A postal carrier called “Mailman George” once traversed the streets of a certain Bethel Park neighborhood.
“He said that he’d never seen a better group of people than on his mail route in Coverdale,” lifelong neighborhood resident Robert McCormick recalled. “He also stated that the route took him longer than any other route, because he was always involved in long conversations and he was always being fed.”
As a result, “Coverdale was the only route that he had where he gained weight,” said McCormick, who served as one of the speakers for the neighborhood’s 100th-anniversary celebration July 17 at Miners Memorial Park.
Actually, Coverdale’s founding coincided with the opening of the coal mine of the same name in September 1920, but the centennial event had to be pushed back from 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The year before the scheduled celebration, McCormick set up a Coverdale history exhibit at Bethel Baptist Church, located on Cherry Street next to the park. Guests were invited to visit the church to see the exhibit, and to attend a special friends and family service July 18.
“My point was to showcase all 100 years of this neighborhood,” McCormick said. “I took note that most of the documented history in Coverdale stopped after 1949, when the mine closed. But I always wondered, what about the stories from 1949 ’til now?”
His personal collection of local memorabilia dates back to the 1970s, to go along with items from as long as a century ago.
“I want our great-grandchildren to read about the beginnings and read about the hundredth anniversary,” he said. “Today is a part of history. You are a part of history.”
The centennial ceremony, which wrapped up about half an hour before the start of a torrential downpour, featured the cutting of a ribbon to celebrate the recent makeover of Miners Memorial Park. Wielding the scissors was Reno Virgili, a former Bethel Park mayor whose business is on South Park Road at Main Street, the entrance to Coverdale.
Improvements to the park, a $175,000 municipal project, included removing all existing equipment and replacing it with new amenities. Probably the most striking is a playground structure called the Nucleus Evolution, a product of BCI Burke Co. of Fond du Lac, Wis.
“We let the children pick what they felt was the best option, and this is what you see here today,” Tim Moury, Bethel Park Council president, said.
Moury also serves as president of Bethel Park Historical Society, and he provided some anecdotes about the neighborhood, including the fact the local park once was a dump.
“Whatever they couldn’t burn or use, they would just come over here and dump,” he said. “In the late ’20s, the mining company and several miners cleared what we believe to be the lower field, to make it a place for the Coverdale baseball team to play.”
The mining company also had a soccer team, which joined an outfit called the Panhandle League for 1938-39.
“And they actually won the league championship in 1940,” Moury said.
Around 1960, the park was named in honor of the miners, and a memorial stone was dedicated in 1996. And Aug. 15, 2015, a park basketball court was dedicated to the late Armen Gilliam, the Coverdale native who played for 13 years in the National Basketball Association.
Further detailing neighborhood history was a celebratory proclamation read at the centennial ceremony by Bethel Park Mayor Jack Allen.
“William U. Coverdale wanted to create a mining town that was superior to all others,” he said, and the result was the construction of 100 homes available in 10 different color schemes, all equipped with electricity and running water. “After the mine closed, residents bought and improved the original mining homes in Coverdale.”
Bringing congratulations from their respective elected bodies in Harrisburg were state Sen. Devlin Robinson, R-Bridgeville, and Rep. Natalie Mihalek, R-Peters Township.
“We spent some time last summer in the Coverdale neighborhood, and there was really no place like it,” Mihalek said about their campaign efforts. “Coming through your neighborhood, everybody was just so welcoming to me and to Sen. Robinson.”
Robinson offered confirmation to that end.
“Every door: You need something to eat? You need a bottle of water? You want to come in?” he said. “It was truly, truly a special place.”
Providing opening remarks for the 100th-year celebration was Diane Ford, who acknowledged the diligent work of the organizing committee on which she served, plus the support of the Bethel Park municipality, chamber of commerce and philanthropic community foundation.
“It’s been an all-around great effort for everyone participating,” she said.
Representing the Bethel Park Chamber of Commerce was executive director Connie Ruhl, who also is a longtime member of Bethel Park School Board.
“I’m excited to represent the Bethel Park business community, because it all began here,” she said, referencing the early mining stores in the community.
As for Coverdale, Moury also discussed his experiences visiting the neighborhood.
“Everybody says, ‘Hello.’ Everybody says, ‘How ya doin’?’ It just makes it so friendly,: he reported. “That’s what makes Coverdale special, is the people.”