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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Tribute To CHS Teachers

A video excerpt from the Canonsburg High School - Class of 1959    50th Reunion DVD

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Perry Como: A Canonsburg Singing Sensation and Barber

Perry Como (Wikimedia Commons)Perry Como sold over 100 million records during a career that spanned over half a century. On what would have been his 99th birthday, we take a look back at his life and work.

 birthplace - Franklin Ave. 14 Row
Click on pics to enlarge
Some might say Perry Como was born to be special. One of thirteen children, he was the seventh son of a seventh son, thought to be a sign of good luck by traditional Italians. Born in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, he was the first of his siblings born in America and spoke no English until he went to school (Italian was the language used at home). Though his parents were not wealthy – his father worked as a miller's hand – they enrolled all their children in music lessons. As a young boy, Como was also fond of playing a used organ his father had bought for $3. 
Young Como cutting hair in Fragapane Shop

Como worked from a young age, helping after school in a barbershop from the time he was 10 years old. By the time he was 14, he was already considering opening his own shop in order to help support the family as his father had been forced to stop working due to a heart condition. But Como continued pursuing music on the side, joining the Canonsburg Italian Band under bandleader Stan Vinton (father of Bobby Vinton) as well as acting as a church organist, playing trombone in the town’s brass band and singing at weddings. He was only 17 when he met his future wife, Roselle Beline, to whom he would be married for the rest of his life, a true rarity in show business.

Daily Notes
When he was 20 years old, Como moved to Meadville, Pennsylvania to work in his uncle’s hotel barbershop. His big break came in a Cleveland nightclub, where he and his friends would often go for entertainment. Freddy Carlone and his orchestra were performing and invited anyone who thought they could sing to come on stage. Urged by his friends, a reluctant Como took the microphone. Carlone offered him a job that night, but Como was hesitant as it would mean taking a pay cut and hitting the road. To his surprise, his father encouraged him to take the opportunity.

Three years later, Como earned a position with the Ted Weems Orchestra, a nationally recognized Chicago-based act who were regulars on radio shows like The Jack Benny Program. He made his first recording, a novelty song for Decca Records called “You Can’t Pull the Wool Over My Eyes” in 1936, though record executives were cool on his voice, feeling he sounded too much like Bing Crosby.

Como still wasn’t making much money, and with the birth of his first child in 1940 he opted to return to Canonsburg and go back into the barbering business. His retirement from the stage was short-lived though. CBS radio offered him a radio show – one which would allow him to be based in New York instead of touring constantly – and promised they’d help get him a recording contract. His new show aired in March, 1943. That June, he played two weeks straight at the esteemed Copacabana. One week later, RCA Victoria signed him, and he would remain there for the next 44 years.

Crooners were hugely popular during the era, and Como became a favorite of bobby-soxers nationwide. His first 14 years with RCA brought him an astounding 42 Top 10 hits, a feat bested only Bing Crosby. He became the first artist to reach 2 million sales of two different records at the same time with “Till the End of Time” and “If I Loved You.”

His popularity over the airwaves landed him a contract for the big screen, and he appeared in several largely forgettable movies for 20th Century Fox (often starring opposite Carmen Miranda and her hat) but found his talents perfectly suited for television, starting as host of NBC’s The Chesterfield Supper Club in 1948. Two years later, he moved to CBS for The Perry Como Show, before taking the show back to NBC where it had its best run, remaining on air for 8 years. He sang requests that came in through the mail, demonstrated his barber skills by giving Kirk Douglas a trim live on-air, and became known for his signature cardigan sweaters. He was often scheduled against his friend Jackie Gleason and the two would engage in good-natured banter over the telephone each week when the ratings came out.

After 1963, he retired from the show, but still appeared on TV in more than 30 holiday and seasonal specials before his last in 1994. He was also a regular on the talk and variety show circuit, appearing on The Bob Hope ShowThe Carol Burnett ShowLaugh-InSesame Street and a host of others. For his contributions to radio, film and TV, he was honored with no fewer than three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

A committed family man, Como insisted there was nothing particularly interesting about his life. “I've done nothing that I can call exciting. I was a barber. Since then I've been a singer. That's it."

Como died on May 12, 2001 in his sleep, six days shy of his 89th birthday. But the charts weren’t done with him yet – five years after his death, his version of “Jingle Bells” topped the Hot Ring Tones chart.

Not bad for someone who never did anything exciting. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

CHS58 Classmate Passes

Betty Jane Pyda Piasente

Well known as the 'Cake Lady' Betty Jane Piasente, 70, of Meadow Lands, died unexpectedly Tuesday, May 17, 2011, in her home.

She was born June 8, 1940, in Washington, a daughter of the late Michael and Rose H. Dupesko Pyda.
She had lived in Meadow Lands since 1977, where she was a member of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Church.

Mrs. Piasente was well known in the area as the "Cake Lady" for her fancy decorated cakes. At the time of her death, she had been employed in the deli department at the Washington Giant Eagle for 10 years.
On May 19, 1962, she married John G. Piasente, who survives.

Also surviving are two sons, John Piasente of Meadow Lands and Scott Piasente of Washington; two grandsons, Jonathon and Jordan Piasente; and many aunts, uncles and cousins.
Friends are welcome from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday in Salandra Funeral Service Inc., Joseph P. Salandra, owner/supervisor, 304 West Pike Street, Canonsburg, 724-745-8120, where departing prayers will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, May 20, followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at 11:30 a.m. in Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Church, Meadow Lands, with the Rev. John O'Shea, pastor, as celebrant.
Interment will follow in National Cemetery of the Alleghenies, Cecil Township.
To view or leave condolences, please visit

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Canonsburg's Young American Patriots - WWII

The Bronze Star Medal
[The Bronze Star Medal]The Bronze Star Medal is awarded to any person who, while serving in any capacity in or with the Army of the United States after 6 December 1941, distinguished himself or herself by heroic or meritorious achievement or service, not involving participation in aerial flight, in connection with military operations against an armed enemy; or while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.

Honored in the "Young American Patriots" WW-II book are four Canonsburg sons:
Albert "Kelly" Lanzy 
Albert Podrasky 
Thomas Podrasky
                                 Walter Skowvron


A special thanks to Barbara Lanzy Lounder for providing and sharing this book presented to her Father,  Al "Kelly" Lanzy

My apology for the trail-off quality of the above images. 

Friday, May 6, 2011

Aerial of Canonsburg - July 3rd, 2010

Here is a satellite picture of Canonsburg captured from Google Earth.

It's hard to believe that this Google Earth picture was actually taken(snapped) on July 3rd, 2010 and timed midway during the Fourth of July Parade.
Click on each picture to enlarge 
Canonsburg on the 4th of July, 2010
Using Google Earth, and zooming in, then panning Pike Street along the parade route shows a large crowd observing and indicates the parade is still in passing from Jefferson Avenue westward, 
A closer look showing the parade route along West Pike Street with the stadium included for orientation
If you further zoom in on the upper left corner you can see the marching formation of the CM Band.
 As expected, in contrast as you pan to the East from Jefferson Ave you begin to see a waning and disappearing crowd,  as well as no longer any sight of the infamous chairs. This picture and view is not included, for who is ever interested... "After the Parade Has Gone By" 

but Google Earth can be down loaded from: if you would like to see more.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

When the Street Cars Ran Along Pike Street

A few pictures taken on the last day, August 30th, 1953 the street cars ran in Canonsburg.

Click on any of the Pictures to Enlarge
Streetcar seen here on the Tresle just out side Canonsburg
"Comin Thru" - Middle of Town
Streetcar entering intersection of Greenside & Pike Street
The final riders shown here posing with the Streetcar Conductor and Pistol Pete
Canonsburgers Enjoying the Last Ride.