Dormont Historical Society

Chartered 1999

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Our newsletter is published on a bi-monthly basis and mailed to our members. Only limited excerpts will be published here. To start receiving the newsletter, consider becoming a member of the Dormont Historical Society. See our Membership page for details.

Volume XII Number 4 (July/August 2010)

"Slim"

That one word says so much to so many! A native of Georgia, Slim Bryant started his musical career with the Georgia Wildcats and played live on radio stations in many states before coming to Pittsburgh in 1940 and making his home in Dormont. At that time, "Georgia" was dropped from his band's name.

One of the first guitarists to incorporate jazz chords into country music, his talents were acknowledged by such national stars as Gene Autry, Jimmy Rogers and Les Paul. In 1941, he and his Wildcats, one of whom was his brother "Loppy," began playing on the KDKA Farm Hour at 6:00 am daily, a job that lasted for almost 20 years, while appearing at bookings across Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio. Their programs included some of the 100+ songs that Slim had written. In 1949, the Wildcats appeared on Pittsburgh's first television broadcast, performing live from the Syria Mosque. For ten years the Wildcats performed on WDTV, predecessor of KDKA-TV. In 1985, Slim was inducted into the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame.

When Thomas Hoyt "Slim" Bryant died May 28, at the age of 101, he left a legacy of country music that will continue to be enjoyed by people everywhere. He also left a legacy of humility, kindness, and love of people that will long be remembered by all who knew him

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The South Hills Harris Theatre has been demolished. After having been a favorate entertainment place in this area for more than eight decades, the theater closed in 2001, condemned because of many property maintenance violations. After it closed, the owners did nothing allowing its interior to deteriorate so that it became unsalvageable. Its space, plus that on the adjacent corner and the three properties along the avenue on its other side, will be used for a new CVS Pharmacy that is to open next year.

The theater was built in 1921 in honor of Senator John Harris, which accounts for the crystal chandelier, deep red plush carpet, tuxedo-uniformed ushers, and mighty WurliTzer organ that made it so elegant. Originally, it hosted vaudeville shows as well as movies. The interior was remodeled in 1968.

Besides being a movie house, under the direction of Jim Baker the theater also became the home of Mode-Art Productions. One-reel films were made there for industrial, public relations, commercial and war contracts.

Those folks who enjoyed its movies, Saturday morning serials, bank nights, WurliTzer organ music and stage productions will find it strange and sad not to see that once proud building at the courner of West Liberty and Dormont Avenues.

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Thanks again to Kathy Hartman, our Annual May Dinner was a fine affair again this year. We were happy that Mayor and Mrs. Tom Lloyd, Councilwoman Joan Hodson, DVFD representatives George Nelson and Jim Harrod, and so many others were able to join us.

A special tribute was paid to our late Thelma Holloway Wieland, one of our six original founding members, who contriubted so much to the Society in so many ways. We were pleased to present Thelma's daughter JoAnn Kivador and son Don Wieland with a bronze plaque, later mounted in our museum which reads:

THELMA HOLLOWAY WIELAND
1930 - 2009
FOUNDING MEMBER      SECRETARY
DEVOTED VOLUNTEER AND FRIEND

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Those who joined in our second annual Family Fun Night had a fine time Friday, April 23rd. The Historic Scavenger Hunt, starting at the Municipal Center, was to show what businesses had been at the seven stations and what stores are there now. The volunteers at each stop used pictures and related "give-aways" to make the tour more memorable. The story read by Cindy D'Agostino, Dormont Library's librarian, was a fine ending to the evening. Each child then received a copy of the book to take home.

Marianne Harbaugh Davis, Monique Fontaine, and Cathy Blando did a fine job of planning the sites and creating the clever "souvenirs" that fit each one. Ruith Bauer Hutchinson, Mary Louise Regan, Jim Hall and Diane Metlin Reiche helped our Board members man the stations.

Daniel Conner summed up the evening in this email: "My family and I took part in the Dormont History Scavenger Hunt last month - that was a great event. The whole History crew did and excellent job organizing and education. It's important to recognize the past as we progress forward. Thanks again."

He added, "...thanks to whoever is responsible for deciding to put up the historical banners around town. They look fantastic. I was driving to work this morning and noticed them. Now that I know they are up, I will take a closer look as I walk through the neighborhood."

The credit for these bannrs, featuring seasonal pictures from our collections, goes to Dormont's Main Street Program.

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Dormont residents both present and past are sure to admire the original Municipal Building as they pass the corner of West Liberty and Wisconsin Avenues. Frequently referred to as "the borough building," the structure, built in 1917, has been restored to its original beautiful condition. Greg Cherico, owner of Anne Gregory for the Bride, has moved his business there from Mt. Lebanon where his mother, Anne Gregory, had opened it years ago.

We welcome Mr. Cherico and wish him well. Special thanks to Bill Dreyer for giving us one of the original arched windows from that building!

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