Tube City Almanac

October 08, 2004

Letters Lost in the Bit Bucket

Category: default || By jt3y

I get a lot of email --- upwards of 50 to 100 messages a day. Some of it is work-related, some of it is personal, and a fair amount is offering can't-miss stock tips, Kenyan money transfers and pills and potions that will enlarge my anatomy. (Come to think of it, if I acted on all of the offers I've received via email just this month, I'd already have an enormous ... er ... bank account.)

The upshot is that if I don't continually delete emails from my inbox, I soon can't find anything. Last night I realized it's been several months since I cleaned house. I had 2,200 emails.

In digging through them to delete or save the oldest, I discovered a whole bunch of Website-related emails, some going back to January, that I never answered. Good grief! I apologize to anyone who wrote in and didn't get a response until now (a sound file of my apology can be found here).

Anyway, better late than never, right? Well, let's dive in. Mike K., like other emailers, is looking for information about the White Elephant, and another 1960s Mon-Yough nightspot, the "Night Train":

Apparently the White Elephant didn't advertise, at least not in the Daily News, and I've never been able to find any record of who played there and when. I never even heard of Night Train until I read the liner notes of the recent Swamp Rats CD release on Get Hip, where they told a story about opening for the Turtles there. No doubt lots of other national acts appeared there as well. Anyway, I'd love to learn more about them, having grown up in the area (North Versailles) and being a big fan and historian of sorts of the mid/late 60's music scene. Any help you can provide with contacts or whatever is greatly appreciated.

Tube City Online was recently contacted by a member of the family that owned the Elephant, and hopefully we'll be able to bring you some Elephant tales (or is that "tails"?) someday soon!

As for the Night Train, all I know is what I've been told by people who "vas dere." It was owned by Terry Lee, who was the manager/producer behind the Swamp Rats, and of course, a longtime DJ at WMCK and WIXZ. It was out in Lincoln Borough or Elizabeth Township on Glassport-Elizabeth Road, but I'm not sure exactly where, and it was only open for a few years, so I'm told.

Frankly, I'm surprised to hear that the Turtles played the Train! Maybe it was bigger than I was led to believe, or else they did it as a personal favor to Terry Lee. He was huge in Pittsburgh radio for a few years and even hosted Channel 11's dance party show for a while (the show was called "Come Alive").

Since Pittsburgh was a fairly large media market in the '60s, the Turtles and other national acts would have wanted to make sure the local DJs and TV personalities were happy.

Besides the Swamp Rats, Terry also was behind the Fantastic Dee-Jays and some other local groups.

Terry Lee's current whereabouts are one of the Mon Valley's enduring mysteries, like the fate of the B-52 bomber that crashed in the river near Hazelwood, and Joey Bertone.

The last on-air radio work that Terry Lee did, if I recall correctly, was at WPSL in Monroeville and WESA in Charleroi. I think he also worked for WWCS in Canonsburg for a while. Rumors have him doing everything from DJ'ing under another name to owning a farm in Ohio.

If he's out there, I'd love to hear from him! He'll have to prove it's really him, though: I want to see a bottle of "TL's Sloppy Pop" as evidence.

Regina writes with questions about St. Peter's High School and the big fire that hit Downtown in Our Fair City during the '70s:

I notice in your questions and answers you mention McKeesport High School and Serra, but there is no mention of St. Peter's High School. I realize that it no longer exists, but I know a lot of people that graduated from there including myself. However, that is not my question. I would like to know the year of the big fire that took out four blocks. I think it may have been around 1974 to 1976.

The big fire in McKeesport happened (I think) in the spring of 1976 --- approximately May. It destroyed Kadar's Mens Store, the Apple Shop (formerly Riggs' Drug Store), Coney Island Hot Dogs, the Famous Department Store and the Elks Temple, and damaged the Penn-McKee Hotel, the McKee Cinemas and Hunter-Edmundson-Striffler Funeral Home.

St. Peter's alumni are now considered part of Serra High School's alumni (so are Mon Valley Catholic High School alumni, I believe). If anyone can contribute photos of St. Peter's High School, I'd be glad to put them on the Web site. I'd also welcome some stories about St. Peter's from its alumni --- how many students in your class? What did the school look like? Who were your favorite teachers?

From St. Petersburg, Fla., Dan writes:

My parents owned a music store next to the Memorial Theatre on Fifth Avenue (1959-68). My fondest memories of Murphy's were looking through the 45's in the record department. I also ate my first fried oysters there. Yummy!

Unless I miss my guess, his parents' store was McKeesport Music Center. Fried oysters at Murphy's, eh? I've been surprised to learn recently how "exotic" the menus at Murphy's cafeterias could be. The downtown McKeesport G.C. Murphy store had a large banquet hall upstairs that could be rented for formal catered affairs, believe it or not; that lasted at least until the early 1980s.

One Murphy Company retiree told me recently that the Murphy's in downtown Harrisburg, Pa., actually experimented with selling lobster dinners, mainly as a promotional stunt. It worked!

I'm still looking for former G.C. Murphy Co. customers and employees who have anecdotes or memories of Murphy's, Murphy's Marts, Morgan & Lindsay, Terry Farris and the company's other stores. Email me at jt3y at dementia dot o-r-g if you'd like to contribute, or write to me at P.O. Box 94, McKeesport, PA 15134.

Bob H. writes:

I stumbled on your message board and boy did it bring back memories, especially the one about Wids and Centennial Street.They forgot to mention Millie (a toughie, but down deep a softy) and Stallings, Finkels, etc. What I was originally looking for was a picture of the railroad station at Ringgold and Lysle Boulevard. Any suggestions on who I can contact to obtain one?

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's Pennsylvania Room has a photo on file from approximately 1908. You can call 412-622-3154; there is a fee for photo reprints.

There are some photos floating around on the Internet; McKeesport Area School District has several on their Web site, including this one (McKeesport Model Railroad Club has a better copy of that photo on display), and this one in color. There's another on the McKeesport Tigers MSN Group site.

Richard asks:

I was wondering if you know of anyone who has a picture of the old Palisades Dance Hall from the early 1950's. My parents 50th wedding aniversary is coming up and that is where they first met. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

The Palisades is still very much in business, of course, but its appearance has drastically changed over the last 10 years --- mostly for the better. (It lost some "authenticity" but gained some amenities.) The lower floor of the Palisades, back in the 1950s, was a car dealership --- Palace Garage --- that sold Nashes and, briefly, Studebakers. (The Nash/Rambler franchise eventually wound up with Sullivan Buick, if I recall correctly.)

The Palisades regularly shows up in postcards of the Youghiogheny River skyline of Our Fair City that are sold on eBay. The only other sources I can think of are the Daily News or the McKeesport Heritage Center, but even if they have a photo, there's likely to be a fee for getting a copy.

Well, that's the mailbag. In the meantime, I'm going to try to be a little more prompt cleaning out my email box --- and responding!

To Do This Weekend: White Oak Chamber of Commerce sponsors the "Live Life Healthy" Health Fair from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday at American Legion Post 701, corner of Capital and Pennsylvania Avenues. ... Prism Health Services, the local ambulance company in the West Mifflin area, will hold an open house at the Dravosburg Borough Building from 10 a.m. to 12 noon on Saturday. ... Send your non-profit community events to Tube City Almanac at jt3y at dementia dot org.

Your Comments are Welcome!

1510 Monroeville was WRUA by the time Terry Lee got there in the mid-1980’s. After leaving Pittsburgh, he did on-air work for KOOL-AM in Phoenix, flagship station of the “Kool Gold” satellite service, a precursor of today’s pre-Beatles “Real Oldies.” That was in the late 1980’s. Haven’t heard a word about him since.
Alert Reader - October 09, 2004

In the mid 60s i had a group called the upsets.we
recorded for lou guarino amm records under several names. also backed groups for bob mack (tommy james)at the white elephant and other teen
clubs he operated .. like to hear from others
thanks Larry Treasure Island fl
Larry - October 07, 2005

Just read your comments about the band-nice of you to take the time. The “NightTrain” was extraordinary for a few years. The Association, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Turtles-some of the many that played there. Our band (Dee Jays)played every Friday for almost a year then Saturdays were reserved for national acts. Some times they would also play the White Elephant and the Bethel Park Roller Arena as a Pgh tour. Terry was indeed the star however. He was 22 years old and a master of the music coulture. Way ahead of his time and a super person. Incidently, Tom Junecko (Jazz style Drummer/Dee-Jays)and Bob Hocko (pounding drummer Swamp Rats) have to my deep regret passed away. The music lives however-amazing that the Dee Jay LP is rated one of the most valuable in the world;top 100 in Gold Mine’s Price guide (Beatles have 29 of top 100! nice.
Dick Newton - November 22, 2005

anybody know of BOB MACK White Elephant Days?
larry - May 03, 2006

I used to go to the White Elephant and I also have been trying to find music that was played in the last 60’s early to mid 70’s there…but have had no luck..but I did find this cd at this web site that is music from the white elephant..but a little too old for the song I’m looking’s the website and here’s the music..I’m looking for a song that we used to dance to that was all instramental..I know the tune but not the name..hope this brings back some memories
Pittsburgh’s Favorite Oldies – At the Hop II #16282
1. Honkin’ At Midnight – Frank Motley and The Crew
2. A Slow Dance – Ronnie and The Hi-lites
3. Snacky Poo – The Ring A Dings
4. Baby, Think It Over – The Martinels
5. Firewater – Rusty Isabel
6. Have You Ever Told Her – Billy Sol
7. Mama Ubangi Bangi – The Four Sounds
8. Love Me – The Royal Jesters
9. Everyone Has Someone – Hank Blackman
10. The Goo Goo Muck – Ronnie Cook
11. It’ll Be Easy – The Sultans
12. Malanese – The Avalons
13. How Can I Love You – The Swinging Hearts
14. Cherry Juice – Marino Choice
15. I Know, I Know – Pookie Hudson
16. Baby Let Me Bang Your Box – The Banger
17. The Hurtin’ Kind – The Tulu Babies
18. Please Love Me – The Aladdins
19. Do The Del Viking – Patrice Holloway
20. Here Comes The Pain – Scott English
21. Daughter – The Blenders
22. So Far Away – Rochell And The Candles
23. Mad Gass – The Royal Teens
24. Forever – The Bleu Lights
Denise Ludwig - November 03, 2006

I would also like to know how Terry Lee is. I was yet a tween when my sister and her friend danced on his TV show. Loved watching the show, and as young girls, me and my friends just adored Terry.
Read on another blog that Terry is related to one The Fenways. I got to see them live when I was about 10 years old and got their autographs! I still have my autograph book. Thanks Fenways and I managed to hang onto one of your 45’s while moving around the country!
DC - December 23, 2006

To scumbuster: i remember joey. his black caddy with his initials on the doors. i remember his resturant being firebombed. my stepdad was an enforcer for him briefly back in the late 70’s. if you live in his house, start searching for some hidden cash, etc.!
Bruce Higgins - August 13, 2007

I actually have a bottle of TL Sloppy Pop, unopened, cherry flavor with Terry’s picture on the bottle. I danced on the original Terry Lee Disco Show as one of the featured dancers each week. Terry is now sending shows into the burg playing on the weekends on 103.9 10-midnight. His new website is and it features videos of the disco show. Great to be hearing from him. Hope to see and hear more in the future.
Jill - June 21, 2009

I am presently going through my grandmother’s autograph book from the years 1925-1930. There are many referencres to St. Peter’s High School in Mckeesport PA. Specifically the class of 1928. Can you direct me to a site that may have some historical data specific to this time and place?Thank You,
Patty Pajtash
Patty Pajtash - September 06, 2009

I remember back in ’66,‘67 “Ricky and the Lonely Boys” (from Duquesne with Ricky Regan lead singer) were featured on Pittsburgh TV. And there was a barn on Rt 51 that had teen danceing for a while. It had one big speaker up in the rafters and I can remember 99 & 1/2 being played on it. Also “The Grove” in I think Greentree. It was a octagon shaped building and everybody just stood around. Some girls would dance fast but mainly slow tunes. If a guy danced fast —- well that just didn’t happen!!! LOL
bruce - August 20, 2010

Danced at the White Elephent when it was thee place to go on a Sunday night in the 1960’s. Ronnie Osmond was the DJ and one of the best dance D.J.‘s there ever was. He had these killer dance tunes that he used to keep secret from anyone that wanted to know the artist or record lable. Great people, great tunes and great live acts. I was with the Munhall guys and we used to hook up with the Trafford dancers every week. It was a very special time in a very special place.

RocketBassM - November 15, 2011

Does anyone remember or have stories about the Balkan Tavern at the top of Coulter Road in North Hundington? Annie ran the place for many many years. My mom and dad went there in the 50s and I believe it was a gambling house years before that. It was in the old Eakin mansion. Annie was a sweet lady and there must be a lot of people who remember her and the tavern.
KeithS - February 04, 2013

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