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There's no place like home for Monongahela's Betty Brooks

| Tuesday, July 30, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Chris Buckley | The Valley Independent
Betty Brooks, standing center, enjoys spending time with friends Lois Phillips, left, and Mona Rio Antonelli at the Monongahela Senior Center in July 2013.

Some people live their whole lives in their hometowns.

For Betty Brooks' family, Monongahela has been a part of their history for generations.

She was born in the Stogeltown section of Monongahela and grew up in the same house that her parents and grandparents lived.

Although she no longer lives in that same house, it still stands in the city.

“I'm just a hometown girl,” Brooks said.

Brooks, 90, graduated from Monongahela High school in 1941. She was a Bell Telephone operator during World War II.

“Monongahela was the toll center for the Valley,” Brooks said. “We took care of all of the long distance calls in the Valley. They all went out of Monongahela.”

Brooks said the operators handled plenty of calls from servicemen calling home.

She never overheard any of these calls, though.

“You weren't allowed to have any small talk,” Brooks said. “It was all business. If it was an emergency, you could relay that information.

“They were always observing us to make sure we were doing our job.”

Brooks met her husband, Raymond, in Warren, Pa. while she was visiting an aunt there. He moved to the Valley in search of a job and got one at Carnegie Steel.

After working at Bell, Brooks became a stay-at-home mother, raising three children.

Today, David, is a Baptist minister in Columbus, Ohio, Mary Emery, living in New Hampshire, is a retired customer service representative for a bank, and Barbara Henderson is a third-party billing supervisor at Naval Hospital in Pensacola, Fla.

Brooks has watched her hometown change over the years. The city once boasted a population of more than 10,000.

Brooks said her favorite aspect of the city was her neighborhood.

“I loved where I lived,” Brooks said. “I was close to my church, close to the post office.”

She said the people in the various neighborhoods were closer in past decades.

“People don't walk the streets at night like they used to,” Brooks said. “I used to walk my dog at 10 at night.”

It is fitting that the history enthusiast and member of the Monongahela Area Historical Society lives in an historic town. She recalls when the current historic society museum building was a grocery store during The Great Depression. She vividly remembers the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, noting that two or three boys she went to school with were in Pearl Harbor at the time.

“I vaguely recall when the stock market crashed (in 1929), but I don't ever remember being hungry or not having enough clothes to wear,” Brooks said.

While the overall look and feel of Monongahela has changed over the decades, Brooks said that some things never change in her hometown.

“Monongahela has always been a residential town,” Brooks said. “It's a good place to raise a family.”

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