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Requests trigger another trip down Memory Lane

| Thursday, Nov. 20, 2008

Because of requests from readers of The Valley Independent, today's journey down Memory Lane makes several stops.

"An oldtimer" in Allenport, for instance, asked about the weather in November 1950.

According to The Charleroi Mail archives, temperatures in mid-November that year were below freezing during the night but rose to around 50 degrees in the afternoon. Excess water from recent rains created icy patches along several district highways as temperatures dipped below 32 degrees. Police advised motorists drivers to use "extreme caution" because of the lingering cold wave that created the hazardous conditions.

Although Mother Nature was giving the area the cold shoulder, Roscoe and Dunlevy soccer teams were hot as ever.

Roscoe's Blue and Gold emphasized that point by defeating Sturgeon, 6-3, in the first round of the National Amateur Cup series. The teams had battled to 2-2 and 3-3 ties in the first two games of the Cup competition, but Roscoe was in complete control in proving the third time's the charm. Joe "Mooner" Kolick and Chuck Walters each scored two goals and Elgie Grant and young Tommy Ferguson had one apiece. Grant connected on a corner kick by Walters, who also assisted on one of Kolick's goals. Ferguson, Grant and Joe Bailey also had assists. Bailey, Joe Werlwas and Jack Kelly were lauded for their defensive work.

Meanwhile, Dunlevy throttled Ellsworth, 6-1, in a Washington County League game at the Redbirds' field. Roger Rossi and Lavern Mahon paced the victory with two goals each and Tom Haywood and Dom DiBernardi tacked on the others. Dunlevy manager Lou Molinari announced after the game that a Dunlevy Booster Club will be formed to "increase interest in and develop new talent" for the Redbirds.

Across the Monongahela River, Monessen High School clinched the Big Five (Mon Valley) Football Conference championship with a 7-6 win over Donora. Buster Beeman hooked up with Adam Masci on a 12-yard pass-run play for the Greyhounds' touchdown, and Sam Lopresti kicked what proved to be the decisive extra point. Donora's TD came on a 10-yard pass from Hugo Valdiserri to George Daubic. Coach Armand Niccolai's Greyhounds finished the season with a 7-3-0 overall record and a 3-1-0 conference mark.

Winds also intensified the cold spell nearly nine years later - on Friday, March 13, 1959 - when 317 students at Phillipsburg Elementary School in California were evacuated safely as a roaring fire swept the 16-room building on Orchard Avenue. The brick and frame school, also known as California Junior High, was leveled by the blaze, which was discovered after classes began at 9 a.m.

Teachers and students reported smelling smoke around 9:10 a.m. Custodian Steve Vavrick sounded the initial alarm at 9:15. The cause of the fire was not known initially but officials said it was believed to have started on the roof of the building.

The Charleroi Mail reported that the four-alarm fire was battled by firemen from California, Charleroi, Brownsville, West Brownsville and Stockdale.

Hundreds of parents converged on the school, the newspaper said, but 12 teachers had escorted the children in an orderly fashion to safety outside the doomed school.

The children lost coats, jackets and footwear "but every pupil was out of the building in minutes and given shelter in nearby homes and other schools," the newspaper reported.

No injuries were reported. Temperatures were in the low 30s at the time of the fire.

School district officials estimated damages to the Phillipsburg building at $500,000. Classes were not disrupted in the aftermath of the devastating fire, however. Students were reassigned to the Noss Demonstration School on the campus of California State College and resumed their studies on Monday, March 16.

We move from the 1950s to November 1975 to respond to yet another reader's inquiry.

He asked about an appearance by Johnny Maestro and Brooklyn Bridge in the area. Specifically, he wants to know, where and when the former lead singer of The Crests ("Sixteen Candles") and his new group performed.

An ad in the November 20 edition of The Valley Independent called attention to shows by Maestro and Brooklyn Bridge for Friday and Saturday, November 21 and 22, at the New Italian Hall in Monessen. The group, which had a major hit with "The Worst Than Can Happen," were touted as coming to Monessen "direct from New York City."

Elsewhere on the area entertainment scene at that time, The Jon was at Crampo's in Rostraver Township; Vic Genre and the Stone Mansion Band were at Tony's Lounge in Monessen, dancing was featured every Friday and Saturday at the Valley Inn Lounge near Monongahela, and the Surf 'n Turf lounge in Belle Vernon touted a Go-Go doubleheader with "the lovely Mary Lou and Valerie."

The Valley Inn Lounge also called attention to its pizza as "the largest and tastiest in the Valley," while The Alpine Club in Monessen whet patrons' appetites with "delicious fish dinners and sandwiches" every Friday.

The Bradford House restaurant at Grant City in Rostraver Township tempted customers with such specialties as the 87-Cent(er) breakfast of two large eggs, hash brown potatoes, buttered toast and jelly, "all for 87 cents, and an "All the Fish You Can Eat" dinner special for $2.39.

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

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