When you drive south on 88 from Finleyville and the road makes a T with Route 837, you’re already in New Eagle, PA. You turn right, heading South. When you get toward the center of New Eagle, the road (let’s call it “88/837”) bears to the left, and then straightens out parallel to the Monongahela River.
Right there at that northern end of New Eagle, you probably will notice on the right side of the road the large golden statue of Atlas holding up a huge globe that represents the Earth. If he looks familiar, you may recognize him from when he used to stand outside a European Health Spa when there were several of those health clubs in the Pittsburgh area and across the country.
Here in New Eagle, right beside Route 88, the Atlas stands behind a sign for Eddie Volker’s Body Shop. You might assume the body shop is right there behind the statue but no, that’s a barbecue place, and there’s a new cool little beauty shop right beside the statue.
Eddie Volker’s is farther up the hill on Morton Street that runs parallel to 88.
We arrived there about 9:30AM, and Eddie’s sons, Bill and EJ, were hard at work. Eddie walked up the long flight of stairs from his house, and we set up to interview him in one of the old garage bays.
Originally a crane operator for a sand and gravel company, Eddie built all the brick buildings here, mostly from recycled materials from New Eagle and Monogahela, incorporating parts of old buildings into these structures, and it’s obvious he had some great gatherings and parties here in these buildings as his Body Shop business grew.
He talked to us about the Atlas statue too that used to be at the European Health Spa on Route 51 near Bill Green’s Shopping Center. Eddie and his sons think this is one of just two remaining Health Spa statues.
After wrapping things up at Eddie’s, Frank and I made a quick lunch stop at 4th Street Barbecue in Charleroi. I have become a big fan of their pork belly.
After lunch we drove on to Roscoe to meet Cindy Chester Moran who works with us at WQED in our Programming Department. She and her husband Regis took us to the old house where several of Cindy’s family members used to live. That Old Stone House is not on Route 88, but just a block or so away, and that section of Route 88 through Roscoe is officially called Chester Avenue after Cindy’s family, some of the longtime residents of the town.
Cindy and Regis came with us to the Fredericktown Butcher Shop too. Cindy had first told me about that wonderful small grocery store and butcher shop that is famous for its fried chicken about 10 years ago.
We rarely pass through Fredericktown without stopping there. Big chicken on the roof!
AS we drove north at the end of the day, we also passed through West Brownsville where we’re not sure of the actual old path of Route 88, but we like the option of following Pittsburgh Street through Blainsburg and down the steep hill to Main Street in West Brownsville where the train tracks still go right down the center of the street. Frank has wanted to get shots of a train going through this little neighborhood since we first saw the tracks and realized they were still active. Today our timing was right. We stopped to talk to a woman who was working in her front yard there on Main Street, and she looked up the road at one point and said, “Here it comes.”
We were lucky. Shortly after the long long train went by, and we were loading our equipment, the rain began.
We got home safely. A good day.