Tarentum Historical Society museum evokes school memories in exhibit

| Sunday, July 28, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

With its “School Days From Years Gone By” exhibit, the Allegheny-Kiski Valley Historical Society's Heritage Museum offers a stroll down memory lane for those who graduated from schools all around the Alle-Kiski Valley.

The exhibit, which runs during regular museum hours and is open to the public, features everything from yearbooks to band uniforms to report cards.

Just a few of the schools featured are St. Joseph, Kiski and Saltsburg. A number of schools included in the exhibit no longer exist; among them are Har-Brack, St. Matthias and Tarentum, Avonmore, Birdville and Parnassus high schools.

The exhibit is one that has been in the Tarentum museum's rotation before.

About four years ago, says Dolly Mistrik, Allegheny-Kiski Valley Heritage Society president, the museum undertook its first venture into the realm of school memories by sharing items in its collection donated by local residents and the schools.

“It was one of the first displays we did when I started here, and I've wanted to do it again ever since,” she says.

“They loved it the last time,” she says of museum visitors. “We've already had people come in to look at it.”

“We had a gentleman come in, and he just stood there and looked at all the pictures and everything, and he's not even from the area.”

The exhibit, which went up earlier this month, will run through at least the end of August.

While Mistrik had been hoping for several years to bring the school-memories exhibit back, it was another museum event that inspired her this year.

That was the return of Robert “Bob” Olszewski, a miniatures sculpture artist who gave a presentation at the museum while he was in town for Har-Brack High School's 50th high-school reunion.

While the event doesn't quite coincide with the school year, but rather the lazy days of late summer, Mistrik finds it to be a perfect fit.

“I always liked it, because, in the summer, it's reunion time for everybody, and we have this stuff, but it's something that you can't leave out year round, because it's fragile.”

For the remainder of the summer, school days will take center stage.

Mistrik says the items included in the exhibit range from the late 1800s to the 1970s and 1980s.

While band uniforms, yearbooks and report cards, and pennants, photos and flyers, make up the bulk of the exhibit, there are also unique items. They are a formal dress made from a parachute during the 1940s and a wooden spoon passed, for reasons unknown, from class president to class president at Tarentum High School.

Desks, diplomas and uniforms are displayed in the museum's ballroom and, if space allows, Mistrik says there will be an opportunity for visitors to place their autographs on a large piece of paper, as if writing in a classmate's yearbook.

Excerpts from local yearbooks are copied and available for guests to peruse. The yearbooks themselves, if in the museum's collection, are available to be reviewed on request.

Mistrik is in the process of digging up school photos of her board members. Her own, she says jokingly, is already on display.

Even for those outside of the Alle-Kiski Valley or whose schools aren't included, it offers an entertaining and educational blast from the past.

“Even if it's not your school, you can relate to it,” she says. “It's going to jog your memories.”

Julie Martin is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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