a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Suggestions for better luck next year

Some folks I know spread silver coins on their windowsills for good luck when they usher in a new year.

By Scott Beveridge

From eating a dozen grapes to shaking at the moon at midnight, my friends and relatives observe some silly New Year’s superstitions in the hopes of having better luck over the next 12 months.

And if ever there was a crappy year to be swept out the door with a superstition, 2009 fits the bill. I mean this was a year to send to the trash with the power of a street sweeper. It will forever be remembered for its high unemployment rate during a recession that was on the edge of another Great Depression, as well as playing host to the devastating swine flu epidemic.

So it’s an appropriate time to share a few of the following tricks to deep-six the Os and welcome in 2010:

* A male with dark hair needs to be the first person through your front door on New Year’s Day. (My grandmother actually sent her young dark-haired son door-to-door in Newell, Pa., during the Great Depression in the 1930s to bid her neighbors good luck. That’s how much she believed in this one.) This story has a few variations, one of which requires the visitor to also be a tall man. Another version requires the man be given coins for stopping by. If you will be handing out money, let me know and I’ll be happy to perform my civic duty and knock on your door.

* Eat a dozen grapes one at a time at the strokes of midnight. That one has something to do with wine producers in Spain, possibly as a way for them to dispose of their excess grapes. Keep the leftovers to yourself, please.

* The woman of the house must wear a new apron on New Year’s Day, making sure its pockets are filled with money. Say what in 2010?

* Pull out your empty pants pockets and shake them at the moon at midnight. Tonight is a full blue moon, which is supposed to hold extra magical powers. I would not pass up this opportunity for juju. Ladies it’s OK to shake your purses. Some guys prefer to shimmy shake under the moon with their empty wallets in hand.

* Be sure to eat pork on New Year’s Day. A pig roots forward while other animals scratch backwards. For the vegetarians out there, point a bunch of asparagus tips to the front of a baking dish beside of a chunk of tofu. (OK - I invented the tofu mojo story - magic cannot help that stuff)

* Sweep the house clean before New Year’s Day and also empty the wastepaper baskets. I’ll skip these, but it would be really good luck if someone stopped by tomorrow to clean my house.

* Put silver coins on the windowsills. That way the burglar won’t have to dilly-dally to steal your coin jar.

* Burn a bayberry candle down to the base of its wick on New Year’s Day. You are doomed if someone blows it out before all of its wax is melted. Don't try this if you have young children at home.

* A Southerner I know says you should eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day because “it’s a penny in your pocket” for every bean you eat. (That isn’t worth the payout) Another Southerner-wannabe says she cooks greens because they represent the color of moolah.

* Decorate the gate or door to your house with kadomatsu, as some folks do in Japan. It’s customary in that country to place this decoration of evergreen sprigs and bamboo at entrances to serve as a temporary shelter for the deity, Kami, who delivers longevity and wealth at the start of each year. Hey, it looks nice and can be a good alternative to someone calling the cops on those who howl at the moon.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Teamwork needed to tackle blight

One of many examples of blight in Donora, Pa.

By Scott Beveridge

PITTSBURGH, Pa. ¬ – A nonprofit in Pittsburgh that promotes smart growth is suggesting the formation of a panel to address the growing problem of residential blight in the region.

Sustainable Pittsburgh this month released a report, Southwestern Pennsylvania Blighted and Abandoned Properties Solution Project, that identified a staggering list of 67,886 abandoned housing units in this corner of the state.

“The report substantiates that addressing blight and abandonment offers the chance to build assets in a community and deliver economic, environmental, and social equity benefits for both community and the region as a whole,” the report states.

However, there is no regional plan, decision-making body or coordinated effort to deal with this crisis that has impeded economic recovery.

Teamwork would foster and environment that would help create jobs, including those associated with demolition, and increase the value of properties whose owners still take pride in them, the report shows.

Here in the mid-Mon Valley in such municipalities as Charleroi and Donora, there is a perception that blight is epidemic and that local, county and state officials are not adequately addressing the problem. Houses are added each year to demolition lists through a complicated and costly system of obtaining legal permits to tear down ugly, decrepit buildings.

However, such municipalities typically do not see the real value in buying these houses, Sustainable Pittsburgh has concluded. A municipality’s property assets can increase their bonds, and it stands to gain significant sums of taxable income by putting vacant lots back on the market.

Someone with a good job might also want to invest in a house in one of these dying towns if the blight was erased. That is preferable to every other house being stripped of their copper by thieves after their last occupants move elsewhere.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A lucky soldier

My father, James R. Beveridge, in the middle, celebrated with his steel mill buddies in Monessen, Pa, not long after returning to work after World War II ended.

Part VI: The second war ends

By Scott Beveridge

James R. Beveridge was going to have plenty of time for reading or playing cards to tackle the boredom of a long ocean journey to the war in Japan.

His ship was among a convoy that bid farewell to Europe at the Rock of Gibraltar, crossed the Atlantic Ocean and meandered through the Panama Canal during a 60 day journey that came to a halt off the Marshall Islands.

They were held back just before Japan’s informal World War II surrender on August 14, 1945. It was a week after the USAAF B-29 Enola Gay had devastated the Japanese city of Hiroshima in the first of two and only Atomic bombs ever dropped in the world brought an end to the war. As he had in Germany, my father was fortunate by a hair to escape the fighting.

Millions were left homeless in Europe, while “Allied peoples all over the world celebrated” the victory in Japan, newspapers across the world blared in headlines.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Army would be slow in returning to their homes such soldiers as my father who saw little or no fighting. Beveridge waited in a stretch in Okinawa before being discharges as a corporal in January 1946.

As a gesture of thanks, the White House issued veterans thank you letters stamped with President Truman’s signature, acknowledging them for answering the nation’s call to war.

“Because you demonstrated the fortitude, resourcefulness and calm judgment necessary to carry out that task, we now look to you for leadership and example in further exalting our country in peace,” the letter stated.

Dad eventually returned to his job in at a fence and wire mill in Monessen, Pa, after returning to his home in nearby Charleroi.

“The towns were full of vets,” he recalled in 2005.

Many former soldiers living there in the Monongahela River valley took advantage of something they nicknamed, “the 52 - 20 club,” he said.

Its so-called members received $20 a week for up to 52 weeks under the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, more commonly known as the G.I. Bill.

“Every week, you had to stand in line to get your 20 bucks,” said Beveridge, adding that some veterans were known to take the money straight to a veterans club and spend it on beer and whiskey.

“Some of them drank themselves to death,” he said. “I guess they had seen too much war.”

Four years later he married the former June Hart, who he met at a dance at the Veterans Club of Charleroi. They would have three sons, James, Scott, and Kelly by 1958, raising them in the nearby village of Webster. Beveridge would go on to lose his job as a pipefitter in 1972, becoming one of the earlier victims of the steel industry’s sharp decline in the region. He took a low-wage job as a Pinkerton security guard until something better came along, after also giving up his long love affair with Iron City beer. Two years later, he met the qualifications to become a police officer at California University of Pennsylvania, a position from which he retired in 1986.

He died Monday, March 5, 2007, in UPMC-Shadyside Hospital, Pittsburgh, from congestive heart failure.

(Click here to return to Part 1: Preparing for a battle dad would never see)

(This oral history was written in 2005 to fulfill my graduate studies at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. It is being edited and published here as a series.)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Double chocolate Christmas craisenettes biscotti

It would be great if I could pass along a biscotti recipe from my beloved Italian grandmother who also knew how to brew a great tomato sauce. However, mine had genetic make-ups of mostly British origins and neither owned Italian cookbooks.

However, this is a great biscotti recipe, according to my waspish relatives, blended from one printed a few years ago by a local newspaper and ingredients that flowed from our having a few glasses of white wine the other day while preparing Christmas cookies. White Zinfandel is optional.

The things that made these cookies sing are Nestle Raisinets (chocolate covered dried cranberries) and chocolate. Does chocolate really ruin anything?

Double chocolate Christmas cranberry biscotti

6 eggs
5 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 sticks margarine, room temperature
3 tsp baking power
1 tbsp anise
1 - 5.5 oz bag NESTLE® Cranberry RAISINETS®
1 - 4 oz. bag Diamond's slivered almonds
2 small bags of white chocolate wafers
1 small bag of regular chocolate wafers
1 small jar of red, white and green sugar crystals

Hand mix ingredients well with a dinner fork:

Cream butter
Add wet ingredients; then dry ingredients.
Fold in the almonds and craisinettes

Shape into two loaves, 2 inches wide and 14 inches long on a parchment paper-covered baking sheet.

Bake 350 degrees for about 15 minutes or until the loaves are firm to touch and beginning to brown around their edges. Allow loaves to coo. Cut them diagonal into cookies and place the cookies on their sides on the cookie sheet. Place the cookies put back into the oven long enough to harden.

Microwave white chocolate wafers in a small bowl, following the directions on the bags. Dip the cookies into the white chocolate and sprinkle the chocolate with the Christmas sugar. Then drizzle the other sides of the cookies with the brown chocolate.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Waiting for Santa

Waiting for Santa, originally uploaded by MMGoode.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Santa Claws

Santa Claws, originally uploaded by Megan E. Mitchell.

Drive-up Santa

Santa's helper, Terry Slebodnik, said he grew tired of waiting for visitors in Monongahela, Pa., so he turned to waving at passing motorists, many of whom stop to say hello. He calls himself the "Drive-up Santa" along W. Main Street, where no one seems to be following the yellow footprints that were stamped on the sidewalk for an unrelated summer event also sponsored by the Monongahela Area Chamber of Commerce.(Photo: Scott Beveridge)

Santa, sort of

Bling, originally uploaded by thecobwebbedcrucible.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Steelers Santa

P1050213_edited-1, originally uploaded by southside_johnny.

Still working on finding the right cat dressed as Santa Claws......

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Santa on a ladder truck

WEBSTER, Pa. – It's easy to explain in a photograph why I still live in a small town where Santa Claus rides around on a fire truck distributing chocolate bars to children.

Happy Holidays from Pearl

Happy Holidays from Pearl, originally uploaded by Laurie York.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

texas santa with his older brother

Thursday, December 17, 2009

No jobs at the candy factory

PITTSBURGH, Pa. – This sign at a chocolate factory in Pittsburgh needs no explanation in an American economy in the toilet. (Fudgie Wudgie Fudge and Chocolate Factory)


devil-cat!, originally uploaded by rosewithoutathorn84.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Props to senior citizens

Jeff Nystrom, a commissioner for the newly-organized National Senior League of Wii bowling, left, awaits the results of its championship match that left the Charleroi, Pa., team, whose members also are shown, in a disappointing second place.

By Scott Beveridge

CHARLEROI, Pa. – We are excited to announce it’s senior citizen week at this blog.

Yesterday, Travel with a Beveridge visited a senior citizens center in California, Pa., where older Americans were giving their brains a workout while singing Christmas carols in the German language.

The excitement peaked today in nearby Charleroi where members of Riverside Place Senior Center lost to Florida in the first National Senior League Wii bowling championship games.

Here is bit of the reporting of the match pulled from the Observer-Reporter newspaper:

Sighs of disappointment swept across (the room) when the four bowlers and about 30 of their fans learned Charleroi had fallen by 20 points.

“We did our best. We were the underdogs,” said Charleroi Wii bowler Cathy Martini, 52, of Roscoe.

No one cried. Rather, they immediately began to make plans to practice more and assemble a better team for next year’s championships.

The NSL was organized by Dennis Berkholtz of Atlanta, Ga. He played team handball in the 1972 and 1976 Olympics and wants to turn the senior Wii games into a business to provide more exciting activities for seniors, said Jeff Nystrom, an NSL commissioner who also lives in Atlanta.

Berkholtz may be onto something because, while the video gaming industry has been in a recession-era slump, Nintendo’s Wii grew in popularity among senior citizens, National Public Radio reported in July. The championship games even caught the eye of editors of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newspaper, which dispatched a reporter and photographer to this small borough in the big city’s hinterlands to record the excitement.

Meanwhile, these new video bowling leagues attracted 186 teams from 24 states without a fee this year. Next year, though, it will cost $400 for a team to enter the contests.

“Wii makes it easy,” Nystrom said. “It keeps them active and it’s a great way for them to mingle.”

Larry Maraldo, 67, emerged as the most-valuable player for Charleroi, having “bowled” two perfect games. Cathy Cochran, 57, who has blurred vision, scored a number of strikes, too, despite her handicaps that also require her to use a wheelchair.

They had loads of fun. That’s all that counts. This blog will be hard-pressed to top this excitement tomorrow unless those kooky old ladies from Monongahela decide again to bare their shoulders for a naughty calendar to raise money for a good cause. It could happen.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Seniors jingle in Christmas with German song

CALIFORNIA, Pa. – Members of a German choir at the Center in the Woods senior citizens center welcome Christmas with a song, "Ihr Kindelein, kommet," during the opening number in a concert today.

As reported today in the Observer-Reporter newspaper in Washington, Pa.:

The group formed in 1994 and remains popular for several reasons, including the fact that there is a high concentration of World War II veterans living in the area who served in Germany, said Ernst Jung of Uniontown, the class leader.

“A lot of them went over and married German women and brought them back,” said Jung, 69, who emigrated at age 11 from Germany and went on to teach the language at the university level.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Disorderly Santas

Santarchists in Pittsburgh set out to cause merry on the city's South Side District.

By Scott Beveridge

PITTSBURGH, Pa., – There was an invasion of sorts tonight of troublemakers in Pittsburgh involving nearly 30 quirky people dressed in outrageous Santa Claus costumes.

One man stood out wearing a beige flasher’s trench coat and exposing a purple gift-wrapped package over his package while another had a brown stitched-leather serial killer’s mask hiding his face. Yet another came to the party wearing a green and silver Mylar hat and robe only to strut alone on East Carson Street.

It’s just another Saturday night during the Christmas season in the city’s artsy South Side District where a young woman who was seemingly oblivious to the confusion danced with a Hula Hoop beside a homeless guy strumming a ukulele.

A rather harmless-looking, short female Santa passing out candy canes turned to me and explained that she was part of a worldwide event involving Santanarchists. They are part of a movement she identified as the Cacophony Society that was even holding such events as far away as Paris. The oddballs participating in the Pittsburgh shindig were supposed to donate a Christmas gift and food item to the poor while also honoring the intent of the Cacophonists.

The society’s mission, below, can be found in its Web site:

The Cacophony Society is a randomly gathered network of individuals united in the pursuit of experiences beyond the pale of mainstream society through subversion, pranks, art, fringe explorations and meaningless madness.

But, in Pittsburgh, the Santas had the appearance of being a bunch of wildly creative types on a bar crawl on a mission to get bombed, maybe on eggnog.

The most trouble they apparently caused involved their bursting in the Pittsburgh Scientology center to sing a traditional Christmas carol replaced with devilish and obscene lyrics.

It was hilarious.

Cacophony on Pittsburgh's South Side involving Rudolph wearing a flasher's trench coat and exposing a gift-wrapped purple package over his package.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The bowling struts

Travel with a Beveridge is changing the way America bowls one lane at a time.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

For the gambler in the family

A small gift shop in southwestern Pennsylvania has the perfect gift for the gambler who either has everything or nothing.

The French Quarter at The Shoppes at Quail Acres in North Strabane Township is stocking a glittery slot machine Christmas ornament as that hard-to-find gift for those with a fondness for the one-arm bandit.

The fancy blown-glass ornament is an obvious hot seller at the shop at 1445 Washington Road because the business has drawn the lucky card of being next door to the hugely-successful slots parlor at The Meadows Racetrack & Casino.

Shop owner Nancy E. Komondor, shown in the background of the above photograph, will gladly sell you one of them and also put it in a fancy bag that will surely impress the person who scores the gift.

(Photo: Scott Beveridge/Observer-Reporter)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Landmark Colonial house has important hinges

The landmark John and Presley Neville House, a Colonial gem in southwestern Pennsylvania, is hidden behind an unnatural wraparound porch addition along Washington Pike in Bridgeville.

By Scott Beveridge

BRIDGEVILLE, Pa. – It turns out a pair of closet hinges in the entrance hall are the most-valuable architectural details in the oldest house still standing in the county where Pittsburgh makes its home.

That’s the opinion of experts from Colonial Williamsburg who visited the John and Presley Neville House in Allegheny County and deemed the rustic hinges the oldest of their kind known to exist in North America.

“Who would have thought?” said Rob Windhorst, president of Neville House Associates, the nonprofit organization that owns the National Register of Landmarks property also known as Woodville Plantation in Bridgeville.

The 1 ½-story Colonial frame house is significant because it was built in 1774 by John Neville, a friend of President George Washington who came to the area to briefly claim Pittsburgh for Virginia.

However, Neville would soon make history as chief collector of a tax on whiskey Congress enacted to help pay down to then-new nation’s Revolutionary War debts. The local farmers who turned their rye into whiskey were quick to revolt in what became known as the Whiskey Rebellion.

When the insurrection was at its peaked, John Neville had relocated to an estate on nearby Bower Hill, a house that was burned down by the rebels during a two-day attack that began July 16, 1794 and resulted in a few casualties.

Neville and the women and children of his household were permitted to take refuge at Woodville, which had been given to his son, Presley.

“That’s probably what saved this house,” Windhorst said. “They really behaved with all the virtues of war.”

It is believed that Neville had a good relationship with the 13 slaves he owned because he armed them and they protected his family against the army of 500 rebels, Windhorst said while hosting a recent tour of the house. The slaves likely were skilled craftsmen and responsible for building the some of the house and carving its woodwork, he said.

The 6-room house is special because it’s the only country home built for the frontier-era gentry that is open for tours in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Aside from those rare foliated T-shaped cross garner hinges with leaf-like designs, the house’s living room is dressed in period furnishings and reproduction carpeting and wallpaper. Meanwhile, volunteers in Colonial-type costumes tend to a garden and chickens in a fattening pen off the kitchen in attempts to create an authentic 18th century Pennsylvania farm.

“This is truly exceptional,” Windhorst said.

The house at 1375 Washington Pike is open year around for guided tours from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, closing only from Dec. 14 and Jan. 2. For information, call 412-221-0348.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Dear Jay Leno

Demo, originally uploaded by Hoang Viet.

You would have a field day with this photo

The creepy mourning art of hair weaving

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Amanda's musings: A Cosmopolitan magazine want ad

7/365, originally uploaded by cootiebanini.

Dear Cosmo,

You need me.

As a writer, I realize the old cliché is true: There isn’t anything new under the sun. And as a longtime reader I know you’ve been recycling the same old stories for the past five years or so.

“What he thinks during sex” was an all-caps headline on the November issue. Then “His #1 Sex Wish” was the leader on this month’s.

Don’t get me wrong: I am empathetic to the needs of others – both lovers and friends. What you need up in this glossy is some practical advice. Pleasing your partner? That’s mostly instinct.

I’ve been out on two dates in the past month, and nothing in your magazine had anything close to practical advice for me.

The first guy, I Think I am EE Cummings, a friend from college who began wooing me online with poetry and music. In my mind? Score – a kind, funny, intelligent man who seemed to dig words as much as I do. The first date? The best I’d been on in many, many months. The goodbye kiss? Stellar. The problem?

The second date.

I knew it probably wasn’t going well when Cummings came in with an oversized bottle of Pinot Noir and poured himself a glass out of a tumbler. About 45 minutes and four humongous glasses later the bottle was gone and I had a wasted, 30-something man on my couch telling me about having worn an ex-girlfriend’s thong and his mother’s alcoholism.

I thought to myself, “What would Cosmo tell me to do?” and I came up empty.

So I told him what at least one bartender has said to a drunken hanger-on”: “You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here.”

And nothing in your magazine prepared me for what to say when another date recently said off-the-cuff, “I think the government should eliminate the appeals process for people who are on death row or in for life. It would save a ton of money.”

I was still reeling from that remark when he followed it up with, “I think George W. Bush could have been the best president in history if he just would have gone with his guts more.”

Again, there was nothing in your pages to give me any insight into how NOT to start a political ideology fight in the middle of Mad Mex.

Then I thought: Would Would Amanda Blu Gillooly Do?

So I beckoned to the barkeep, asked for another expensive Belgium beer and hoped Mr. Reluctant Republican would ask for the check before we got into a discussion on who he respected more, Sarah Palin or Anne Coulter.

I know circulation is down at nearly every publication. There is extreme competition. But if you want honest and edgy you don’t need another “Foreplay Men Crave” story.

You obviously need more Gillooly.

So let me know when my first deadline is.

Warmest Regards,

Amanda “I work for cheap” Gillooly

Monday, November 30, 2009

A lucky soldier

A silly Christmas card James R. Beveridge received while serving in the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps during World War II.

Part V: On the edges of combat

By Scott Beveridge

My father arrived in Le Havre, France, during the second week of February 1945 with shattered nerves.

James R. Beveridge was then just 22 years old and assigned to perform office work for the U.S. Army’s 38th Infantry Regiment’s Quartermaster Corps. His unit would later set up tents to feed soldiers, as well as starving German refugees, sometimes serving baked beans for breakfast from clean galvanized steel garbage cans.

His unit soon marched across a U.S.-secured Normandy as more than 1,200 Allied bombers raided central Berlin. Dad said he worried all along that he would soon be called into combat.

“If the troops were trapped, you had to put down the typewriter and grab a gun and fight,” he said.

“If they overran that front line, then everyone was fighting, no matter who you were.”

Dad said he witnessed bombers en route to Germany so thick overhead that he could barely see the sky. He cheered the planes on, hoping they would bring a quick end to the war.

On April 4, 1945, his unit was dispatched to Dinslaken, a small industrial city in the Ruhr area of western Germany, a distance of two miles from the front line.

Meanwhile, American troops were marching through Germany, greeted by Germans waiving white flags of surrender.

The nights were frightening, pitch black with practically every window blind pulled shut in the houses and buildings. Frequent bombing raids had also taken out the electricity in many areas.

“You could see the shells like fireworks in the next city,” he said.

In a last-ditch effort to protect the Ruhr pocket, Nazi troops were sending “buzz bombs” across the sky toward England, dad said. “They sounded like motorboats.”

Many of the bombs malfunctioned and fell to the ground, hitting the wrong targets.

But, within a month, the war with Germany was over.

“The surrender traveled by word of mouth,” dad said. “Everybody cheered. They wanted to go home.”

Yet, President Harry S. Truman warned America the war was only half won because heavy fighting was taking its toll on U.S. troops stationed in the South Pacific.

Looking back on his life, dad said he sometimes suffered a guilty conscience because he survived the war physically unharmed, having known that was not the case for many veterans. He often overlooked, too, the value of his unit, brushing it off as woman’s duty.

The Quartermaster Corps was under the command of Maj. Guy I. Rowe, who was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism in France during World War I. The Corps’ main mission in dad’s war involved feeding, clothing, and equipping the troops.

Its members also were trained to fill specialized roles in every theater.

By the end of the war, the corps had handled 70,000 different supply items and prepared and served nearly 24 million meals.

It also had been assigned the grim task of burying nearly 250,000 bodies in temporary graves. Meanwhile, 4,900 corps soldiers were killed in battle.

Dad said he found himself sorting mail in England, refueling vehicles and clearing out houses in bombed out houses in Holland and Germany to make them temporary barracks for his commanders.

“If the platoon sergeant said he wanted that house to stay in, we threw out all of the furniture, put the furniture in the yard to make room for cots,” he said. “We destroyed it. The American people didn’t give a shit.”

He said he never fully understood how the army determined which soldiers carried weapons into battle or how others like him were spared such duty.

“I didn’t understand it then and I don’t understand it now,” he said in 2005. “I was lucky. That’s the only word for it.”

After Germany fell to the Allies, he relaxed in the South of France where he was able to swim daily in the Mediterranean Sea.

The vacation wouldn’t last long because his orders soon called for him to board The Ainsworth on July 15, 1945, to backup troops a world away. The merchant ship was about to join a massive convoy of military vessels to assist in a war halfway around the globe against Japan.

(Click here to return to Part 1: Preparing for a battle dad would never see)

(Click here to move on to Part VI: The second war ends)

(This oral history was written in 2005 to fulfill my graduate studies at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. It is being edited and published here as a series.)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The moose mobile

Pennsylvania rifle deer season starts tomorrow. Here's hoping none of us end up with a set of whitetail antlers on our vehicles' hoods. I've hit seven over the three decades I have been driving in this neck of the woods, and don't want to add another trophy to my car fenders.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Granny Sheila needs her meds

What good would the holidays be without such kids as Kenzie and the kooky and creative things she pulls out of her head?

Friday, November 27, 2009

A lucky soldier

Part IV: Dad's secret World War II letter

By Scott Beveridge

My father in declining health gave me a stack of letters he saved from World War II with a warning there might be something embarrassing in them.

James R. Beveridge was approaching 82 that summer of 2005, and I responded by saying he didn’t need to worry about being ashamed at his age over anything the yellowed letters might contain.

So we went on talking for hours about his service in the U.S. Army, as I took notes without ever mentioning the one startling letter written by his mother holding a secret dad carried with him to his grave in March 2007.

His mother, Madge, had intercepted a bill he received in the mail in January 1943 from a physician in Monongahela, Pa., for delivering a baby he fathered to a married woman living in that small city south of Pittsburgh.

Madge Beveridge was writing her son, a private stationed in Danville, Ill., to proudly announce that she had solved this problem.

Mrs. Beveridge, who became my grandmother 13 years later, was not regarded for having been graceful, compassionate or genuinely kind to others.

She stated in the letter that he could not have fathered the woman’s full-term baby delivered July 15, 1942, because they hadn’t known each other long enough.

“So I told this Dr. she wanted a ‘goat’ and thought to pick on a 19 year old boy, who had lost his Dad, but she forgot the boy had a mother who knew her son was worthy of a good woman,” she stated in the letter.

Mrs. Beveridge further stated she visited the physician and told him to forward the bill to the mother’s father. “So Jimmy, I had never (really) been quite happy until I found out for sure that the Beveridge blood wasn’t in that baby.”

She was humored at having solved such a serious dilemma. Meanwhile, the date she indicated her son became intimate with the woman also made it quite possible he could have fathered the child.

The subject of the letter quickly turned to dad’s mother shopping for new shoes and making plans to visit his military base. The problem was forever behind them; so she thought.

Never knowing the full truth about the child would trouble my father for the remainder of his life, according to my mother – the former June Hart - who didn’t meet or marry him until well after the war ended.

His indiscretions before they married were not a concern to mom, she said, yet he never told her about his receiving the bill for the baby. She had been told two versions about the pregnancy from people they knew in Charleroi in the 1950s. One story involved the baby – a son - dying following a premature birth while the other had him being put up for adoption.

The woman’s parents had visited the Beveridge home in Charleroi, Pa., while she was pregnant, demanding a shotgun wedding. The pregnant girlfriend had left her husband in 1941, taken back her maiden name and was living with her parents when she met my father, according to the stories he later told my mother.

“He said he told his mother he probably should marry (the woman),” mom said last week. His mother asked her son if he wanted to get married. “He said, ‘No.’ She said, ‘Don’t worry about it then, I’ll take care of everything,’” said my mother, who turned 80 this summer.

Like me, mom has been expressing interest in finding out the truth now that I have made this letter known to our family.

In some ways I believe dad was trying to relieve some of his guilt by giving me those letters as age was weakening his heart and eyesight. He surely knew then, that as a curious reporter I would feel compelled to dig further into the story.

But, in 2005, I was under a tight deadline to write dad’s oral history of the World War II era for an assignment to finish graduate school.

We turned the clock back to February 1945 when he arrived to a war torn Normandy, France, as Allied forces were advancing on Germany.

(Note: At this time, we have decided not to reveal the identity of the woman whose physician billed my father for fathering her child. The obituary of her brother indicates she died prior to 1986. However, little else exists about her on ancestry.com or other Internet searches. By revealing her name, it might cause embarrassment to any children she might have had after my father left for the war, never to hear from her again.)

(Click here to return to Part 1: Preparing for a battle dad would never see)

(Click here to move on to Part V: On the edges of combat)

(This oral history was written in 2005 to fulfill my graduate studies at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. It is being edited and published here as a series.)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Spreading around Thanksgiving

Josh Smith of Bethel Park, Pa., was among a core of caring volunteers who prepared nearly 500 Thanksgiving dinners at St. Anthony's Roman Catholic Church for the poor and lonely in the Monongahela area. The leftovers were then shared with police officers and ambulance service employees who left their families on the holiday to go to work. These cooks and servers even went to a dive bar to feed the local drunks.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Blue crab for Thanksgiving

Crab meat, originally uploaded by Scott Beveridge.

By Scott Beveridge

PITTSBURGH, Pa. – A stranger turned to me this afternoon while shopping at the local fish market for canned blue crab meat and asked if I knew the difference between the brands.

It was a strange encounter for me, a guy who was raised in a humble blue collar family that associated good seafood with Tuna Helper or Mrs. Paul’s Fish Sticks.

“It all tastes the same,” I responded. And then I pointed to the more-expensive cans of lump meat and said, “That just looks better in a crab cake.”

He appeared to be relieved by my advice, buying every bit of it as I grabbed what was on special – if you could call it a deal at $13 per 16 oz. can. He then picked up a can of the lump meat that cost an additional $10.

Now I confess to not being anything close to an expert on blue crab meat. I spent just one afternoon several years ago crabbing along Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and watched with amazement while a local kid plucked every last bit of meat from our catch of while I fumbled over the few crabs I attempted to gut.

When it all went together as stuffing for fresh-caught flounder, no one was dissecting the dish to identify the backfin. Blue crab, whether canned or fresh, is always a delicacy.

Our family long ago bought the story about the Pilgrims dining with friendly Indians during their first harvest celebration on turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. That story defined our Thanksgiving dinners even until the day a decade ago when my young niece told us a story about the Pilgrims arriving in America aboard “The Sunflower.”

Historians today know better, and assume that seafood was plentiful and typically on the menu when those honored settlers dined before, during and after the first Thanksgiving in 1621. After learning that lesson, I decided to honor the Pilgrims by introducing the blue crab to our Thanksgiving meals several years ago, first in a she-crab soup and later in a simple snacking dip.

Tomorrow, we will try crab-stuffed mushrooms while giving thanks for those of us who have weathered this recession while still being employed. A few of the kids don’t know it yet, but they will be stopping by a soup kitchen to make a donation.

Here is the recipe for the mushrooms that will be on our table:


2 packages of large stuffing mushrooms
½ can of beer
2 tablespoons of butter

Stuffing mix:

1 16 oz. can of blue crab meat
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 5 oz. package of garlic and cheese salad croutons
½ pound of shredded domestic Parmesan cheese
2 small packets of mayonnaise
Juice of ½ lemon
Season to taste: old bay seasoning, chili sauce or ground red pepper – whatever floats your Mayflower


Remove stems from mushrooms and set them aside

Smash croutons and combine stuffing ingredients into a medium sized bowl. Save some of the crouton dust to sprinkle atop the mushrooms after they are stuffed. Generously stuff the mushrooms and place them tightly, face up, into a lasagna dish. Add around the cold butter and pour in the beer to a depth of about ½ inch. Cover with foil and cook in a 350-degree oven for about hour or until you think they look done. Tip: form leftover stuffing into cakes and freeze them to cook and eat at a later date

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pies to drool over this Thanksgiving

Joann Vennare grabs a blackberry pie at The Pie Place of Houston for our Thanksgiving dinner.

By Scott Beveridge

HOUSTON, Pa. – All it took yesterday was a whiff of a stack of boxed pies to add that brand to my growing list of food addictions.

It happened at a high school in Washington, Pa., when I went to take a newspaper photograph of its band members who were picking them up for delivery in their Thanksgiving-timed fundraiser.

The aroma of the goods from The Pie Place of Houston was mouthwatering. I mean the few of us there were growing so hungry for a slice of one of those pies that some were consider shoplifting or upping the price the musicians were charging to offset their upcoming trip to Disney World.

The urge to steal one of these precious deserts only intensified after we learned that the 180 pies with fillings that include red raspberry, pumpkin and apple were pre-sold and there weren’t any leftovers to salvage.

So today I used my lunch break to drive to the pie shop at 737 W. Pike St., Houston, Pa., to pick up two for Thanksgiving dinner.

There was an older guy immediately behind me who was in such a hurry to place his order that he blurted out his before I had a chance to place an order. As a gesture to gain some badly needed Karma points, I bowed to his urgent need for sugary fruit sandwiched in dough.

In short order he realized he was being rude and turned with a smile. Someone in the universe was paying attention other than the especially polite clerk behind the counter.

“You’ll be lucky when you buy one today if it lasts until Thanksgiving,” he pronounced.

He also said there is a Web site that has deemed these pies the absolute best in this corner of southwestern Pennsylvania.

Well the jury in this family’s kitchen is still out. I bought two; a blackberry pie – one of my favorite kinds – and another overflowing with coconut cream. But, judging again from their smells, you should be jealous that you are not invited to dinner this Thursday with those of us who travel with the Beveridges.

Happy Thanksgiving

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bring on the sappy holiday flicks

“Where do you think you're going? Nobody's leaving. Nobody's walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas. No, no. We're all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here. We're gonna press on, and we're gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny Kaye.” - Clark Griswold

Cheech Marin: No, aw, man, you don't know who Santa Claus is, man!

Tommy Chong: Yeah, well, I'm not from here, man. Like, I'm from Pittsburgh, man. I don't know too many local dudes.

By Amanda Gillooly

About this time of year, I think everybody needs a shot of Christmas. The retail stores know it. They’ve been pimping red-and-green merchandise since they started stocking the shelves with the season’s first candy corn.

Every year I try to wait as long as I can to once again make myself a toadie of The Christmas Spirit, which for me usually means multiple viewings of “It’s a Wonderful Life” a date with my soul mate, Cousin Eddie and a mistiness about the eyes.

Whether it’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” or George Bailey running through Bedford Falls hollering, “Merry Christmas, movie house! Merry Christmas, Emporium! Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building and Loan!” if I am watching, I’ll be sobbing.

But it isn’t Christmas to me, not even close to Christmas, until I hear “Father Christmas” by The Kinks and “Santa and His Old Lady” by Cheech and Chong.

I hadn’t heard them yet, so I sought them out on YouTube and had a good chuckle. And that’s what reminds me of the so-called Christmas spirit more than most anything else: Unrepentant jolliness. Silly, crooked smiles. Natural merriment and uncontrollable nostalgia.

At least that’s what I like most about this time of year. Thanks to those guys, I’m ready for twinkling lights wound around pine trees, visits with old friends, wrangling with wrapping paper and the wishful thinking that comes free with mistletoe.

And all those things will help me cope with holiday traffic and people who have huge cutouts of Santa holding signs that say, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” (now THERE is a mixed message).

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The scared sick

MONESSEN, Pa. – A long line stretched for a third day around a Pennsylvania health department office in Monessen where the nervous waited for free swine flu shots.

Thousands of people in that neck of Pittsburgh Steelers country left their televisions sets Sunday afternoon for an inoculation, missing a disappointing nail-biting football game against Kansas City that went into overtime.

A clerk at a nearby pharmacy said people had been waiting in line as long as 3 ½ hours to receive a shot.

The health department was expecting nearly 12,000 people to show up at the clinic.
As of Sunday afternoon, there were 10,252 confirmed swine flu cases, resulting in 41 deaths.

(Scott Beveridge photo)

Mon Calendar Girls

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Crawling drunk in Snuggies

The warm bar scene Saturday night at Double Wide Grill in Pittsburgh during a Snuggie bar crawl hosted by the Kiss radio Freak Show.

By Scott Beveridge

PITTSBURGH – It’s a stretch but there might be a logical reason to wear a Snuggie blanket on a mission to get drunk.

A stoned Snuggie wearer would stay warmer while cuddled in one of the silly polyester robes after falling asleep in a curb.

Outside of that it doesn’t make sense for a guy to belly up to a bar wearing one of the latest television hawk-advertising sensations to take America by storm.

“You have to pull up your skirt to piss,” a fellow next to me said Saturday during the Snuggie Bar Crawl 2009 hosted in Pittsburgh by 96.1 Kiss morning Freak Show hosts Big Bob and Mikey.

Nearly 100 people showed up for the party that started at the Double Wide Grill, a restaurant that appropriately has a white trash menu in the city’s trendy South Side District.

Who knew there were so many varieties of that kooky blanket that probably is better suited for a community of monks.

Some of the bar crawlers were wearing Steelers Snuggie while others came wrapped in leopard patterns. There also were people draped in gray, pink and beige.

Meanwhile, Kiss DJ Mike Ryan wore a Snuggie box over his head lit by two miniature reading lamps.

That’s so weird and funny wrapped into one.

The Pittsburgh Steelers Snuggie model pauses for the camera while crossing E. Carson Street in Pittsburgh, en route to the Lava Lounge.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Some things I saw at Pittsburgh Light Up Night 2009

A lonely Santa lounges on the Boulevard of the Allies during an otherwise crowded Light Up Night in downtown Pittsburgh.

1. A man urinating in plain view into the street behind Macy's. Yuck.

2. One well dressed old world Santa Claus at Point State Park. I nicknamed him Santa Crooner because he sounded a bit like Perry Como when he sang "My Favorite Things." Not a Christmas song the last time we checked. Weird.

3. The same Santa appeared to toss a ball of light across the sky in the park to light up the Christmas tree. That was uber cool.

4. My toes getting run over at least a half dozen times by SUV inspired baby strollers pushed by rude people. Ouch. Please watch where you are going the next time.

5. The most amazing LSD inspired fireworks display ever. It was close enough to the ground to sting my eyes with fallout ashes.

6. A pretzel sticks tiki hut gingerbread house with a blue icing roof on display at PPG Plaza. To the kids at Evergreen Elementary School in Monroeville who crafted it - now that's creativity.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Bunny ha ha

Dot Krol, 74, a fitness technician, left, and Peggy Savadeck, 82, a Senior Olympics gold medalist, were Miss March and November, respectively, in a 2008 calendar.

You've seen the Monongahela calendar girls here before, many times, including this shot of two of them at a fireman's parade in their hometown. For those who have not, they are the older women from southwestern Pennsylvania who posed semi-nude for a 2008 charity calendar only to become a global media sensation. Well Travel with a Beveridge has exclusive footage of their recent debut on Japanese TV, and the segment will appear on this blog this weekend. Word; it's belly-rolling funny. Now if we can only find someone who can translate Japanese to fill us in on the jokes.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Folksy toys made in USA are big this Christmas

By Scott Beveridge

NORTH CHARLEROI, Pa. – The Christmas season began in the heat of the summer at a toy factory in Pennsylvania that has been bucking the soured economy.

Channel Craft in North Charleroi had to hire 17 temporary workers in July to keep up with the demand for its time-tested, affordable toys at a time when many mainstream retailers have been closing their doors.

“Stocking stuffers are the name of the game now,” said Dean Helfer Jr., founder of the business that sells such old-fashioned playthings as boomerangs, kazoos, wooden whistles and jacks. “Our customers, they’ve got to make Christmas happen.”

The company has become a novelty in the toy industry because it didn’t follow its competition out of the United States to Mexico or Asia in a market in which 80 percent of the toys sold in this nation are produced in foreign countries.

“We’re the last of the Mohicans,” said Helfer, 47, of Bethel Park. “We need to get back to inexpensive, American-made stuff rather than the plastic things that have a gimmick,” he said.

He got his start by making boomerangs in 1983 and selling them on weekends at craft festivals while attending West Virginia University,Morgantown.

He did that by traveling around the country in a 1972 Ford van, where he set up a makeshift factory with his grandfather’s saws. His boomerangs became so popular that he was netting $65,000 a year in sales by the time he graduated from WVU in 1985.

His factory since has expanded to having 32 employees who work in an old U.S. Army Corps of Engineers boatyard along the Monongahela River.

The toys are not typically sold directly from the factory to the public, but are distributed through such outlets as museums, Bass Pro Shops, Cracker Barrel Old Country stores and restaurants and national parks. A deal is in the works to sell them across the country at TravelCenters of America.

The toy line has expanded as well to include small board games in tin boxes and a line of IQ tester peg games introduced this year. Also new are wearable scarves – Fundana Bandanas – that can be spread out on a table or lawn to play such games as tic-tac-toe, bingo and scavenger hunt.

“Our customers are directing their purchase orders to things that are going to retail,” Helfer said.

He also had to expand his assembly line to make items – tops, whistles and kazoos – that he used to purchase from other manufacturers that folded because of the economy.

“It’s more work for our people,” he said.

Yet the boomerang remains his No. 1 seller. They are made with thin layers of laminated birch and finished with colorful silk-screen designs.

“Boomerangs: That’s what we keep seeing coming up on the reorders. Everybody does jacks, yo-yos and pickup sticks.”

In fact, Helfer’s company is the largest worldwide producer of that boomerang, said Joe Kirk, executive director of the Mon Valley Progress Council.

“He is a nice guy,” Kirk said. “It’s a trite thing to say, but he is a prime example of someone who had a dream in college of starting a successful business, and he had
the vision and commitment to hard work to build that vision.”

(This story originally appeared in Living in Washington County, a publication of the Observer-Reporter. It was reprinted with permission.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Headless Moggy

The Headless Moggy, originally uploaded by Mr. Ducke.

If I'm not careful, this might become another cat blog.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A new light shines on an old church

By Scott Beveridge

WEBSTER, Pa. – There was a friendly and long forgotten sound in the form of a church bell that chimed in my village a few weeks ago.

The clanging originated from a steeple atop the old Webster Presbyterian Church where I learned about God as a child growing up in southwestern Pennsylvania.

The new pastor there said he just discovered the bell rope that sunny autumn afternoon when I approached him to say it was cool to once again hear the ringing. Our conversation then drifted off in passing as he went about his task of repairing the church.

I’m not sure why the many church bells were silenced in this neck of the Monongahela River valley about 30 miles south of Pittsburgh. They used to echo off the hills in Webster, Pa., and nearby Donora to announce Sunday services when I was a kid in the 1960s.

The bell ringing seemed of die out, unnoticed, as flocks of people relocated for better opportunities after the mills began to slowly disappear. And many other local churches would close, too, and fall into disrepair as the jobs vanished.

The Webster church stood out, though. It was built in 1888 before the steel mills overshadowed the area, becoming the first church in a town with six saloons that once satisfied the thirsts of riverboat captains and their likes. It was a landmark for a village whose residents wanted to establish a solid foundation when the United States was rapidly expanding to the west.

The women of my generation who belonged to the church did their best to set a positive example and make Sunday school fun and interesting for children. Kids were not allowed inside the sanctuary until they turned 10 or 11 and could prove to the adults they wouldn’t disrupt the sermons. By that age, though, most of the children quickly became bored by the services and soon lost interest in church.

It wasn’t until many years had passed that I discovered the church was an antique, built in a style more common to New England. The clapboard building was a museum in itself, especially on the inside that contained its original pews, wainscoting and doors. A preservationist on a drive through town later said the church’s Gothic-style, green stained glass windows were rare and priceless.

Sadly, the last time I was inside the church 15 years ago the pews had been replaced by 1970s-style seating that clashed with the architecture. The organist, she gasped when I said something about being surprised by the new look that also included beige wallpaper. She huffed before saying the congregation had grown tired of sitting in uncomfortable pews.

The Presbyterians would dwindle in ranks, abandon the building last summer and sell it to the Mon-Valley River of Life congregation. The new members, while strangers to town, appear to be working hard to fix the place up because they have been repairing the windows and roof and making other visible renovations.

That’s a good sign for an old church that was built at a time when the residents of Webster had high hopes for a future that would never come to fruition.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A lucky soldier

Part III: Dad's friends and relatives weren't so lucky

By Scott Beveridge

The letters my father sent home from World War II were nowhere near as troubling at first blush as those he would read from friends and relatives who also were serving their country in battle.

Those men were less inhibited to express the ugly side of a war that dad surely experienced, too, but would never discuss even until the day he died in 2007.

Shortly before he left Charleroi, Pa., for the Europe, his friend who was serving in the U.S. Marines encouraged him in one letter to join anything but that branch of the military.

“Stay the hell out of the Marines ....,” the friend, Frank “Gula” Galanzosky, penned from boot camp. “There are three guys in our platoon who have to go out and pick up one thousand cigarette butts and string them on a needle and thread,” Galanzosky stated in the letter written in August 1942. “One guy dropped a rifle and had to take four to bed with him that night.”

Dad would end up faring better in the Army.

Standing a slim six feet, two inches tall, he had a handsome grin and thick, curly black hair that made him popular with women on the dance floor.

He felt a cold shiver and a rumble in his stomach, however, as he stepped onto the deck of the Queen Elizabeth en route to Europe as World War II was in full gear.

To lighten the mood and bond with his unit, he and the seven other soldiers in his squad decided to shave their heads and grow beards as the ship crossed the Pacific Ocean.

“I felt silly,” he said, remembering how surprised he was to see a red mustache above his upper lip.

He had never seen something as beautiful as that ocean liner even though it had been worn and damaged by the steady stream of soldiers it was smuggling to the war. Years after the war ended, he remembered seeing a story in a newspaper that stated England required the United States to pay for the damage its troops caused to the ship.

“There was a crap game on every set of stairs,” he said. “You could see how the guys ruined it ... carved their initials on the expensive woodwork.”

When he arrived in Hale, England, two days before Christmas, he would soon learn U.S. troops were surrounded at Bastogne as the Battle of the Bulge was being fought in Belgium. The following day, a German U-boat sank a U.S. supply ship, the Leopoldville, in the English Channel, killing 819 Americans.

He was worried and scared, knowing his unit could easily be separated at any time and reassigned to battle.

“You never knew if your unit was going to be busted up, made a replacement,” he said. “Those guys were the first to get killed because you ended up in a unit that you didn’t have training for. Those guys didn’t stay alive.”

The news dad would soon be receiving about his only brother, as well as his best friend and cousin, was far more frightening.

Thomas L. Beveridge, who was a radioman in the U.S. Army Air Forces, would become missing in action for five days after his airplane crashed in Burma in July 1944. Tom Beveridge another crewman survived the crash with nothing more to eat than an ant-covered chocolate bar.

They used a machete to cut their way out of a jungle to a stream and followed it downstream to a U.S. military base. He suffered a brief period of amnesia before bumping into a relative who jarred his memory.

Meanwhile, dad’s best friend from home, Joe Yoney, was wounded in friendly fire by a bullet that traveled through a letter in his pocket. Dad had sent that letter to Joe, and would eventually receive a copy of it for proof.

Dad said war movies from that era wrongly led some in the States to believe there were many soldiers who enjoyed the war and liked to kill.

“I didn’t meet any of those kind of guys,” he said. “My friends who got shot, they patched them up and sent them back.

Yoney later told dad he bawled like a baby when he was shot across the stomach in Sicily.

“They shot him up with morphine to shut him up,” dad said.

Then in February 1945 dad received news in a letter from his mother that his school chum, Dale Covin, had been killed by Japanese fighters in a parachute jump over the Philippine Islands.

Covin was either shot to death while in the air or tangled in a tree.

“He was dead before he hit the ground,” dad said. “That happened a lot.”

Dad’s cousin, Dale Faux of Morgantown, W. Va., also was witness to tragedy while serving in the Army Air Forces in India.

“As for Jim, he has had a lot of good breaks and I hope he continues to get them,” Faux wrote in December 1944 in a letter to dad’s mother, Madge Beveridge.

Faux relayed to his aunt that he watched from a barren hillside while the remains of eight of his fellow soldiers whom he had befriended like brothers were being buried in makeshift graves.

“And if there was a trace of moisture in my eyes, I’m not ashamed to admit it,” he wrote.

As Faux penned the letter, he and his comrades were collecting money for an Indian boy whose stomach was swollen from malnutrition, hoping the boy would use it to buy a bit of rice to keep him alive. “What would we ever suffer that would even compare to that?” Faux expressed.

Another letter eventually turned up in my dad’s war mementos that concerned me, even to this day.

(Click here to return to Part 1: Preparing for a battle dad would never see)

(Click here to move on to Part IV: Dad's secret World War II letter)

(This oral history was written in 2005 to fulfill my graduate studies at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. It is being edited and published here as a series.)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A hot fireman at night

JEFFERSON HILLS, Pa. – There is a new edition to the collection of odd roadside attractions in the Pittsburgh area.

It’s at life-sized Fiberglass statue of a fireman holding a hose at rest beside a town square clock along Route 51 across the highway from the Large Volunteer Department in Jefferson Hills, Pa.

As you can see by the photo, above, it’s brilliantly lit at night with enough voltage to require an onlooker to don sunglasses.

In most cases, though, the many motorists who speed through this area probably don’t catch more than a glimpse of the monument. A pedestrian can’t even get there on a sidewalk to tell time from the four-lane highway where it meets Wray-Large Road.

The decoration is an attraction that, chance are, a reckless motorist will soon crash to bits.

Here’s hoping it endures nearly as long as Stephen Foster’s slave’s famous big toe in Oakland or the headless Pittsburgh Steeler in Greensburg.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A lost gem of a house in watercolor

By Scott Beveridge

ROSTRAVER, Pa. – Architecture nerds like me had grown to love this old redbrick house that loomed large above a sharp bend in the road approaching a county park in Pittsburgh’s hinterlands.

You couldn’t miss it while slowing to a crawl to negotiate the curve on a drive to Cedar Creek Park in Rostraver Township, Pa. Only a driver wearing blinders would have missed that opportunity.

Its red bricks were softened by age and neglect, but it seemed to still be in solid shape when someone came along and had it torn down nearly 10 years ago.

So I’m especially happy to have taken the time two decades ago to stop and snap a photo of the house, and later use that image to paint the watercolor of it, shown above.

Shortly before it was razed, I sneaked inside to take a closer look at the place at Lynn and Port Royal roads.

Its last occupants had left behind some of their useless belongings, including clothes that were spread in heaps about the rooms. Yet there was no evidence the roof leaked because most of the plaster was still attached to the interior walls. The house was nearly intact down to the original hand carved woodwork.

Even more interesting was a functioning trap door on the living room floor that opened to the basement. It made me pause to wonder if the passage was used to hide fugitive slaves on the Underground Railroad from the people who were in their pursuit prior to the Civil War.

It’s a shame that someone didn’t come along more than a century later to save this house from demolition.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A burger worth defending

By Scott Beveridge

WEST ELIZABETH, Pa. – A buddy and I stumbled upon a small-town bar on the outskirts of Pittsburgh more than a decade ago and immediately became addicted to its food that could satisfy a linebacker.

Tim’s Corner Bar in West Elizabeth, Pa., continues to be a regular haunt for us because this business has great food and even better conversation among the mix of regulars unless one of them dares to reach for our plates.

The bar with a tin ceiling and loud jukebox probably is more popular among the locals for serving delicious chicken wings, but its house burger has no rival in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

The TCB burger is topped with a slice of American cheese, a few thick slices bacon and Russian salad dressing, of all things, oozing onto the plate.

As I snapped the photograph, above, the fellow seated on the adjoining barstool drooled at the sight of this sandwich. Had he reached toward my plate, I would have considered stabbing his hand with a fork. This grub is that worthy of a steel-curtain defense in Pittsburgh Steelers country.

You could ask my friend about the quality of Tim’s food, but I won’t name him here so not to further embarrass the guy on the Net. He once swallowed there a half-dozen center-cut pork chops that members of the bar’s baseball team couldn't finish. It’s nothing for him to down two of Tim's burgers, either, on top of a salad and fries. For those reasons alone, his photograph should be hanging in a frame as a trophy there for the biggest eater.

To avoid his stealing your food, it might be worth calling ahead to the bar at 700 Fourth St. to reserve a seat at the furthest end of the bar away from that man.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Penguins attire suggested at this fundraiser

Pens Fans, originally uploaded by hockeymom2524.

Here’s a shout-out to the new Damon’s Grill that will be opening next month in Peters Township, Pa.

The restaurant is hosting a pre-grand opening party in two weeks exclusively to raise money for a literacy program as a show of appreciation to its tutors for volunteering to teach people how to read.

It will benefit the nonprofit Washington County Literacy Council that is using the gesture to throw a family friendly Pittsburgh Penguins party there from 6 to 9 p.m. November 24. The organization charges no fees for its services, which also include tutoring English-as-a-second-language students.

There will be a silent auction for a Penguins jersey autographed by player Jordan Staal, as well as other donated items.

For tickets to the party at the Damon’s, 102 McDowell Lane, McMurray, Pa., call the council at 724-228-6188, or e-mail WCLC4literacy@yahoo.com

Team attire is the suggested dress code.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Elvis hawking Margaritas

Elvis hawking Margaritas, originally uploaded by Scott Beveridge.

A Las Vegas Elvis always make me laugh, and never is that more needed than on a long day such as this one.