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Edition #198  May 15, 2013

Still Black and White

Photographer: Kevin N. Tomasic

                                                                       Photo by Kevin N. Tomasic

 

Still Black and White

As a child, I attended St. Nicholas Church on East Ohio Street in Pittsburgh’s North Side many times. Usually, it was some function for one of my cousins and of course I was your typical kid—bored out of my mind. The one thing that made these masses bearable was the presence, across the road, of the Penn Central Conemaugh line. I’d try to look like a good attentive Catholic boy, but upon hearing that familiar rumble, would fix my gaze sideways out through the opened stained glass windows as a pair of PC GP-38’s passed by eastbound. If my parents ever noticed my wandering eye, they never let on (thanks mom and dad).

The church itself, normally called “St. Nicks” by everyone, was historic for being the first Roman Catholic Croatian church in North America. For the Tomasic clan, it was home base: my paternal grandparents had always worshipped there, as had their five sons. It was the scene of many family baptisms, first holy communions, confirmations, weddings and yes, a few funerals. Unfortunately the church fell on hard times, losing quite a bit of its congregation over the years, but the real blow came when the state decided to widen the street which ran directly in front of it! The church, though designated as an historic landmark, was closed in 2004 and was fought over by the former congregation (who wanted to save it) and the Pittsburgh Catholic diocese for a few years, before a demolition order was issued in late 2012.

I decided to take one last look before Christmas and walked down the city steps from Troy Hill to the street below to take few final pictures (and ignore the “no trespassing” signs). After a nice visit, remembering my days as a little inattentive Catholic, I made my way back to the top of the hill overlooking the church, the H.J. Heinz plant and the now Norfolk Southern Conemaugh line. Lingering on the steps, I was rewarded with an NS eastbound coal drag.

It’s funny, after all these years, it’s still black and white locomotives rolling by and I’m still that kid looking out from the church window.

Kevin N. Tomasic

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