Pittsburgh – Night Out in the Big City! Vol. 4

They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.  ~Tom Bodett

Maggie-Aunt-Heather-Piper-Marching-Band-Latrobe-1992-93

Maggie McNeely & me at a football game in Latrobe Stadium, Marching Band. 1992-93

If you’ve been following along with my single most memorable and scary night, in Pittsburgh, as a teenager, you might be saying to yourself, ReallyPittsburgh – A Night Out in the Big City!  Vol. 1, Pittsburgh- Night Out in the Big City! Vol. 2, Pittsburgh – Night Out in the Big City! Vol. 3  All true!  To recap, I took my car into Pittsburgh when I wasn’t allowed, it broke down, I accepted a ride from a homeless man living in his car, who hit a transvestite.  Then, I accepted a ride from a drunk man before the police showed up.  Eventually, with a little help from my metal beret, we got the car working and headed east, back home.  Now the car just died again alongside a very dark highway.  The reason?  The possibility of running out of gas was mentioned.  Can you believe all this happened in one night?

Now a group of teenagers were sitting alongside a highway, in the dark, without a clue to the closest gas station, if that indeed was the reasoning for the most recent issue.  Again, everyone got out of Black Beauty to get some fresh night air.  Plus, I think it made everyone feel like they were helping.  Would you believe during this entire ordeal, no one was mad at me, or seemed upset in the slightest?  Nope, everyone rolled with it and tired to help when possible.  Granted at this point, we’re all a bit tied and frustrated, but no one pointed fingers and blamed me. Now that’s a group of friends!

Jay-Aunt-Heather-Piper-at-Derry-Show-c.-1992

Me & Jay Boring hanging out at the Derry band show. c. 1992

Just then, headlights approached us and parked directly behind my car.  What now?  Believe it or not, I remember thinking to myself something along the lines of, Let me guess, an axe murderer, or a serial killer to polish off the night?  I knew once we found our way, and got the car in forward motion, I was tempting fate too much.

Again, not knowing what lurked behind those headlights and not wanting anyone to get hurt, I approached our third stranger of the night.  However, this one didn’t seem to have any issues.  I can’t even remember if it was a guy or a gal, but my vote is with the earlier.  Our nice stranger was a single person that didn’t appear to be drinking, drove a modern car, no beater, dressed casually, and seemed, well, normal!  Can you say Ted Bundy?  Yikes!  I thought we were all dead meat.

And yes, on a side note, I knew exactly who Ted Bundy was and what he did.  For some reason, I was fascinated by that crazy man and followed his case on television, even staying home from school (it was a Tuesday) to watch his execution.  No joke! I still remember watching the spokesperson announce his death.  Personally, I thought I was going to be able to literally watch him die.  I was wrong, and I’m glad for it.

Jeremiah-Tom-at-Eat-n-Park-Marching-Band-1993-94-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Jeremiah, me & Tom at Eat n’ Park after a Marching Band competition or game. 1993-94

Admittedly, my newest stranger was very nice, and offered assistance, without monetary compensation.  For a second time, our group pushed this huge and very heavy car.  My guardian angel must have been still hanging by my side, because the car died at the top of a ramp, leading to a gas station, according to our stranger.  That’s double convenient, near a gas station and it was downhill!  As soon as we moved the car in a little downward motion, we piled back in and was able to coast it, right into the gas station by the pump!  Can you believe our luck?  My car was so old, it was before the days of anti-lock breaks.  I was able to steer it, while the engine was off.  Honestly, it seemed too easy of a solution.  Keep in mind, we really didn’t know if our problem was due to a low fuel tank.

Assuming we were out of gas, I pumped fuel while the nice stranger remained in his vehicle waiting for us.  He never hovered, and made sure he kept his distance.  I paid no mind and felt at ease with this guy, who was probably in his late thirties, early forties.  It also helped, that we were in a very well lit gas station, with a few people coming and going, on a familiar road.  Once I put plenty of gas in the car, it was the moment of truth.  Would it start?

I got in, turned over the ignition and it roared to life!  Can you believe we ran out of gas?  I can!

Marching-Band-Senior-Night-Pirates-of-Penzance-1993-94-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Senior night at Latrobe Stadium. The Marching Band theme… Pirates of Penzance. 1993

Our nice stranger checked in one last time to make sure we were okay.  After our small celebration, we ensured our stranger we’d be fine.  Without accepting my monetary compensation, or my offer to fuel up his car, and without haste, he disappeared into the night, as quietly and stealthy as he appeared.  Literally, it was like he just appeared, and disappeared as quickly.  That was a very odd experience, and that’s saying something considering everything that happened, including seeing a transvestite and hitting him/her with the car.

A little gas did the trick, and the engine was purring.  We continued on our path, increasing the distance from us and our awful night.  The further from Pittsburgh we drove, the closer to Latrobe we came.  Unfortunately, the closer to home, the more frequently the cord would break, forcing us to get out and adjust it again, and again, and again.

Finally, by sunrise, we made it to Vanessa’s house!  No one was happier than I!  Believe it or not, as I pulled into her driveway, the car died one last time.  I left it exactly where it stopped, right in the middle.  No one cared.  We were exhausted.  Slowly, filing out of Black Beauty, everyone swarmed into her living room to feel the comforts of a true safe haven.  Without much conversation and teenage behavior, we crashed, hard.

Vanessa-Vedas-at-Derry-Show-Aunt-Heather-Piper-c.-1992

Vanessa Vadas at a Derry show. c. 1992

Once semi-rested, I called my dad to let him know the car died in Vanessa’s driveway.  He came out, did what I did all night only with electrical tape, and followed me home, where I pulled Black Beauty directly in the garage.  Evidently, it was the ground cord connected to the alternator that was old and rotted.  Dad changed it without haste, and I was back in business within an hour.  That easy?  Yes!

On a side note, dad asked me why there was wax throughout the engine.  I explained we didn’t have a flashlight, but we had candles.  He accepted my explaination without asking anymore questions.  My guess?  He didn’t want to know.  The car was fine, I was home, life was good.

Did I make very stupid decisions?  Yes I did, but we also tried to be the safest with our stupid decisions.  After that night, I realized I have a guardian angel, or a flock of them.  They were definitely working in overtime.  My prayers were answered and no one got hurt or in trouble.  Trouble?  Yes, I was worried about getting in trouble, instead about being abducted or killed or both.  Don’t get me wrong, I worried about those things, but remember, I was a teenager with a strict dad.  So yes, getting busted equaled kidnapping or death.  Did that adventure open my eyes to a world I never knew existed?  Yes, but one I wasn’t ready to accept or experience ever again.

The-Hitchhiker-by-William-DeBernardi-1994-Latrobe-art-collection-Aunt-Heather-Piper

This artwork was purchased my senior year of high school… How ironic it’s called The Hitchhiker by William DeBernardi. It displays a long dark highway… perhaps I associated with the painting. I know it got my vote! 1994

Was my night over?  Not really.  By Monday, I had to return to band camp.  I was in the colorguard.  Did I mention, I left halfway through the day that Friday for the concert, without permission, and without telling anyone.  Why?  I thought no one would notice I was gone.  Well, they did.  When I came back, and I made eye contact with my band director, Mr. Hamill, I knew my agony wasn’t over.  He requested my presence in his office, with the door shut.  That’s never a good sign!  I got an earful.  I didn’t say much, knowing I was clearly in the wrong.  If he actually had a clue of what I went through that night, he would’ve realized that was punishment enough.  I didn’t care, I was happy to be back in safe old Latrobe, doing my thing.

I hope Kyle makes better decisions than I’ve done, especially during his teenage years.  Although, he tends to favor my sister, and not live on the edge.  He’s certainly no risk taker, and still continues to play by the rules, at least at this point in his life, very unlike myself.  He’s a smart kid, and I believe in the foundation I was apart of building.

Was the stress of the night and potential danger worth the story?  You tell me…

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Pittsburgh – Night Out in the Big City! Vol. 3

We are all vainer of our luck than of our merits.  ~Rex Stout
Cory-Tree-Aunt-Heather-Piper-Cure-Concert-Mellon-Arena-7-17-96

Cori, Tree & Me at the Cure Concert at the Mellon Arena (now Consol Energy Center) Pittsburgh, Pa. 7/17/96

If you’ve been following along with my previous posts, Pittsburgh – A Night Out in the Big City!  Vol. 1 and Pittsburgh- Night Out in the Big City! Vol. 2, you’ll realize, on the occasion, I make bad decisions.  During this particular night that never ended, I made several really bad decisions.  One after another, after another, after another.

To recap, I took my old car into Pittsburgh when I wasn’t allowed.  Said car broke down, in a tow away zone, in the middle of the ghetto, somewhere.  We were lost beyond hope.  I took a ride to get a new car battery, from a homeless man who lived in his car, who had no breaks and used his emergency break.  Incidentally, that same homeless man, hit a transvestite throwing her/him on the hood of his vehicle, intentionally I might add.  Once the battery was purchased, no one had tools to install it, however we did have candles, naturally.  Now introduce a new stranger, who was completely intoxicated, but had tools.  I took my second ride of evening with that stranger, the drunk one, to return the unused battery, since that wasn’t the cause of the car not starting.  Now you’re caught up … Enjoy the ride!

The drunk man did as promised, and found the store.  It was open!  Kinda.  It appeared closed, but people were standing among the darkness inside.  So I entered the shady establishment, and asked to return my unused battery, that I just purchased.  Surprise!  They refunded me!  My luck was turning around.  At this point, any silver lining was a step in the right direction.

Friends-in-Strip-District-Pittsburgh-Early-1990s-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Not sure, Jill, Lori Beanner, Justin Baldonieri, & me at a concert in the Strip District, Pittsburgh, Pa. mid 1990’s

Our drunk driver took us back to our friends and back to my broken down, illegally parked car in the ghetto.  This time, we didn’t hit anyone, but we definitely ran a few red lights.  Giving this stranger some grace, it was late at night with almost no traffic, and beggars can’t be choosers.

Upon approaching the corner store, all three of us, me, Sefo and our drunk driver, saw all the lights dancing around, lighting up our temporary home that resembled a dive convenience store in the middle of the hood, and the center of our demise.  It was the boys in blue.  In a way, I was relieved, yet I wasn’t.

Our drunk friend wasn’t happy to see the police, AT ALL.  He refused to drop us off, and sped past our destination.  I get it, he was drunk and who knows what else controlled him, but let us out!  This once relatively calm drunk man, turned into a frantic freak.  Now I was getting scared.  I know, NOW I decided to become scared, what can I say?  I’m a late bloomer.

The drunk man drove down the street, barely stopping, and ordered me and Sefo to get out and walk back.  We did as instructed and watched the man sped out of sight.  On our way back to the car, I knew I had some explaining to do to the Pittsburgh police.  Obviously, I was illegally parked, and personally I was aware of my Cinderella license, and the rules that accompanied it.  I also knew those flashing lights meant that I was going to pay out the nose for getting lost, figuratively speaking.  Truly, I didn’t care.  In my eyes, no one got hurt and the police were friendlies who swore an oath to serve and protect.  Good enough for me!  From what I’ve experienced thus far, in the short amount time from the conclusion of the concert to this point, the men in blue were a welcoming sight.

Aunt-Heather-Piper-at-concert-in-Pittsburgh-early-1990s

Me presenting my shoes in a an odd fashion…Yes I had a runner in my fish net stockings.  Strip District for a concert at the Metropole, Pittsburgh, Pa. mid 1990s

The officer instructed me to move my vehicle or I’d get a ticket.  Seriously?  That was the least of my worries.  I’d gladly accept the ticket if it meant I could get my friends and my car back home safely.  I explained the situation, omitting the details about the homeless man, and the drunk driver, and most importantly the homeless man hitting the transvestite.  No sense in rehashing actions that caused no harm and couldn’t be changed.

What did the police have us do before offering assistance?  They made us push the car back out of the illegal spot and park it along the curb on the street.  Really?  It was late at night and that’s what they were concerned about?  First, I want to say, I’ve never nor would I ever park in a handicap spot.  I was merely beside the convenience store, where it said  No Parking.  Why?  I have no idea.  To me it was a none issue.

What next?  One of my friends sat in the driver’s seat, while we pushed the car away from its current location.  In that time, the cop asked us to try and start the engine again.  We did and voila!  It started!  Are you kidding me?  No, but as soon as it started and it registered with me, the engine turned off again.  Okay, now this I can work with.  My logical side of the brain was telling me something supplying juice to the battery was loose.

The one cop asked me to pop the hood.  I did as directed, this time holding onto every bit of hope I had left, thinking they’d find a solution we overlooked.  We went through the same procedure as before with the same result, nothing.  However, this time we had actual flashlights, as opposed to candle light to look around the engine.  My eyes frantically followed their lights looking for anything out of place or suspicious.  Then, I saw something.  It was a cord snapped in half, near the battery.  Not knowing what it did, or if it was indeed the root of the problem, I just reacted.

What did I do?  This is all one-hundred percent true.  I usually wore berets in my hair, and on this eventful evening, I had a metal beret.  I simply unclipped the beret from my head, and snapped it to the broken wires to hold it together.  The engine fired to life and remained so.  Halleluiah!  Instantly, I thanked God.  I finally felt myself relax a little, at the very least my stomach stopped doing flips.  Now we needed to make hast!

Tree-Tracey-Art-Room-Latrobe-High-School-Aunt-Heather-Piper-1993-94

Tree, me & Tracey in the art room at Greater Latrobe High School 1993-94

The cops gave us directions and sent us on our way.  We left without looking back and continued on getting lost.  Was I ticketed for my illegal park job?  Nope.  Things were looking up.

We continued on our way, trying to find a familiar road or sign, pointing us east.  Every few miles, the clip came loose, shutting down the juice to the car, in turn shutting down our travels.  As that happened, I’d stop, usually in the middle of the road, get out, and re-secure the wires, and repeat.  This was an inconvenience, but I didn’t care, it was the little bit of hope I was holding onto.

That is until the car shut down for good, probably about halfway home.  This time, we actually knew our location, and we were well past the city limits, headed to the safe suburbs.  Another little silver lining to our adventure.  I tried wiggling the wires together, nothing.

I truly had no idea what the problem was this time.  Not a clue!  That is until someone spoke up and mentioned the idea that the car might be out of gas.  Yes, Of course!  Can you believe it?  We ran out of gas!  At least that was our theory.  Now what?  We’re stranded on the side of the highway, in the dark (of course there wasn’t a street light around), still miles upon miles from home, with a temporary fix on the car engine, thinking we might be out of gas but really not sure.

To be continued…

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing,Travels and have No Comments

Pittsburgh – Night Out in the Big City! Vol. 2

Stay gold, Ponyboy, stay gold.  ~S.E. Hinton

Gary-Aunt-Heather-Piper-at-Cure-Concert-Mellon-Arena-Pittsburgh-PA-7-17-96

Me & Gary & not sure at the Cure Concert at the former Mellon Arena (now Consol Energy Center), Pittsburgh, Pa. 7/17/96

Let me recap.  I was reminiscing from my high school days, actually about one night in particular.  A night that is so outlandish it sounds like it was made fictionally for television, but it’s entirely true!  Pittsburgh – A Night Out in the Big City!  Vol. 1

I took my old car, 1976ish Buick Limited, into Pittsburgh for a concert, when I wasn’t allowed, especially with a group of teenage friends.  We got lost in a bad section of Pittsburgh, illegally parked my car at a shady convenience store, to only find the night got worse when my car wouldn’t start.  Then, we accepted a ride to an auto parts store to purchase a new battery from a homeless man living in his car, which he may or may not have stolen.  We made it to the auto parts store and headed back to my friends who stayed behind with the broken down vehicle, in the middle of the ghetto, in the middle of the night.  Oh yeah, the homeless man’s car had no breaks.  He used his emergency break to stop.  I think that about sums up the last post.  It only gets better from here.

Our homeless man, or more accurately, the man living in his car, drove a little fast, as per the speed limit signs, and definitely too fast considering we had no real means to stop.  Suddenly, another obstacle struck us, or I should say we struck her.  What looked like a woman, dressed in stilettos, a micro mini skirt, and big hair, staggered in front of us.  Naturally, what else could make my story more colorful than a stranger appearing out of nowhere, to make contact with a moving vehicle, with no breaks!  Granted, we weren’t cruising at top speeds, but we were certainly in motion, and remained there despite the pedestrian.

Our driver used his emergency break to come to a stop, but not before we nudged her.  I know it wasn’t right, but we barely grazed this unconcerned night walker, who just walked in front of a moving vehicle.  Well, she wasn’t have having any of it, and showed her disdain by punching the hood of the car.  Then, our driver pushed the gas peddle, throwing her up on the hood, before using the emergency break again, throwing the stranger from the car.  What?  YES!  Can you imagine my shock?  I was mortified!

Tree-Tracey-Aunt-Heather-Piper-Graduation-from-Greater-Latrobe-High-School-6-1994

Tree, me & Tracey, graduation day from Greater Latrobe High School. 6/94

Please understand I never grew up around any alternative lifestyle, let alone knew what an alternative lifestyle was, or witnessed actions such as this one, meaning yelling out of a car at someone!

Again, what I thought was a lady, correction, I thought she was a prostitute, was not.  I sat there speechless, craning my neck to look over the hood of the car, trying to find life, hoping she wasn’t dead.

Eventually, what seemed like an hour later, the night walker got up, looked around, and stumbled a little.  To add to the terror, our angry driver began honking the horn and yelling out the window to get her to move.  Then, he started muttering a few words, one being transvestite.  Transvestite?  What?  Again, I’m a small town gal from Latrobe, who believed that a transvestite was a fictional character on television like a vampire, or an urban legend.  Instantly, my attention left our driver, my eyes grew three times the size, and I began to really examine the lady/guy standing in front of us, in the middle of the road, completely forgetting she/he was just hit by us.

Still staggering, she/he appeared to be either completely intoxicated or on drugs, or both.  The gal/guy stumbled to the passenger side of the door, where Sefo sat with the window down (allowing me to get air before I puked).  Why that side, and not the side of the verbal driver?  No clue. Aside from the staggering, which was evident before impact, our hit and run victim seemed unscathed.  The next thing I remembered, she/he tried to punch Sefo!  What did he do?  Sefo leaned into me, to put some distance between his shoulder and the staggering fist.  Luckily, our driver’s reflexes were quicker.  The homeless man, correction, the man who lived in his car, hit the gas, leaving my first transvestite encounter in the dust.  I mean Bruce Jenner (Caitlyn) wasn’t all over the news.  My heart was racing and never slowed down.  I looked at Sefo with wide eyes, expecting him to tell me all will be fine, that is until I saw his reaction.  It was exactly like mine!  Maybe a little more since he was in the line of direct fire.

Lori-Beanner-and-Justin-Baldonieri-at-Strip-District-Pittsburgh-Pa-early-1990s-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Lori Beanner & Justin Baldonieri at a concert in the Strip District. I’m not sure why SCREAM was written on Lori’s leg. Pittsburgh, Pa. early 1990’s

Our unconventional hero of sorts, the homeless man who lived in his car, held true to his word and took us back to our friends and my broken car, almost safely.  We had a battery, now what?

It appears the craziness is nearly behind us, right?  That’s what I thought.  How could it get worse?

Would you believe we never thought about tools!  I didn’t have any, and our homeless man didn’t either.  Personally, I thought with all that junk in the car, he’d at least have a screwdriver?  Nope.  Now what?

While we were off hitting, literally the night life, (pun intended), my friends took a walk to a local hangout to use the restrooms.  They traveled down the street and came upon a gay bar.  Again, please keep in mind, times were very different back then, and my innocence was not ready for the reality of the world aside from my own personal corner of Latrobe.  My friends told me all about the sights they saw.  What did they witness?  No idea.  I wasn’t paying attention in the slightest.  It was at that moment, I started to hear ringing in my ears and I felt lightheaded.  I was breathing heavy and the world was in slow motion.  It was so surreal.  The last thing I wanted was to put my friends in any sort of danger or crazy situation.  Although, I will admit, they didn’t seem to mind and weren’t bothered by anything at all, except Sefo, rightfully so.  I can’t imaging hitting anybody, let alone a transvestite with a car was normal.

Friends-in-Art-Room-at-Greater-Latrobe-High-School-1993-94-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Not sure, Vanessa Vadas, me & Erin Butina in the art room at Greater Latrobe High School 1993-94

Sefo told our tale to everyone, and it was at that point, I knew changes needed to made, immediately.  What did I decide?  I instructed a few of my friends to call their parents to come and get them, while I stayed with the car and figured out how to get it home.  The idea of a tow truck did lurk in the back of my mind, but remember, I was about 30 to 40 miles away from Latrobe.  I probably could have called a tow, but to travel that distance would have cost me a fortune, and I didn’t have much cash left. Reality, I didn’t even have that much cash in my bank account.  Well, naturally my friends wouldn’t leave, so we all pulled up a seat along the curb discussing our next plan of action.  Sometime in there, our homeless man who lived in his car departed without incidence.

Please note, it’s now probably about two in the morning and I had my Cinderella driver’s license.

Just then, a beat up truck pulled into the parking lot.  Remaining consistent with our seemingly poor judgement, someone got up and asked the gentleman for assistance.  This time, we simply asked for tools to install the brand new battery.  He had tools!  Now we’re in business.

Giving this new stranger, who was obviously drunk, a few bucks to change out the battery, he did so, with the help of our candles.  One might wonder just how I was going to explain a brand new battery to my dad, and I thought about that.  I’d tell him the truth.  I had to have a new one installed since the old one died.  Done!

Feeling hopeful, I jumped in the driver’s seat to turn over the engine.  Nothing!  Are you kidding me?  No almost.  No turning over and grinding.  No attempt at trying.  Nothing.  Oh doubly crap!  It wasn’t the battery after all!  Now what?

Cure-Concert-Star-Lake-Aunt-Heather-Piper-5-23-92

Me on some sort of flippy ride at the Cure Concert at the former Coca-Cola Star Lake Amphitheater (now First Niagara Pavilion) 5/23/92

Our situation got even worse, and I didn’t have the money for a tow the whole way to Latrobe.

Now a second minor problem.  What was I going to do with a brand new battery?

Take it back of course!  Keep in mind, I had no idea where this auto parts store was located, or how to get there.  Personally, after the situation with the staggering transvestite, my mind was wiped clear of all awareness and reality.  How would we know where to go?  I got it!  I had the receipt containing the name of the auto parts store.  Would it be open?  It was worth a try.

Unbeknownst to our drunk driver, he was about to be added to our nightly events.  Sefo asked him to give us a lift back to the auto parts store.  Not knowing if the store was closed or not, me and Sefo jumped back into another stranger’s vehicle, this time we knew his full story, or at least the pertinent details, he was clearly drunk.  We took a ride from whence we came, for a small fee of course.  Driving like a manic, actually like a blind man, we departed, not knowing if we’d make it back, leaving our friends in the ghetto.  Who was safer?

To be continued…

 

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing,Travels and have No Comments

Pittsburgh – Night Out in the Big City Vol. 1

Sometimes I make bad decisions.  ~Heather Piper

Jill,-Lori,-Justin-Aunt-Heather-Piper-Concert-in-Pittsburgh-Pa

Jill, Lori Beanner, Justin Baldonieri after a concert in the Strip District, Pittsburgh, PA early to mid 1990’s

It’s funny how a simple conversation with someone can bring back memories nearly forgotten.  Throughout my life, I’ve found myself in unusual situations, putting it mildly.  This story is certainly one of those but is one-hundred percent true.  This stuff cannot be made up!

To this day, my parent’s have no idea, and I’d prefer not to bring it up at all, but to teach Kyle from my mistakes, I’m willing to share.  In a way, I don’t want Kyle to know my stupidity as a teenager or young adult, but then again I do, so he learns from my errors and immaturity, and knows I’m not perfect.

I’m very proud to proclaim I’ve never lied to my parents, at least not in the traditional sense.  However, at times, I’ve kept pertinent information from them that would have incriminated me.  I know, I know, the same thing, but not.  However, I’ve never looked them in the eyes and told a bold face lie, never!

tape recorder Aunt Heather Piper

Same tape player Nicole had & I used in my 1st car, since it didn’t have a radio.

As I’ve mentioned, my very First Car – My Very Own Days of Thunder was a 1976ish Buick Limited.  A big black beast with red interior, nicknamed Black Beauty.  I loved that car and so did my friends, one because I had wheels and two, because that car could seat a crowd.  Perfect for transporting large groups of teenagers who didn’t have rides, which is synonymous with that age.r.

Being a Latrobe native, I never really ventured any further west than Greensburg, about 15 miles.  East was a different story, my family is from Ligonier and I was familiar with the Laurel Mountains and the ridge.  In all reality, my parents were comfortable with that direction, as opposed to Pittsburgh.  Not that I was restricted by many rules, but one my parents reinforced was me traveling long distances, especially in my old car.  Understandable.  I really wasn’t permitted to go into Pittsburgh, about an hour and a half away, 40 miles or so.  Guess what?  That’s were I always wanted to explore, and I did.  Did they know?  They did, but mom and dad had the security of reinforcing my Cinderella license, when I had it.

Now that the stage is set, and the anticipation is built, here comes the most unbelievable night of my life.  It’s been a little over two decades since this adventure, so the details are a bit fuzzy, but the major events are still crystal clear.

Another big no in our household was concerts.  Really?  Unfortunately yes.  Mom and dad didn’t let us go to concerts, especially with friends.  I would have been open to my parents taking me to a show, but alas it never happened.  However, in this instance, I think I did tell them I was going to the show, since I paid for it myself.  In my senior year of high school, I waitressed at Valley Dairy.  I paid for my own gas, concert tickets, and associated expenses.  Regardless of my employment status, I do know for a fact that I wasn’t allowed to take Black Beauty into Pittsburgh, especially traveling with friends.  Yeah, I disregarded that rule.  We needed a ride and I had one, priorities!

The night started with a live show from Porno for Pyros (now that I think about it, what a horrible name).  Anyway, it was Perry Farrell’s band, the front man from Jane’s Addiction.  It was August 20, 1993, I found my old ticket stub!

Colleen-Aunt-Heather-Piper-South-Side-Pittsburgh-Piper's-Pub-c.-1999

Me & my cousin Colleen in the South Side, in front of Piper’s Pub. Night out before our friend Markelle moved to Arizona. Pittsburgh, PA late 1990’s

About five or six of my friends, including my good friend Maggie and I, made plans to stay at our friend Vanessa’s house.  Everyone met at Vanessa’s and I drove our eclectic group to Station Square in Pittsburgh.  To cut to the chase, we made it to the concert without incidence and it was a blast, but when it was time for us to simply exit stage right, we did, or so I thought.

Common sense would dictate that this story will take a hard right turn, especially since I was in charge of driving and maneuvering a group of teenagers from the suburbs into Pittsburgh and back out again.  Did you forget how Directionally Challenged I am, and always have been?

That’s exactly what happened.  I got us lost.  Where?  No clue, even to this day.  Also keep in mind, there were no cell phones and no GPS systems to guide our way.  We had to rely on road signs and verbal directions from locals.  To add another element of challenge, my gas gauge was broken.  I was instructed by my parents to record my mileage every time I got gas.  Did I?  Almost never.  I would go on gut instincts when fueling up.  Occasionally, I’d run out of gas and I’d have to walk to a house to call my brother, Ryan to rescue me.  A little foreshadowing here.

Eventually, after driving around for what seemed like forever, we ended up at a convenience store in the ghettos of sorts.  We stopped for two very important reasons, one, to get directions, and two, to stock up on snacks.

Did I mention I illegally parked the car too?  I figured our stay would be short lived, so no worries.  Well, that’s where it all went awry.

Please note, I’ve never and will never park in a handicap designated area.  The spot where I temporarily left my car was indeed in a tow away zone, but there was no real reason why it was marked as such.  There was additional access to the store from all angles.  The lot was triangular in shape, and I was in the back corner.  To me, a rule to be broken.

As we exited this dinky, dive store that sat on the corner among the shadows, we filed back in the car to find our way home.  Did I also mention I left the keys in the car because I was used to doing so?

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Melanie Grimm & me. Wedding in Mount Pleasant, late 1990’s

It didn’t matter anyway.  Once I tried to turn over the engine, all I heard was click.  It wasn’t like the starter was grinding and trying to start.  Nope!  There was nothing!  No trying.  No almost.  Nothing.  Oh crap!  It was at that moment a sickness settled in the pit of my stomach nearly making me vomit.  Then, visions of my angry dad popped in my head.  YIKES!  Now can you say Adventures in Babysitting?

Being slightly familiar with engines, meaning not really at all, I had to try something.  I popped the hood to look inside.  Of course, no one had a flashlight. Why would we?  However, oddly enough, someone had candles and matches.  Seriously?  Yes!  I didn’t question, I just rolled with it.  We lit the candles to look inside to see if something stood out.  Nothing.  Keep in mind, the melted wax had to go somewhere, including dripping down into the engine.  A side note for later.

Okay.  Now what?  We had to try and fix the situation.  How?  By accepting a ride from a homeless man to a local garage.  Really?  Yes.  Who’s brilliant idea was that?  I have no idea, but I was desperate.  Almost immediately after coming to terms with a broken vehicle, this guy pulled up to the convenience store.  Sefo (his real name was Matt) was talking to this stranger who seemed semi-normal and I believe we paid him ten bucks to take us to a nearby auto parts store to purchase a battery.

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Lori Beanner & me in the Strip District in Pittsburgh, PA. Pre-concert at the Metropole. early to mid 1990’s

Keep in  mind, at the time, we believed it was the battery that just died. Why didn’t we have someone jump the battery?  We didn’t have jumper cables.  Did I know how to give the car a jump anyway?  You bet I did!  But without cables, I couldn’t transfer juice from one battery to another simply by wishing it.

Our plan?  Sefo, who was no bigger than me, would travel with me and this homeless man to the auto parts store, while the rest would stay with the car.  Homeless?  Yes, he converted his backseat into a closet, meaning I had to sit in the front seat between Sefo and this stranger.

Only when we began our trip, did I find out he had nearly no breaks.  How did I know?  When we approached a stop sign, the car sputtered and jerked because he had to use his emergency brake, before obviously admitting to the lack of break system.  That wasn’t the worst part.  Upon closer inspection, I saw all the wires from the dashboard strung up on the outside, and hanging down at our feet.  It really looked like he stole the car!  Scary!  To be honest, I was still more afraid to tell my parents I took the car into Pittsburgh.  Why didn’t someone else call one of their parents?  I have no idea.

Somehow this man, who was somewhat pleasant drove us, recklessly through downtown Pittsburgh, bringing us an auto parts store, as promised.  Sefo stayed with the stranger in the car, while I went in the store to purchase a battery.  Luckily, I had a checking account and I had my checkbook with me, yes when we used checks and not Mac card or credit cards.  I didn’t have either.  Now for the trip back.

To be continued…

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing,Travels and have No Comments

Latrobe Theme & Variations Art Gala

All art is autobiographical; the pearl is the oyster’s autobiography.  ~Federico Fellini

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Latrobe Art Gala in the auditorium. Mom, Aunt Carol, Kathy Dominick & Donna Fannie 11/6/14

Last Tuesday mom, Aunt Carol and I, attended the Theme and Variations art gala at the Greater Latrobe High School.  This wasn’t a typical high school function.  Nope!  When Latrobe does something, we go all out, turning the already elegant school entrance way into a ballroom with stations upon stations of hors d’oeuvres and refreshments.  The art not only included the impressive school collection consisting of hundreds of pieces of work from established artists curated over the years, but it also included the art hand chosen for the gala.  Again, local artists.

Like many, I too take Latrobe’s art collection for granted.  Our school halls have always been decorated with an eclectic arrangement of artists using a variety of mediums, even before my grandpap Chester, along with Mr. Fred Rogers graduated from Latrobe in 1937 at the old school (currently Latrobe Elementary School, LES) and long before my mom, who was the first graduating class from the new high school (current location), my Alma Mater.  While studying art in high school, we were exposed to the culture that surrounded us on a daily basis.  Personally, I wish I knew more about our collection and was required to do so.  I have always been proud of the acquired art, and that pride has only intensified over the years.  Trying to  get that message across to Kyle is a bit of a challenge, or perhaps he does get it but doesn’t want to give me the satisfaction of showing it, either or are very possible with Kyle.

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A piece in the Latrobe art collection, My Neighbor by Kathy Rafferty

When speaking with those who have not been exposed to Latrobe High School, I always forget about our influence by culture in the arts is a rarity.  A privilege not a lot of schools and their students experience.  I’ve actually encountered individuals from other learning facilities who were amazed at the quality of the school, especially the art that lines the halls.  Usually the comments consist something like “Do they ever get vandalized?” and “How do you protect your art?”.  Seriously, until those questions were brought to light, I never thought about it.  You see, much like a family, it’s all how your were raised.  Latrobe students were raised on the arts, at the very least exposed to it early on.  There is always an underlying respect for our collection, which I believe resonates in the minds of the students, whether they are aware of it or not.  Like anything, introducing a child to something early and it will be a part of them for life.  Unfortunately, sometimes those privileges are taken for granted.

Latrobe is also known for our music programs, athletics and academic excellence, but today I’m focusing on the arts, my personal passion.

What was this gala about?  It was an event, not only to view and appreciate local artists, but it was a way to bring the community together to vote on the next piece of art joining the collection.  Yes, everyone attending had a vote, as did the Latrobe schools: elementary, junior high and high school.   This function brings young and old together, from people of all art appreciation levels and understandings, and all sorts of backgrounds.

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The winner of the art gala at Latrobe High School is titled Portrait Study by Mara Light 11/6/14

In my opinion, Latrobe should be used as an example for surrounding and national schools alike.  I believe we have discovered a simple underlying solution to respect for the community, our heritage and ourselves.  It not only is present in the art, but how we elevate the arts and bring everyone together to celebrate in our local accomplishments.

When discussing the subject matter of art, the question of ‘What is art?’ always comes to mind.  Perhaps it was my education going through the art program at Seton Hill University that always has me thinking, for we were asked to define that very question.  To me art is history, whether it’s art imitating life or life imitating art, it can’t be denied, it’s history.  There is a specific year always tied to a piece, or sometimes several years.  Looking at the paintings displayed at Latrobe High School, usually the year it was completed, directly reflects the happenings at the time, although not always.  Still art is a time piece that can be and should be revisited time and time again.

So who was the winner?  It was Portrait Study by Mara Light.  Her painting also ranked among the ones selected by the students.  It’s a beautiful piece of mixed media that included gauze as part of the painting.  A truly striking painting that captured my attention immediately.

It was a wonderful night of beautiful artwork, all stunning and very talented artists!  I can’t wait until next year’s gala.  I wish I was more involved in the arts, after all, Pittsburgh and the surrounding areas are very supportive.

It’s great to see Latrobe excelling in all aspects of learning, especially with their continued interest and support for the arts over all these years.  Go Wildcats!

Below is the program booklet from Tuesday.  I scanned it to give credit to all the artists,  the donors,  and to all of those who helped organize the event.  Thank you!

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Latrobe-Art-Gala-Booklet-2 11-6-14 Aunt Heather Piper

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posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,News,Observation & Imagination and have No Comments

Happy Birthday Aunt Nikki! The Big 40!

Life begins at 40 – but so do fallen arches, rheumatism, faulty eyesight, and the tendency to tell a story to the same person, three or four times.  ~Helen Rowland

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Nicole’s senior picture. Greater Latrobe Class of 1992

Today marks a truly momentous day, Aunt Nikki is the big 40!  Yes, my sister is officially over the hill, even though she’s resided on that hillside for some time now.  Giggle giggle.  (Unlike me, I’ll always remain on the other side.)  Or as Kyle used to say, “Aunt Nitti is ozer (over) the hill!” as he motioned going over and down a hill with his chubby little figures.

Nicole came from a time before the internet and email, when we still used rotary phones, listened to record players and tapes (heck dad still had his 8-track player in his truck), and before cable and satellite.  Nicole has lived through eight presidents and counting including Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Obama.

Nicole has seen and accomplished a lot over these forty years, graduating from Penn State University in engineering, traveling the world over (sometimes with me), starting a side company (with me) and most importantly becoming Aunt Nikki, a title she does not take lightly.

So what has gone on over these last forty years from that faithful day, March 16, 1974?  A lot!  Let’s focus on 1974.

  • Blazing Saddles was the top movie of the year
  • Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s “Takin’ Care Of Business” was a top, pop music single hit
  • Sadly, the Amityville horror happened in Long Island, New York on November 8th.  Six family members were shot dead
  • Richard Nixon becomes the 1st United States president forced to resign after the Watergate Scandal & President Gerald Ford gives unconditional pardon to Richard Nixon
  • 55 mph Speed Limit is imposed to preserve gas usage, nation wide
  • Sears Tower in Chicago becomes the worlds tallest building
  • President Ford announces an amnesty program for Vietnam War deserters & draft evaders
  • Gasoline shortages and price increases (guess some things never change)
  • On June 5th – Henry Kissenger convinces Syria & Israel to agree to a ceasefire on the Golan Heights
  • Work begins on the 800 mile long Alaska Oil pipeline
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Nicole & our little man sipping on his bottle at my cousin Chad’s wedding Our little 1-year old – BYOB. 2002

Nicole shares her birthday with some famous people.  Here are a sampling:

  • James Madison – president
  • Curtis Lovell III – magician
  • Erik Estrada – actor
  • Alexandra Daddario – actress
  • Victor Garber – actor
  • Jim Bridger – explorer
  • Jerry Lewis – actor
  • Rupert Sanders – director (I had to throw that one in, because of the Kristen Stewart scandal)
  • Felisha Terrell – actress
  • Chuck Woolery (we loved watching Love Connect as kids!) – TV host
  • Tim Kang – actor
  • Walter Cunningham – astronaut
  • Sienna Guillory – actress

Please review the years of Aunt Nikki.  Moving clockwise, starting with the upper left corner, Nicole’s 15th birthday (yes that’s me to the right & my cousin Katie to the left), to the right Nicole’s 6th birthday (my cousin Casey to the left of Nicole and cousin Timmy to the right), below that is a her sophomore class picture – 1990, below is Nicole sitting with our cousin Chad for her 2nd birthday -1976 and finally to the left is Nicole’s 7th grade picture -1987. (Apparently she really, really loved those glasses!)

Happy Birthday Nicole!

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posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Random Fun Facts,Travels and have No Comments

Sweet Sounds of Music

Where words leave off, music begins.  ~Heinrich Heine

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Kyle’s 7th grade band recital. My little trumpet player (yes when he stood up, that clip on tie came to the middle of his chest!) Yikes! 2013

On Sunday Kyle had his youth group Christmas play.  His role?  The light man of course.  Yep!  He stood at the light switch and turned it off and on.  Remember there are no small parts and everyone has a role to play, just like life.  Everyone can’t be the star and in Kyle’s case, over the years he played a shepherd and one of the kings.  He had his fill and wanted to participate backstage.  Nothing wrong with that!  He did a great job!  Even with his not-so-center-0f-stage-role, Kyle attended all the practices and always gave his best.  That’s my buddy, if he’s going to do something, he will give it his all.

As I was sitting there, watching the kids get situated and ready to perform for their parents, a family friend, who was also Kyle’s second grade Sunday school teacher, Mrs. DePalma (Kyle loved her to death!) came over to me to chit chat.  On a side note, Mrs. DePalma is such a sincere, friendly, warmhearted person!  The kind who instantly spreads joy and good cheer to everyone around her.  Knowing her is a true blessing.  Her one daughter Angie, married one of my cousins.  So I guess we are related!

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Sacred Heart/Saint Cecilia’s Youth Group Christmas play. Kyle was the lighting technician. 1/5/13

Anyway, as we sat there talking, she informed me that she just talked to Kyle, admitting she drew a blank with his name, as he did with hers.  Too cute!  I’m sure Kyle was thrown off his game, since he always did like and respected Mrs. DePalma, and she gave him the little extra attention he craved.  She asked me what role Kyle was playing and we both giggled a little at our lighting technician.

As we sat there, I noticed they had a keyboard set up to play music throughout the play.  I commented that Kyle could have played a few songs.  Mrs. DePalma was intrigued asking me about his piano playing.  Naturally, like a proud mama (aunt) I told her, “He’s been playing the piano since he was six years old.”  Her eyes perked up and she was really impressed.  So I continued, “Yep, he’s really pretty good.  He doesn’t have the drive to practice at home, but he loves playing with is instructor and in front of family.”  Then, I informed her that he briefly took up the guitar and he plays the trumpet in school.  Of course, I couldn’t stop.  Normally, I don’t like bragging, well that’s not true when it comes to Kyle, but I couldn’t help myself.  Informing Mrs. DePalma that Kyle is in band class at his school, and he tried out and made it for jazz band.  Her face lit up!  And you know what?  It was in all sincerity and pride.  She loves to see kids doing well, not to mention she new Ryan and she knows what Kyle means to us.  (Her daughter Angie, the one I just referred to, was in Ryan’s class all the way from Sacred Heart Elementary School to Greater Latrobe High School graduation).

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Kyle playing the trumpet for his 7th grade jazz band. (look how short that clip on tie is? YIKES!) 2013

Kyle is musically talented, there is no denying it.  Now, I’m not saying he is a musical genius or a child prodigy, because he’s not.   But he does enjoy music, always has, and he seems to enjoy playing (except when I make him practice).

This past fall, Kyle had a band assembly at his school and mom and I attended.  One another side note, Kyle just expects us to be there at a moments notice.  He called us the day of the event, two hours before hand to be exact, and informed us of the activity.  On Kyle’s defense I guess he told my dad, but that’s like telling Kyle.   No fear, mom and I were there!  It was held in the school’s gym and the seventh and eighth grade students performed as well as their high school marching band.  You know what?  I was quite impressed!

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Sacred Heart/Saint Cecilia’s Youth Group Christmas play. Kyle handled the lights! 1/5/13

First of all, Kyle had on a nice pressed white button down shirt (sleeves rolled to the elbows), nice dress slacks, black socks, black dress shoes and a black tie.  Mom and I were floored!  He looked so grown up!  The only comment we both made was his tie.  It stopped at the middle of his chest.  Yikes!  It looked ridiculous.  So I made my way down to the horn section to offer assistance with the tie tying, thinking it just needs retied.  Low and behold, it was a clip-on tie!  What?  Ok, no point in making it into a bid deal, especially since the rest of him looked spot on.  As to not break the positive comments toward Kyle, I will not get into our shopping experience during Christmas for a real tie, not a clip-on.  I’ll save that one for a rainy day.

As we left, mom mentioned about buying the kid a nice tie.  Good idea mom!  However, we forgot until his next assembly right before Christmas.  Now it was too late!  This assembly was held in their auditorium and the kids were on stage.  While mom and I got settled in, we read over the program book.  Funny thing.  Kyle’s name had an asterisk by it.   We both looked at each other and at the same time said, “What did he do?” half joking.

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Kyle playing trumpet for his 7th grade jazz band. Look’in good! 2013

Mom and I were front and center, focused on Kyle.  As the program began and we started intently watching the kid.  He did something too comical, not intentionally.  As he started to play, that little man dropped his sheet music and he began to scramble to retrieve it.  Mom and I gave a bit of a chuckle since it was too cute.  Plus, let’s not forget his lack of flexibility reaching for the pieces of paper while sitting and trying not to disturb his neighbors, all while trying to continue to play.   Yep!  He’s definitely my nephew!

After the kids in his grade played a few tunes, they gathered the jazz band to the side of the stage.  Incidentally, the same side mom and I were residing.  Boy we know how to pick our seats!

Kyle completely ignored us the entire way through, which is fine because besides being too cool to have an aunt and a grandmother (Gigi) I know he gets nervous.

Both assemblies were very impressive, especially the marching band for the earlier musical assembly.  It’s funny, we never knew Kyle was in the jazz band.  Now don’t get me wrong, he did a great job!  I could also tell he seemed to enjoy it.  It wasn’t till after his second assembly, did we find out that he had to audition for said activity.  Wow!  That’s great buddy!  Good job!

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7th grade – Kyle playing the trumpet … looking good, staying focused!   Also looks like that kid is holding onto the sheet music!  2013

Kyle, that kid never ceases to amaze and impress me.  He is also surprising, in all good ways.  Apparently, he is planning on joining the marching band when he’s older.  Being very ecstatic over this comment, I told him I’ll be a band parent (aunt)!  Ya, Kyle just rolled his eyes and was like ‘O boy’.   I ensured him it would be a great time and I’d make it really fun.  Plus, if they don’t do band trips, I’ll help to get those kids traveling.  That didn’t entice him, at ALL!  We’ll see.

I am really happy he found his interest, and that it’s in music!  I hope it’s very rewarding for him!

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Perfect Gift – The Ugly Quilt!

Do give books – religious or otherwise – for Christmas. They’re never fattening, seldom sinful, and permanently personal.  ~Lenore Hershey

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The Ugly Quilt, made from Nicole’s old quilt & my old childhood quilts originally made in 1976. Perfect Christmas idea! 12-24-13

Like many others, we go through the same list of questions every year for Christmas, ‘What do we want to get Nicole?” and “What should we get dad?”  Naturally, if we had unlimited resources, it wouldn’t be so difficult but let’s come back to reality, most people have budgets, at least I do.  Every year, generally speaking, some great idea takes shape to give the perfect gift.  Me, mom and Kyle were blessed with two great ideas.

Giving is great, I truly mean that!  However, I don’t like to give because I have to, or it’s the thing to do.  Nope, if I’m giving someone something, it’s because I mean it and I’m excited to surprise them with usually an unconventional gift.  That’s my favorite, the perfect gifts or practical ones.  I am very much a practical and simple type of gal.  Yes, I love receiving socks (the Under Armor running socks or good wool hiking socks etc) and blenders and books and running shoes and so on and so forth.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love frivolous too!  Such as jewelery or collectables, but I’m also equally happy with practical presents.

Last year, we got mom framed pictures.  Not just any pictures, but an old photo of all the cousins (close ones) and a recent shot of the same picture taken at the same location as the original, Twin Lakes Family In A Photo – Looking Back showing us all grown up.  Boy was she surprised!   Perfect!

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Close up of Nicole’s quilt courtesy of Quilts by Reese. Perfect Christmas gift! Nicole never suspected it! 12/24/13

Who got the perfect gift this year?  There was a tie.  Dad and Nicole owned it!

First, lets start with Nicole.  What to get a gal who gets herself basically what she wants, when she wants it?  That was easy, something she wants and forgot she had.  This past summer while cleaning out mom and dad’s house, we came across Nicole’s old quilt.  Nicole and I both had matching quilts of different color schemes, given to us for Christmas in 1976.  They were nice twin sized quilts that kept us warm and cozy throughout our childhood and even into our twenties.  Nicole however, LOVED her quilt and drug, literally drug it around with her EVERYWHERE!  As a kid, she would drag it to the living-room to watch TV, through the kitchen, out on the porch and into the yard.  She would eat with it, sleep with it, and I bet she even drug it into the shower a time or two.  That quilt was like her giant “blanky”.  She even took it to college with her!  That is until it really fell apart.  I mean about half of it was MIA.  Over the years pieces of it would rip off, but she kept dragging it along.

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Front & back of the Ugly quilt… combination of mine & Nicole’s old quilts from 1976. Nicole loved her quilt & now she kind of has it back! Perfect Christmas gift. Thanks Quilts by Reese! 12/24/13

What to do?  Call upon my friend Holly who makes quilts on the side Quilts by Reese to aide me in this perfect Christmas gift idea of course.  No, her thing is not to revitalize old torn up and extremely used quilts, but she agreed to help me out as a favor for a long time running friend.

Where to begin?  No clue, I delivered the pile of scrap fabric, which is what it basically was once it was washed one last time.  Holly took it from there.  Since finding fabric to match, texture and color wise, proved to be problematic, I gave Holly my old quilt, which was almost in perfect condition (you could tell I didn’t have such an affinity for my quilt like Nicole did hers) to tear up and use as needed.

Eventually, about a third of the quilt was Nicole’s original and the rest was mine.  It worked out perfectly since both quilts had the exact same fabric and patterns, just different color schemes.  The backing needed to be completely replaced as well as the trim, but it turned out nicely!  Better than expected actually!  Holly did an amazing job on such a difficult mission!  And she had it done well before Christmas!

With everything I do, it’s always an adventure.  As the quilt was being torn apart and assembled again, Holly would give me updates on the “ugly” quilt.  From what I gathered, it was a bit of a bugger with the thick seams and old seventy’s stretchy fabric.  Personally, I loved the name, ugly quilt and so it stuck!  Holly hated the quilt, that is until the end.  She said, “It’s so ugly it’s starting to look cute and wear on me.”  Yep that’s what happens when you put your heart and soul into something.  The fondness grows.  Now granted, Holly wasn’t so attached to it that she couldn’t give it back, but I could tell she sewed herself into the Piper quilt.

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Combination of my old quilt & Nicole’s originally made in 1976. Perfect Christmas gift – Quilts by Reese 12-24-13

On a side note, one text message I received from Holly include a very close-up shot of the quilt fabric.  The text message asked me if Nicole had a bird?  Why yes she did!  How did Holly know?  Apparently, there was bird seed embedded in some of the fabric.  Only my sister!  That sounds about right.  Not to mentioned all the food stains all over her fabric.

It’s funny when I look at the quilt, I don’t see an ugly old seventy’s patchwork quilt.  Nope, I see our childhood!  And I know Nicole feels the same way.

Now the most important questions.  Was Nicole surprised?  And did she like the quilt?  Yes and yes.  She had no idea, none, not an ounce with respect to her Christmas gift.  Of course, it’s easy to keep things a secret from her when she lives two hundred miles away.  Kyle couldn’t wait to give her the blanket, although I could tell he didn’t see the importance and feel the true excitement like me, mom and dad, (well maybe me and mom) but it was still fun.

Quilts by Reese Facebook Post Ugly Quilt Aunt Heather PiperHolly wanted to see tears in Nicole’s eyes and urine on the floor from the surprise and happiness.  Well, neither happened and I’m personally more grateful for the later not occurring, but Nicole was presently surprised.  (Avery peed on the floor and that counts!)  I would love to show a picture of the original quilt, however I couldn’t find any pictures.  Actually, that’s not entirely true, I did find one, but since then I misplaced it.  I’ll look for the darn thing.

Now dad’s perfect gift.  Mom came up with the idea and me, Nicole and Kyle were totally on board.  Great idea!  So what was this perfect gift?  Easy it was …to be continued.

posted by auntheather in Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing,Travels and have No Comments

Random Fun Facts: Latrobe, Pennsylvania

Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people.  ~Fred Rogers

Aunt-Heather-Piper-Latrobe-Winterguard-c.1990

Me during a Winterguard performance at Latrobe High School. We were wearing yellow ribbons in support of our troops during Desert Storm.  c.1990

Being a Latrobe native, I have a special place in my heart for the city of Latrobe. Actually, let’s face it, I can’t just say I’m from Latrobe, I exude of Latrobe pride. Yep, I am a Latrobean through and through. Some may know Latrobe for the originator of Rolling Rock Beer or being the home of the Steeler Training Camp. But there is so much more to Latrobe, unbeknownst to many, including myself until I started digging.  Since I just recently brought a Thrill of the Hunt Doggie in Disguise? Scavenger Hunt? to Latrobe, here are some fun facts about my hometown.  On a side note, if you get a moment, check out the pictures from the Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunt.  They are hilarious!

First let’s start with the pronunciation of Latrobe.  It is correctly pronounced (leɪˈtroʊb), with the “LA”, in front of TROVB.  However, if you are a native to Latrobe you pronounce it (lay-trobe) with a long “A” sound.  Subtle, but a huge noticeable difference.

 Random Fun Facts: Latrobe, Pennsylvania

United States Census Bureau

  • Population was 8,235 (2012)
  • 2.16 persons per household (2007-2011)
  • Land area in square miles – 2.23 (2010)
  • Persons per square mile – 3,600.2 (2010)
  • Situated in the eastern part of Westmoreland County, in Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands region

Founding

  • In 1750, recorded of first white man
  • Christopher Gist (surveyor for the Ohio Company) passed through Latrobe
  • In 1765, many owned land in Latrobe including first Congressman to represent Westmoreland County,William Findley
  • In 1851, official founding of Latrobe began when Oliver Barnes (civil engineer for the Pennsylvania Railroad) purchased Thomas Kirk’s 140-acre farm
  • Latrobe was named after Barnes college roommate, Benjamin Latrobe
  • Benjamin Latrobe never set foot in the town
  • 1852 founded by Oliver Barnes, a civil engineer for the Pennsylvania Railroad
  • In May of 1854, Latrobe was officially incorporated
  • In June of 1854, a borough government was established (at a meeting in the home of David Williams, contractor for the Pennsylvania Railroad)
  • Latrobe is named after Barnes best friend & college classmate, Benjamin Latrobe
  • Benjamin Latrobe was a civil engineer for the B&O Railroad
  • Benjamin’s father, Benjamin Henry Latrobe was the architect who rebuilt the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. after the War of 1812
  • Youngstown, Pa. was established more than 50 years before Latrobe (George Washington stayed in the Youngstown Hotel)
  • About 40 miles southeast of Pittsburgh
  • Early residents included Delaware, Shawnee, Seneca and Mingoe Indians (fished in the Loyalhanna River)
  • In 1999, declared a city
Latrobe-Pa-Marching-Band-1993-1994-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Greater Latrobe Marching Band (part of) senior night. Yes, the Colorguard were pirates! c. 1993

Originators

  • One of the first in the nation to use Pay-per-Parking app
  • Home of golf legend Arnold Palmer – born & raised
  • Home of Mr. Fred Rogers – born, raised & died
  • Home of the Steelers Training Camp at Saint Vincent College
  • In 1770s, the Unity Chapel was built (Presbyterian)
  • In 1780s, the first Catholic parish was formed
  • In the 1840s, The Benedictine Monks were established in Latrobe
  • In 1852, the Pennsylvania Car Works began building railroad cars
  • In 1900, first Jewish congregation, the Beth Israel was established
  • In 1904, pharmacist David Strickler created the banana split
  • In 1910, Latrobe Area Hospital began with the School of Nursing
  • In 1927, Latrobe Public Library started  (2,500 volumes – 500 books issued first day opened)
  • George Hamilton Adams (freight agent for the Pennsylvania Railroad) left in his will for a new building for the library
  • In 1954, the new library opened named Adams’ Memorial Library in his honor
  • In 1938, Kennametal, global leader of mining and construction tooling, and national leader of metalworking products was established

Even More

  • Latrobe Art Center offers classes for budding artists and exhibits local artists’ work
  • Built in 1903, the Latrobe Train Station (DiSalvo’s Station) functioned as a railroad station up to 1970
  • In the 1980s, the train station was restored and in 1986 was registered as a national historic landmark
  • The DiSalvo family purchased the train station in 1989 – added Italian restaurant
  • Amtrak service is available in the historic landmark train station (houses DiSalvo’s Station- fine Italian restaurant)
  • Westmoreland Scenic Railroad offers a train ride through the Laurel Highlands
  • Today Latrobe Area encompasses the city of Latrobe, Derry and Unity Townships, and the boroughs of Derry, New Alexandria and Youngstown
Christy-Andrea-Aunt-Heather-Piper-Latrobe-Pa-Colorguard-Captains-1993-1994

Christy Queer, Andrea Shafran & Me the Captains of Colorguard/Winterguard our senior year. 1993-1994

Greater Latrobe Schools

  • Students who take the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or American College Test (ACT) consistently score above state and national averages
  • Over 80% of graduates go on to post-secondary education (either 2 or 4 year college or trade school)
  • Computer instruction begins in kindergarten
  • All 3 elementary schools are lined into the district-wide network
  • All middle and high school students and faculty members have their own laptops computers lined to building-wide networks by wireless connections (NETSchools)
  • GLSD was the 1st school in Pennsylvania to implement a program of NETSchools initiative – all students have immediate access
  • In 1936, the Special Collection was started by 2 teachers to develop the students’ appreciation for the arts
  • Greater Latrobe Senior High School has the Center for the Student Creativity – designed to integration the arts into education
  • Greater Latrobe Senior High School houses the Special Collection of Greater Latrobe School District (about 200 works of original regional art)

 

As I was holding the Dog Gone!  Scavenger Hunt in New Hope, Kyle and I met up with my cousins Dr. John Olczak and his wife Sherry.  While we were catching up during lunch, John was reliving his undergrad days at Saint Vincent with Kyle.  He also mentioned that his dad, my Uncle Frank and my grandpap Chester, along with all the other brothers, Uncle Tex, Uncle Walter they used to caddy at the Latrobe Country Club.  Now that he said that, I kind of remember hearing about it,  However, what I didn’t know was my grandpap and his brothers were taught to golf by the same man who taught Arnold Palmer.  True story!

Arnold Palmer

  • His childhood home was close to the 6th hole at the Latrobe Country Club
  • His father was the club’s course superintendent & golf professional
  • At 11 years old started caddying
  • By 17 years old won his first 5 West Penn Amateur Championships
  • Attended Wake Forest University then joined the Coast Guard for 3 years
  • Married Winifred (Wini) Waltzer
  • In the fall of 1954 turned golf professional
  • Won 92 championships in professional competitions starting in the 1955 Canadian Open
  • During the 1960s, National Associated Press poll named him the “Athlete of the Decade”
  • Won the Masters Tournament 4 times
  • Won the British Open 2 times
  • Won the U.S. Open once
Marching-in-Latrobe-Parade-c.1991

Marching in the Latrobe Parade… the Colorguard wasn’t so lucky to wear T-shirts & shorts.  Sequins in heat is not pretty!  c. 1991

Mr. Fred Rogers

  • Born in Latrobe in 1928
  • Mr. Rogers Neighborhood was inspired by the streets of Latrobe
  • In 1953, he joined the staff of WQED Pittsburgh (nation’s first community-sponsored educational television station)
  • In 1955, won the Sylvania Award for best locally-produced children’s program “The Children’s Corner” (featured music & puppets)
  • In 1963, ordained as a Presbyterian minister
  • In 1966, debut of “MisteRogers”, became national in 1968
  • Show was renamed Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood so began the famous trolley and “Land of Make Believe” populated by Lady Elaine, Fairchilde, Kind Friday XIII and Henrietta Pussycat
  • Recipient of 2 George Foster Peabody Awards and “Lifetime Achievement” Awards from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and the TV Critics Association
  • In 2002, President George W. Bush presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom (nation’s highest civilian honor)
  • Died in February 2003

 

Arnold Palmer Regional Airport

  • Charles B. Carroll, a Scottdale resident would use Saint Vincent Aviation field as a landing (meadow of clover on a hilltop at Saint Vincent College)
  • In 1919, 2 Army Pathfinders made an emergency landing
  • Carroll leased the pasture at the junction of Lincoln Highway and Manito Road (now US Rt. 30 & Rt. 981)
  • In 1924,  Longview Flying Field was open for business
  • Built hangers to house the military army surplus planes
  • The pilots were soon called “Longview Boys” or “Carroll’s Hooligans”
  • In 1926, Longview Flying Field held 4 aricraft – 4th highest in Pennsylvania
  • Longview Flying Field ranked 4th highest in number of flights and 3rd in number of passengers
  • Carroll renamed the field J.D. Hill Airport, 4 years after opening (in honor of his friend who was killed in 1927 during an attempt to cross the Atlantic to Italy
  • In 1935, christened Latrobe Airport after Carroll and Latrobe joined forces to expand runways
  • May 12, 1939, the Latrobe Airport (now Arnold Palmer Regional Airport) hosted the country’s first scheduled airmail pickup
  •  In 1950, the former farmland was formally purchased from the Kerr family by Latrobe Borough
  • Next few years the Tri-County Municipal Authority was formed
  • In 1958, Bruno Ferrari took over management, then became known as the Westmoreland-Latrobe Airport (officially a commercial facility)
  • 20 years later became known as Westmoreland County Airport
  • In 1999, renamed in celebration of Arnold Palmer
  • Today handles about 50,000 aircraft departures and landings each year
  • Runway can accommodate aircraft up to a 727
  • 125 planes are based there (half are for business use and half for recreational use)
  • Amenities include: free parking, flight training (Westmoreland Aviation), aircraft maintenance, car rental, charter service, restaurant (DeNunzio’s), travel agency and gift shop
  • US International Airways maintains a terminal
  • A study by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation found that the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport contributes to $51 million annually to the economics of the surrounding area
Latrobe-Football-Game-Marching-Band-Aunt-Heather-Piper

During a Latrobe football game.. I could never sit there that long without moving around…c. 1993

Football

  • In 1895, John Brallier was one of the earliest football players to openly turn pro
  • Brallier’s compensation was $10 plus expenses when agreed to play for the Latrobe YMCA against Jeannette Athletic Club
  • In 1897, Latrobe Athletic Association was the 1st to field a team made up entirely of paid professional players that played a full season
  • Home of the Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp at Saint Vincent College since 1969 – 3rd longest continuously running site in the National Football League

Rolling Rock Beer

  • In 1939, Rolling Rock began brewing beer by the Latrobe Brewing Company in downtown Latrobe
  • 4.6% abv (alcohol by volume) pale lager
  • Mid 2006 sold to Anheuser-Bush (Moved to Newark, NJ)
  • 7 oz. bottle of beer that became known as a “pony”
  • Number 33 is printed prominently on all bottles of Rolling Rock
  • Many speculation about the number 33
    • The “33” refers to the founding year of the Pittsburgh Steelers
    • 33 degrees is the proper temperature to keep beer
    • Latrobe test-brewed 33 batches of beer before coming up with the final formula for Rolling Rock (which I thought was a recipe from the Saint Vincent Monks)
    • There were exactly 33 stair steps from the brewmaster’s office to the brewing floor in the original Latrobe brewery
    • The PA fish & game commission at the turn of the century numbered the streams within the commonwealth and the water that was used to brew this beer was taken from the stream numbered 33
    • Marked the repeal of prohibition in 1933
    • “33” signifies the 33 words in the beer’s original pledge of quality, which is still printed on every bottle
    • An executive wrote “33” at the end of the slogan, indicating the number of words, to be used as a guide for the bottle printers. Assuming it was part of the text and incorporated it into the label graphics
  • The current pledge is on the 12 oz. bottles, while the “little nip” pledge is from the 7 oz. bottle version

Rolling Rock – From the glass lined tanks of Old Latrobe, we tender this premium beer for your enjoyment as a tribute to your good taste. It comes from the mountain springs to you.

—Current pledge written on the Rolling Rock bottle

A little nip from the glass lined tanks of Old Latrobe. We tender this package as a premium beer for your delight and economical use. It comes from the mountain springs to you.

—Original pledge written on the Rolling Rock bottle
posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Observation & Imagination,Random Fun Facts and have No Comments
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