Prev 1 2 3 4 5 Next

Where We Left Off


I think I finished on the last tape that you had started school in 1950 at the Transfiguration School in Monongahela, Pa. You and I were very close when you were a little boy. Anywhere I went, you wanted to go, and in most cases, you went. We had a happy atmosphere at home. Monongahela


I remember one time when I was quite concerned, for a short while, anyway. I had come home and your mother said that I had to have a talk with you. When I questioned her about what, she said that she had told you that you had to tell me, and that she would not tell me. Obviously, you had been bad, and you needed a firm, father's hand.

So you weren't present at the time, but some time after that you were present, and I said something to the effect that your mother said you had something to tell me. You came and stood in front of me, put your head down, shuffled your feet a little bit, obviously having trouble getting anything out. I suggested that perhaps it would be easier if we walked outside; you agreed it would. So we went outside, but you were still not able to bring yourself to tell me whatever the problem was. Now the more you waited, the more I was concerned. I must admit my mind what going wild trying to figure out what in the world has this kid done? So finally I took your hand, and we started walking up the back yard towards the apple tree. We got about half way up, and you turned to me and said, "Daddy, I was smoking today." I was so relieved, I almost gave you a cigar.

Of course, I gave you a lecture, and I learned that one of your playmates up at the playground had a cigarette or part of a cigarette and lit it. You had taken a drag or two, and of course your brother Tommy was right there and came running home to tell mother.

Dad: That isn't quite the way I remember it. It was not Tommy who told, it was some other kid.

A bunch of us were playing near the playground, and we saw a `big kid' smoking a cigarette. He threw it down on the ground and walked away. Of course, we all ran to where it lay, and I remember a circle of little boys standing in a circle, looking down at this cigarette smoldering on the dirt. Well, the inevitable happened. I don't remember which one started it, but some one picked it up, took a puff, and we passed it around. One of the little boys ran home and told his mother.

I thought that Tommy and I both got into trouble, and I would swear that you gave each of us a cigarette that we had to smoke completely - I guess on the hopes that we would get sick.

Dad replied: "No Way!" but Tom and I both remember it that way.



Thinking about that incident reminds me of another one that I have always been amused. Perhaps you remember it, I am sure you have heard of it. This happened a few years earlier when we were in Springdale. At that time, I was working from early morning to late at night. I came home this one Friday night, and again your mother said that I was to have a talk with you. This time it wasn't anything bad, but she wanted you to tell me. You had already gone to bed that evening, so we had to wait until the next morning.

The next morning, I was having coffee Saturday morning. You came down, and I again told you that your mother had something to say to me. That's when you asked me "What do you say when an alarm starts to ring?" And I said, "Well, you say the alarm went off." Then you looked at me and said, "But you have to turn it off." And I thought, "Boy, the workings of a kid's mind." I could just see the wheels going around, saying "How can the alarm be going off, when I shut it off to stop it." From that time on, the alarm never went off in our home, it went on.



Well, anyway, back to Monongahela. I remember the first day that you went to school. I drove you down Main Street, and turned up the side street. I think it was seventh, maybe sixth. You had your little lunch box and I stopped on that side street. I think it was the corner of Chess and Sixth. And the entrance of the school was in the middle of the block. There were some little boys standing on the sidewalk. As you got out of the car I said, "Do you want me to walk down there with you?" and you just shook your head no. It was obvious that you didn't want any part of your father around when you met your new school mates. So I watched with a lump in my throat as you walked away from the car.

I was to learn this was really a turning point in our relationship. Up until that time, you would have left anyone to go with your Dad. But when you started school, ... well, maybe you will understand if I put it this way. It was some time later, several weeks later, that I was going down Chess Street just about the time that the kids were getting out of school from Transfiguration. So I stopped across the street and watched as you came out with your lunch box in one hand, and your papers in the other, talking with your buddies. So I called to you, and I said, "Do you want to ride home with me?" and you hesitated for a moment, turned to look at your friends, and you said, "No, I'll go back on the street car." That was the beginning of the end.

Dad: I remember that time very well. It seems that we have talked about this, but let me say it again here.

Next to the school was a little park. Actually, it was a single block with a fountain in the center and side walks that went around the block like normal, but also it had two side walks that went diagonally through the park. In the center was the fountain, and around that fountain was a curb to contain the water. Around the fountain was a cement area, enclosed by a small wall was built which was probably some ten feet or so away. The wall had four openings for the diagonal side walks which converged at this concrete area. Our street car stop was at the far corner of this block, and so we kids would go through the park, and of course, play around the fountain for a while before going to the street car stop.

The wall was peaked in a triangular shape on top, and we used to straddle the top of the wall, pretending that we were cowboys riding horses. In fact, the ultimate in fashion was if you had a book bag that your could put behind you to look like a saddle bag on the back of your `horse.' This was the highlight of my trip home from school each day.

As you mentioned, you were right across the street from the school, which means that you called to me before we had gone down to the fountain area. I remember you calling to me and asking if I wanted to ride home with you, and I remember wanting to go with you, but then thinking about the fun time I had been looking forward to riding the wall, and so I said no. I am sure that if you had met me on the other corner of the park, after the fountain, I would have gone home with you.

Don't misunderstand me, there was nothing wrong with what was happening. It was a natural thing, but as I think back, I feel that this was the turning point.



We were to live in Monongahela from 1949 to 1953, and that house itself left much to be desired: you remember we had a coal furnace, and the only way we could get coal would be to have the truck bring it through the playground at the top of the hill and bring it down the yard to the outside of the house. They couldn't even get the truck into position so that they could put the coal into the cellar. If the ground was wet, you couldn't get the truck across the playground.

I remember one incident when it was late in February, and I was about out of coal. I felt that if I had about a ton, that I would be able to make it through the rest of the winter. So I went down town and rented a _ ton trailer and hooked it onto my 1946 Chevy which I bought while we were in Monongahela; it was the first car after the war. I went over to Forward Township across the river and got a load of coal; I probably had about a ton on it. I delivered it myself.

When I got to the top of the hill ... I am assuming that you remember Monongahela: the playground, there was a rather steep grade down from the gate to the house. It was about 150 feet. Well, it was late in the afternoon, and I stood at the top trying to figure out if I should take the car down with a load of coal, or dump the coal there and then carry it down. I knew I wasn't proficient enough with the trailer to back down the hill, so I decided that I would take a chance and drive down. I did drive down, and drove down in such a way so that I could make a wide swing to the left so I could actually turn the trailer and the car around so I could back the trailer up against the house. By this time the grass was kind of damp, and I didn't have enough traction.

The final result was that I had to disconnect the trailer from the back of the car and that's when I found how much the trailer weighed. In any case, I had to shovel it from the trailer onto the ground, and then from the ground in to the cellar through the cellar window. Now, I reattached the trailer to the rear bumper and found that I couldn't get enough traction on the grass to pull the trailer up that 150 feet of hill. So I went in the house and got to thinking, well it's $3 a day, that would be $90 a month just to keep the trailer in the back yard. So after giving it some consideration, I decided that I could get it out by hand. I certainly couldn't pull it out, it was much too heavy for that. I doubt that you remember this, but you helped me get it out, you and your mother. I finally decided that I had figured a way to get the trailer out.

The tongue of the trailer was headed down the hill, and I got two bricks and gave you one and your mother one. I positioned both of you at either end of each wheel of the trailer; your mother was at the right wheel, and you were at the left. So I asked your mother to put the brick I had given her against and behind the right wheel. Then by pushing the tongue of the wagon to the right, this caused the left wheel to move forward. Then I asked you to put the brick behind and against the left wheel, then I moved the tongue to the right, which caused the right wheel to move forward. By repeating this process for 150 feet until we literally walked the trailer out of the yard. Quite frankly, I was quite proud at having figured out that problem.



Another time comes to mind. I happened to be at the office and got a phone call. It was your mother. She said that you had been playing West Penn line man in the back yard, and you had pulled your wagon up to a clothes post. You had the wagon wheels turned at right angles to the body of the wagon. When you stood on the wagon, supposedly to climb the pole, it had tipped, causing you to fall face down on the grass and a stalk of one of the pieces of grass was embedded in one of your eyes. I think it was the left eye. She had also called Dr. Hughes and because it was Wednesday, it was his day off, but she had reached him at home, and I was asked to come home and take you to his office where he would meet us.

I did that of course, and when I got there, you were sitting at the kitchen table with no bandage on. Your mother had given you a first aid book to look at, and she had done this deliberately, reasoning that this would discourage blinking and rubbing your eye. In any case, I got you down to Hughes and he said he was afraid to touch it because there was no way of knowing how deep the wound was, or what direction the stalk had gone after it had penetrated the eye, so he called a Dr. Gemmel of the Monnesson hospital. Actually, it was an Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat specialty place. It was his day off, but he had made arrangements to meet me at his office. So I drove you over to Monnesson.

We got there before the doctor did, but he arrived in just a few minutes. He seated me in the chair, and you on my lap. He examined the eye, put some drops in and went away and waited for 10 or 15 minutes. He came in, put some more drops in, etc. After a few minutes, he took a pair of tweezers and just plucked this stem of grass. Fortunately, it had embedded only less than 1/8", but of course there was no way to know that until it was removed. So he put a bandage on and suggested that I bring you back Saturday.

I asked him if he wanted me to pay him now or wait until Saturday, and he just referred me to `his girl'. The girl said I could pay her, and when I asked her how much it was, she said $5. This was quite a shock of course. So anyway, you had a patch on your eye, and I was so proud of you that you hadn't even shed a tear except for the normal tear flow from the injury itself. You had wanted a pair of combat boots, so I decided that was a good day to get them for you.

Dad: I seem to remember the doctor saying that if the grass had gone in just a little bit more I could have been blind in that eye.

I took you back on Saturday. Dr. Gemmel looked at the eye once more and declared you cured. I went up to the girl this time and it was $3. So far, this had cost me $8, which is unheard of really, particularly on a doctor's day off.

It was about a month later when I happened to be coming out of the West Penn office, and I noticed Dr. Hughes coming out of his office which was directly across the street. So I called to him and went over and told him that I hadn't received his bill. He acted surprised and asked me what bill. I said, well, for the treatment he had given you, and he said that he hadn't done anything, but that Dr. Gemmel had done something. I suggested that actually it had happened on his day off, and the very least I should owe him was an office visit. He just laughed and said he had kids of his own, and mark it up to experience.

... griping about the medical, I can't help but think of those two experiences that I had. Of course, they were not alone, I had others.



Another one involved you right at your birth. I don't know if I mentioned this before, but Dr. Boadway was your mother's doctor. In fact, he had retired when we were out in Ardmore, but someone recommended him. Your mother called him, and he said that he wasn't taking any more cases, but your mother was very insistent. After considerable bickering, he broke down and accepted her as a patient. But when you were ready to be delivered, Dr. Bodway was out of town, and a Dr. Veasely was filling in for him. He was the one who did the delivery. When I went to discuss that bill with Dr. Bodway, I asked him if we were expected to pay him, Dr. Bodway, or Dr. Veasely direct. Dr. Bodway said, Dr. Veasely was the man, pay him. Then he said, "How much did he charge you?" and I said $35. "Well," he said, "you saved $15, because if I had been here, I would have charged you $50." And that included ... I guess we could say today that you were a cheap baby.



In the summer of 1953, I was rather actively looking for something in Greensburg. I was saddled with the same thing, I couldn't afford to buy, so I was looking for a place to rent, and I had three kids and a dog. If you remember, we had Duffy then.

One day, I stopped at the Y in Pittsburgh for lunch. I was looking for a place to sit, and I ran into two West Penn associates of mine, John Umstead and Ernie Warnick. They motioned for me to join them, and they were talking about Greensburg. They had both moved to Greensburg. So I made the comment that I expected to have some trouble because I needed to find a place to rent, and I knew that they weren't too plentiful.

So John Umstead mentioned that he had a fellow working for him that was just talking about a rental that was owned by some relative of his. He wasn't sure what relation, but the man was Walter Hines. He suggested that after lunch we could go down and talk to him. I went up and talked to Walter, and he referred me to a girl named Sally Irwin, who was one of our telephone operators. He told me that it was Sally's aunt that lived in the house, but it actually was owned by a cousin. So he made arrangements to have the telephone operator stop and see me on her next break.

Well, in my mind I had decided that I would like to find a place north of Greensburg in the triangle that was described by 119, 66, and 22. Well, when Sally Irwin came down and told me about the place, she said that her aunt, a Mrs. Easha, were living in a house that was owned by a Mr. and Mrs. Paxton. So, she told me that I could use her name if I like, and gave me directions. I immediately called my boss, Ken Gearing, and told him I was taking the afternoon off, driving to Greensburg, and checking into this house.

Well, I followed the directions and that took me to Paxfield Farm. And how well I remember, I pulled my car up to the area in front of the barn and there were two people around, including one good sized man with a plaid shirt, who turned out to be Mr. Paxton. I introduced myself, apologized for not calling for an appointment, but he assured me it was all right. To put it into his words, he said, "Take me up to the house, and I'll let Ginny show you, because she knows more about it than I."

So we went up, and Ginny, Mrs. Paxton, was baking a cake. Again I apologized for coming in without an appointment. They both assured me that it was all right, and she said when she was finished with the cake, she would take me down and show me the house. Mr. Paxton brushed her aside and said he would take care of the cake, and to get going. So I drove Mrs. Paxton down, I was introduced to Mr. and Mrs. Easha, ushered into the house, and looked around. Of course, I wasn't caring too much, the location was fine, in fact the location was ideal.

Mrs. Paxton explained that Mr. Easha was about to retire, and they wanted to buy a house, before they retired, closer to Pittsburgh. So this house was going to be vacant, but it wouldn't be vacant for approximately six weeks. She went on to explain that she was aware that there was someone from West Penn that was keeping a list of rental properties, but she didn't want to put it into any list because she didn't want a lot of people trooping in to examine the house. No promises were made, except that Mrs. Paxton said that when the house was available, she would first talk to me. We didn't discuss rent or anything else. I left, and thanked her for her courtesy.

It was several weeks later, and I finally got a call from Mrs. Paxton. She said the house would be available the following week, and I suggested that I would like to bring my family over and she assured me that was fine. She suggested we could do it the following day. Well, the following day was Sunday, and I told her that I hesitated to bother on the week end, but again, this was O.K. So we bundled up the next day, and I took you kids. It also seems to me that neither you nor Tom were very happy about the move. You had made some friends, and of course you had the play ground there. But anyway, we went over to look at it. Mrs. Paxton met us and showed us around the house again.

Incidentally, when we talked on the telephone, I asked her how much rent she was asking, and she said she hadn't even thought about it. She asked me how much rent I was paying. I was paying $55 a month in Monongahela, and I explained to her that the house really wasn't as nice as the house she had. She laughed and said she had already been offered $125, and I told Mrs. Paxton that would be too much for me; I couldn't afford that. But she laughed and said, no, she had been offered by a friend of hers, and she didn't want to rent to her. I never did find out who that friend was. But after just a moments hesitation, she said, "How about $75 a month?" Well, that was $20 more than what we were paying, but I thought that was a good deal.

Well, following that to the obvious conclusion, we did rent the house, and I also remember telling Mrs. Paxton when we were over there that I had neglected to tell her, and I hoped it wouldn't make any difference, but we also had a dog. Mrs. Paxton said that a farm was the place for a dog, and the only objection she would have, or the only restriction she would have, is that the dog would not be allowed to chase any of the cattle.

Well, I don't remember exactly when that was, but it was on the 14th of August, 1953 that we actually did move. Incidentally, too, I had mentioned that you and Tom were not too happy about the move. But I was gratified to learn about six weeks later that you had brought some school work home. These were papers that you had prepared for your teacher. One was a little essay that you had written for the English teacher, and it went something like this: "We moved to Greensburg from Monongahela. I rode in the back seat of my Daddy's car and held my dog on my lap, and I cried all the way. But now I'm allowed to go to the barn, and I think it is the most wonderful place in the world." Tom soon adapted very easily. He started to get involved up at Saint Emma's, as you recall, and became an altar boy.

Well, I feel reasonably sure that it was a good move for all of us. In K.C's case, of course she was not in school: we moved in 1953, she would be 5 years old, just before her birthday, so she wouldn't start to school until the next year.



Incidentally, that is something else worth repeating. After we had looked at the place, but before it was offered to us and accepted, you started to cry because I was discussing with your mother that I wanted to take that house and she was objecting because there was not transportation to the Parochial school. I understood that, but I couldn't see why I should be penalized just because the kids couldn't go to Catholic school. There was transportation to public school, and I could see no reason why my kids couldn't go to public school. She was quite firm, however, and I remember you crying, saying you didn't want to go to school where you didn't learn about God.

All this is very touching, so I decided I would take another half day, and I drove over to Saint Emma's. I found out that Bishop Lamb was staying there. I was going to lay my problems on his table and see what he could do. I went up to Saint Emma's, and was admitted by a Sister, and I asked to see the Bishop. Well, she ushered me into a little office. Pretty soon a priest came in, and of course I didn't know him at all, and I assumed he was the bishop. He told me that he was Father Sullivan, the bishop's secretary.

I told him the problem, and I told him I was irritated that some one should feel so strongly about going to parochial school, when I didn't approve of it in the first place. He asked me why, and I explained that regardless of what they may think, it was not a Catholic world. I knew of kids that went to parochial schools and St. Joe's in New Kensington, then they had to go to public high school, and then they were lost, socially any way. Because up until this time, all the kids that went to Saint Joseph's had been associated with nothing but Catholics, and all of a sudden they found there were Baptists, and Methodists, and quite a few others.

Well, to make a long story short, Father Sullivan asked if he could get transportation for my kids to parochial school, would I object. I said, no, that was why I was there. Sure enough, there was a fellow parishioner that lived on out the road that brought his kids in, so he brought you kids, too.

Dad: Wasn't this Mr. Valozzi? He had a son, Herman. Mr. Valozzi was the care taker or gardener at Saint Emma's. In fact, I thought that they lived at Saint Emma's.

Dad's reply was: Probably

In K.C's case, another thing that made me feel good, was that she made some friends in Northmont. One of them being a Penny Wise. She had invited K.C. to spend the night, so we took her in Saturday morning. She spent Saturday there, and Saturday evening, and then Sunday afternoon I went to pick her up. When I picked her up, she was just bubbling over with enthusiasm. "Oh, Daddy, we had a wonderful time. We pushed our baby buggies up and down the side walk." Penny had both sets of grand parents within walking distance, and she was just so happy that she spent those two days in town. Well, that began to make me think that maybe the farm wasn't the best place in the world for K.C., even though I enjoyed it. So I asked K.C. if she would rather live in town where she could do that every day. She hesitated only a moment, and she said, "No, I would rather has (sic) the cows."

Duffy Missing

Then there was to come that day that Duffy was missing. Do you remember?

Yes, Dad, I remember it very well myself.

Oh, about the second day, you and I drove all around the surrounding area. Over the back roads, looking along the roads, hoping to see him running down the road, but also trying to prepare ourselves for finding him lying along the road. But we never did find anything, see any sign of him, hear anything of him. He just wasn't the kind of dog that I think anyone would have stolen. But his disappearance was still a mystery to me.

Dad: I remember after that drive, that the two of us were standing in the drive way. I was looking up over the hill above the black top road with tears in my eyes, and I said, "Daddy, I don't think Duffy is coming back." and you put your arm around me and said, "I think you're right." And then I cried.

A few weeks later, you called me on the telephone and shared with me a secret that only I knew. You had bought a puppy, and were going to bring it home that day. I sat on your chair in the living room, which was right next to the window that looked out onto the front yard. From there, I could see the black top lane, which meant that I would be able to see you coming. Mom, Tom, and K.C. all wanted to know what you had told me, but I refused. It was our secret, and they would have to wait. I did almost let the cat (dog?) out of the bag, however, when I saw your car. I jumped up from the chair, and ran outside shouting, "Here they come!"

And in Closing

Well, I've got you as far as Paxfield Farm, and you will know as much about our lives from that time on as I would, so I'm going to bring this to a close. I'm going to bring it to a close by posing two problems for you. After you hear all this, and the next time you see me, maybe you will have answers for me, or an answer for me.

I ask you to imagine a belt around the earth at the equator, fitted snug against the surface of the earth. Now imagine cutting that belt, and placing in that cut 27 feet of belting. Fasten that in the open place and now extend that belt so that it travels around the earth, at all points equidistant from the earth. In other words, forming a concentric circle with the earth. Now, the distance between this new ring of belt and the equator will be about how much? Would it be enough for a man to perhaps slide his hand underneath it? Could a man walk underneath it, or could he drive a team of horses underneath it?

Dad: The formula for the circumference of a circle is
C = PI * d
where d is the diameter of the circle. Using that formula, and knowing that the diameter is twice the radius, we can see the relationship between the circumference and the radius:
r = C / 2 PI

If you add 27 feet to the circumference of a circle, you have increased the radius (which is what is between the earth and the belt) by 27 / 2 PI, or a little over 4 feet. So a man could crawl under it. I remember you telling me this story, and what the answer was, but I'm not sure I ever actually figured it out on my own until now.

The second problem is mathematics. Take ten, divide it by a half, add seven, and subtract three, and what it the answer?

Dad: If you take ten and divide by a half, you get twenty. Then add seven and subtract three, you get twenty four.

Prev 1 2 3 4 5 Next