Carrie’s Furnace

Sunday, June 30, 2013:

Carrie Furnace doc small
Carrie Furnace in Homestead, Pennsylvania.

We drove past the “Carrie Furnace” sign on our way to the Waterfront in Homestead, Pennsylvania.  I thought to my self, “Our youngest child is named Carrie.”  We tell her we named her that, because she is so good at carrying things.  In fact, for many years she and the neighbor girl would carry my groceries from the car into the house; with six kids there were a lot of groceries to carry.  Actually all six did their share of grocery carrying.  I don’t remember a time I had to do it all by myself.  Of course, they were always in a hurry to attack the food and look for hidden treats like those humungous muffins from Costco or Sam’s Club.  I miss those times.  I miss my kids. I miss my grandkids. I also miss being a kid and playing with my grandparents.

My paternal grandmother, Catherine "Katie" Ann Kučinić Salopek
My paternal grandmother, Catherine “Katie” Ann Kučinić Salopek

Although my grandma Katie passed in 1987, I still celebrate her life every year when her birthday rolls around.  She was a fabulous cook, so typically we prepare massive amounts of food using her recipes and gather together for a meal.  I have yet to master making apple strudel, but stuffed cabbage, breaded chicken, potato salad and banana bread are usually welcome additions to the menu. This party is a great excuse to get together, and it serves to bequeath her memory, her recipes and her traditions to the next generation.

Last year I wasn’t near my kids or their families, so my sister had a new idea – she suggested we tour Carrie Furnace in Homestead to celebrate Grandma’s birthday. Although it may sound unusual; it really isn’t.  My grandma operated a crane for the Carnegie Steel Company at the Duquesne Works during World War II.  Since the steel mills in Duquesne have long since been discarded, we toured Carrie Furnace led by volunteers from the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area.  Our objective was to find out more about Grandma’s service in the mill.

fire withinWe viewed the colossal dinosaur of the old furnace from many angles and from within.  Now cold and dead, this place was once teaming with life, generated by work and sweat and intense heat.  Cranes were used throughout all stages of the steel making process, so we never did figure out where it was that grandma sat high overhead.  I tried to envision her with a cold, damp rag upon her crown as she hoisted each load of ore and carried it to its destination.  It’s just as she often helped me carry my loads in life.

Which bring us back to Carrie. The furnaces were named for women due to the temperamental nature of the fires burning within them.  Gee, not so different than my Carrie, her sisters, sister-in-laws or me.  We have minds of our own coupled with a passion burning within us to set the world on fire.  We ignite our plans to alter the universe by doing what my grandma taught us — we serve one another.  We listen, we support, we lend a helping hand.  We carry each others load, one grocery bag at a time.

(c) 2013 Patricia J. Angus

Originally published on June 30, 2013 at

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