Small Town Memories

Exploring the history of SHENANGO VALLEY, PA, one story at a time.

Category: Biography

PETE JOYCE, Community Leader & Isaly’s Owner

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

One thing that always reminds me of Pete Joyce from the 1950s is chicken noodle soup.

“And what are we having for lunch today?” asked the tall waiter in a white apron as he advanced from behind the counter holding a receipt pad and pencil. “Chicken noodle soup, please!” answered one of the two children seated in the store’s red upholstered booth. It was the same question and the same answer each weekday for four months. 

[Peter Joyce, January 4, 1956. Excerpt from a photo in The Sharon (Pa.) Herald]

The waiter chose two small cans labeled Heinz’s Chicken Noodle Soup from a shelf, then heated and served this warm and savory lunch along with packets of crisp soda crackers. The children were my brother Mike and myself. (My nine-year-old reasoning was that if we tried any other soup, we may not like it and then go hungry for the rest of the afternoon.) We paid 15 cents for each bowl. The patient and accommodating waiter was Pete Joyce, owner of Isaly’s Dairy on the corner of Main and Third streets, Sharpsville, PA.

This daily routine was occurring in the fall of 1949, during a time when my family was preparing to move about six miles from Wheatland to Sharpsville. Because the remodeling of our new Second Street home and printshop wasn’t completed by September, my parents thought my brother and I should begin the 1949-1950 school year at Robison School in Sharpsville in any case. That meant that we had to commute by public bus (including transfer to a second bus on State Street in Sharon) to attend fourth (my brother) and fifth grades with a break for lunch, ours being at Isaly’s. After school we would meet my dad, who ran a printshop on Walnut Street, and the three of us would return to Wheatland. This commute lasted until we finally moved into our new residence just before Christmas. 

[“Isaly Dairy Co. 306 W. Main Street, Sharpsville, with manager Frank Porter holding grandson Larry Shannon, June 1939.” Photo courtesy of Sharpsville Area historical Society.]

There were a few other direct connections between my family and Mr. Joyce that I can recall. Approximately six years later, Pete Joyce, by then a former burgess and now councilman, swore in three new members of the Sharpsville Council. One of those members was August Angel, my dad. 

[Above: THREE NEW COUNCILMEN FOR SHARPSVILLE — Three men joined Sharpsville’s seven-member borough council last night, when Burgess Peter Joyce, second from left, administered the oath of office to G. Raymond Hittle, D., Clair Osborne, D., and August Angel, R. (hands upraised, left to right). They will serve four-year terms. Looking on at left is the new council president, Maurice Nelson, D. Source: The Sharon (Pa.) Herald, January 4, 1956, p. 12.]

In 1961, Pete Joyce and my dad, “two veteran Sharpsville political personalities,” according to a Sharon Herald article, were unopposed for their party’s nomination for burgess at the May primary elections. Pete Joyce, a Democrat, won the election in November, replacing the retiring Burgess George D. Mahaney.

Throughout our years in Sharpsville my family continued to shop at Isaly’s, purchasing such items as milk and cream and Isaly’s iconic skyscraper cones, chipped chopped ham, Klondikes and half-gallon brick-shaped ice cream in delicious flavors such as Neapolitan (layers of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry) and White House Cherry (vanilla mixed with Maraschino cherries). Mr. Joyce wasn’t always the waiter since he hired young teens to help out.

My younger brother, Pat, recalls that the first hamburger he ever ate was at Isaly’s. Pat says he can still see Pete Joyce in a white waiter’s hat and apron serving him a sizzling patty of ground beef between slices of a round white bun with a dill pickle on the side and squeeze bottles of ketchup and mustard for the taking. The cost of the hamburger was 25 cents.

[Above: This Canonsburg, PA, 1950 Isaly’s store-front looks very much like Sharpsville’s Isaly’s in the 1950s. Source: Brian Butko’s The Story of Isaly’s: Klondikes, Chipped Ham, & Skyscraper Cones, Stackpole Books, 2001.]

I seldom eat canned chicken noodle soup these days except as my comfort food when I have a bad cold. But the chicken-broth odor and salty taste of that soup still bring to mind Isaly’s and Pete Joyce, the man who was mayor of Sharpsville in the 1950s and 60s.

Pete Joyce: SERVICES AND HONORS

All the while that Pete Joyce owned and operated Isaly’s, an early type of convenience store that provided the community with deli and dairy products, magazines and comic books, and other everyday items, he also tirelessly served in a variety of political, governmental, civil and church endeavors. 

After graduation from Sharpsville High School in 1929, he attended the former Shenango Valley Commercial Institute in Sharon, PA. He first entered politics when serving on the Sharpsville Area School Board in 1940, while, according to the 1940 U.S. Census, he was an A&P store manager. 

His first and second terms on the board were interrupted by World War II. Joyce enlisted in the U.S. Army on January 28, 1942, and served four years as a captain of the Army Truck Company 3891 and was awarded the Bronze Star.

After his war years, Joyce was councilman and mayor of Sharpsville for numerous terms, ending his political career as Mercer County Commissioner. According to The Herald, March 22, 2001,

He followed [his military service] with 18 years as a borough official, including terms as burgess and then mayor from 1953 through 1957 and 1961 through 1969. Joyce also was elected in 1958 and again in 1976 as county commissioner. In 1962 he came within 3,000 votes of being elected to Congress.

“Sharpsville: Hibernians tap Joyce for honor.” The (Sharon) Herald, March 22, 2001

Joyce was a member of many other boards throughout the years. He was a board member of Catholic Charities (for 50 years); the former McDowell Bank (now National City); the Buhl Trustees; Mercer County Board of Elections; and chairman of the board of the Mercer County Area Agency on Aging Inc. He was a member of the Catholic Social Service Club for many years and president of its advisory board. 

He initiated the formation of a pension fund for borough employees and donated his own salary to it. He led efforts that resulted in the establishment of the Mercer County Regional Council of Governments and the Shenango Valley Regional Planning Commission (now Mercer County Regional Planning Commission). He also belonged to the Pennsylvania Economy League. In 1973 he was appointed regional municipal services officer for PennDOT. 

His participation in many other philanthropic and service organizations included a 40-year membership with the Sharpsville Service Club and its past president, chair of the Community Chest (now United Way), as well as a member of the Pennsylvania Economic League. Mr. Joyce was a fundraiser for Kennedy Christian High School in Hermitage, PA, which was established in 1964 and since 2001 is known as Kennedy Catholic High School. 

He was a lifelong member of  St. Bartholomew Church in Sharpsville where he was a Confraternity of Christian Doctrine teacher of young people. He eventually became the church’s oldest male parishioner. In addition, he served as president of the former Mercer County Holy Name Society.

As a member of the Mercer County Historical Society, Joyce was respected for his knowledge of Mercer County history and genealogy. According to his obituary in The Herald

He was fascinated by history, especially of the local area, Thomas Jefferson and the Civil War. He often acted as a source of information for others with similar interests.

“Pete Joyce” Obituary. The (Sharon) Herald, March 22, 2006

Pete Joyce was named “Man of the Year” by Shenango Valley Jaycees and Shenango Valley Junior Chamber of Commerce. In 1977, he was named outstanding Democrat of the year by Reynolds Area 2 Democrats. The date of February 2, 1980, was declared “Peter J. Joyce Day” by local mayors. These and many other tributes show the high esteem that the community held for a man who had a vivid sense of duty to his church, community and country and an indefatigable love of work! 

Pete Joyce: FAMILY BACKGROUND

According to the U.S. Censuses, Joyce’s grandparents, Peter M. Joyce (c.1868-1940) and Nora Murray Joyce (c.1865-1950) immigrated from Ireland in c. 1893 and were among many who were attracted to Pennsylvania by opportunities for work in the steel mills and on the railroads. 

Pete Joyce was born in Sharpsville on April 11 1911, the youngest of six children: Bridget, Mary (1901-1981), Patrick J. (1903-1979), Norah (Nora? 1906-1918), Catharine F. (1909-2002), and Peter (1911-2006).

The 1920, 1930 and 1940 U.S. Censuses record the family as living on Walnut Street in Sharpsville, next door to the Biggins family whose recent ancestors were also from Ireland. James A., one of the Biggins children and close to Pete Joyce’s age, became one of Sharpsville’s well-known and fondly remembered medical doctors. Next door to the Biggins lived George F. Mahaney and his family. George F. was the son of George D. Mahaney, a longtime Sharpsville burgess who was succeeded by Joyce in 1961.

On May 5, 1943, Pete Joyce married Madeline Lucille (O’Connor). They had two daughters, Madeline and Patricia, and a son, Thomas P. Joyce.

Peter (“Pete”) J. Joyce died on March 17, 2006, at the age of 94, and was buried in Saint Mary’s Cemetery in Heritage, PA, where he joined other deceased Joyce family members, including his wife Madeline who died in 2000 at the age of 88.

— Ann Angel Eberhardt (SHS 1958), Goodyear, AZ. 

See Also:
ISALY’S DAIRY
The RELUCTANT POLITICIAN
DR. BAILEY’S SHARPSVILLE 1920s, Part I & Part II

Sources

Butko, Brian. Klondikes, Chipped Ham & Skyscraper Cones: The Story of Isaly’s. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2001. Print.

“Find A Grave Index,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVL2-WH8Q : accessed 16 January 2020), Peter J. Joyce, ; Burial, Hermitage, Mercer, Pennsylvania, Saint Marys Cemetery; citing record ID 97764525, Find a Grave, http://www.findagrave.com. Internet resource.

“PETE JOYCE (Peter J. Joyce 1911-2006).” Obituary in The (Sharon) Herald, Mar 22, 2006. 

“SHARPSVILLE: Hibernians tap Joyce for honor.” The (Sharon) Herald, March 22, 2001. 

“United States Census, 1920,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M6YJ-T4Y : accessed 16 January 2020), Peter Joyce in household of Peter Joyce, Hickory, Mercer, Pennsylvania, United States; citing ED 88, sheet 14A, line 22, family 284, NARA microfilm publication T625 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1992). Internet resource.

“United States Census, 1930,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9RZX-977?cc=1810731&wc=QZFW-ZW7%3A649490601%2C649589501%2C650224201%2C1589282491 : accessed 16 January 2020), Pennsylvania > Mercer > Sharpsville > ED 72 > image 30 of 34; citing NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002). Internet resource.

“United States Census, 1940,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KQCK-8CC : accessed 16 January 2020), Peter J Joyce in household of Peter M Joyce, Ward 2, Sharpsville, Sharpsville Borough, Mercer, Pennsylvania, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 43-83, sheet 4A, line 16, family 60 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration). Internet resource.


WADE D. MERTZ, Contractor & Burgess

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

In the 1950s while I was growing up in Sharpsville, “Wade D. Mertz & Son” was the well-known name of a store where my dad bought lumber and other building needs.

Today, some 60-plus years later, Wade D. Mertz Towers is an 8-story senior housing apartment building on South Mercer Avenue, built in 1976 on the grounds of the former Deeter Elementary School.

Who was Wade D. Mertz? As evidenced by an article in the 1924 “Sharpsville’s Golden Anniversary” Supplement to The Sharon Telegraph, the Mertz name has been known in Sharpsville for more than 100 years! And Wade D. Mertz contributed even more than a building supplies store to the history of our small town. Check out his story below as it appeared in the “Golden Anniversary Supplement,” as the store was remembered by my brother, and as it comes together through a bit of genealogical research.


Wade D. Mertz, Contractor, Is Active in All Civic Affairs; Was Formerly Burgess

Is Also Interested in Other Lines to Boost Sharpsville

[Source: “Sharpsville’s Golden Anniversary” Supplement to The Sharon (PA) Telegraph, June 7, 1924, page 8.]

Wade D. Mertz, Sharpsville’s leading contractor, a former burgess and once head of the Improvement Association, is one of the community’s most prominent citizens and has long been interested in the town’s progress.

In his late ‘teens, he learned the carpenter trade and worked for several years as a builder.

He was elected burgess of Sharpsville in 1914 and served a two-year term. For two years he was president of the Sharpsville improvement association. With the organization of the Sharpsville Motor Club a few months ago, Mertz was named a member of the board of governors and is highly interested in the affairs of the organization.

In politics he is a staunch Democrat and has long been interested in the affairs of his party, local, county and state.

Fraternally he is a member of the Odd Fellows and Elks.

As a contractor and dealer in builders’ supplies, he has been highly successful, having one of the largest yards in this locality.

Wade D. Mertz & Son: A Fond Memory

Patrick Angel (SHS 1960-1964) submitted the following story, recalling the kindly help he received as a 10-year-old from a Wade D. Mertz & Son employee. Since then he’s often wondered whether that accommodating employee was actually Wade D. Mertz or his son.

In 1960, while studying arithmetic in the sixth grade at Pebly Elementary, Mr. McQuarter (we called him “Mr. McTwoBits”) assigned us a project to somehow visualize 1 cubic foot. He gave us a hint: We could complete our assignment with paper or clay or wood. 

I went to the lumber yard on Fourth and Main streets, told the gentleman who was in charge of the store about my assignment, and asked if he could saw a piece of wood for me that was 1 foot wide, 1 foot long and 1 foot high. I made the request without thinking that there might be a price to pay for such a request. The man told me to come back the next day after school.

I returned the next afternoon to find that the nice man had sawed out 12 pieces of wood that were exactly 1 foot square and 1 inch thick. (Now, as an adult, I realize that he took a 1-inch-thick x 12-inch-wide x 12-foot- long board and sawed it into 12 equal pieces.) On the counter in the store, he demonstrated for me that when the 12 pieces were stacked on top of each other, it made a block of wood that was exactly 1 cubic foot in volume.

Then the man asked in a gentle voice for me to guess the number of cubic inches that were contained in the cubic foot of wood that he had cut for me. When I guessed incorrectly several times, he turned over one of the 12 pieces that he had cut to reveal 144 one-inch squares neatly drawn with a pencil on the surface. He said that each little square represented 1 cubic inch. He showed me how to calculate the number of cubic inches in the single piece of wood by multiplying the number of cubic inches on two sides (12 x 12 = 144). Then he showed me how to calculate the number of cubic inches in all 12 pieces stacked on each other to form the 1-cubic-foot block (144 x 12 = 1728).

He did not mention a charge or ask for a payment. He simply put the 12 pieces of wood in a large paper bag for me, patted me on the head and sent me off to school with my math assignment completed and a lesson so well learned that when I went off to college to study forestry I had no problem visualizing the difference between a lumber man’s “board foot” versus a mathematician’s “cubic foot.”

Patrick Angel, London, KY.

Wade D. Mertz: Family Background

Wade D. Mertz was born on December 7, 1878, to Henry Mertz, a carpenter, and Emaline (Emma) Mertz. At the time of his birth, he had four sisters ranging in age from eight to 17 (Frances, Cora, Naoma, and Austy A.). A younger brother, Norman H., was born c. 1881. The family lived on Seventh Street where Mertz appears to have lived the rest of his life.

At age 22, Mertz was listed in the 1900 U.S. Census as a “laborer, blast furnace,” but by the time he married Minnie Florence Godward in October 1909, he was a contractor, an occupation more closely related to his father’s carpentry work. (Minnie, born in Lowellville, PA, in 1877, was living in Sharpsville and working as a clerk when she married Mertz.)

[Wade B. (sic) Mertz advertisement in The Sharon (PA) Telegraph‘s supplement celebrating Sharpsville’s Golden Anniversary. June 7, 1924, page 2.]

In approximately 1914, the couple had a son, Robert Henry Mertz. As of 1917-1918, Mertz’s lumber supply business was located on Fourth Street.

Four years before the Sharon Telegraph article above, the United States Census of 1920 shows that Wade Mertz, a contractor/builder, continued to live on Seventh Street in Sharpsville, along with Minnie, Robert and his widowed mother, Emma, age 79.

By the time Wade D. Mertz registered for service in World War II in 1942, his business, “Wade D. Mertz & Son” was located at 432 Main Street. The “son” was Robert who, with his wife, Elizabeth Stuart Bradshaw Mertz (1914-1991), also lived on Seventh Street.

Wade D. Mertz died in November 1971 at age 93. His son Robert Mertz died in 1992. Whether through politics or their commercial enterprise, both father and son have left a long legacy of service to Sharpsville, Pennsylvania.


Wade D. Mertz and his business have been mentioned in other Small Town Memories blogs. “Dr. Bailey’s Sharpsville 1920s, Part II” recreates Pete Joyce’s talk describing 1920s Sharpsville in honor of Dr. Nelson Bailey’s arrival in town at that time. Among the thriving businesses at the time, Joyce mentions that “Wade Mertz was doing some building and selling coal and feed, etc.” In the 1954 description of a fire that destroyed Welch House on Main Street, “Mertz lumber yard” is named as a neighboring building. The Deeter Elementary School blog refers to (and has an image of) Mertz Towers, which replaced the school building in 1976.

(NOTE: If you have memories of Wade D. Mertz or the Wade D. Mertz & Son lumber yard, please share them with us. Enter them in the Comments box below or send them — and any photos — to bissella9@hotmail.com.)

— Ann Angel Eberhardt (SHS 1958), Goodyear, AZ
and Patrick Angel (SHS 1960-1964, London, KY


SOURCES:
“Sharpsville’s Golden Anniversary.” Supplement to the Sharon (PA) Telegraph, June 7, 1924. Courtesy of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society. Internet resource.

U.S. Censuses 1880, 1900, 1920, 1930, 1940. Databases with images, FamilySearch.org. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration. Internet resource.

U.S. Social Security Death Index, U.S. WWI Draft Registration Card, Marriage License dockets, 1885-1905, U.S. WWII Draft Registration Card, 1942, and FamilySearch Pedigree Tree. Databases with images, FamilySearch.org. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration. Internet resource.


UPDATES:
Several updates have been made to past blogs on “Small Town Memories.” Asterisks (*) indicate changes made to the following stories: “Main Street Memories,” “Angel’s Casino: The Early Years,” and “The Reluctant Politician.” Also, two stray Comments have been added to “ARCHIVE: Comments” under “About (Introduction).”


THE TWO GEORGE MAHANEYS Part II

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

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.
  • example of streetcar

    “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

GGeorge F. Mahaney (left) & Sid Owen

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 [2014] 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.

Santa Claus suits

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.)

Read more about Sharpsville’s Santa Project on these pages:
WALL-TO-WALL SANTAS in Sharpsville
A SHARPSVILLE CHRISTMAS
SHARPSVILLE’S SANTAS 

George F. Mahaney: His Career As a Lawyer

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.”

See Also: THE TWO GEORGE MAHANEYS: Part I (George D. Mahaney)

Ann Angel Eberhardt (SHS 1958),
Goodyear, AZ, September 1, 2019


Sources

Cole, Wayne A, and Vince Skibo. Ghost Rails XI: Shenango Valley Steel: Sharon Steel Co. ColeBooks, Beaver Falls, PA, 2014. Print.

Hanes, Gail Nitch (SHS 1964). “Wall-to-Wall Santas in Sharpsville: A Beloved Memory From Our Past…. .” Small Town Memories, December 2017. Internet resource.

Historical Headlines – March 29.” The Kittanning Paper. Entry for March 29, 1968, describes Mahaney’s talk before the Ford City VFW suggesting “more power for boroughs.” http://www.kittanningpaper.com/2018/03/29/historical-headlines-march-29/7228. (Accessed 7 August 2019.) Internet resource.

“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.

Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs (PSAB). https://boroughs.org/subpage.php?link=PSAB%20Past%20Presidents. (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.


THE TWO GEORGE MAHANEYS: Part I

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

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.” 

[George Mahaney, article and photo, The Sharon (PA) Telegraph, June 7, 1924, page 9.]

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

[Mahaney’s, a men’s clothing store. 1917-early 1970s, Sharpsville, PA. Source: Donna DeJulia.]

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. Mahaney 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 as Burgess of Sharpsville, PA, sitting at his desk in the Borough Building. Undated photograph]

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.)

See Also:
The Two George Mahaneys Part II (“Young” George F.)
Walnut Street Businesses III
Welch House: Early History

— Ann Angel Eberhardt (SHS 1958), Goodyear, AZ,
with assistance from Ralph C. Mehler II (SHS 1980).