One of my dearest friends frequently calls me Double M because of my initials. It’s a great little phrase yet a quick Google search shows that I am not the only Double M around. Double M Pizza, Double M Gaited Horses, Double M Auto Sales. Food, animals, cars . . so why not have a Double M day?
On Sunday, I drove down to pick up my parents for a day out and about. I left early to get some treats for them at the newish Five Points Artisan Bakery in Squirrel Hill. Everything is so good, but get there early as they frequently sell out early. Taking the long route to the my folks’ house through Braddock, Munhall and towards McKeesport, I ended up driving past two of my favorite places. The first is the Joe Magarac statue across from Edgar Thomson Works in Braddock. This legend, to me, represents toils, troubles and strength of the Eastern European immigrant population that worked in the mills. Joe is supposed to protect the mill workers. Drive on down to Braddock Avenue across from the Edgar Thomson Works to see Joe in person. It is a terrific place to ponder things. There really is no parking right in front of him, but you can park and sit across the road in the small parking area near the entrance to ET. According to legend, Joe “ate that hot steel like soup and cold steel ingots like meat.”
After that, my road trip took me past the Clairton Mill, a steel mill and coke production facility which is one of the world’s largest in the world. It is still working, belching out much cleaner smoke that the 1960s when our sky and water were both yellow from pollution from the mill.. I know it’s odd, but I find comfort in the sulfur smell near the old coke plants. Smells like home.
Next, I picked the folks up and we ventured to my second M of the day . … maple. It was open house weekend for a whole pile of sugar camps in Somerset County. I went to the event last year and it was so great that I had to do it again.. Once you see the effort that goes into producing maple sugar and syrup, there is a real appreciation and value to the cost of true maple products. We made maple sugar and spotza and sampled maple popcorn, maple cookies, maple syrup topped sundaes and more. At the camp, we watched the big, fancy evaporator do its job to morph maple sap into syrup. The trees can only be tapped until early April, so if you have the chance, go check it out in the next few weeks. If you’ve never been to a real hidden treasure, the Somerset Historical Center, do pay them a visit. It is a wonderful place to learn all of the agricultural history of Somerset County and surrounding areas.
So, the Double M day of mills and maple ended as it began, with a drive down the lonely roads past old mills, with my windows rolled down for a sniff of my childhood.