Less than a mile from our Lemont house was a non-functional reservoir that served as a
great recreation spot. Coolspring Reservoir( "The Rezzie") was a place
where families went to swim, fish and picnic in the summer. The breast of the
reservoir was the part that would be the dam, to keep the water in the basin. The
water was deepest at the breast, and every year someone would construct a diving platform,
usually made out of a pile of rocks. Once in a while there would be a diving board,
but it would never last an entire season.
The breast was the place for the serious
swimmers and the adventurous divers. At the North corner of the breast was a very
small beach area with a sandy bottom. The problem with this area was that the level
dropped off very quickly and was dangerous for inexperienced swimmers.
Across from the breast on the left was a
larger beach area we called "The Green". It was larger than the corner
area, but it was rocky. The water level was more shallow and it was a great area for
kids. Directly across from the breast was the sand bar. It was a good place
for fishing, but the crawfish and other creatures made a less desirable place for
At the South corner of the breast
the water let out into a small creek. This was a great place for family picnics. The
challenge to a young boy, and the mark of a good swimmer was to be able to swim across the
reservoir from the breast to the green. I would like to know how many boys successfully
responded the the dare: "You ain't a man unless you can swim all the way to the
green". Only a daredevil would try to make it across without a couple of
friends trailing him with innertubes.
There was a homeless man in Lemont who was called Romeo. I doubt that was his real name.
The rumor was that Romeo slept down by the coke ovens (more about that later) and that he
had been kicked out of the county home. When Romeo was hungry he would walk the
neighborhood in search of a meal. Romeo knew the people who would feed him and he would
never go to the same house two days in a row. Baba Briscar always kept a little extra food
in case Romeo showed up. She would prepare a plate for him and he would eat outside the
house. Sometimes Baba would give him a chore to do after he finished the meal.
The Starlight Drive-In Theater
The Starlight had the most beautiful marquee you have ever seen. The Starlight was
not actually in Lemont, but about 1 1/2 miles away on Rt. 119. You could see it from
Lemont. Shortly before sundown the marquee would be turned on - a masterpiece of
neon art. The sun would appear as a bright orange ball in the center of the marquee
and slowly sink to the bottom. As the glow of the sun diminished, stars would appear
one-by one, and finally the moon. Then the cycle would start over again. Most
people would go to the Starlight in their cars, but many times we would walk, down the
hill, over the railroad and streetcar tracks, through the coal dump, and up the twisting
road to a farm that was right next to the Starlight. We would have our snacks
and blankets to sit on and we would sit next to the fence. It was a great place to
watch a movie, and if the patrons in their cars had the speakers turned up loud enough we
could actually hear the dialogue.
Shadowland Skating Rink
Shadowland was across the road from the Starlight. Most people called it
"Shadaland". It was a great place to skate and there was a live organist,
a common fixture in those days. The organist played all the popular songs and and
mixed in some old ones. Sometimes we would get in free because Ambrose Briscar
worked there. He was one of those guys who would skate around and help the skaters
get up when they would fall. A lot of girls would purposely fall when they skated by
Shady Grove Park
Shady Grove was an amusement park about two miles from Lemont. All the usual rides
were there - the merry-go-round, Ferris wheel and and the game stands. But the
highlight of the park was the swimming pool. It was a very large, oval-shaped pool
with a fountain right in the center. Most of the pool was not very deep and was
usually filled with children and their parents. the deeper end had three or four
diving platforms and diving boards, enough to satisfy a beginner or an Olympic hopeful.
The water was clear and was highlighted by the blue floor.
The Dairy Bar
I don't know the official name of the place, but one of the families in Lemont converted
their garage into an ice cream parlor. It was a great place for teens to
dance or just listen to the juke box. Some kids would spend hours and hours there.
Here Comes Ice Cream Joe
That's what it said on the front of the ice cream truck. Ice Cream Joe was Lemont's
answer to the Good Humor Man. He was a friendly man who would make sure to ring the
bell and play the tune that announced that he was in the neighborhood. As in any
other place in the world, kids of all ages would line up at the ice cream truck. As
Joe would drive away he would sing the official ice cream truck driver song - I scream,
you scream, we all scream for ice cream.
Saint Cecelia's Catholic Church
St. Cecelia's was our family's church. It was in Morgan, not too far from Shady
Grove Park. St. Cecelia's was very small. In fact, it was a chapel that was
maintained by St. Mary's Church in Uniontown. It was not very spacious,
seating approximately 120, tastefully decorated and was a beautiful place to worship.
On days when the sanctuary would be filled many people would sit in the choir loft.
The streetcar stopped right at the front door, but many people would walk to mass.
Many would bypass the main roadways and walk along the streetcar or railroad
tracks. The most challenging part of walking on the tracks was not falling through
the ties at the Morgan overpass.
The Coke Ovens
Lemont nights were filled with the red-orange light of the burning coke ovens. The coke
ovens were placed near the railroad tracks and numbered in the tens. These beehive shaped
ovens were used for the production of coke, a byproduct of coal that was used to fuel
blast furnaces. Coke was formed when the coal was heated in the absence of air. In the
manufacturing process, as the temperature increases, free water evaporates and tar and gas
evolve; coal becomes coke when the temperature reaches 550 degrees C (1,022 degrees F).
The process of making coke requires water. The Lemont coke ovens drew water from the
Coolspring Reservoir by means of a pipeline that ran underground to the ovens. As a matter
of safety, there was a huge valve below the breast of the reservoir and another valve at
the coke ovens.
Patchan's Grocery Store was on Main Street where it took a turn to go over the streetcar
and railroad tracks ( See the star on the Lemont Maps ). Patchan's had all the usual
grocery items and at one time had a soda fountain inside the store. Patchan's was flanked
by a tavern on each side. On one side Joe Patchan ran Joe's Place, and Bobby Volcheck ran
Volcheck's Tavern on the other Side. Both were friendly places to get a drink after work
or after a ball game. In nice weather the patrons would sit outside Joe's Place on a small
patio. I have heard that in earlier years Joe Patchan would show movies two or three times
a week for all the neighborhood folks.
The Honor Roll
Directly across from Patchan's was the Lemont Honor Roll. It was a monument erected during
World War II to honor the service men and women from Lemont who served during the war, and
it bore the name of every man and woman who served. It was a moving experience to see all
those names, some of whom never came back home. The honor roll stood through the Korean
War, but eventually became the victim of vandals and no longer exists.
The Boys Of Summer
There was a ball diamond behind the Lemont Post Office. All the nearby towns had baseball
teams that would travel from town to town to play. The competition was fierce and the play
was tough but fair. Games would often be followed with players from both teams sharing a
keg or case of beer, usually Fort Pitt or Iron City.
4/20/99 I had noted earlier that I remembered Minnie
Galderice as one of the ball players but Robert Peccon informs me that the person I was
thinking of was Carmen Galderice, Minnie's brother. Time plays tricks on an old
man's mind. Thanks, Bob.
- - -
The other ball diamond was not as nice as the one behind the Post Office. It was at the
bottom of the hill at the Lemont Patch and had no grass or dirt. The infield and the
outfield were of the same substance - crushed coal. Teams would play there regularly and
not be bothered by the lack of accommodations.