I just found a great website called Reminiscences by Maury Tosi. Maury grew up in Monongahela and graduated from Monongahela City high school in 1942. He later served in the military and became an engineer. He wrote a fascinating story about his life, much of it spent in Monongahela PA. Here is an excerpt about “Rocky Beach” in the Catsburg area of Monongahela.
One of the most popular places in the neighborhood during the middle and late ’30s was the swimming spot along the river in our neighborhood which grew into the name of “Rocky Beach.” Coal mines in the area over the years had produced a large slate pile of waste material along the river, about 800′ long, 300′ wide and 30-40′ high. It screened off the river from the Pennsylvania RR tracks and Main Street.The size of the pile over many years had produced internal heat and spontaneous combustion, leading to a smoldering of the slate and coal refuse which slowly smoldered into a clinker called “red-dog.” This was commonly used at that time for rural road bases instead of the crushed stone used today.
The beach was about 50′ wide between the slate pile and the river, and the erosion of small particles from the side of the slate pile made a beach covering that was comfortable to walk on, or to sunbathe on a towel or blanket. With the many young unemployed during this time, the beach became an escape for whole families on hot sunny days. Every one walked to the beach. Gradually improvements were made to clear up the rocky beach, and the stones were used to build various walls at the back of the beach.
The river here was a gradual slope for 10-15′ and then dropped quickly to 10-15′ deep in the river channel. A floating platform was built a little off-shore in the deeper water, and a diving board was added. It was a pleasant way to spend a summer afternoon. Old inner tubes of all sizes were commonly used as a way to float on the water.
I highly recommend reading Maury’s Reminiscences. There are plenty of pictures and other interesting stories about Monongahela and the people who lived there in the 20th century. I would like to speak with him sometime. Does anybody know Maury or how I can contact him? If so, leave a message for me in the comments section. Thanks!