a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The straight-laced guitar man

Harold Weaver, a gentleman and musician who taught scores of kids to play guitar in Monongahela, Pa., is shown, seated, second from left, in this photo taken in the 1920s.

By Scott Beveridge

MONONGAHELA, Pa. – Harold Weaver was barely noticed in his hometown of Monongahela for decades, even though he taught more than 18,000 kids how to strum a guitar.

He accomplished that by quietly walking his students through their lessons in the basement of an old apartment building in the southwestern Pennsylvania city’s downtown, almost until the day he died in September 1997.

Occasionally, people would see him nod a smile while he climbed the stairwell from his studio to the sidewalk on Main Street, and dropped out of sight.

“I just wanted to play,’ Weaver stated in an article that appeared in 1996 in the Observer-Reporter newspaper in Washington, Pa. He told its reporter he never smoked or drank alcohol before or after he got his first gig at age 18.

That job didn’t last long because his mother, Susan, sent the police after him to keep him away from musicians who partied too heavily. He immediately obeyed her, borrowed 20 cents and to caught the next streetcar home.

It’s possible Weaver’s tucked-away business and gentlemanly demeanor could explain why this city along the Monongahela River waited until the year before he died at age 92 to recognize him with its lifetime achievement award.

He hasn't been forgotten, though. A photograph of an all-black band in the 1920s with Weaver holding a banjo is part of a slide show that will be featured next month to celebrate another milestone in the historic town. The presentation will highlight Monongahela's best collection of photographs through the ages, including some that date to the Civil War era.

That gathering will mark the 40th birthday of the Noble J. Dick Aquatorium, an unusual park along the banks of the Monongahela River. A number of related events are planned before the arena with seats painted to appear like the American flag undergoes $1.3 million in renovations.

The slide show will begin at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 7, in a National City Bank branch at 318 W. Main St. Admission will be $5, with proceeds benefiting the Monongahela Area Chamber of Commerce. Reservations are not required.

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