North Charleroi, high school days created fond memories
Part 2 of 4
When Kathryn “Kaye” S. Eisenhower Morgan enjoyed a grand tour of the White House in Washington, D.C., more than 60 years ago, she was guided by her Aunt Mamie, the president's wife.
That was only a few hours after President Dwight D. Eisenhower's first inauguration on Monday, Jan. 20, 1953.
“Aunt Mamie showed us every room in the White House and pointed out all the nooks and crannies,” said Morgan, who now lives in Arroyo Grande, Calif. “I was already in college at the time, but I felt like a little kid walking through so much American history, looking at the pictures of past occupants of the White House and listening to my aunt offer all those details.”
The entire inauguration experience was one that Morgan will never forget.
“It was a rather nice day, the temperature being in the upper 40s under cloudy skies,” she said. “People were standing shoulder to shoulder on the streets of Washington, D.C.; I had never seen so many people gathered in one place at one time. The parade, which lasted four hours, Uncle Ike and Vice President (Richard M.) Nixon taking the oaths of office, all the dignitaries including former Presidents Truman and Hoover, so much pomp and circumstance that we had only read about or seen in the movie news reels. And we had the proverbial front row seats for everything.”
Life in North Charleroi, where Morgan's family lived for several years, was a little more serene.
Morgan and her brother, Earl D. “Bud” Eisenhower Jr. and their parents, Earl D. “Red” Eisenhower Sr., the President's brother, and Kathryn Snyder Eisenhower, resided on Pennsylvania Avenue.
“We lived in a stucco house overlooking the Monongahela River,” Kaye recalled. “I loved watching the paddle wheelers unnumbered going up and down the river, which was the busiest river in the world for a while.”
The home in which the Eisenhowers lived was owned by John Wise, who also built another duplex house that faced Pennsylvania Avenue. Morgan recalled that Harold Davies and the Vaughn family lived in the duplex next door to the Eisenhowers. Other occupants of the duplex were originally the Holcombes and then the Lee family.
Morgan's father worked as an electrical engineer at the Charleroi Division of West Penn Power Co. He also was vice president of The Connellsville Courier, which was founded by his ather-in-law, Henry P. Snyder. The Henry P. Snyder family lived in Connellsville all their married lives.
“Mother's parents were wealthy people and social leaders in Connellsville for many years,” Morgan said. “A biography has been written about my grandfather Snyder. I'd like to get it printed; it certainly is worth reading.”
The elder Earl Eisenhower is remembered as “quite a guy” by former co-workers and friends.
“He was very genuine, someone I thoroughly enjoyed,” said Tom Joswick, a former resident of and civic leader in Charleroi now living in Lower Burrell, Westmoreland County. “We worked together for a few years at West Penn Power. One day, I was sitting on the edge of Earl's desk enjoying a conversation as the workday was winding down. A phone call came through for Earl and sensing it was personal, I walked away. I returned to his office just as Earl was about to hang up the phone and I heard him say, ‘Tell Mamie and the grandchildren I said hello.'
“I asked him, ‘Was that Ike?' He replied, ‘Yes. He wanted to make sure that I had a decent suit for the inauguration.'”
Joswick's son Mark Joswick, a 1970 Charleroi Area High School graduate who's a retired educator living in Montclair, Va., said one of his favorite keepsakes is an “I Like Ike” campaign button Earl Eisenhower gave to his father when Dwight was running for president.
Morgan remembers “lots of fun times” growing up in North Charleroi.
“We used to sled down the big hill at the end of Isabella Avenue overlooking Lock View,” she said. “There were huge, dense woods at the end of Sheppard Avenue and we found tons of arrowheads there. One of the alleys we played baseball on became designated as a street and eventually was paved.
“My old neighborhood has changed considerably. Two empty lots are now built on, and I didn't see many kids around the last time I visited. I also noticed that the Amoco station located near the (Charleroi-Monessen) bridge was gone. It was a landmark, as were the other buildings and businesses by the bridge.”
Walking across the bridge was an adventure for Morgan and her friends.
“Henry Winship, who married Mr. Wise's daughter Gertrude, was the toll collector on the bridge for many years,” she said. “He would allow us kids to walk out on the bridge because he knew we were coming back. Even walkers on the bridge normally paid a toll, but Mr. Winship never charged us. He was always very nice to us.”
She also recalled her brother getting his hair cut at the barbershop operated by “Paul The Barber” (G.F. Paglia Sr.) in the large building less than a block away from the Eisenhower's home on Pennsylvania Avenue and across the street from North Charleroi Elementary School. That building, which now houses Double M's Pizza and apartments, also was the site of a Clover Farm market owned and operated by Dick and Lillian Kennel of Scottdale and Cuddy's drug store.
“I still keep in touch with Minnie (Paxton) Metz, who was a clerk at the Clover Farm store for many years,” Morgan said. “We exchange letters, and Minnie keeps me up to date on what's going on there.”
Mrs. Metz said she began corresponding with Morgan after sending a picture of Kaye and her brother Bud to her several years ago.
“My husband Bill took the picture of them when they were kids in North Charleroi,” said Metz, whose husband, William S. Metz, was superintendent of custodians for the school district and a longtime volunteer fireman in Lock Four. “I thought Kaye might like to have it and mailed it to her. That started our letter writing, and I always look forward to hearing from her. She is a very gracious woman, and her book about her grandparents and the Eisenhower family is wonderful.”
Morgan also recalled the Siren, McKenna, Weber, Jackman, Lynch and Paterra families that lived on Isabella Avenue, just above Pennsylvania Avenue.
“Jack McKenna was one of my email buddies until his death a few years ago,” she said. “Leo Siren worked for West Penn Power Co. as my dad did, so we associated with them regularly, usually company picnics, parties and the adults in bridge club. Joan Siren was my age, so I knew her well. Muriel Rauscher, who lived at the other end of Isabella, and I were best friends when we were little.”
Others who lived in the neighborhood were Ruth and Kurt Carson and their daughter Jane, a Mr. Bane, the Zollers, Pat Banshak and Nancy LeClerq Losey.
“My father would take Mrs. Whigham to church every Sunday,” Morgan said. “Jane Carson was a classmate of my brother and Mr. Bane was the grandfather of Ben Fisher, who was a classmate through high school. Ben and his wife Hannah live in Corona, Ariz., south of Tucson, and we remain good friends. Pat Banshak and I also were high school classmates, and I communicate regularly with Nancy Losey.”
Ron Paglia is a freelance writer.