a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Monday, November 29, 2010

One of Those Days

012009_Layoffs, originally uploaded by skuhll.

By Ryan Mooney

    It’s one of those days. 
    You know the ones. 
    A day when you wake up, shower and drink your coffee.  The day when you get dressed in your Tuesday’s best and drive the thirty minutes to work. A day where you’re supposed to sit behind a fifteen inch monitor typing up customer reports until your eyes are oozing out of your head,  but when you walk in the receptionist tells you that the boss would like to see you in his office.
    It’s also the day after you just signed your name on the line for your latest big purchase. 
    A new, used car. 
    A two thousand and something shiny red, bright door coupe. The insurance will be higher and it’s sporty and fast,  and the insurance will be higher.  It wasn’t cheap,  and still,  the insurance will be higher.
    Your boss,  he tells you to take a seat.  He’s a large man,  a Boss Hogg type. The type who buys his suits at the Men’s Big and Tall or the place where that guy guarantees you’ll love the way you look. 
    You know the place. 
    His elbows are propped on the desk,  his hands in a steeple.  It’s the pose of someone who’s thinking or has something important to say.  So,  you sit,  wearing your Tuesday’s best and you cross right leg over left,  adjusting your tie.  Then,  your boss,  he looks at you and releases the steeple.
    You bought gifts last week,  too. 
    It’s December. 
    Gifts for mom,  dad and sister.
    Gifts for your co-workers. 
    Gift’s for Boss Hogg. 
    The Christmas party,  it’s on Friday and the tie you bought Boss Hogg has little golf tees on it and you don’t know if he plays golf,  knows how to golf or even likes golf.  It was an impulse buy.
    You know the kind.
    Your boss,  he tells you about the bad economy and downsizing. Layoffs and personnel changes.  He tells you he empathizes with you and says he’s sorry.  You tell him you don’t understand.  You remind him you’ve been here longer than most.  Boss Hogg though,  he tells you he understands that you don’t understand.  He also tells you that most will be let go,  too.  Certain jobs will be replaced by computer programs and one of those jobs,  incidentally,  is yours.
    You have ten thousand five-hundred dollars,  probably more,  worth of student loans to pay off.  Student loans for four years of schooling to land you the job which,  in turn,  has landed you in the large leather chair across from your boss.  Cell phone bill,  car payments,  groceries,  Christmas gifts,  gas and the list goes on.  Expenses that need paid and your bank account,  it reads damn near empty.
    It’s the day where you scour the office for cardboard boxes.  Jean and Joe and Jamie each give you one and they ask questions.  They want answers. 
    What happened? 
    Why’d they let you go? 
    Will they let me go? 
    And all you can do is smile,  packing your stuff into their boxes.
    Packing your shit,  they ask.
    No, packing my stuff,  you say.
    Pictures,  photo copies,  positive affirmations pinned to the inside of your cubicle and snow globes.  It’s your globe.
    Take it. 
    The coffee mug with the picture of your dead German Sheppard is also yours.      Take it. 
    You even think about folding up the cubicle and taking it too,  but you know it won’t fit in the back of your new,  used shiny coupe.
     Should have bought an SUV,  you think.
    That’s what you named him.  Rollo and you taking walks through the neighborhood.  You and Rollo playing Frisbee in the park.  Then one day Rollo got old and Frisbee was out of the question.  Rollo,  he got even older and walks through the neighborhood were out of the question.  Rollo,  he goes blind and walks into walls.  Then,  Rollo is being put to sleep by injection from some random veterinarian and it was sometime between Frisbee and the injection that you took the picture of him,  immortalized on the mug. 
    Then,  you put the mug into the box and Jean,  she picks up one of the printed affirmations and reads it aloud. 
    You must do the thing you think you cannot do. 
    She asks who wrote it and you don’t remember.
    You walk through a maze of cubicles with their boxes holding your stuff between your arms. 
    Mark,  Maddie and Melinda watch. 
    Adam,  Anabell and Addison wave goodbye. 
    Frank,  Fran and Fred wish you the best and you keep walking,  a faux smile plastered across your face.  You smile because they are part of the most and only you know that soon they’ll be making the same march down the same hallway to the same elevator.  They’ll have their stuff,  which to you is shit,  packed into someone else’s boxes underneath their arms.
    Doug,  Dean and Dina. 
    They want to know what happened. 
    They ask one,  two,  three too many questions and you keep walking.  Walking down the long hallway to the same elevator where it’ll drop you four floors to the main lobby.
    In the lobby,  Marcus the security guard mumbles something incoherent and you just nod. 
    Marcus,  who smokes too many cigarettes. 
    Marcus,  who calls cabs and limos and calls you when your General Tso’s arrives from the Chinese restaurant. 
    Marcus,  who says goodbye then picks up the ringing phone and you hear him say, Yes sir.  He’s leaving the building now,  and you know that of all the people employed here,  Marcus will keep his job. 
    Marcus with his GED and no loans,  he gets to stay.
     Marcus,  who gets paid hourly,  not salary,  will stay and he’ll still call for cabs and limos and General Tso’s.  You realize then,  that you’ve wasted four years and a butt load of money.  And you realize,  too,  that you hate Marcus for being so stupid that he’s actually smarter than you.
    You pack their boxes of your stuff into the backseat of your red sporty coupe with the too high insurance. 
    You know the one.
    Just yesterday you were so proud of your sporty car.  Jean,  Dean,  Marcus and everyone had commented on it. 
    Look at that , they said,  what a beautiful car, and they  put their hands around their face,  onto the glass,  peering through the windows.
    Someone asked about the gas mileage. 
    Someone else asked about the stereo system.
     And someone else asked if they could drive it.
    At home you leave your stuff in their boxes in the backseat of your coupe.  You open the front door and it still smells like dog.
    Rollo’s food dish, it still sits in the kitchen,  half full with Kibbles and Bits.  Rollo’s water bowl,  it’s still full of water.  And Rollo’s leash still hangs on the hook by the door, but you,  you’re all alone.


    Later that night you‘re hungry. 
    You want pizza,  but not just any pizza. 
    DiGiorno’s pizza. 
    You know the one. 
    The one that’s so good you’ll think it’s delivery. 
    Those yellow caution signs are posted in the frozen food aisle. 
    Wet floor. 
    And you walk,  past frozen peas,  waffles and T.V. dinners.  You make your way past ice cream and frozen entrees.  Then,  there,  behind three doors is the pizza. 
    Four cheese,  pepperoni,  vegetable and sausage. 
    There,  behind those doors,  is supreme and meat lovers. And there,  in the glass you see the reflection of those yellow caution signs. 
    Caution,  they say. 
    Achtung,  they read in German.
    And they’re donned with a picture of a little man slipping and falling and you look around. 
    You look up. 
    You see no cameras. 
    You think of the possibilities.

    The next night you go to the same grocery store and you’ve filled an empty bottle of honey with water. 
    You know the one. 
    The bottle shaped like a bear,  like Poo Bear.  You walk to an empty aisle and you take Poo Bear from your pocket,  squeezing a small puddle onto the floor.
    You walk to the next aisle,  picking out a box of croutons for a salad you’ll never eat. 
    Baco-Bits and Italian dressing. A green pepper and onion. 
    Then,  you walk around the corner,  the puddle waiting. 
    One step.
    Two steps.
    Three steps and…


    The store agrees to a large,  out of court settlement. Your student loans will be paid off. 
    The shiny,  red sports coupe,  it’ll be paid off. 
    Rent for the next six months,  that’ll get paid too. 
    You even think about buying a new cell phone. 
    Maybe an iPhone. 
    You consider an Android.
    The next day is Friday and you know every one at the office is exchanging gifts so you take Boss Hogg’s tie with the golf tees on it back to the store and exchange it for the cash you paid for it. 
    You know the one.
    You return the gifts you bought Dean and Jean.  Return the gifts for Maddie and Jamie. 
    You buy the Android. 
    Merry Christmas.


    It’s one of those days. 
    You know the one. 
    The one when your new cell phone rings while you’re eating the store’s complimentary salad and when you answer the man on the other end says something about being a lawyer.
    It’s the day when you’re going through your stuff in their boxes and he says something about the slip and fall. 
    You know the one.
    He says something about a cell phone video and he says lawsuit.
    And you know…
    It’s going to be one of those days.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Milky Way pecan pie

By Scott Beveridge

BELLE VERNON, Pa. – You can thank my new Droid X by Motorola for this especially rich pecan pie for Thanksgiving dessert.

I turned to the smart phone after realizing yesterday in the syrup section at the local Shop 'n Save that it was out of dark Karo. It was about 2 p.m. The store clerk said to come back after 5 p.m. when a new shipment was due.

As if I was going to make a second trip there on a busy shopping day, especially because motorists outside in the parking lot had been driving as if their heads were under their car seats when I arrived. I mean I witnessed some old guy nearly back over a man walking to his car after a woman nearly crashed into my Ford as she stupidly crisscrossed around traffic.

The recipe in my hand never seemed to produce a pie that tasted right, either, no matter how many times I tweaked it before giving it a rest about 5 years ago. Then I remembered having once seen a pecan pie recipe calling for molasses after noticing a few bottles of that dark stuff on the same store shelf.

So I pulled out the Droid, hopped on the web, found one at SimplyRecipes.com and decided to make it my own by adding and dropping some ingredients for the pie, shown in the photo, above. The killer ingredient would be the Milky Way Simply Caramel Bar. The recipe follows:

8 oz of pecans, chopped
1 cup of light corn syrup
1 Tbsp molasses
2 Tbsp melted butter
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
Dash of salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1.91 oz Milky Way Simply Caramel bar, cut into small chunks

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Form one pie shell into a 9 inch pie dish. Layer the bottom with the pecans and candy bar pieces. Mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl by hand, and then pour the mixture over the pecans. Bake 40-45 minutes, making sure to tent the crust edges with aluminum foil after 20 minutes of baking.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The village of Webster before steel killed its dreams

WEBSTER, Pa. – Few people in my hometown of Webster, Pa., could relate to stories told by local old timers about their memories of the village when it was beautiful before America's Industrial Revolution turned it into an environmental disaster zone.

Well the photograph, above, recently discovered at the nearby Donora Historical Society has finally vindicated those folks who remembered the small southwestern Pennsylvania village along the Monongahela River in its heyday. Their memories were drawn from an era predating the strength of US Steel, which, in 1901, expanded a sprawling steel mill and later built zinc smelters across the Mon in Donora, creating pollution that killed most of the vegetation in Webster and contributed to the infamous smog of 1948.

The photo was taken when residents of the village had planted lush gardens behind clean picket fences, as well as a new Presbyterian church next to a Victorian apartment building. They had big dreams and houses by the river where their children could walk to its shores for a swim. Tree shade was abundant.

Click here to view a larger version of the photo. Click here to read a story written in 1908 by a Webster woman about the history of the town.

(Allow me a day or two to take a photo from a similar vantage point of how things look here today)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A keepsake calendar of the old Mon

CALIFORNIA, Pa. – Nowhere in the Monongahela River Valley is there a more-beautiful vista than from High Point, which overlooks the small southwestern Pennsylvania towns of California and Newell.

It's no wonder the California Area Historical Society chose the old photo, above, to the promote sales of its 2011 calendar. The 19th century image shows half of a horseshoe bend on the Mon, when its hillsides were dominated by farms, and two steamboats provided a hint of what would become of America's Industrial Revolution that forever changed Pittsburgh-area riverbanks.

The calendar features a dozen other frame-worthy photos, including: a saw mill along Lilley Run; coal miners' houses in nearby Daisytown; and Lewis Morgan's first general store in California.

The fundraiser supports the society's museum and genealogy center in an historic house at 429 Wood St. For information, call 724-938-3250.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A display of faith

A visitor pauses before a reproduction of Michelangelo's 1499 Pieta on display at Sen. John Heinz Regional History Center, Pittsburgh (Scott Beveridge photo)

By Scott Beveridge

PITTSBURGH – Artists debated for 20 minutes about how to cast a plaster mold of Pope John Paul II’s hand without dirtying it before his death.
They discussed slipping a thin plastic or light cotton glove over his right hand before slipping it into wet plaster until the pope intervened, said Monsignor Roberto Zagnoli, curator of the “Vatican Splendors: A Journey through Faith and Art” traveling exhibit at Sen. John Heinz History Center, Pittsburgh.

“He said, ‘I might be old, but I still know how to wash my hands by myself,’” said Zagnoli, who also is Vatican curator. 

The October 2002 bronze cast of the pope’s hand is one of the most special artifacts in the display, Zagnoli said, and the last thing visitors see after touring the exhibit of items collected over the centuries by Roman Catholic popes. It’s also the only artifact visitors are permitted to touch among the more than 270 rare works of art and other objects in the exhibit.

The collection, which includes the works of Michelangelo, Bernini and Guercino, is designed to tell the story of Christianity, faith and Jesus over the past 2,000 years. Also on display is a shrine containing the remains of Saints Peter and Paul that has never before left the Vatican.

“I think people will be making pilgrimages here over the holiday season,” said Andy Masich, president and chief executive officer of the History Center.

The tour begins at a walkway to the “tomb of St. Peter,” where objects are displayed that were left behind at his burial site in Rome. The ancient basilica would later be built around the tomb.

“The shrine soon became a place of public worship,” said the Rev. Charles Hilken of St. Mary’s College of California, Moraga, Calif.

Also on display is a crude sixth-or seventh-century reproduction of a gold votive plaque bearing a cross and two large eyes that had been placed on the tomb. Nearby is a cast of a sarcophagus sculpture of Mary holding her child to be venerated by the Wise Men of the East bearing gifts.

“The Roman style of art becomes Christian,” said Hilken, while leading a group of writers through the exhibit before it opened.

A mosaic of St. Peter dating to about 700 hangs from an opposing wall, showing him in the Byzantine style of art with a white beard and hair. He also is depicted with three fingers raised to symbolize the Trinity, Hilken said.

The mood switches to about 1506, when the church began construction of the new basilica, of which Michelangelo was among the architects involved in the building of the shrine over the course of a century.

The focal point here is an exact replica of the artist’s Pieta, a sculpture completed in 1499 showing Mary at the same age as her son, Jesus, when his body was lowered from a cross into her arms.

“It’s the only piece Michelangelo signed,” Hilken said.

The exhibit also includes art showing Christ as Korean, Vietnamese and Chinese as the popes’ taste for art evolved and the church expanded across the globe in the 13th century.

Further ahead is a room lined with large paintings of various popes completed in the 20th century by unidentified Franciscan nuns.

Around the corner Pope John Paul’s portrait hangs above the display of the cast of his right hand, extended as if about to shake the hands of visitors. 

The exhibit at 1212 Smallman St. is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Jan. 9. The exhibit will be closed Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day, and open New Year’s Day.

A crude 6th or 7th century reproduction of a gold votive plaque bearing a cross and two large human eyes that had been placed on the tomb of St. Peter.

(This article first appeared in Living Washington County Nov./Dec. 2010 issue, a publication of the Observer-Reporter.)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The search for US Colored Troops' graves

Jeff Burton of Rankin, Pa., dressed as a Union Army officer from Pittsburgh, goes in search today of the forgotten graves of black men who served in the Civil War and were buried in Allegheny Cemetery. Please scroll down to watch a short video of a re-enactment by the Soldiers and Sailors Museum Drum an Bugle Corps. (Scott Beveridge photo)

By Scott Beveridge

PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Many children of America's Southern slaves were born free blacks before the Civil War, and surprisingly, some grew to volunteer on the side of the Confederacy, a Pittsburgh historian said today.

Those men needed to protect their jobs in a slave-dependent economy as blacksmiths, carpenters, miners and boatmen when the war to end slavery broke out in 1861, said John Brewer, a member of Sen. John Heinz Regional History Center's black advisory council.

"The Confederate negro served on the other side of the mountain," Brewer said at a service to find and honor the graves in historic Allegheny Cemetery of black veterans who served in the war between the states.

It was a dilemma faced by those southern blacks because their "whole world turned upside down" and they needed to make choices for self preservation, Brewer said.

It's possible a number of them relocated to Pittsburgh after President Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves. No doubt some of those black men were also buried in since-forgotten graves in this, the sixth oldest rural cemetery in the United States.

The history center joined with local black veterans groups in a wreath-laying ceremony in the 166-year-old cemetery as part of Pennsylvania-wide efforts to mark the 150th anniversary of the state's role in the war.

Many famous people also were buried in this cemetery once visited by President Ulysses S. Grant, who sat among the Civil War graves and wept, said Andy Masich, the history center's president and chief executive officer.

Industrialists and many Pittsburgh mayors were buried here, as was the godfather of pop music otherwise known as Stephen Foster.

But, the time has come to "honor the forgotten people" who were buried here," Masich said.

This event grew out of efforts by the history center and Pennsylvania's Department of Community and Economic Development and Quest For Freedom project to hold a series of ceremonies over the next four years to mark the war's anniversary, he said.

"The unrecognized role of African American soldiers during the war is an important thing for us to remember," Masich added.

Major Martin Delany was the best-known black veteran of the Civil War to have been buried in the cemetery. Delany was superintendent of the Underground Railroad's western route through Pittsburgh to Canada, and the highest ranking black officer in the war, said Jeff Burton of Rankin, who portrayed the veteran at the service.

It was a challenge for volunteers at the event to locate and mark the 132 graves of known black Civil War veterans who were buried there because so many names had been smoothed over on the small, flat tombstones, Burton said.

While this cemetery at 4734 Butler St. has been well maintained, nearly 100,000 other unmarked, abandoned burial grounds holding the graves of black Civil War veterans have been documented in the United States, said Marlene Bransom of Greene County, a member of the African American Genealogical Society.

Bransom urged members of the small crowed gathered before the massive stone 1937 war memorial overlooking the veterans' graves to get involved in efforts to locate such lost graves to preserve black heritage.

"As historians and preservationists we must not allow this to continue ... so they will know who, what and where we came from," she said. 


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Greeting her admirers on Veterans Day

May Brock, a member of the American Gold Star Mothers, appears today in the Washington County Veterans Day parade in Charleroi, Pa. (Scott Beveridge/Observer-Reporter)

By Scott Beveridge

CHARLEROI, Pa. – May Brock looks a bit like a star of the silver screen as she rides today in a pickup truck bed in the Washington County Veterans Day parade.

Brock's gold-trimmed hat, long white hair, white pant suit, matching gloves and shoes and big dark sunglasses give her the look of an actress. However, she earns her star status for something that is far from glamerous.

The 88-year-old Washington, Pa., woman is featured in the Charleroi parade because her son, Glenn Smith, died in the Korean War. She belongs to the American Gold Star Mothers organization, whose members lost sons or daughters in battle and appear around the country wearing white at memorial events.

Brock brought with her a small plastic replica of Mount Rushmore mounted on an old metal high chair.

"What is that?" I ask between attempts to take her photo for the Observer-Reporter newspaper on a beautiful autumn day as the sun casts long shadows.

"Look," she says, before pressing a red button at the base of the toy, prompting it to play a patriotic song, the melody of which is drowned out by people loudly cheering her along the parade route on McKean Avenue.

"I think they like you," I say.

"I think they do," she replies, wearing a broad smile. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Welcome home

Phone Box, originally uploaded by [Nocturne]. 

By Ryan Mooney

The phone rings. 
No answer.
Still nothing on the third and I begin to feel the panic rise through my stomach into my throat. It rings a fourth time and the knot swells. Shit, she’s not home, I’m thinking, then…
“Hello,” she says.  Two syllables, so simple, so real, so American.  My knees buckle, I catch myself. 
“Hey baby,” I say.
With each step the sidewalk, it lengthens and a few hundred feet feels like a few million miles.
“Hey you! How are you?” the tenor, the love, it resonates through my heart, shaking me to my very foundation.
“I’m good.  It’s hotter than hell here, though," my voice cracks like puberty,  "and I miss you.”
“I miss you too,"  she says,  " What time is it there?”  It’s beyond cute how she always asks this.
“It’s O’ three hundred hours.”
“Three O’clock,"  I can feel the dam holding me back beginning to crack, the river beginning to brim,  "Ha! I’m getting good!”  she says.
I laugh,  almost cry at this,  thinking,  Jesus, I am so crazy in love with you.
“How’s my baby doing?”  I ask taking the first step onto the porch.
“Great. I saw there was heavy fighting in Pakistan. Are you still stationed there?”
The front door is larger than I remember. A dark stained oak with a flowered wreath hanging from a nail.  This wasn’t here two years ago.
Step two onto the porch.
 I notice the faded paint;  chipped away from two years of weather and I find it unbelievably refreshing.
“No. Amer-,"  I slip up,  waiting for her to recognize the waver in my voice,  "-Afghanistan. It’s North of Pakistan.”  My heart is drumming loud in my ears.  I swear a boxer is in there trying to uppercut his way out.
“Oh good”,  she says,  “I was worried.”
Step three.
I pull a small velvet box from my pocket, open it and a small rainbow casts itself across the siding of the house.
“It’s ok,”  I say,  “Nothing to worry about.”  Looking at the diamond, the spectrum fractured into millions of pieces colors the drab browns and tans of my fatigues,  I forget that the door I'm standing in front of is part of my home.
I pick a weed from between the cracks of the porch;  American soil, so beautiful, so free.  Nostalgia coursing through me like a broken faucet.
I ring the doorbell.
“Oh shit.  Someone’s at the door.” she tells me, unaware.
The heavy drumming,  it continues and I’m dizzy with nerves. Trembling, my vision blurs and a wetness forms in the corners of my eyes.
An eternity.
I lower myself.  The reflection in the storm door reveals a man with fuzz covering his face, blue eyes set against a faux-vacation tan and all I can think is, I really should have shaved.
An eon.
This is how long it feels before the door...
It swings open.
I’m on one knee.
Car bombs, land mines, gunfire. The total and utter silence of walking into an abandoned building, weapons trained on nothing, eyes focused on everything and brain expecting anything, is nothing compared to the nerves surging through me right now.
And then, she’s there.
My porch, my house, my yard, my country;  it's all miniscule compared to her brilliance.
The phone drops.  Plastic and wire scatter into the foyer.
The box drops.  Velvet and diamond scatter across the porch.
 American flags, Crackerjacks and Ford's.  Apple pie and baseball.
Standing just beyond the storm door she’s wearing an old shirt of mine.  It’s too big and lazy on her, but it doesn’t matter.  Her brown hair is now a fake red.  And it, too,  doesn’t matter. 
I gasp and forget what I’m about to say.  It still doesn’t matter though, because look at her.  Jesus, take a good, hard look at her.
She's gorgeous. 
She is my Americana.
I remember.
“Will you marry me?”  I ask.
A smile.
A tear.  A flow of tears.
She gasps.
“Oh my God!” she exclaims, throwing open the door, “yes!”
I faint.
Welcome home...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

This history-making flood was not breaking news

The Monongahela River was rising like never before in 1985, spilling into such places as West Brownsville, Pa., above, while many were unaware of the problem until it was too late. Jim McNutt  Observer-Reporter

By Scott Beveridge

It's hard to recall how the word first slipped into the office at the small Monongahela newspaper where I worked 25 years ago the nearby river that shares the city's name was spilling its banks.

But having grown up on along the Mon in nearby Webster, Pa., I was a born-and-raised river watcher and dropped everything at my artist desk at the Daily-Herald as soon as I heard there was a flood and walked two blocks to check the river.

The crowd was growing beside the riverside stage known as the Noble J. Dick Aquatorium, where the river was raging at a speed and running a deep mud color that I had never before witnessed.

I counted down the steps to the stage that mid-afternoon on Nov. 5, 1985, to gauge how fast the water might be rising because I knew I would soon return.

Back at the paper where I produced advertisements, the handful of newsroom workers ignored my anxieties about the river. An hour later I returned to the aquatorium only to be shocked at discovering the river was rising at an unprecedented speed without warning.

In short order the water was rising, too, in the basement of the newspaper offices in the 400  block of West Main Street.

When it reached a step or two away from spilling into the newsroom, I announced my departure while the editor focused on her gossip column and the few reporters hacked away at their computers, otherwise uninterested in the flood.

It took me two hours to make what would have been a 10-minute drive home on a good day. Luckily I managed to get out of Monongahela moments before Pigeon Creek overflowed there onto Route 88.

Every low-lying road leading into Webster was underwater. Not knowing how much higher the river would swell, I parked my 1974 Plymouth Valiant high on a hill and walked to our house situated far enough away from the river that it would make it through the night without damages.

However, at one entrance to the village a pregnant neighbor had gone into labor and was being delivered by rowboat across Webster Hollow Road to an ambulance. All of the houses close to the river were underwater.

It was too late by then for most homeowners to do much to save their belongings. All they could do was wait for the water to recede and begin cleaning up the mess.

The Daily-Herald's coverage of the worst flood on record in the upper and middle Mon River would be sketchy.

Even more pathetic, one of its reporters never left her desk to check on the river and, when she went to leave, found her car submerged under 3 feet of water in the lot across the street from the newspaper.

It should not have come as surprise that the newspaper would close four months later when purchased by the Observer-Reporter.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The flood of all floods

WEST BROWNSVILLE, Pa. – The small borough of West Brownsville, Pa., shown above while under water during the Election Day Flood of 1985, will be featured in a story Sunday in the Observer-Reporter newspaper about the worst flooding in history along the middle and upper reaches of the Monongahela River.

A view of some of 118 barges that broke free of their moorings and piled up above Maxwell Locks and Dam in LaBelle, Fayette County, Pa.