Small Town Memories

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

Category: Business

REMEMBERING RIDGE AVENUE of the 1950s

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

Ridge Avenue was certainly a suitable name for the street. It was presumably named in Sharpsville’s early days for the section of the street that runs along the top of a hill from South First Street to South Seventh Street. (I personally know that at least part of Ridge Avenue is on a hilltop because I trekked up a very steep Second Street many times in rain, snow, sleet and hail in the 1950s to attend Sharpsville High School on Ridge Avenue!)

Over the decades, Ridge Avenue grew in length and now stretches from Eighteenth Street on its west side to South Mercer Avenue in the east. For the most part, the street runs parallel with Main Street to its north (until Fifteenth Street) and Pierce Avenue to its south. 

Ridge Avenue, with its many wood-framed houses interspersed with small businesses offering a variety of services, three churches offering peace and comfort, and a high school devoted to the education of the town’s young people, was a somewhat busier street in the 1950s than it is today.

REMEMBERING RIDGE AVENUE: Auto Service Stations

When I was growing up in Sharpsville, Pennsylvania, in the 1950s, there were at least four car service shops: 

  • Ridgeway Auto Service, 1417 Ridge Avenue near Fourteenth Street, owned by T. L. Petricini.
  • McKean & Osborne, 965 Ridge Avenue at Tenth Street, owned by Joe McKean.
  • Marrie Pennz-Oil Station, corner Ridge and Walnut streets. “Get Your Car Greased While You Work — We will Call For & Deliver –”
  • D&S Atlantic Service, corner Ridge and Walnut streets.

REMEMBERING RIDGE AVENUE: Churches

The three Ridge Avenue churches that I recall are still, after many decades, in operation today: St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church, First Presbyterian Church of Sharpsville and Church of the Nazarene.

St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church, Ridge Avenue, Sharpsville, PA. (Source: Church website)

In June of 1908, Rev. Michael A. Miller began overseeing the construction of a new St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church at 311 West Ridge Avenue. According to A Twentieth Century History of Mercer County Pennsylvania (Lewis Publishing 1909), the church “was built of native stone and Devonshire brick, with Cleveland stone trimmings, and [was] one of the finest and largest buildings in the city.” William Henry Adams was the contractor. It was more than 14 years before the church was entirely completed. (Go to “Italians in Sharpsville” for more about St. Bartholomew R. C. Church.)

The construction of the First Presbyterian Church of Sharpsville, located at 603 West Ridge Avenue, began in 1928 using native stone (since darkened by soot from the Shenango Furnace) from the Blaney farm east of Sharpsville. The building’s site, selected for its central location in town, was purchased from the McCracken family whose house was then relocated. When many pledges remained unfulfilled due to the Depression, the congregation volunteered their labor to build their church. It took until 1935 before they could move into a still-unfinished building, and it wasn’t until 1950 that construction was finally completed.

Construction of First Presbyterian Church, Ridge Avenue, Sharpsville, PA, c. 1929.
Source: Sharpsville Area Historical Society Newsletter, July 2014 (Vol. III, No. 2).

Sharpsville (PA) Church of the Nazarene, c. 2019. Source: Church website.

On the corner of Ridge Avenue and Eighth Street stands the Sharpsville Church of the Nazarene, a Protestant Christian church. The building was formerly occupied by the United Brethren. The Church of the Nazarene congregation held its first service on Christmas Eve, 1938, in the old Presbyterian Church on First and Main streets. Approximately two months later the church used a storeroom at 28 Shenango Street for its then 20 charter members. In the spring of 1941, they moved to the church they occupy to this day, a building at 804 West Ridge that they purchased for $9,000. A new parsonage was purchased at 810 West Ridge Avenue in 1952, replacing the old one on Eighth Street, which was eventually replaced by a parking lot.

REMEMBERING RIDGE AVENUE: Sharpsville High School

The first graduation from Sharpsville High School took place in 1884, approximately 36 years before the construction of the school building in about 1920 on Ridge Avenue between First and Second streets. Where the graduates attended school before then is a mystery, but a clue may be seen in the c. 1910 class photo of Sharpsville High School students. They appear to be standing in front of the Robison School.

The high school was designed by Taylor and Hanna, Sharon architects, and constructed by Wallis and Corley, Sharon contractors. The cost of the building (consisting of 14 rooms, a gymnasium and basement) and furnishings was approximately $150,000, about $3 million in today’s dollars. By 1922 the school graduated 18 students, according to Pete Joyce’s speech celebrating Dr. Bailey’s life in Sharpsville.

I attended Sharpsville High School from grades seven through twelve in the 1950s (in 1958 103 of us graduated). My high school memories and those of others are described in the following blogs: “Junior High School,” “Senior High School Traditions” and “SHS Class of 1958 Celebrates Its 60th!” 

In the year after I graduated, a brand new high school building opened in 1959 on Blue Devil Way for junior and senior Sharpsville students. The old building became the “William P. Snyder Middle School,” named for the owner of Shenango Furnace Company, which operated blast furnaces in Sharpsville from the early 1900s until the 1970s. 

When a new space was created for Sharpsville Area Middle School next to the Sharpsville Area High School, schooldays at the Ridge Avenue building were at an end. Instead, the large red brick structure at 100 West Ridge Avenue was converted to a privately owned mixed-use complex and renamed the TrailBlazer Building, now holding about a dozen commercial tenants as well as 23 apartments. 

I feel a sense of loss and sadness when I think of the demolition of some of Sharpsville’s historic buildings, such as the Pierce Mansion and the Mahaney Building. But how comforting it is to know that a new life has been found for the Sharpsville High School building on Ridge Avenue! 

REMEMBERING RIDGE AVENUE: Other Businesses

Among the ads in the 1956 Devil’s Log Yearbook was one for Dick’s TV Center at 211 Ridge Avenue. It read,

DICK’S T.V. CENTER
Sales–Installation–Service
Service & Distributors for Sylvania, G.E., Philco,
R.C.A., Admiral, Crosley, Emerson, Stewart Warner

In 1953 my father purchased our first television and it was most likely from this shop. (It was a big event when that black-and-white Philco with a 21-inch screen was placed in a featured spot in our living room, even though the only available TV stations in Sharpsville at that time were channels 73 [WFMJ-TV – NBC] and 27 [WKBN-TV – CBS], both from Youngstown, Ohio.) [Revisions and additions were made to this paragraph on February 10, 2020.]

And this shop was probably the one we regularly called for a repairman when our TV malfunctioned, often when one of the TV’s vacuum tubes burned out. Because a TV set in those days was like a large piece of furniture, repairmen usually made house calls. Today, with modern flat-screen sets being difficult to fix and often disposable, the TV repairman is a relic of the past. The building that held Dick’s TV Center, across Ridge Avenue from the high school, still exists today and is still in use by a small business.

Dick’s TV Center is featured in “A Christmas Kindness,” a blog about the owner’s very nice gesture to my brother and me when we wanted to buy a Christmas tree. I couldn’t recall the name of the store, but a reader reminded me it was Weber’s TV. Possibly the owner’s name was Dick Weber.

Stevenson Funeral Home at 1142 West Ridge Avenue is no longer in operation at this site. Neither is Stewart’s Grocery that occupied a little building on the corner of West Ridge and Seventh Street. In the 1950s we students from the Robison Elementary School would stop at Stewart’s after school with our pennies and nickels to buy candies.

Sandy’s, at 212 West Ridge Avenue, was another after-school stopping place in the 1950s, in this case by the high school students. Located a few doors from Second Street on the same side as Sharpsville High School, it was a popular venue for meeting with friends, listening to the latest rock ‘n roll 45 rpm records on the coin-operated jukebox, chatting on the pay phone or sipping soda from glass bottles. 

Sandy’s on West Ridge Avenue, Sharpsville, PA, 1956. Source: 1956 Devil’s Log Yearbook.

Ridge Avenue served its townspeople well some 70 years ago. And as much as certain features have changed since then on this little street, some have stayed the same. For those things that have been consigned to the dusty bins of the past, all we have left are a few photographs, if any, and our memories.

Sources

1956 Devil’s Log Sharpsville (PA) High School Yearbook.

First Presbyterian Church of Sharpsville website.

“First Presbyterian Church.” Sharpsville Area Historical Society Newsletter, July 2014, Vol. III, No. 2, page 4.

Sharpsville Church of the Nazarene website.

“Sharpsville High School Students abt 1910.” Class photo on Familyoldphotos.com.

“Sharpsville’s Golden Anniversary, 1874-1924.” Supplement to the Sharon (PA) Telegraph, June 7, 1924, pp 10 & 14. Courtesy of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society. http://sharpsvillehistorical.com/documents/
GoldenJubilee.pdf

St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church website.

White, John G. A Twentieth Century History of Mercer County Pennsylvania. Chicago, IL: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1909. Pages 647 & 953.


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 Real RUSSIAN CONSPIRACY

by Eric Bombeck

Have you been to one of the 11,384 Lawson’s stores recently? My guess is no. I’m also guessing that you’re thinking, you mean those Lawson’s stores, gone since the mid-1980s, that had the great “Roll on, Big O” orange juice commercials:

A Lawson’s in Lakewood, Ohio, c. 1980. Source: Special Collections, Cleveland State University Library

“Now one man drives while the other man sleeps on that non-stop Lawson Run.

And the cold cold juice in the tank truck caboose stays as fresh as the Florida sun.

Roll on, ‘Big O.’ Get that juice up to Lawson’s in 40 hours.”

Yes, that Lawson’s and, yes, over 11,000 stores…but more on that later.

Lawson’s stores were a fixture here for many years. A dairy farmer named J.J. Lawson, who lived north of Akron, opened a store at his plant in 1939 to sell milk. The Lawson’s Milk Company grew to a chain of stores mostly in Ohio and western Pennsylvania. Lawson’s was bought out by Consolidated Foods in 1959. 

When I was a kid, it was 1.1 miles from our house near Buhl Park to the William P. Snyder Jr. High in Sharpsville. I know this because, besides a banana seat on my burnt-orange Schwinn bike, there was an odometer. Bikes, however, get flats and most of the time you end up walking to school. The old saying “I walked uphill both ways to school” was only half true in my case, it was downhill to school and uphill going home. 

In the days before backpacks were in, you actually had to carry your books home in your arms! To an eleven-year-old 6th-grader this was like an “Iron Man” competition — carry three or four big books straight up 7th Street hill, a hill so steep they have Soap Box Derby competitions on it these days. This wasn’t Russia, it was the U.S., for goodness sakes! I was pretty sure this was child abuse that the whole system was getting away with at our expense. My parents, the schools, President Nixon all were in on it. A massive conspiracy. But alas, the working class, underage, proletariat, had no rights in this obviously unjust system.

The only respite from these epic daily treks was the big blue sign with the milk container on it. As angelic music played, there in the distance like an oasis stood — Lawson’s. But if it wasn’t grass-cutting season how did a 6th-grader get money to buy wax lips, candy cigarettes, or Bub’s Daddy bubble gum? (The latter was only a nickel.) All of it was needed sugary energy to make the ascent up 7th Street. 

When faced with unjust circumstances, one must do whatever it takes to survive. There was only one answer…raid the house for change. This was a fairly simple process. First stop, the dryer — you might even find some bills there. Second stop, couch cushions, which almost always produced at least a dime. Third stop, any pair of trousers laying on the floor were fair game. The tops of dressers were a gray area. One could only take from there what one actually needed. It wasn’t okay to take whatever change was there, only a cut. It was more of a….reverse tax imposed by the under-trodden of society in general and was nothing actually against said dresser owner. If you had 75 cents you were sitting pretty good; more than a buck and you could even buy a comrade something.

Lawson’s was like family, it was always there. When you’re a kid you don’t know that things will end, you think that they will last forever. Of course, the best pranks are on family and maybe if I’d known they would one day disappear I might not have called our local Lawson’s one afternoon to prank them. At about age 15 I called and told the clerk that I was the district manager and to immediately go and count all the eggs in the cooler. When he came back I asked him where the eggs came from and when he didn’t have an answer, I said, “From a chicken!” and I hung up.

Alas, Lawson’s stores were all sold around 1985 to Dairy Mart which eventually sold out to Circle K. Those famous Lawson’s chip dip, chipped ham and Big O orange juice were all lost in the shuffle. 

What about those 11,384 Lawson’s stores mentioned earlier you ask? It seems around 1974 Lawson’s signed an agreement with a Japanese company to take Lawson’s to the island country. They have recently expanded into China and Indonesia.

There is hope for Lawson’s fans. Just recently the chain came back to the U.S. The now solely owned Japanese company put two stores in Hawaii with possible plans to come to the mainland. 

Eric Bombeck, Co-Editor, Small Town Memories.
(SHS 1979), South Pymatuning, PA.


SOURCES:

Bombeck, Eric. The Way It Was Newspaper, Facebook, July 2017. 

“Lawson (store).” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawson_(store)


To see a video and listen to Lawson’s Big-O Orange Juice commercial, go to: https://www.cleveland.com/remembers/2011/05/roll_on_big_o_the_lawsons_song.html


CRICK’S PHARMACY and Soda Fountain

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

Photo of Crick's Pharmacy, c. 1950.
Crick’s Pharmacy on the corner of N. Mercer Avenue and E. Shenango Street, Sharpsville, PA, c. 1950. Courtesy of Sharpsville Area Historical Society.

Crick’s Pharmacy and Soda Fountain

Vintage-style metal sign.
Source: eBay.

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.

Example of a soda fountain bentwire chair.
Soda Fountain Bent Wire Chair. Source: Fort Bend Museum.

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.

Photo of E.W. Hawk's Confectionery, early 1900s.
E.W. Hawk’s Confectionery in the IOOF Building, Sharpsville, PA, early 1900s.
Source:
The Way It Was Newspaper

The Further Evolution of Crick’s

Photo of Obie Cricks, owner of Crick's Pharmacy, 1952-1960s.
Obie Cricks, Owner of Crick’s Pharmacy, Sharpsville, PA, 1952 – 1960s. Source: The Way It Was newspaper.]

“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.

See Also COFFEE STIR

– Ann Angel Eberhardt, (SHS 1958), Goodyear, AZ,
with the assistance of Ralph C. Mehler II (SHS 1980), Sharpsville, PA,
Eric Bombeck (SHS 1979), South Pymatuning, PA, and Wikipedia.


Rise of the GOLDEN DAWN

by Eric Bombeck

By Eric Bombeck

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.

Nathan Rosenblum. Came to America from Lithuanian at age 18 in the 1890s, peddled groceries, then founded Golden Dawn Foods.

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.

Louis Rosenblum (holding reins) and David Rosenblum, Nathan’s sons, peddling groceries before Golden Dawn Groceries was established. [Source: Tri-State Food News, Pittsburgh]

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, Nathan and 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.

Shenango Valley Golden Dawn locations as of 1978. [Source: The Sharon Herald]

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

Return of THE SHARPSVILLE ADVERTISER

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

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, The Sharpsville 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

Brochure printed in 1960 by The Sharpsville (PA) Advertiser print shop. (Click on image to enlarge.)

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

August Angel in his printer’s apron, Sharpsville, PA, c. 1960.

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.)


(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:


(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 building that held The Sharpsville (PA) Advertiser print shop, 1949-1964. (Photo by Northwood Realty Services Hermitage, 2016.)

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 December 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, a division of 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.

See Also:

A Treehouse Grows in Sharpsville
Main Street Memories
Walnut Street Businesses II


DR. BAILEY’S SHARPSVILLE 1920s, Part II

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

When I was a kid, our family didn’t see a doctor on a regular basis as most of us do today. In fact, we had to be in need of vaccination or really, really sick or injured before our parents called on the doctor’s services. One reason for avoiding a doctor’s visit was that private health insurance was unaffordable for many in those days and employer-sponsored health insurance plans were usually unavailable, including for my family.

In the 1940s when we lived in Wheatland, PA, the family doctor would come to our house with his black satchel full of medicines and instruments in hand.

By the time we moved to Sharpsville, the reverse was true and continues to this day: an appointment would be made to visit the doctor at his place of practice. If it becomes the norm that doctors visit us via computer, we will have come full circle in a way!

As we continue to follow Pete Joyce’s memory journey around 1920s Sharpsville in honor of Dr. Nelson Bailey’s arrival in town at that time, we learn who lived and worked in this small Pennsylvania town and how active it was in those early days. We also better understand the contributions its citizens, and particularly Dr. Bailey, have made to the community, some whose names still resonate today.


Reminiscences of Sharpsville
In Honor of Dr. Nelson Bailey
(continued)

A speech presented by Peter Joyce to the Sharpsville Service Club, 1979
(The text has been slightly edited for clarity.)

Around the corner from Mahaney’s was Abrams the cobbler, Engles Bakery, J.V. Minehan’s Dry Goods Store. Then the Racket Store and C.N. Oates for papers, magazines and confections with an outdoor popcorn machine.

Then Lou Burckhart’s Meat Market and O.B. Law’s Grocery Store. I never saw Mr. Law smile. He had a son who was a lawyer but seemed to spend most of his time reading spicy novels over at Reichards Drug Store. Now we are over to Norman Mertz restaurant where the railroaders ate.

Then over to the ballpark at Shenango and Walnut where the American Legion would hold carnivals to raise money for their home. Hear and see Ray Kane, Bill Hart, Joe Donohue, Ed Davies, Dr. [James] Biggins, [Harry] Pebly and Frank Callahan, the greatest barker of them all. Patriotism was strong and beautiful and inspiring and the Vets used to speak at the schools on Armistice Day, then there would be the parades. We all knew [the lyrics to] “Johnny Get Your Gun,” “Over There” and “How Ya Gonna Keep Em Down on the Farm After They’ve Seen Paree!” ….

Across the road from the ballpark was Mike Nathan’s coal and feed supply. Later it became Bill Lee’s then Parker & Lee. And, on down Walnut street was Andy Bombeck, the contractor.

shps_hanes_methodist_church

The people of Sharpsville were good churchgoers. Father Miller was at St. Bartholomew’s, Rev. Spink at the Grace Reformed, Rev. Cousins at the Methodist Church, Rev. Gossell at the Baptist, Rev. Hills at the United Brethren and Rev. Woods at the Presbyterian Church.

[Above right: First United Methodist Church, 148 E. Shenango St., Sharpsville, PA, c. 1940s. Courtesy of Gail Nitch Hanes.]

shps_car_DixieFlyer

Wade Mertz was doing some building and selling coal and feed, etc. Tim Holland had a new auto agency for a beautiful car called the Dixie Flyer. [Left: Dixie Flyer 1916-1923. Source: AllCarIndex.com]

Stiglianos were baking delicious Italian bread. Ben Jackson was running the Boiler Works making Sharmeters. [Clock-faced gas pumps. Click here for a photo and history of this Sharpsville Boiler Works product.]…  

and the Menkes were running three blast furnaces at Shenango Furnace

shps_SAHS_blast furnace

Shenango Blast Furnace, Sharpsville, PA. Source: Excerpt from “This Is Shenango,” 1954. (Courtesy of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society.)

The best baseball was played at Joyce Field, near Leona and Hazen now. The streetcars ran every 15 minutes to Sharon. Telephones had come to Sharpsville in the late 1880s and connected the Sharpsville Furnace to the Pierce Coal Co. The first public telephone was at Skip Reichard’s store. The first directory showed only eight subscribers in 1887 and 15 in 1890.

When I look back I think our greatest loss is that we no longer are producing characters. Where are the old Skin Troutman and young Skin, Reptile High Tree, the Turkey Murphys, Blair Boys, Pete Lyden, Squaw Long, Mike Tobin? If I had only written down their stories.

img699

Well, this is the Sharpsville that Dr. Bailey came into. Going as you did from Jamestown as the son of a doctor, to med school, to internship, then to Sharpsville.

You brought with you a lovely, gracious, kind and patient wife, an ideal partner for a young doctor. Youve lived on Locust Street, Ridge Avenue, corner of Main and Mercer, before settling where you are. 

[Above right: Residence of Dr. Bailey on the northwest corner of North Mercer and East Main, 1930s. Courtesy of Gail Nitch Hanes.]

Children came in Gods good time and blest your union. I don’t know whether to describe you as an old-time doctor or a new-time doctor. We all knew that at all times you were a wonderfully kind and generous man. During the Depression, you suffered with the people, but you gave of yourself and to the community. You were the Mercer County Medical Doctor, President of Buhl Hospital and the Mercer County Medical Society. You are a splendid father with a real dedication to the Hippocratic oath. Both your hands and your heart were involved in an act of love to heal—yet never was vanity on display. Your life revolved around your family, your profession and your golf. When you came here we had just dedicated a new High School. The Class of 1922 had 18 graduates, up ten students from 1918.

You have witnessed many, many improvements in this town. Your profession has changed enormously, and our great country has discovered its social responsibility. It’s a long time from Warren G. Harding and his “Return to Normalcy” to Jimmy Carter being “Born Again.” Its a “helluva long time,” is the way Dr. Bailey would say. You have witnessed two world wars, the Depression [and] the convulsion of the 60s, yet common sense prevailed.

The Sharpsville Service Club is proud of you, Dr. Bailey. You are everything that a citizen and doctor should be. You are a credit to your community and we are all so happy that you adopted us 56 years ago. And, we wish you many more years of health and happiness.

See complete narrative at:
http://www.sharpsvillehistorical.com/documents/Reminiscences.pdf

For a transcription of an interview with Dr. Bailey, go to:
 Jamestown Horse-and-Buggy Days Recalled,” The Herald, Sharon, PA: July 17, 1979, page 28. (Courtesy of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society.)

See more about Pete Joyce at:
http://www2.sharonherald.com/localnews/recentnews/0103/ln032201c.htm

— Permission to reprint Peter Joyce’s speech was granted by
The Sharpsville Area Historical Society.


Dr. Nelson John Bailey was born in Jamestown, PA, on March 24, 1892, to Winona E. Bailey and Myron D. Bailey, who was also a physician. Nelson was one of six children.

Bailey attended Grove City College and The University of Pittsburgh. He was graduated from Jefferson Medical College (now Jefferson University) in Philadelphia. When he was ready to enter practice in 1920, his father wasn’t well, so he took over his father’s practice until 1923.

When Dr. Bailey started practicing medicine in Sharpsville in 1923, he moved into the former office of Dr. Addison E. Cattron who had died in 1923. The office was built onto the side of Cattron’s house, in which Mrs. Cattron and their three daughters continued to reside.

As of 1940, Dr. Bailey was living on North Locust Street, Sharpsville, PA. By 1942, his home was located at 116 Mercer Avenue. His business was always at 61 East Main Street.

Dr. Bailey and his wife, Georgia J. (1893-1968), had two sons, Nelson C. and Hugh M., and two daughters, Harriet Jane and Margaret W.

Dr. Nelson Bailey died on October 24, 1988. He was buried in Riverside Cemetery located on the east side of South Mercer Avenue, Sharpsville, PA.


Sources:

 “Find A Grave Index,” database, FamilySearch.org (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVVG-DKD7 : accessed 2018 July 16).]

“Jamestown Horse-and-Buggy Days Recalled,” The Herald, (Sharon, PA) July 17, 1979, page 28. (Courtesy of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society.)

“United States Census, 1910,” database with images, FamilySearch.org
(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MG32-H91 : accessed 16 July 2018).

“United States Census, 1940,” database with images, FamilySearch.org (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KQCK-QCH : accessed 16 July 2018).

“United States World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942,” database with images, FamilySearch.org (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VQFC-PF7 : accessed 16 July 2018).


For a wealth of information about Sharpsville in the 1920s, see
Sharpsville Golden Jubilee Supplement to the Sharon Telegraph (1924),
in the collection of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society.

Click here (1901) and here (1912) for vintage maps of Sharpsville, Pennsylvania.

For additional references to Dr. Bailey, see:
Dr. Bailey’s Sharpsville 1920s, Part I
Main Street Memories
Immunizations & Home Cures


DR. BAILEY’S SHARPSVILLE 1920s, Part I

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

There were two doctors in Sharpsville, PA, in the 1950s that I can remember: James A. Biggins, M.D., (born c. 1909) whose office was at 5 North Walnut Street, and Nelson J. Bailey, M.D., (born 1892) at 61 East Main Street. Some of the other doctors who practiced in Sharpsville in the early days were William Twitmeyer M.D., P.E. Biggins M.D., Addison E. Cattron, M.D. and Benjamin A. Frye, M.D.

When Dr. Bailey retired in 1979 after 56 years of practice, Peter Joyce gave a speech at the Sharpsville Service Club in which he honored Dr. Bailey’s many years of commitment to the health concerns of the community.

Joyce’s words paint a detailed picture of the borough in the 1920s when Dr. Bailey was just beginning his practice and when Joyce himself was a student at Sharpsville High School, graduating in 1929. “Pete” Joyce (1911-2006) lived a long life of dedication to Sharpsville government, church and community. He served as councilman and mayor of Sharpsville for numerous terms and was owner of Isaly’s Dairy on the corner of Main and Third streets.

Joyce describes a vibrant little town bustling with people and activities, where everyone knew your name. You may remember some of the businesses and family names as still around in later years. Or maybe you’ll recognize someone from your own family tree. 


Reminiscences of Sharpsville
In Honor of Dr. Nelson Bailey

A speech presented by Peter Joyce to the Sharpsville Service Club, 1979
(The text has been slightly edited for clarity.)

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

Dr. Nelson J. Bailey, c. 1979. [Excerpt from an article in The Herald]

My Dear Friends:

How does one assess a lifetime of service? What does one say of a person who has spent 56 years in intimate dedication to healing bodies and sometimes giving peace to the mind of those grieving the loss of a loved one….. Let‘s wander back 56 years and look at the Sharpsville of that time [1923] and some of the people who have gone to their reward, whom Dr. Bailey first met.

Mercer Avenue

Dr. Bailey occupied Dr. Cattron‘s old office, so we’ll start down Mercer Avenue to Jackson Tin Shop where we‘ll see John Jackson and old Mr. McDowell making the famous Jackson oiler for locomotives. Then on down to the corner of Shenango and Mercer to Reichard‘s Drug StoreDr. Twitmeyer occupied the back office. He was tall and thin with white hair and a trim goatee. He drove a buggy pulled by a pure white horse. Then there was Skip himself, the inimitable Skip, short, partly bald, and quick-witted. He would never let the coffees stir long enough—Mike McNerney always did it better. That building was the original Odd Fellow TempleTom West, who started the Valley Mould, held the first convention of the American Anti-Accident Association, the parent of Safety First, meeting there in 1907.

sharpsville_oiler

The famous Jackson self-closing engine oiler.

The Pierce Mansion was across the street with old Jim Pierce who was Burgess. Then there was the very reserved Mrs. Pierce and Mrs. Pierce‘s sister, Aunt Cissy. Their maiden name was Pomplitz, and they were from Baltimore. The family had manufactured organs.

Across the street at the First National Bank was brother Frank Pierce, the president. And, he was president of the Sharpsville School Board. There were five Pierce brothers. They all had six fingers and six toes, except Frank. Then there was Mr. Wickerham, also a new arrival as the cashier. There was also Lloyd Bartleson, Howard Merchant, Fred Bartleson, and Mrs. Lee. The bank was staid, sound, conservative—a bank was a bank then and not a hardware store with gimmicks.

Nearby was Barlett‘s Hardware and the Bloch Bros., Morris and Jake, in business since 1907. Karl Smith was the postmaster. Then Locke and Cattron for gasoline and auto repairs. Then Mehl‘s store with old John—tall, thin, reserved, deliberate. He said to me once, “Before you spend a dollar of the people’s taxes, just imagine that it is coming out of your pocketbook— because it truly is.” If only we could recapture those values today.

Across the alley was Shaner‘s Jewelry Store and then Charles Hites Hardware. Charlie was slow, patient, smoked a pipe and was a Socialist. He had everything, but only he could find it. Over the hill was Frye‘s Store, then the Valley Mould and Iron Co., the biggest manufacturer of ingots in the world. Flanked on all sides by company houses occupied by Slavs and Italians. The Irish had been there earlier and moved up on the hills. The Slavs and Italians [followed] them to the hills…. [and were replaced by the African Americans.] I guess that was the story of America then, as one moved up the economic ladder.

Pierce Mansion, built in 1874 by James Pierce in Sharpsville, PA. Demolished in 1952.

It was a raw American, bursting with energy and zeal, but Sharpsville was in a Depression. Most of our blast furnaces were not working and some of the people were moving off to Youngstown and others to Detroit where Henry Ford was starting blast furnaces and promising $5 a day to labor. The Depression lasted several years and was a forerunner of what was to happen in 1929 that precipitated the Great Depression.

Shenango Street

Then along Shenango Street was Perry‘s Shoe StoreElsmore‘s Store and Joe Moscowitz for children and ladies apparel. And then the Colonial Theatre owned by Charles Blatt with Jennie Davies as ticket seller. Nearby Steve Gates, the tailor. Then the Parkway Apartments, formerly the Pierce House when the country was wet. For that period they were luxurious apartments. There were 39 rooms.

The town park was cared for tenderly by Johnnie Keats. His tulips were just out of this world in beauty. Across the tracks was the Pennsylvania RR with Sam Morris and nearby the B & O with old Mr. Wert – Charles Miller as yardmaster and Mr. McElvaney as the big boss. The town park was home to Turkey Murphy, the Blair Boys, Mike Tobin, Pete Johnson and many others. …

First National Bank of Sharpsville, c. early 1950s.

The Stahls had a restaurant at the alley. Then Mehler‘s Barber Shop with Charlie Collins nearby in his corduroy suit. Then Davis Tailor Shop with Dave and John Gavin sitting with crossed legs on the counter. Next to them Muscarella‘s Fruit Stand and the Graber‘s Jewelry Store. His minutes of the Borough Meetings are an example of handwriting at its best. Then, Bob McFarland‘s house and McLaren‘s Drug StoreLaMont‘s Market, Roth‘s Market and Dick Patterson‘s sodas, candy and confections. Above him was old Whig Thompson‘s Print Shop and across the street Dickson‘s Furniture StoreShannon‘s Hardware, where Martha sat on the swing, and Homer Sheasley helped Clair Plum. Homer always had a chew of tobacco in and sometimes it used to escape down the corners of his mouth. Well, everybody chewed, at least all the kids in Irishtown carried J.T. Plug.

A section of the Parkway Apartments, formerly the Pierce House, Shenango St., Sharpsville, PA.

Then there was Pat Connelly‘s Bicycle Shop where he entertained the Robinson Brothers, Charlie Carney, Billy Young. Across the street, the Odd Fellows with a bulging membership, and on down the street Cora Fuller gave music lessons. Elmer Masterson managed the A & P Store with Bob McFarland‘s Drug Store nearby with Bill Seifert always there to run errands. One of Bill’s legs was shorter than the other and he had to have about a six-inch sole and heel on the short leg.

First and Main Street

Harry E. Pebly, Superintendent of, Sharpsville (PA) Schools. [Source: “Devil’s Log” Yearbook 1956]

Then there was Ralph Miller‘s Soda Shop, then Squire Turner as the Justice of the Peace dispensing justice. Then, on down to First Street to the new Ritz Theatre with Charles Gable and his diamond rings and a powerful hoarse voice which we heard later in his famous nephew, Clark Gable. Across the street was Love Funeral Home, the Presbyterian Church and then Al Warren‘s store. Once again the indoor swing with two old people who held hands in between selling groceries.

Mahaney’s, a men’s clothing store on the corner of Main and Walnut streets. Torn down in the early 1970s. Source: Donna DeJulia.

Then there was Sam Sing the Chinese launderer. We all believed Sam had designs on us as we collected our fathers‘ collars. We never knew how or why, but fear is inherent and can play tricks on little boys and girls.

Then there was J.R. Hum‘s Grocery Store and Mahaney‘s Clothing Store with Paul Buchanan, and Harry Pebly working there in the summertime. It might be said that Pebly put Sharpsville on the map athletically. He was a strong-willed man, probably the best teacher I ever had. In football, he could make you want to die to win. Those teams in the early 20s, in football and especially basketball, for the size of the school, were in my opinion, Sharpsville‘s greatest. If you had been a freshman in 1921, 1922, 1923, 1924—the total enrollment was 101, yet the athletic record was of real champs. Harry had come recently as high school principal, football coach, basketball coach, faculty manager, athletic director, teacher of physics and chemistry. He would get in the scrimmage himself to show how it should be done.

During this period Dr. Bailey was a new kind of champ: He delivered the Welch triplets[To be continued….]

— Permission to reprint Peter Joyce’s speech was granted by
The Sharpsville Area Historical Society.

For a wealth of information about Sharpsville in the 1920s, see
Sharpsville Golden Jubilee Supplement to the Sharon Telegraph (1924),
in the collection of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society.

Click here (1901) and here (1912) for vintage maps of Sharpsville, Pennsylvania.

For additional references to Dr. Bailey, see:
Main Street Memories” (also includes the Robisons)
Immunizations & Home Cures

Many thanks to Gail Nitch Hanes, whose PowerPoint presentation of “Sharpsville, Our Home Town — Then & Now” provided the following photos: Jackson Oiler, Parkway Apartments, First National Bank and Pierce Mansion.

The photographs of Peter Joyce and Dr. Nelson Bailey originally appeared in these newspaper articles in The Herald (Sharon, PA): “Jamestown Horse-and-Buggy Days Recalled,” July 17, 1979, page 28 (courtesy of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society) and “New Sharpsville Council Elects Nelson President: Burgess Joyce Administers Oath…,” January 4, 1956.

— Ann Angel Eberhardt (SHS 1958), Goodyear, AZ, July 1, 2018.


WELCH HOUSE: Twice Burned

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

Disastrous urban fires were common occurrences in the early 1900s. Among the worse such conflagrations were the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire and the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in New York City. But even with improvements in fire-fighting and fire safety, fires continue to take their toll, as evidenced by the burning of Sharpsville’s Welch House in 1914 and 1954 and the town’s original Municipal Building as recently as 2017.


The 1914 Welch Hotel Fire

The fire that brought down the Welch House in 1954 wasn’t the only time the building went up in flames. The following story ran on page 1 of The Record-Argus, Greenville, PA, on February 26, 1914:

Sharpsville, Pa., Feb. 26. Fire of an unknown origin, but supposedly originating from a gas jet or a gas stove, caused a $3000 blaze in the Welch Hotel, Sharpsville, on Wednesday morning.

Prompt and efficient work on the part of the fire department prevent[ed] the building from being gutted. Mrs. Welch and her son, Donald, were on the second floor when the youngster called to his mother to come to one of the rooms. Upon arriving there Mrs. Welch discovered the entire interior ablaze. A clothes press and dresser were being licked up by the flames, which were spreading along the floor.

Mr. Welch was summoned and an alarm was turned in. Pending the arrival of the firemen, Mr. Welch kept the blaze from getting a big start by keeping all the doors tightly closed.

The fire hydrants were frozen when the firemen arrived and they had to scurry about the neighborhood before finding an available plug. Before water was secured chemicals kept the blaze from getting beyond control.

An extinguisher from the Shenango Furnace Co. also aided the firefighters. Miss Anna Connelly and Miss Mary Conway, employed at the hotel, were among the heavy losers. The former lost her gold watch and the latter a diamond lavalier and all her clothes. The fire originated in the room occupied by the girls. Three bedrooms on the second floor and the kitchen and hall on the first floor were damaged by the flames.

The End of Welch House

Ralph Mehler of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society relates a story about another proprietor of the building. He was told by Jerry Hurl (SHS 1973) that Jerry’s grandfather, Timor Holland, was an owner of the Welch House in the 1940s (as well as Holland’s Pontiac dealership at 412 W. Main Street). Jerry recalled that the Welch House had 12 rooms upstairs, usually rented by traveling salesmen, and a typical Sharpsville bar downstairs serving food and drink.

[Above: Interior View of Hotel Welch Bar, c. early 1900s, Main Street, Sharpsville, PA. Excerpt from photo #445, Courtesy of Sharpsville Area Historical Society.]

By the time the building was destroyed in a 1954 fire, it had been owned for two years by Michael Hvozda. Ralph Mehler tells this story from Jerry Hurl: When the Welch House went up in flames, the “town drunk staggered into the fire department to report the fire, only to be disbelieved because, well, he was the ‘town drunk.'”

Additional details of the Welch House fire were recorded on the front page of The Sharon Herald on October 20, 1954, with these headlines:

“Welch House Fire Damage Is Estimated At $40,000”

“Historic Inn At Sharpsville Is Gutted Early Today: 11 Occupants Reach Safety”

“Blaze Of Undetermined Origin Destroys Second And Third Floors Of 68-Year-Old Building Owned by Michael Hvozda”

The article was accompanied by the following photograph:

[Above: FIGHTING THE WELCH HOUSE FIRE — Forty thousand dollars is the estimated damage in the fire which gutted Sharpsville’s historic Welch House early today. Above, borough firemen battle the blaze in its early stages…. The Sharon Herald, October 30, 1954.]

According to the newspaper report, Mr. William Swartz, a roomer in the “Main St. tavern and rooming house,” woke before dawn on a cold October morning to a crackling noise. When he opened the door of a wall cubicle in a third-floor bathroom, flames shot out, coming from the attic above. Alerted to the fire, the owner, Michael Hvozda, and 10 roomers used a small hose and buckets of water to fight the fire, leaving with only the clothes on their backs when the firemen arrived. They lost all their belongings, including their coats and money, to the fire.

The report continues, describing the efforts of the Sharpsville volunteer firemen to quell the flames, using their two pumper trucks:

A fair wind whipped the flames but firemen were able to keep the blaze from spreading to nearby homes in the congested areas, as well as the next-door Gordon Ward garage and nearby Mertz lumber yard…. [After three hours of fighting the fire] firemen entered the building about 9:30 to pull down chimneys, a dangling television tower and other dangerous sections of the house.

The fire destroyed the second and third floors and smoke and water damaged the first-floor bar and dining room. Sharpsville Fire Chief Samuel Riley estimated $30,000 damage to the building and $10,000 for furnishings, equipment and clothing. The owner stated that the loss was partially covered by insurance.

The End of an Era…or Not

After almost seven decades, the Welch House’s end had come. When the Welch House was built in the last years of the 19th century, boardinghouses, with their small private rooms and common dining areas, were important to the culture and growth of towns and cities. This affordable housing was a way of life for men and women of a variety of classes, ethnicities and professions, offering not only a cheap and convenient place to live but a way to become part of a boardinghouse family that replaced those they had left behind.

The boardinghouse concept was eventually replaced by tenement houses, apartment hotels and apartments. Today, the need for new and denser housing in urban centers has led to such offerings as micro-apartments, cooperative housing, halfway houses, YMCA boarding facilities, college dormitories and bed-and-breakfasts for travelers. These developments echo the convenience and affordability, as well as socialization, of boardinghouses of yesteryear, such as the Welch House.

–Ann Angel Eberhardt, (SHS 1958), Goodyear, AZ,
with much-appreciated assistance from
Ralph C. Mehler (SHS 1980), Sharpsville, PA.

SOURCE: “Boardinghouses: Where the city was born: How a vanished way of living shaped America — and what it might offer us today.” by Ruth Graham for The Boston Globe, January 13, 2013. (Accessed 02-March-2018)

See Also Welch House: Early History


WELCH HOUSE: Early History

by Ann Angel Eberhardt

Who among us remembers Sharpsville’s Welch House on Main Street? When it was suggested I write something about this “boardinghouse and tavern,” I hardly had a clue. That is, until I heard from my brother, read about it in my father’s memoir, and was provided the details of its early history by Ralph C. Mehler of the Sharpsville Area Historical Society.


At one time Sharpsville had at least three hotels. In the early 1900s, they were the Knapp Hotel run by George Mahaney, Pierce Hotel run by James P. Clark, and the Hotel Welch, the proprietor of which was Martin Henry Welch.

The Welch building was still around when my family moved to Sharpsville in December 1949. By then it was known as the Welch House. My brother, Mike Angel, recalls the following:

I believe the Welch House was between 4th and 5th streets on the [north] side of Main Street, close to Wade D. Mertz & Son which sold hardware and lumberIt was a historical landmark, having been there for many years. I think it burned down during the 1950s. I remember it because I delivered newspapers there.

My father wrote in his memoir that, when he and my mother purchased Angel’s Casino on North Second Street in 1953, they spent the next several years supplying the dance hall and its kitchen with second-hand items acquired from other establishments that were selling off their equipment. Among the purchases were a stove, working table, french fryer, and other items from the owners of the former Welch House after it burned down in 1954.

Ralph C. Mehler has generously provided the rest of the story.

[Hotel Welch, c. early 1900s. Main Street, Sharpsville, PA.
Photo #446 Courtesy of Sharpsville Area Historical Society.]

 

[Martin Welch Family outside Welch Hotel, c. early 1900s, Main Street, Sharpsville, PA. “Martin Welch holding sons Edward (Ted) and John Welch. One of the horses was named Shady Bell and the dog’s name was Jake.” Photo #443 Courtesy of Sharpsville Area Historical Society.]

 

[Interior View of Hotel Welch Bar. c. early 1900s, Main Street, Sharpsville, PA.
Photo #445 Courtesy of Sharpsville Area Historical Society.]

Michael Knapp, the Original Owner

Michael Knapp was born in the Saarland region of Germany in 1842 and came to America with his family around age 8. His father worked the coal mines of what is now Hermitage. During the Civil War, Michael enlisted in the 211th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers from September 5, 1864, until the end of the war. He also worked the local mines after the war.

In the 1880 U.S. Census, he is listed as a hotel keeper, likely manager of the Pierce House, the only hotel in Sharpsville at the time. (It should be noted that due to the stringency of liquor licensing laws then, hotels were pretty much the only watering holes in town.) In 1886, we learn that he had struck out to build his own inn and tavern – the Knapp House – located on Main at Fourth Street.

Nicholas Mehler, Second Owner

By 1900 Michael Knapp had sold the Knapp House to his son-in-law Nicholas Mehler when it was re-named the Mehler House (as it appears on the 1901 Birds-Eye View map of Sharpsville*). Nick Mehler, besides owning a coal mine and later becoming a popular barber in Sharpsville, apparently owned the tavern for just a few years before selling it to Martin Welch around 1904.

*An excerpt of the map is shown below (the hotel is marked with a 3). The map can be seen in its entirety here.

[“Mehler House” #3 on Main Street. Excerpt of 1901 Map of Sharpsville, PA, created by T. M. Fowler & James B. Moyer. Source: Library of Congress Geography and Map Division Washington, D.C.]

Michael Knapp Builds Another Hotel

Michael Knapp, in the meantime, erected a three-story hotel, the Knapp Hotel, in 1903. Likely overburdened by the crushing finances of the venture and perhaps still despondent over the death of his only son three years prior, Michael shot himself the day before the hotel opened. 

Another son-in-law, George Mahaney, Sr., assisted Michael’s widow in the management of the hotel. He later bought the building and located his clothing store there. George was five-time Burgess of Sharpsville, father of the Shenango Dam, and universally known as “Mr. Sharpsville.” 

Nick Mehler’s son, Ralph C. “Dutch” Mehler I, originally started selling insurance out of his barber shop on the other side of Walnut Street. He later moved into the Mahaney Building (as the Knapp Hotel was later called). His son, Ralph W. Mehler (SHS 1955), later moved the insurance office over to the Sharpsville Plaza when it was built.

Martin Henry Welch, the Third Owner

Martin H. Welch purchased Mehler House from Nicholas Mehler around 1904 and the building was then known as Hotel Welch. It eventually became the Welch House, a name that identified the building for the next several decades.

Ed Welch, a professor emeritus living in Michigan is the grandson of Martin Henry Welch and the son of Edwin Martin Welch. In 2005 he donated the above photographs to the Sharpsville Area Historical Society (SAHS). Ralph C. Mehler of the SAHS made the photos available for this story.

Next: A Raging Fire Marks the End of the Welch Building

Ralph C. Mehler II (SHS 1980), Sharpsville, PA
–Ann Angel Eberhardt, (SHS 1958), Goodyear, AZ

More About the Mahaney Building:
The Two George Mahaneys Part I (“Old” George D.)
Walnut Street Businesses II
Walnut Street Businesses III