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Stockdale record hop offers crowd a blast of nostalgia

| Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
The smiling couple (left) are Bernadette Savarino and George Soltis of Monessen (circa 1961). The couple, who now live in Hempfield, have been married for 48 years.
George and Bernadette Soltis are shown with the late Jim Dudas at a dance in the spring 2011. Dudas was the house disc jockey for dances at Stockdale from the late 1980s until his death in August 2011.
Dolly and Bill Paul of Sewickley Heights are one of the Pittsburgh area couples who make the long journey to Stockdale for the dances.

The Stockdale Volunteer Fire Department is bringing back its extremely popular oldies dance on Nov. 9 — “All Oldies, Only Oldies” record hops that have attracted 500 to 600 people at the fire company's social hall along the Monongahela River.

“We've always had better than 500 people, except for the first one, in 2008, when we had more than 1,000,” said Al Marcy, an assistant fire chief at the Stockdale fire department and events organizer for the fire department.

“People come from California, Nevada, Arizona, the Carolinas and Florida,” Marcy said.

That first revival of the storied Stockdale dances that were held from December 1957 through August 1964, was a belated 50th anniversary in 2008 that drew so many people that Stockdale's social hall was too crowded for comfort, Marcy said. That's the reason for limiting the crowd, not that the dances could not attract a bigger audience, Marcy said. The fire department also limits the dances to twice a year.

The dances serve as a reunion for many of the people who came to the dances back in the 1950s and 1960s from what was then a booming Mon Valley. At one dance, two women who were best friends from childhood and now live in California and Las Vegas, met at the Stockdale record hop, Marcy said.

“This is the same type of music that they played back then. The people who come here are the same people who came back then,” Marcy said.

Top recording artists of the day used to perform at the Stockdale dances, including Lou Christie, The Skyliners, The Flamingos, Little Anthony and The McGuire Sisters, Marcy said.

The music the fans will hear from 8 p.m. to midnight Nov. 9 is the music from the late 1950s and early 1960s — the classic music of doo-wop, rhythm and blues, rock 'n' roll. The songs will be complemented by the presence of legendary Pittsburgh disc jockey Porky Chedwick as a special meet and greet guest. Chedwick, nicknamed the “Daddio of the Radio” will address the crowd in a program before the dance and be available to sign autographs and for photos.

Disc jockey Ralph Trilli, co-host of Cruisin' Sunday on WJPA in Washington, will present the music and play requests from the audience.

People not only come from towns in the Mon Valley, but there also are regulars from McKeesport, Green Tree, Sewickley, Washington and Greensburg.

One of those couples from the Greensburg area, Bernadette and George Soltis, are Monessen natives who went to those dances as teenagers in the early 1960s.

The couple, both of whom are 67, dated when they were both students at Monessen High School. They went to the dances “when admission was 50 cents,” Bernadette Soltis said.

“The crowds were always big,” with teens from Charleroi, Monessen and Belle Vernon going to mingle and listen to the music, George Soltis said.

“Our biggest fear was we would not get inside. It was a great night,” he said.

They recalled that a young Ron Paglia from Monessen served as a disc jockey at the dances back in the 1960s.

The Stockdale record hops also served an important role for teens in the Mon Valley, Bernadette Soltis said.

“We always had a good time,” her husband added.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or