One of the best things about the gradual relaxation of the pandemic restrictions is the fact that our high school brunch group is now able to get together in person again. We normally meet twice a month; our most recent get-together was the third time since things began to improve.
Following the forty-fifth reunion of our (1949) high school class in 1994, Sam Capozzoli suggested that the guys who still lived in the area should get together once a month; nine of us began to have brunch on the first Wednesday of each month at Denny’s in Heidelberg. The idea was a great success; we have continued to meet, although the makeup of the group has changed.
Originally one had to be a card-carrying member of the ‘49ers. Unfortunately attrition has taken its toll. Don Schullek, Ray Fagan, Jack McGrogan, and Dick Rothermund have all passed away. Sam moved a little farther away and has experienced health problems, as has Lou Kwasniewski.
In the spirit of inclusion (even nonagenarians can be “woke” when it suits us) we have relaxed our requirements and now welcome all graduates of Bridgeville High School regardless of their class. Alfred Barzan, a member of the Class of 1948, has been a valuable addition to our group. He grew up in Greenwood Place and now lives on the corner of Gregg Avenue and Bank Street. Alfred has been encouraging his fellow classmate, Ben Rupnik, to join us. Sure enough, Ben showed up for our last brunch.
When we all were in high school, Ben lived on the corner of Gregg Avenue and Chartiers Street; he has moved up one block to Chestnut Street. Either way, he was a significant member of the gang who grew up in the neighborhood of the high school. In imitation of our gang, the Hilltop Hellcats, they (Bob Baldwin or Don Colton) adopted the name “Hillside” for their neighborhood.
Our inter-neighborhood basketball games were always dominated by Ben. He was easily the best hoopster of our era and would be a shoo-in for an all-time BHS all-star basketball team. Sam David and Tay Malarkey would be co-captains of such a team. I will leave it to my readers to fill in the rest of the roster.
Ben had an excellent career as a graphic artist; the Historical Society has a handful of outstanding sketches he did of Bridgeville street scenes. They probably should put together an exhibit of his work, perhaps combined with one of Bill Winstein’s sports cartoons.
Don Toney is the glue that has held the group together for all these years. He and I have a pact that we will email each other before Noon each day and assure each other it isn’t yet time to call 911. Don grew up on Baldwin Street and now lives in one of the upscale developments off Lesnett Road.
Ray Fagan and John Rosa were Don’s best buddies in high school. John left here years ago for Arizona; he lives near Tucson. Since he retired, it has been his custom to return to Bridgeville for several months each summer; this year he will be back in time for our July “first Wednesday” brunch. We are all eager to see him.
When John is here, he stays with his brother Bob, in Economy. Bob is a member of the class of 1952. We see him occasionally when John is out West; he attended our most recent brunch. John is better known as “Yunner”, which was his mother’s corruption of “John”. For a similar reason, Alfred Barzan is known as “Fredo”. The origin of Bob’s nickname, “Boompsie”, is unknown.
Even younger than Bob are Dale DeBlander and Russell Kovach, both proud members of the BHS Class of 1953. Dale was our neighbor on Lafayette Street when we were kids; I have many memories of him from those days. He earned a degree in chemical engineering at Marietta and eventually moved away. He and his wife Sue now live in South Fayette.
Russ also was a good friend when we were young; we were in the Boy Scouts together. He had an impressive career in the Postal Service, ending up as Post Master in the Upper St. Clair Post Office. He and his wife Millie live near Muse, in Washington County. Russ easily has the sharpest memory of any of us; he invariably comes up with the answer to the difficult “what ever happened to…?” questions.
My brother Joe is the representative of the Class of 1955. He and his wife Pauline live in Scott Township. I have been very fortunate that we have lived reasonably close to each other most of our adult lives. At this point he is the youngest of our brunch group.
Our group originally met at Denny’s in Heidelberg. At some point we moved to Bob Evans in Kirwan Heights, where Natalie, our favorite waitress, gives us special treatment. We now meet twice a month; our current schedule is 10:00 am, first and third Wednesdays of each month. We have become such an established institution at Bob Evans that a gentleman whom none of us knew approached us last time with a query about Lou Kwasniewski. After all, we are the final remnants of dear old Bridgeville High School!
Politically it is an interesting group, deeply Conservative, with one exception. They consider me a Socialist, or, even worse, a Liberal. This is a stark contrast to my Book Club, a group of “Progressives” who consider me a dangerous, reactionary redneck. This confirms my credentials as a true Moderate, a very lonely place to be.
At any rate, our bi-monthly brunches are red-letter days for me. I am grateful that we still are able to get together regularly.