I’ve lived in Las Vegas for nearly fifty years, but the roots of my hometown, Clairton, PA still run through me. Hence, I’ve written a blog about my hometown and its people, and both books, 50 Shades of Grades, My Journey Through Wacademia,” and Three Lives of Peter Novak are rich with Clairton history. The work in progress, working title Katie’s Ladies, is also set in Clairton in the early twentieth century.
I’m often asked why I focus sos much on a location in which I’ve not lived for nearly six decades. My response comes from my one-hundredth blog post of DrForgot.com. Read and enjoy.
Question: “Where did you live in Clairton?” I was actually born in Clairton, not McKeesport Hospital as were so many of my fellow Clairtonians. I often tell people, “I was born at home because I wanted to be near my mother when it happened.” My parents purchased a lot at the far unpaved end of St. Clair Ave. in 1939 and built the house that they would live in until they passed away – Dad in 2002 at age 87 and Mom in 2006 in her 91st year. The street address was easy to remember, 900 St. Clair Ave.
Question: “Do you still live in Clairton?” No, I left in 1960 at age 17, the summer after high school graduation and have never returned to live on a permanent basis, although I frequently returned to visit my parents, sisters and extended family. Thus, I am 50 years removed from being a Clairton resident.
Question: “Why did you leave and where did you go?” As a youngster I was filled with wanderlust and by default, disdain for everything traditional. As a child we traveled on family vacations to Florida and Arizona, and I fell in love with everything not Clairton. My desire was to join the military service after high school and see the world but my father insisted I attend college and had me enrolled at Westminster College, not far from the City of Prayer. But I really wanted to get away so when a classmate told me she planned to attend Brigham Young University in Provo, UT, 2,000 miles from Clairton, I too applied, and was accepted. Talk about a stranger in a strange land!
Question: “What was your college major?” From day one, I majored in Psychology. I was not sure exactly what Psychology was or what a psychology major did for a living, but Psychology was NOT an extension of English, History, Math, or anything traditional that I’d studied at Clairton High School. I stayed with it and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology.
Question: “So you became a psychologist?” Well, no. Once I graduated I discovered that a Bachelor’s degree in psychology was not something that most people hired. It prepared me to sell cars, be a custodian, or perhaps apply for a manager-trainee position at a department store, but unless I wanted to go on to graduate school and get a Doctorate in Psychology, I was pretty much limited in pursuit of job opportunities.
Question: “So you became a car salesman?” Actually, yes, for about two weeks until I was fired for telling a customer what was wrong with a used car that he was considering to purchase.
Question: “Then what?” A friend of my family offered me a job teaching sixth grade in the first middle school in Pennsylvania. It was a bit of an experimental school and the superintendent thought a psychology major might be a good fit as a sixth grade teacher despite the fact that I had not taken a single class in Teacher Education nor had I done student teaching.
Question: “So you became a teacher?” Well, more or less. I taught that first year in Oxford, PA, then returned to the west where I took a job teaching in Pocatello, ID, then Salt Lake City, and in 1968, Las Vegas, where I’ve lived since.
Question: “And your career?” I taught elementary school for a year in Las Vegas, and then taught high school Psychology for three years. During nights and summers I drove taxi and limousine and did several other gigs including writing a newspaper column, opinion pieces and even writing comedy routines for comedians. By 1978 I had earned a Doctoral degree in Gifted Child Education and moved on to the university where I became a professor, directed the academic support services for athletics, and was an administrator.
Question: “So who is Dr. Forgot?” While I was working on my Doctorate I was scheduled to attend and speak at a Gifted Education conference. I thought I had forgotten my notes at school so on my way to the airport I stopped to pick them up. It was Sunday morning and the first thing I discovered was my notes were not in the school, they had been in my briefcase the entire time. The second disaster of the morning was that I locked myself inside the school and had to have my wife drive to the home of the principal to pick up his keys to let me out of the school building. I did make my plane, barely, and when I returned, the school administration had given me the moniker, “Dr. Forgot.”
Question: “Why the blog?” Over the years of my career I have developed an affinity for writing, having published more than a million words between writing grants, newspaper columns, guest writing, professional papers, and the like. Writing became a part of my daily routine. When I retired from the university the thing I missed most was writing. So I started this blog using my pen name Dr. Forgot. I have used several pen names over the years including I. O’Pine, for a series of opinion pieces, and Fred Lance when writing several freelance articles. I called the blog, “Olio” since I was not sure what the content would be.
Question: “How do you find all that information on Clairton and its residents?” Most information comes from one of three sources; my own recollections, emails from readers, and internet research. Also, Jim Hartman president of the Mifflin Township Historical Society has been most generous in providing photos and information about Clairton, including past editions of The Clairton Progress. I answer every email I receive.
Question: “How many people read the blog?” Readership ranges from fewer than a couple hundred hits per blog to over a thousand. I have two data bases of Clairton reader emails that contain several hundred addresses each, and whenever I send an email blast promoting a post, readership spikes.
Question: “Do you have a favorite blog?” Probably the series I did on Annabelle Bucar, Clairton girl who worked as a diplomat at the American embassy in Moscow. She became disenchanted with things she’d seen in the American Embassy, married a Russian opera singer, and wrote a scathing book about the U.S. Diplomatic Corps. Except for a few rare visits to visit her family in Clairton she remained in Russia until her death. I received a comment on the blog from her grandchild in Russia thanking me for writing the blog about her.
So there you have it; the history of Dr. Forgot and the Clairton blogs.
A little blogging music Maestro… “Paradise City” by Guns ‘n Roses.