Carnegie Science Center unveils Gus and Yiayia’s chariot in railroad exhibit


With unusual temperatures climbing to 70 degrees, Wednesday was a perfect day for the unveiling of an ice cream scoop cart.

The Carnegie Science Center on the North Coast of Pittsburgh introduced its latest addition – Gus & Yiayia’s Ice Ball Cart – to add to the Miniature Railroad & Village.

The familiar bright orange cart with the rainbow-colored umbrella has been a West Park staple on the north side since 1934. Now the tiny replica will be a mainstay of the science center exhibit, which will reopen Thursday.

The current wagon is still run by Gus Kalaris from Brighton Heights. He celebrated running the business for seven decades this summer.

“It’s so exciting,” Kalaris said at the premiere of the science center exhibit. “It’s like winning the Super Bowl and receiving the (Vince) Lombardi trophy or winning an Oscar. Who honors a traveling merchant? Usually people insult the street vendors.

Kalaris was chosen because the ice cream scoop cart is popular in Pittsburgh, said Jason Brown, director of the Carnegie Science Center. He said Kalaris spent 12 hours, seven days a week, serving scoops of ice cream and smiles in the spring, summer and early fall.

It gives free scoops of ice cream to people who can’t afford it, Brown said. The cart is a perfect stop for a first date.

“We make sure that the Gus & Yiayia family legacy is there all year round,” said Brown.

Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review

The Carnegie Science Center launched its new model, Gus & Yiayia’s scoop booth, at Miniature Railroad & Village on Wednesday, November 17, 2021. The model celebrates the family business, which has been operating on the North Side since 1934.

The business started with George and Pauline, who sold popcorn, peanuts and “scoops of ice cream” – candies made from flavored crushed ice – from 1934. Gus Kalaris and his late wife, Stella, took over the wagon in 1951.

The original Yiayia – a term for “grandmother” in Greek – was Gus’ mother, Pauline, although the honor was later given to Stella. Stella loved being around children so much that the family established the annual Stella Kalaris scholarship after her death in 2016.

Gus Kalaris, who turns 90 in January, said all of Pittsburgh’s mayors stopped by the cart along with city councilors and state lawmakers. The late Dan Rooney was a regular. People were asking Rooney for his autograph. Kalaris would give Rooney a box of popcorn and a sharpie. Rooney and Kalaris were born in the same year, 1932.

Patty Everly, curator of historical exhibits at the science center, said it was about highlighting Pittsburgh and the “beautiful orange wagon,” which has historical significance. He will honor the hard work of him and his family.

A 3D printer was used to design the piece – created by Nino Balistrieri, an exhibit technician for the science center. He has a figure of Kalaris and clients, including children. There’s a block of ice cream, popcorn and peanuts, and flavor bottles – a mixture of simple syrup with food coloring and extract.

Kalaris’ parents would take him to West Park when he was a baby. He slept in a blanket on one of the benches. He was 8 when he first helped. Kalaris’s real first name is August. He changed it for Gus.

Originally created by Charles Bowdish in 1919, the Miniature Railroad & Village traces western Pennsylvania before the 1940s, including landmarks as important as the Pittsburgh Courier, Fallingwater, Forbes Field and the Entrance Arch. from Luna Park.

The exhibit received new grass and water as well as a dance hall and a two-headed cow for The Show of Living Wonders. There is a circus parade through the city, with elephants, giraffes, zebras and a camel.

The Pennsylvania Railroad Bell replica has been added to symbolize the beginning of Pennsylvania railroad history. A video screen broadcasts a feed from a camera mounted on one of the trains.

“This cart is the epitome of Pittsburgh,” Everly said. “It’s a part and the heart of this community. It represents what Pittsburgh is.


Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review

Gus Kalaris points to a model of the family business, Gus & Yiayia’s Ice Cream Scoop booth, at the Miniature Railroad & Village of the Carnegie Science Center on Wednesday, November 17, 2021. The science center launched the business model , which has operated on the north side since 1934.

The miniature cart is close to an edge so visitors can get a good view. It is near a park and the Mister Rogers neighborhood house.

Kalaris’ daughter Penny Pefanis, from Stirling, NJ, said the location was perfect.

“He is so thrilled, honored and humbled,” she said. “My father treats everyone well. I like that the cart is next to Mister Rogers’ house. Fred Rogers was genuine, and my dad is truly genuine.

Kalaris, a father of two, plans to bring his four grandchildren and a great-grandchild. He stood beside the railroad tracks in awe.

“I couldn’t believe it when they asked me to be a part of this,” Kalaris said. “It looks exactly like it is in real life. How do they do this? “

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is the editor of Tribune-Review. You can contact JoAnne at 724-853-5062, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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