Donora was the site of an innovative event on Saturday, an All-Class reunion for not just one year or one high school, but one covering a span of many years and several schools.
Alumni of any year from Donora, Monongahela, Ringgold, and Mon Valley Catholic high schools were welcomed downtown, congregating for an all-day celebration. Memories were tossed about among old friends like so much confetti as the afternoon activities spilled over into the night.
Organizer Larry Price modestly said, “I don’t want to make this all about me. I want it to be all about the alumni.”
Nevertheless, Price was the primary organizer, and his creative concept turned out to be a huge success. An estimation of the total number of people who flocked to town and spent at least part of the day celebrating reached right around 2,000 — the figure organizers originally expected.
Price was grateful for “the alumni from our great schools who traveled all the way across the country from and as far as California, Washington, and Hawaii.”
Meanwhile, the bulk of those who attended were residents of the Mon Valley vicinity.
Some mingled on the streets of town during the afternoon session, the block party, which ran from noon until 6 p.m. There were others who attended the evening party held at the town’s borough building, and some lingered the entire day, attending both gatherings.
The block party featured numerous activities for children as well as a vintage auto show and music for everyone provided by disc jockey Andre Smith. Another organizer, Jim Brice, said there were roughly 25 street vendors, including food trucks, but the main attraction was simply making one’s way down the street, mixing in with people while hoping to bump into old acquaintances and perhaps meet new friends.
In the evening, when activities shifted to the Meldon Avenue borough building, Valerie (Lawson) Griffey, a group entitled Universal Love, and disc jockey D.J. Nik Nice supplied musical entertainment at a party which had sold out way in advance of the event, about six months prior to the party. In all, approximately 300 people were in attendance.
Among that group were high school graduates from as many as 70 or more years ago, including Donora High School graduate Bimbo Cecconi from the Class of 1946.
Cecconi, a key member of the Dragons sport dynasty of that era, was just one of many highly accomplished local sports heroes from years gone by to attend the event. Cecconi was on historic Donora football and basketball teams. He recalled, “We became the first team to win WPIAL titles in both basketball and football in the same season (the 1944-45 school year).”
Plus, the Dragons followed up on that, coming through with another football crown in the fall of 1945.
While Donora, the town which boasts the nickname “The Home of Champions,” played host for the reunion, standout athletes from nearby towns were also in attendance such as Monongahela’s Bucky Phillips.
Phillips played basketball, tennis, and baseball for the Wildcats, and led his section in scoring during one basketball season. He commented that the reunion was “a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with the athletes I competed with and against from childhood through adulthood.”
Price was another local star, excelling on Ringgold baseball teams from 1979-1981. He was an All-Big 10 star who went on to become an All-Star at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania during his 1982-84 stint there.
On Friday, Price assembled a group of former football players from various generations at Legion Field for what he called “a photo op at the tunnel, a.k.a The Dungeon. I am calling this photo ‘One Last Exit.’ It should be very emotional for all of us who were fortunate to play at the hollowed grounds of Legion Field.”
One photo will be donated to Ringgold High School, and one to the Donora Historical Society.
Brice commented that despite all the prestigious sports stars who were on hand, the day was “not all sports. It’s everybody.”
People from all walks of life were at the reunion. Bill Oslowski, who graduated from Ringgold High School in 1971, said, “It was very nice getting to see some of my classmates and having a reunion for all of those schools, allowing them to get together.”
On Saturday, the Donora Historical Society and Smog Museum was opened three hours longer than normal, featuring its many exhibits and memorabilia.
Price said the event would not have been possible “without the support from Donora City Council, Jim Brice, Tom Thompson, Earl and Tracy Gilpin, Chuck Smith, Patrick Smith, family members and friends. This is not a one-man show, there were a lot of people behind the scenes who need to be acknowledged. A big thank you goes to the following Ringgold and Mon Valley Catholic athletes: Yogi Jones, Ulice Payne, Scotty Nedrow, Jon Green, Andre Smith, Lance Spernak, and all of the others who came out.”
Price concluded, “Be on the lookout for the next All-Class Valley Lollapalooza festival in 2021 featuring national music acts. The event location is currently being discussed with possible locations being Legion Field and Palmer Park.”