It’s hard to believe that around the time Sharon, Pennsylvania, was first settled c. 1800, 500 yards up the west hill was considered “The West,” or more accurately, “The Western Reserve.” In those early days if you wanted to get somewhere you rode a horse, drove a horse-drawn buggy, sailed in a ship, or walked. The 1800s, however, was a century of change. If you were born about the same time Sharon was founded and lived to be 100, you would see life-changing advances in transportation, primarily in steamboats, trains, automobiles and in the increased number of canals and roads.
There were many small communities in western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio, but they were all isolated from each other. It really was not much different from how it was back in Europe since antiquity. Many communities over there, a mere fifty miles apart, often barely spoke the same language. Here in Pennsylvania and Ohio, the advent of one thing began to tie all the communities together — the stagecoach.
In the late 1700s, the French began to expand the ancient Indian trails so that they could build a series of forts in western Pennsylvania to protect their land from the British: Fort Presque Isle in Erie, Fort Le Boeuf in Waterford, Fort Machault in Franklin and Fort Duquesne in Pittsburgh. (Concerned by reports of French expansion into the Ohio Valley, the British senta young George Washington right through our area in 1754 to negotiate with the French.)
By the War of 1812, as troops began to travel on foot to Erie, it became clear that better roads were needed. Turnpikes were being built all around the region. It was inevitable then that stagecoach lines would begin to pop up. The first stagecoach lines began to appear here around 1817. The stagecoaches were not initially received very well. In Ohio, when the Conneaut-to-Poland stage line came in, people were so leery of it that they protested.
Soon other lines sprang up. The Franklin & Warren (PA) stage line had three routes in the region. The route between Mercer and Warren, Ohio, ran right through the Shenango Valley. The stagecoach named “The President Jackson” left the Greentree Inn in Mercer at noon, then stopped in Sharon, then Charleston where the horses were switched out with a new team. This was done Nascar-style every 12 miles with teams switching out in under 10 minutes and passengers rarely even getting out. The route continued through Sharpsville, Sharon, Brookfield and Vienna, and ended up in Warren, Ohio. The miracle of the stagecoach: 31 miles in only 8 hours! Or at least that’s how long it was supposed to take.
The “dean of the Mercer-Warren stage line drivers” during the 1860s was the rough-riding, independent Mike Malhony. Even though it was his job to be prompt, Mike was one of those guys who wasn’t exactly tied down to any schedule. Sometimes the stage would leave at noon, sometimes closer to 1:00. Many passengers who were trying to get to the stage stop in Sharon (Tom Porter’s Tavern) often arrived an hour late.
In the 1840s, Randall D. Wilmot opened up a stagecoach stop on the other side of Warren, Ohio. The complex had a bar, store and lunch stand. Randall, somewhat of an eccentric marketing genius, named the area “The Center of the World.” When the railroad made “The Center of the World” obsolete, Wilmot moved to Cortland, Ohio, and opened a grocery store called “The End of the World.” (If you travel Route 5 on the other side of Warren you’ll still see a road sign that reads “The Center of the World,” where an unincorporated community of a few houses still exists.)
As stagecoach lines grew, so did communication between towns. Travelers from bigger cities carried “gossip” and often newspapers with them that small-town folk could read. Villages that were once isolated now had a lifeline to the rest of the region. The post office, realizing horses were now antiquated, began using stage lines to send mail. (The number of post offices in Pennsylvania rose from only 3,000 in 1815 to 28,000 in 1860.)
The life span of the rough-and-tumble stagecoaches was relatively short. In the earlier years of the 1800s, they contended with the Erie Canal. In later years, railroads offered relatively luxurious travel accommodations and were faster and cheaper than the stage lines. In many places around the country, the stagecoach lines lasted until the automobile knocked them out, some even lasting until World War I.
We all have some image of the stagecoach era in our psyche, something akin to Jimmy Stewart sauntering up to help a pretty pioneer girl off the stage or John Wayne in the classic Western movie, Stagecoach. But the next time you get into your SUV with heated seats and electronic stability control remember this quote from the 19th-century American author Washington Irving on stagecoach travel…
There is certain relief in change, even though it be from bad to worse! As I have often found in traveling in a stagecoach, that it is often a comfort to shift one’s position, and be bruised in a new place.
If you travel on the William Flynn Highway to Slippery Rock, PA, you can see an old stagecoach stop and tavern. The Old Stone House was constructed in 1822 by John Brown as a resting place for weary travelers on the busy Pittsburgh-to-Erie Pike. Go to oldstonehousepa.org for more information about this stagecoach inn and history museum of rural life.
— Eric Bombeck (SHS 1979), South Pymatuning, PA.
Bombeck, Eric. The Way It Was Newspaper, Facebook, June 2019.
“Tales of the Mahoning and Shenango Valleys.” Recordings made in the 1950s by The Industrial Information Institute, Inc., Youngstown, OH, 1951-10.
For an eyewitness account of stagecoach travel, read Roughing It(American Publishing Company, 1872), a semi-autobiographical book by Mark Twain. With his rough-hewn humor, Twain tells of his jarring ride over potholes and ruts from Missouri to Nevada.
This month marks the fifth-year anniversary of Small Town Memories! We’ve been going strong since August 2014 when the first post, “Coffee Stir,” was published. Who knew that so much history — this is our 78th post — could be gathered for a blogsite that focused mostly on life in one small town during one short period in the mid-20th century! Many thanks to those who joined with us to preserve and share the history of Sharpsville, Pennsylvania, and its surrounding area.
Stories contributed by Eric Bombeck, this site’s co-editor, are helping to expand the time frame and geographical area of Small Town Memories to include the Shenango Valley, a place that the Shenango Valley Chamber of Commerce describes as “a charming tapestry of small cities, boroughs and townships.” Stay tuned for Eric’s next story.
NOTE: Posts that have been published in the past are sometimes updated or corrected, so remember to check back on your favorites from time to time to see if anything has changed or something new, such as a photo or comment, has been added. The latest additions are photographs of Reynolds Drive-In and the pavilion at Buhl Park as they look today, submitted by Mike Angel on a recent return visit to Sharpsville, his hometown. Also, a second advertisement for Mahaney’s Clothing Store, submitted by Eric Bombeck, has been included in last month’s blog, Part I of “The Two George Mahaneys.”
“Young” George F. Mahaney
“Young” George F. Mahaney did not exactly follow in the footsteps of his father, “Old” George D. Mahaney, who was a well-known businessman and longtime Burgess of Sharpsville, Pennsylvania. Instead, Young George carved out his own notable path.
George F. Mahaney: Memories of Early 1900s Sharpsville
In a 1979 interview originally published in The Herald, George F. Mahaney, born in 1908, remembers details of life as it was in Sharpsville in his earliest days. This interview can be read in full in the November 2012 Newsletter for the Sharpsville Area Historical Society under “Reminiscences of George F. Mahaney Jr.” Among the various bits of Sharpsville’s history that Mahaney related are the following excerpts:
In 1915, the only three places in Mercer County licensed to sell alcoholic beverages were located in Sharpsville: The Knapp Hotel on Main and Walnut streets run by Mahaney’s father, the Welch House owned by Martin Welch on Fourth and Main, and Pierce House, owned by James Pierce where the plaza is located now on Mercer and Shenango streets.
“Thornton Hollow Street Car and Public Bridge near Sharpsville, PA.” Used with permission from Wayne Cole, author of Ghost Rails XI: Shenango Valley Steel : Sharon Steel Co, ColeBooks, Beaver Falls, PA, 2014.
All three hotels followed the law that liquor could not be served after 9 p.m. Special streetcars would arrive in Sharpsville around 5 or 6 p.m., packed with people to visit the hotels before the 9 p.m. deadline. The streetcar operated until 12:30 a.m. Sometimes the motorman would sleep in the streetcar because he had to begin driving it again at 5:30 a.m. to take people to work.
People would go to an Erie Railroad station at the foot of Mercer Avenue to board a Pullman train for New York City. This service ended in the 1920s.
Downtown Sharpsville had a number of meat markets in the early 1900s: Lamont’s, and Burchart’s, for example. The butchers Sam Faber and Jim Rose sold only meat, which they cut fresh as you waited. Mahaney recalls that the price of 1 1/2 pounds of veal was 45 cents.
Sharpsville’s grocery stores in the early 1900s included Holland’s, Mehl’s and Byerly’s. Groceries were delivered by horse and wagons and the kids knew the names of all the horses. There were also milk delivery by Deneen’s Dairy, ice delivery and an ice-cream salesman in a little horse-drawn buggy. Small cones cost a penny and large cones a nickel.
Sharpsville featured three livery stables, one on Second Street (which eventually became Hanlon’s Hall for roller-skating then Angel’s Casino for parties, dances and community meetings in the 1950s). The other two were on Main between Walnut and Mercer streets and on Mercer Avenue.
Mahaney continued with anecdotes concerning unpaved streets, gas lights, poolrooms, “Sharpsville Days,” railroad travel, movies, movie theaters, Pierce’s Opera House, vaudeville acts, sports, home ownership, ice cream parlors and the post office.
George F. Mahaney: Founder of Sharpsville’s Santa Project
George F. Mahaney at right with Sid Owen enjoying a coffee stir at Cricks’ soda fountain in 1953. The original photo was taken for a national magazine’s article about the Sharpsville Service Club’s Santa Claus visits. This photo, from the July 2017 Sharpsville Area Historical Society Newsletter is used courtesy of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society.
For the last 75-plus years, Sharpsville has had a special project that has set this small town off from most, maybe all, others. A day or two before Christmas Day, Santa Claus pays a visit to each Sharpsville child (whose porch light is turned on to beckon Santa). A great deal of preparation goes on beforehand so that Santa’s visit is as smooth as possible. All of this is accomplished by volunteers.
Much credit for this delightful tradition goes to George F. Mahaney and his friend Sid Owen. In the blog “Wall-to-Wall Santas in Sharpsville” on this site, Gail Nitch Hanes (SHS 1964) writes the following about the origins of Sharpsville’s Santa Project:
It all began in 1943 when George Mahaney Jr., a Sharpsville attorney, asked his friend Sid Owen to ”play Santa” for his children. Well, Sid was such a big hit with Mahaney’s children that he was asked by neighbors to drop in to visit their homes as well that night.
The following year, both he and George dressed in the red suits and visited even more homes. By 1947-48 there were so many homes and children to visit, Mr. Mahaney recruited members of the Sharpsville Service Club to assume ‘Santa duty,’ which began our town’s most beloved tradition. This year  marks 71 consecutive years that Service Club members dressed in their red and white suits and, with the help of their special ‘elves,’ scattered throughout the Borough on December 23rd bringing smiles and the Christmas spirit to the children and their families.
Left to right: Stacia Moore, George F. Mahaney, Ralph Mehler I. c. 1958 or 1959. (Photograph courtesy of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society.)
The photograph on the right was included in a newspaper article c. 1958 or 1959, with this caption:
“SHARPSVILLE CARRIES OUT 11th ANNUAL SANTA PROJECT. Twenty-one Santas and an equal number of ‘helpers’ will visit every child in Sharpsville, PA, on Christmas Eve. Miss Stacia Moore, employee of Sharpsville Dry Cleaners, takes the Santa uniform from storage for Atty. George Mahaney, chairman, (center)and Ralph Mehler [I], who is ready to serve as Santa for the 11th consecutive year. ….” (Unnamed newspaper, no date, possibly 1958 or 1959. Photo courtesy of Sharpsville Area Historical Society.)
Both George F. and his younger brother John “Jack” Knapp grew up to become lawyers. George Mahaney lived most of his life in Sharpsville and, as of the 1950s, his office was located in the Boyle Building, Sharon.
George Mahaney was a member of the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs (PSAB), a statewide organization founded in 1911 that served Pennsylvania’s borough governments, representing their interests and helping to shape their laws. Mahaney served as the president of PSAB from 1967 to 1968.
As president, his talk in March 1968 before the Ford City VFW indicated the direction he felt that boroughs should take. According to The Kittanning Paper, his suggestions included “more power for boroughs to enter into mergers, consolidations, adopting home rule charters, removing all existing debit limits, and permitting the legislature to adopt new debt ceilings.”
“A Look Back: Reminiscences of George F. Mahaney Jr.” Sharpsville Area Historical Society Newsletter, November 2012, Vol. 1, No. 4, pages 1-3. (From an interview in The Herald, 1979, about Sharpsville in the early 1900s.) (Accessed 7 August 2019.) Internet resource.
“Uniquely Sharpsville: The Coffee Stir.” Sharpsville Area Historical Society Newsletter, July 2017, Vol. VI, No. 2, page 3. (Accessed 7 August 2019.) Internet resource.
“United States Census, 1930,” database with images, FamilySearch https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XHC2-GSX: accessed 7 August 2019), George J (sic) Mahaney in the household of George Mahaney, Sharpsville, Mercer, Pennsylvania, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 72, sheet 10A, line 17, family 255. Internet resource.
There are many references to George Mahaney throughout “Small Town Memories” but did you know that there were two of them … and how much this father and son contributed, in their own way, to the betterment of Sharpsville, Pennsylvania?
Even though they were not technically Sr. and Jr., they were often referred to as such, according to Ralph C. Mehler II, board member of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society. However, in the Mehler family (George Sr. was Ralph Mehler’s great-great-uncle) and perhaps more widely, they were referred to as “old George” and “young George.”
The following is the story about “Old” George. Part II, covering “Young” George who originated Sharpsville’s much-loved Santa Claus project, will be covered in a later blog.
NOTE: For reasons only known to WordPress, many Comments are missing from the posts on “Small Town Memories.” Comments submitted by readers have not only been encouraging to the blog authors but many have also added additional – and valuable – bits of history to the story of Sharpsville, PA, and the surrounding area. However, they are not lost. All the blogs and their Comments were copied to Google Documents as backups as they were published. The Comments can now be found on this site’s page titled *ARCHIVE: Comments.* Just click on the link in the menu across the top of any page (under the site’s title) to see the list. Meanwhile, please don’t hesitate to send us your Comments going forward. If appropriate, they too will be added to the Archive list so we won’t miss a one.
“OLD” GEORGE D. MAHANEY
GEORGE D. MAHANEY: Starting Out
Old George, whose full name was George Dennis Mahaney (1878-1966), began his working life at a young age engaged in various small endeavors but eventually became a five-time Burgess of Sharpsville, father of the Shenango Dam, and known as “Mr. Sharpsville.”
At age 13, planning to be a future banker, Mahaney started at the bottom rung, cleaning floors and polishing brass in a bank. Soon, disillusioned by what he saw as a “tough game” of banking, he moved from there to paperboy, delivering the Pittsburgh morning paper to Sharpsville subscribers, then driving a horse and wagon for the Boyle and Fitzmaurice grocery store in Sharon, PA. After being laid off from his driver job, he worked unloading coke from cars at the Spearman blast furnace. That job proved to be too strenuous and he moved on to performing odd jobs for the streetcar line extension workers.
Nick Mehler, Mahaney’s brother-in-law and a popular barber in town, gave Mahaney his first big break by offering to teach him the barber trade. After four years as an apprentice, lathering faces and, again, sweeping floors, Mahaney became an official barber. But he still hadn’t settled down.
Mahaney’s next ventures involved working for several grocery companies, gaining a solid knowledge of business along the way. After co-owning a ready-to-wear store in Conneaut, Ohio, for a year, he then took over the Knapp Hotel on Walnut Street, Sharpsville, from his mother-in-law, Anna Knapp in exchange for paying off the debts left behind by her husband, Michael Knapp. When Prohibition began in 1920, causing the hotel to lose business, Mahaney entered the men’s clothing and furnishing business.
GEORGE D. MAHANEY: Mahaney’s Clothing Store
It was in 1913 when George Mahaney and Joseph McGowan had purchased a men’s haberdashery on Walnut Street from the Cohen Brothers. McGowan was in charge until 1917 when the store was moved a few doors north to the former Knapp Hotel cafe and office and became the Mahaney’s Clothing Store on the northwest corner of Walnut and Main Streets that some of us can still remember. When it was torn down in the early 1970s during urban renewal, it was probably the oldest men’s clothing store in Sharpsville.
GEORGE D. MAHANEY: Early Civic Projects
The June 1924 issue of The Sharon (PA) Telegraph, celebrating Sharpsville’s Golden Jubilee (1874-1924), told much of this story about “Old” George. It goes on to describe two of Mahaney’s most impressive and well-known legacies: his involvement in the areas of civics and sports in Sharpsville.
According to the Telegraph article, he was a “valuable asset” in the printing of the old Sharpsville Advertiser (which existed from 1870 to 1919). “He and other boys used to earn 50 cents per day for turning the old hand press when the weekly was being printed.”
During World War I, Mahaney did his part by chairing Sharpsville’s Red Cross and visiting camps where Sharpsville soldiers were stationed. On Christmas Day 1919, at the close of the war, Mahaney was presented with a gold watch from the ex-soldiers of the community.
As of 1924, Mahaney was largely responsible for the success of Sharpsville’s Golden Anniversary celebrations. He was an active member of the Sharpsville Improvement Board and a director of the Automobile Club. At one time, he was a representative of The Sharon Telegraph, selling and delivering the newspaper in Sharpsville.
GEORGE D. MAHANEY: Sports Enthusiast
Rated in 1924 by the Telegraph as “the best baseball umpire in Western Pennsylvania,” Mahaney is described as pursuing his hobby of Sharpsville area sports with enthusiasm and dedication. According to The Sharon Telegraph:
Mahaney was for several years president of the Sharon team in the O. and P. League and a director of the league. In those days, when the Shenango Valley supported a baseball team, Mahaney was the official umpire at all games.
He started umpiring when a “kid” in Sharpsville and records show his services were in demand when the furnace company teams clashed back in 1898. Malaney at that time was only 20. He carried a bat in addition to a mask, for arguments at that time meant business and the umpire was given the undisputed right to protect himself.
Mahaney has always been a booster for Sharpsville athletics, especially when the high school teams are concerned. Since Sharpsville has awakened from its apparent lethargy in high school athletics and stepped to the foreground, ranking today as one of the leading schools in the county in athletics, George Mahaney has been a regular attendant at all games and his advice has helped the players on more than one occasion.
The Sharon (PA) Telegraph, June 7, 1924, p. 9
His son, “Young” George, was a prominent member of the baseball and basketball teams during his four years in high school. (George F. Mahaney will be the subject of a later blog.)
GEORGE D. MAHANEY: Later Civic Projects
But Mahaney’s accomplishments didn’t end in those early days. Those for which George D. Mahaney is most renowned were achieved since the 1920s. His involvement in most of the civic, athletic and veterans’ organizations in the area earned him the Shenango Valley Junior Chamber of Commerce’s “Man of the Year” award in 1954. According to his obituary in The Sharon Herald, January 26, 1966, pp. 1-2,
A member of St. Bartholomew’s Church, Sharpsville, Mr. Mahaney included among his membership associations the Sharpsville Service Club, Sharpsville Volunteer Fire Department, Merchants and Businessmen’s Association and the Knights of Columbus. He was named to the Mercer County Housing Authority in 1946.
The Sharon Herald, January 26, 1966, pp. 1-2
In 1953 Sharpsville’s town park was named Mahaney Park by the Bureau Council in honor of his long-time service as Burgess of Sharpsville. Located on the southeast corner of Shenango and Walnut streets, the park was laid out in 1916. (It currently features an ingot mold that was one of the last cast in Sharpsville in 2001, a reminder that Sharpsville was once the nation’s ingot mold capital.)
Mahaney’s untiring lobbying for the construction of the Shenango River Reservoir (also known as the Shenango Dam) was recognized by the Valley Chamber of Commerce in 1959. Built between 1963 and 1965, the dam was designed to control the periodic flooding of the Shenango River that affected Sharpsville and more so Sharon and Wheatland. An extra benefit of the Reservoir was a recreation area which includes the Mahaney Outflow Recreation Day Use Area, featuring a disc golf course and the Mahaney Access Boat Ramp.
[Photographs above and below are courtesy of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society]
GEORGE D. MAHANEY: Family Background
George D. Mahaney was born in Pennsylvania on January 15, 1878. He was the son of D. G. Mahaney, a locomotive engineer who, for many years, was a resident of Erie.
When Mahaney was 3 years old (c. 1881), he moved with the family to Sharpsville when the town was merely a station stop and over two decades before its streets were paved. The Telegraph lists the school he attended as “the old Second Ward school.”
The record for County Marriages in Pennsylvania lists the marriage of George Mahaney, a merchant in Conneaut, Ohio, to Kathryn M. Knapp (1880-1955) on May 6, 1903.
The 1930 U.S. Census records the Mahaney family as living on Walnut Street in Sharpsville and consisting of George, a clothing merchant, his wife Katheryn (Knapp) Mahaney, and two sons, George F. Mahaney, age 22, and John, age 19.
After his first wife died in 1955, he married Rose Havlak on June 11, 1959.
George Dennis Mahaney died in January 1966. Three brothers and two sisters preceded him in death. He was buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery, Hermitage, PA. His widow survived with two sons, both attorneys, George F., and John K.; six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. (Source: “Geo. Mahaney Dies: ‘Father’ of Reservoir,” The Sharon Herald, January 26, 1966, pp. 1-2.)
In October of 1938, WPIC, the Shenango Valley’s first radio station, came on the air. In its early days radio was seen as a high-brow medium. Stations played classical music, endeavored to educate the public and were rarely crass.
In an effort to involve the community, WPIC put in phone lines from Sharon and Hickory High Schools directly into the studios. Students could now do broadcasts from the schools. More than one high school kid got a job at WPIC because of this. (Joe Prelee, who went on to a storied career in NYC radio, got his start this way.)
The following is a transcript from a WPIC broadcast from Sharon High School on June 23rd, 1950. Miss Mary Lee, the historian being interviewed, was 89 years old at the time of this broadcast, meaning she would have been born around the beginning of the Civil War. She was old enough to have heard some of the stories she tells from people who were here from the beginning. Enjoy this oral history of Sharon as told by Miss Lee in 1950 to two fifth-grade students. — Eric Bombeck
THE HISTORY OF SHARON
Date: June 23, 1950 Time: 9:15-9:30 AM Music
Announcer: Good Morning boys and girls, we are broadcasting from the auditorium of the Sharon High School. It is our pleasure to have with us this morning, Miss Mary Lee, a former teacher and very well-known resident of our city. I don’t believe she would mind my telling you that she is 89 years old. She is going to answer some questions about the history of Sharon, which will help you in your study of Sharon.
Jane White and Bob Smith, two children from the fifth grade, Prospect Heights School, will interview Miss Lee. Miss Lee has lived in Sharon for over fifty years and has done extensive research work on the history of Sharon. The children of Sharon are required to learn something of Sharon’s history and this is the first of a series of programs to be presented in this history of Sharon.
Announcer: Jane, do you have a question you would like to ask Miss Lee?
Jane: Miss Lee, will you tell me who was the very first settler of Sharon?
Miss Lee: William Budd was the first settler. He was known as “the Father of Sharon”
Jane: Where did William Budd come from?
Miss Lee: Budd came to Sharon from Washington County, Pennsylvania. That is on the other side of Pittsburgh.
Bob: About what year did he came and where did he make his first settlement?
MissLee: Bob, history books tell us he came in the spring of 1796 when George Washington was serving his second term as President of the United States and the nation’s capital was located in Philadelphia. Young Budd’s plot of land included 400 acres and he built his log cabin on what is now the northeast corner of Washington Street and South Irvine Avenue. Later, he built a cabin nearer the river, at what is now 61 South Main Street and spent some time hunting and trapping before he returned to Washington County to marry sixteen year old Drucilla Hultz.
Bob: To what kind of cabin did young William Budd bring his bride?
Miss Lee: The log cabin was a story and a half high. The loft was reached by a ladder, there was a puncheon floor, a clapboard roof and greased paper windows. Bob, if you would like to know more about these cabins, you might look it up in the World Book. It will go more in detail than I can on this program.
Jane: Miss Lee, what did the Budds do if they wanted some groceries or supplies?
Miss Lee: Jane, we are told that the Budds produced nearly everything they needed except for farming implements, ammunition and salt. If they needed these, they had to go to Pittsburgh. In those days, it took them three weeks to go. A barrel of salt was worth twenty bushels of wheat. The only roads were the streams and narrow wavering paths made by wild beasts and Indians. Deer were common, wolves howled at night and occasionally a black bear was to be seen on the trip.
Bob: Didn’t the Budds have any near neighbors that they could borrow from rather than making this long trip?
Miss Lee: Yes Bob. In 1798 Charles and Frances Reno settled east of the Shenango River and north of William Budd’s, around what is now Reno Street, down near the Junior High School. The Bentley’s the Stokley’s, the Hoaglands, McBrides and Loves all moved into the valley and, in spite of hardships, these pioneers had come to stay. On May 23, 1798, the second generation made its first appearance, in the tiny person of James Bentley, the first white child born in Sharon.
Jane: Miss Lee, what do you know about the early homes of Sharon?
Miss Lee: We know the earliest homes of the pioneers were log cabins. Then, these were replaced by frame homes. In 1851, long rows of company houses were built for the people who were working in the iron mill. In one of them, over thirty years later, there grew up a Welsh immigrant boy, who was to become the first Secretary of Labor and afterwards, a Senator of the United States, James J. Davis.
In 1864 Sharon was becoming a good-sized town and brick homes were replacing the frame ones. Some of these are still standing on East State Street. The brick home, opposite the Golden Dawn store on the corner of North Oakland Avenue and East State Street, where the Sample Funeral Home is located, is one of these homes.
The first stone house to be built in Sharon is still standing on Dayton Way, just across from the Wishart planning mill. The second stone house to be built was the Buhl Mansion, now the home of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Forker, East State Street.
The house which was occupied by Gariety Funeral Home, at the corner of Washington and South Water Avenue is considered one of the oldest buildings in Sharon. This house which has been remodeled and enlarged many times was originally a log cabin.
Bob: Miss Lee, surely if the people of Sharon were interested in building nice homes they wanted a name for their village.
Miss Lee: Oh yes, Bob. William Budd took care of that in 1815. Tradition tells us that he was worried about that, so he decided to choose a name from the Bible. He put three names in a muslin covered box. The third name drawn was “Sharon.” We do not know whether he had in mind the plains of Sharon or the Rose of Sharon when he selected the name.
Jane: We know in the very beginning the Budds had to go to Pittsburgh for their supplies but when did they finally get some stores in Sharon?
Miss Lee: Well, Jane, in 1815, Elias Jones bought 100 acres of land north of State Street, west of the Shenango River. He built a distillery and a storeroom and became Sharon’s first distiller, innkeeper and postmaster.
In 1818, the first bridge was built over the Shenango River at the cost of six hundred dollars and then wooden sidewalks were built so the shoppers could visit Jake Cozadd’s shoe shop or Elias Jones’ store. The mail now came twice a week from Mercer by stagecoach instead of horseback. The Sharonites who made the great trip to see General Lafayette at Mercer twelve miles away, in 1824, came home to a village whose streets were unlighted and choked with dust or deep mud. By 1825 new names had appeared in Sharon, and new faces in business houses. “Daddy” Washington Porter kept store at the southeastern corner of State Street and Water Avenue where the news stand is now located. David Budd had a new tavern. Sharon was still a log settlement but it was home to people who had faith in the future and the courage to make the future bright.
Bob: Miss Lee, I thought Willson’s furniture store was one of the oldest stores in Sharon. When did it have its beginning?
Miss Lee: You are right Bob. It was in 1845 that James Willson, a Brookfield boy, stood on the top of the West Hill and looked down into the valley and then toward Brookfield Center, trying to decide whether he would start his business in the flourishing Ohio village or in the smaller Pennsylvania settlement below on the muddy Shenango River. He decided that the new covered bridge, the building though only a single-track affair, twenty feet wide, would enable Sharonites to get across the river, beyond the city limits, where expenses were less. From that boy’s decision sprang Sharon’s oldest family business, now known as the Willson Furniture Store.
Jane: What were some of the other businesses that were established about this same time?
Miss Lee: Jane, I have been told that many people were interested in establishing banks, The Shenango Hotel with eighty-six rooms, a drug store by Reno and Espy, a music store by W.C. DeForest, a cloak and millinery shop by Mrs. Mark Cohen and many other shops.
Bob: We have learned in our study of geography that people cannot live in a community unless they have some way of earning a living. How did these early pioneers make a living?
Miss Lee: Bob, everyone must work if they want to earn a living and these Sharon pioneers were no exception.
In 1802, Benjamin Budd gave Sharon its first industry. Budd built a saw and grist mill on the east side of the river in the southern part of the present Sharon. The mill was operated by power furnished by a dam in the river. In 1822 Clark built a flour mill on North Water Avenue and in a few years he put in fulling and carding machinery. In 1810 coal was discovered near Sharon and at first, it was used in the homes for fuel but later it was used in the iron mills. 1846 was the outstanding year in the development of the blast furnaces. Six blast furnaces were built in the Shenango Valley to make pig iron with charcoal and native ores. In this same year Frank Allen began his experiments at the Clay Furnaces, where he succeeded in substituting coke for charcoal, and finally, in using the raw coal as a fuel, a discovery which greatly influenced Sharon’s future.
Sharon had a tremendous boom in the ‘50s. The rolling mill started in 1851 and soon was turning out forty-five tons of pig iron weekly, at a cost of $18.00 a ton.
These are just a few of the early industries that were carried on, which enabled the early settlers to earn a living.
Jane: As I look at this beautiful auditorium where we are now, it makes me want to know something about the early schools of Sharon. Miss Lee, I imagine you too are interested in the early schools.
Miss Lee: The two-million-dollar school system of today is a far cry from the first log cabin school in 1800. It was then that Thomas Rudge used the birch switch as the first teacher in the new community.
At present, there are ten public school buildings in use. The first of the schools now in use was East Ward, built about 1880, South Water Avenue and the Prospect Heights Schools in 1904, Russell Street was constructed in 1908, Jefferson Avenue in 1909, the Senior High in 1923-1924, Wengler in 1927, Junior High in 1929 and Thornton Avenue in 1929.
Daniel Hates, a Revolutionary War veteran, began teaching in 1803 in a log house erected for the purpose, on what was known as the Hoagland Place. This was one mile north of the present State Street, about the same time a log building was erected for school purposes near where the Baptist Church now stands on West State Street.
Besides these schools, there was a schoolhouse built of round logs that stood on the north side of State Street.
The first brick school in Sharon was built in 1850 near the present site of the Pennsylvania depot. In the early 1920s the building was turned into a railroad roundhouse.
Jane, as you can see, the people of Sharon have always been interested in education and want the very best for their boys and girls.
Bob: Miss Lee, they tell us the church is the greatest factor on earth for the building of character and good citizenship, and it is a storehouse of spiritual values. Without a strong church, neither democracy nor civilization can survive.
Do you think these early settlers believed this?
Miss Lee: Yes, Bob. These early settlers were very much interested in starting a church. Again history tells us that on June 24, 1804, the Baptist Church was organized with nineteen members – the Hoaglands, Morfords, Renos and the four Bentleys, and the rest of the early settlers. Morford and Hoagland were deacons. Services were held in groves, barns and houses for three years. Within a year after the church was organized, Adam Bentley, with an ox-team, went to New Jersey, four hundred miles away, to bring back Reverend Thomas Jones who was willing to come if his expenses were paid. The parsonage was a log cabin on the farm of Wayne B. Wheeler.
In 1807 William Budd donated land for the church and the graveyard. The land extended west from the present site of the First Baptist Church. Later, Mr. Budd gave an adjoining lot to the Methodists and the two lots were thrown together for the general use of the town.
Jane: I know you can’t tell us when all the churches in Sharon were established but I would like to know when the First Presbyterian Church was started. That is the one I go to.
Miss Lee: That is my church too, Jane. It was organized in 1844 with twenty-four persons present.
Bob: I go to the Sacred Heart Church. Do you know when it was organized?
Miss Lee: Why yes Bob. In 1859, a Sharon Mission was started in charge of Father Hartman. Father John O’Keefe was the first pastor named for the Sharon congregation. Services were held in the homes of members pending the erection of a rectory, after which mass was celebrated in a room in the parsonage. In 1854, the cornerstone was laid for Sacred Heart Church on a plot of ground donated by Dr. J.M. Irvine. The building was pushed rapidly because the congregation was growing steadily with the arrival of new people in town, attracted by the rapid development of the iron industry.
Jane and Bob, that is all the time I have to tell you about Sharon’s early growth but if you would like to hear more about the building of the Erie Canal and about the wonderful contributions made to the community by Mr. and Mrs. Frank Buhl, I will be only too glad to tell about them sometime again.
Announcer: Thank you Miss Lee for giving us this interesting information. I am sure we will all look forward to your next visit.
Goodbye everyone, this is station W.P.I.C. signing off for the Sharon Public Schools, which can be heard every Tuesday morning at 9:15.
–– Submitted by Eric Bombeck, (SHS 1979), South Pymatuning, PA. Transcription and photographs from WPIC Archives, courtesy of The Way It Was Newspaper.
Among the fond memories of anyone who lived in Sharpsville in the 1930s through the 1960s was that of Crick’s Pharmacy, “Home of the Famous Coffee Stir.” Crick’s was one of those old-fashioned corner drugstores with a wooden floor and pressed tin ceiling, where patent medicines were lined up behind glass-paned cupboards and a soda counter was located just inside the door to the right, complete with a “soda jerk” who prepared your drinks. Tables and chairs where placed in front of the counter where customers could relax and savor their soda fountain treats. The table tops and chair seats were round and made of wood. The legs of the tables and chairs and the chair backs were of twisted and bent iron wire. Children were not left out: One of the table-and-chair sets was adorably child-size.
Was Crick’s counter lined with upholstered swivel stools? Did the soda jerk wear a bow tie and white clothing and hat? Was there a menu listing griddle sandwiches, hot dogs and chili dogs? Or banana boats and sundaes? I don’t recall but all this was usually part of the soda fountain picture. What I do remember were ice cream sodas, milkshakes, malted milkshakes, cherry and vanilla cokes or phosphates, root beer floats and most clearly, the famous coffee stirs. The coffee stirs were so desired that my neighbors would send us kids to Crick’s with coins in hand to purchase the drinks for them as a kind of early take-out service.
(For more coffee stir memories and a recipe, see the blog, Coffee Stir, on this site. See also, Uniquely Sharpsville: The Coffee Stir, an article in the July 2017 Newsletter for the Sharpsville Area Historical Society. The story is accompanied by an image of the original recipe as well as a 1953 photograph of George Mahaney and Sid Owen at the counter of Crick’s soda fountain.)
The IOOF Temple
The history of Crick’s Pharmacy and the building it occupied, took several twists and turns. According to Ralph C. Mehler II, SAHS board member,
“It was the original Odd Fellows Temple, built in 1902 and used by the IOOF [International Order of Odd Fellows, a fraternal organization] until they constructed a new building on Walnut Street in 1912. The IOOF building stood catty-corner from the bank/Opera House at Mercer and Shenango streets. Skip Reichard ran his drugstore there [beginning c. 1915] and was the inventor of the coffee stir. When he died in 1939, his wife, Gert Knapp Reichard (sister of my great-grandmother), operated the drugstore until she sold it to Obie Cricks in 1952. She died a year later.”
Another early inhabitant of the IOOF Temple was E.W. Hawk’s Confectionery which sold, among other things, fruits, tobacco and cigars, as advertised on the window.
The Further Evolution of Crick’s
“Obie Cricks then built a new, modern drugstore across Mercer Avenue in 1960. It still served coffee stirs and had those bent wire chairs and tables in the fountain area (including child-sized ones which I fondly remember). At some point, Obie’s son Charlie took over. He then, in partnership with Dick Stigliano and Gary Garrett, formed Greenwood Pharmacy, a regional chain of drugstores. Greenwood was sold in the approximately early 1990s to a national chain [Eckhard]…which eventually became part of Rite Aid [64 N. Mercer Avenue]. You would really have to be an old-timer to refer to the current Rite Aid as ‘Crick’s.’ The IOOF building would have been torn down by the early 1970s as part of Urban Renewal.”
Other Sharpsville Pharmacies
Ralph Mehler sent these results from research on Sharpsville pharmacies in city directories in the collection of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society:
“A review of the City Directories shows that there were two pharmacies in Sharpsville for much of the 20th century. The earliest appearance I see for Fred K. Reichard is in a 1913 city directory. In a 1907 directory, at this same location was a D.H. Beck; prior to that in 1903 was an A. A. Reichard (no apparent relation to Fred, though). His competitor was McFarland’s Pharmacy located at 5 W. Main Street (where the First National Bank branch is now). About 1957 this became Zickar’s. McFarland’s was originally located in the early 1910s on N. Walnut Street. The proprietor was Robert L. McFarland, who died in 1935…. Robert’s father, Winfield S. McFarland is listed as both a physician and a druggist at 49 Main Street. I’m not sure whether this was a home-office from which he also dispensed prescriptions, or if he had a drugstore.“
More About Soda Fountains
There was a reason that soda fountains were located in drugstores. In the 1850s, people went to the drugstore for drinks that would ease or cure their ailments. At first, those drinks were used to cover the taste of the medication that would often include ingredients such as caffeine and cocaine.
Three events led to the birth of the soda fountain: In 1880 the carbonated drink was invented. Then in 1914, Congress passed a law against selling cocaine and opiates over the counter. And in 1920s Prohibition closed the bars. For these reasons, soda fountain drinks were touted as “non-intoxicating and delicious treats.”
Beginning in the 1970s, mass-produced canned soft drinks, an increasingly mobile society and prepackaged supermarket ice cream contributed to a rapid decline in the popularity of the soda fountain.
Both Reichard’s and Crick’s Pharmacies will always be highlights in the history of mid-twentieth-century Sharpsville, not only for the drugstores’ iconic coffee stirs but because they and their soda fountain represented a different kind of culture, when the booming prosperity of the post-war years helped to create a widespread sense of stability, contentment and general harmony in both large and small towns of America.
I recently had a chance to sit down with Lou Epstein, whose grandfather Nathan Rosenblum founded Golden Dawn Foods. Lou resides in Sharon, Pennsylvania, with his wife. This is his family’s story…in search of the American Dream.
In the late 1800s, Lithuania was in a time of unrest. The Russian government was impinging on the freedom of the Lithuanian: The Catholic church was under attack and the printing of anything in the Lithuanian language was banned. America, however, was becoming a shining city on a hill. Immigrants flocked into Ellis Island by the millions.
Around 1890 Nathan Rosenblum left Lithuania to come to Sharon. The iron industry in the valley was booming and jobs were plentiful. Nathan soon realized that there were small food markets all over town, but what about the people who were too far away to walk to them? There were no limitations on what you could do in America and Nathan decided he would be a peddler.
Starting with a horse and cart he would go to outlying areas of Sharon to sell fruit and other groceries and dry goods. About this time, he married Cecilia Kamenofsky and together they opened a small store on Shenango Street downtown. He would peddle while she ran the store.
Business was great and Sharon continued to grow. Then came those fateful nights in March of 1913. The river began to rise on March 24th and didn’t reach its maximum height of almost 17 feet until March 27th. The water battered the Rosenblum’s store. Nathan and his bride lost half their merchandise and watched as the Shenango River swept their piano away.
Undeterred Nathan began to wholesale foods to small local shops and markets. By 1920 he had a four-story warehouse on Silver Street, Nathanand Cecilia had 5 children and Nathan Rosenblum and Company had a bright future.
[Click on image to enlarge.]
In 1931 Nathan passed away and the wholesaler business he built was passed down to the kids. The trio of H. David Rosenblum, Oscar Ben (Cutter) Rosenblum and Sam Epstein (their brother-in-law) were to be the senior management team. In the 1930s they began to look for a new name for the business. There was a brand of flour then named Golden Dawn and it sounded like a great name. They asked permission from the company and officially changed the name from Nathan Rosenblum and Company to Golden Dawn.
After the war, in 1946, the foundation was laid for a new warehouse on Shenango Street. (In 1960 it was expanded to 40,000 square feet.) The next big step was franchising. There were many advantages to being a franchise. Stores could get the Golden Dawn brand-name food as well share the advertising in the local paper or on the radio. (Golden Dawn was one of the first advertisers on WPIC which began airing in 1938.)
Click on image to enlarge.
Franchises were a fairly new concept but Golden Dawn did it right. They had their own meat department and their own advertising department where they printed ads or anything the stores needed. There was an accounting department and later in the 1960s they kept track of it all with an IBM department. They even built their own displays and racks. The first Golden Dawn was located where the Sharon News Agency is now, across from Daffin’s Candies. Magnatto’s and Donofrio’s were two of the earliest franchises enlisted.
There were 135 stores in the Golden Dawn family at its peak. The store owners that hit their numbers could go on trips that included Paris, Monte Carlo and Acapulco.
In the very early 80s Golden Dawn was bought out by PJ Schmitt out of Buffalo. Lou Epstein was hired on by them and worked many years after for them. Then in the early 90s they went into bankruptcy and took the Golden Dawn name with them. Many stores weren’t sure if they could legally keep the name on the front of their stores so they took down the Golden Dawn signs. Today there are ten remaining stores left from the once great Golden Dawn empire: Farrell Golden Dawn, Walt’s in Mercer, Shawkey’s in Jamestown, Zatsick’s in Conneaut Lake, all in Pennsylvania. Orlando’s has 3 up on the lake in Ohio: in Jefferson and Orwell, Ohio, and in New Kensington, Pennsylvania.
Businesses like empires rise and fall. But only in a democracy like ours could a Jewish-Russian immigrant, selling fruit from a cart door-to-door, build a business that would grow into a 135-store franchise. One day the sun will set on the last Golden Dawn store, but it will continue to be true that anything is possible in this great land we live in.
— Eric Bombeck (SHS 1979), South Pymatuning, PA, May 2019
Hi, I’m excited to announce a partnership of sorts with Small Town Memories. Fellow Sharpsville alum, Ann Angel Eberhardt, has graciously agreed to add me as co-editor to her amazing site. I look forward to adding my own quirky take on growing up here in “the valley.”
I am the publishing editor of The Way It Was newspaper here in Mercer County. I also have a few radio shows on local radio stations. The Bombeck Show can be heard on Wednesday evenings at 5:00 pm (eastern) on WPIC 790 am, www.790wpic.com.
This site has always focused on growing up in Sharpsville, but after a discussion with Ann, we thought it may be time to expand the site to include stories about surrounding areas. I feel blessed to be a part of this wonderful and important site that is preserving the memories of our beloved home towns.
— Eric Bombeck
The Great Switchblade Incident of ’75
By Eric Bombeck
Almost every teacher I had at William P. Snyder Junior High in Sharpsville said some version of the following statement to me at one time or another:
“Eric…Shut up…You’re never going to get a job just talking!”
You’d think it would get better in high school, but I distinctly remember walking into homeroom my junior year and stopping cold at the door. Mrs. Fowler had literally filled the front blackboard – top to bottom – right to left – with these 3-foot high letters:
Mrs. Fowler meant nothing by it, she was just having a little fun, and I took it that way. (Maybe I’m just now realizing that when I had the chance at a job as a radio talk show host at WPIC, I took it just to prove to that somebody would pay me just to talk. But that’s off subject.)
Of course back then the world was a little more black and white. If you got outta line in school they paddled you. Simple – swift – justice. I was often at the wrong end of the “justice” being served up in my junior high years. In fact, I was paddled so many times (usually for talking) in Junior High that I could fill this paper up with stories for the rest of the year. (I went online to see what year they made paddling illegal in schools. To my surprise corporal punishment is still legal in 16 states, almost all in the south!)
This is a Junior High story about the time I wasn’t paddled!
It was the spring of 1975; I was in eighth grade. Being that there was only grades six, seven and eight in our building, eighth graders were kinda like the seniors of the building. Really immature seniors.
One day while sitting in “Buzz” Conroy’s science class on the second floor, one of the office secretaries walked into our room to make an announcement. She said, “I would like all the boys to put their hands on top of their desks right now and then stand up and follow me.” All roughly 15 guys stood up and she lead us down to the principal’s office.
Principal Jerry Tallarico acted like a tough guy, but there was a twinkle in his eye that let you know he was just doing his job, keeping the hormone-influenced mob (us) in check. He was sitting at his desk and the 15 of us were jammed into a space that could hold about 4 or 5 adults comfortably. He explained that a classmate of ours named Dave had been seen with a switchblade. He then said we were to come up in front of his desk individually and empty our pockets. The first kid, named Rob, was really nervous until Mr. Tallarico said, “I’m not interested in your cigarettes, son.” One by one each kid emptied his pockets.
I have to explain that there were some kids who were unaware of what was going on around them during these formative years. I was, however, not one of those kids. For some reason, I knew intuitively that eighth grade was the “last hurrah” of being a kid. Next year high school would be here, dances, girls… It would be time to grow up. But this was eighth grade, what’s the hurry?
Earlier in the day, the librarian had asked me to take some craft projects down and throw them away. One of the projects had dozens of little green plastic army men in it, and I of course, instead of throwing them away filled my pockets with them, jean jacket pockets included. I was a little old for them, but maybe I could take them home and blow them up with firecrackers or something.
The mood in the room was somber. After all, we were looking for a deadly weapon. Then it was my turn. As I approached Mr. Tallarico’s desk, I could see this was a pretty serious issue in his view. I started with the plastic army men in my front pockets first. Keeping with my credo of the “last hurrah” of youth, I began to set the army men up one by one on opposing sides like you would do if you were preparing for mock war. The front pockets were emptied and about 25 army men were on the front of the principal’s desk. As I was continuing to empty my pockets, I stole a glance at Mr. Tallarico. It was better than I hoped for; it was all he could do to keep from laughing. “Operation Immature” was working but there were more pockets to empty. I moved to the front jean jacket pockets and began to unload army men from them. After one jacket pocket was empty, I moved to the other one. At this point, my shtick must have been getting old. Mr. Tallarico laughing and irritated at the same time, half yelled, “ALRIGHT, I’ve seen enough of this, clear my desk.” By the look on his face, as he sat back in his chair, it seemed that the tension in the room had been broken. My job here was done.
Everybody emptied their pockets and nothing was found, so they sent us back to “Buzz” Conroy’s (the mad man of science) class.
When it was all said and done, Dave didn’t have a switchblade after all. It turned out to be a switch-comb.
When I think about those days in Junior High, I am reminded of the final line of the movie “Stand By Me,” a film about being a kid. Richard Dreyfuss says,
“I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12 …. does anyone?”
Welcome to the new home page! The long alphabetical list of titles still exists, but has been moved to another page, titled “A to Z Index.” Just click here or on “A to Z Index” in the menu at the top of the page for links to all the past blogs. Or if you’re looking for stories by a particular author, go to “Author Index.”
Meanwhile, you have quick and easy access to the latest blog which now displays at the top of the home page. You can also scroll down to see all the other blogs in reverse chronological order.
[NOTE: Please ignore the recent “Small Town Memories” notification for “Dr. Bailey’s, Horse-and-Buggy Days” which required a password. It was sent inadvertently (my fault) and the page it refers to has been deleted. I apologize for any confusion this may have caused.]
Return of THE SHARPSVILLE ADVERTISER
by Ann Angel Eberhardt
Walter Pierce’s newspaper of the 1870s, TheSharpsville Advertiser,wasn’t the only newspaper published with that name. My father, August Angel, fulfilled his dream of publishing a newspaper with the same name from 1959 until the Angel family re-located to Kentucky in 1964.
Read more about the history of Sharpsville’s newspapers in the Sharpsville Area Historical Society (SAHS) newsletter, July 2014 SAHS newsletter (vol III, no 2). SAHS has 18 editions of the first Sharpsville Advertiser and 6 of the second Sharpsville Advertiser in its collection.
How It All Began
August Angel originally learned printing skills while attending trade school during his high school years. His first job after graduation from Miami (Ohio) University in 1936 was at a boarding school located deep in the Appalachian Mountains of southeastern Kentucky. There, at the Pine Mountain Settlement School, he set up and supervised a student print shop and also taught classes in printing as well as other subjects.
After seven years at the Kentucky school and two additional years teaching printing at a high school in Dayton, Ohio, he tried his hand at other occupations. He finally returned to the printing trade in the 1950s as an assistant foreman in the composing room of The Sharon (PA) Herald newspaper.
At the same time, longing to “be his own boss,” he started a small print shop in what was then Sharpsville’s business district on North Walnut Street. As his business grew, he quit the Herald job and moved his print shop to a larger building on North Second Street in 1949. At last, he was truly his own boss.
The Sharpsville Advertiser PRINT SHOP
Before the advent of the digital revolution around the 1970s, print shops (including my Dad’s) consisted of a variety of large and noisy machines that produced small-format material, such as bills, letterheads, business cards, and envelopes. I remember Dad teaching us to feed the treadle-powered letterpress, which required quite a bit of hand-eye-and-machine coordination. My family lived in the apartment above his Second Street shop and I often fell asleep at night to the rhythmic sounds of those machines and the odors of printer’s ink and the chemicals that were used to clean the platens and type.
As demand for his print shop business grew, Dad upgraded to more automated machinery, such as linotypes, typesetting machines that cast characters in metal as a complete line rather than as individual characters. He wrote:
I had bought two linotypes from the (Sharon Herald) newspaper — one a 2-magazine and the other a 3-magazine. The company was selling these because of its transition to recently improved technology in typesetting – the change from lead casters to film exposure and chemicals.
…These were added to the shop’s Ludlow “Kelly B” press, that could print a 17 x 22-inch page, … a 2-hand-fed C&P press … and a windmill 10 x 15 Heidelberg, the second Heidelberg to be installed in the State of Pennsylvania.
About that Heidelberg press: Dad saw its potential when he was treated to a personal demonstration of the machine in front of his shop. The Heidelberg was brought in a special van with extension cables that were connected to a local plug. The demonstration showed how this new kind of press could print a job much faster, more precisely and more smoothly than any other machine. (Its innovative “windmill” feature is described here.)
Heidelberg printing press, c. 1950s.
Pat Angel in the crate that originally contained the Heidelberg press, 1954.
(Click on image to enlarge.)
Dad was sold on the Heidelberg and ordered one from the German maker (which is now known as Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG) for around $2,200. It arrived at the print shop on a flatbed truck in June 1954, encased in a large wooden crate and accompanied by a man who stayed several days with my family to reassemble it since it had to be taken apart to get it into the print shop. Then he proceeded to instruct Dad in its operation.
We all enjoyed the Heidelberg man’s presence, particularly when he bought ice cream and peanuts for us children. Once the crate was emptied, he changed it into a playhouse for my younger brother Pat. About a year later it was re-built to fit on the branches of our backyard tree and used as a treehouse for my older brother, Mike, and his gang.
The Sharpsville Advertiser NEWSPAPER
The weekly paper that Dad started is described in “A Look Back: Sharpsville’s Newspapers” July 2014 SAHS newsletter (vol III, no 2) as one of “[p]urely local news, with an anodyne reportage perhaps in keeping with the placid days of the Eisenhower era.”
Dad wrote only a little about this venture in his memoir but did provide this information:
A source of great satisfaction to me in the printing trade was the weekly tabloid I christened “The Sharpsville Advertiser,” a 4 to 8-page newspaper, sans editorials with the same name as my shop. It was the summary of local news events that had occurred during the week, up to the time of the press run. Readers liked to see their names in print, and the advertising by merchants paid handsomely for all expenses incurred in its production. These included the weekly salary of a disgruntled printer from The Sharon Herald who joined me as a linotype operator and general makeup floor man, as well as a full-time pressman who operated the three impression machines – Kelly B., Heidelberg, and hand-fed.
Dad doesn’t mention it in his memoir, but he must have known that the origins of the name for his shop, and then his newspaper, dated back approximately eight decades to the newspaper started by Walter Pierce, the son of James Pierce who was an important figure in Sharpsville’s early history.
The Sharpsville Advertiser’s FIRST ISSUE
April 9, 1959, must have been an exciting day for Dad, as the Kelly B press churned out the first issues of his newspaper. In the upper left corner of the first page is an introduction, stating that it is “A Newspaper Of, By and For Residents of Sharpsville.” In keeping with SAHS’s adjective, “anodyne,” it provides these objectives:
This paper has no axes to grind. Rather, its objective will be to promote a harmonious aid among residents of our community by giving them a better understanding of the community’s accomplishments and problems. This harmonious air will be a giant step toward progress that will make a better Sharpsville and thereby heighten its stature in a better Shenango Valley.
This paper will take no sides in controversy, either political or otherwise, but will tend to present an unbiased factual report in its news columns.
However, this paper will afford citizens of the community an opportunity of voicing their own individual view on controversial matters or other issues through letters that will be published in an “editor’s Mail” column. Your letters are invited.
AUGUST ANGEL, Editor and Publisher.
The following images are the first two pages of volume 1, number 1, of The Sharpsville Advertiser:
The Sharpsville (PA) Advertiser, Vol. 1 #1, page 1, 1959.
The Sharpsville (PA) Advertiser, Vol. 1 #1, page 2, 1959.
(Click on image to enlarge.)
The Sharpsville Advertiser: MEMORIES
Dad’s newspaper lasted from 1959 until our family left Sharpsville in 1964. During the period of its existence, I was attending Allegheny College in Meadville, PA, but Dad was still recruiting me when I visited home, as well as people in the neighborhood and other family members to assist in its production. We collated and hand-folded the pages before he purchased a folding machine. We distributed the issues throughout the town and attached mailing labels to the newspapers for mailing out-of-town. (The first several issues were complementary, followed by an annual charge of $3.00). And we solicited ads from local businesses.
James Jovenall, a high school classmate (SHS 1958), was among those in the community who were hired to help out. He wrote in a Comment to the January 2015 blog, “Ritz Theater III”:
I also worked for your father for a short while selling ads for the Sharpsville Advertiser. All good memories.
His mention of ads triggered my memory of ad-running:
I’m pleased to know that ad-running for my dad’s newspaper was one of your good memories. I also held that job for a summer during college years, probably around 1960. I walked all over Sharpsville’s business district, visiting owners of banks, restaurants, dry cleaners, funeral homes, pharmacies, insurance agencies, bars, and various other small shops, asking them if they would buy or renew their ads, and if so, the size and information they wished to display. It wasn’t the easiest job for the timid person that I was and I particularly felt uncomfortable entering those dark, smoky, males-only bars looking for the owner. But, yes, it’s a fond memory now.
The Sharpsville Advertiser: FINAL YEARS
In 1964, my father along with my mother and younger brother left Sharpsville to return to a small village in Kentucky, where my mother was born and still had an extended family. Not one to take a break and with printer’s ink still in his blood, Dad set up a much-needed print shop deep in the southeastern Appalachian mountains.
The Kentucky shop was a great success for many years. In the early 1980s, he sold it to his co-founder and finally retired to a log house on a farm in London, Kentucky, where his two sons and their families also lived and are still there to this day.
In June of 1967, Dad sold the Sharpsville shop for $15,400 to a couple who continued the print shop business. They ran it until 1967 when their premises were raided by the FBI, State Police and local police after a three-month-long investigation. The couple was charged with printing football and basketball tickets for sports lotteries but they quickly left town before they were to appear in court. That most likely ended the business of printing on North Second Street.
Eventually, the building that held the print shop was occupied by an entirely different business, Cattron Communications, until 2010 when it was acquired by Laird Technologies. As of 2017, the building has been occupied by Webb Winery which features a tasting room and a cafe.
— Ann Angel Eberhardt (SHS 1958), Goodyear, AZ, March 2019.
This year’s winter storms bring to mind the major storms of the past that many of us in northwest Pennsylvania have endured. One of those was The Big Snow of 1950, more widely known as “The Great Appalachian Storm of 1950.” Local recollections of this massive “extratropical cyclone,” as the weather experts called it, were published on “Small Town Memories” in 2017.
Here is a captivating story about The Big Snow as experienced in South Pymatuning, PA, researched and written by Eric Bombeck. Appreciation of the cozy warmth of your own home will greatly increase as you imagine the trials of the Trump family and their rescue by some very brave, selfless and resourceful men and boys.
The Big Snow of 1950: Saving the Trumps
By Eric Bombeck, February 2019
The Sharon (PA) Herald, Wednesday, November 27, 1950, front page.
On Thanksgiving day 1950, it started snowing in the valley. It didn’t quit snowing until late Saturday. In total, a little less than three feet fell in the Shenango Valley. It became known as “The Big Snow” and before it was over, it killed 250 people and caused 66 million dollars in damage in 22 states. The storm was, in essence, a very rare inland hurricane with gale force winds, causing 5-8 foot drifts.
In town, everything stopped. Workers stuck at Westinghouse worked 36-hour shifts because no one else could get to work or find a place to park even if they could get there. The brand new Shenango Inn was slated to open that weekend but had to be delayed. The roof in a hangar at Chadderton Airport collapsed damaging four planes. Longtime podiatrist, Dr. Leonard Pleban, who was in practice until a few years ago, was going to open his office that Friday but was snowed out. Richard Fahnline was a board operator at WPIC radio that year. He recalls that the only way he could get to work at the station was to walk there. During the 72 hours after the storm, the station became the nerve center of the valley. The skeleton crew there slept in the building in 3-hour shifts, taking to the airwaves to help with one emergency after another.
Getting to the Trump Family
By Sunday, the valley was paralyzed by the snow and word came into WPIC that, out in South Pymatuning, the Trump family was trapped in their house on River Road (near where Joe’s Greenhouse is now). The Trumps, whose six kids were between the ages two and fourteen, were out of coal and nearly out of food.
The Big Snow of 1950. Source: Lori Haney, Facebook.
The Big Snow of 1950. In front of Dalos Nut Shop, Sharon, PA. Source: The Sharon Herald.
The Big Snow of 1950. Chestnut Street, Sharon, PA. Source: The Sharon Herald.
[Click on image to see an enlargement.]
In Sharon, Humane Society agent Russell Pass was listening to WPIC when he heard about the Trumps. His job was to protect animals, but sometimes you have to make the hard decisions in life, the right decisions. (Maybe even the decision that will get written about 68 years later!) Russell decided that he would take the Trumps enough supplies to get them through until the worst was over. It was late evening and he reasoned he would be home at his regular bedtime. But there was one problem: his station wagon was in his garage, which happened to be blocked by a 6-foot snow drift. He called Sharon city street foreman Ray Stuart who showed up with a bulldozer to clear his drive.
Road crews were not equipped with modern day plows back then and getting to the Trumps all the way out in South Pymatuning wasn’t going to be easy. Russell needed help, he gathered a few volunteers and headed out North Water Avenue. They got as far as Meyers Hill (where the Sharon shooting range is) and the roads became impassable. There was no choice but to hike the rest of the way. Some of the guys carried sacks of coal on their backs while others carried food.
Evacuating the Trumps
Almost an hour of trudging through the waist deep snow finally brought them to the Trump house. When they got there a new surprise awaited them: Mrs. Trump was pregnant with her seventh child. She and the whole family needed to be evacuated. There was no way Mrs. Trump could walk out in 3 feet of snow. Russell Pass decided that there was only one way to get her out…they needed a toboggan.
A phone call was made to WPIC and the weary on-air personalities announced that a toboggan was needed. At the same time, some high school kids were sled riding on the east hill of State Street in front of the Buhl Club. While the boys were warming up at the gas station (near the current site of Daffins), the police, who were tuned to WPIC, came in and asked to borrow the toboggan. Most of the crew were members of the junior class at Sharon that year, many of them Sharon football players. Not only did the guys give up their toboggan, but they also offered to make the trip out to save the Trumps. Back in South Py, Russell Pass began the long trek through the snow back to his car at the foot of Meyers Hill when the police gave the boys a ride to meet him. Then they all ventured back through the snow to the Trump house. By the time they reached the Trumps, it was in the wee hours of the morning.
Mrs. Trump and her family were all dressed in their warmest clothes and the whole crew headed out towards Russell’s station wagon in the middle of the night. Mrs. Trump was lashed to the toboggan and some of the football players carried some of the younger children as they trekked through the high snow back to the station wagon. History doesn’t record who carried the Trumps’ two dogs all the way back but it’s a pretty good bet that Humane Society agent Russell Pass was carrying one of them.
The Trump Family: Rescued!
Finally, the whole crew reached the station wagon. The Trump family was taken to Mrs. Trump’s mother’s house on Grant Street, very thankful to be safe. Russell Pass then drove his trusty station wagon back to the foot of Myers Hill to pick up the boys to take them home. Russell missed his bedtime by just a little bit…it was 8:30 Sunday morning by the time he got home. “The Big Snow” would take many lives that weekend, but not these lives, not on Russell Pass’s watch.
I spoke with Jean Trump Goodhart, one of the Trump children, who was involved in the rescue in 1950. Jean lives only about a mile from her old homestead. When I asked her about that night, she told me she had to rely on her older sister’s memory of the events. Jean actually rode out of trouble that night on the toboggan…but you say wait…Mrs. Trump rode out on the toboggan! Yes, that’s true. You may have already guessed that it was Jean who Mrs. Trump was pregnant with on that legendary night of ‘The Big Snow” in 1950.
Helping with the rescue that night were Richard Heile, Herman Weller, William Pringle, Bob and Bill Weber, Jim Morrison, Dave Bestwick, Andrew Mazuda, Gene Goodnight, Eric Charles and William Wilson.
For other personal narratives about this epic snow event, go to Big Snow of 1950.
Eric Bombeck (Sharpsville High School 1979) lives in South Pymatuning, PA, and publishes The Way It Was Newspaper. Check it out on Facebook: “The Way It Was — Newspaper Companion Page.” He also hosts the weekly “Bombeck Show” on WPIC-AM, Wednesdays at 5:00 pm, 790-AM, orhttp://www.790wpic.com.
This is the last in a 3-part series on finding one’s roots. In this story, Sharpsville’s Gary Conti visits his father’s hometown in Pofi, Italy, and makes many joyful discoveries. If you are inspired to research your own family’s history, a good place to start is familysearch.com. Give it a try and, if your search brings interesting results, tell us about it!
A lifelong desire of mine was to visit Italy and finally the dream was coming true: the date for departure was set for October 10, 2007.
One of the most exciting time of my life was during the months leading up to the trip. Preparations may have been a lot of work, but work that was both fun and rewarding. When Tony, the man from Pofi who had emailed me in January, called me the first time, we became friends during our hour-long conversation. Later, he called while on a business trip from Toronto to Cleveland and we arranged to meet at the Quality Inn on Route 18 in Hermitage, Pennsylvania (previously known as Hickory). As he pulled into the parking lot there were many people around but when he got out of the car and saw me, he seemed to know who I was. I asked how he knew and his response floored me. He said, “You have the facial features of Pofi!” Wow!
He went on to say that family research had been his hobby for many years but, until he found the Scurpa family that he was looking for, he had never heard of Sharpsville. That changed fast. As we exchanged emails and did research for my planned trip to Italy, he could see as I did the ship manifests of person after person from Pofi and surrounding towns who listed Sharpsville as their final stop. He didn’t have much time because he had to make a meeting in Cleveland so we soon parted, promising to keep in touch.
We’re Off to Pofi, Italy
In red: Province of Frosinone in which the Comune di Pofi, Italy, is located.
Finally, October 10th came and my wife and I were off for 10 days in Italy. I am not a good flyer after a very bad flight from Arizona to Pittsburgh back in 1988. This time, the meds I was told would put me to sleep never did a thing, so I watched two classic movies, Niagara with Marilyn Monroe and The Roaring Twenties with James Cagney, twice each to help the time go by.
Finally, we landed in Holland and ran to the gate to catch a final flight to Rome aboard Air Sweden. We arrived in Rome late morning and I thought it looked like any other city and was not impressed at first.That changed when the lights came on at night! Everything lit up, The Trevi Fountain, Spanish steps, every place in the city just seemed to come alive at night.
We ate at a cafe that looked like we had seen it before and eventually we figured out why. It was the cafe early in the movie Roman Holiday, so now I watch that movie whenever I can for the memories of the trip.
Then came the trip of 60-plus miles south to Pofi on a double-decker train, a kind of transport that I’d never experienced before. As we approached the area of Pofi, the first thing I wondered was why would anybody leave this amazing beauty to come to Sharpsville? It was everything you think of in the Italian countryside: beautiful massive mountains everywhere with whole towns built up the sides. It would be like standing in the middle of Sharpsville and seeing every town around it at once. Amazing!
We were enjoying the view so much we missed our stop and ended up at the other side of Pofi. We were in trouble, like being out in Hartford, Ohio, and wanting to be in Sharpsville with no car! I went into a little store and began trying to explain what our issue was and starting to tell my surname and those of others from Sharpsville. We had a ride in seconds.
Arrival in Pofi
My wife Kimberly and I as tourists in Pofi, Italy, 2007.
I just wonder if we were the only Americans to visit Italy and end up being taken to our destination by a Russian because that is just what happened. Thank God she spoke English! We were dropped off at my friend Tony’s home on the same property that held his restaurant and inn. He was back in Canada by this time but his family put up the welcome sign and offered food. People from around the town heard of our arrival and started coming to see us.
The food, as great as it was in Rome, was a step up in Pofi: peppers from the garden, pasta carbonara, salads with wine, limoncello (a lemon liqueur)and a brandy I’d never heard of called Grappa (Italian moonshine!) I wasn’t seeing very clearly after a couple of drinks. And this was just the lunch! After we spent a few hours at Tony’s house, we arranged that I return in three days for a trip to the town of Pofi to visit Tony’s son and the Comune.
A Visit to the Comune di Pofi
This time I traveled by myself. It was very early in the morning and I couldn’t help thinking how people that lived in Pofi could take a train to work in Rome every morning. How great would it be to do that from Sharpsville to Pittsburgh! This time I got off at the right station in the beautiful town of Ceccano. On the mountain by the tracks sat a church 1200 years old!
As I looked around I realized I had another issue. The plan was for me to call Tony’s son from a pay phone, a convenience that was still around in Italy. The problem was they did not operate like the ones I had known back in the States. I was stuck again. I started walking around looking for help when an Italian woman asked me, Gary Conti from Sharpsville, for directions. Wow! I couldn’t help her but she helped me by finding someone to assist me with the phone.
When Tony’s son picked me up at the station and took me right into old Pofi, we did what all Italians do first: Go to a cafe for espresso.
What an amazing town! Old cobblestone streets with alleys running between homes and a medieval tower with a clock at top of a hill. Nothing like that in the Shenango Valley for sure! This day the town was having an Italian-style flea market and people were everywhere.
We went to the comune (municipality office) where Tony’s son introduced me to whomever came in. I worked at the time for UPS and when an Italian UPS driver came in and was told I was a co-worker he smiled and laughed.
A street in Pofi, Italy. [Source: Pinterest.com.]
From there the clerk took us to a rack on a wall with books of surnames on the side and said, as he helped a man renew his driver record, to look them over and see if I see a name I know. Immediately I saw Conti, Gori, Campoli, Fornelli, Depofi, Molinari, DeQuili (DeJulia) Campagna, Rossi, and on and on. Every single book had names with ties to Sharpsville and were names I had known forever.
Another thing I found out that day was that Pofi had other things in common with Sharpsville. Pofi’s population (about 4,200 inhabitants) was almost right on the button with us. The town and the outlying area reminded me so much of both our town and South Pymatuning. The landscape changed from town to rural area in just seconds.
One of the men then told me something that surprised me. He said that as many people who made the trip to America and never returned, there almost as many who worked a few years and returned to Pofi and bought property. He told me that I was without question looking at some land that was bought with money made in the mills of Sharpsville. That was something that I had never thought about.
The Journey Continues
The next few days marked the end of the trip. I really hated to leave. The people of Pofi had given me bottles of homemade wine that somehow made it back through customs and did not break and did not last long back home.
Since that trip, I keep finding new information. About a year ago at work, I received a call on my cell phone from Tony. He was helping someone in Ceccano, Italy, who had deeds with family names but did not know the location of the place in America they had moved to. Tony took a look and told her that he not only knew where this town called Sharpsville was but knew someone who lived there! He gave me a name I did not know. When I searched for it on the internet using Google, I learned that it was again a well-known name in Sharpsville with the Italian spelling. The names on the deeds were Gabe Develli and his sister! Gabe was a friend of my father’s and his son Tony and I played basketball on the championship team at St. Bartholomew’s together. It goes on!