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South Neighborhoods
Hometown home page: 'Memories of Glassport' Web site is a virtual scrapbook

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

By Margaret Smykla, Tri-State Sports & News Service

Memories of Glassport appear poised to last for generations to come, thanks to a Web site dedicated to stories and recollections by former and present borough residents.

"These memories or oral history of the town would be of such a nature as to give the visitors to the Web site a flavor and taste of what life was like in Glassport back then," writes Web master Richard A. Uher on "Memories of Glassport" at http://users.telerama.com/~urichard/glassmgi.html.

Contributors nationwide e-mail their stories to him at urichard@lm.com and include their own e-mail addresses so others can contact them.

Richard Uher, far left, who maintains a Web site on Glassport, talks with local residents, from left, Markus West, Nick Martino, and George Gorun at Gene's Lounge in the borough. (Tony Tye, Post-Gazette)

A 1,000-word submission by Paul Visyak begins: "I lived at 33 Ohio Avenue in a house that my dad had built in 1941. During World War II, I remember the blackout drills that the city had and that my dad was part of a civil defense team ..."

In his two-paragraph entry, Merrill J. Snyder recalls: "In the early '30s ... we used to have a ice path down the hill above Erie ... Sledding down the slide, almost like a toboggan slide, and then getting airborne for the 8- to 10-foot drop onto Third Street ..."

Uher, who lived in Glassport until 1961, writes: "I remember the holy hours at St. Cecelia Church in the early '50s. ... [Afterward], there was a gathering at Pater's drug store in the 500 block of Monongahela Ave. ... These holy hours turned out to be great social more than religious events."

The site is part of Uher's "unofficial home page of the town of Glassport," at http://users.telerama.com/~urichard/glasscv.htm.

Besides the memories page, the site contains links to other Glassport sites Uher designs and maintains, such as Businesses, Churches, History, Message Center, Glassport on CD, Picture of the Week and more.

It also features links to Glassport-related sites, such as the South Allegheny Academic and Athletic Association and the Twin Rivers Council of Governments.

"It's a hobby that you can give someone immediate access to," said Uher, an Elizabeth Township resident and semi-retiree with a Ph.D. in physics who consults on rail and rapid transit systems.

He began the project in the summer of 1996 after his retirement as director of the Rail Systems Center at Carnegie Mellon University.

The idea arose from conversation between Uher and the late Ralph Martino while sitting on the latter's porch on Michigan Avenue in Glassport.

"It's a nice hometown to grow up in," Uher said, citing its river, hill and woods. His motivation is his interest in its history, especially the evolution from an industrial to a present-day bedroom community.

Besides posting text and photographs contributed by Glassporters, he scours old issues of the McKeesport Daily News at the McKeesport Heritage Center for "bits and pieces of Glassport history" for the Historical Tidbits site.

He also processes purchase requests for CDs containing the full Web site and materials too large to put online, such as yearbook photographs of graduates, faculty, administration and board members of Glassport High School from 1908 to 1966.

Uher soon will begin scanning the minutes of the board meetings of the Pittsburgh Steel Foundry, established in 1899, for the CD. The material was contributed by ex-Glassporter Lee Rankin.

On Mondays, he stops at Gene's Bar in Glassport after racquetball for hamburgers and to talk with old-timers about their recollections for the Memories site.

He also visits with George Gorun, a former Glassport High School teacher in his 80s, who helps him with the town's history. Nick Martino, brother of Ralph Martino, frequently calls with stories.

"It's a method of doing history, that I think we'll see more of in the future," he said of the vastness and accessibility of the Web.

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