2010 it went to his brain, formed three malignant tumors, and a week before Christmas, it killed him-after never getting out of a hospital bed from that day that he passed away.  North American Rockwell made truck brake shoes and any "bad"shoe's and asbestos were found buried all over the company's grounds.  Bastards!  Thank you for killing our father and may you rot in hell for not placing employees and integrity above the bottom line  You are lower than whale crap on the ocean floor.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

guppies and murder

at the bottom of Argonne drive was a row of homes that, like most houses around the factories were all the same and quite primitive.  I remember one grade school classmate who had guppies, fish that give live birth instead of laying eggs. When the mother fish was close to giving birth, a funnel-like plastic piece was put in the water.  "Mom" could stat at the top and the babies would fall through tothe bottom into the main tank, or in this case jars. otherwise, the mother, after her hard "labor" would eat her young and she was to big to fit through the bottom of the funnel.  This kid would buy a glob of aquarium greens for oxygen, and buy a few guppies, which were cheap-and bred like crazy!  He had large jars all over the house and would give away one to anyone who wanted one.  like me.  He had so many glass jars all around the house it drove his mother nuts. I don't remember what happened to my guppies: they eithe died from over feeding(a common mistake) or I got tired of them and threw them in the Brackenridge pond which was in the park and located across from our house, The pond had a fence all around it, about 20' x 20' with a towering, natural stone fountain in the middle and four spray fountainhead around it.  At night it was lite up with colored flood lights in the water.  looked really cool at night.  It had gold fish-about 8' long, which were really nothing more than carp.  Of course, if the fish population dwindled, any gold or regular colored carp we caught in the river were hastily tossed in the pond.there was plants growing around the pond and plenty of moss and no one in their right mind would go into he pond.  but there were times we were not in our right minds and went in. or went fishing if we were not catching anything in the river.  Side Note:  ALL fish, mainly carp and catfish caught below the dam were toxic from the industrial waste dumped in the water.  There was-one old man who fished the bank of the river all nigh and would go up to 4th Avenue, the "Color District" with about 200 small carp which he would go door to door and sell them for ten cents each-how he made his living.  One of the men on 4th Avenue told my brother, Bill, they grind up the entire fish-head and all, and fry with grease in a skillet.  About made him puke on the spot. But, then again, Gumbo is made with fish heads down south. This man's wife became Breckenridge's first murder victim, when she was killed with an iron pipe. the murderer was going to try and pin the blame on a co-worker he did not like, but he finally confessed and the whole thing made the front page of the newspaper from deed to trial.  She was walking home in the evening from the store on the side walkway off of Morgan Street.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Argonne Drive Plus

You have to go to Google maps/satellite, etc. and punch in Natrona and the other places I mention(ed).  You will ses Argonne at the bottom of the hills and parallel to the river.
The 1" or so rusty pipe coming out of the mountain was eventually replaced with a stainless steel one and the entire front area, about 5'x6' was nicely cemented frontage.  Nice grammer.
The water still flowed 24/7 and their were ALWAYS cars lined up to get their 5 gallon maximum-unless no one was there which was unlikely-or they didn't already see how many you hid in the trunk before they got there!
I am fast forwarding here:  mom and I were recently married and we had this cute little 2 room+ bath apartment.  we were the first renter's.  It was originally a a ranch house, kinda built into the hillside(small slope).  there was a larger apartment next to us which use to be the basement and the top level was the biggest apartment; ours was originally the double garage.  Serious! The owner had a remodel supply store next door and he made 3 units from this brick house.  It really WAS cute!   A 2 lane access road was in front, then a large divide of grass, then the new Freeport road,(expressway to be) which went from Freeport all the way to the city of Pittsburgh(and,yes Pittsburgh was one of the few "burg's" that had an "H" on the end.  Behind us, was the quietest neighborhood around-probably about 3,000 people.  It was called, "Mt. Airy" cemetery, and they were dead silent.  We would love to go for walks in the evening because it was so peaceful.  It was one of the new "garden" style of cemetery's, which meant all flat marble/brass name stones.  Garden, my butt!  They made it this way, like all new cemeteries so the lawnmowers could zip right over them.  Otherwise, it was hand mowers and hand clippers around the elevated grave stones.  Weed Eaters had not been invented yet.  The old cemeteries were labor intensive. During the day. we worked in a suburb of Pittsburgh, called Fox Chapel.  You could not build a house there unless you bought a minimum of four acre's of property.  They were multimillion dollar estates.  Our "office" was within a small office building, about the size of a ranch house.  I came up with "M.E.D.I.card-had to use the periods after a copyright search.  I got a hold of "Andy" and three of his investor's to put up the money for me to develop the product and I put mom on the payroll as my secretary.  These 4 guys(Andy was a VP with Dari-Delite, the ice cream franchise my folks got involved with @ Pymatuning Lake, kind of like the Dairy Queen of central PA.  They took the first letter of each of their name's and called their company "Able Investment."  They were as close to working for a crime syndicate as one could find.  FYI:  The card was white, red letter's and had a small 3/8" x 1/2" piece of microfilm sandwiched in a lower corner containing a person's health history, insurance, etc.  We were to provide all the hospitals in our sales area with a micro reader, so they could read the person's card if he/she were taken to an E.R.  Neat, huh?  The "boys got a hold of the governor's past campaign manager because of his connections. Their approach:  Bill(salesman/crook) would talk with the big wigs of first, the United Steel Worker's Union.  They would "vote" that their millions of members buy the card involuntarily through a union/payroll deduction. Cost: $6.00/ card and the union V.I.P.'s would get a $2.00 cut for their strenuous efforts. The Steelworkers biggies thought it was a great idea and suggested Bill not wait but go up to Detroit and see the UAW.  This was my "baby," from design to securing a Graphics Co. to make them.  But as time went on, I got an eerie feeling I was in over my head; after all, I was only around 23 years old.  So we took everything out of the office, left a letter that I quit with the head secretary of the building to give it to the "Four."  The next day, they show up at our cute little apartment and puled out a roll of cash.  They finally realize I meant "NO," when they got to a "$700.00, won't you come back and run the place."  I and only me had the knowledge(in my head) on how to make these cards.   Sweat was running down the crack of my butt cause these guys could make me disappear off the globe.  And I am dead serious(no pun intended). I only tell you these things now, becuae all the "investors are dead  Back to Argonne, etc.  One Christmas(B.C.-before church), I bought mom a cast iron coffee mill, which we still have and found at an off beat restaurant supply company on Liberty St. in Pittsburgh, plus a bag of whole bean "Eight O'clock coffee,(made by the front runner of big grocery stores, called A & P, for Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company) and a 5th of Tia Maria, a coffee liquor., which gave the coffee an interesting flavor, and 20 minutes later, all was right with the world.
This was before "coffee maker's and we had a glass Pyrex(brand coffee pot, glass lid and a glass peculator-which had glass sides and  pedestal which had a glass container at the top. The only metal was an aluminum bottom that the glass sided container rested on a ridge on the stem. Often, @ 3 or 4 in the morning, we would go down Argonne for some ice cod, fresh spring water, Use the cast iron grinder, turn  the wheel enough times to fill the basket with ground beans, to make 10 cups of coffee. If you don't know, as the water got hot on the glass bottom(it sat on a stove burner), capillary action would make it rise and bubble to the top, over the grounds and eventually seep through the aluminum bottom, full of holes.  After awhile it would boil or "Peculate" like crazy and you could smell the aroma throughout the apartment.  We actually loved the smell of the beans and making it, as much, or more, than drinking it!  So that is why I have a fond memory of Argonne Drive-along with my wife.Side Note: It was also fun, and a lot more controllable, riding my bike down the Hill because it had a long and more gentle slope than Mile lock Lane or Morgan Street. Second side note: My Granddad Valencic absolutely refused to come up and see us (we lived in the 2200 block of Old Freeport RD.) because he was totally freaked out that we lived by a cemetery.Next(maybe!): Guppies and the Old Cemeteries.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

hills and bike

taretum, brackenridge and natrona were three towns in the valley along the Allegheny river with a steel mill thrown in for good measure.  You probably could not tell one town from the other if they did not have names.  Since they were in the valley that means as you went away from the river and kept going, you would cross about 4 railroad tracks and start your way UP the rolling mountains (as opposed to the jagged glacier mountains of the Rockies.  There were three streets of great importance: Mile Lock Lane, Morgan St., and Argonne Drive.
Mile Lock Lane did not go straight down like Morgan St. did;  it kind of went in "waved" you would go down and then it would flatten out the straight again till you got to the bottom where you crossed the tracks and then toe steel mill started to your immediate left and Brackenridge was on the right.  It was probably named this because when you got tothe river was Lock and Dam #6- a series of dams to control flooding  Morgan St. Just went straight down-the was a curved path to the side and steps.  we would walk our bikes up the path to about the 10-12 block, get on Morgan St. and "ride" down.  Like Mile Lock Lane, Once the bike started you stood on the brakes(no hand brakes) and hoped for two things: that there was no trains going across the tracks and that your bike would not reach "critical speed," which means all moving vehicles from bikes to airplanes could not go over their designed top speed.. If it did, it would start vibrating like crazy and if you didn't slow down the bike (or airplane), it would start shaking like crazy until it completely fell apart.  Not a good thing. From my experience a bike could not go down the hills more than 75-80 miles per hour.  We would keep going down the streets till we got to tired of walking our bikes up.  The other "hill" I failed to mention was the down ramp off of the Tarentum bridge.  I borrowed a rich kid's English Racer(brand) which is more like the bikes today and it had a speedometer- as it approached 80mph the whole dang thing started to vibrate and I was sure it would disintegrate! I'll have a lot more to say about Argonne Dr, as it had a less severe pitch and was more parallel with the river(but not close.)  Half way down, Argonne had a pipe coming out of the mountain side with ice cold, pure spring water. 24/7 there were always cars filling their jugs and they had to put a sign up limiting 5 gallons a visit since there was at least3 cars behind you!   Morning and night

Saturday, January 8, 2011


St. Joseph Catholic church was probably99 years old when it burned down about 20 years ago(?)  I only have two fond memories: the one was singing in the all boys choir  at Mass on Christmas eve and although the music was in Latin in was an arrangement just for Christmas.  The word Christmas actually is shortened from the catholic Christ Mass.  I started to sing in the choir in second grade and they would phase us out when in 7th of 8th grade our voices started to change(deepen) and those melodic pure high notes would have crackling noises because us older kids could not reach and sustain high notes.
The Choir sang in the back of the church in a balcony reached by a narrow spiral stair case.  The loft also is where the organ was.  I think it was electric compressor powered and the 2 foot petals were to control volume.  I think it was a small pipe organ.
The othere fond memory was the life size nativity display in front, on the right side.  Real pine trees and branches covered up the small alter behind and light bulb size blue lights were woven amoungst the pines,  It actually had a spiritual feeling to it. 
The front of catholic church's had a large marble altar(spirals and all) in the center than was used for all masses.  an altar with statues were on the left and right;  one statue was of Joseph, Mary's husband and the other side had a statue of Mary.  Of course, all along the sides were the "stations of the Cross," pictures of Christ suffering and death.  Morbid, indeed. Also, in the middle of the sides were booths where you went to "confession."
Other  day my brother Bill asked me if I remember "breaking" into the church.  We went up to the choir loft, and, since I had accordion lessons, I fired up the organ and began to play,  Out of nowhere came the "Bear" and Bill said she grabbed my arm so hard he was certain she was going to throw me over the side, as she yanked me off of the organ seat.  This, of course, is NOT a fond memory and I really don't have any respect for the nun's who taught me except one, in my senior year.  I attended St. Micheal's High School from 10th through 12 grades, as we had moved away from Brackenridge.  I will relate at a later time what I did there, but one thing I know for sure is I cannot remember what the inside of the church looked like, which was across the street from the High School (the grade school was about a mile down the street)  I suppose my mind goes blank about the church is that I was already starting to question the truthfulness of catholic doctrine and rituals as being bogus and with no true history to support their claims  Side note:  I was a "patrol boy" which means I wore a while banner with a badge:  our duty was to stop traffic and keep kids from getting hit, as they walked across the street to the school.  We were rewarded with a trip to Kennywood Amusement Park for our services.  During recess and lunch, the entire street(Garfield) was blocked off with long, yellow saw horses  to car traffic, so the street was our "playground," minus any playground equipment. We tried to play baseball but we kept denting to many parked cars!  So we made up our own games.

Friday, January 7, 2011

two and a half inches

As I was roller skating in Grandma;s basement, I wiped out and fell on my right arm. It would not quit hurting and it was a hurt unlike I was familiar with; so my folks had it x-rayedd  at the hospital.  Turns out there was a cyst growing in the detliod region of my arm. It had to go.  After the surgery, all were on pins and needles waiting for the lab work to come back-and it was benign so no cancer.  bones grow on their ends and surgery back then was not as high tech as today so one of the growth center was damaged and today, my right arm is 2 and a half inched shorter than the left.  I have full use but it is a pain buying a suit coat or anything with long sleeves.  Bonus: I was excused from any written assignments in school as my arm was in a cast and sling. No matter; i did what i liked to do during class-draw cartoons. I  still have the scar and marks of 21 stitches
Years later, when we were married, I got that awful letter, while in college, to report at 6AM for a bus ride from Erie to Buffalo, NY for an army physical-which meant if I passed I would most likely go to Vietnam.  I love my country, refused to run to Canada but the Vietnam war was a political war. I went to Buffalo, hoping the bus would wreck and that we would all be exempt.  Nope.  The physical was an interesting set up -:at on point there were two lines of men, bare as could be .Time to bend over and touch our knees exam.  All of a sudden a beautiful brunette wearing a pink bra and panties shows up.  He passed anyway and the doctor said HE would be good for the troops. Another young man said he was dumb; the directions to go and talk with the shrink would take a genius to find-if you found his office, you passed. The last part for me was a blood test and this doctor looked somewhat human: He asked, "what arm do you want me to draw the blood?"  And I said, "the short one," and he got a little bit upset and asked if I was kidding. I told him the cyst story and he barked out as to why I did not tell the other doctors.  I said I did and pointed to the paper where I even wrote it down.  At that point(no pun), he took a magic marker and blacked out everything the other examiners wrote down and at the top hr wrote: 1-Y and signed his name. !-Y meant I was not fit for combat or almost no military service.
There probably was a lot of kids on the bus that day who wished for an arm like mine; and never came home. \So, when something happens in our lives, God knows the purpose and most of the time we do not; but he is in charge.  Without that short arm, you probably would not be reading this because I had an dark feeling that I would return home from  'Nam in a box.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

5 yrs old-kill the kid.

a break from religion.  when i was 5 it was determined by the medical experts to have your kid's tonsil's removed.  Bill didn't; i did.  What a terrifying experience.  Allegheny Valley Hospital, my Alma mater. Either. those bastards.  i was wheeled in and a cloth was put over my eyes-so I could not see the @#%$@# whop put the triangle rubber piece over my mouth and nose to put me to sleep.  I struggled; they held me down."Just breathe deeply. Right. A poisonous, flammable gas to knock me out and which would give me a raw, sore throat for a week.  only good thing was visitors that came usually gave me money, even Father Casey-the beerdrinkin', smokin' speed boat "race up and down the river."  Usually on Sunday's, after church.  The last straw was his pennant flag of a shadow of a sexy pin-up.  The parishioners demanded he take it off  I know: he bought 3 boats from dad Because of complications-i was bleeding to death-i was in the hospital about a week.  Because they dragged me back into surgery(i was awake this time). They worked  a rubber tube, with string inside, into each nostril, then tied it in my throat.  They put a roll of gauze against by nose to catch any drops of blood.  Dad went "up the avenue" to buy bent glass straws for me to drink liquids from.  Got them from the only drug store. Plastic had not been invented yet.  How bad was it? I was vomiting globs of congealed blood in the toilet constantly.  Either stop it or die from blood loss.  The tonsils are part of the lympathich system to ward of infection.  Of course, when they become inflamed and swollen, it is hard to swallow and talk.  MY tonsils were OK and did not get infections-my parents were just told to yank them out by the doctor. jerk.  Side not Father Casey was the only Catholic priest granddad liked; he was walking to the doctor's for a check up and Casey was walking the other way and ask where he was going.  Then Casey told him,"Save your $5.00 dollars Frank;  I'll give you a five dollar blessing for two bucks."  Granddad never went to church with Grandma till towards the end of his life.  His hatred of the clergy was from when he fought in WW I in Europe, especially in war torn Italy. People were dying of starvation in the bombed out cities and being hung to death by Mussolini,the dictator on par with Hitler, (who I share a birthday with) but no matter how scarce was food, the priest always ate "fat off the hog." Granddad saw no justice in this as a "man of God," should be feeding the people, especially the children, not eating like a pig with death all around him.Next trauma: Skiing in the winter Olympics, when I was eight years old-on clamp on roller skates. holding pieces of wood, as I went around a support pole in grandma's basement.  Which is why I didn't have to go into the Army during the Vietnam War and end up with my name on a black granite wall.  As I always say, "nothing happens in God's world by accident-it is for a purpose. I'll explain later.

st joe 2

OK.  the school had 3 floors and I described the first.  unbelievable as it seems, the second floor had four rooms: this was the grade school and the top floor had four roooms for the high school
  the grade school was broken up thus: first & secon grades in one room. third and forth in one room and so on.  The high school fared a little better:  freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior.  By the 9th grade class size dwindled with a lot of families sending their kids to the public schools.  They figured their kids got a strong dose of religion in grade school and the public schools covered a lot of towns and was cheaper.
Since my birthday is in December, I started grade school when I was five years old, now they would wait till I was seven.  Half the classroom was first grade and after the nun/teacher taught them for awhile, they got a reading or writing assignment and she walked over to the other side of the room and taught the second graders  This gave us time to goof off without her noticing us.  Being only five, the rest of my classmates looked physically  hug to me and the second graders(who always picked on us), seemed like giants.  You were a nobody in grade school till you reached the top: 8th grade.  Only to be at the bottom again next year.  Our "science lab" was an oversize microwave stand on wheels with a sink.  The only other rooms on each school floor was the bathrooms and the principal's office was in the middle with one principal for both the grade and high school.  I don't recall any fire escapes but every month we would all have to sit against the walls in the halls for a tornado drill-which was dumb as we didn't get tornadoes in the valley, just bad lightning storms. Or we would all have to go outside for a fire drill and the fire department was there to time our exit.  Anyway, that was the layout of the over stuffed school.  Side note: No A/c, naturally and the heat came off of huge steam radiators which if you had a window desk by one of them, half your body would roast.  And, of course, we didn't have PE.  I guess the padding's and weekly walks over to the church to go to confession was enough exercise!

teacher to student is 60:1

I hear educators complain we need more teachers, that a teacher having to have a class of 15-20 is unbearable.Now comes St Joseph school,  It was an ugly, dark black-reddish, 3 story brick building.  Handicap accessible: throw um out the window or down the steps;  and if you needed a bathroom your wheelchair could go into-well, just hold it to you get home or if you were lucky, someone to carry you into the stall and drop your drawers: how humiliating! More on classroom size later.
First floor: an auditorium for school assemblies where we could find which rung of Dante's Hell we were going to end up in;  a cafeteria that served hot luncheons with mom's volunteering to help the 3-4 hired ladies get us all through the line. Cost per meal: 25 cents. The source of the food: mostly government donations, like 100# bags of rice, big cans of peanut butter, just butter, blocks of cheese, spam, pasta and a false tooth.  We were having Spanish rice one day  and i bit into something hard: when I took it out of my mouth, it was white and silver: someone's false tooth had fallen in the pot, probably in the kitchen. Yum, yum.  I have refused to eat Spanish rice to this day.  If we had spam sandwiches, it was served with tomato soup. On Friday's. The joke being was that it was laced with saltpeter(potassium nitrate) -it tasted like salt and prevented those boys who entered puberty from being able to perform over the weekend.  Nothing was wasted: if we had carrot sticks(uncooked), one day, then the next day we were sure to have lime jell-o with finely shaved carrot in it.  It was easier for a mom to hand a kid a quarter than fix him a lunch everyday.
Stevie Bednarik a real close friend, always smiled, was slightly mentally challenged and his family ran a grocery store on the next block. Stevie and I would get a lunch from the store, then take my quarter next door to Factor's drug store and buy 2 cigars.  Forget about ID's: money was money.  we would then go and hid in a crevice of the church where the bell tower was and enjoy our cigars.  One day had a problem: didn't know it was my mother's day to volunteer in the cafeteria and she kept looking for her little Tommy.  Had to come up with a fast excuse: Stevie and I ate at his family's store and I put the quarter in the candle rack in the front of the church, lit a candle and said a prayer for the poor.  Usually we just put a flat stone in the metal box, so the 3 or 4 old ladies, who always sat in the front pews and they were probably dead because they never moved and were always there with their rosary beads-anyway, they would hear the clank of the "coin," and think nothing of it.  Usually we went to the opposite side of where they sat, and lit ALL the candles in the rack-about 50.  They were votive candles in little red' glass holders and would burn all day.  There alsowas the tall,  BIG candles that would stay lit for a week.  They took a 4 stones donation-and we lit all of them also.  That side of the church looked like a bonfire burning.  Later-more about the school and church.  Side note:  you would think the 4 old ladies would stir with all the candles ablaze:  they didn't budge, which is why I said earlier, they were dead.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

saint joe

The sisters or nuns lived together in a house called a convent.  this one was separated from the school on Garfield street by an alley to know where. The main purpose of the alley was if you earned detention(an hour, after school, and if you lived where I did, a mile walk home.)I once asked a nun if she and the other nuns lived in a "nunnery?"  Which, I found out later from William Shakespeare(get thee to a nunnery) was a house of prostitution. OK, a whore house.  My question did  not go over very well.  I can't remember what religious "order" my nuns followed, like sisters of St. Francis, who today own billions of dollars in hospitals. Anyway, back then, they were the old school of dress:  the only parts of their bodies that were visible was the front of the face, and the hands.  Everything else was covered in black with a large white, starched bib, to play down their femininity.  Also a tall white, starched cap to hold up and in place, their veil. Back to detention: clean and wash all the black(chalk)boards, then take the erasers in a big bucket to the alley, where 2 at a time, were clapped together until they looked clean and new. Didn't they ever hear of child labor laws?  What was embarrassing was the back yard of the convent, which was strung with clothes line and all their washed clothes were hung up to dry.  Just what a young boy wants to see: row after row of the sisters underwear.  A least if you got detention on laundry day, and the wind was blowing just right, you could make the whites whiter by adding chalk dust to them!
Most of the nuns were always mean, frustrated, and they never died: they just looked 80 all the time.  They would have felt a lot better and be kinder if they occasionally went to the bar, found a man and got drunk.  Almost all changed their first name(and last) to "Mary"  Like sister Mary Francis, etc. Physical punishment was justified.  The principal, who we called Sister Mary Bear-she was about as big as a grizzly. Needed a paddle.  Since our school was small, once a week, the boys would walk over to the public school for mechanical drawling and wood shop. Don't know where or what the girls were doing during this time-probably home economics.  The Bear drew out dimensions for a custom made paddle, for which she asked the shop director to make for her. He did. The paddle was about the size of a keyboard with a 1" square 5" long handle . the body of the paddle was tapered and had 31 quarter inch holes-a real work of art that the sadistic nuns relished.  No air resistance, just pure , delivered, pain. So, what do you, as law abiding kids gona do?  Simple.  We stole it from the Bear's office.  When she noticed the delightful theft, she turned on the intercom and delivered one of the best, "you are going to burn in hell," sermons. And at weekly confessions every Thursday over at the church, we were ordered to confess our dirty deed.  So we did, to avoid the heat thing that Dante wrote about. The priest laughed out loud.  Ordered us to return it and then make a good "act of contrition," plus say 3 hail Mary's, a glory be, and an "Our Father," sequence of rote catholic prayers  This would officially redeem us.
One big problem" while in our possession, we decided it would look more like a nice piece of furniture if we varnished it. Which we probably did in my dad's boat shop.  When Sister Mary Bear saw it's beautiful finish:), she got mad as hell, pun intended, and demanded we sand it all off.  One problem: we could not get all of the varnish from the 31 hole's and the paddle was not even worthy to collect dust on a Goodwill store shelf,it was so ugly.  School layout next time but a closing side note:  In wood shop, we found scraps of oak a little smaller than a man's wallet, to which we would use the drill press and make our own set of brass knuckles-out of oak. Each boy (when the teacher was in the next room) made a set of two-one for each back pocket.  Let her paddle away!  We now could feel nothing!  But the clapping sound made the executioner curious.  When the Bear discovered the wood pieces, she became so enraged that she threw the paddle at the boy as he fled.  It hit the wall, not his head, because he ducked.  It broke in half making it useless as a tool of pain.  By the way, when someone was called into the office to be paddled (unless it was in front of the class) the Bear would turn the intercom way loud for all of us to hear her whack away. Also, the kid who ducked was Thomas Themmons.  Our class president. As a little kid, he was always playing in the dirt,  so everyone called him by his nick name and not Tom.  His nickname was the"N" word.  We meant no disrespect, it's just the way it was.  Back then. No one thought anything of it; after all, the "N" word was from the Latin, meaning, black.  And every Catholic school kid studied Latin, for years.  And read and sung music in Latin in church. No big deal.  We were just practicing our lessons....

Garfield-street of terror

Garfield street in Natrona and where I went to school through my freshmen year.  First, a little bit if the layout; if you turned of 1st avenue along the river, almost everything was on the right hand side of the street, except he Catholic mens club/organization called the Knights of Columbus.  anyway, right on the corner was Helsinki's drug store then a huge house that my relatives rented the end floor, up. Great Aunt Margie and her husband and son, who was Joe, Jr., but back then, he was called "Sonny." Two things I recall about him: first, he got polio and was put in an iron lung, a monstrosity that only let his neck and head stick out while the rest of his body was in this 2-3' diameter tube that forced his lungs in and out.  Eventually, he had a tracheotomy-hole in his neck so he could breath without the machine.  That, and he somehow got over the polio.  He was their only child.  In the attic was his train set, and I mean trains set.  He would start putting it all together on elevated sheets of plywood for Christmas by starting in August.  Great Aunt always wore hair hair tight and with a hairnet.  Her face always looked old and serious. All I remember of Great Uncle Joe was He smoked like there was no tomorrow and always was drinking beer when he was not working in the factory.  Husband and wife just didn't seem to get along very much.  She was one of two aunts of my mother who lived in Natrona;  the other was Anna and a few streets over in the middle, they had a grocery store.  Two sons I think and the one was about my age and always seemed brainy.  It wasn't til I was in my 30's that sonny(Joe, Jr.), who worked for the valley daily news, sent me a genealogy paper about 3' square, of my mother's maternal side, that I found out mom had about 12 aunts and uncles.  Mom was ten, her sister two, when her mother died of lockjaw-what my dad called it.  I do not know if the aunts helped raise the two sister's as my grandpap refused to remarry because he saw to many of the "wicked" stepmothers in town. Anyway we will continue down the street a little latter where we come to St. Joseph church and school, both forever gone, or at least the church; it burned down.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

joe wikes a jew

and i say that with all fondness and respect.  there were 2 grocers on the ave plus buba's who was down the hill(from the junk man) and as i said before about 3 blocks from the steel mill.
as you walled from grandma's the nex block were houses with Mrs chundek a friend of my grandparent's, probably someone they new from Europe.  the begining of hte nexr block was the borough building which is how Brackenridge was incorporated this is where you paid your utilities.  before you got there, on the preceding block was Buchec's Buick-Cadillac.  Where my dad got his 1956 caddy sildandivile(sic) -loaded.  this was how they showed off their "status," of having riches or success.What I remember about the owner was he had a son who acted like a sissy-so he made him wear a pink chifon dress and stand outside of the store. Tell me who was the sick one.  next block, in the midddle of houses was Davadek's grocery and butcher shop. we did some, but very little shoping here. Then in the next block was Wike's grocery store, and the butcher shop was in the back, and as usual, all the floors were untreated wood planks. The butchers were jewish brothers who slaughtered and cut up all of their meat-cows, lambs, chickens-you named it. Their wife's and daughters-cashiers, front door. A Rabbi came and blessed the cattle before they were killed.  I loved Joe and he loved fish and my mother. Fish to eat;  my mom and probably every other female customer to flirt with since they agreed to  few extra ounces of meat when Joe weighed it.  If you ordered a pound you got 17 ounces and the sheepish(no pun intended) smile and question:"it's 17 oz., is that ok? of course, he loved you, especially your wallet.  My family were fisherman, mainly musky's and we always went to Joe to "officially weigh and measure the length of the big fish.  Naturally, the fish lost weight and shrunk on the way home from Tionesta river and dam.Seriously!  All river's damed up by the Army corp of engineers were given Indian names-Kinzua, Pymatuming, etc.  I swear if your faucet leaked and you could not stop it, they would come in, map it out, dam it up and make a lake.  They might even give you the honor of giving it it's Indian name.
Joe loved fish. so after we did the measurements and saved the head for taxidermy mounting, it was given to Joe.  (My uncle Steve, then brother bill, took a mail taxidermist course, since it could get expensive. Actually, they were really good at it. Just fish, no animals.)  In return, Joe always gave us the best cuts of meats.  with a few extra ounces. naturally. I always watched his thumb when he piled meats on the scale.  He had throat cancer and spoke with a raspy voice.  When mom and I married, I took her in to show her off and introduce her to Joe. "Always treat your wife like a queen, he told me.  OK, i said.  "You want to know why, he asked? Not waiting for me to ask, why? "Because that makes you the 'King'"  And you know what, he is right.  We should treat each other like royalty-that's what the gospel teaches.  How do we expect to become "kings and queens, etc.etc." if we don't do it every day now?  We are not all of a sudden going to say in the hereafter, "hello my lordship!" or "hi Miss Queen!"  Let's go make a few prince's and princess's:)  Never knew how long Wike's held out against the supermarkets.  The business downfall, as I said before, was the Heights Plaza.  Side Note: There was Natrona (where I went to school-the valley or flat lands and then the "heights." We would call the height "duck town" because in the early times, everyone had chicken and ducks fenced in the back yard.  Uncle Steve-grandparent's second son would get mad as a dog with rabies when we used the term, "duck town," because he built a new house on 10th Avenue in the heights-a sign of prestige.  Even though, as an electrician for PPG,(the glass co.) he "borrowed" almost all the wiring for his house from the company.  He would strip to his undies and his co workers would wrap electric wire around him.  He would then get dressed and walk right past the guard house-except one time, the wire was so tight, he almost pasted out by the time he got to his car.  Hey, it's a big company and they can afford a few 1,000 dollars of wiring.  Just like my granddad's 3# coffee can of single edge razor blades!  Remember, we got death bed repentance if in a bind, down the road of life. Next St Joseph church and school-where punishment was expected and the punisher's loved to dole it out.  I remember a nun always beating this one kid on the knuckle's to try and get him to stop writing left-handed.

the glasss field

if you walked straight out front of my grandparents house, this is what would happen:  if you turned right, you would head up "the avenue" and if you walked right, after about 5 houses (the 4th one being the Kort's you would come to a cross street-Chery street.  I t was only 3  blocks long but if you recall the "hoods" from the TV show, "Happy Day," this was their hangout of pool tables and pinball machines and us kids rarely ventured where they were. However, walk across the street and there was a large field big enough for a supermarket and parking lot; which is what it became-Acme supermarket. And it became the down fall of all the little grocery stores in Brackenridge. But Before that it was a field of weeds taller than us and scattered with all sizes and chunks of different colors of glass, usually clear enough to see through, but some dense and black and pink striped marble.  It was a great place to play hide and seek and to find a vast collection of colored glass that looked like large rocks.  Years before I came into existence-probably in the 1930's it was the Flakas(sic) glass company surrounded on all sides by a high chain link fence. One day, the workers demanded to form a Union;  the next day, the gate had a chain and padlock with a large sign that said, "closed" and Flakas, the owner disappeared.
Unions were just not that popular with most company owners.  Just like our local (and Morton) Wal-mart would close the doors for good if a union would want to be formed.  See for some different perspectives of what most wally world really feel like. Side note: almost directly across the street from Grandma's (840 Brackenridge Avenue) lived two of our friends, Billy and Ricky Niedel who lived with their overweight, smoking momma and who sometimes were visited by their beer drinking divorced father.  I really can't remember much about them except we played together on and off and they were in our boy scout troop.  Our boy scout troop stayed together until a scoutmaster could no longer be found, including my dad, who turned down the position of Scoutmaster, when asked by the committee.  So there was no chance to become an eagle scout and no one knew of the "lone scout" program.  And, like, who would want to be a boyscout all by themselves?  Sounds kind of dumb to me. Next: Joe Wikes

Monday, January 3, 2011

duck pin

you can look up the details of this sadistic game online.  bill and I would always go with our parents. not often-they ere not regular bowlers.  the bowling ball is 5" in diameter with no holes-if you have a kid 8-10, see if they can hold this heavy, sold rubber bowling ball and then to throw it down an alley at 10 pins!  The pins where we bowled had a rubber rung around the center(not all duck pin do) and were about 8" tall  No auomation. a boy was paid to be a "pinsetter."  He would step on a lever and ten nails would come up through the floor -the pins had holes in the bottom to line them up just like reglar bowlong.  He would then jump up on a high bench while you threw youR ball, then come down and clear the fallen pins and reset them if necessary and then your ball would go down a shue back to you. Scoring was a little diffierent, but the idea was to get a perfect 300 game.  Someone claims the did, but the NDPB association has on  record, a 279 game from someone, of all places, Erie Pa. By the way, you got 3 balls per frame.  I t was the mostdifficult game I ever tried To play since you just could not get a grip on the ball to send it in a strike path.  I think our average game totals were around 60-85 points.  Today, I can see why the lanes wer in the basement of the club:  so you could drink enough beer to constantly cuss during the entire game. It was not at the Knights of Columbus (K of C) as their meeting hall was across the street from St. Joseph school, which I attended through my freshman year.  The nice thing about being a catholic was that after all the bad language(drinking was OK) you could go to weekly confession, and for a couple of hail Mary's and maybe a Glory Be (standard prayers,) you were forgiven.  If there was no time and you were about to die the catholic church had "death bed" repentance.  Just say your sorry and be contrite and all was forgiven. Next: Flakus Glass company, along with the Heights Plaza, forever ending the family stores in Brackenridge-just "up the avenue." Sidenote:  the "up the avenue stores," were always closed from 12 PM-3PM on Good Friday and all stores, even when all the stores of the strip malls in Natrona Heights were put up, plus the grocery chain's stores were ALWAYS closed on Sunday's.After all, when you were learning to drive, this is where you practiced since the lots were empty and void of traffic.  Forget Driver's Ed in High School;  we just got in the family car with a parent and went to the mal to learn driving skills!  Unless you grew up on a farm-they knew how to drive from the time they could reach a gas and brake petal on a piece of farm machinery! usually they were quite skillful at driving by the time they were 10.