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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Going the Long Way by Judith Florian

Canonsburg Train Station

A colored postcard Originally was published in black & white.The platform looks like concrete, but it actually was red brick.

by Judith Florian

Just outside of Houston, one enters the beginning of Canonsburg, PA with Pike Street running all the way through Canonsburg. West Pike turns decidedly East, running almost parallel to Conrail's tracks several blocks off to the right. Pike comes down a slight grade at North Jefferson Avenue, which marks the old section of "downtown" Canonsburg. Here you will pass Sarris Candies, a famous place in this area, where delicious chocolate candies are made and sold. There used to be a Hardware store and a five & dime store in this section -- are they still there?

Up from Jefferson, the next intersection is North Central Avenue. Turning left here, one passes the Senior High Rise building, and begins going up the lower section of a very long, very steep hill that goes almost straight up without reprieve. In 1978, I lived at the very top of North Central, in a red brick three-story gigantic house that had been converted to apartments, three to each floor. Each apartment on the 3rd floor (where I was) was a one bedroom. Mine faced Central, with my bedroom on the side closest to Pike St. I didn't have a car, so to go for groceries or anywhere was a long walk down Central, almost pulled by my daughter's stroller. Walking down on the right sidewalk, we'd pass by numerous houses on both sides. One had a single tombstone in the front yard, which was recently featured in a story in the Observer-Reporter (they were searching for information about a person named Hudak* whose grave was located there). Often we'd cut across one of the side streets on the right to go over to Jefferson Avenue, which was flatter than Central, if I needed to go downtown. Or, I'd cross down streets to the left to go grocery shopping at the far end of Canonsburg. Coming up the hill was a very, very long trek, pushing a baby and stroller. I had to call a cab to go home with bags and boxes of groceries in tow. Then came the hard trek up and down three flights of stairs, still carrying a pre-toddler on my hip on each trip....up....and down...over and over... balancing baby in one arm and one bag in the other.

It was when I lived in Canonsburg that I learned how to drive, often making my way on I-79 south to Waynesburg where my sister lived (see write-up about McMurray PA). Since I only lived in the 3rd-floor walk-up for less than a year, I never got to visit the Town Park in Canonsburg or the other attractions of the City. For Easter that year, I visited Sarris Candies for my daughter's first chocolate bunny. And, my daughter had her very first emergency room visit at Canonsburg Hospital after she drank a 1 oz. bottle of lavender perfume I'd just bought (ever see a baby drunk? It's kind of funny, and every breath was of obnoxious-smelling perfume ... but, oh so scary to a new mom!). The Canonsburg Police were so helpful that night, giving us a Police escort and waiting in the E.R. to see if she was okay. They joined the doctors in a few chuckles over the sweet-smelling "drunk" baby, and helped calm a very frightened mom that night.

The birthplace of: Perry Como, the singer/musician who died 2001, Canonsburg is full of the descendants of other immigrant parents and grandparents who worked, struggled and helped build the town. The glass/pottery plant and nearby mines where they had worked have long been closed, but the town continues to build its resources towards the future. Canonsburg has long been known as the antiques capital of SW PA, where the past is valued as an integral part of this Pennsylvania town. There's been a strong emphasis on education in Canonsburg, from the original Jefferson College to the continued successes of the Canon-McMillan School District and its graduates. Close to the location of the old Western Center, Canonsburg has benefited from the new community of Southpointe with its golf course, and retirement living built alongside stores, banks and medical facilities. The town is still small enough to carry forth the values of the citizens, while offering a variety of services needed for a growing community.

*Quoted from the Observer-Reporter newspaper: "The name carved into the stone, Hudak, is that of an as yet obscure person who was born in 1887 and died in 1915. Canonsburg officials hope to hear from any descendants who have information about the grave site."