Monongahela native screens her documentary about the famous folks of Park Avenue
November 23, 2008 5:00 AM
Laura Magone, right, producer of "One Extraordinary Street," greets audience members Tuesday at Ringgold High School before a showing of the documentary about people from Monongahela.
By Linda Wilson Fuoco Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Carl E. Vuono traveled the world during his career in the U.S. Army, ultimately achieving the rank of four-star general.
When people ask him where he grew up, he said, "I never said 'near Pittsburgh.' I always say I am from Monongahela."
That statement was greeted with vigorous applause Tuesday night from the 300 people in the auditorium of Ringold High School in Carroll.
Gen. Vuono made the statement in a documentary titled, "One Extraordinary Street. The Story of Park Avenue, Monongahela, Pa."
He was one of the many native sons and daughters featured in the documentary produced and directed by Monongahela native and Ringgold High School graduate Laura M. Magone, who grew up on Fourth Street, not on Park Avenue.
Tuesday night was the public premiere of the 90-minute documentary.
Park Avenue was home to many people who achieved success in life. The town's most famous son, perhaps, is professional football Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana, who grew up on Park Avenue.
Mr. Montana appears in the documentary with his father, his wife and his children, but Ms. Magone's documentary does not give him a starring role. The football legend and the four-star general have equal footing with other past and current residents, including waitresses, a retired mill worker, teachers and just plain folks.
The two-mile stretch of Park Avenue was also home to:
• Fred Cox, the all-time leading scorer for the Minnesota Vikings. He was a kicker, scoring 1,365 points during his Vikings career from 1963-1977. He also invented the Nerf Football, for which he holds the patent, and he is a chiropractor.
• Jim Jimirro, creator of the Disney Channel.
• Deirdre Bair, winner of the National Book Award in 1981 for her biography of Samuel Beckett. She has written other books, including biographies of Anais Nin and Simone de Beauvoir and, more recently, "Calling it Quits," which is about late-in-life divorce.
• Mary Ann Barkey, the first woman to work as a foreman for Bell of Pennsylvania. She was also the first woman allowed to climb a telephone pole. She marked that accomplishment by writing "Mary Ann made it" on the top of the pole, she said in the documentary.
• Fran Fusco, well-known waitress for 37 years at Eat'n Park.
• Aldo Bartolotta, whose family started out by working long hours in a neighborhood grocery store and who now operate Giant Eagle stores.
• Dr. Walter Cox, an obstetrician and gynecologist in the Mon Valley.
• Dr. Ronald Pellegrini, a Pittsburgh heart surgeon.
• Nancy Sinko, who "wakes the town up" working as the morning shift barista at the Sheetz convenience store on Park Avenue.
• John Taylor Gatto, author, lecturer and former teacher who was New York City Teacher of the Year and New York State Teacher of the Year.
Cameo appearances also were made by baseball legend Stan Musial, of nearby Donora, and retired four-star Gen. Colin Powell, chatting about his friend, Gen. Vuono.
The Tuesday night premiere was attended by people of all ages, from elderly individuals to young couples with school-age children. They buzzed and chuckled and applauded when someone they knew appeared on the big screen.
Monongahela, a once-bustling steel mill town, currently has 4,500 residents. The people of the town are the stars of the documentary, with glowing tributes to the work ethic and strong family values. Scenes also show the Monongahela River, the tree-studded valley and the frame houses of Park Avenue.
During the questions and comments session following the viewing, Ken Kulak told Ms. Magone, "My family has all left the valley, so you have solved my entire Christmas list."
He said he will buy DVDs of the documentary, which are being sold from Ms. Magone's Web site for $20.
"My family members are jealous that I am still in the valley," said Mr. Kulak, an architect and chairman of the Monongahela Planning Commission.
One woman said that she drove from Pleasant Hills to see the premiere.
"The movie is remarkable. It brought back so many memories. I was shocked to see pictures of my First Holy Communion."
The woman, who did not give her name, joked that she wanted to buy her parents the DVD, but first she would have to buy them a DVD player.
One of the audience members in the front row for the premiere was Ms. Sinko, who still gets up at 4:30 a.m. to walk to her job at Sheetz.
She described the documentary as "awesome" and said she enjoyed seeing herself, her friends and her neighbors in the film.
Ms. Magone said 225 hours of the film was shot in the past four years or so and it was edited down to 90 minutes. She said she came up with the idea for the project and did some of the research in the 1990s when she was taking classes at Pittsburgh Filmmakers.
Ms. Magone, 48, currently lives in Dormont. She has a bachelor's degree and a master's of business administration from Duquesne University, where she worked for years in the small business development center. She retired from there nine years ago so that she could work on the documentary. Now, she is self-employed, working as a consultant in leadership development programs.
The documentary cost about $75,000 to make, she said. She received some corporate donations and lots of small donations from local residents. Ms. Magone is currently seeking venues where the documentary can be shown, and she hopes to enter it in some film-making competitions.