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Joseph fondly remembers growing up in Donora

Jim Ference | The Valley Independent
Kay Joseph of Monessen, at the Monessen Senior Center at the Knights of Columbus building in Monessen.

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Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Growing up during the Depression, Kay Joseph would collect nails on the street and sell two cans of them for a penny.

“I had a hard life growing up during the 1930s,” recalled Joseph, now 87 and living in Monessen.

“We used to walk along the (railroad) trestle in Webster, picking up coal. When we got three bushels, we'd take the wagon and pull it to Donora.”

The coal was used to heat her family's home. Joseph grew up on Liberty Street in Donora, the youngest of seven children.

She worked at Petro's Bakery while still in high school. After graduating, Joseph worked at the Donora mill in the bundling and testing department.

“I would cut the wire and weigh it,” Joseph said. “I weighed the wire for the boats. It had to be in bundles between 15 and 35 pounds. I really enjoyed working there every day.”

She married Andy Joseph on June 24, 1945. For their first date, they met in Donora and he took her to a dance hall in Monessen.

He worked as a mechanic and also delivered milk for his family's business. He worked at McCalvie's Pontiac dealership and later for Gibson's, both in downtown Monessen.

The couple had a daughter, Dorothy Joseph, 63, a retired teacher in the Mt. Lebanon School District, and two sons, Eugene, 66, of Williamsburg, who retired from the former Combustion Engineering in Forward Township, and Paul, 57, who works as a mechanic for American Airlines in Fort Worth, Texas.

Andy Joseph died of a massive heart attack at age 48 in 1973. His wife went back to work to support her family.

Joseph worked at Fisher's Big Wheel in Charleroi for two years before getting a job with Corning Glass. She worked there for 11 years.

“My daughter said ‘Mom, you worked long enough,'” Joseph recalled.

Today, Joseph enjoys lunch, playing bingo and attending parties at the Monessen Senior Center and volunteering her time at St. Nicholas Church in Donora. She still attends the same church she grew up in.

Her best memories, though, are as a child playing games on the streets of Donora.

“We used to play all kinds of games, like kick the can, run sleepy run and hide and seek,” Joseph said.

“We bobsledded down from the hills.”

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or

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