a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Periodic postcard

Dear Miss Elizabeth S. Murray of DeHaven, Pa., from Rachael: "We had a very nice trip."
July 26, 1908. Mackinac, Mich., aboard The D and C Line

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Goodnight Joe

There wasn’t a grittier bar in Pittsburgh steel country than Chiodo’s Tavern. It sat near the gates to the long-gone and infamous U.S. Steel Corp. plant in Homestead at the west end of the Homestead High Level Bridge. Inside the dusty bar, you could practically smell the sweat of the many steelworkers who had walked through its doors for a beer and pierogies. Hung from its ceiling were the things that tipsy patrons gladly handed over to the bar’s cheerful owner, Joe Chiodo, including hundreds of bras that came off while their wearers sat at the barstools over the 58 years that he ran the place.
Chiodo, who died Sunday at age 89, is probably the only bartender in Pennsylvania to have his own historical marker. It stands at the same corner where his bar was located before it was sold in 2005, torn down and replaced with a Walgreens. In life, Chiodo was almost as famous as some of the many Steelers who stopped by his bar to say hello. And judging by the flowers beside his marker, he still has some good friends who remember him in Homestead.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

A cantankerous boom town

Welcome to nowhere, chapter 4

By Scott Beveridge

The hardscrabble Pennsylvania borough known as Donora wasn’t even a speck on a map in 1900. Four plantations consumed the land hugging the 4.2-mile stretch of the Monongahela River for more than a century before a new steel town came to life. Along with wheat and barley, the farmers planted walnut groves and weeping willow trees to separate their property lines in what was once part of Carroll and Fallowfield townships.
The sharp curve in the river at the base of a foggy valley would never look the same after entrepreneur William H. Donner of Indiana surveyed the area’s rich coal deposits that he could turn into steel and boost his fortunes. Donner had no trouble convincing Andrew William Mellon, a Pittsburgh banker and industrialist, to invest in his scheme to establish a new wire mill there because of his success in a budding tin mill across the river in Monessen. As a result, Union Steel Co. was born along these banks of the Mon to compete against steel baron Andrew Carnegie. The borough would be incorporated in 1901 with a name that was inspired by combining the Donner family name with the Christian name of Mellon’s wife, Nora. Within two short years, Carnegie's successors bought out Donner and folded the Donora project into a monopoly they were creating with U.S. Steel Corp.
And the world was watching.

Land speculators camped beside the stakes that marked vacant lots the night before they were sold at an auction that began with the sound of a gunshot sharply at 10:30 a.m. Sept. 10, 1901. By nightfall, more than $100,000 changed hands over 200 parcels of property while Donner was carving up the land along the riverfront.
U.S. Steel later announced plans to invest $20 million to build the world's largest rod, wire and nail mills in the borough. Within a year, there was a severe housing shortage as immigrants scrambled for some 10,000 jobs that were supposed to be created. The housing famine worsened after 1915 when the corporation unveiled a $3 million zinc works, the size of which had no rival. Local health officials were worried about the spread of disease because families and borders were practically sleeping on top of each other.

(The zinc mill as it looked in the 1940s from the village of Webster)

In some ways, Donora was much like the many other wealthy mill towns that were sprawling across the Pittsburgh region. There were 147 businesses in the borough, that combined, were doing more than $3 million in sales a year at the end of the Great Depression. Everyone either worked at the mill or toiled to feed and clothe its laborers. Work was especially tough in the zinc plant, which employed many Spanish men because they had the stamina to withstand three-hour intervals beside its 120-degree smelters. They had to lift 60-pound ingots to keep their jobs, and stock a steady supply of new clothes because their shirts and trousers disintegrated almost overnight from exposure to acid.
But historians have never been able to explain why the town became a magnet for some of the most violent and radical immigrants from Europe. As early as 1902, local police were stationing themselves at Slavic weddings because of the shootouts that were taking place at their receptions. Police officer Clarence L. Eaton was shot to death that same year at a dance grove. Three years later, borough officials were launching crusades against gambling and attempting to shut down bars over fears of violence when the mills closed for repairs. As the nation entered World War I, 40 percent of the mill workers in Donora gave the draft a false address in a show of protest against the federal government. It was an unusually high number and a further indication that the town was home to rebellious Socialists who sympathized with Germany.
During the first U.S. steel strike in 1919, a band of steelworkers even set off dynamite at the homes of two of their coworkers who crossed their picket lines. Another angry mob of striking workers, their wives at their sides, assaulted and disarmed the police chief when he escorted mill bosses through the gate to the zinc plant. The labor dispute was marked by other riots, one of which involved 50 men who threw bricks at black men who the company had hired as scab laborers.
Work resumed, but, the dark clouds never lifted above those cramped houses that climbed the steep hills beyond the smokestacks at the river's edge.

Chapter 5

(The blast furnace photo is published with permission of the Donora Historical Society. The aerial photo: Observer-Reporter
The Donner photo credit: William H. Donner Foundation)

Friday, August 24, 2007

Washington and Johnson

A new bronze statue of U.S. Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson at a college bearing their names has students laughing because, from all angles, it looks as if there is a serious man crush between the country’s founding fathers. Students and alumni at Washington and Jefferson College have been posting comments on an Internet group at Facebook that one of the school’s mascots appears to be involved in some self-gratification, too.
The self-taught sculptor responsible for the design, Alan Cottrill of Zanesville, Ohio, included a rolled up version of the U.S. Constitution in Jefferson’s hand and made the two presidents appear to be strolling arm-in-arm at the corner of Beau and Lincoln streets in Washington, Pa. But many people in the small city have also been sharing in the joke that the placement of the scroll, when seen from points east and west, looks a bit like an giant baby-maker held comfortably in Washington’s hand.
Cottrill said it was not his intention to craft something that would make the esteemed presidents appear as if they were gay. “No, no, no,” he said, adding that anyone who sees something erotic in his work is “stretching it.” It’s not the first time that Cottrill received wide attention over the nature of his figures. About 10 years ago, students were aghast because his rendition of Cro-Magnon man at nearby California University of Pennsylvania had an exposed dart of love, the size of which was grossly exaggerated. Before that work was completed, Cro-Magnon’s private parts were covered with a vine.
What really makes the touchy-feely George and Tom statue odd is the fact that history tells us that the men were not even friends in life to begin with.
Washington and Jefferson College spokesman Bob Reid said he was aware that people were whispering about the 10-foot-tall statue shortly after it was unveiled May 18. The school, however, had not received any complaints about its appearance, he said.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Steel wives were desperate

Welcome to nowhere, chapter 3

By Scott Beveridge

By early 1962, the wives of hundreds of steelworkers in Donora were lucky to scrape together a few bucks to buy a cheap cotton dress from the local department store.
Some 1,200 workers had been laid off for 20 full months from the furnaces that fueled U.S. Steel Corp.’s Donora Works about 30 miles south of Pittsburgh, Pa. Another 500 had been without paychecks for a year at the rod mill, bringing a near halt to business at the fine shops along McKean Avenue, two blocks up from the mill. At least 1,000 men had already lost their jobs in 1957 when the zinc mill was shuttered because the company had depleted its ore reserves. The 1960 furloughs were blamed on competition in the industry from the Ruhr Valley in West Germany and a sluggish market for wire. They couldn’t have come at a worse time. Nearly 550,000 members of the United Steelworkers of America were threatening a seventh strike since 1946 against America’s Big 11 steel producers. President John F. Kennedy urged a settlement, as he feared another walkout might lead to the stockpiling of steel and further unemployment. That was a calling for the Donora women to leave their “men home changing diapers and baking bread” and take a break from gossiping on the telephone to fight unemployment, the local newspaper joked about what these wives were cooking up.

More than 300 of them called a series of meetings and packed the auditorium of a local public school to save the mill. They demanded an ear with Secretary of Labor Arthur J. Goldberg and an audience with U.S. Steel executives. They wore bright green as a symbol of resurrection and hope, taking inspiration from an ancient Egyptian custom. They pinned homemade buttons bearing their slogan on their purses because that was where the layoffs hurt them the most. Similar signs were posted in storefront windows. Worse yet, they attacked the union.

The bold ladies scolded the workers for threatening a wildcat strike, believing one would surely spell the death of the Donora mill. There came demands that the men abstain from drinking alcohol at labor meetings and union dues be paid into an unemployment fund. It also was time for union officials to quit paying off politicians. Within a few weeks, Donora Local Union 1758 accused the women of obstruction for their malicious remarks. The steelworkers also denied the accusations that were aired by their wives, all of whom remained anonymous in the stories and photographs that were being published in the Donora Herald-American.

Oh, how it was getting hot in the town. There were four major fires in the months before the housewife crusade. Two Donora women and a local man went on an armed robbery spree that targeted service stations before they were nabbed by state police. Meanwhile, a local bank clerk embezzled $50,000.

On April Fool’s Day of 1962, the industry and union reached what Time magazine called the “most moderate labor agreement of the post war era.” The workers received raises of 10 cents an hour and the mills won the right to encourage early retirements. The pay increase would take the average wage in the mills to $3.27 an hour.

The outraged women of Donora did win a few meetings with labor officials in Pittsburgh during the steel talks, as well as mentions in newspaper articles across the nation. But in the end, there was nothing they could do to help their husbands, who, like them, were descendants of some of the most radical immigrants in the region's steel belt.

Chapter 4

(Photos courtesy of the Observer-Reporter of Washington, Pa., which holds the copyright to the old Donora newspapers)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Needs a weed whacking

This couldn’t have been the kind of greenery the Wickerham family had in mind for its plot of graves in Monongahela, Pa., a city its members helped to settle in the late 1700s and early 1800s.
If you worked your way through the tall weeds, you might be able to find out if this tiny cemetery holds the grave of a horse.
An Adam Wickerham buried his stallion, Bully, in the family cemetery in the city about 25 miles south of Pittsburgh after returning home from serving in the Civil War. Bully was shot in battle, he survived his wounds and was eventually given a full military funeral when he finally met his maker.
It’s understandable that abandoned cemeteries fall into disrepair when no one is around anymore to give them the respect that they deserve. But this overgrown group of tombstones sits in the heart of a small city, beside a Greek Orthodox church parking lot and streets lined with tidy houses. Does anyone in this neighborhood have a weed trimmer and a few extra hours to burn or know a Boy Scout in need of a public service project?

Friday, August 17, 2007

La Vie En Rose

Without a doubt, this is the foreign movie to see this summer.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The murders killed our reputation

Welcome to nowhere, chapter 2

By Scott Beveridge

Old man Schultzie lived in the biggest black house in Webster, one perched at the edge of a steep cliff with a view of the entire village.

His dark clothes, small stature and long nose made him every bit as creepy as his mansion that was stained dark by emissions from coal furnaces and the sprawling steel and zinc mills across the river.

Everyone for miles would become convinced that George L. Schultz was off his rocker when, on Christmas Day in 1961, he shot and killed his lover and her husband.

A former garbage collector, Schultz fell hard for Mary Evich after she began keeping house for him upon the death of his wife. But to her misfortune, she refused to leave her husband, Steve, a steelworker who toiled at a Monessen wire mill.

As the love triangle continued, Schultz became obsessed with the woman he would never have to himself. He watched her with binoculars from Webster’s hillsides. He paid local boys to keep tabs on her, too. They took his money but did little if any spying.

As his jealousy deepened, he began to pop NoDoz to stay awake. In fact, his addiction to the over-the-counter caffeine pill grew so strong that there wasn’t a drugstore in the area that had any left on its shelves. The 62-year-old Shultz had bought them all.

By that fateful Christmas, he had had it with 46-year-old Mary because she refused to accompany him to deliver Christmas gifts to his grandchildren.

He marched up the steps to the Evich apartment above Naylor’s Grocery in Webster and blasted Mary with a 12-gauge shotgun loaded with pumpkin balls while she was standing between her dresser and bed.

A minute later, and with the same weapon, he killed her 62-year-old husband in his bed at dinnertime. Police had Schultz in custody within two hours, and he soon pleaded guilty to the murders.

(The Eviches lived in the second floor apartment of this building as it looked in the 1950s)

Schultz later recanted his guilty plea in the slaying of Steve Evich and would face a quick trial in Westmoreland County. It took the jury three hours to reach a guilty verdict and just minutes to sentence him to life in prison. The old man eventually won an early release because of his declining health and was placed into the custody of a son.

But, his legacy would not be easy to shake in town, long after he was taken away in handcuffs. Some parents tried to scare their kids straight by yelling, “Schultzie is going to get you if you don’t wise up.”

Our babysitter, Delbert Kolodziej, used to lead kids from the neighborhood on field trips to Schultz’s abandoned Victorian with a Queen Ann turret and tell them stories about how the murderer had also killed his four wives there. (My two brothers and I were so rotten that our parents couldn’t find any local girls with the courage to sit for them).

His stories went something like this: Schultz choked his first wife in this room in the attic where the window faced west and overlooked the Monongahela River. He hung the second, shot the third and poisoned the fourth, consecutively, in the adjoining rooms. One by one, the women were tossed out the windows that were three stories above the bare ground.

Of course, Schultz never had four wives, or faced any other murder charges. Even so, Delbert was convincing enough to make some of the kids piss their pants and run home in tears.

Those brave enough to stay behind in the house pretended they were the part of the Three Musketeers engaged in sword fights with spindles they yanked from the ornate, curved stairway that connected the foyer to the upstairs hall. That fun didn’t last long because an arsonist soon took a torch to the house, creating an inferno that lit up the night sky.

By that time, most out-of-towners were turning their noses up at the people from Webster.

In many ways, it was no wonder they thought we were white trash.

Our town laid in ruin with so many derelict houses that had taken a beating from six decades of air pollution.

The town actually had developed a bad reputation since at least the 1940s as the kids from Webster who attended Rostraver High School then were not even permitted to join some of its civics club.

The arrogant children from the better neighborhoods were just showing their stupidity because a Webster boy who graduated from the school in 1947 - Ernest P. Kline - went on to become lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania from 1971 to 1979 under Gov. Milton Shapp. The snooty students at Rostraver might have learned a thing or two from Kline about civic responsibility, had they let him into their club.

The people in Donora seemed to hate us the most. The kids over there would jump us and try to steal our bicycles if we rode them across the Donora-Webster Bridge.

The good Donora housewives - the ones who wore Jacqueline Kennedy bouffants – must have shuddered at the shocking news of the Schultz murders.

But, those women were about to create a scandal of their own in 1962 when they tried to save their husbands’ jobs at the U.S. Steel Corp. American Steel and Wire Works.


Chapter 3

Charleroi Area Historical Society assisted in researching the Schultz murders

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

How to fat score a goat

To estimate the amount of meat on a Boer goat before it goes to slaughter, you dig your thumbs and fingers into its ribs to get a feel for the amount of tissue covering its bones. That is, if you have a clue in the world about goat farming or how to catch one and rightly massage its blubber. The judges at the Washington County Fair in Pennsylvania must know the trick because they are doing this field test as we speak on more than 100 of these animals that have been entered into the competition for a grand champion blue ribbon in the meat-class Boer goat category. According to the experts, the easier it is to feel the ribs means the goat has less fat on its body. That one is perfect for grilling and serving with a delicate wine sauce.

While most Americans think goat meat is disgusting, the French call it chevron and consider it to be a delicacy. They eat it Asian-style in Texas, too. I hear they're selling goat now in Florida supermarkets alongside the pork and beef.

Gettin' wiggy with dogs

My dog wouldn't have been caught dead like this.........

Monday, August 13, 2007

Where the houses turned black

Welcome to nowhere, chapter 1

By Scott Beveridge

Our new home in Webster was a short walk across a bridge from Donora, a bustling steel mill town in Southwestern Pennsylvania with city water, public sewers and a downtown lined with sidewalks and ornate buildings. There were squatters living in creepy old black houses on our new street. At night, my down-on-their-luck neighbors burrowed into rags stuffed into corners to keep warm because they didn’t have enough beds to go around. In no time, a boy over there whose father had run off welcomed us to town by sharing his head lice. The culprit was corralled, dunked into a metal tub filled with hot soapy water and disinfected from head to toe with a scrub brush by men who lived across the road. Thank goodness we had two parents, a coal furnace and a bathtub connected to piping-hot water, as well as warm blankets on our beds.

The Beveridges included my older brother, Skip, who was 6 when we moved and mad as hell about leaving Charleroi. That was a borough founded in 1891 by Belgium glassmakers. It was about 10 miles down the road, and known in the 1960s as one of Pennsylvania’s richest retail districts, thanks to the steelworkers and coal miners and their paychecks. Charleroi had attractive houses along tree-lined streets, and many adults who planned wholesome activities for children. They buried us in huge piles of leaves in the fall and ran sprinklers above the brick streets to cool us down on muggy summer afternoons. Our other brother, Kelly, was 2 and ornery as a catfish. He never seemed to care much about how the teachers and richer kids at our grade school up over the hill in the village of Fellsburg poked fun at Webster children for coming to class with dirty ears. As the middle child, I often had to make more noise to be heard at home. But outside, I made every effort to steer clear of the many bullies in town.

(Kelly with Spot on the street outside our house about 1965. He is on the far right in the group photo beside Skip, center, and Scott)

The first thing that I remember asking our mom, June, was how to find the playground. She attempted a smile and said, “Go play on the hill.” There was no ordinary hillside out back, or a grassy area with swing sets and a sliding board, either. You had to walk a half-mile to find a clump of sickly-looking trees if you wanted branches to climb. The yards had no topsoil. Instead, they had shale and clumps of crabgrass that you had to chop with a sickle as if you were giving the weeds a crude haircut.
Our father, Jim, was a hard-working and beer-guzzling pipefitter in a wire mill in Monessen, another industrial town three miles to the south and around a horseshoe curve in the river. Smoke from its steel and coke mills blew our way, too, making the air even harder to breathe and the houses all that more black. Some guys tried to paint the clapperboards, but a fresh coat never seemed to adhere to them, even if they died trying.

After stepping foot for the first time in our two-story, six-room Victorian on Webster’s top street in October 1960, I was frightened out of my mind. “Who’s upstairs?” I whispered upon hearing hollow-sounding voices. An adult who was helping us move into the drafty place laughed and said the sounds were echoes of our own voices bouncing around the empty bedrooms. I was convinced there were ghosts up there.

Mom loved Webster and the old house because it had been in her family for two decades. She was a self-taught, under-paid bookkeeper whose earnings were needed to keep us fed and clothed. But our new house smelled of death. Mom’s mother, Iva Dail Hart, had died too soon of cancer and a heart failure a year earlier, having never recovered from the heart attack she suffered during the killer smog of 1948. And the memory of mom’s sister, Nancy Muia, never seemed to fade. Aunt Nancy turned up pregnant at 17 and married the child’s father, Paul, a two-bit crook from across the river. She was overweight. She also lacked self-confidence and was easily manipulated. The newlyweds skipped town in 1957 for California because Paul Muia had stolen bank checks from a relative and was about to be arrested. Aunt Nancy returned home a short time later with barely a dime to her name. She died at 20 of a broken heart, starvation and influenza in the bedroom at the top of the steps that led straight to our front door. Paul Muia disappeared, only to return in the 1980s and boast about spending time in the Folsom and San Quentin prisons. He later went to a Pennsylvania prison for shooting a man in the leg in a Donora bar, and died of cancer after an early release. It was easy to meet up with the wrong crowd in the Donora area. A Webster woman and her husband would fall victims to murder at the hands of her crazy lover a year after we unpacked our belongings.

Chapter 2

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Blow drying a Boer goat

Boer goat, originally uploaded by Scott Beveridge.

Michelle Cowden primps Redbud Saturday for the meat class goat judging at Washington County Fair in Southwestern Pennsylvania. This has to be the whitest such beast around these parts.


Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Detroit and Pittsburgh have bond

There has been much said about the similarities between Pittsburgh and Detroit, as both are one-industry towns in need of jobs. Detroit’s economy bottomed out with the decline of the American auto industry, as did Pittsburgh’s when its steel mills were idled for good.
But, I have argued that Pittsburgh was better off because it is home to world-renowned schools, such as Carnegie Mellon University, and hospitals that include UMPC and Allegheny General.
One thing Eastern Michigan does share with Southwestern Pennsylvania is a direct pipeline of illegal drugs that leave the Motor City, destined for small cities around Pittsburgh with police departments that lack the resources to fight drugs.
The Pittsburgh region already has more old houses than what are needed with its declining population. And many become crack houses where the Detroit drug dealers conduct their business, including the once-stately house, above, in Washington, Pa. The photo was taken by Celeste Van Kirk for a series in the Observer-Reporter on Detroit drug dealers and how they have contributed to the decline of a neighborhood.
Detroit has a serious blight problem, too, as evidenced by the photograph, below, that depicts how one former auto executive’s houses look today in the city’s Brush Park section. It was taken by a photographer known as 51 eggs and posted on the popular photo-sharing Web site, Flickr.
These kinds of neighborhoods just may be the most striking bond between the two big cities.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Groovy camera

Welcome to my entry into photography in the 1960s

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The warnings signs were there

Introduction: Welcome to nowhere

By Scott Beveridge

A sprawling junkyard greeted motorists when they drove into Webster from the south end of town in the early 1960s. The rusting 1957 Chevys piled atop beat up 1948 Fords should have warned anyone who was planning to move there to turn around and drive off at top speed to a nicer landscape

There should have been sign that read, BEWARE, because a good many of the people who lived around the bend had earned their reputation of coming from the wrong side of the tracks.

Ahead laid a tough-as-nails village in Southwestern Pennsylvania steel country where differences were often settled with fists and blood after its men downed shots of whiskey chased with union-brewed beer.

Although most Webster folks were dirt poor, everyone within its tiny borders was white and everyone there wanted it to stay that way. Many parents were satisfied when their sons obtained a 10th-grade education, and enlisted in the military or found work in the mills. Their daughters often got pregnant at 15, had shotgun weddings and immediately lost much hope for a better future.

Webster’s forefathers surely had bigger dreams for the town they nestled along a sharp curve in the Monongahela River.

The God-fearing Christians included a German, Andrew Beazell, who was among the first to farm the fertile soil in 1773 before the United States made peace with the Indian Nation. Beazell’s son Benjamin would incorporate the town in 1833, naming it after orator Daniel Webster. Like Webster, the villagers were staunch nationalists. Its families had also supported President George Washington’s troops who camped in town to settle the Whiskey Rebellion in the 1790s.

Neighbors boasted about their boatyard and its employee, Samuel Walker, who 20 years later built the first steamboat to chart the river. By then, the streets and houses had been laid out in Biblical fashion. The sun rose due east above every back door and set facing the front porches. Yards were separated by white picket fences, and most contained lush orchards and flower and vegetable gardens. Riverboat pilots dried their sea legs inside their mansions that were built with ornate trimmings to match the finest paddle boats of the day. City dwellers in smoky Pittsburgh, 30 miles to the north, even traveled by boat to picnic and sunbathe along Webster’s shoreline and later rest up the road in one of four fancy hotels.

There were even plans for an opera house when Webster, with more than 2,000 residents, had become one of the largest settlements for miles. This utopia, however, was shattered after U.S. Steel Corp. began in 1901 to build a giant mill directly across the river and establish the Borough of Donora. Webster already had the coke ovens and a mill to supply its boatyards with iron. But, that operation was too small to compete with Pittsburgh coke and steel barons Henry Clay Frick and Andrew Carnegie when they came to Donora. So, the village began to dig deeper into its hillsides to find the coal to supply the new furnaces across the Mon.

Webster’s riverboat captains, having witnessed how these giant mills had damaged other farms along their travels, immediately put their estates on the market. Anyone else with enough money soon followed their lead. In no time, Donora’s smokestacks were spewing the dirtiest air in the nation and would contribute to the infamous fluoride fog of October 1948 that killed 20 people and sickened hundreds of others. Poor Webster sat directly downwind of the fumes, which had eaten the paint off the houses and stripped the ground of its vegetation. That deadly smoggy weekend became known as America’s worst air pollution disaster, one that led to the nation’s first clear air legislation.

My parents, two brothers and I pulled into Webster to stay in the fall of 1960, a few years before Donora entered the history books again for becoming home to the first major steel mill to permanently shut down in the United States. This was not going to be a walk in the park.

Chapter 2

(Captions: The Route 906 entrance at the south end of Webster in the 1950s; a map of the village from the "Atlas of Westmoreland County Atlas" published in 1867;" The restaurant inside a Webster hotel near the intersection of Webster Hollow Road and Second Street in the late 1800s; and U.S. Steel Corp. in 1909 laid the groundwork for its infamous zinc works in Donora on the north side of the Donora-Webster Bridge. Another source: "Early Days in Rostraver," by Mary E. Piersol, Bess Dailey Winchell and Ernest Frank Carter, "The Times-Sun," West Newton, Pa., 1949)

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The Twelve Commandments

While Christian tradition gives the world the Ten Commandments to live by, the God-fearing people of Monongahela, Pa., have an even dozen of them. A monument in the city’s Chess Park mistakenly lists number one, “Thou shalt have no other Gods before me,” twice for good measure. And, the last one that instructs followers to not covet thy neighbor’s wife and house appears in two versions.
One of the oldest settlements in the Mon Valley that dates to the 1760s, Monongahela might be in need of extra spiritual guidance.
A lightening strike many years ago blasted the steeple off a red brick Roman Catholic church two doors down from the park.
About 10 years ago, the spire atop an African Methodist Episcopal church needed to be replaced next door following another lightening strike. Two other old churches along Main Street have suffered similar fates.
In all fairness to the Eagles Club that gave the city its commandments in 1957 on a granite tablet, there have been several official versions of this list over the centuries, one of which included 21. Maybe the artist who the Eagles hired to design the tablet was confused, as well.