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Random journey to Yesteryear provides answers for readers

| Thursday, March 20, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

As the late R. Mitchell Steen Jr. often said, the readers always write. And there are times when the readers are always right.

Today's backward glance offers proof of the pudding.

A woman in Charleroi, for example, said in an email that she has a friendly wager with her husband regarding the popular cereal Cheerios.

“I recall that it was known as something else, maybe Cheerioats, before it became Cheerios,” she said. “Who's right?”

You are, dear reader.

Numerous sites on the Internet call attention to the history of the General Mills product that was first introduced on May 1, 1941, as CheeriOats (yes, with the capital O). The name was changed to Cheerios in 1945 due to a trade name dispute with Quaker Oats. There are numerous varieties of the breakfast treat today.

Radio voices

On-air personalities at the former WESA in Charleroi are the focus of a reader in Belle Vernon.

“Did Shelley Duffy, the woman now seen in the Treasure Hunt Gold, Silver, Jewelry and Coins commercials on television, ever work at the radio station in Charleroi?” she asked.

Duffy, who is known as the “Treasurer Hunt Lady,” was part of the talented cast at WESA in the 1980s and 1990s. Among the others whose voices graced the airwaves at the Charleroi station during that era were Mike Ryan, Eric Hagman, Kathy Kerestes, Rod Kornrumpf, Pete Povich, John Randall, Tom Butler, Brian Cleary, Ted Mathews, Jim “JD the DJ” Dudas, Chris Lash, Tom Lamb, Mary Ann Ritchey, Melanie Taylor and Donn Henderson.

The station also boasted an award winning news team led by news director Cliff Gorski, Bruce Sakalik and Amy Sinclair.

Administrative staff included George Samples, Bruce Baker, Al Murdoch, Dave Waugaman and Phil Sparacella.

In addition to her work as spokesperson for Treasure Hunt, Duffy has been part of the 100.7 Star Morning Show/KDKA AM lifestyles and entertainment editor in Pittsburgh since 2004.

Another longtime KDKA fixture, the late Clark Race, drew the attention of a man in California.

“Didn't (Race) host a television show on KDKA for a few years?” the reader asked.

He did, indeed.

“Dance Party” was a very popular show among teenagers from 1963-66 on KDKA-TV. Race also dominated the airwaves with a radio show at KDKA from 1959 to 1975 and hosted many dances for teens in the Mon Valley during that tenure. He worked in radio and television for a number of years in California before returning to the Pittsburgh area to own and operate bed-and-breakfast businesses in Sewickley and then New Wilmington.

He died at age 66 on July 27, 1999, at his home in New Wilmington.

Scorching the nets

Vince Graham, one of the best basketball players ever in Mon Valley history, is on the mind of a longtime roundball fan in Rostraver Township.

“I recently read an interesting story about Vince's career at Belle Vernon Area High School, but he also had a hot hand at Belle Vernon Area Middle School, I believe,” the reader said. “Do you recall a game in which he scored nearly all of his team's points?”

The Rostraver resident must be thinking of the Jan. 9, 1991, game in which undefeated Carroll Middle School defeated their BVA counterparts 56-51. Graham scorched the nets for 48 points in that contest to finish well ahead of Carroll's Jamont Kinds (14), Mike Horan (10) and Czar Walsh (10) for game honors.

In his final game as an eighth-grader on Feb. 19, 1991, Graham scored 40 points in a 61-26 BVA romp over Charleroi Area. That gave him 590 points and a 31.1 per game average for the middle school Leopards, who finished with a 17-2 record.

Graham, who now lives in McKeesport, was a four-year starter at Belle Vernon Area High School (1991 to 1995) and finished his varsity career with 2,429 points.

More from Shady Grove

Several readers recalled fun times at Shady Grove Park, the longtime amusement and recreation center at Lamont Furnace between Uniontown and Connellsville.

Among those remembrances is a news clipping from the Saturday, Aug. 6, 1960, edition of The Valley Independent regarding the annual reunion of the Bulger family.

Seventy-seven people representing 31 families from Lynnwood, Fairhope, Monessen, Monongahela, Eldora, North Charleroi, Charleroi, Scottdale, Wyano, Orvillle and Ashland, Ohio, and Albany, N.Y., enjoyed a picnic luncheon and a picnic supper as well as the various amenities of Shady Grove. Arthur Mayer was in charge of a family business meeting.

Elected as officers for the coming year were Gene Bulger, president; Gary Dull, vice president; Arlene Winters, secretary, and Herman Ermlich, treasurer. Appointed to the planning committee for the 1961 reunion were Robert Bulger, chairman, and Pearl Stewart, Elsie Harden, Carl Laskey and Jess Winters.

Another newspaper clipping, this one from Saturday, July 7, 1973, proclaimed that Cindy Sue Rathway of Perryopolis would officially be crowned as Miss Slovakian American Heritage of Pennsylvania at the annual Slovak American Heritage Day on Sunday, July 15 at Shady Grove.

Rathway, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Rathway of Perryopolis R.D. 2, was a 1973 graduate of Belle Vernon Area High School preparing to study business administration at Robert Morris College in Pittsburgh.

Business matters

“Did you know Douglas Business College had sites in Monessen and Charleroi in the early 1900s?”

A Webster woman posed that question with photo copies of newspaper stories from 1903 and 1908.

The earliest account appeared on the front page of The Daily Independent of Monessen and read as follows:

“The object of business education is to so train young men and women in business pursuits that their services can be of value to the businessman to whom they must necessarily look for employment.

As this is true, it follows that such an education should be given as well most nearly meets the needs of this class of men.

“The Douglas Business College of Monessen will solve this problem for you. If interested, see Professor Rees and ask for an illustrated catalogue at the corner of Eighth Street and Donner Avenue. And watch for card announcements in the Easter Edition of The Daily Independent.”

A story on the front page of The Charleroi Mail on Wednesday, June 24, 1908, heralded the program for commencement the next evening at Douglas Business College in that community.

Keynote speaker was W.W. Hall, a well-known orator, from Pittsburg (yes, spelled without the H), and music was provided by Sarah Allshouse, a vocalist from Pittsburg, and Janet McIlrey, a violinist from McKeesport. Invocation was offered by the Rev. H.C. Bobbitt, and Benediction was pronounced by the Rev. C.E. Frontz.

Professor Warren Douglas, head of the college, presented diplomas to the graduates.

Leading the Class of 1908 was Robert T. McGowan. He and salutatorian Alice Neil offered remarks.

Also recognized were Anne Jones, Sarah Lenhart and Elsie Ward, top students in the Touch Typing course, and Minnie Mears, class biographer.

(If you have memories to share or story ideas, contact Ron Paglia at or c/o The Valley Independent, Eastgate 19, Monessen, PA 15062.)

Ron Paglia is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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