BROWNSVILLE - Police officer, chief, mayor, school director, street crew foreman - no matter which hat Sam Nicola wore, he was dedicated to serving the public. Nicola, who passed away Monday at the age of 81, served 37 years on the borough police force, retiring Dec. 31, 1987, as chief. A day later, he was back at work in the borough, serving as a working foreman on the street department.
Borough council President Jack Lawver, who was with Nicola his first day on the job on the street department, recalled Nicola's love of heavy equipment. "Sam loved to operate machinery. We had that old high lift that didn't have a cab on it. It had a piece of Plexiglas for a windshield, but no matter how cold it was, he wanted to be out in that high lift," Jack Lawver said. Nicola worked on the street department for three and a half years. He also served a four-year term on the school board and eight years as mayor.
"It was a pleasure and an honor to serve with him," said long-term Brownsville Area School Board Director Stella Broadwater. "He truly cared for the students. If there was a problem, he wanted it resolved now. He was for the kids and for the taxpayers." Nicola was also known for some unorthodox police practices, like never carrying a gun. "If he did arrest somebody, he'd give them an option. If they could outrun him in a block, he'd let them go. He never lost," Jack Lawver said.
Funeral arrangements are being handled by the Skirpan Funeral Home in Brownsville, with a funeral Mass at the Historic Church of St. Peter Friday morning.
Ernie Davis remembered
Fayette County's rich sports history is chronicled repeatedly in Memory Lane, but it still is amazing to realize the impact the county has had in the Heisman Trophy balloting over the years.
That fact is in driven home once again with the release of Universal Pictures - "The Express" - the inspirational story of Ernie Davis. Forty-five years after his death Davis is once again in the spotlight.
Thursday night there was a special showing of "The Express" at the Carmike Cinemas at the Uniontown Mall, one day before the movie opened nationwide. A big crowd, including some of Davis' relatives and the Uniontown High School football team, turned out for the event.
Davis was born in New Salem and lived in Uniontown until he was 12. His mother remarried and settled in Elmira, N.Y., but Davis returned to Uniontown every summer and spent time with his extended family and played on the local playgrounds. The opening scenes of the movie are set in Uniontown, where Davis began developing his athletic skills. Davis once played on the same little league baseball team with Sandy Stephens and Bill Munsey who later went on to play at the University of Minnesota, which won the 1962 Rose Bowl.
The movie focuses on how Davis (played by Rob Brown) overcame the racial barriers at that time and his relationship with his coach at Syracuse Ben Schwartzwalder (Dennis Quaid) and his teammates. Many people don't remember Davis because his career was cut so tragically short. The Ernie Davis story is one worth telling, and young people need to see the film. The Uniontown High School football team was moved after seeing "The Express." It should be required viewing for all teams and all youngsters and I might add that a few older folks could learn something from the film as well.
George Von Benko's "Memory Lane" columns appear in the Sunday editions of the Herald-Standard. He also hosts a sports talk show on WMBS-AM radio from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.
Burd enters Cal U HOF for work as an administrator
By Christine Oviatt, For the Herald Standard
EDITOR'S NOTE: Each year, since 1995, California University of Pennsylvania has honored former athletes with induction into its Sports Hall of Fame. This year, four of the eight inductees are local legends. Dr. Paul Burd, Richard S. "Dick" Caputo, Sebastian "Sibby" LoNigro and Scott "Skooter" Roebuck all grew up in the area and still reside here. They all have different backgrounds, participated in different sports and all have the same perspective on Cal U - it got them where they are today. The inductees will be honored at a banquet at 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 10, in the Performance Center at the Elmo Natali Student Center. Tickets are $35 each. Reservations may be made by contacting either Amy Lombard or Montean Dean of Cal U Alumni Relations at 724-938-4418
Today, a look at Burd.Honoree Dr. Paul Burd has a different story than most in the HOF. In fact, he was part of the original committee in '95 that created the Hall of Fame. Now, 13 years later, he is inducted into his own idea to honor individual sports athletes and contributors. "I never thought that as an administrator (at Cal) I would be inducted into the Hall of Fame," Burd said with a laugh. Burd grew up in Brownsville and graduated from Brashear High School, now Brownsville High School. He went to West Virginia University to receive his bachelor's degree in psychology and a master's degree in clinical psychology. "My first love was working with students," said Burd.
After working for WVU, he ventured back home to the Brownsville area to start what would become a 35-year career. "My goal was to come back to western Pennsylvania for my son Scott and my wife Elizabeth's benefit." He came to Cal as director of the Financial Aid office in 1969. He was the interim Vice President of Student Development and Services in 1992, and accepted the full-time position in 1993 until retirement in '04. "I still go there to see everyone at the office and once they start to get to business and begin working, I just run away." he joked. "But I did something that I liked to do when I was there. Not everyone gets paid to do a job that they love doing."
When it came to athletics, he was not one to be put in the spotlight but rather behind all of the action. Everyone involved with the athletics department reported to him. He was a vice-president representative member of the PSAC Board of Directors for two years and he also chaired the NCAA self-evaluation of the Cal athletic program. He helped establish the first athletic gender equality committee which dealt with Title IX in the early 70s. "I got to see things happen when Title IX was introduced that I never thought I would. I recruited women to Cal to coach and participate in many sports, including golf and softball, which brought back national championships to Cal."
Without him and the other members of the original committee, there would not be a Hall of Fame. Burd has helped Cal become one of the top athletics program in the NCAA Division II because not only did he love his job, but also because he loves sports. "I was doing the things I liked to do. I really liked working with everyone." "I still try to make it to the sporting events." he stated. "Cal is a part of my family now."
Burd still resides in Brownsville with wife. His son graduated from Cal in 1992 and his daughter Megan currently attends Cal.
The following video has been posted to the video site. It is a video I made from pictures sent to me by Bonnie Bryan (60)...sorry misspelled name on video Bonnie. She sent me photos from the past to see if you remember the good ole days.
Check out: Do You Remember?
Thanks for sending me the photos Bonnie. Hope other classmates submit videos for others to view.
Do You Remember These: You may need to watch it twice; once to watch the Burma Shave signs change, and once to catch all the pictures plus listening to the music of the Statler Brothers. THIS IS REALLY GREAT !!!
For those of you too young to remember, too bad you missed it! Watch the Burma Shave Signs change.
CLICK HERE....Do you Remember These?
By Ron Paglia
FOR THE TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Sunday, October 7, 2007 ............."So daring in love, and so dauntless in war, Have ye e'er heard of gallant like young Lochinvar?" -- Sir Walter Scott.
By Ron Paglia
"George Baker and Art "Wick" Bentley weren't certain where the name of their singing group, The Lochinvars, originated. But John "Kitten" Walton remembers the source very well. "Our biology teacher, Matthew Wasco, who also was a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve, gave us the name," Walton, a 1958 graduate of Brownsville High School now living in Twinsburg, Ohio, said of the vocal group that was among the area's best and most popular in the mid- and late 1950s. "He said Lochinvars translated into 'the lovers' in Scottish." The poem, Lochinvar, is part of Sir Walter Scott's romantic tale Marmion (Canto V), which was published in 1808. Heralding the adventures of a handsome young knight named Lochinvar, it gained popularity on its own and continues to be published separately in poetry books. The name sounded good, I remember that, and it stuck with us," said Baker, a 1959 Brownsville High School graduate who makes his home in Lanham, Md. Bentley, a resident of Alexandria, Va., and a 1958 BHS graduate, offered a similar tale. "We considered a few names when we started singing, but nothing seemed to fit," Bentley said. "I've heard about the reference to poetry." "We liked to sing on the way home from football practice," Baker recalled. "We were a bunch of guys who ran together and singing was part of it. It was just a way of relaxing, walking home and harmonizing." Bentley, one of the top running backs in BHS history, remembers it the same way. "We had that common bond of football and we all liked music, especially doo wop and sweet ballads by groups like the Flamingos, Moonglows, Spaniels and Dells," he said. "We got together on the street corners to refine our sound and we spent a lot of time listening to the radio to learn the lyrics. There were clubs in town that let us come in during the afternoon to listen to the jukebox."
While the Lochinvars are remembered primarily as a quartet, Baker is quick to point out that the original group comprised five young men. "In addition to Wick, John and me, there were Eugene Thompson and David 'Dave' Gary," Baker said. "Dave was a year older than the rest of us and graduated in 1957. He left and later joined the Air Force, but he was very much a part of our beginning. He was a good singer and a good guy." Thompson, a resident of Hiller, did not respond to a request for an interview for this story. While The Lochinvars, primarily an a capella group, began singing just for fun, their popularity grew. "We were singing at our school, but before we knew it there were requests for us to perform at assemblies at other schools in the area," Baker said. "People really took to us and we had a good following. Next thing we knew, we were singing at dances and clubs in the area."
Still, the group wasn't looking to an entertainment career. "I don't think that was something that ever crossed our minds," Bentley said. "We had other plans; you know, jobs, families. Becoming professional singers wasn't in our future." "We were a cover group; that is, we sang other artists' songs," Baker said. "We didn't write any original songs, but the people who came to our shows liked what they heard." The Lochinvars performed at such venues as the Stockdale Fire Hall, the site of one of the biggest dances for teens in the region, and on other area stages. "You name it and we were probably there," Baker said. "We worked for Leon Sykes in Uniontown. He was a very popular disc jockey and was very supportive of local musicians and singers." Thompson and Bentley took turns fronting the group; that is, singing lead vocals. "Wick always had a great voice, even as kid," Baker recalled. "But Eugene sang a good number of the leads, especially on the fast songs. Art took the lead on the ballads. It made no difference who sang lead, the rest of us just harmonized behind him." "It was a natural thing for us," Bentley said. "Eugene would say, 'I like that song,' and I would let him know the ones I preferred. It was based on our styles. It made no difference. I just thought (performing) was cool."
John Gallice, of Laytonsville, Md., a 1961 Brownsville High graduate and a talented saxophonist, remembers The Lochinvars as "outstanding singers." "They were a very tight group in terms of harmonizing," said Gallice. "They never missed a beat and had great stage presence. They were always a tough act to follow. They had a shot at a record deal, that's how good they were." The recording contract didn't materialize. "That was in 1958, after Art, Eugene and John had graduated," Baker said. "We went to Pittsburgh to cut a demo. Wick's grandmother drove us to Pittsburgh, four excited guys with a lot of hope and this kind woman putting up with us all the way from Brownsville to the city. She had the patience of Job." Although the group did well at the demo session, there was, Baker recalled, "a big catch." "They liked our sound," Baker said. "But they told us we would have to come up with $500 for the studio to pitch the demo to the record companies. That was a heckuva lot of money in those days and we couldn't get it. In retrospect, we were just a group of inexperienced kids who didn't understand the (recording) business."
Gary, who now lives in Columbus, Ohio, left the group and Brownsville shortly after the recording audition and joined the Air Force. As he recalls it, Gary was with The Lochinvars "almost from their conception." "But I didn't play football," he said. "I did play drums in the high school band. My brother, Melvin Gary, and I both played drums in the marching band. It was great fun." Gary also remembers good times with The Lochinvars. "My best memories rest with singing at dances and the reaction of the crowds," he said. "I never did any singing after I left, nor did I continue playing drums. Sometimes I wish I had. I really enjoyed that experience." Gary grew up on Jackson Street in Brownsville. "At that time Brownsville was a unique town and I really enjoyed my childhood there," he said. "Some of the greatest times were when good friends such as Bobby Hart, George and Art and I would ride to Uniontown and other area towns just to dance." After being discharged from the Air Force, Gary moved to Warren, Ohio, and "decided I wanted to work for myself." He attended Kent State University and Akron University and eventually graduated from the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science. He opened the David Gary Funeral Home in Mansfield, Ohio, and operated it for 10 years before selling the business. He then opened the Gary Memorial Chapel in Columbus, Ohio in 1991. Gary and his wife Geraldine are the parents of four children -- Dawn, Greg and Karen, who live in Columbus, and Corey, of Indianapolis, Ind., and have six grandchildren. Gary has no family in Brownsville and has not been back for several years. "The last time I was in Brownsville was about five years ago," he said. "I drove back just to see the town, but it became too depressing and I haven't been back." Still, Gary has a fondness in his heart for his hometown and longtime friends. "I feel that growing up in Brownsville prepared me for the journey of life," he said.
Bentley's interest in singing began when he was in grade school. "There was this man in town, Chester Patterson, who was always singing," Bentley said. "He was just a happy person who enjoyed singing, and anytime I heard him, I thought, 'Doggone, that's cool.' So I would practice by myself and sing along with the music on the radio." Although The Lochinvars' actual existence ended around 1960, Bentley continued singing as a student at Pratt Junior College in Pratt, Kan. He went to Pratt, now Pratt Community College, as part of the "Western Pennsylvania Connection" there after concluding an outstanding football and track career at Brownsville. In addition to garnering postseason honors in football, he highlighted his track career by setting a longstanding Mon Valley Classic record of 21.3 seconds in the 220 in 1958. He also did a "10 flat" in the 100-yard dash and anchored the Brownies' 880 relay team. "There was a physician who was originally from the Pittsburgh area and had a practice in Pratt," Bentley said. "He did a lot of recruiting for the college and had a knack for drawing some of the best players from Pennsylvania." Others from Brownsville who joined Bentley in the Pratt fold were quarterback Dave Washington, halfback Earl Brown and ends Jim Breen and Jim Garrett. They were joined by other such Western Pennsylvania products as guard Joe Zensky and lineman Pete Romano.
After graduating from Pratt, Bentley returned home in hopes of finding work. Unable to land a job, he opted to join the U.S. Air Force. Bentley's military career spanned 20 years of assignments in the United States and overseas. He spent the last eight years in Washington, D.C., working security as a member of the Presidential Support Unit assigned to Air Force One with Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford. Then he worked eight years as a corrections officer in Prince George's County, Md., and as a draftsman before turning to his current profession as a computer specialist. He and his wife, Lorraine, a Baltimore native, have been married 35 years. They are the parents of a daughter, Zelda, and a son, Carroll, and also have a grandson, Ian. Bentley's mother, Evalena Bentley, resides in Pittsburgh.
Baker turned to law enforcement as a career. He was a police officer in Washington, D.C., for 22 years before retiring. He also ran a day care center in the nation's capital during that time, sometimes working 19 hours a day at both jobs. He and his wife currently own and operate a successful e-commerce business. Baker began his police career at age 21 as a beat patrolman and worked undercover for seven years on drugs, gambling and illegal alcohol cases. He was a detective working, among other assignments, homicide cases for the final 12 years of his tenure with the D.C. police. "It was dangerous, no question about that," Baker said. "But it was nothing like what exists today. There are a lot of crazy people out there, a lot of drugs that didn't exist years ago. The most we had to cope with was marijuana and heroin. Today, that's just the tip of the iceberg and there are a lot of dangerous people involved, dealers and users. They don't put much value on human lives." The state of Brownsville Borough also concerns Baker. "It's not the same as it was when we were growing up there," he said. "I'm realistic enough to understand that things change everywhere, but it saddens me to drive through town and see what has happened." Baker and his wife, the former Mary Bagley, a 1960 BHS graduate, have been married 46 years. Mary retired after a successful career with Verizon and its predecessor, Bell Atlantic. They are the parents of two daughters, Janet and Renee, and a son, George IV and his wife Amy, and also have four grandchildren, Keenan, Brianna, Jaelyn and George V. George IV played professional baseball in the farm systems of the Baltimore Orioles and Florida Marlins. Like Bentley, Baker doesn't get back to Brownsville "as often as I'd like." He has cousins in the area and relatives in Detroit, Texas and Virginia. He emphasized that he loves to return for the Brownsville High reunions because he gets to see "my old football teammates and the people who supported us as singers."
Baker admits he often misses the days of performing. "Sure I miss it, a lot, and I still love the Oldies," he said, smiling. "For us, it was a form of relaxation. We never expected to get rich from it, but we did have a lot of good times, a lot of fun for good friends." For the last 10 years, Baker also was a dialysis patient. On Jan. 15, 2007, he received a kidney transplant at the National Institutes of Health. "I know God worked a miracle in my life, and I will forever be grateful to him and the donor's family," Baker said.
John Walton also is a man of deep faith, and his love for singing was nurtured in the church. "Initially, I sang with choirs at Baptist churches in Maxwell and Fredericktown," he said. "As a teenager, I sang with a church group, the Baptist Specials. About the same time, I was singing with the school chorus and also with a small rock 'n roll group called the Kool Tones. As I remember, this group was comprised of Eugene Thompson, Arthur Bentley, Sam Smith and myself. Later, when we entered high school, we continued as a singing group. Sam, our bass, graduated in 1956, but we were blessed with George Baker, also a bass, and Dave Gary, a baritone." Before long the group caught the attention of the student body at Brownsville and won a high school talent show in 1958 by singing the Del Vikings' "Come Go With Me." "With our photo on the front page of The Brownsville Telegraph, The Lochinvars became an item on the entertainment scene in town and the surrounding areas," Walton said. "We performed several places and on one occasion worked with the Harold Betters Trio at California State Teachers College. We also were fortunate to have a three-piece band accompany us after winning the talent show. It included Johnny Gallice on saxophone, a keyboard player (Tommy George) and a drummer (Guy Remonko). There also were times when Ernest Harris sang with us, usually at the Brownsville Skating Rink." Gallice, George and Remonko were later joined by bass guitarist Joe Sangston to form the original Tommy Charles Quartet.
Walton, 67, was the ninth of 12 children born in the coal mining village of Maxwell to the late Rev. Mack Walton and Larnell Walton, who were married for 59 years. In 1952 the family moved to Hiller, and Walton attended elementary school in Maxwell and Hiller before entering Brownsville Junior High School and then BHS. Following graduation in 1958, he enrolled at California State Teachers College, where he was graduated in 1963 with a Bachelor of Science degree in education (mathematics major and biological science minor). "I was privileged to be a charter member and vice president of the first Black fraternity (Kappa Alpha Psi) at California," he said. It was during his college days that Walton joined the Marine Corps Platoon Leaders Course in April 1961 and attended Marine Corps Officers Basic School in the summers of 1961 and 1962. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the USMC upon graduating from college in January 1963. He believes he was the first black to be commissioned a Marine Corps officer in Fayette County. Walton taught mathematics and science in the Cleveland Public Schools from January to May 1963. In June he reported to the Marine Corps base at Quantico to begin his active duty. After additional schooling, he was assigned to a Marine helicopter squadron deployed to Southeast Asia. He was stationed in Da Nang, South Vietnam for most of 1965 and was promoted to first lieutenant in July. He returned to the Untied States in December 1965, left active duty in 1966 and later was promoted to captain in the U.S. Marine Corps.
He returned to teaching in Cleveland in the summer of 1966. Utilizing the GI Bill, he resumed his education and earned a Master of Arts degree in mathematics at Cleveland State University in 1972 and a Master of Educational Administration in 1974. He also studied at Case Western University and Kent State University. In 1976, he began teaching mathematics at Cuyahoga Community College on a part-time basis while still employed in the Cleveland Public Schools. He resigned from the CPS position in 1978 and was hired as a full-time instructor at CCC. After teaching 23 years at the Tri-C and 37 years overall in Ohio, he retired in September 1999. He returned to the community college as a part-time professor of mathematics in 2000 and continues in that position today. Walton and his wife Sharon are the parents of four children -- the Rev. John R. Walton Jr., pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Milwaukee; Dr. Janelle R. Walton, an OBGYN in her fourth year of residency at Ohio State University Medical Center in Columbus; Dr. Jennifer R. Walton, a pediatrician in her second year of residency at Detroit Medical Center Children's Hospital, and Julia R. Walton, who began studies this month at the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. The Waltons also have four grandchildren -- John II, Daniel, Samuel and Grace, the children of Rev. Walton and his wife, Lorrie.
While Baker, Walton and Thompson didn't continue performing after The Lochinvars broke up, Bentley did. Stationed at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia in 1961, he formed a group called The Dukes. Composed of Bentley and fellow Airmen Walter D. Jackson, Curtis A. Jefferson and George O. Watkins, the group won first place in a USO Armed Forces Talent Show. Two years later, Bentley was assigned to Osan Air Base in South Korea and was singing with another group, the Stars of Osan. They performed at several venues, and Bentley has among his archives a newspaper photo showing the group in action at the Double Five Service Club. Other members of the Stars of Osan were Booker T. Washington, Ronnie Borgan, James Bass and William Reed.
The last time any of The Lochinvars sang together was in 1997 at the multiple class reunion of Brownsville High School graduates at the West Brownsville Fire Hall. "It was just John, Wick and me," Baker said. "They asked us to sing something. We did and it was a lot of fun." Bentley also remembers the moment as though it were yesterday. "It took us back to the beginning, brought back a lot of memories," Bentley said. "The crowd talked us into singing, even though there were only three of us. We did a ballad and the applause sounded great. I'll never forget the leader of the band playing that night coming up to us after we sang and saying, 'Hey, you guys are still damn cool.' That meant a lot."