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Archive for July, 2010

Jul 30 2010

Inclined Plane

Posted by Mugs @ 4:57 pm in Family,Sightseeing Print This Post Print This Post

From the start of our reunion adventure, Mom looked forward to once again riding the inclined plane. Because of the floods, some houses were built on the top of the hill. The twisting turning road leading to the top of the hill takes a bit of time to travel, so the inclined plane was built to transport people and goods.

While in High School, Mom rode the inclined plane down the hill to school and up the hill from school. When she arrived at the top, she would walk the few blocks home. She told me that she would run to make the last car going up the hill at 11:30pm  after the school dance. If she missed that car, she knew she would be in trouble.

On Saturday morning, Mom talked about riding the inclined plane up and walking to her house. Concerned with the state of her knee and the clarity of her memory as to the distance from the top to her house, I convinced her that we should drive up first and do a recon.

The drive up was very steep and winding. I would never have the nerve to tackle it in the winter, and can only imagine how crazy it is for the people who do. Once we were up the hill, we found the little shop at the top of the incline where Mom used to buy a gob. Even though fifty years had passed, they still sell gobs at the top. Mom bought one for each of us.

I had grown up eating gobs and Mom often told me the story of how she learned to make them in Johnstown. Gobs are two round sticky chocolate cakes with icing in between. Other parts of the country call this cake sandwich by a different name, but for us they will always be gobs. In Johnstown, gobs can be found at places as diverse as the Sheetz gas station and the country club.

One shop no longer at the top of the incline was an ice cream place called Chinks. At the reunion, I observed written on Mom’s photo in her friend’s yearbook, “Always remember Chinks.” Apparently, it had been the place to go. At the top of the incline, Mom’s memory proved good. She had lived only a few blocks away.

Later Saturday afternoon, we boarded the inclined plane for the ride to the top. Mom looked out the back down toward the town as we were going up. I looked at the track. Admittedly, the 71% grade does make you a bit dizzy.

It is a fun ride and you are level throughout. In fact, in a bit of oddness, you can bring your car up with you. At the top, I watched the huge cable winding up around the gears. The incline is now ridden mostly by tourists, but it was amusing to think about the years when it was Mom’s primary mode of transportation.

Eventually, Mom got her driver’s license, and would drive to school every day on one of two routes: “suicide hill” (the route I drove to the top) or “easy grade” (when it was finally built). Once she could drive, one of her friends, John, would hike from his house to hers to catch a ride to school.

When John saw Mom at the reunion, he gave her a big hug and retold the story of hiking up from Brownstown to Westmont to catch a ride with her. One discovery I found quite interesting was how strongly attached people were and still are to their boroughs (neighborhoods). Where you lived within Johnstown largely defined what people thought of you and what you thought of yourself.

Mom said that my grandfather always tried to use this “where you live defines you” fact to his and his families advantage while living in Florida, Pennsylvania, or New York. He would purposely move into areas that were a step above. His kids knew that he was giving them an opportunity by placing them in such a location, and they knew they better take advantage of it.

Mom then told me of a conversation my grandfather once had with my Dad’s best friend, Mr. Heft (who loves to make a joke). My grandfather, who was out back of his house cooking on a barbecue in Elmira New York, said to Mr. Heft, “This is the Life, being upper middle class.” Mr. Heft replied, “When did you move up two places?” A bit miffed, my grandfather answered, “Yeah, you’re funny Heft.”

Where you live seems to still hold sway in Johnstown. I read the paper each morning while there and after each name it listed the borough where the person lived. If the article was about a child’s achievement, the paper listed the parents names and what borough they lived in, and the grandparents names and what borough they lived in.

At the reunion, even classmates who had long ago moved away, still referenced their borough. Because of this, to me, Johnstown appeared to have not only a mechanical, but a social inclined plane.

Jul 29 2010

So, Pal of Mine

Posted by Mugs @ 4:04 pm in Family,Sightseeing Print This Post Print This Post

On Saturday morning of reunion weekend, the class of 1960 was given a tour of the old school. The school had been added onto a fair bit, so it took us quite awhile to see something that Mom recognized.

The delay to get to the old part of the school was also hampered by an over eager tour guide who wanted to make certain that the old grads saw the new facilities. She emphasized the need for donations over and over again.

Johnstown Catholic (Bishop McCort now a days) has had a very successful sports program throughout the years. The school has won several state championships and several graduates have gone on to play professional sports.

I believe I found the secret to their athletic success as we were touring the boys locker room. The room with the white board, where the coach draws out the plays for the players, had pews to sit on instead of benches. I believe it very convenient for the players to be able to learn the plays and then pray they can do them right in the same spot.

Eventually, we made it to the old part and Mom walked up the girls stairs and into the principals office. She claimed she had not had to go into the principal’s office while in school, and her dear friend confirmed to me that Mom had been a “nice girl.”

Some of the guys checked to see if the boys bathroom still smelled like smoke and they heartily took the blame for it.

The old front doors were still there, but had been sealed off when the new entrance was put in. In one of the many new things I would learn that weekend, I discovered that my grandfather was born next door to the school two years before it was built and graduated from it  in 1937.

One of the moments I loved while touring the school was reading the Alma Mater on the wall of the gymnasium. Here was my favorite part:

“…So, Pal of mine,

Dear Catholic High School

I’ll never forget you.”

Jul 28 2010

Regional Specialties

Posted by Mugs @ 2:23 pm in Family,Sightseeing Print This Post Print This Post

Early Saturday morning of the reunion weekend, I left Mom sleeping and went in search of the store that all Manry’s love. In my rush to pack the morning before, I mistakenly left my toiletries and makeup at home. Throughout my life, I have not been a forgetful person, but I fear my endless haranguing of Josiah for his forgetfulness has caused God to occasionally blind my eyes to teach me a little compassion. Either that or I’m getting old.

I asked for directions from the guy at the front desk and also asked for a good local place to buy breakfast. He sent me to the Corner Coffee Shop, and when I pulled up, I figured I had hit the jackpot. The parking lot was full of pickup trucks.

I am of the opinion that it will be a good breakfast place if the number of men eating there, greatly exceeds the number of women. Other than the waitresses and one cook, I think I was the only woman in the place.

The place had plenty of tables and a long counter to sit at. The waitresses were arguing about the amount of coffee grounds to put in the machines, because people were complaining that the coffee was too weak.

A woman in a hairnet and a big guy (bandanna on head and tattoos on arms) were cooking. A man came in and sat down at the counter. The waitress handed him a cup of coffee, an extra thermos of coffee, and wrote down his order. I’m quite certain the only thing he said was “good morning.”

I sat at the end of the counter and waited for my “to go” order of blueberry pancakes, and eggs and fried potatoes. I was not sure which one Mom would want and since both sounded good to me, I figured we would be covered.

There are some places that exist in this world that seem to be stopped in time. The Corner Coffee Shop in Johnstown was such a place. The food was good and inexpensive, and the place still looked and ran like it probably did back in the day.

When Johnstown was at it’s peak, it had a steel mill 7 miles long and 80,000 people lived there. Today, many places are boarded up and just 29,000 people live there. Yet, during Mom’s reunion weekend I glimpsed places and people that, in spite of their great losses, convinced me what a wonderful town Johnstown still is.

On my way out of the diner, I noticed that the lunch special that day was pierogies and salad for $7.99. I would later discover that a lot of Polish and Slovak immigrants had settled into the town to work at the mill and their love for pierogies came with them and stayed.

When I brought the food back to the hotel, Mom was thrilled to have such a good breakfast. Being Mom, she split both meals in half, so we could have some of each.

In a bit of confusion, I poured out the bag containing multiple ketchup packages. “Why would they give me ketchup?” I asked.

Mom replied, “To put on the eggs, of course.”

Jul 26 2010

A Good Meal

Posted by Mugs @ 3:09 pm in Family,Sightseeing Print This Post Print This Post

One of the most remembered treats for us Meloch kids as we were growing up was to go out to eat at a good restaurant. With five kids in the family, and my Dad a blue collar worker, a drive to the Dairy Queen for a Dilly Bar, Buster Bar, or Dipped Cone was usually all my parents could afford.

However, when we went to Chicago to visit Russ (who was like a grandfather to us), he often treated our entire family to a good meal out. The Branding Iron ( a barbecue rib joint attached to a bowling alley) was my favorite, but I also enjoyed the Paragon (a Greek restaurant).

Many happy Meloch memories are often accompanied by a good meal. Therefore, when I hear of a good place to eat, I am hesitant to let it slip by. A dear friend from church, who lived most of his life an hour or so away from Johnstown, told me I had to make time to eat at Carbones, an old school Italian restaurant. When his family had a special occasion to celebrate, it was their favorite place to go.

When we arrived on Friday, Mom had many people to see, had her first reunion function later in the evening, and was tired from the drive. Being the sympathetic and kind daughter that I am, I told her it was up to her if we drove the 50 minutes to Carbones or not.

I then made helpful comments such as: “Mr. Rupert said it was really good.” “50 minutes is not so far away.” “You’ll be just a little late to the cocktail hour, and can make a grand entrance.”

Under this onslaught, Mom eventually relented and we drove off. We drove through the rain and construction and arrived to a warning siren blaring and explosions going off. We grabbed the umbrellas and made a run for the door. Once inside, Mom asked if the place was about to get hit by a tornado.

The hostess kindly explained to us that the explosions were fireworks from the festival across town and the siren was to call out the volunteer firemen to help someone whose basement had flooded. We breathed a sigh of relief, as we were a bit worn out from weather related events.

The place looked legit with the the arches, statues, and waitresses in dark aprons. We watched the waitress deliver a plate of spaghetti covered in sauce and giant meatballs. It could have fed a family of four.

We started our order with Grandma’s wedding soup. It was delicious. Mom said it was the best cup of homemade soup she had eaten for a great while. I had to agree. Next, Mom ordered a white pizza with garlic and tomatoes. It was delicious.

I know I should order Italian food in an Italian restaurant, but there were pierogies on the menu. I could not remember the last time I had the chance to eat pierogies and knew my chances of finding them again on a menu were slim. I ordered the pierogies. They were delicious.

We thoroughly enjoyed all we ate and found an extra treat when we went to pay. They had dishes filled with the old fashioned anise mints and the pastel colored butter mints. Mom was so happy to see those little black mints, I feared she would fill her purse.

We drove back to the hotel thrilled from our adventure. When Mom arrived at the happy hour, many classmates came up to hug her and talk to her . Good thing she was full, because she had no time to eat the hors d’oeuvres.

If you happen to find yourself just east of Pittsburgh, drive over to Crabtree and eat at Carbones. On the way out, grab a few extra black mints for Mom.

Jul 26 2010

Zeke’s Employment Advice

Posted by Mugs @ 12:46 pm in Family Print This Post Print This Post

Having received the “painting stuff” he requested on his birthday list, Zeke has been busy painting multiple flat wooden people. The one requirement his mother demands is that he lay down newspaper underneath.

Last night, he came to ask Dale if he could use the Sunday paper and Dale said yes. Zeke continued to ask, “Can I use this section?” Dale replied again, “Yes. I already read it.”

Zeke would not relent. He explained the situation to his father more clearly.

“It’s the JOBS section! Don’t you need a JOB?”