a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Thursday, December 5, 2013

IPA-flavored peanut brittle


IPA peanut brittle with Full Pint Chinookie. (Scott Beveridge photo)

By Scott Beveridge

As someone who loves peanut brittle, I prefer it to be chock-full of peanuts.

And, as an India Pale Ale beer snob, I was immediately attracted to brief in a magazine about a beer brittle sold by Sugar Knife, a small batch artisan candy company that blends whiskey and beer into its concoctions.

Then I bought some of its Stout Daddy peanut brittle and liked it, a lot, but concluded it was too expensive for my taste.

So I turned to Google, found a similar recipe at The Homebrew Chef website, tweaked it a bit in my kitchen and came away with some awesome candy.

Homebrew calls for a hoppy IPA.

The Chinookie label brewed by Full Pint Brewery in North Versailles, Pa., is my favorite local hoppy IPA, and that is my choice for this brittle. It's sold across Pennsylvania and in Ohio and Florida. Today, every craft brewer seems to have an IPA so you shouldn't have any difficulty finding something hoppy to your liking to use as a substitute.

Ingredients

1 1/2 Cups Planters Cocktail peanuts, shaken around in a colander to remove excess salt and peels. 
2 Cups Sugar
1/2 Cup IPA
1/2 tsp Kosher sea salt
1/2 Cup unsalted butter

Directions,

Lightly grease a nonstick baking sheet and set aside.

Roast peanuts on a different baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes and set aside.

In a large saucepan, combine sugar, salt, butter and IPA and heat on a low flame until the sugar is completely dissolved, stirring often with a whisk.

Raise heat to medium low, insert a candy thermometer into the liquid and boil to hard crack stage (300-310 degrees) Remove from heat, stir in peanuts and pour onto greased baking sheet. Cool to room temperature, crack into pieces and store in an air tight container to prevent brittle from becoming sticky.

Yields 2 pounds of brittle

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Creating a holiday tradition with Scottish shortbread



Scottish shortbread from my kitchen

By Scott Beveridge

There wasn’t much time for creating holiday food traditions in our working-class family while I was growing up in the 1960s in the Monongahela River Valley in Pennsylvania.

The daily routine for my parents centered more on how to pay the bills and put dinner on the table rather than ensuring Christmas dining traditions were created or those of our ancestor were honored.

My mother worked full time when most women she knew at the time were 1950s versions of stay-at-home moms. Truth be told, she didn’t like to cook, either, and strived to be a modern woman of her era.

It was time about a decade ago that I decided to create some holiday traditions in my house, and that led me to bake shortbreads. My mom loved this cookie. So I turned to a friend Mary to teach me how to bake cookies. This one only contains five ingredients and it's not that difficult to pull off.

Shortbread is a holiday tradition associated with Christmas in Scotland, and I love its simple, buttery flavor. This shortbread recipe isn't much different than any others that can be found online or in your grandmother's kitchen.

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

Whisk salt into flour and set aside. In another bowl, mix the butter until creamy, add the sugar and beat until smooth; add vanilla. Slowly fold in the flour, shape the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface until it’s about 1/4-inch thick. Use cookie cutters to create shapes and place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, until the cookies turn golden brown around the edges. Cool on wire rack.

This story first appeared in Living Washington County magazine published by the Observer-Reporter.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Have a raw mushroom with that earthy glass of beer

Munchies served at beer tastings at Beaver Brewing Co. (Scott Beveridge photo)
By Scott Beveridge

BEAVER FALLS, Pa. – The food on sample platters spread across the bar at this craft beer brewery include pepperoni, fine cheese, almonds, raw mushrooms, raspberries and one piece of a KitKat chocolate bar.

The munchies have been selected by Dan Woodske, owner of Beaver Brewing Co., who is about to teach four students in his Beaver Falls, Pa., taproom on a chilly October evening how to host his version of a perfect beer and food pairing party at home.

"If you are having a beer tasting at home you (will) know what styles go with each," said Woodske, who offers these classes for $26 per student through the Community College of Beaver County.

"It's a cheap and easy way to entertain a bunch of people at home," he said as he drops a slice of orange on everyone's platter.

And, then everyone fails the first question when he asks what food we would pick to sample with our short glasses of Dogfish Head Punkin Ale, a pumpkin-flavored beer people go wild for as every autumn turns its corner.

I suggest an almond, while others poke around their platters also making the wrong picks.

Most pumpkin beers contain lactose, Woodske said.

"What do you put on top of a pumpkin pie?" he said, before everyone correctly answers, "Whipped cream."

"I think what actually goes good with it is a donut. It actually works."

He's right. A bite of a super sweet, chocolate-covered cream-filled donut actually makes this beer taste better.

Meanwhile, Woodske brews a fine India Porter Ale, which is made from earthy hops, and he pours everyone a sample of it from the tap.

"That's a really earthy beer," he said, suggesting we try it with a mushroom.

It seems to be an odd combination of texture and liquid, yet the flavors surprisingly work together.

There you have a couple samples of his version of this party.

I especially like his Smoky the Beaver lager because it doesn't have an overly smoked flavor. He pairs it with delicious slices of Muenster cheese, while I eagerly anticipate learning which beer we will be eating with chocolate.

The secrets to making these tastings work are knowing the beer, what flavors go into it, and then matching those ingredients to food.

For the beginner, it will take some research on the different beers to select for such a party and some addition thought and experimentation to pair them with the appropriate menu items at home.

Woodske only sells his beer from his brewpub at 1820 Seventh Ave., which is open from 4 to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. He's the only craft brewer within a 45-minute drive in any direction from Beaver Falls. 


Dan Woodske, owner of Beaver Brewing Co. (Scott Beveridge photo)



Monday, September 30, 2013

Smile, these rubber duckies could be yours someday

A family-type reunion photograph of rubber ducks that keep arriving at my house and desk at work. (Scott Beveridge photo)


By Scott Beveridge

People keep asking me why I'm obsessed with the overabundance of rubber duckies that keep piling up around my house and desk at work.

The simple answer is, I'm not any more of a fan of this bathtub toy than anyone else with a fondness for silliness.

I'm just blessed with great friends who like to give me things that make us smile.

And, the duck does that with little or no effort of its own.

This duck thing in my life started after I purchased three of my newsroom colleagues at the Observer-Reporter little rubber ducks dressed as Santa Claus about six years ago just because the gifts were cute and cheap.

Later, I added a few more of the rubber waterbirds to my personal collection and parked them, appropriately, atop the tank to the toilet in my bathroom and posted a photo of the display on Facebook.
The Brett Favre duck

Somewhere along the line a friend, Amanda Gillooly of Pittsburgh, began to purchase me miniature duckies from bubblegum-type machines, including one pretending to be former NFL quarterback Brett Lorenzo Favre and bearing his jersey No. 4 on its breast.

She gave it to me over beers with other friends. Fellow journalist Mike Jones drowned the quacky little Favre in one of several beers on our table and he snapped a photo of it, which ended up on Facebook, too, and probably on Twitter, as well.

The lesson learned here is, be careful of what one shares on social media because those two photos soon unleashed an avalanche of rubber duckies in my direction.

For my birthday this year, I returned home to find my house had been rubber-ducked in my absence by other great friends, Susan Meadway and her sister, Marilyn Bradley. They had been stocking up every rubber duck they could find over the past year at thrift shops to carry out the hilarious prank.

By then, I learned the rubber duck is sold in more shapes and forms than I had ever imagined, ranging from sheep to psychedelic peace-loving hippies.

So there you have it.

It's not about the duck, but everything about the great fortune of havin friendships with those who don't mind behaving once in awhile like kids with big fat smiles on their faces.

And, just so you know, my hefty bag of these things is one day going to be regifted when it's least expected.    

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Seeking baking chaperone to make an apple pie

“But then fall comes, kicking summer out on its treacherous ass as it always does one day sometime after the midpoint of September, it stays awhile like an old friend that you have missed. It settles in the way an old friend will settle into your favorite chair and take out his pipe and light it and then fill the afternoon with stories of places he has been and things he has done since last he saw you.” 
― Stephen King

By Amanda Gillooly

It's officially the second full day of fall, and I already have one item crossed off my seasonal bucket list.

Yes, I have a seasonal bucket list.

It's like, a smaller bucket.

Like so many others, I have the Big Bucket List (visit Ireland, win a Pulitzer, earn a law degree). But sometimes that list can get a little lofty.

Yes, it's prudent to work toward accomplishing big goals. “Go big or go home”-- I get it.

But I also have found that when I'm chasing something big, I hurry through a lot of the details.

And that's where the really good stuff is.

They say 'tis the season for a reason, friends.

Fall is a season of apple cider, zombie movies (or AMC television shows, whatev) and all things pumpkin. It's a season brightened by a tapestry of wildly colored leaves and copious amounts of football (and this year, baseball. Go Bucs!).

There's so much to dig, I made my own Little Bucket List: Fall Edition.

Among the items on the list? Bake an apple pie from scratch, visit this interactive zombie hayride thing my friend told me about the other day, and do stuff with pumpkin.

Gillooly's jack-o'-lantern
On the first full day of autumn, I created stuff with a pumpkin.

After purchasing a nifty carving set from Target, I went to work on the pumpkin, saving the pulp and the seeds (the large gourd I bought—between 14 and 16 pounds-- yielded about a cup).

Since, to me, fall is also the season of cinnamon, I looked for a sweet recipe for roasting pumpkin seeds instead of a savory one.

I found what I wanted at allrecipes.com—and part of its charm was its simplicity (hey, I don't even PRETEND to be handy in the kitchen).

Here's what I did:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Rinse off the pumpkin seeds, dry, and set them aside in a little bowl.
  3. Get ¼ cup sugar (I used Splenda, though, and it turned out perfect) and ½ tablespoon of cinnamon and mix in a small bow.
  4. Melt one tablespoon of butter
  5. Pour the butter into the bowl with your seeds
  6. Pour the seeds onto a baking sheet (you can use parchment paper to line it, if you have it. I didn't and they turned out fine). Make sure they are single-file style: Just one thin layer.
  7. Sprinkle the sugar mix over the seeds and mix them around on the pan so they get an even-ish coating. Bake for 5 minutes.
  8. When the time chimes, take those bad boys out and sprinkle again (and give them a little stir) and return to the over for five more minutes.
  9. And then you repeat step 8.
  10. And then you repeat step 9.
  11. And then you repeat step 10.
  12. Then you take them out, put the remaining amount of sugar mix and returning to the over for 10 more minutes.
  13. Take out. Let cool.
The roasted pumpkin seeds

While I know that there are myriad recipes for delectable pumpkin cookies and cakes, it is well known among those who are my friends that it's not really advisable to allow me to do much serious baking unsupervised (looking for an Apple Pie Baking Chaperone).

So after a little research, I discovered that raw pumpkin is an awesome beauty aid.

Pumpkin facial mask
Instead of doing a mud mask (with the tube of stuff I bought for like, $15), I did one with pumpkin as the base.

This recipe for a DYI facial went like this:

  1. Take your pumpkin and puree it. Put ¼ cup of it in a little bowl. Refrigerate the rest.
  2. Add an egg to your bowl of pumpkin, and whisk.
  3. Add a splash of milk (supposedly the lactic acid in the milk helps with exfoliation), and whisk again.
  4. If your skin tends to be dry, add a little honey to the mix. If your skin tends to be oily, add a splash of cranberry juice. Whisk.
  5. Slather the mixture on your face, avoiding the eyes (obvi). Let is stand for 20 minutes. Rinse.
  6. Feel gorgeous.

Next on my list to conquer? That apple pie. And I wasn't kidding about needing a chaperone.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Writer passes down her grandmother's love of printed words

John Irving's "The World According to Garp" was a life-changer for this Pittsburgh-area journalist.

Books are uniquely portable magic.” - Stephen King

By Amanda Gillooly

My grandmother was particularly proud of her vocabulary.

She often said that while her Depression-era childhood didn't afford her an opportunity to even finish grade school, those circumstances never stopped her from getting an education.
Peg Crowe cuddles Amanda Gillooly

No, Peg Crowe was a lifelong learner – and her teacher of choice was literature.

Gram was the type of woman who kept a Woman's Day magazine on the dining room table and a Louis L'Amour book on her bed stand.

She was never, it seemed, without a book.

“There's always something to learn,” she would tell me. “Read. Read anything.”

Although she never forgot a birthday or holiday, the best gift she ever gave me was a love for reading.

I received the gift of sorts when she found out that my second-grade teacher had placed me in a remedial reading course.

After that, it was on.

Trips to the grocery store became scavenger hunts for words on labels.

I will always remember the Kmart in Moon Township as the first book store I came to know – every weekend she would pick up a L'Amour book and allow me to pick out one to read as well.

And for an hour each night before bed on the weekends we would read.

By the second half of the year, I was no longer a sub-par reader and had been placed in a class with other kids with “normal” skills.

By the time I was in third grade, I was in the advanced reading class.

I eventually grew out of the R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike novels and moved my way into more adult books.

“The Long Walk” by Richard Bauchman and “The World According to Garp” by John Irving were life-changing experiences for me – and were a form of solace during pre-teen years living with a troubled parent in rundown, roach-infested apartments.

To this day I pack too many books on vacation, I have too many piled on my coffee table and I admit I push especially good reads on anyone who isn't familiar with them.

There are several books (think “A Prayer for Owen Meany” and “Different Seasons”) that I seek out in used book stores just so I can give them away to friends who have never read them.

Alas: I've become a book pusher, just like my grandmother.

Just ask my nephew, Nicholas.

At almost 10, he likes to describe himself as a “gamer.”

Hopefully, by the time I'm done with him, he'll change that to “reader.”

Nicholas is in third grade—and much smarter than I ever hoped to be at that age.

His reading and comprehension are just fine (there's nothing remedial about Nicholas), but it bugs the hell out of me that he thinks of reading as a chore, as something you do when you CAN'T play video games.

I want him to seek books out. I want him to have the experience of waiting in anticipation for his favorite author's new book release, and know how it feels to finally check out the cover art on the way home from the store.

At 33, I still do that (In fact, tomorrow marks the release date for Stephen King's new novel, “Dr. Sleep” (a sequel of sorts to “The Shining”).

I am happy to say that Nicholas is getting there.

A few weeks ago, I needed to stop at the venerable Kmart to see if the book section had the second installment of a popular new series I am pretty much addicted to.

While I scanned the titles, I noticed Nicholas pick up a book nearby and read the blurb on the back.

Within a few minutes, he walked up to me and said, “Aunt Mandy, look, they have that book you were telling me about, 'The Lightening Thief.'”

I know a chance when I see one, and I know better than to let one pass me by.

So I said:

“Cool! Here, I'll buy it for you. After you're done reading it, you can give it to me and I will read it, too. Then I will buy you the second one.”

When I visited yesterday, he told me he was more than halfway done with the books.

And he likes it.

Peg Crowe would be proud.

Amanda Gillooly is a Pittsburgh-area freelance writer. The former editor of the Canon-McMillan Patch, Gillooly has also worked as a reporter with the Observer-Reporter, the Beaver County Times, the Valley Independent and the Innocence Institute of Point Park University. Her work has also been seen in the Tribune Review and the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Come in, grab a beer and go home with a growler

As many as 11 beers are featured on the taps at Full Pint Brewing near Pittsburgh. (Scott Beveridge photo)


By Scott Beveridge

NORTH VERSAILLES, Pa. – With Halloween approaching, fans of a Pittsburgh-area brewery are “getting stoked” about its label featuring a zombie whose skin is turning blue while clutching a brown bottle of beer.

Preorders were already huge in late August for Full Pint Brewing Co.’s Night of the Living Stout, a label inspired by the classic 1968 horror movie of a similar name filmed in and around Pittsburgh.

“It’s crunch time,” said Jake Kristophel, head brewer at the business along Route 30 in Westmoreland County near North Versailles Township.

The brew pub opened in 2009 as a collaborative effort of four men who worked in the beer business and decided to partner their skills at Full Pint, which has grown since its founding to produce nearly 8,000 barrels a year.

“We all worked in little brew pubs and decided to come together,” Kristophel said.

In a marketing move some are calling brilliant, the brewery launched a new label in August named “Pittsburgh Dad,” whose online sitcom featuring a blue-collar father with a heavy “yinzer” accent has made him a local celebrity.

“He actually came to us and asked,” Kristophel said, adding the actor otherwise known as Curt Wootton now has his photo on the label of a Full Pint Kolsch, a German-style golden stout.

“He wanted something on the lighter side,” Kristophel said.---- This business with a barroom and production house is tucked away off a short alley at 1963 Lincoln Highway.

On an afternoon in mid-August, Kristophel is “mashing out” the spent grain from a stainless-steel brew tank to separate the wort, which becomes beer during fermentation.

Three employees are nearby, bottling and casing brew for the market on the company’s one production line. It takes them an hour to fill a palate and three hours to cap 15 barrels, said Desiree Siroisi, who also handles the restaurant’s food preparation.

Small independent craft beer brewers are known for giving their beers offensive names, and that extends to the menu at Full Pint. For example, a ham and provolone panini is named the “Hot Dago,” a term some Italians consider derogatory.

Kristophel said he learned the art of making beer while working under a head brewer at a different pub.

“I brewed one batch of home brew and really enjoyed it, so I begged the head brewer to teach me, and that was it.”

Another popular beer brewed here is Chinookie, made from hops of the same name grown in the Pacific Northwest, which give the brew a hint of a grapefruit taste.

“It’s just the character of the hop,” Kristophel said.---- The Wet Hop variety of Chinookie sees an infusion of fresh hops after fermentation to bump up its rich, heavy flavor.

“I think people want something that tastes good. It’s hard to stay loyal to one thing because there are so many choices out there,” Kristophel said.

Full Pint can be purchased across Pennsylvania, in Ohio and Florida, a state with many Pittsburgh transplants and Steelers bars. The company hopes to expand and relocate to a larger building closer to Pittsburgh.

The pub, which offers as many as 11 different taps, is open from 5 to 9 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 5 to 11 p.m. Thursday and Friday and noon to 11 Saturday. The hours are subject to change if the bar is empty after 9 p.m.

“Come in, get a beer, some food and a tour and go home with a growler or six pack,” Kristophel said.

Jake Kristophel, head brewer at Full Pint Brewing Co. near Pittsburgh, mashes out a tank while visitors enjoys beer in the adjoining brewpub. (Scott Beveridge photo)


(This story first appeared in the Observer-Reporter's Living Washington County magazine)

Monday, September 9, 2013

Camping in-style in South Jersey

The rustic cabin where I spent four nights vacationing this summer outside of my comfort zone. (Scott Beveridge photo)


By Scott Beveridge

CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE, NJ – A party of at least nine people and their yapping dog moved in next door into an identically-small wooden cabin designed to sleep four where I spent the first week of September just north of Cape May, NJ.

Thankfully, this large group arrived about the same time I would check out of the otherwise quiet Ponderosa Campground in Cape May Court House, wondering how they would all fit in that pine box smaller than your average motel room.

I couldn't help but notice the bumper sticker on their vehicle, either, which read, "Worry about your own damned family."

"They must get a lot of dirty looks," a friend replied via text message after I mentioned this discovery that Friday on my smartphone.

Yes. I stepped outside of my comfort zone for this summer vacation by choosing to bed down in a campground. I mean you're reading about a guy who prefers a clean hotel room, crisp sheets and a great view when he travels.

However, at $40 a night during the off-season along the South Jersey Shore, a cabin here with a bathroom with a shower, a small refrigerator and air-conditioning called my penny-pinching name.

And, other than it having an air-conditioner that made a racket and occasionally spit pellets of frozen condensation, the place was comfortable. It was especially quiet, too, that Monday through Friday after most tourists and beachcombers here had already headed north for the approaching winter.

This campground also was less than a 15-minute drive to my destination of Cape May, NJ, America's oldest resort town discovered by Henry Hudson in 1609, and later explored by Cornelius Jacobsen Mey for the Dutch West India Co.

Cape May is a gorgeous town boasting many rows of pretty, meticulously-restored Victorian-era houses, whose gingerbread adornments provide a great opportunity for a good house painter to never go without work.

But, this place is a tourist trap that appears to draw mostly white people with deep pockets who like to purchase over-priced merchandise in shops by the sea. 

I also found the locals in the towns up and down these beaches to be a bit snobby, similar to old-school Bostonians.

Yet, the area is worthy of a visit for the relaxation and beaches it offers, and, if, for no other reason, than to sample the Centennial India Pale Ale brewed by the 2-year-old Cape May Brewing Co.


An elegant painted lady along Stockton Avenue, one of the most-beautiful streets to be found in Cape May, NJ. (Scott Beveridge photo)

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Baked ham and eggs on portobello with asiago

Baked ham and eggs on portobello with asiago (Scott Beveridge photo)
By Scott Beveridge

Baked eggs were a thing while I was growing up in the 1960s and then they disappeared from our diet.

Maybe it was because they were boring, served hot without any other sources of flavor in a baked-egg bowl after it sat in an oven for about 15 minutes. 

Flash forward and the baked egg has returned, reinvented and dripping hot with other ingredients.

There are baked eggs with spinach and bacon cooked in hollowed out russet potatoes, baked eggs in cups in ham cups and baked eggs in bread slices.

The other day I noticed a Facebook post about eggs baked in portobello mushrooms, decided to give that a try today and thought the end result made for a delicious late Sunday brunch.

The most time consuming step in this simple recipe is cleaning the mushrooms.

Ingredients

4 portobello mushrooms
4 large eggs
1/4 cup grated soft asiago cheese
4 thins slices of a good deli ham
olive oil, enough to coat mushrooms
salt and pepper to taste
2 pinches parsley flakes

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Remove stems from mushrooms, use a spoon to scoop out their gills and brush off as much dirt as possible from the tops. Do not run under water. Use hands to coat both sides of the mushrooms with olive oil, dust with salt and pepper and place them stem-side down on a baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Turn mushrooms over, nestle a slice of ham into bowl, top that with raw egg trying to not break the yolk and sprinkle with more salt and pepper and some parsley. Return to the oven for about 20 minutes. Meaty mushrooms may require a longer baking time.

Sprinkle cheese on top while they are still warm and ready to eat.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

A little fairy tale house

The new Storybook House in the Bookworm Glen at Pittsburgh Botanic Garden. (Photo courtesy of the garden)
OAKDALE, Pa. - A new miniature house on fieldstone at Pittsburgh Botanic Garden is rather cute.

It will house oversized laminated fairy tale books in the Oakdale, Pa., park's Bookworm Glen.

The garden in development completed the building in time for 500 children due to visit in late July and early August to hear retired schoolteachers read such stories, said Kitty Vagley, its executive director.

"I could not resist sharing this photo of our latest addition to the Eastern European Woodlands," Vagley said.

Pittsburgh is lucky to finally have its first open-air public gardent.

In 1998 it signed a 99-year lease with Allegheny County for this property along Pinkerton Road near Settler’s Cabin Park to transform 460 acres into the nation’s first public garden on an abandoned mine site. A year later, the group invested $200,000 in the plan and would eventually earn a $5 million state grant to redevelop the site.

It's home to a rare meadow where hundreds of dogwood trees grow, and no one is quite sure how they got there.

Not only have these trees survived coal mining and natural gas drilling, but they also warded off a fungus that has killed many of their like in Southwestern Pennsylvania, said Jerry Andres, a volunteer who cares from them.

“Our dogwoods seem to be perfectly healthy,” Vagley told the Observer-Reporter this summer. “That is what Mother Nature did for us. What was not unusual 30, 40 years ago is very rare today.”

The garden is open at this time only for special events and periodic “peek and preview tours” led by guides along the Woodland Garden trails. For more information, call 412-444-4464.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Family WWII history declassified, discovered in an email from France

The same plane in which my uncle would survive a crash during World War II lands next to a Flying Tiger during one of his Flying the Hump missions to China.


By Scott Beveridge

The wind was calm with clear visibility when a C-46 U.S. Army Air Forces plane left Mohanbari Airport in India Aug. 4, 1944, destined to deliver gasoline to China to assist in its defenses against Japanese invaders during World War II.

Air command immediately lost radio contact with the pilot after giving takeoff clearance to the cargo plane also carrying Pfc. Thomas L. Beveridge of Charleroi, Pa., and two other crew members en route to yet another dangerous mission to fly 500 miles over the Himalayan Mountains and on to Chenyi.

Thomas L. Beveridge
It would take four days for the pilot, John D. Akers of Webster Grove, Mo., to carve his way out of the jungle to safety after parachuting from the aircraft to reveal the plane had caught fire and crashed.

And, it took yet another 24 hours for Beveridge, who served on the plane as a radioman, and the crew chief, Edward R. Cronk of East Orange, N.J., to return to civilization and report their copilot had lost his life, according to the official military report on the crash marked “secret” and declassified in 1973.

Thomas Beveridge was the younger brother of my father, James, who had many unanswered questions about this plane crash before he died in 2007 at age 84.

His kid brother would need to be coaxed to talk about the plane crash, and he revealed only some glossed-over details to relatives before he died in 1989 at age 64 in La Mirada, Calif., where he made his home and raised two children after being discharged from the military.

My father even went as far as to place a Freedom of Information request to the Army a few years before he died seeking the crash report, only to be informed it was destroyed in a fire at a military records warehouse.

Eventually, Brewenn Chausset, an avid collector of War II memorabilia in France, located the crash report at the U.S. National Archives after finding the name of 2nd Lt. Frederick E. Brownewell Jr. on a laundry stamp inside a service hat he acquired that once belonged to the officer killed in the incident.

Chausset, after finding photos I had posted on the Web of my uncle, sent me an email in January seeking help in searching for additional information about Brownewell to add to his collection. He also passed along the report and photos of the plane taken before it crashed.

His inquiry, though, did more to solve some mysteries of my childhood hero and uncle about his service in the China-Burma-India Theater, which was considered among the most dangerous places to be in the war.

Thomas Beveridge, who grew up with a fascination for airplanes and had many models of them hand-built and strung from the ceiling of his bedroom, lied about his age to enlist in the Army before his 18th birthday to follow my father into the war.

Standing 5 feet 9 1/2 inches tall and weighing just 138 pounds, the younger Beveridge was a perfect fit for “flying the Hump.” His small frame would have allowed a plane to carry more supplies President Franklin D. Roosevelt promised Chinese ruler Chiang Kai-shek after Japanese forces overran Burma in 1942, closing the ground supply line to Western China and leaving air travel as the only option.

In summer 1943, thousands of planes crossed from India to China, delivering nearly 3,000 tons of supplies to Chiang Kai-shek. By the time this service ended in 1945, there were more than 1,000 Hump fliers listed as dead from crashes or missing in action, according to the 2003 book, “The Burma Road,” by Donovan Webster. These flights in thin air over the mountain ranges, Webster wrote, were met with freak winds of up to 248 mph, turbulence that would flip over planes and sometimes cause them to suddenly drop thousands of feet within a minute.

In the 11 months Beveridge “flew the Hump” in 1944, ending in November of that year, he completed 97 round-trip flights, according to a brief mention of him in the 1998 book, “China Burma India, Where I Came In, Vol. II,” by Robert James Kadel.

Once on the ground following the crash, he met up with Cronk and they returned to the crash site to discover their dead comrade.---- They found themselves in steep terrain with leech-infested swamps and seemingly endless bamboo thicket, Webster noted in his book, and with nothing more than one ant-covered chocolate bar to eat. Beveridge dropped 18 pounds, his war records show, while he and Cronk used their machetes to carve a path to a stream and followed its direction to a friendly air command base.

An Army air jungle rescue unit consisting of one officer and three enlisted men who volunteered for the mission set out three months after the crash in search of the missing plane and copilot, along with eight natives to assist them in the journey. It took them five days to cut their way through the jungle and reach the crash site, the military report shows.

They found the plane on its side, missing a wing and engine that likely “burned on contact with gasoline drums exploding,” Intelligence officer and 2nd Lt. of the Air Corps Donald B. Kelly noted in the report.

The bones of one man were found near the rear door of the inside cabin, along with melted silver believed to have once been his flight wings. They buried the remains with military honors Nov. 17, 1944, with a cross marked “unknown soldier,” while also destroying confidential matter and using .45-caliber slugs to destroy the plane’s transponder. The Army would use his false teeth to eventually positively identify the remains as those of Brownewell.

Meanwhile, Beveridge went home, saving the ripcord to his parachute that helped to save his life.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Monongahela Cemetery turns 150 with music



MONONGAHELA, Pa. – You don't often get a chance see a band performing in a graveyard.

And not every city has one as beautiful as historic Monongahela Cemetery, which celebrated it's 150th anniversary today with a performance by Too Many Tubas.

The band based in Finleyville and made up of musicians from across Southwestern Pennsylvania performs "Gettysburg" under the direction of Rich Pantaleo, a former music teacher in the Ringgold School District.

Oddly enough, the cemetery is holding a picnic tomorrow to honor the past when families actually packed lunches and spent the day in the cemetery off Route 88 in Monongahela.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

This photo sparks a memory of a great family physician

             (Photo from the Kenneth Weight collection at Charleroi AREA Historical Society, Inc.)

By Scott Beveridge

CHARLEROI, Pa. – It wasn't the cool 1964 Mercury Comet that leaped from this old photograph taken decades ago in the town where I was born, but, rather, the top name on the door of the building in the background.

This address at 520 McKean Ave. in Charleroi, Pa., was the practice of our beloved family physician, Dr. Eugene E. Costa, the guy who welcomed me into this world at the local hospital's deliver room in 1956.

I remember him fondly, though, for his blunt bedside manner.

A typical office visit would begin with my complaining about pain in my joints.

He usually replied with the question, "How much coffee are you drinking?"

"Probably too much," I'd reply.

He'd tell me to cut back on the caffeine before asking if I was still smoking cigarettes.

"No, I gave them up in 1980."

Then he'd inform me that I was eating too much rich food.

"Really?"

"Well," I remember his saying next. "You are fatter than you were the last time you were here. You have the hives again."

He was right. He always was right. He gave me an injection of something and a prescription and in a few days I was myself again.

The last time I visited Dr. Costa was in the mid 1990s, when the health-care industry really began its so-called "revolution" long before Obamacare would become a dirty word among this president's advisaries.

He told me back then my health-care provider no longer accepted him as a participant in my plan and I'd have to seek out an insurance "approved" physician. Maybe it was something about his age. I'm not sure.

"So you are retiring?" I asked, disappointed at his announcement.

"You retire from a job. You don't retire from a profession," he said.

He kept his office open for several more years before hanging up his white coat.

And, for the next decade, it seemed as if everyone I knew was complaining about rude, overworked staffs at their doctors' offices and being treated there as if they were part of a cattle call hurried through the necessary steps to get a diagnosis or a prescription refill.

Dr. Costa was the kind of physician who knew and seemed to care about his patients, and they didn't have to first show proof of medical insurance before reaching his exam room. His fee was affordable.

 I miss him.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Harry's, a razor worthy of praise

Harry's delivers a month's worth of great shaves at affordable price. (Scott Beveridge photo) 

By Scott Beveridge

Lately I have been finding all kinds of excuses to avoid shopping in big-box stores.

It's not the stores themselves, or the mostly Chinese products they stock, but it's the rude and inconsiderate shoppers they attract that annoy me the most.

You know who you are; the lazy ones who leave their empty shopping carts in the stall where they parked their SUVs or people who block the isles with their unruly kids and belongings while they gab away or stare too long at the toilet paper selection.

When I am there I catch myself with clenched fists mumbling expletives under my breath until returning to the peace within my Ford sedan.

One of the ways to avoid this frustration, as most shoppers know, is to pay more for your groceries and household supplies at competing stores.

And, then there are such innovative companies as Harry's, which make the online shopping experience fun, affordable and, thankfully, rewarding.

I stumbled on the company selling stylish razors last month while reading the briefs in a GQ magazine.

It credits Harry's products to the same group of friends who gave the world Warby Parker, a company supplying botique eyeglasses at highly competitive prices.

Intrigued by what I had read in the magazine, I went to Harry's website and ordered a shaving kit known as The Truman with a white handle to match my bathroom. For $15, it provides a month's worth of shaves, and arrives in a stylish package delivered free of charge at my local post office. Better yet, you can sign up for automatic delivery of its German-engineered blades, which cost just $1.88 apiece if you buy eight at a time.

Seriously, this is the best razor I have used in my entire shaving life. I mean this razor cuts so close it almost feels as if it might remove a thin layer of skin along with the facial stubble, and it requires a steady hand and concentration. One blade gave me eight clean shaves, and it probably could have delivered more of them by the time I opted to replace the blades.

And then, you get a followup email from a company representative promising to help deliver to you all your shaving needs, an employee who doesn't come off as a robot at a computer and even politely returns your emails.

Best of all, I actually now look forward to shaving and feel better, too, knowing I'm helping to reduce fossile fuel and taking one small step to save the post office.

(Note: This blog does not accept invitations to write about or endorse products. It just occasionally publishes this sort stuff about things worthy of praise, such as Sour Patch Extreme Soft & Chewy Candy.)



Sunday, April 28, 2013

Nice guy Musial a no-show in "42"


An illustration created when a bridge was renamed after baseball legend Stan "the Man" Musial in his Donora hometown. (credit: Badzik Printing)

By Scott Beveridge

DONORA – The venerable Donora Mayor John Lignelli asked me the other day if Stan "the Man" Musial was mentioned in the new movie "42" about Jackie Robinson and the racism he experienced after becoming the first black man to play Major League Baseball.

I replied to the 91-year-old mayor by saying the movie was really good, but that Musial, a native of Donora who played 22 seasons for the St. Louis Cardinals, didn't show up in the movie.

Disappointed, Lignelli said Musial should have been mentioned in the movie as being among the first white ballplayers to endorse Robinson after Robinson broke the color barrier when he debuted in 1947 for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

As it turns out actor David Stanbra had been cast in the roll of Musial, however, his scenes ended up on the editing room floor to shorten the film, the actor stated on his Facebook page.

That's a shame, even though there are differing versions of the story about the day Robinson, a first baseman from a sharecropping family in Cairo, Ga., made his initial appearance on the baseball diamond in St. Louis.

It has often been written that Musial refused to join his teammates in their threats to refuse to play on the same field with Robinson, although, Musial would deny such a strike was ever considered before he died Jan. 19 at age 92.

Often remembered as the nicest man to have ever played baseball and one to have avoided controversies and scandals, it's easy to conclude that Musial mostly stayed out the debate and possibly could have done more to encourage integration in baseball.

He's often been quoted as having said he didn't like "rough and racist" talk in the clubhouse and did earn Robinson's respect.

Lignelli, who developed a long friendship with Musial, said the ballplayer became a "regular guy," while playing sports as a youth in the Mon Valley steel town alongside black children, including Buddy Griffey, the father and grandfather of baseball greats Ken Griffey Sr. and Ken Griffey Jr.

The color of a man's skin "didn't make a difference to him," Lignelli said.

The movie "42" released April 12 has met with mixed reviews and criticism from some uber baseball fans who feel it didn't bring anything new to light about Robinson.

For a fan, like me, who went to the theater without much knowledge about Robinson, it came as somewhat of a shock to hear so, so many racial slurs directed at him on the playing field, especially the verbal abuse lodged by Phillies manager Ben Chapman.

That, in itself, was enough to cause me embarrassment to belong to the same race as Chapman.