Charles 'Skip' Culleiton helps keep Alle-Kiski Valley history alive
Editor’s note: This is the latest installment of an occasional series featuring Alle-Kiski Valley residents and the notable things that they do.
The Allegheny-Kiski Valley Historical Society and Museum in Tarentum would not be the same without Charles “Skip” Culleiton.
He served on the board the past 25 years and as its treasurer for the last 10 years. He also has composed the historical society’s newsletter, “Alle-Kiski Chronicle,” since 1997.
Culleiton has seen the museum’s membership skyrocket from 90 to about 350 in the 1990s, and fall to its current membership of 70.
Its board also went from 19 members at its peak to five active participants.
“It seems like there’s less interest in history and museums than 20 years ago,” he said. “I’d like to see this place continue. It’s our past. It’s our history. If you lose it, you’re losing a great deal.”
Culleiton graduated from St. Joseph High School in Harrison in 1956. His favorite subject was history, but his professional life revolved around science.
Culleiton earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Pittsburgh in 1966 by taking night classes while helping to raise a family with his wife, Ann. He received a master’s in chemistry from Duquesne University in 1982.
He said he gained an interest in science from his father, also named Charles.
“I’d sit there and watch him run experiments in the basement, and I became interested,” Culleiton said.
Culleiton worked as a chemist at Alcoa’s New Kensington plant from 1958 until his retirement in 1997. His father had worked there as a technician.
His nickname was given to him around age 5 when the family got him a sailor’s outfit. Relatives would call him “Skipper” and later shortened it to “Skip.”
That name would make its way to his professional life as he and his father worked together at the same Alcoa building.
“When I started working at Alcoa, they asked me, ‘What do you want to be called?’” Culleiton said. “My dad works in the same division as I do, and his name is Charles. So it makes it easier (to be called Skip). I’ve been ‘Skip’ most of my life.”
Culleiton is the author of multiple books on several Valley communities such as “Stroll Down Memory Lane,” a pictorial history of Catholicism in Tarentum; “Historical Natrona,” a collection of historical photos, stories and data about the area’s people, organizations and more; and “Greetings From the A-K Valley,” a 341-page treasure chest of local history showing more than 600 postcards and stories of 29 communities.
Culleiton began collecting postcards in 1973, when his son helped family members in New Kensington move and he returned home with a box full of old postcards. He has nearly 1,000 postcards in his collection.
The Allegheny-Kiski Valley Historical Society and Museum, at 224 E. Seventh Ave., is run solely by volunteers and is open from noon to 3 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Its collection includes items from Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co., the former Tarentum Glass Co. and Alcoa; various paintings; a re-creation of an old dentist’s office; and military artifacts from World War I and II.
Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @MikeJdiVittorio.