Hail to the icy ball, its creators and all the charms that surround the orange cart that Gus and Stella Kalaris have operated in Allegheny Commons Park for decades as part of his father's Depression-era legacy.Tomorrow night, the Allegheny City Society will honor them with its annual Rimmel award for their iconic presence as owners of the Gus and Yia-Yia Ice Ball cart, which has been around since 1934, or, as the orange cart tells us, “since your dad was a lad.”
This photo taken in 2007 by P-G photographer Lake Fong shows Gus pouring what looks like pineapple syrup onto the shaved ice.
The Allegheny City Society is a group of North Siders and their historical sympathizers from outside who try to keep alive the legacy of the former city that grew up across the Allegheny River from Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh lusted after its winsome, weathly ways and forceably married it in 1907.
Thanks to the Society, the Allegheny branch of the Carnegie Library on Federal Street has an Allegheny City room in which people can research the illustrious history.
And every year, the Society has a dinner at which it honors an exemplar of what continues to make the North Side winsome, wonderful and culturally rich.
For those who have been wondering, YiaYia means grandmother in Greek. When Stella was absent from the cart while raising the couple's two daughters, Gus's mother filled in for her. Then when Stella returned to work with Gus, she was the YiaYia.
No one who frequents Allegheny Commons Park doesn’t know Gus and YiaYia's, whose opening beside the tennis courts is a rite of spring. Besides icy balls flavored with fruity syrups, they sell popcorn and peanuts, and sometimes there is a line.
According to the Allegheny City Society’s web site, William M. Rimmel was a lifelong resident of the North Side, “best known for the series of columns he wrote about life in Allegheny City. These columns earned him the President’s Golden Quill Award in 1980 from the Pittsburgh Press Club.
“Born in 1897, he was self-educated. He left school after the sixth grade because his family needed the money, becoming a copyboy for the Tri-State News Bureau at the age of 11. That job paid him very little, although his employer did give him a raincoat for his deliveries to the downtown newspapers.
In 1915, he joined the Pittsburgh Post, a predecessor of the Post-Gazette and later switched to the Gazette-Times, which offered him more money. After several years, he was promoted to police reporter at a salary of $12.15 per week.
“Over the 15 years that he held that job, he got to know thousands of people. In 1925, he began to handle general assignment reporting and he extended his circle of acquaintances to Downtown politicians, businessmen, industrialists, civic leaders, and bootleggers (sometimes not different people). In 1928, he became assistant city editor and held that position for 30 years.
“After retiring in 1962, he continued to write his columns and maintained a busy schedule of meetings, speeches and writing. He was the author of “The Allegheny Story”, a nostalgic look back at Allegheny City. He died in May, 1988 and is buried in Union Dale Cemetery.”