Category: Culture Comment

I recently read an article in the Nashville Scene titled; “Preds Fan’s Guide to Hating Pittsburgh. I thought there might actually be some substance to the article but once I read it I realized that, unlike them and their catfish tossing, we “Yinzers” have plenty to be proud of.

It started off slamming Pittsburgh calling it the “City that Self Awareness Forgot.” It went on to say that when talking to a Pittsburgher, “You have to listen to a litany of the most banal, mundane accomplishments in the history of human civilization.” Obviously the author of this post, whom I will address later, obviously doesn’t realize that some things are said jokingly; like our particular method of making left turns.

“They are really proud of their rivers too, even though only one is of any consequence.” I had to laugh at that one. While the rivers may not see the same commerce traffic of the steel era, they were what made Pittsburgh the industrial mecca of its time. All 3 rivers were packed with barges carrying coal, iron ore, steel, grain and livestock and on and on. The rivers are also the reason that Pittsburgh is known as the City of Bridges. This was because during WWII Pittsburgh was a prime target for the enemy, because of the Steel manufactured here for use in military weapons and vehicles. The large number of bridges insured that even if one was bombed, there would still be more to insure the commerce could continue. Let’s not forget that Pittsburgh is one of the leading City’s in medical research and development.

“Pittsburghers love to tell you about how great they are at waving towels, as if in the thousands of years humans have been drying themselves off, no one ever thought to spin one above the head until a bunch of Yinzers did it.” Once again, a small guffaw escapes my lips. Ok, here is the history of the Terrible Towel. It was invented by Myron Cope, the color commentator for the Pittsburgh Steelers, in preparation for the 1975 playoffs. Cope wanted a symbol for all the fans to rally behind. It worked because in 42 years the Terrible Towel is the only “gimmick” that has been constant in any sports venue. I mean, what does Nashville have? Dead catfish and a Country Music Super Star to sing the National Anthem? Which by the way was flat and pitchy. But I digress. Before you slam a Pittsburgh sports tradition, which by the way, every other sports team attempts to copy, maybe you should learn a little more about it. Such as, The Terrible Towel is 42 years old. Myron Cope signed the copyrights over to the Allegheny Valley School. This School is a series of campuses for people with severe mental and physical disabilities, of which Myron Copes son is one. That means all the profits go directly to the school. What do your dead catfish get you, besides laughed at I mean. It is also a lasting memory of Myron himself who bled Black and Gold and loved this city more than anyone I know.

They are very proud of having drafted Sydney Crosby for their beloved Penguins, a Team most of them didn’t know they had until 1984, then forgot all about until 2005.” The writer of this piece says there was some flim flammery involved in getting Crosby. He sites some shady drafting process because of the NHL cancelling the 2004 season and Pittsburgh was awarded the #1 Draft in 2005. But if Nashville would have been granted the #1 draft there wouldn’t be an issue. Oh wait, that’s right, The Nashville Predators weren’t even a gleam in the NHL’s eye in 2005. I also believe that if the NHL hadn’t given Nashville the equivalent of a participation award by awarding them a franchise, they wouldn’t have been able to attract one on their own.

Now they go on to say that Pittsburgh was awarded the #1 draft pick in 2003 and that wasn’t on the up and up. With that draft they chose Marc-Andre Fleury who, according to this well informed writer, “has since become best known for getting replaced by literally anyone within earshot of the Pittsburgh bench during the playoffs.” Let’s see, drafted in 2003. It’s now um, 2017. I make that 14 years in the NHL. I imagine he might have lost a step or two in that amount of time. But let’s not forget, when Matt Murry was injured at the beginning of the playoff, it was Fleury who was phenomenal and kept them in the playoffs.

The hater-ade must have been flowing freely when this last paragraph was written. It goes something like this; “Of course all of this fortune – which was definitely NOT engineered by the National Hockey League because the Pens are owned by one of the league’s all-time greats in Mario Lemieux (who ended up a Pen in 1984 because Pittsburgh put on a tank job George S. Patton would be proud of) – has resulted in resounding success in the Steal, uh, Steel City.”

I must laugh at anyone from Nashville wanting to point out any type of chicanery in the NHL. I guess the writer hasn’t watched any of the Stanley Cup Finals. Games one and two were some of the worst acting since, well I’m not sure since when. To watch the Predators player’s taking dive after dive during the first 2 games, it reminded me of the first Mighty Ducks movie when Coach Bombay wanted District 5 to play act to draw penalties. To watch PK Subban cry and hold his shoulder after a legal check was pitiful. Maybe he should learn from Oli Matta who took a slap shot off of his ankle to block a shot but kept playing. Or even Pekka Renne who was flailing around at times after barely being brushed by legal contact.

Now let’s add the officiating. I guess the only reason so many calls are missed by the officials is because Seeing Eye dogs can’t skate. For the announcers who clearly hate Pittsburgh to comment on how obviously one sided the officiating is, maybe it is true. Even Carrie Underwood, married to Captain Mike Fisher of Nashville, said pretty much the same thing about the officiating. For a player to be standing in front of the and can’t make a play on the puck is ridiculous. Is it because of poor skills, bad positioning? Maybe it’s because PK Subban has his arms wrapped around Sidney Crosby and he can’t even lift his stick. However, the officials did prove they knew what holding was because it was called several times against Pittsburgh in game 3. Actually, most of the penalties have been called against Pittsburgh the entire playoffs.

They like to make fun Pittsburgh for putting cole-slaw and fries on a sandwich. He makes fun of it but there are many copies of the Primani’s sammich. Even Nashville copy’s it. How do I know? I was stationed at Fort Campbell Kentucky from 1987 to 1989 and spent lot’s of time in Nashville.

The writer closes with this stream of pointlessness but I thought I would include it. “Like many teams, the Pens reflect their city well. A handful of supremely gifted artisans surrounded by a bunch of workaday salarymen, coming together to produce impressive, if ultimately prosaic accomplishments.

Sure, a 100-foot I-beam looks great … for an I-beam. But give us the raucous rowdiness of a canyon of gold instead. 

If Flashdance taught us anything, it’s that dancing is more fun than steel mills. And even Jennifer Beals — Pittsburgh’s most famous cultural export, even though she’s from Chicago — is pulling for Preds.”

I laugh at the comment regarding the raucous rowdiness of a canyon of gold. Pittsburgh is the home of rowdiness and gold, Black and Gold to be precise. Once again, another Johnny-come-lately sports franchise to copy Pittsburgh.

In my last point I wanted to say something about the writer. Unfortunately it was written by, and I quote, a “Committee of Hockey Insiders” which might just be code for not wanting to attach your name to this. I honestly can’t blame them. I wouldn’t want to take credit for what was written in an attempt to take away from Pittsburgh exactly what they are; A city of industry, a city that is culturally diverse, leading the way in technology, leading the way in medical advances, a City rich in deep history, more movies shot in this region then Nashville and oh, yeah, THE CITY OF CHAMPIONS!!!

Below I included A link to the original article. All it really is pure jealousy… Geeze, and they call ME crazy…

Preds Fans Guide for Hating Pittsburgh


As I begin this evening I realize that this has been the first post in a long while. It doesn’t seem like it’s been that long but there has been so much going on that there just wasn’t enough time in the day. So, without further adieu…

I’m sure the title is making some of you scratch your head. “More than half?” I can hear you saying. Well, next month, May 1st to be exact, marks my 25th Anniversary as a Volunteer Firefighter and since I’m not 50 yet, more than half of my life has been spent as a volunteer firefighter. Now I didn’t spend all that time with one department but for 25 years I have belonged to a fire department. I still think about that first few weeks when I joined the Indiana Fire Association. I had turnout gear, a key to the fire hall a blue light for my vehicle and no clue what I was doing.

As a new guy, I was expected to be seen and not heard for a while until the guys got to know me a little better. I would show up on calls and wait to be told what to do and maybe get to ride a truck to the call. I was expected to attend as many drills and practices as I could and get my firefighting fundamentals within the first year of my probation. Once that was completed, I was allowed to take other classes like structure burn and advanced structure burn. Then there was the rescue side of the department as well. I took all the classes I could there as well. Basic vehicle rescue, advanced vehicle rescue, special vehicle rescue, trench rescue, confined space and the list goes on and on. I also became a diver with the department.

I was a training machine for the first 3 years I was a firefighter. I initially had visions of Johnny and Roy type scenarios when I first became a firefighter but as time went on I realized it is seldom like it is on TV or the movies. About 4 years in with the department I decided I wanted to start driving the apparatus and run the pumps and ladder trucks. There were some great engineers who taught me a lot over the years with Indiana. Tricks that stuck with me and helped me understand what a truck can and can’t do.

About 10 years in with Indiana I relocated out of the area and had to move. I still however belonged to a couple of really good departments with great reputations. I always was an engineer for them as well. It was nice to see that the things I learned in one place held true in others. I could take all of the things I learned from everywhere and develop my own style. I then began to take training for running the trucks to better myself for what I truly love to do.

Spending as much time as I have running the trucks is a great feeling and huge responsibility that took several years to embrace and fully understand. As my years (and age) increased I found that sometimes slower is faster. (one of my old fire chiefs used to say that all the time) I also learned that the more experience and confidence you gain, the better equipped you are to perform your job.

As luck would have it, I relocated back to Indiana and was able to rejoin the Indiana Fire Association. The same department I began my career with 25 years ago will hopefully be the same one I can retire from. It filled me with pride all those years ago to belong there and still fills me with pride today. While a lot of the guys I started with have retired, there is great contingent of young guys there now with the same drive and willingness we all had when we started. I love the fact that I have been able to do this for 25 years and look forward to a lot more. Some people think I should get a different hobby. Some think it’s a waste of time. And they call ME crazy…

As 2015 winds down we find ourselves looking forward to 2016. So much has happened this past year but here at ATCMC there have been huge changes as well. First and foremost we relocated our offices back to our hometown. It was a much needed change and we also streamlined our staff to improve efficiency. Many creative changes were made and we no longer go through a 3rd party for approval of a post. Now we can just sit down and let it fly, so to speak.

So today, as I sat at my computer deciding on a post, I poured a glass of Boones Farm wine, and put Mot the Hoople on the 8-Track player. I figured that I could tackle so many subjects because it has been such an eventful year. I just decided to keep it simple. I wanted to end the year quietly and calmly. I saw no reason for a flourish. We here at ATCMC have been pretty preoccupied with court dates and other things that the creative juices have remained untapped.



Governor Tom Wolf

There is still no budget in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania but never fear, our state lawmakers got their raises and welfare remains just as strong as ever. Those pesky things like Education, Social Security and other silly things will just have to wait for the petulance to end. I mean how important are those last 2 I mentioned? Geeze, if our State Lawmakers can’t get paid and get their cost of living raises, how could we ever expect them to function for those who elected them?



Condemned killer Gary Heidnik

There is still a moratorium on executions in the Commonwealth as well. I agree. It is better to spend the money to house them and maintain the special living conditions then to carry out the sentence. Now, before I go any further I will once again state my position on the Death Penalty. I believe that if you are going to carry it on the books then you should use it. However, the last execution in the Commonwealth was in 1999 when Gary Heidnik was execute by lethal injection.


My feeling is that it is ridiculous to ceremoniously sentence someone to death with no intention of carrying out the sentence. Not to mention, there is an increased cost in housing a death row inmate. Let’s just concede the fact that Pennsylvania will never perform another execution and just remove the law from the books, change the sentencing guidelines and save the taxpayers of Pennsylvania a little money. I know, it does sound crazy.


We could continue, but I figured I’d stay close to home. I mean, where would I start? Benghazi is still in the forefront, the federal government is trying to disarm it’s citizens while supplying weaponry to less-than-friendlies. We can’t take care of our own homeless, including our veterans, but we will open our borders to anyone and everyone. I mean, how does it make sense to fine your citizens for not having healthcare but the program itself has driven up costs to the point that companies have had to lay off to meet the requirements?


I pray each night before I lay my head down on my Star Wars sheets that 2016 will be better than 2015. I know for us here at ATCMC we are delving into new areas with Fatt Katt Video Production as well as continuing to write posts here. We made some really good changes this year with staffing so we are looking forward to some great things. As always we thank all of our readers and promise a little more production in 2016.


We also pray for our troops still fighting overseas and hope at some point we stop playing the world’s police and take care of our own backyard first. I know my opinions are unpopular with some but those of you who really know me know I am apolitical with no real views on much. I just like to speak, sometimes with no filter. If I have offended anyone I’m sorry. Sorry you don’t have thicker skin. Sorry, I have also vowed this year to be a little kinder.


No matter how things shake out for the rest of the year, it is almost over. 2016 is a chance for some of us to hit the reset button and get a fresh start. I look forward to the new friendships I have made over the past year, the old friends I have reconnected with and, if I can steal a line from a 90’s song, “The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades…” From all of us here at ATCMC, have a great New Year, stay safe and let’s end the hate. Some people thrive on making others miserable. Geeze, and they call me crazy.

I know by the title some of you are rolling your eyes and wondering what rambling incoherent post I have for you today. Well my dear readers, it is about change. All of us experience change in some form or another at some point in our lives. It can be great big, wholesale changes or something small. Nonetheless, it happens to us all. Some changes are good and some are not but change is important to keep everything moving along.

einstein-thoughtOne of the things to consider is changing your way of thinking. I know that sometimes it is easier said then done. We have been programmed a certain way and have spent most of our lives thinking the way we do. Some people are passive-aggressive manipulating narcissists. Others get controlled by them and don’t even realize they have allowed their thinking to become re-wired to believe what they are being told. I read a book called “No More Mister Nice Guy” by Dr. R.A. Glover. In it he explains how the “Nice Guy” acts a certain way based on things either from their past or current surroundings. You say, “No way,” but it happens every day. This is where changing your thinking is so vital. Like Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”.

So now you are sitting there thinking there is no way possible to change something you have done your entire life. I am here to tell you that it is possible. I work at it everyday. Mental health sometimes requires a spring cleaning of the mind, if you will. I don’t mean go and see a hypnotist to change your thoughts, you have to do the work yourself. Take a break from the daily grind. It helps if you have some free time to yourself. Maybe when the kids are at school and the spouse is at work. You might need pad and paper as well, but you need to make a mental inventory. What is going on in your head? What is causing you the most problems? Where does the majority of your stress lie? It might not be as simple as doing it yourself. Sometimes a licensed therapist may be in order. If you don’t think that will work for you, maybe your priest or pastor. Sometimes just talking to someone is a great way to root out what is going on. Changing your way of thinking is not a simple one time effort. It might take weeks, months or even longer.

A positive mindset is so important. If you can find positive things to think about the other thoughts are not right in the forefront. To that end, if a stressor in your life is perhaps a sick or dying loved one, instead of thinking of all the negatives associated with the situation try to focus on the positives. Let’s say, for instance, your child has the chicken pox. Instead of worrying that they are going to miss school or how sick they feel, try focusing on the fact you were able to have the time off of work to take care of them. Or you had a grandmother or grandfather who was able to help you. Or say you have a loved one in Hospice with terminal cancer. You could say how pitiful it is to watch someone die like that or on a positive side you could say you were thankful there was something available like this to help them in their final days.

answer-to-prayer-quoteI’m not saying look at everything with rose-colored glasses but you also don’t have to see doom and gloom in absolutely everything. Having a loved one die from cancer is certainly not pleasant, for them or for you, but you also have to think about how your approach to a situation affects other people. If we give off a positive vibe, others will pick up on it. If you have trouble trying to change your mindset to something positive, surround yourself with positive people. Negativity breads negativity and the same can be said for positive thinking as well. Instead of looking at the glass as half empty or half full, be thankful there is something in it at all. Sometimes removing stressors completely could be the answer.

I know once I started changing my thinking and removing stressors I began to feel better almost instantly. My health began to improve and I was feeling better all around. I joined a gym and I try to go atmistakes least 2 days a week. I started helping my friend and his son build demolition derby cars over the summer. Alan, who had been my friend for 35 years, asked me to come up and help them out. Once I started to get active with my health and my past-time activities I could feel myself feeling so much better. Some people are destined to feel like they are nothing because of mistakes they have made. We all make mistakes, we are all human. Don’t ever believe that you are less than something special because of mistakes. Don’t let people keep reminding you of mistakes either. Just because they can’t move on doesn’t mean you need to be stuck in the past. We are not perfect. We are human. Change your thinking to become more positive in your thoughts and actions. Becoming more positive is a great way to feel better. Surround yourself with positivity. Seek out your friends. Be willing to do what you have to do to make positive changes in your life. Some people are happy making others miserable. They spend their lives doing it. Geeze, and they call me crazy.

All of us have times when we need a little boost. Maybe it’s a bad day at work or a personal problem. Everyone has bad days, myself included. When I have a down day I am fortunate enough to have so many good memories to draw from that I can quickly replace my frown with a big smile. Great friends help as well. I am blessed that I have a large group of friends and a few special ones to help cheer me up when I need it. When I need a good memory I have one in particular that not only cheers me up but reminds me of the power of friendship.

When I was 5 years old my dad and I headed to the local fairgrounds on the 4th of July. Not for the carnival or the food but for the demolition derby. My dad loved them and soon I found myself rooting right along with him. It became our yearly ritual. I found myself getting to know who some of the drivers were and cheered for them as they took to the track. The man who was the M.C. for the derby’s was George Marshman. He was able to keep the crowd entertained between the heats and every year between the 3rd and 4th heats he would pull the same gag. While he was making announcements of upcoming events, someone would come up to him and bring him a plastic shopping bag. They would tell him it was found in the woman’s restroom under the grandstands. He would tell the crowd he was going to look through the bag for some sort of identification. He would pull out a dress and pair of shoes and then, as if right on que, he would pull out a 3-cupped bra. Even though he did it every year he still got a laugh from the crowd and me as well.

The drivers I knew at the derby, Lefty, Mark, Bill, Dennis, Tom, Moe and Barry, dominated their heats and all would usually make the feature race making it very exciting. One year, a kid in a big black car pulled onto the track. During his heat, he seemed to destroy every car he hit. He won his heat and in the feature, he had the same result. Every year, this same driver dominated the competition. I finally found out that his name was Alan and he quickly became one of my favorites. A couple of years later I discovered he lived right around the corner from me. I would ride my bike down and watch him and his buddies work on the derby cars. Shortly after my 12th birthday I started to hang out. The guys would let me help strip out a car or hand them tools.

Alan next to one of his Monacos numbered and ready to go. Around 1985

Alan next to one of his Monacos numbered and ready to go. Around 1985

My mom found out and quickly put the kibosh to me going to the garage. After a few days of hurt feelings and not speaking, my dad secretly went down and checked it out. After talking with Alan and the other guys, he was able to assure my mom that there were no drugs, alcohol or other shenanigans going on. Reluctantly she allowed me to start going back down with the stipulation that my chores and other responsibilities were completed before I did anything else. At first I got in the way more than I helped but by the end of that first summer, I had learned how to strip out a car’s guts and even how to use an acetylene torch. I still wasn’t allowed to travel to the derbies with the guys, but dad and I would go no matter where they went. As the years moved along and I got a little older, I was allowed to go to the derbies with Alan. His nephew Robert was a friend of mine from high school and we became part of the “pit crew.” When I turned 16, I took some money I had, $35 dollars to be exact, and bought my first derby car. It was a 1973 Plymouth Fury. Robert got a car from Alan and we got ready to start construction of our own cars.

My first derby as a driver

My first derby as a driver

My first car ever ran. 1973 Plymouth Fury III

My first car ever ran. 1973 Plymouth Fury III

When July 4th rolled around, I was no longer a spectator, I was part of the show. Mom and dad went to the derby as well. I was in the 1st heat. As we waited for the start time I couldn’t sit still. Finally it was time and we pulled the cars onto the track. They gave us the command to fire the engines and I think my heart was beating faster in my chest than the car was. When they dropped the green flag my foot went to the floor and I hammered across the track, destroying the first car I hit. I also damaged my car pretty significantly, too. By the end of the heat my car had sustained far too much damage to continue, but by virtue of that first devastating hit, I was awarded Crowds Choice and $25.00. I had been bitten by the derby bug and couldn’t wait to run my next one. I eventually found out that the big black car Alan ran all those years ago was a 1964 Chrysler Imperial. It was considered the Holy Grail of derby cars at that time. Alan has had a few since then, too. When I turned 18 I was lucky enough to acquire an Imperial as well. I took it to New Alexandria and was ready to do battle. I got stuck in the first heat and was counted out. In the second heat, the car got gremlins and shut off. I took it back to the pits and we got it running just in time for the 4th heat. As I pulled out onto the track the last thing Alan said to me was “Keep the car running…” I heeded his sage advice and did

My first New Alexandria Win

My first New Alexandria Win

everything in my power not to let the car shut off. I was hitting anything and everything and finally, I had made it down to the final two. My car was trying to stall with every hit I made but I would drop the transmission (you aren’t allowed to say tranny anymore) into neutral and clear the carburetor out. Finally I had done it; I won my first heat at New Alexandria. I was ecstatic. I got the car off the track and pulled into my pit stall and shut it off. I ran to collect my money and trophy. I ran back to the pits to get ready for the feature but the car wouldn’t start. I really didn’t care. I had winner’s money in my pocket and even though it was only $100 dollars, it felt like a million. Alan congratulated me and said I did good job keeping the car running. It was good to get a compliment from my mentor not to mention that I was a success at something I loved.

The heat win also qualified me for the Season Championship in August. That, however, was going to be missed by me as I was in Army Basic Training by then. On Championship night when they announced the drivers who were already qualified, my friend Dennis ran to the announcer’s stand and told them I wouldn’t be there because I had joined the Army. He said that when the announcer told everyone in attendance that, it was met with a standing ovation.

Now fast forward 29 years from that July evening. I hadn’t seen Alan or his wife and family for nearly 15 years but when I walked into his shop after moving back to Indiana, it was like I never left. Our friendship was obviously strong enough to survive time and distance away. Alan told me that his son, my name sake, Bob, was running derbies and doing quite well. It didn’t surprise me. Alan always did great at the derbies so Bob must have gotten that gene as well. Bob asked me if I wanted to help him and his friend Frank and his dad work on the cars. Bob said they needed another Old Guy’s experience. Of course I said yes. It was nice to get back to my roots and see I still had the skills Alan taught me that first summer 35 years ago. Plus it was nice to know my knowledge and experience meant a little more now.

It was also great to see a 35 year friendship still strong. It makes me thankful to know that Alan thinks of me that way too. So thanks, Alan, for 35 years of a great friendship and here’s to 35 more. Jeeze some people don’t take care of what really matters then they wonder why they don’t have such long time friends … And they call ME crazy.

So much has changed since I last posted so hopefully I can explain the reason for my sabbatical from the blog. I guess the biggest change has been the moving of ATCMC’s home office from Derry, PA to my hometown of Indiana. There has also been some elimination of staff here as well. We are back to our original staff here at the home office meaning I am back to writing and approving all of the essays from here on out. I found that it becomes easier to write and post without having to wait for someone’s critique and approval. Now I can get back to blogging in its purest form; Getting the idea, writing it down and posting it.

Since moving back to my hometown, it has been a really good transformation. There are so many friends here that I have missed and have missed me. I have been able to reconnect with lots of the old gang and return to my roots. It has been an awakening of sorts. I felt as though I had been stifled for so many years and I hadn’t been able to write any really good posts. While my essays were about current events, they lacked my normal sarcasm and lampooning. Now I feel like the spark is there to write again. It is important when you felt like it was gone for good. Now I can be free to write and have free expression again. So many of my essays were scrapped for reasons other then just not being any good. I was even forced to remove a couple of my posted blogs because of the editor’s personal feelings about them. Childish feelings I might add.

I have always written about what I wanted. I never did it for any other reason other then to express myself and for my readers. So now I am full of ideas, or maybe it’s just gas from lunch, and ready to get it out there. I thank all of my loyal readers who have stuck with me through this last sabbatical and I am sure you will be happy with the forthcoming posts. I am getting started forth-with and have already got a few rough drafts laid down.

We have stocked our pantry with several bottles of 15 year-old single malt scotch and cases of Nutter Butters. We even got a call from Dave over at One Man’s Tofu wishing us luck on our rebirth. I guess rebirth is as good a word as any to state it. Once again, I thank you for your patience and understanding during this time of transition. We look forward to entertaining you for at least another 5 years.


Gary Heidnik Executed 7-99

Gary Heidnik
Executed 7-99

Terrance Williams 11th Hour stay

Terrance Williams
11th Hour reprieve

Last week, Governor Tom Wolf granted a temporary reprieve to inmate Terrance Williams was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to die for senselessly murdering Amos Norwood with a tire iron during a robbery. Williams was formally sentenced July 1, 1987. Williams had already been convicted of murder and robbery in two separate cases at the time of his 1986 trial. He was scheduled to die by lethal injection on March 4th of 2015. Wolf also vowed to grant other reprieves in essence declaring a moratorium on executions in the Keystone State. Williams would have been the first involuntary execution since 1978. There have been three other executions in the state but the last 3 have given up their appeals. The last one was Gary Heidnik in 1999. Heidnik, you may remember, from a previous post, was convicted for kidnapping  5 women near Philadelphia, sexually assaulting them, chaining them in his basement and killing 2 of them. To add to the unsettling nature of his crimes, the women he killed were chopped up in his food processor and fed them to the remaining captives. Did he deserve to die? The courts thought so.

I have a hard time listening to some of the tree hugging whiners bitching just because they can. Some people jump on the band wagon with no real conviction either way. The death penalty has always been a touchy subject with different groups. There are those on both sides of this who make good arguments. I am not going to say how I feel about this until I have finished my thought process. I will present arguments for both sides so please bear with me here.

If we want to talk about the justification for the death penalty then here we go.

George Banks Mass Murderer

George Banks
Mass Murderer

George Emil Banks was sentenced to death by electrocution, but later declared by the court to be too psychotic to execute. Banks, a former Camp Hill prison guard, shot 13 people to death on September 25, 1982 in Wilkes-Barre City and Jenkins Township, Pennsylvania, including five of his own children.

Banks said he killed his children because he felt they would be tormented by the cruelty of racial views against mixed race children. Since his conviction, Banks has tried to kill himself four times and has gone on hunger strikes that required him to be force-fed. A psychiatric report filed in the case says Banks believes he is in a spiritual fight with an Antichrist in New York, that Pennsylvania was controlled by the Islamic religion and he has engaged in a “private war with President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky”.

November 29, 1990, the Pennsylvania State Legislature barred further use of the electric chair amidst debate that electrocution was cruel and unusual punishment and approved lethal injection. December 2, 2004, Banks received a stay of execution. May 12, 2010, Banks was declared incompetent to be executed by Luzerne County Judge Joseph Augello following a week-long competency hearing held the previous month.



  1. Sharon Mazzillo (24) – Former girlfriend of George Banks who was engaged in a custody dispute over their son, Kissmayu Banks. Gunshot wound to the chest.

  2. Kissmayu Banks (5) – The son of Sharon Mazzillo and George Banks. Gunshot wound to the face.

  3. Scott Mazzillo (7) – Nephew of Sharon Mazzillo. Kicked, hit with the rifle butt, killed with a gunshot wound to the face.

  4. Alice Mazzillo (47) – Sharon Mazzillo’s mother. Shot in the face while on the phone with police.

  5. Regina Clemens (29) – Girlfriend of George Banks. Gunshot wound to the face.

  6. Montanzima Banks (6) – The daughter of Regina Clemens and George Banks. Gunshot wound to the heart.

  7. Susan Yuhas (23) – Girlfriend of George Banks, sister of Regina Clemens. Gunshot wound to the head.

  8. Boende Banks (4) – The son of Susan Yuhas and George Banks. Gunshot wound to the face.

  9. Mauritania Banks (20 months) – Daughter of Susan Yuhas and George Banks. Gunshot wound to the face.

  10. Dorothy Lyons (29) – Girlfriend of George Banks. Gunshot wound to the neck.

  11. Nancy Lyons (11) – Daughter of Dorothy Lyons. Gunshot would to the head.

  12. Foraroude Banks (1) – The son of Dorothy Lyons and George Banks. Gunshot wound to the head.

  13. Raymond F. Hall Jr. (24) – Bystander who had been attending a party across the street. Gunshot wound to the liver and kidney.


  1. Keith Mazzillo (13) – Hid in a closet while he watched his grandmother Alice die due to a gun shot wound to the head.

  2. Angelo Mazzillo (10) – Hid under the bed where his grandmother Alice died.

  3. James Olsen (22) – Survived a gun shot wound to the chest.

  4. Unidentified Man that Banks car jacked at gun point.

All of that seems like enough to say; “Yep, throw the switch, this guy needs to go.” But if you look at the whole picture, there seems to be a mental issue at work here. Look at what he had attempted since being convicted. Now he has been declared incompetent to be executed. Also I must say, pretty vile. It was a horrific killing that rocked the area.

Harvey Robinson Serial Killer

Harvey Robinson
Serial Killer

Harvey Miguel Robinson is a prisoner on death row. He is thought to be one of the youngest serial killers in history. He is also the first serial killer in the history of Allentown, Pennsylvania. Robinson was only 19 yrs. old when he was arrested.

He raped & killed 3 women who are:

Joan Burghardt, a 29-year-old nurse’s aide (August 1992)

Charlotte Schmoyer, a 15-year-old newspaper carrier (June 1993)

Jessica Jean Fortney, a 47-year-old grandmother (July 1993)

His fourth victim, a woman named Denise Sam-Cali was raped and beaten but escaped alive. Robinson returned to Denise’s house and a waiting police officer exchanged gunfire with him. Robinson was tracked to a local hospital where he was arrested. Right now, Robinson’s death sentence has been stayed. (as of April 2006).

Okay, case #2 where the punishment seems to fit the crime. It’s really hard to find another punishment for this type or crime but is there?

John Lesko "Kill for Thrill"

John Lesko
“Kill for Thrill”

Michael Travaglia "Kill for Thrill"

Michael Travaglia
“Kill for Thrill”

John Lesko and Michael Travaglia Were convicted in 1981 for the “Kill for Thrill” murder spree that rocked Western Pennsylvania in December of 1979 and January 1980. They began their spree 2 days after Christmas in 1979 when they kidnapped a 56 year old male outside the Edison Hotel in Pittsburgh. They drove the victim in his stolen car to just outside Saltsburg, Pa. When the trio exited the vehicle to urinate, Lesko shot the victim point-blank in the head. The second victim was killed in the early hours of New Years morning 1980. The 26-year-old female picked the pair up hitch hiking back to Pittsburgh. They placed her in the back seat then shot and killed her. They dumped the car with the victim in a parking garage in Pittsburgh.

Victim 3 was kidnapped in Pittsburgh on January 3rd, 1980. He was a 31-year-old male that the pair savagely beat. Then they drove him Indiana County where they bound his hands and feet. Stuffed his clothes with rocks and threw him into Blue Spruce Lake where he drowned. The pair kept the victim’s car and drove to Apollo, Pa where they passed a 21-year-old police officer on his third shift for the Apollo Police department. They sped past Officer Miller several times trying to incite a vehicle pursuit. When Officer Miller pulled the pair over a short time later, he was shot several times while approaching the vehicle. Mortally wounded, Officer Miller retreated to his vehicle where he returned fire and radioed for back up. Fortunately, they were apprehended a short time later.

Now more to this case. I think this is the case that has a lot of people shouting foul. Not because of the fact they were convicted and sentenced but the fact that between them they have managed to clog up the court system with 14 appeals. It is far to many for anyone. It makes one wonder; how many times does a person or persons need to be convicted and sentenced for the same crime before we realize, “Hey, they might actually be guilty.” However, that is not the point of this so far. I said I would give 2 sides to the Death Penalty argument. These last three cases are just one side of the argument. They show heinous crimes that warranted the convicted to be sentenced to death.

The other side of the argument; the side that says it is wrong to put someone to death. Then we get in to Scripture. Supporters of the Death Penalty will site certain passages like the three below to support their argument.

Leviticus 24:20
fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. The one who has inflicted the injury must suffer the same injury.

Deuteronomy 19:21
Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

Exodus 21:24
eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,

Then we have Matthew 5:38-40 or Romans 12:18-20, which I feel support the other side; those against it.

Matthew 5:38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’ 39“But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40“If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also.…

Romans 12:18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. 20“BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.”…

All of the case reports and Bible quotes aside. I think this all boils down to one question; “Which one of us has the right to say who should die? Are we above the Almighty himself? We have a lot of ego to think it’s not a big deal to say who should die and who should live. I have a pretty simple thought process on the Death Penalty. I feel if Pennsylvania is going to keep the Death Penalty on the books, then let’s use it. It doesn’t do a service to the victim’s loved ones and family by ceremoniously sentencing someone to death then grant them appeal after appeal. All you do is drag the survivors through yet another trial, having to listen to all the details yet again of how their loved one was killed. And at the end of the day, the person who murdered their family member is still alive to appeal another day and the victim is still dead. More agony and sorrow for those left behind to mourn and try to find closure.

Truly, I do not believe Pennsylvania will ever hold another execution. So instead of letting this “Bipartisan Committee” suck more money from the tax payers to do not much of anything useful, let’s just do away with the Death Penalty all together. Some feel that having the death penalty is a great deterrent for violent crime. It’s not when EVERYONE knows they won’t be executed. I feel this is just a case of prestidigitation by our newly elected governor. He can say; “Look what I did, I kept one of my campaign promises the first few months I was in office.” All the while, sliding something past us that is far worse than the death penalty. Higher taxes, Lower wages whatever. Instead of slight of hand, maybe he could find another way to help out victims of crime. Maybe he could take a page from Nevada. Anyone convicted of a sexual crime involving a child under 14 buys a mandatory life sentence. I think it is a fair trade-off.

I guess I have ruffled a few feathers here. Well anyone who knows me, knows I don’t really care. It’s my job to piss people off. I think none of us have the right to decide if someone lives or dies. Who are we to say it’s okay to kill someone. I have never had a family member or a loved one murdered so I can not accurately say I know how they feel, but I can say that knowing the person responsible for the death is allowed to continue to breathe after being sentenced to death is hard to fathom but even I have to say to them;

John 8:7 – Let him who is without sin, cast the first stone.

Geeze, and they call ME crazy…



patriotsWell, here we go again. The New England Patriots are embroiled in yet another scandal. From stealing other team’s signals to secretly video-taping the Rams final walk through practice just before Super Bowl XXXVI. The Cheatriots, oops, I mean Patriots are now accused of playing Sunday’s AFC Championship game with under inflated balls. Some might say oh that’s no big deal. Well, actually it is. Game balls should be inflated somewhere around 13psi. 11 of 12 were found to be at least 2 psi under-inflated. This makes the ball easier to throw and catch, especially in wet conditions like last Sunday’s game.

Bill "I'm Homeless" Belechick

Bill “I’m Homeless” Belechick

Owner Robert Kraft and commissioner Goodell

Owner Robert Kraft and commissioner Goodell

The little trick wasn’t discovered until the Colts intercepted a pass. The player, knowing something was wrong immediately gave the ball to his equipment manager and notified his coach as to irregularity with the ball. Coach Belechick was fined in 2007 for secretly taping opposing team’s sideline signals. I mean, I never thought Belechick was a great coach by any means, but to blatantly cheat to win? What message are you sending to anyone/everyone? Well, when your owner is good buddies with the commissioner what sanctions should we be looking at? Goodell is in a quandary. When he blew the Ray Rice investigation, Patriots Owner Robert Kraft and other Patriots came out in support of his mishandling. There also seems to be a question as to what should be done. I mean Dan Rooney, who helped get Goodell elected was fined shortly after in 2006 for saying the refs in the Steelers-Falcons game should be ashamed of themselves. So now, does Goodell hammer the Patriots? Hmmm, that’s a mystery. He impresses me as a guy with no loyalty so I would hope he hits the Patriots hard.

brady bawlingI am comfortable in the knowledge that the Patriots won’t be excluded from the Super Bowl for cheating, I mean really? They may not even know their fate until after the big game, but I feel that serious sanctions should be handed down. Nice message to relay to our kids. Go ahead and cheat in sports kids. If your mom, dad, coach or school is a favorite of the governing body, you’ll get away with it. I mean Brady is a professional ball-baby and Belechick a well known cheat and Kraft a well know suck up. Does anyone see anything of any substance happening to the Cheatriots? They will go to the Super Bowl and if Las Vegas decides, they will win and nothing will change. This sucks for those fans of football to have to sit through yet another Roger Goodell mess. I’m sure he and the Patriots will buy their way out of it. Geeze, and they call ME crazy…

Ferguson Shooting victim Michael Brown

Ferguson Shooting victim Michael Brown on the left.

It started with the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson. And unarmed, black teen was shot by a white officer. The media fixated on the race side of the story and pounded it out that way.  All you heard was that a white cop shot an unarmed , black teen. Then they keep on with the unarmed angle. It of course sparked race riots all over Ferguson. They somehow missed the fact he had just robbed a convenience store minutes before meeting up with officer Darren Wilson, then allegedly assaulted officer Wilson. Then take Michael Brown’s Step-father, Louis Head. After the Grand Jury

Louis Head. Michaels Brown's step-father

Louis Head. Michael Brown’s step-father

decision was announced, he stood on top of a car and announced; “Let’s burn the mother fucker down! Burn this bitch down” Gee what happened next? It doesn’t really take a deep thinker to figure it out. Do we really need to recap? NO. They really followed his instructions well. It is a shame. The media then helped feed the fire and it kept growing and growing. The media NEVER said there was any checkered past for young Mr. Brown. But then go figure. It’s not a good story if there is not drama attached? I mean, let’s face it. The media put officer Wilson in danger. It was 2 Fox news reporters I believe who published his home address. Really? The drama the media caused in Ferguson wasn’t enough? They wanted to exact their own justice?

Eric Garner. NYPD Choke Hold Victim

Eric Garner. NYPD Choke Hold Victim

Then there is Eric Garner. The unarmed, black man put in a choke hold by a white NYPD officer when he resisted arrest selling illegal lose cigarettes . Officer Daniel Pantaleo put Garner in a choke hold when Garner told police; “Don’t touch me.” Now the NYPD doesn’t allow the “choke hold” but a legal expert for ABC News said that doesn’t make it illegal. Now the media of course has blown it all the place but I have to say that while some blow hard’s are trying to link the two cases, I think there are big differences. Michael Brown had a record and many questionable pictures that the family tried to keep hidden. Eric Garner was a married father. He had no record. True, he was selling illegal cigarettes but I don’t really think it required all of those officers to lay the smack down on him. Now for that officer to be indicted I have a little trouble with that outcome. Not saying he was guilty by any means but I just really think they are two different situations.

The now vacant Eastern Derry Twp VFD

The now vacant Eastern Derry Twp VFD

Now for last piece of the media puzzle. I started this piece by saying how the media spins stories to create more drama then needed and how they try to skew the story away from the truth. To prove this point I will mention the Eastern Derry Twp. Volunteer Fire Department. They had their doors shut back in August of 2014. See News Report. The local news ran a couple of stories because the fire fighters from that department said that they didn’t a grant from the local township to buy insurance for their vehicles. Unfortunately, The failed to tell the whole truth. They had failed their most recent audit and then had to answer for missing money. The media tried to lay the sympathy angle on this story but of course, once the truth came out in it’s entirety, there has not been another story regarding this at all. The right thing would have been to say that more information has been uncovered and so on and so fourth. Instead, the media just walked away from it.

I think the media should try and tell the truth when reporting stories. All the truth. From Ferguson to New York and even here in our little piss-ant area. The media needs to tell the entire story and make the news about the truth. If there is a case when more information is found that might change the story, the media should have enough integrity to change the story to report the truth. All of these media outlets say they report fair, honest and accurate news. My ass. Just what I have mentioned here today proves they don’t. Geeze, and they call ME crazy



Resampled_2014-09-25_09-25-40_119This year my local fire department reaches a pretty impressive milestone. 125 years of service to Derry Borough and the surrounding areas. With the economy tanking and everything costing more, being able to operate a fire department and keep it above water is a paramount task in itself. There are a number of departments in Western Pennsylvania with a rich, long history, but not all have been around for 125 years.

The following is the history of the Derry Volunteer Fire Company history. If you see one of the guys, tell them thank you for their service. Now, read on and see from which the humble beginnings the fire company began.
In the Beginning
In 1889 a 35-year-old local merchant and Borough Council member, H. Johnston Neal, stood before the Governing Body and stressed the need for a trained volunteer fire service in town. Derry Borough was experiencing rapid growth and had experienced several major structure fires as well. At that time Mr. Neal would never imagine the organization he proposed would grow into the modern municipal firefighting service of today as represented by the Derry Volunteer Fire Department.
Derry’s development was accelerated by the location of a major service terminal here by the Pennsylvania Railroad. The influx of railroad personnel brought about the construction of several boarding houses and hotels, many of these very substantial in size.
Neal’s suggestion was met with favor and he was encouraged to head the efforts leading to the formation of the borough fire company. He gathered 6 interested townsmen to lay the organizational groundwork. The founding group consisted of; Lawrence A. Fisher, D. Loy Shirley, George H. Henderson, James M. Leaf, Herman Horner and James F. Conley. Their efforts and hard work lead to the formation of the Derry Volunteer Fire Company.
Under the leadership of the industrious Chief Neal, the newly organized Derry Fire Company went about the business of building a substantial membership roster and firefighting gear.
The late Lawrence Fisher, a founding member and the first secretary, said that it was decided to build the membership up to 16 men residing on each side of the railroad. Within a short time 32 men were enrolled under Chief Neal, making the first full personnel of the Derry Fire Company.
Physical stamina was the prime requirement for volunteers at that time. The task of running full speed with the heavy, bulky carts, particularly with the streets in town, and then to fight a fire once on the scene was physically demanding. Fisher described the selection process for Company membership. Muscle and brawn were the prime necessities and members were selected with that in mind. Even with the crude fire equipment of 1889 the firefighters took great pride in their efficiency. Fisher recalled an alarm in the early years of the Company. There was a shed fire on South Ligonier Street and after making the two-block run they had water on the fire only 4 ½ minutes after the alarm sounded. Even today that is considered a fast response.
While the recruitment of new members met with huge success, the acquiring of equipment was a different story altogether. Borough Counsel, while lending moral support, provided very little in the way of monetary support. Fisher recalled that no one was interested in giving money to firemen. They had great difficulty in getting counsel to even purchase 250 feet of hose. Even after becoming established, the volunteers still had a difficult time raising money needed to keep the company in operation.
The determination of the Company was too great to meet with defeat and the volunteers overcame the money obstacle. Along with a loan from Chief Neal, the Company raised the funds needed to purchase a hose cart, hose and other needed tools and equipment. All varieties of fund-raising were undertaken, including sponsoring local appearances by traveling shows and entertainment troops. The annual Firemen’s Street Festival would soon become the major summer social event for the town.

Much of the early company history is unknown. With the passage of time the founding members have long been deceased and most of the information from the formative years became lost. However, from the few records that have been preserved, history gained from recorded recollections of era firemen and newspaper articles, the birth and maturity of the Borough Company, although sketchy, can be traced. Somewhere along the century existence of the Fire Company the founding year erroneously became established as 1892, three years later than the true date. The historical error only came to light in 1987 with the revelation of an article from the Latrobe Bulletin in 1939 pertaining to the Fire Company’s 50th anniversary. The article not only fixed the year as 1889, it also gave first-hand insight into the dedication and preservation of Derry’s pioneer volunteer firefighters.
Neal not only provided the much-needed leadership for the organization of the fire company, he also provided financial backing. In recognition of his tireless efforts, he would become the Company’s first fire chief. He held the position until 1900 but continued an active role for many years thereafter. Ironically, a large commercial building constructed by Neal at the corner of East Second Avenue and North Chestnut Street, later known as the Lattanzio Building, would be destroyed by fire in 1967 in one of the largest fires in the Borough’s history. Only through the diligent firefighting efforts by the department Neal founded, and assistance from neighboring fire units, the adjacent buildings were spared and greater losses prevented.

H Johnston Neal First Derry Chief

H Johnston Neal
First Derry Chief

Bucket Brigades
Prior to the formation of the Borough’s Fire Company, the community, first in the Derry Township Village of Derry Station and later incorporated borough, relied on the efforts of the populace to fight fires. All too often their efforts were met with failure and total property loss. Lacking a public water system in the Borough’s infancy, firefighting was limited to bucket brigades with streams and  private wells providing a water source. With the completion of the Pennsylvania Railroad through Westmoreland County in 1852, a combination freight and passenger station was erected and the stop called Derry Station. This gave rise to the most prominent railroad town in the country. By the mid to late 1880’s, Derry had become a major railroad terminal and divisional headquarters.
A progressive step in fire protection came about when the railroad located a hand-operated pumper in town to protect many of the servicing and administrative structures. Railroad officials and other workers provided the manpower to fight fires on railroad property and townsfolk joined in for blazes elsewhere in the community. The PRR apparatus carried no hose, its purpose, to draw water from wells and other sources. Bucket Brigades still remained the primary source for getting water on the fires.
With the completion of the town’s water system and the availability of hydrants, the railroad hand pumper passed from use, the date and the carts fate remain unknown, and was replaced by a large two-wheeled hose cart housed at the PRR Engine house.
The cart, believed to have been assembled by local railroad personnel, utilized large diameter wagon wheels. The cart carried several hundred feet of 2 ½ inch hose, a number of nozzles, axes and other basic fire equipment and also a large, heavy ladder.

The Town Fire Whistle
Alerting Firefighters to an alarm has always been a priority. Even in its infancy, Derry had the most effective signal. At the first cry of fire, a railroad worker would begin blasts on the nearest locomotive whistle. As other railroaders picked up on the signal, locomotives working about the yard and engine house joined in a steady increasing blare heard for miles around.
Use of locomotive whistles to alert the fire company continued until 1909 when Borough Council authorized the Fire Company to purchase a whistle to be used as the town’s exclusive fire call. The whistle had its own distinctive sound, alternating between high and low pitches so it could be distinguished from locomotive whistles. Originally a steam whistle, it was later converted to air.
The introduction of a telephone system sped up the process of alerting the Fire Company. Before the phone system it was necessary to get word to the railroad engine house, the location of the whistle, to sound the alarm. This created a delay in in firefighter response. With the phone system in place, the operator would take a call for help and contact the engine house clerk’s office. The phone exchange operators continued to take calls until 1938 when the phone dial system was introduced in Derry. The central office ceased using operators and a fire alarm system was established at the railroad’s DR tower.
For nearly 40 years, DR Tower operators activated the fire call signal. Upon the tower closing, fire calls were handled by Latrobe Borough Police dispatchers. They too would be eliminated and since then, the 911 system of Westmoreland County has received calls and activated the Company’s whistle through the use of electronic tones.
With the closing of the Railroad service terminal, the original whistle would be relocated from the PRR engine house to the Westinghouse plant. The old reliable whistle remained in service until the implementation of an electronic siren in 1967.

The first Dedicated Derry Fire Whistle

The first Dedicated Derry Fire Whistle

Pennsylvania Rail Road Fire Unit
An informal railroad department under the command of Chief Ford was organized and would later come into conflict with the Borough fire contingent. Although primarily formed to fight fire on PRR property, the PRR crew would respond to town fires and for a time, this created no problems with the borough Fire Company. The PRR crew remained a major contributor to the borough’s fire protection until 1919 when a simmering feud brought about Borough Council action virtually restricting the PRR crew to railroad property. The PRR crew was accused of delaying the sounding of the borough fire whistle to give themselves a head start to the fire scene to “claim” the nearest hydrant.
Counsel ordered the railroad company not to respond to fires in town unless called to assist by the Municipal Company. The last known response was in 1924 for a blaze which destroyed the Baptist Church located on West 2nd Avenue near Hays St. The PRR hose cart is now on display in the Derry Fire Department Museum.

Uniforms; A Symbol of Pride
During the Company’s early years, the bulk of the membership was drawn from merchants and other tradesmen because of their availability during the day. Many were prominent citizens of the town.
Pride of membership in the newly organized Fire Company was exhibited by the adoption of a colorful fireman’s uniform, traditional in that time. The shirt consisted of red flannel with a large brass-buttoned bib of yellow flannel on which were the letters “DFC”. It was worn at company and community events. On his death in 1900, Samuel Wadsworth, described as one of the most enthusiastic members, was buried in his fireman’s uniform.
A change in uniform came in 1910 with the adoption of black, standard fire department attire of the 1900’s. Having joined the Pennsylvania firemen’s association in that year, the company showed off its new uniforms by participating in the 1910 Firemen’s Convention Parade in Altoona. Some 24 members, accompanied by local Fire Department’s Drum and Bugle Corps participated.

The new black uniforms

The new black uniforms

Firemen’s Convention Parade – Altoona – 1910
This was the first of many state parades for the Company in the ensuing years, traveling as far as east York. The trips were made by train and trolley car as the early mode of transportation. Derry became a member of the Western Pennsylvania Firemen’s association in 1897. The Company would later become a charter member in Westmoreland County Firemen’s Association formed in 1938.

The Ladder Wagon and the Horse Era
Already using hose carts, the modernization of the Derry Fire Company continued. The hand-pulled hose carts were augmented my large, horse-drawn hose wagons. The first made its appearance around 1895. The hose wagon enabled firefighters to carry large quantities of hose over the hand carts and also provided a quicker response to distant locations. In 1897, the Company added a ladder wagon. The apparatus was handmade by Albert Shean, a blacksmith and Fire Company member. The ladder wagon, known as the hook and ladder, became not only the pride of the Company, but the community as well. Old timers recalled it was the finest rig in the area at the time. Pulled by two horses, the ladder wagon carried hose, two ladders and several firemen.
A borough-owned building at the corner of West 2nd and North Chestnut Streets served as the Company’s newest fire house with the introduction of horse-drawn apparatus. The Kearney Livery Stable nearby quartered the fire horses. Company meetings took place on the second floor of the new station. When the Westinghouse Corporation expanded its employee parking lot, the fire station was torn down.
The late John C. Cullen, who joined the company in 1901, described the efficiency of volunteers responding to alarms during the horse-drawn era. Upon the sounding of the alarm, the horses were trained to quickly back into the station and harnesses suspended from the ceiling dropped for hitching. In a matter of minutes the rigs were ready to respond. The horses could only be used for pulling the fire apparatus because they would become excited and prance and the sound of the alarm.
The galloping horses can still be recalled by some town elders. It was one of the more dramatic eras for the Company and one of the more dangerous as well. The rigs had no breaks and on more than one occasion, overturned rounding corners. The horses were difficult to control in their fire-run excitement.

The End of an Era
Although the exact date of the demise of horse-drawn rigs is unknown, it would appear that around 1914 the Fire Company elected to return to hand-pulled hose reels. In that year Borough Council authorized the purchase of fully equipped hand carts and also the first smoke protectors.
The final fate of the prized hook and ladder is not known but the hose wagon remained with the Company for occasional appearances until around 1950. Due to its deteriorated condition, the rig found its way to a scrap yard, the last remembrance of a by-gone era of firefighting in Derry.
With the return of hose carts, the Company membership was again divided into a two-unit organization. Firemen from the north side of the tracks manned the reel location at the second street house. Those living on the south side were assigned to the second reel, housed in a building on the present Municipal Building lot.
Derry’s volunteer firefighters battled a number of major fires during the early years. Among those given mention in company records include a fire at the Shear Hotel that destroyed the building in 1895, Keffer Flour Mill and an adjacent house in 1899 and the Pennsylvania Sand Company crusher building at the southern edge of town in the early 1900’s. Fire struck the Italian Grocery Company in Second Ward on March 14, 1916, causing damages exceeding $21,000 and damaged an adjacent warehouse.

Onward and Upward
Derry’s first steps with moving into the era of motorized fire apparatus came in May of 1912 when a committee was assigned to find out prices of different types of motorized trucks. Six years passed before a committee of 3 members was formed to purchase a new truck. In June 1920, Latrobe Fire Department brought a fire truck to Derry for a demonstration. Finally on June 15, 1921, Derry Fire Company purchased its first motorized engine; a Howe Triple Combination built on a Model T chassis. Borough Counsel contributed $1000 towards the $3,470 price tag.

1921 Howe Triple Combination

1921 Howe Triple Combination

1921 Howe/Model T Pumper
Organized initially to serve the residents of Derry Borough, the Fire Company’s response area would expand greatly to benefit the citizens of a large portion of Derry Township. Use of hand-pulled carts in the early days made it a physical impossibility to respond to alarms of any great distance from the fire station. That changed with the purchase of the 1921 Howe Pumper. The coverage area increased to include areas of Derry Township immediately surrounding the Borough.
With the company moving forward, the need to expand the membership resulted in the opening of the roster to allow for membership of 75, 25 from each of the existing 3 wards. On September 23, 1920, 32 members were accepted, a record that still stands today.
Talk with the Borough Counsel began in 1913 as to the need for a new station. The Counsel was approached in 1914 to lease a borough-owned lot on 2nd Avenue for the erection of a fire station. Progress continued at a slow pace but Council informed the firemen in 1917 they would build a suitable building for a fire truck if one is purchased. With the arrival of the Howe pumper in October of 1921, a shanty-type frame building on the Borough lot on East 2nd Avenue served as engine quarters.
Continued Fire Company efforts leading to new fire quarters finally moved into action and in 1929 the Borough and the Fire Company signed an agreement calling for the erection of a municipal building at a cost of $30,000; each would contribute $15,000.
The town’s municipal building was completed in August of 1930. Considered an outstanding municipal building facility in its time, the building provided the Borough government with council chambers, mayor’s office and town lockup along with a community meeting room. The firemen’s long-sought goal was realized after a 17 year wait.
The municipal building-fire station on East 2nd Avenue has undergone extensive renovations over the years to meet the ever-increasing array of equipment of the Fire Company, including a large rear addition in 1956.
The Fire Company changed its name in 1923. Originally organized as the Derry Volunteer Fire Company, its designation became the Derry Volunteer Fire Company with incorporation as a Pennsylvania non-profit corporation that year.

Better Engines Purchased
Firefighters again became interested in purchasing another fire truck in 1927 after experiencing problems with their Howe Pumper. The 1921 engine, when carrying its hose load and manpower lacked power for the steeper hills in Derry and at times had to be operated in reverse to climb the hilly streets.
At a meeting May 7, 1929, the company awarded a bid to American LaFrance for a type 92 pumper with a 600 gallon-per-minute capacity at a cost of $8,750, minus a $1,000 trade in value of the Howe Pumper. The Engine was delivered in August of 1929.

1929 American LaFrance Type 92 Pumper

1929 American LaFrance Type 92 Pumper

1929 American Lafrance Engine
The purchase proved to be a wise one. For 40 years the American LaFrance Engine saw service and most of the time was the “First Out” piece of the department. It proved it’s dependability in 1952 pumping several hours consecutively at the Derry Township High School fire.  The response area increased to further points in the Township with the arrival of the larger American LaFrance Engine in 1929. Soon the Derry firefighters would provide sole fire protection for an area of Derry Township extending from the crest of the Chestnut Ridge to what became Keystone State Park and from eastern Bradenville to the Hillside-Gray Station area. Calls to the township would soon outnumber Borough calls many times over. For 30 years the Derry Volunteers provided exclusive service to this nearly 70 square mile area until the organization of the Bradenville Volunteer Fire Department.
The Company’s 3rd truck purchase came in 1939 with the addition of an International, 500 gallon-per-minute Engine, bought for a price tag of $6,822. The newest apparatus gave the Company the much-needed hose carrying capability and eliminated the need of maintaining the reel carts for supplying additional hose when required at fire scenes. In addition, the International Engine carried a full complement of ladders up to 55 feet in length.

1939 International Engine

1939 International Engine

1939 International Engine
With 2 pumpers in service a 1927 S&S Ambulance followed in 1940 seeing service as both an equipment and personnel carrier.
The most serious accident in the Company history occurred in April of 1942 on a false alarm in the village of Peanut. The International Engine was responding to the late night alarm when they encountered an icy patch on the old overhead bridge. The Engine failed to make the sharp turn and crashed through the inner pedestrian guard rails and finally came to rest with the front end hanging over the bridge edge and East 2nd Street 20 feet below. Ten firefighters on board escaped injury.

Increasing Alarms and Duties
In the beginning, the Derry Volunteer Fire Department responded to the occasional alarm. As the town grew and the service territory increased so did the alarm responses and the duties of the volunteers.
During the war years of 1941-1945 the Fire Company provided the foundation for building an effective community Civil Defense program. With the Fire Company membership depleted due to the war, younger members, auxiliary firemen, augmented the regular ranks. Air raid drills were as routine as other Civil Defense preparedness exercises. Aside from regular fire protection duties, the Company membership also contributed much time and effort to the various home-front patriotic efforts ranging from street patrols during residential solicitations for national causes to assisting in scrap metal drives. Civil Defense was not taken lightly locally since both Pittsburgh and Latrobe were on the known enemy target list.

1953 Federal Engine – Refurbished by the Federal Civil Defense Agency
By the 1960’s, Derry’s fire personnel were responding to an excess of 100 alarms annually. This trend continued to climb higher and higher and the company responses are well over 200 alarms a year. The record high for one year stands at 327.
Alarm runs of many miles within the service territory are common as is mutual aid to neighboring departments. Derry firefighters have been called to different locations such as Latrobe, Ligonier, Blairsville, Greensburg, and Bolivar. The Johnstown flood of 1977 placed Derry on standby, with a crew and an Engine, for several days in Armagh, Indiana County.
Chief Neal and his fellow founding members could never have thought way back 1889, even in their wildest dreams, their effort would culminate into a Fire Company responding to hundreds of emergency situations each year or travel distances, frequently traveled in response of their duties.

1953 Federal Engine

1953 Federal Engine

Moving Ever Forward
The Derry Volunteer Fire Department today is equipped with the most modern and extensive array of gear and apparatus to meet the various emergency situations to which firefighter are now called upon to respond to. No matter if the call is for a structure fire, traffic accident with entrapment, brush fire, chemical spill or any other type of incident posing a threat to life or property, the Derry Volunteer Fire Department stands ready to respond any time, day or night.
The total replacement cost of all apparatus and ancillary equipment of the Fire Company stands in excess of 2 million dollars. The operating budget of the Fire Company grows every year reflecting the ever-increasing expenditures required to maintain the level of fire protection given to the citizens of the Derry community. Through generous support of the area residents over the years they have greatly aided the Department’s efforts to purchase new apparatus and equipment required to carry out the role of dedicated service to the community in time of emergency. An annual fund drive mailing along with other fund-raisers, along with a yearly appropriation from Borough Council are the main sources of revenue for the Fire Company. A huge contrast to present day sums required to maintain the company, minutes from the August monthly meeting in 1905 showed financial resources on hand as $50.61.
A subsidy organization of the Company; the Derry Volunteer Firemen’s Relief association , was established on December 28, 1925 with the purpose “to provide for and maintain a fund from legacies, bequests and other sources for the relief of its members who may be injured in the line of duty. On January 12, 1926, the first Relief Association officers were elected. They included: Ralph H. Lynn-President, Charles Kemp-Vice President, Robert M. Doty-Secretary and Albert C. Kelis-Treasurer. Trustees-George Sweeney, S.F. Schwerdt, James R. Butler, Millard E. Lunnen and Clyde Mack.
With the formation of the Relief Association, a relief fund established in 1912 to serve as a depository for State Foreign Fire Service grants was dissolved and proceeds transferred to the newly created organization.
Over the 125 years of service of the Derry Volunteer Fire Department, hundreds of members have filled their ranks; some for just a short time, others for lengthy periods of time. Many have given the majority of their adult lives to the Fire service. James F. Conley was president of the Company for 35 years from 1900 to 1935. Others to hold positions for record lengths of time include; Charles H. Cullen, Secretary, 27 years 9 months, Jerome K. Fisher, Treasurer, 27 years, Samuel B. Piper, Chief, 23 years 9 months, Clarence C. Deeds, Chief, 28 years (1937-1964).
The Derry Volunteer Fire Department is now well into its second century of service. As it was in the beginning back in 1889, the Derry Volunteer Firefighters stand ready to serve their fellow citizens in time of emergency. The dedication to duty inspired by H. Johnston Neal and the Firefighters who followed over the 125 year span continues its commitment of service by todays Fire Company members and remains a vital force for the good of the community.

The 2014 Derry Volunteer Fire Company

The 2014 Derry Volunteer Fire Company

Please also enjoy the Video History of the Derry Volunteer Fire Company

Derry VFD – 125 Years of Service

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