I grew up in Southwestern Pennsylvania. I was born in 1963 in Uniontown Pennsylvania. Both of my grandfathers worked in the coal mines. My father and several of my uncles either worked in the coal mines or steel mills at one time or another. I have met Willie Stargell and Roberto Clemente on the field of Three Rivers Stadium as a Cub Scout. I watched Terry Bradshaw and the Steel Curtain win their first and last Super Bowl. I have been to more events at the Civic Arena then I could count on both feet and hands. At the time of this writing the Mellon Arena (as it is called now) is being prepared for demolition. I watched the downfall of the steel mills and coal mines from the inside and the outside. I played in the coke ovens, fished in the rivers and watched this area bounce back from terrible economic times. Time would fail me to continue in my reminiscing but let’s just say, like many of you I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly.
Several years ago I went to Florida after high school graduation. This was the first time I had ever been out of Southwestern Pennsylvania. The steel mills and coal mines at that time were at their all-time low. Jobs were very scarce especially for a high school graduate. I walked into the deli of a Winn-Dixie supermarket and said to the deli attendant there “Do yinz have any Isaly’s chipped ham?” The deli attendant looked confused and said “Yinz? Isaly’s? Chipped ham?” Well needless to say he was quite confused and so was I. This was the beginning of this book several years ago. Until then I really never knew how unique Southwestern Pennsylvania was.
I lived in Florida for a while and all it did was elevate my appreciation for my home. I discovered that it wasn’t just the food or the vocabulary that set this area apart but the people, creative people who enjoyed the simple life. The people of this area have been through tough times and have the scars to prove it. The scars have produced character and that coupled with being in the melting pot of Pennsylvania has created a unique kind of people. The way they live and appreciate the simple life is to be envied.
The beauty of the rolling hills and meadows, the smells captured in a warm breeze on a spring day and the taste of a homegrown tomato sandwiched in between two pieces of Grandma’s homemade bread can take you back to a moment in time that you would’ve otherwise forgotten. The sights, sounds and smells bid you come and they never fail to remind you that you grew up in Southwestern Pennsylvania.
It’s a beautiful day in Pennsylvania!