Darts a ton of fun on Mt. Washington for more than 45 years
February 28, 2012
Frank Rizzo studied the board and got ready to throw his dart.
His friend Bob Johnston of Mount Washington heckled him from the sidelines. "What is the matter? Isn't your bionic arm working today?" Mr. Johnston asked.
This was a typical weekly game session for the senior citizen members of the Men's Dart Club held at 12:30 p.m. every Thursday at the Mount Washington Senior Center, which is located across the street from Foodland.
The club started in 1965 and was originally part of the Mount Washington Retired Men's Club, which also began operations that year. One of the past meeting places was the Haven Heights Methodist Church.
"We cut up and have fun for two hours," said Larry Biehl, of Mount Washington, a member for six years. "There is a lot of jokes and carrying on. Once somebody said something about my ‘bionic arm' and I told him he had a ‘bionic mouth.'"
Michael Stypula, 87, has been a member for many years and said he served as secretary under the terms of five presidents. His colleagues are quick to remind him that these were the presidents of the dart club – not presidents of the United States.
"Some of the members are in wheelchairs but they still keep coming," Mr. Stypula said.
"We don't stop. We go on all year," Mr. Biehl said. There are two annual picnics held at the Eagles Club on Boggs Avenue and two annual dinners held at restaurants. There are four competing teams and three boards.
Mr. Stypula and his brothers owned a South Side upholstery company and he sold it and retired when he was 62.
When Richard "Dick" Guenther first came to the club nearly 20 years ago he was put on a waiting list until he was allowed to join. There were 40 members back then; now there are 18.
"Father Time is taking its toll," Mr. Guenther said.
He is a retired mailman who serviced Castle Shannon for years. He remembered Mayor Pat O'Brien of Castle Shannon who passed away 30 years ago. "Heck, I was Pat O'Brien's mother's mailman for years," he said. O'Brien's son Terry is the long-time police chief of Baldwin Township and his son Mark is a long-time Bethel Park councilman.
"I enjoyed that job," Mr. Guenther said. "Of course, there was the dog situation. But there were more good dogs than bad."
It was Mr. Rizzo's turn to pitch darts again. As a newer member during the past six months he received more teasing. Someone asked him, "Are you practicing for the Olympic games?"
Secretary Mr. Stypula keeps the minutes of past meetings, as far back as 1965 and 1975, and also holds on to a list of nearly 170 deceased members.
Ted Keran, a retired Mount Washington truck mechanic, remembered when he and his friends put a plastic gold dart in the casket of a deceased software engineer and former club member.
Then it was John Henke's turn. "C'mon, John, bring it on!" his friends shouted.
Who is the best of the dart hurlers? Mr. Biehl just shrugged when he was asked the question.
Others shrugged when asked "What was the funniest thing that ever happened at the club?"
"I guess it was when the president raised the dues," Mr. Johnston said. He is a retired post office mail handler.
"We need some guys to come and step in. We need all the new members we can get," Mount Henke said.
"It's a good league and good fun," Mr. Guenther said.