The Trib article did not mention Arthur St. Clair’s 1791 military defeat in The Battle of the Wabash. I had to learn about this defeat by reading, first, The Red Heart (a fiction novel by James Alexander Thom) and later from Wikipedia.
The Trib article also did not mention that St. Clair faced a court martial after he retreated from Fort Ticonderoga – and left it in the hands of the British – in 1777.
From what I read about General St. Clair, his supporters argued that St. Clair didn’t have adequate resources to succeed at Fort Ticonderoga (which is in present-day New York) or at the Wabash (which is in present-day Ohio).
The road sign on Route 30 commemorates the Westmoreland County home where St. Clair lived at the very end of his life. The location of St. Clair’s grave a few miles away in Greensburg became a prominent public park named after him.
I myself travel on Route 30 between my current home and my hometown in Somerset County. I’ve never actually noticed the PHMC marker, or the monument installed by the county. That section of Route 30 is sort of tricky to safely drive, so I’m glad that the Trib notified me to the presence of this sign.
If you want to learn more about Arthur St. Clair without leaving Route 30, you can head on over to the museum at Fort Ligonier. The museum has pieces of Arthur St. Clair’s parlor installed in it. From what I read, the United States failed to repay a substantial debt owed to St. Clair. St. Clair lost most of what he owned, including the residence that contained this particular parlor. His possessions were sold to repay his own creditors. According to local folklore, General St. Clair’s ghost and his wife’s ghost haunt the fort’s museum. My fourth grade class visited Fort Ligioner several decades ago. I didn’t see any ghosts. I re-visited the museum in 2018. I still did not see any ghosts.
Just as an aside, I’ve previously blogged – several times – about Simon Girty. I learned from Wikipedia that Girty fought with the Native Americans at St. Clair’s defeat.
If you want to learn more about General St. Clair (or about Simon Girty), I recommend the website for the Heinz History Center.
I grew up in Central Pennsylvania and also in a little farming community down the road from Shanksville (the Flight 93 crash site). However, not everyone who reads this blog lived in Pennsylvania for decades like I did. (Not sure whether I should actually admit this . . . ) So, if you’re still new here and want to learn more, here are some books about Western Pennsylvania history that I enjoyed:
1.) Anything by Thomas White
White teaches and archives at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, and he also wrote a million books about Pennsylvania history and folklore. I just finished reading White’s “The Witch of the Monogahela: Folk Magic in Early Western Pennsylvania.”
2.) “The Day Must Dawn” by Agnes Sligh Turnbull
Turnbull grew up in New Alexandria in the late 1800’s. She graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. After World War I ended, she wrote this fiction novel about colonial settlers in Hanna’s Town (Hannastown) during the Revolutionary War. When I toured the visitor’s center at the Flight 93 National Memorial, I learned that Flight 93 travelled over part of Westmoreland County just moments before it crashed in Somerset County. The plane travelled over the same mountains that provide the setting for this book about living with fear and hope in the 1700’s.
If you decide that you liked Turnbull’s historical fiction, note that she wrote “The King’s Orchard” about early Pittsburgh businessman James O’Hara. (O’Hara was philanthropist Mary Schenley’s grandfather and also the source of her significant fortune.) She also wrote a novel titled “Remember the End” about Alex MacTay, a fictional mine owner in Greensburg during the Industrial Revolution. I suspect that Turnbull based MacTay on a hybrid of Henry Clay Frick and Andrew Carnegie.
I don’t recommend any other of Turnbull’s many, many novels. For instance, I attempted to read her story “The Richlands” about a farming family in Westmoreland County. The book took place in the late 1800’s – I think? Everyone travelled by horse. The farm boys had to physically build their own prep school. (Kiski Prep?) There was a creepy farmhand. The father fired the farmhand before he did anything exceptionally creepy, such as murder the wife and kids. Kinda disappointing. Turnbull forgot to include a plot in “The Richlands.” NOTHING happened for 300 pages.
3.) Hannah’s Town, by Helen Smith and George Swetnam
This book was “The Day Must Dawn” for kids. It followed a fictional girl named Hannah who lived in Hanna’s Town and thought of it as “her town.” Hannah’s family very conveniently moved away from Hanna’s Town right before the British and their Native American allies sacked and burned the town. The book was written in the style of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” books. I mentioned that I just finished reading a Thomas White book. Well, in the White book that I just finished, White specifically cited “Hannah’s Town” co-author Geroge Swetnam as one of White’s folklore sources.
4.) Grant by Ron Chernow
Grant was a biography of Ulysses S. Grant. Chernow also wrote the biography of Alexander Hamilton upon which Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote his Hamilton musical. In Grant, I learned that Grant’s father, Jesse, actually lived in Greensburg (down the road from Hannastown) for years before he moved to Ohio and fathered Ulysses.
5.) The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough
I learned that in the aftermath of the Johnstown Flood of 1889, somebody fished a live baby out of the Allegheny River at Verona. (Verona is downstream from Parnassus (where I live) and upstream from Pittsburgh.)
6.) American Elegy: A Family Memoir by Jeffrey Simpson
Simpson wrote this memoir about several generations of his family who lived in the Parnassus neighborhood of New Kensington. His family lived on the same block on which I now live.
7.) The Girl Factory: A Memoir by Karen Dietrich
Dietrich grew up in Connellsville. She wrote this book about her experiences in elementary and high school in Connellsville. I read this because I saw a write-up for it in a Pittsburgh newspaper. I included it here because the author is my age. She graduated from high school with a whole bunch of people who then attended college with me. Then, even though she didn’t go to college with me, she eventually (briefly) taught creative writing at my old college. I read this book while wondering the entire time if she wrote about anybody that I recognized. I did not recognize anybody. Maybe I’m not very perceptive.
So, this is just a warning that I will discuss a very popular, True Crime comedy podcast that discusses tragic subject matter. The podcast also involves copious amounts of swearing by females. This particular episode also involves injury to a child. If this will offend you, then DO NOT listen to the podcast that I discuss in this blog post.
So, I grew up going to an amusement park by the name of Idlewild in Ligonier, Pennsylvania.
Here is the Too Long / Didn’t read (TL / DR) version of today’s blog post: Today’s episode of the Comedy / True Crime Podcast My Favorite Murder, hosted by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, included a story about a tragic incident that occurred at Idlewild a few years ago. Fast Forward to time 21:00 if you don’t want to listen to the other stories in this episode.
Now, today’s episode (today is October 5, 2020, BTW), featured only stories sent in by listeners. This particular story involved the park’s wooden roller coaster and a small child. Through a Google search, you can find articles from the local news regarding a similar-sounding incident that happened several years ago. However, the podcast did not give any indication that their staff fact-checked the story. Keep that in mind if you choose to listen to it.
If you’re not familiar with My Favorite Murder (MFM), here is my prior blog post – from my other blog – on the podcast. The hosts from this show performed at the Benedum Theater in Pittsburgh in March 2019. I wanted to go, but both Pittsburgh shows sold out before I could get tickets. (It all worked out in my favor, because Jonathan and I got tickets to see Mumford & Sons ON THE SAME NIGHT as one of these shows. )
Here’s my personal experience with Idlewild:
I grew up in Somerset County, so we lived much, much closer to Idlewild than we did to Kennywood Park in Pittsburgh.
For several years, Idlewild held a promotion through Snyder of Berlin, the potato chip company. As you recall, I grew up in Berlin, Pennsylvania, home of this same potato chip factory. Anyway, specially marked potato chip bags included “buy one get one free” admission coupons for weekday trips to Idlewild. Well, during this time, my parents had four kids, so they had a total of six family members for which they needed to purchase tickets. Also, throughout my entire childhood, my dad worked at his second job almost every weekend day from fishing season until after Labor Day. So, the only time that Dad could take us to Idlewild were on non-holiday weekdays. The Snyder of Berlin – Idlewild promotion was perfect for my family.
Idlewild was not the world’s fanciest amusement park. Still, we loved it when we were kids. We didn’t visit Kennywood every single summer. Some years, Idlewild WAS our summer amusement park fun. Idlewild (still) has its own waterpark, and Kennywood doesn’t have this. (Sandcastle is a separate park from Kennywood.)
(Idlewild is over a century old, and it’s located along Route 30 AKA the Lincoln Highway. Stories about it are included in Route 30 lore.)
After high school, I went off to Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, which is less than 10 miles down the road from Idlewild. I became close friends with another student, “Inez”. Inez worked at Idlewild for several summers. She started there when she was a high school student, and she worked there through a significant part of her time as a student at Saint Vincent.
I heard many, many stories from Inez in which she alleged poor treatment of the (mostly high school-aged and college-aged) staff by the Idlewild management. (I heard similar alleged stories from “Varina,” a fellow student who lived in our dorm and worked as a ride operator at Kennywood. Note that Idlewild and Kennywood had common ownership both during this time and currently.)
Even after I heard all of these stories, I applied for a job at Idlewild because I was getting ready to graduate from Saint Vincent and I didn’t have any other job offers in hand.
I worked at Idlewild myself for less than two weeks. I didn’t witness any poor treatment myself. (I did have a ride operator trainer suggest to me that if I really needed a break, and I hadn’t been granted one by management, then I should wait until the next guest threw up on the ride. Then, I should take as long as possible to clean up the puke. This way, I could give myself an unofficial rest.) However, I couldn’t afford to pay for gas to drive from my home in Somerset County to Ligonier every day at the close to minimum wage that Idlewild paid me. So, I quit as soon as I obtained a job offer at the Walmart in Somerset.
Now, you might be asking, “If the management at these amusement parks was as poor as Inez and Varina alleged, why didn’t they just quit? Why did you apply to work at Idlewild if you believed any of these stories?” Why, see, none of us three are Chelsea Clinton or Ivanka Trump. We didn’t have fantastic “consulting” gigs waiting for us at firms owned by our parents “friends.”
So, this particular story about Idlewild Park featured on My Favorite Murder (MFM) began with “Disclaimer: If you think that sketchy, dangerous theme parks died with Action Park, think again.”
(Note that the reference to “Action Park” is in regards to a recently released documentary about a theme park in New Jersey that was the subject of lawsuits in regards to deaths and injuries that occurred there. Action Park and the documentary about it were the subject of a recent MFM episode.)
The “listener story” about Idlewild Park then alleged poor decision making by park management both leading up to and immediately after the tragic incident described in the story.
I feel loyalty to Idlewild because I have so many memories of spending time with loved ones at this park. My family was able to visit an amusement park every summer because Idlewild was less than a two hour drive from our house and it was affordable for our large family.
However, I heard many stories about alleged mistreatment of its employees from somebody that I highly regard. (Also, see above regarding the “advice” that I received from a park trainer in regards to cleaning ride puke. In my opinion, if the employees received adequate time to recharge during a shift, then this advice would not be necessary.) The stories that I heard from my classmates all took place a significant amount of time ago, and I don’t believe that any of us were aware of any way to be a whistle blower.
If you listened to this story yourself, what do you think?
Here’s my call to action: If you enjoy (or hate read) my blog, please share it with others would would also enjoy (or hate read) it.
The first time that I went to downtown Greensburg, Pennsylvania, I went to a tattoo parlor. I also walked up and down the city’s hilly streets, popping into any store that advertised cigarettes, and asking if they also sold Playboy magazine.
The tattoo and Playboy weren’t for me.
At that time, I attended college at Saint Vincent College in nearby Latrobe. I had never before visited downtown Greensburg for these reasons:
1.) I had no reason to go into downtown Greensburg. None. Like just about almost every other place in western PA, Greensburg suffered when the steel industry collapsed. Greensburg’s big fancy downtown department store closed. The area’s only decent mall was several miles away, on the interstate.
2.) I didn’t own a car at that time. Uber and Lyft didn’t exist. I only went places where other people offered me rides. Up until my trip to the tattoo parlor, nobody had ever offered me a ride to downtown Greensburg.
Then, this young woman who lived in my dorm named “Esme” came back from summer vacation with several new tattoos. She decided that she needed at least one more tattoo – of the Playboy Bunny, on her back.
Our mutual friend “Nina” agreed to drive Esme to a tattoo parlor in downtown Greensburg. (Esme didn’t own a car, either.) For some reason, they agreed to bring me along on the “adventure.”
So, we all set off for Greensburg.
One of the tattoo parlor employees told us that we needed to give her a picture of the Playboy Bunny if we wanted the artist to ink it on Esme’s back. Smartphones weren’t a thing that any of us owned back then. We couldn’t just Google an image of this.
So, for the next hour, Nina and I walked into stores and asked the clerks if they sold Playboy. We walked up and down – and up and down and up and down – the streets of Greensburg.
I don’t remember us actually finding a Playboy magazine to purchase.
But, we must have found one! I watched Esme get the Bunny tattooed on her back that afternoon. In my opinion, she seemed to be in much pain during the whole ordeal.
Had I been more of a STRIVER, I would have stayed at Saint Vincent and studied for whatever class I blew off that day. I would be a bigger professional and financial success today. But, here we are! I get to sit all day in my yoga pants, in my comfortable chair in Parnassus, and work from home. You get to hate-read my blog. Win, win!
A few months after our Playboy Bunny scavenger hunt, I returned to downtown Greensburg for a handful of job interviews. I didn’t get any job offers out of this. Maybe all of the hiring managers at all of these companies would have picked me, IF ONLY I had gone to class that one day instead of visiting that tattoo parlor.
(Sidenote: Somebody that I know DID get one of those jobs for which I interviewed in Greensburg. This person left the job a few weeks later. I don’t know why this person left.)
Now, I know that Greensburg is more than just tattoo parlors and stores that sell cigarettes and possibly Playboy. And jobs that I couldn’t get.
Greensburg became the Westmoreland County seat after Seneca warriors and British Loyalists burned down Hannastown in 1785. My dad was born in Greensburg. My grandma worked for this very county for years. Later, my husband and I applied for our marriage license at the courthouse here. I saw the deed to my great-grandparents’ farm on a computer inside this same courthouse.
Now, Seton Hill College looks over downtown Greensburg from its very own bluff. My dad’s youngest sister graduated from Seton Hill. So, they must be a fine school if they convinced my fabulous aunt to spend her money and her time there.
The Westmoreland Cultural Trust poured its heart and soul into gorgeous renovations on such downtown Greensburg landmarks as the 1912 train station and the Palace Theater. Cafes face the courthouse.
Last fall, my husband Jonathan and I walked around Greensburg and took photos. I took the two that I posted here on this blog post.
A lot of people are angry and / or worried right now. I just want to bring you all some joy by showing you photos and telling you that I was weird when I was 21 years old. Some things never change.
Almost every year, I enter the Ligonier Valley Writer’s annual Flash Fiction Writing Contest. The prizes aren’t big. But – there’s no entry fee, and you don’t need to belong to this group in order to enter. From what I understand, the winning entries are read at Greensburg area venues around Halloween.
Each year’s contest requires a story of 1,000 words or less on that year’s stated theme. In 2018, that theme was “Bigfoot.” I submitted an entry to the contest.
Then I learned that my mom was really sick with cancer. I forgot about Bigfoot.
A few days before my mom passed away, I received an email from the Ligonier Valley Writers. The email told me that the contest awards only six prizes each year (First, Second, and Third Place, and also three honorable mentions), but that the contest organizers wanted me to know that I actually placed in the top ten of all entries. The email indicated that the top scores were close together. The contest organizers invited all ten writers who placed in the top ten to read their stories at a flash fiction party in Greensburg. Unfortunately, I had to decline the offer because this event was held the same day as the funeral home viewing for my mom. With my permission, the contest organizers designated somebody else to read the story at their party in my place.
As part of my recognition, the contest organizers also provided me with a “professionally edited” version of my story. They released me to submit the story elsewhere.
Last month, I bought a new laptop and I re-discovered this story when I moved my files to it.
I prefer to not submit this to a list of slush pile magazines who provide payment in the form of “free copies.” I respect writers who choose to do so. However, I think that you fantastic blog readers need a bit of cheer and entertainment right now. So, I present to you here the “professionally edited” version of my top-ten-placing story about Bigfoot:
The No-Kill Group
by Jenny Gaffron Woytek
Perry said, “Did you bring your gun?”
Ron said, “Don’t need a gun to find Bigfoot.”
Perry said, “You sure, man?”
Ron said, “My Bigfoot club is a no-kill group. I pledged not to pack. “
Perry insisted, “I wouldn’t spend the night in the woods without my gun.”
Ron said, “We’re scouts, not hunters. No one’s ever been hurt by Bigfoot.”
“Ain’t Bigfoot that I’d worry about, Ron.”
Perry took the half-bushel of apples from the back of his pickup emblazoned with “Perry’s Produce” and set it down in the trailhead parking lot. “That’ll be ten bucks.”
“Here you go, buddy. Thanks again. Bigfoots love apples.”
Perry said, “How far are you gonna hike?”
“Just down this hill. I’ll set up camp in that field where that one creek flows into the Loyalhanna. The guys up at the Drop Inn saw tracks there last week.”
Perry climbed into his truck. “I wouldn’t do this without a gun.”
Ron pulled off his black and gold Steelers ballcap and scratched his balding head. And what if he did have his gun? What business was it of Perry’s? “Look, man, I promised the group. No guns.”
Perry said, “Whatever. I gotta go.”
Perry drove away.
Ron pulled his pack from his car. Checked it for the important stuff. Nikon. Camp chair. Flashlight. Snacks. Apples. Night-vision goggles. And, of course, the Nikon.
Good to go.
Ron had seen Bigfoot up close once. That was two summers ago on the Fourth of July, with Allison. Ah, Allison. The feel of her long soft auburn hair and the scent of that apple lotion stuff that she liked. Her huge–magnetism.
That night, Allison wanted to watch Latrobe’s fireworks. Ron knew that the top of Laurel Ridge had the best view. He took her up a logging road.
Ron held Allison close throughout the show.
On the drive back down the mountain, they saw something in the headlights.
A figure. Bigger than a man.
Ron slammed on the brakes. “Shit!”
Ron and Allison scoured the dark with their flashlights, but saw nothing.
Ron found a large dent, some blood, and brown fur on the bumper the next morning.
“We hit a bear, Ron,” Allison told him.
“It was thinner than a bear. We both saw it. And it had brown fur. Grizzlies don’t live here,” he said.
No bears in Pennsylvania towered over the truck on erect legs. Bears didn’t look at you with the face of a man. They didn’t run away and then appear every night in your dreams.
Then Allison stopped answering Ron’s texts. Well, that was that. Now Ron walked by himself to a field on Laurel Mountain.
He needed one good photo. The guys who came back from scouting with blurry photos got laughed at by everybody.
At the field, Ron set up his chair and readied his Nikon. He pulled the pheromone chips out of his pocket and hung them in several of the trees that lined the Loyalhanna Creek. He spread apples on the ground. Good to go.
He pulled out his book and settled in for the wait.
“In 1977, a group of snowmobilers took off into the Ural Mountains and never returned. A search party found their crushed bodies one month later.” The book included pictures of the victims, alive and then in body bags.
The sun disappeared. Ron picked up his flashlight to continue reading.
“An autopsy revealed that at least one of the victims choked to death on his own blood.”
Then Ron heard the noise.
Ron aimed his flashlight into the branches of a pine.
He saw an owl.
He went back to his book. “The first responders to the crime reported an overwhelming smell of sulfur.” Funny, many in the Bigfoot community believed their animal smelled like sulfur.
He drifted off and dropped the book.
He sat in the cab of the truck, next to Allison, who smelled like apples. The truck hit something. The figure stepped into the headlights. Large, brown fur, the face of a man. Staring at him.
Ron started. Had he heard something? Nah. Man, it was chilly!
Something hit him.
He looked down and saw an apple in his lap. He looked up. He was sitting under an apple tree.
Several acorns landed in his hair. Oh, this was only the wind picking up. Still–
“Hello?” He shined the flashlight in front of him.
“Whoosh!” went the crack of branches.
He stood up and walked toward the trees. No time for childish fears–
Ron jumped back and screamed. He pulled his Glock out of his jacket pocket.
“GGRRUUUUHHHH!” Another apple flew past him.
Ron shot into the darkness.
“You shot me!”
Ron dropped the gun as Perry walked toward him, clutching his side.
“Oh my god! Oh my god! Perry! Oh my god! Where did I hit you?”
“You got me in the side.” Perry collapsed on all fours and then rolled over onto his back, clutching his ribs.
Ron leaned over Perry. “Let me see.”
Perry moaned on the ground.
Ron moved his flashlight to Perry’s chest,
Perry jumped up and screamed “GGGRRRR!” into Ron’s face.
Ron jumped back and threw his hands into the air. “What the hell, man?”
“You jackass! You said no gun!”
Perry replied, “I’d be dead if you weren’t such a lousy shot.”
Ron picked his flashlight off the ground just as an apple flew past him.
A figure stepped out from behind the tree.
A hand reached toward him. A large, fur-covered hand.
Both men fled.
Fionnuala the Sasquatch pulled out her camera and photographed the hairless creatures as they ran.
She couldn’t wait to show her photo to her no-kill group.
I have a confession. Before the Covid-19 crisis changed my world in March, I ate out at restaurants A LOT. Everyone has a different definition of “A LOT.” I’m not going to provide my definition of “A LOT.” Let’s just say that I’m embarrassed to let my dad and sisters know how often I ate out.
I didn’t always eat out A LOT. I didn’t go out much during college or right after college because I couldn’t afford it. In fact, when I worked at my first job after college in Johnstown, my friends and I made fun of a co-worker who did go out to eat “A LOT.”
Then, I got a job in downtown Pittsburgh. I married a man who worked in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh. I moved into his house in New Kensington. New Kensington isn’t that close to Pittsburgh during rush hour. My after-work commute changed from 5 minutes in Johnstown to much longer. I also made more dough because I no longer worked in Johnstown. Also also, my living costs were still really low because- well, because I lived in New Kensington. So, I paid other people to make my dinner.
That all changed in March 2020. People on Facebook told me that I could die or kill my grandmother if I went outside. My employer told me to work from home. (Woot! Woot! No painful commute!) The governor shut down all of the restaurants. So, I learned how much money I actually save by making my poor husband cook for me.
The very last time that I ate in a restaurant was Sunday, March 15. My husband Jonathan and I ate at the brunch buffet at DiSalvo’s Station Restaurant in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. According to Facebook, we should both be dead right now! Good thing that the restaurant only had about five other patrons during our meal.
DiSalvo’s is a renovated former train station that sits under active railroad tracks. The current Amtrak station sits above the restaurant. When you dine at DiSalvo’s, you can hear freight trains or perhaps even the Amtrak over your head.
I visited DiSalvo’s for the very first time when I was a senior at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe. I ended up at DiSalvo’s as part of a double date. It turned out that my “date” part of the double date actually wanted to be with the other girl in our foursome, and a few months later he did just that. However, that’s the way that things go sometimes. I got a free meal out of the whole thing.
So, the place has a model railroad that travels along the dining room wall. This little train passes replicas of Latrobe landmarks, including the Saint Vincent Basilica. When I went there on my “double date,” the other girl and I cooed “Oh, train!” every time that the train passed our table. Someone finally turned the train off just to shut us up.
A few years later, I went to a wedding reception held at DiSalvo’s for a college classmate who got married at Saint Vincent Basilica.
A few more years went by and I got married myself. (I married a guy who never went on a double date with me while he actually wanted the other girl. Also, my own wedding wasn’t as fancy and it didn’t take place in Latrobe.)
A few years after this, my sister K. gave me a gift card to the place. Then, I went cabin camping with my husband and in-laws at nearby Keystone State Park over Veterans Day weekend. My father-in-law is a veteran. My father-in-law loves trains. We used the gift card to treat him to Sunday brunch at DiSalvo’s.
So, after brunch, we walked up to the railroad tracks to watch trains. A few freight trains passed us. We even saw a male and female stowaway riding on one of the cars. (I’m too politically correct to use the word “hobo.”)
And then . . . it happened. A train stopped on the tracks directly above DiSalvo’s Station. Oil covered the locomotive and several of the front cars.
It turned out that the thing’s turbo had exploded. Thus the mess. Oil everywhere.
We watched railroad employees disconnect the oil-covered locomotive from the front car and replace it with a fresh, oil-free locomotive. We watched this for over an hour. We didn’t need no stinking model train that could be turned off by the whim of annoyed restaurant employees. We had our own, real train entertainment outside!
I swiped this photo of the oil-covered locomotive from my sister-in-law’s Facebook page. Good thing that I don’t actually make any money from this blog!
My husband and I saw all of this with his mom Fran, his dad, his sister M., and her future husband J. After this, my husband and I drove to Latrobe sometimes to grab brunch at DiSalvo’s. Every time we ate there, we talked about the Great Veterans Day Weekend Oil Shower.
After Fran died, I couldn’t think about the Great Veterans Day Weekend Oil Shower without thinking about how much fun Fran seemed to have had that day at the train tracks above DiSalvo’s Station.
Now, as I said, my routine completely changed in March 2020. A lot of people’s lives did. My employer had planned a major client social function at a downtown Pittsburgh restaurant for mid-March. Two weeks before everything shut down, my big manager announced that the client function was still on her schedule. She told my co-workers that she herself planned to keep eating out.
By that time, Twitter was filled with memes about how our entire family would die if we left the house. I ignored the memes because my mother-in-law and my own mom had both lived their lives “correctly” and they had both died anyway. So, if I croaked from eating at a brunch buffet, at least I got to eat that final piece of chocolate cheesecake.
So – about that brunch at DiSalvo’s Station on March 15. The restaurant was pretty empty. We were at least six feet away from the other patrons the entire time. The only other patrons sat on the other side of the dining room. The staff seemed really nervous and stressed. Maybe I just projected my own feelings onto them.
The next day, Monday March 16, was my last day inside my employer’s downtown Pittsburgh office. During that day, we received an email to start working from home effective immediately. The governor shut down all of the restaurants less than a week later.
I’m blessed because I didn’t lose my job. I got to stop making my commute. I saved a lot of money. However, I’m sad that I haven’t eaten inside of a restaurant since March. I’m sad for all of the restaurants that I loved to visit. So, from time to time, I will blog about my restaurant memories.
By the way, I’m aware that Pennsylvania restaurants eventually opened again to inside diners. However, my husband and I decided to cherry-pick our activities. We are involved in some other stuff (including my husband’s participation in our community’s volunteer fire department) so we balanced this out by not eating inside of restaurants. Now restaurants in my area are being shut down again. It looks as if I won’t be eating inside of a restaurant for a long, long time.
In the historical fiction novel The Day Must Dawn by Agnes Sligh Turnbull, a colonial family held a kissing party.
The novel explained that the fictional Murray family living in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania in 1778 could not attend their neighbors’ party. The neighbors were Lutherans and their party included dancing. The Murrays were Presbyterians and they did not attend events that included dancing. So, the Murrays held their own party: they held a kissing party.
Mr. Murray once fiddled, but that he lost his fiddle when the family crossed the Allegheny Mountains from Philadelphia. So, he borrowed a fiddle for use at the kissing party.
The party-goers formed a circle. Each young man took a turn standing in the middle of the circle. Mr. Murray fiddled and the party-goers sang King William Was. At the end of each verse, the young man in the middle of the circle chose a young woman and kissed her. The game continued until each young woman at the party had been kissed. The party-goers then played similar kissing games with the songs Lily in the Garden and Sister Phoebe.
The party-goers also played a game called Hurly-Burly. Judging by the way that the novel described this game, I am under the impression that it is vey much like the modern day party game Charades.
Since the party hosts had recently come into the possession of a rare and cherished small mirror, the party-goers took turns looking at their own faces in said mirror. Finally, they played the following fortune-telling game:
The young men formed a circle. Each young woman took a turn standing in the middle of this circle. The remaining young woman stood away from the circle. The party-goes darkened the room. The young woman in the middle of the circle held the room’s only lit candle and also the mirror. The party-goers blindfolded this young woman. The young men in the circle rotated the circle until the blindfolded young woman told them to stop. Someone removed the blindfold. After a short wait, the young woman opened her eyes. The young woman announced the first male face that she saw in the mirror. Per folklore, this would be the face of her future husband.
Lochry’s Defeat started in 1781 when Archibald Lochry raised a militia unit in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. About one hundred men set off down the Ohio River from Fort Pitt (which later became Pittsburgh). A few weeks later, the entire group ended up captured or killed.
Archibald Lochry was a Westmoreland County leader during the American Revolutionary War. The British occupied Detroit. The American colonists in Western PA were at war with the British and their Native American allies. Many of these Native American allies attacked from the Ohio territory west of PA.
(The colonists referred to the British general in Detroit as “Hair Buyer Hamilton” because the British paid for the scalps of American colonists.)
Thomas Jefferson, then the governor of Virginia, promoted George Rogers Clark to the Virginia rank of Brigadier General. In 1781, Clark left Fort Pitt to navigate down the Ohio River into the Ohio territory.
Lochry and his militiamen followed in their own flotilla some time later. Lochry was supposed to meet up with Clark’s expedition downriver. Unfortunately, after a number of issues including supplies, communication, and the threat of desertions among Clark’s men, Lochry missed Clark several times. Lochry never caught up to Clark.
In August 1781, Joseph Brant and George Girty led Native Americans allied with the British. (George Girty was Simon Girty‘s brother.) This group set out looking for Clark.
Brant and Girty instead surprised Lochry, who had stopped on the banks of the Ohio River in present-day Indiana. Brant and Girty ambushed Lochry and killed him. They killed dozens of his men and took the rest prisoner.
The families back in Westmoreland County didn’t learn about this until a significant time later.
The Wikipedia entry for this event also refers to it as the Lochry Massacre. I chose to not use the word “massacre” because indignenous people were involved in the victory. I explained my choice of semantics in this other blog post.
If you want a much more detailed account of Lochry’s Defeat and Clark’s expedition, by all means go read the Wikipedia entry on this. The Wikipedia page includes a photo of the Lochry’s Defeat site in Indiana. I also saw in this photo some military equipment that I believe came from a 20th century war. To be honest, at first glance I mistook this equipment to be an empty boat trailer. (This is IS along the Ohio River banks.)
I wrote today’s blog post for all of the people who, like me, don’t remember learning about this in high school history class. In fact, I never even heard this story from my Westmoreland County family members who first told me about Simon Girty. I learned about Lochry’s Defeat from the historical fiction novel “The Day Must Dawn” by Agnes Sligh Turnbull.
Just to keep this in context with other local history, Lochry’s men from Westmoreland County set off from Fort Pitt in the summer of 1781. Lochry’s Defeat happened in Indiana in August 1781. The Crawford Expedition set off down the Ohio River in May 1782. (William Crawford led this expedition. Most of his militiamen came from Westmoreland and Washington counties.) The British and their Native American allies captured and executed Crawford in Ohio in June 1782. Simon Girty was present at Crawford’s execution. Then, the British and their Native American allies attacked and burned Hannastown in Westmoreland County in July 1782. The Revolutionary War ended in 1783.
According to Wikipedia, Joseph Brant allegedly got into a violent, drunken brawl with Simon Girty over the issue of whether Brant or George Girty deserved the credit for Lochry’s Defeat. Brant was a Mohawk military leader and Girty (who was himself raised by Native Americans) has an infamous reputation in frontier America. At least one Canadian monument refers to Simon Girty as a British Loyalist. Keep this in mind when you read such tales.
I have family who lived in the Greensburg-ish, Pennsylvania, area in the early 1900’s. A bunch of them died young and / or poor, so I can’t tell you much about them. However, because of them, I got stuck on Western PA history.
I read this historical fiction novel titled “Remember the End” by Agnes Sligh Turnbull. Turnbull was a New York Times bestselling writer from New Alexandria, PA. How sad that Turnbull didn’t have a snappier pen name! Like Mark Twain. T’would be easier for me to blog about her.
Turnbull graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP). (My sister, a double IUP grad, told me that IUP used to have a Turnbull Hall. This got knocked down and replaced with a parking lot.)
Anyway, Turnbull wrote Remember the End. This novel began in the late 1800’s in Scotland, then moved to the Greensburg area, then ended in Greensburg around 1917.
(The book didn’t actually list dates. I only knew that the book ended around 1917 because at the end of the story, several of the characters talked about fighting in the War (World War I). The War started in 1914. The United States entered the War in 1917. As an FYI, my own great-grandfather did actually fight in this War. He got captured by the Germans and lost the use of his arm in this same War. He returned to his farm in Westmoreland County, and he named one of his mules after the German kaiser.)
At the very beginning of Remember the End, (the very poor) Alex McTay left his home in Scotland. He emigrated to Pennsylvania. He fell in love with Maggie, a (poor, but not quite as poor) Westmoreland County horse trader’s daughter.
Alex married Maggie. He opened coal mines. He became a millionaire before his 35th birthday. He built a fancy home for Maggie in Greensburg.
I think that Turnbull based the protagonist on a hybrid of Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick. At one point in the story, McTay referred to Andrew Carnegie as his hero or his role model or something.
Unlike Andrew Carnegie, McTay didn’t become a philanthropist.
McTay deliberately ruined his business rival’s life after the rival humiliated him at a fancy Greensburg party.
Remember the End haunts me because my family lived in Western PA during this same time frame. Fictional Alex McTay’s fortune could very well have been built upon my family’s backs.
I posted above a photo of Greensburg’s train station. The Pennsylvania Railroad built this station in 1912. So, if Alex McTay existed in real life, he and his family could have travelled through this station. Did Turnbull visualize Alex McTay in this station?
Turnbull is now buried in New Alexandria. Remember the End is now out of print. I purchased my copy (used) from Amazon this month.