22 September 2009

Lake Conemaugh

First, from my awesome WPA-funded Pennsylvania Writers Project OUP-published Pennsylvania: A Guide to the Keystone State, 1940:
One of the greatest disasters in the State's history was the flood in the spring of 1889 at Johnstown, situated at the junctionof the Little Conemaugh River and Stony Creek.  On the morning after Memorial Day the waters rose quickly.  Then the giant South Fork Dam, which impounded 78,000,000 tons of water, burst and the torrent carried away everything in its path, crumbling the houses of Johnstown like cardboard and drowning approximately 2,200.  Flames completed the havoc.
In May 1889 a week of heavy rainfall raised the Conemaugh River and Stony Creek River, still swollen by spring thaws.  The waters inched up the steep hills in a manner familiar to residents, who expected no greater damage than that which they had frequently experienced, and to which they had long since resigned themselves.  On the afternoon of May 31 the South Fork Dam gave way; erected to form a feeder basin for the Pennsylvania Canal, it had been neglected since 1862.  A wall of water, 75 feet high and half a mile wide, rushed upon everything aside, exacting a toll of more than 2,200 lives and about $10,000,000 in property damage.  Bodies were carried down-river as far as Pittsburgh.  All parts of the Nation contributed to the rescue and rehabilitation work.  Only one precaution against a recurrence was subsequently taken, the widening of the Conemaugh River in 1891.

So this leaves out how Frick and friends of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club were unconcerned with the potential hazards of the dam and then because the flood was an "Act of God" they were never held responsible for the damage. 

You can go back to this post to read about my visit to the Johnstown Flood Museum, but on the way back from Dunlo on Sunday, we stopped at the former Lake Conemaugh, where I'd never been:

Lake Conemaugh, which is now part of the Johnstown Flood National Memorial

The picture of the lake area was taken from the north side of the spillway - so really, from where it all began.  And the rich industrialists never really apologized, spoke publicly about their involvement or were put on trial or anything like that because the paperwork made it so that they couldn't be held responsible for something that they really were neglectful about, namely not maintaining the spillway.  And so lots of people died and they kept on being rich.

And then three years later, the Homestead Strike happened.  Then Berkman tried to kill Frick, and by that point Frick was so hated in Pittsburgh and he was in grief about his daughter that he had to retreat to New York City and took up the hobby of art. 

Like Going to Europe, except unfortunately not quite

Sunday was the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Sts. Peter and Paul Greek Catholic Church in Dunlo, PA.  This was an excellent excuse to go to the mountains and get some fresh air and meet the people who live out there in former coal mining villages.

After ages of joking about it, I am beginning to better understand cemetery geekiness.  After learning more and understanding more, it's so interesting to go into cemeteries full of immigrant families and see the design and language used - so telling of so much - and yet there are so many stories buried with the people in the cemeteries.

For example, this headstone on the left mixes alphabets at the bottom where it says "VIČNAJA JEMU PAMЯATЬ."  The way they use of "born" and "died" reveals the dialect of these people: rodzena, umerla, etc.

So after the panachida at the cemetery, we went to church for liturgy and then to the Fire Hall for luncheon.  The interior of the fire hall helped me to think about how analogous 'Fire Hall' is to 'Kultúrny dom' in Europe.  'Culture House' elevates the concept slightly, but it's the same difference: a large room where most of the village can gather in one room for a community-building event.

The Dunlo Kultúrny Dom contrasted with the Jakubjany Kultúrny Dom.

As we were driving to Dunlo in Cambria county, through South Fork and Saint Michael, I kept seeing signs for a soft drink called Squirt, which I'd never heard of before.  The design of these signs screamed 1960s, and I was wondering if it is a now-defunct soft drink like one of my favorites, Surge.  Apparently it's still produced but I didn't know that at the time, and so imagine what a strange timewarpy feeling it must have been to drive into Dunlo and be greeted by this:

So, we had to go in on our way out of town.  Mostly because I love these old so-called "ethnic" clubs, and while I've been to them in Pittsburgh, I'd never been to one out in the country - and I wanted to talk to some of the people from this place.

When we walked in, they had just finished their pre-Steelers game chili cookoff, and so there were assorted crock pots plugged in in a row with numbers sitting in front of them.  While I don't think there is a chili cookoff before every Steelers game, because apparently they do different food cookoffs, there is a rather small pool of people so one would think that people would know whose crockpot goes with whom.  This creates a problem because if it's a contest then it's not anonymous and if I was living in Dunlo I'd pay attention to what everyone's crock pot looked like. Or perhaps the contestants swap crock pots beforehand.  And how do they carry them in without everyone seeing?  sigh. Obviously I've just flown my city-kid flag with my stupid worries about a village chili cookoff.

Everyone was sitting around the bar (how do you know where people are on a Sunday afternoon in the fall when the streets are deserted?) waiting for the Steelers game to start, all in their Steelers shirts - I was glad that Troy Polamalu was the most popular there!  I was talking with them, commenting on how they all wore Steelers shirts, and one of the guys at the bar said to the guy next to him, "What, hasn't she ever seen Steelers fans before?"

And really, here we must give some much-deserved credit to immigrant ingenuity.  For a bunch of people who were really discriminated against, who had the worst jobs, couldn't speak English really well and so on, they really knew how to get around the blue laws back in the day when they founded these clubs! I had commented on how much I really enjoy these ethnic clubs, and same smart aleck at the bar said, "If anything, here we're ethnically challenged!"

Many of the people from Dunlo have roots in the village of Malcov, which is between Bardejov and Čirč.  On the wall in the bar, between the pinball machine and Steelers memorabilia, was the requisite homemade plaque honoring the founders of the club.  So if you're reading this and have roots in Malcov, some of your relatives may be here:

But to me, the interesting thing about this is not its potential as a genealogical goldmine, but rather that fist at the bottom of the left column.  Those old coal miners must have had some radical politics, and whoever made this sign knew it?!  Oh, and by the way -- not too many Slovaks at the Slovak American Citizens club, eh?

And now, finally, a comparison of grazing cows, to prove how legit this place is:
Which is in America, and which is in Europe?

03 September 2009

Today's Vintage Rusyn Photograph

It's been a while!

Unknown location and date, but provenance suggests Upper Šariš in the 1970s maybe.

Exotic Timetravel

Now that I think about it, I've seen these before, but they're so cool I'm glad they caught my attention again.  These are color photographs from pre-Revolutionary Russia!