Friday, July 31, 2009

Picture Box

This is a detail of a photo I found of a painting and plastering crew. The photo was taken in Washington around 1912. There are about 30 men in the original photo.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Today's gripe

You'd think it wouldn't be too much of a problem selling one stinking copy of the newspaper, but let me tell ya...

Got an e-mail from a guy yesterday who lives out of the area, wanting to read about his hole-in-one that was published on the sports pages recently. I wrote back that we didn't publish everything online, such as the sports agate, but that he could order a copy of the newspaper from our circulation department, and I gave him the toll-free number. He writes back, "That's about as cheap as one can get. Thanks but no thanks."

So, I answer, "And someone who is too cheap to buy even a newspaper..."
He answers, "No thanks to you and your newspaper I did have someone buy a paper for me and send it to me at no cost to me. Can you say your paper would have sent it to me postage paid?"
I answer, "Of course not. We are in the business of selling newspapers, not giving them away, or mailing them at our expense."

Today, he writes again: "I will sleep soundly knowing you have never given a complimentary copy of your paper away to anyone for any reason. Even if asked for by the president of the United States."
So, I answer, "Let me know when you become president."

Jeez Louise! The Sunday paper costs a buck. Let the moths out of your wallet, pal.


After I've made a commitment to read a book, I'm rarely disappointed so much that at finishing it I feel as if I've wasted my time. But that was the case with this novel by Gary Shteyngart.

This is a story about the obese son of a Russian oligarch, educated in the U.S., who gets caught up in a civil war in a country bordering the Caspian Sea. It is satire that pokes fun at what Russia and Russians have become, at American imperialism and at capitalism. There are already 109 reviews on the book on, and most of the reviewers seem to find the book hilarious. I found it so deeply cynical as to be remarkably unfunny.

The hero – sometimes called by his nickname, "Snackdaddy" – is a spoiled, overweight, glutinous, impulsive, naive, pill-popping, well-intentioned, sentimental buffoon. I couldn't help but feel some offense, seeing him as symbolizing the United States.

The best thing about this book is its title because it so aptly describes the content. All events in the novel are taken to the extreme, to the point at which believability evaporates, to the absurd. Maybe I just prefer my satire more subtle.
Not recommended.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Picture Box

Another photo from the West Middletown collection, circal 1910... I call this one "Cowboy."
West Middletown and Avella have had a significant black population since before the Civil War, and this collection of photos is evidence.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Whine, whine, whine

C: This newspaper is the largest waste of money we pay, but my husband keeps reading it. -L.R.

A: I'm wondering what your husband believes is his largest waste of money.

C: Your paper is too expensive! - J.S.

A: Aw, c'mon! It's 50 cents! And it's free online. We haven't raised the newsstand price of the newspaper since the early 1990s. Can you think of anything else that has managed to do that?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Picture Box

Another from the West Middletown collection...
This is Belva France, wife of Frank France, with her child on the stoop at the rear of the france Hotel at 3 East Main Street, around 1905.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Picture Box

Call this one "A Man, a Woman, Two Horses and a Pit Bull." It is from a large collection of photos of everyday life in West Middletown around 100 years ago. I don't know how the Observer-Reporter came into possession of this collection, but I intend to find out. This one had no identification.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Picture Box

I really like this photo of a group of friends taken in West Middletown around 1910. A hundred years distant, their personalities come through loud and clear. Kneeling in front is Ray Miller. First row, from left, are John Manson, Janet Bemis and Ruth Bemis; second row, Mary Hair, Emma Miller, Lela McCabe and Florence Miller; third row, Osborne Hair and Calvin Miller.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Friday, July 17, 2009

Today's gripe

I have become wary of every oncoming vehicle on the road these days, and for good reason. It seems as if most of the drivers I see passing me in the opposite direction are talking on their phones – or worse.

Last evening on my way home, an oncoming car began drifting toward the center of the road in what has become an all-to-familiar fashion. As I steered toward the right berm, the car passed me, the driver oblivious of my presence, he cell phone propped on the top of her steering wheel, her thumbs busily texting away.

Picture Box

Washington High School students take a tour of the Observer-Reporter pressroom on Sept. 10, 1968. Because of the dangerous machinery, all girls were required to wear hair helmets.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Picture Box

I call this one "Hair Helmet No. 1." I'm not sure what the blank cardboard is for – perhaps to write your own caption, and I will entertain your submissions...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Picture Box

Boarding a street car in Washington, Pa., in 1954. Note the teenager lighting up just before getting on the trolley.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Picture Box

The Reed & Short Lumber Co. in Houston, Pa., offered speedy delivery.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Picture Box

The Little Giant Fire Company of Washington, Pa., featured the "Little Giant," state-of-the-art equipment in 1885. Shown with it are Jim Curran, left, Jim Harter and Pat Curran. The steam-powered pumper may have been a great advance from the bucket brigade, but at the time many of the city's building were still made of wood, and often whole blocks would go up in flames.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Picture Box

Ever wonder how they put up telephone poles, back in the days before trucks with cranes? I don't know where this was taken or when, but my guess is around 1915.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Picture Box

You may have heard of the rock group, Big Head Todd and the Monsters. This photo of the class of 1916 at East Bethlehem Township School could have been the inspiration for the name. That's Big Head Todd seated at right, and the Monsters are the two guys on the left.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Picture Box

Check out this dude, cruising for chicks on High Street in Waynesburg. That's Miller Hall in the background. I'll need a little help dating this photo. I'm guessing sometime around 1912.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Picture Box

Fashion has a way of being circular – we keep coming back to the same style ideas many years later. but I don't think we're ever again going to see high school girls playing basketball in sailor suits, as this Washington Female Seminary team did in 1911.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Picture Box

These citizens hold an anti-tax "Tea Party"... No, wait a minute, this is a bunch of folks in Greene County rallying for Republican William McKinley in his campaign for the presidency against William Jennings Bryan in 1896.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Picture Box

Whoa! Someone call the EHTs (Emergency Hair Technicians)! Nineteenth-century folk wore their hair differently, but this guy must have been barbered by fraternity brothers while in a drunken slumber.

The man is Robert M. Gibson, a prominent and eloquent member of the Allegheny County Bar until his death in 1882. He was born in Washington at later made is home here.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A new feature

For the past four years, I have been complaining, answering complaints and telling stories on this blog. You folks seem to be running out of things to complain about, and so am I. And to tell you the truth, I'm about storied out. So I'm going to change the direction of this blog.

Starting today, I'm dipping into our newspaper's archives for old photos – humorous, thought-provoking, intriguing ones – to share them with you. We'll call it the Picture Box. Here we go...

I found this photo (a post card, actually) in the bottom of a file drawer not opened for many years. It was tucked into a little booklet called "Public School Souvenir 1915," apparently given to students at the end of the school year. From it, I've learned that the man seated front right is George W. Marshall Jr., teacher at the Time Public School in Morris Township, Greene County. The other young men are unidentified. Perhaps they were also teachers, or maybe just friends. Note the art vase on the steps, probably presented to the teacher as a gift from his pupils. It would probably fetch a good price on "Antiques Roadshow" today. Who knows what happened to George Marshall? Did he go off to war, and did he return? Why was this memorabilia in our archives? We may never know.