Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

A Century of Paddling for Canoe Club

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

A Century of Paddling for Canoe Club

Article excerpt

One hundred years ago a group of Westinghouse Electric employees who worked in Wilkinsburg and shared a love of canoeing decided to form a club to make their favorite summer pastime a little more fun.

They bought some property on the banks of the Allegheny River in Verona, built a structure and elected officers.

In keeping with the lighthearted philosophy the Sylvan Canoe Club founders wanted, the man who ran the meetings -- and only men could be members of this group -- didn't hold the title of president but was called "commodore."

If the membership disagreed with a speaker on the floor during one of these meetings, he ran the risk of being pelted by peanuts.

And if at the end of one of the weekly potluck suppers, a diner who couldn't or wouldn't flip his dessert pie upside down on its plate faced quick and true retribution.

He was dunked in the river.

Last weekend a group of people who continue to celebrate the history of the canoe club held a dinner and dance and, of course, canoe launches as part of the 100th anniversary of the Sylvan Canoe Club.

There were period costumes and pie-flipping. There was also an appreciation of the past.

"There's a lot of Sylvan tradition," said Commodore Tom Schall, of Verona.

Schall and his wife, Leslie, one of a number of women who have been able to join since membership was opened to them in 1975, have belonged to the club for seven years. Before 1975, wives, sweethearts and daughters were always welcome as guests.

Tom Schall was already a canoe enthusiast when he joined the club. He learned at YMCA camp when he was a child and for the next 30 years continued to paddle on local and regional streams and rivers.

Several years ago the couple paddled and camped between the islands in Algonquin Provincial Park in Quebec Province in Canada. It's a trip they want to make again.

But Schall said the "spirit" of his local club is something special and holds a place in his heart. It has a lot to do with a respect for the past, a love of the old Sylvan clubhouse and, of course, the river.

Bob and Martha Ball share that love.

The Verona couple has belonged to the club for 40 years, and Martha Ball can tick off statistics about it with little effort. …

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