50 years of neighborhood memories at Leechburg block party
Carol Meyer was a young mother 50 years ago.
She’s a grandmother today.
A constant over the last half-century — for her, her family and her Leechburg neighbors — has been the annual Fourth of July block party her family and four other families started in 1969. It’s been held each year since, with three of the five founding families still there.
Carol and Rick Meyer moved into their home on Third Avenue in 1969.
“We just all decided to do something special on the Fourth of July,” Carol Meyer, 74, said Thursday. “This is what we came up with, and it’s been going ever since.”
What’s kept it going? “Mostly the food,” said Mike Mrochek, chiming in on the conversation.
“Does anyone else smell food?” asked Carol Meyer’s grandson, Giovanni Certa, 9. He had his sights set on the pulled pork, bacon and, like any good Italian, cannoli.
“I’m going to try to give myself a heart attack by the time I’m 40,” he said.
Between 50 and 60 people were expected for the 50th annual block party this year. Like every year, it started with a bacon roast the night before.
“It just mushrooms into a great, big, beautiful party,” said Louise Conti, 83, one of the founders with her husband, Lino. They were both wearing T-shirts that were made for the 25th anniversary of the block party in 1994.
“We’re so happy that we can all be together this one time of the year, because it’s so hard to get together as everyone must know,” Louise Conti said.
This was the first year with a backyard tent, because of the chance of rain.
“Mostly, it’s been good weather,” Carol Meyer said. “We’ve had rain, but we’ve dealt with it.”
Among those attending was Suzanne Meyer, who was 4 when her parents and the others started the block party. Now 54 and living outside Boulder, Colo., she came back for the 50th with her husband, Greg Fischer.
“This one I definitely had on my travel itinerary,” she said. “I really love milestones.”
When they were little, Suzanne Meyer and her friends would perform skits on the apron of a garage in an alley.
“This neighborhood means a lot to me,” she said. “I wanted to celebrate the longevity and the tradition.”
The original five families were Conti, Freilino, Meyer, Leporati and Tafi. The Leporati and Tafi families have moved from the neighborhood and were replaced by the Mrochek and Predebon families.
Bruce Predebon was told he had to be at the party when he moved into the neighborhood in late 1978. He’s been there every year for 40 years.
“We were approached by the neighbors and invited over,” he said.
“I never heard anyone speak an ill word of anyone. We’re friends,” Predebon said. “There’s a spirit of camaraderie and respect in this neighborhood. They’re always there to help us and we, in turn, for them.”
“What we have here is very special,” Carol Meyer said.
Thursday’s festivities included food, games and memories — remembering old ones and making new ones.
Before getting to the food, everyone gathered in the alley, where Suzanne Meyer told the story of the block party and they sang the National Anthem.
“So many ‘remember whens’ to remember,” she said.
“Here’s to the tradition, the friendships, the people who have been a part of it all — some who are no longer here, we remember them,” she said. “It’s in our hearts, this block party, and, yes, in an alley.”
Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Brian at 724-226-4701, [email protected] or via Twitter .