Small Town Memories

Recording memories of the SHARPSVILLE, PA, area in little stories from the 1940s to the 1970s

Category: Education

WHEATLAND FLATS III: Grade School & Pony Pictures

When I started writing about 1940s Wheatland, I didn’t expect to remember as much as I did. As my dad said about writing his memoir, “Once I started, the memories just kept coming.” This is the third of four installments about the “Flats” of Wheatland, Pennsylvania, describing a thriving little community that existed over thirty-five years before the entire village was destroyed by an exceptionally violent tornado on May 31, 1985.


WHEATLAND FLATS III: Grade School & Pony Pictures

By the turn of the decade to the 1950s, my family was living in a remodeled barn on Second Street, my new baby brother joined the postwar baby boom, the town endured the Big Snow, and we kids were attending Wheatland Public School.

First Grade, Wheatland Public School, c. 1946. [Ann Angel, back row, fourth from left.]

First Grade, Wheatland (PA) Public School, c. 1946. Teacher: Mrs. Juanita Lloyd. [Ann Angel, back row, fifth from left.]

Wheatland Public School – “Uphill Both Ways!”

I wish I could remember the first day of my first grade in 1946, but it’s just too long ago. At that time, there was no opportunity for most pre-schoolers to attend nursery school or kindergarten. I vaguely recall that a Catholic church in Sharon, PA, had a kindergarten, but it charged a tuition that my parents probably could not afford. 

Wheatland’s public school building, located on Mercer Street, was a typical two-story brick schoolhouse topped by a large bell that rang at the start of the school day. First through fourth grades, the only grades I attended in this building, were on the lower floor. Every hour, I could hear the shuffling feet of students changing classes overhead. However, I never saw the upstairs fifth through eighth-grade rooms because my family was living in Sharpsville by then. When Wheatland students finished eighth grade, they were then bussed to Farrell, PA, to attend senior high school.

I performed well enough in Wheatland School, but getting to and from the school was quite a trek for me. Google Maps shows the distance as only six-tenths of a mile one way but that’s not how it felt. The distance between my home and school seemed like miles, particularly during those cold, snowy Western Pennsylvania winters. Initially, I walked alone or with friends, but in two years my brother, Mike, was walking with me to his first and second grades.

The Flats of Wheatland, PA, in the 1940s.

The Flats of Wheatland, PA, in the 1940s.

From Second Street we walked to Church Street and continued north past the little white steepled Methodist Church where my brother and I attended Sunday School, a few houses, and a lumber mill until we got to the railroad tracks. If we were lucky there would be no freight train sitting there immobile and blocking our way. Waiting for a stopped train to move seemed interminable and, if my memory of school kids actually crawling under the cars to get across is only in my imagination, we did consider it in our desperation. After crossing Broadway, the main street in town that led west to Farrell and Sharon, we trudged up the hill another block or so to our school.

I still remember the names of some of my classmates. as well as those of my first through fourth-grade teachers: Mrs. Juanita Lloyd, a well-liked grandmotherly lady, then kindly Miss Patton, Miss Davidson who had the best-decorated room, and finally Miss Garrity. And I remember the sweet smell of the white paste in glass jars that we used to stick strips of paper with sentences on them onto the appropriate pictures. I think these were supplemental workbooks that accompanied our reading books about “Dick and Jane,” characters so well-known to schoolchildren from the 1930s to the 1970s.

On the return trip from school, we often stopped at the Wheatland Post Office on Broadway to pick up our parents’ mail. It was customary for us schoolchildren to crowd around the postmaster’s window, call out our family’s last name, and our mail would be handed to us. I’ve always wondered why our parents trusted little kids to bring home all their mail in one piece, but I guess we did so most of the time. Today’s Wheatland Post Office is located on Council Street, a block away from its former Broadway location.

Almost 50 years later in 1993, I visited Wheatland and searched for my elementary school, only to find that the building was gone. All that remained was a concrete pedestal holding the school’s cast iron bell and a plaque indicating the bell’s original source, the Wheatland Public School. Currently, Buchanan Manor, a home for senior citizens has been built on the site. That big school bell is now on display (as of 2014) in the front yard of the Manor next to a World War I memorial. (See it on Google Street View here.) My school building was gone, but I greatly appreciate that the little town saved the bell.

(It’s probably no coincidence that the retirement home’s name is “Buchanan.” Pennsylvania’s other “Wheatland” is the former home of James Buchanan, the 15th president of the U.S. He purchased the large Federal style house, located outside of Lancaster, PA, in 1848 and lived there off and on until he died in 1868. The estate was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1966.)

“Howdy, Partner!”

Click on photograph for an enlarged view. Photos courtesy of Mike and Fredi Angel.

“Ma, they’re selling pony pictures! Can we buy one, please, please, please?!” My mother would often tell of our running home and breathlessly bursting in the front door with this exciting news and urgent request. A traveling photographer with a pony was all the country’s rage in the 1940s and Wheatland kids weren’t left out. Movies and comic books featuring cowboys (and cowgirls) and Indians were popular at the time, so sitting on a pony dressed in a cowboy hat, vest and chaps was a child’s dream come true. The resulting black-and-white photos, taken on Church Street and probably costing only a few coins each, are displayed to this day in my brother Mike’s home.

Ann Angel Eberhardt (SHS 1958), Goodyear, AZ. 
November 2016.

Coming Up: Traveling Carnival, Professor King, Bicycles, Roller Skates and Cherry Trees


See Also:

WHEATLAND FLATS I: Third Street
WHEATLAND FLATS II: Second Street
WHEATLAND FLATS IV: Once Upon A Time

Read more about the 1985 Ohio/Pennsylvania Tornado Outbreak here.


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ROBISON SCHOOL CLASS OF 1960 (Part II)

Welcome to the second part of Irene Caldwell’s story, Robison School Class of 1960. This blog picks up where it left off last month. Here you’ll read about the fifth and sixth grade students, still mostly the same kids of course, but a tiny bit older and taller. Irene also reminds us of those extra-curricular aspects of our education: swimming lessons, restrooms, recess, lunch, winters, safety drills, and the playground.


sharpsville_robison_grade5

Fifth Grade, Emma Robison School, Sharpsville, PA, c. 1952.

Fifth Grade, 1952-1953

"Raggedy Ann and Andy and the Camel with the Wrinkled Knees" by Johnny Gruelle. (1960). Source: www.etsy.com

“Raggedy Ann and Andy and the Camel with the Wrinkled Knees” by Johnny Gruelle. (1960). Source: http://www.etsy.com

Miss Helen Bruner, an older woman with quiet but firm control was our fifth grade teacher. In spite of her small stature and soft voice, she often sent unruly boys to the cloakroom where she would soon follow with her wooden paddle. A good run around the playground would have been a kinder option, but those were different times. I liked Miss Bruner because she was fair, never raised her voice and read to us from Raggedy Ann and Andy.

I learned to write in cursive with pen and ink that year. Dipping our pen points into ink pots, we practiced row upon row of circles which formed tunnels between the lines on cheap yellowish paper and then the letter of the day with our arms held high for the necessary free flowing arm movement. Most of us had black writer’s bumps on the second finger of our right hands and a very few on their left hands.

Mrs. Bruner was often seen wearing a double layer fox stole which fascinated me. Who would want to wear dead animals around their shoulders, each head biting the tail of the animal in front of it? She died in 1968 at age 79.

Patty Coyne, Dorothy Davenport and I were adopted as friends by Carol Crosier in fifth grade. Carol was very pretty and lived in the more affluent part of town, close to Buhl Park. She was the organizer of any outside activity and we followed her lead unquestioningly.

That year’s class photo has me, of tiny stature, standing as usual, in the front row. This time it’s Bobby Gault on my left. Just below Miss Bruner is Kathleen Hanley, another freckled redhead. My last year at Robison was taught by the principal, Ralph Kelly, and his co-teacher Edna Allen. Miss Allen was a good teacher with impeccable carriage.

Duane Carbon sat in front of me that year. Once every week he wore a black and white pinto-patterned flannel shirt. When bored I’d stare at the pattern, first making the black sections stand forward and then the white shapes.

Emma Robison School, Grade 6, c. 1956

Grade 6, Emma Robison School, Sharpsville, PA, c. 1953

Sixth Grade, 1953-1954

In sixth grade we made a lot of maps and finding large enough paper was a challenge. I made my South America map from butcher paper given free by the meat cutter at (Warren) Stewart’s Market. My youngest sister had just been born and was drinking formula made from canned milk with paper labels covered with cows. I cut out those cows and pasted them on my map to indicate the cattle industry of Argentina and Brazil.

Our class photo that year is taken with Mr. Kelly. I’m wearing a neck scarf and a plaid skirt, again in the front row, flanked by ever happy Roy Yeager and ever serious Georgeanne.

My brother had different teachers than I; Miss Grimes, Mrs. Myers and Miss Bartholomew were some of them, but the other names are lost to me. Our music teacher, Mrs. Armstrong, died of cancer during one of those six years and the school planted a small pine near the long front walk in her memory.

Swimming Lessons

Every Friday morning we were bused to St. John’s Church in Sharon for swimming lessons in their indoor pool. The chlorine content of the water was so high that everyone’s eyes were red for the rest of the day. I learned to swim only because if I hadn’t I would have drowned. The instruction we received was minimal. At the end of the course, an evening program was put on for parents to appreciate their water babes’ expertise. Our task was to dive in, swim the length of the pool and climb out at the far end. How I made it, I’ll never know; carried by the angels of St John, maybe.

On those Friday mornings the girls were allowed to wear pants, even jeans, but had to go home and change into a skirt or dress at lunch time. My jeans were lined with warm blue plaid flannel and one cold winter day I rebelled at changing. Upon returning to school, two female classmates jumped me with dire predictions of Mr. Kelly’s paddle. I hate to admit running home to don an acceptable dress.

Restrooms, Recess, Lunch, Winter

Student restrooms were in the basement to which twice daily visits were as strictly regimented as all other activities. Rarely was a student allowed to take a bathroom break on his or her own, but some teachers were more considerate about this than others.

At recess we played closely supervised and organized games, guaranteed to make some students feel inferior as the appointed team captains chose sides for “red rover” or dodge ball. Being small, I was always among the last to be picked.

At lunch time everyone walked home, to eat or not, depending on their circumstances. My siblings and I had only to cross Pierce Avenue and run down a short alley to our house where we hunted in the refrigerator and cupboards for something appealing.

Winter was difficult for girls because to be warm we had to wear two piece snow suits, put on and removed three times each day. The leggings were held up by suspenders and our mandatory skirts had to be stuffed inside like shirts, creating a wrinkled appearance for the whole day. Usually, a girl would rather have frozen legs than deal with those leggings. I can still smell the wet wool mittens, hats and scarves drying on the cloakroom radiator, see the snowsuits hanging on iron hooks and my fellow students rummaging through the pile of rubber boots that had to be pulled on over our bulky unfashionable shoes.

In December, the school put on a Christmas program with each class performing a different song and any exceptionally gifted children doing a talent solo. I remember dinging my little triangle while we all sang “Silver Bells” and Allegra Duncan playing the violin. The students stood on the opposing stairways and the whole program took place in the great central hall where a tall pine had been placed decorated with construction paper chains, stars and snowflakes, all made by the students.

Safety Drills

With milder weather, an occasional fire drill was prearranged and someone timed how quickly the school was evacuated. The first floor students simply walked out the front door. On the upper floors the teachers opened the tall windows which students exited through to the fire escapes.

Sometimes we had atom bomb drills. The town air raid siren would sound and all of us ducked under our desks assuming the “bomb” position, forehead resting in the crook of one arm while the other covered the back of our necks. A few years later we had to exit the building and lay in the grass along Seventh Street, again in the bomb position. WWII wasn’t very far in the past, the Cold War was on everyone’s minds and there was an intense fear of Soviet Russia and “Commies.”

Playground

During the summer holiday a program called “Playground” took place behind Robison. Miss Allen and another woman ran it with none of the normal classroom discipline. No one had to attend and you were free to arrive or walk away at any time during the day. We sat at picnic tables and were assisted in making potholders, lanyards, cork paintings and plaster of Paris figurines which we later painted and proudly bestowed on our parents. There were song fests where the girls and boys shouted stanzas of “Rueben, Rueben” at each other and foot races with no prizes. One of the proudest moments of my life was winning the girls’ foot race, beating an older, stronger and heavier girl. She was as surprised as I was. I loved those summer programs and appreciated seeing Miss Allen as a regular and relaxed woman in jeans and untucked shirts, as well as her frequent smiles.

Occasionally, even Mr. Kelly would drop by. During school days he always wore gray suits, white shirts and ties and, tall and lean, actually looked quite handsome for an older man. It was strange to see him in casual clothes and listen to him talk of everyday matters. One day he explained how the school board, against his superior advice, had allowed Shenango Furnace to dump a few tons of “red dog,” a steel byproduct on the farthest areas of the playground. The once huge and lovely trees that lined that edge soon died and their ugly bare skeletons still remained in reproach of that decision. (Ralph Leland Kelly was born in 1907 and died in 1959.)

Near the picnic tables were a few pieces of play equipment, swing sets, a sliding board, a low merry-go-round and monkey bars. The playground was near a small hill with a creek running along the bottom. This wide hill had no trees and tall grass waved gently in the spring breezes. We called it Goat Hill because it was said that a neighboring family had grazed their animals there. We loved that hill for its height, lack of power lines and trees which made it the perfect place to fly kites. The height achieved by a kite was only limited by the number of balls of string one could tie on. Most of the kites and string had been purchased at Stewart’s Market. Near the top of the hill were two large dugouts of unknown origin, but put to great use in many childhood games.

— Irene Caldwell O’Neill (SHS 1960), Escondido, CA, March 2013


Such were the memories of Irene’s five years at the Emma Robison Elementary School in the early 1950s. If only all our memories of times past were as pleasant as these! It was a simpler world and possibly a safer one, long gone but not forgotten by those of us who lived it.

See also other stories about Robison School:

Robison School I by Ann Angel Eberhardt
Robison School III by Judy Caldwell Nelson
Robison School Class of 1960 (Part I) by Irene Caldwell O’Neill


ROBISON SCHOOL CLASS OF 1960 (Part I)

Like many children in small towns of yesteryear, the same Sharpsville kids attended school together for 12 years – from the first grade until graduation from high school. How well we came to know each other during that time! Which is probably why our earliest classmates have stayed in our memories longer and more clearly than many of our more recent acquaintances. And they seemed to never age in our minds, remaining the same little kids we knew then! 

The following is the first half of a description of Robison Elementary School written by Irene Caldwell O’Neill, a member of the class of 1960. The second half, covering fifth and sixth grades as well as extra-curricular activities, will be published next month.

Irene, who wanted to record her memories of 1950s-1960s Sharpsville, started writing about them several years ago with dreams of a future publication. You can read more about Irene and this blog’s beginnings here

This narrative wouldn’t be complete without the actual names of the people involved. However, if you feel that your name should be kept private, please let us know and we’ll remove them from this blog.

And, as always, your comments (and corrections!) are welcome. 


Emma Robison School

Today Robison Elementary exists only in old photographs and the memories of former students. I’m looking at one such photo [see vintage postcard on eBay] and it looks exactly as I remember it, imposingly large, dark and beautiful.

All Robison School class photos were taken on its front steps with the big double entry doors in the background. Those doors were opened by the janitor about a half hour before school started and the inner doors twenty-five minutes later when he or a teacher stood just outside and rang a wooden-handled bell. Between those two sets of doors, an entryway that could hold only a fourth of the student body comfortably was filled beyond capacity on frigid winter mornings with children compressed like sardines and hardly able to breathe, but glad to be out of the biting cold weather.

"Fun with Dick and Jane'' from rarebookschool.org.

“Fun with Dick and Jane” from rarebookschool.org.

First Grade, 1948-1949

My older sister, Judy, delivered me at age 5 to Mrs. Mae Bloss, my first grade teacher at Robison. Her room and all the lower grades were on the first floor, opening off a large and lofty wood paneled central hallway. On either side of this hall, wide banistered oak stairways led to the upper floors and higher grades. Our first grade room had a ceiling at least fifteen feet high and way up on the front wall, one on each side of the teacher’s desk hung impressive framed prints of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. I stared at those same stern faces in every classroom at Robison School and it was years before I knew who those men were.

Every school day began the same: We clasped our hands, bowed our heads on the hinged and scarred desktops and recited the Lord’s Prayer, then we stood with right hands on hearts for the Pledge of Allegiance (minus the “Under God” phrase) to a flag with forty-eight stars. In first grade I learned to read the Dick, Jane, Sally and Spot books, to print my name and simple sentences as well as addition and subtraction.

Mrs. Bloss and her two daughters attended our First Methodist Church. She always smelled strongly of perfume and wore much makeup and flowery dresses. Most of the time she was nice.

Second Grade, 1949-1950

My second grade experience was happier with Mrs. Martha Kennedy, an older and very kind widow, as our teacher. She gave us love and the class multiplication tables and told us to eat our carrots.

Every day after school, a relative arrived in a gleaming vintage automobile to pick up Mrs. Kennedy. One of my favorite memories is of her hatted, gloved, and finely shod form being helped into that lovely old sedan. She and I exchanged Christmas cards for several years after I moved on to higher grades. She died in 1971 at age 81.

sharpsville_robison_grade3

Third Grade, Emma Robison School, Sharpsville, PA, c. 1950.

Third Grade, 1950-1951

Third grade was taught by Mrs. Florence McKean, a quiet middle-aged woman who received respect simply because she was a good teacher who rarely lost her temper and never administered corporal punishment. Mr. Joe McKean ran a small automobile garage at the corner of Tenth Street and Ridge Avenue. Their home sat directly across the street from the garage. Mrs. McKean’s gravestone states 1909-1975.

That year my best friend was Babsy Brooks, a dimpled cherub with a personality to match. In our class photo, she is sitting beside me in the front row and Jimmy Bains slouching on the other side. Behind him is Mike Angel and on Mike’s left is Georgeanne Achenbach, looking solemnly beautiful. At the far right of the second row, red-haired and freckled Roy Yeager looking quite happy in his plaid shirt. There’s Maryann Karsonovich in the back row, already almost as tall as Mrs. McKean. Her father, Walter was Sharpsville’s chief of police.

Fourth Grade, Emma Robison School, Sharpsville, PA, c. 1951.

Fourth Grade, Emma Robison School, Sharpsville, PA, c. 1951.

Fourth Grade, 1951-1952

My fourth grade teacher was Mrs. Betty Imbrie and she ruled with much different and far sterner methods than Mrs. McKean.

Mrs. Imbrie’s daughter was a sweet girl, the same age as my sister Judy and for a year the mother and daughter rented rooms from our neighbor, Helen Bolton. She had a carpenter divide her house into a duplex and rented half her house to a long string of Sharpsville teachers.

I remember reciting the names of all the U. S. presidents, from George Washington to then president, Harry Truman, learning Pennsylvania history, and doing long division and fractions on the blackboards, but mostly I remember being nervous and afraid.

In that class photo, I’m standing directly in front of Mrs. Imbrie. Nancy Hay is beside me and Carla Deal behind her. At the extreme right of the fourth row is my dear friend Dorothy Davenport, and next to her is Carol Crosier, looking lovely. Next to her is Virginia Berkos, already an accomplished tap dancer.

Mrs. Betty Riddle Imbrie died in Dec. of 2001 in Phoenix, Arizona, at the age of 83. A memorial service was held at our First Methodist Church in Sharpsville. (To be continued.)

— Irene Caldwell O’Neill (SHS 1960), Escondido, CA, March 2013
Photographs courtesy of Irene Caldwell O’Neill


Check in next month for more about the Robison School’s Class of 1960.

See also other stories about Robison School:

Robison School I by Ann Angel Eberhardt
Robison School III by Judy Caldwell Nelson


ROBISON SCHOOL I

It’s September, the time of year that always meant back-to-school for 1950s children. The sight of today’s backpack-laden kids trudging off to school often as early as mid-August, can still bring back those memories of long ago.

A song that would put anyone in a back-to-school mood is Chuck Berry’s 1957 rock ‘n’ roll version of “School Days.” As he sings about dealing with teachers, students and school subjects, he describes the high school experiences and concerns all of us can relate to then and now.

Elementary and high school occupied most of our young lives except for those three-month summer breaks each year, so it isn’t any wonder that memories abound, good and not-so-good. Join us as we recall those “dear old golden rule days” at Robison School during the early 1950s.


Excerpt from a 1901 map of Sharpsville, PA, depicting Robison School on Seventh Street.

The Emma Robison School building sat like a stately mansion at the end of a long sidewalk that cut across the middle of the front lawn. The Y-shaped brick structure on Seventh Street, with its two stories, tall narrow windows, sky-high chimney, and steep roofs, was the place in which I spent my fifth and sixth grades at the ages of 10 through 12 years old.

The Beginnings

A timeline on the Mercer County Historical Society website mentions that a cornerstone for the “Sharpsville Public School” was laid on May 25, 1892. The school was evidently renamed in honor of Miss Emma Robison who taught there from 1900 to 1937. At first, the building held six rooms for approximately 150 pupils, but later it grew to 10 room for 217 pupils. A vintage postcard depicts the school with a woman and child sitting on concrete steps leading to the sidewalk. The fashion of the woman’s clothing suggests that the photo was taken in the 1930s, at a time when the school must still have been the pride of the small town.

Starting the Day

During the first week of the school year, the wood floors would be extra shiny and the interior would have a pungent smell of whatever they applied to the floors. Early morning before school began, students would be standing in groups or chasing each other about on the sidewalk and grounds.

To signal the start of the school day, a teacher appeared at the massive front door, stood at the top of the steps, and rang a handbell. We immediately formed a line and entered the building two-by-two, stamping our little feet to the beat of John Sousa marches emanating from a record player, climbing the wide wooden staircase to the fourth and fifth-grade classes on the second floor. We ended our march as we entered the dark recesses of narrow cloakrooms that were adjacent to our assigned homerooms, removed our hats and coats and hung them on rows of hooks.

The School Room

Entering our classroom through a doorway at the opposite end of the cloakroom, we moved on to our desks, which were assigned to us in alphabetical order by our last names. This seating arrangement continued into high school and, having the last name of Angel, I was always placed near the front of the room and always between the same students whose names came alphabetically before and after mine.

The folding seats and writing surfaces of our desks were made of varnished wood supported by wide ornate black wrought iron legs. The top of the desk, under which we would store our books, tablets, and pencil box, had a round hole for an inkwell in one corner and a groove to hold a pen or pencil along the top edge. On the wall was one of those typical school clocks with Roman numerals and a pendulum. Most likely there were the usual framed copies of paintings of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln hanging about the room.

Good penmanship was emphasized. To keep us reminded of this, a long white narrow paper chart displayed the cursive alphabet in upper and lowercase across the top of the blackboard. During writing lessons, which were based on the Palmer method, we would dip the nibs of our wooden handled pens into the bottle of ink that was securely fixed in the desktop hole and practice our characters, perform exercises such as circles and ovals, and learn the proper way to write a letter. Cursive writing was one area in which I excelled. My work was displayed on the schoolroom wall with the others and I was awarded an A in penmanship on the report card that I carried home to my parents every six weeks. Thanks to this early training, I had at least readable handwriting for the rest of my life.

sharpsville_image_cursive

The Teachers

"Anne of Green Gables" by L.M. Montgomery. (1950s). Source: www.pinterest.com

“Anne of Green Gables” by L.M. Montgomery. (1950s). Source: http://www.pinterest.com

There were about 20 students in each of the two fifth-grade and two sixth-grade homerooms. My homeroom teacher for both those years was Miss Allen. At the end of each day, she would read to us a chapter of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s book, Anne of Green Gables. We enjoyed following the exploits of that spunky red-headed girl, alternatively happy for her achievements and tearful during her rough times.

Each day, several teachers moved from classroom to classroom to present their lessons. Geography was taught by Miss Genevieve Bartholomew, using colorful pull-down maps of the countries. As for music, which she also taught, we often sang melodies from our music book using the scale (Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti, Do) instead of words to the songs. Although I had been taking piano lessons since the second grade, this was one lesson I could never master.

sharpsville_school_chalkAccording to an article in a series titled “Life Stories” in The Herald dated March 27, 2006, Miss Bartholomew taught at Robison School for 38 years and was still going strong at age 95. (See the complete article here.)

Miss Bruner was our arithmetic teacher. Because I was behind in my math education when my family moved to Sharpsville, I was required to stay after school, along with a few other hapless students, to work on my multiplication and subtraction.

The Russians are Coming!

Although my time at Robison School felt safe and peaceful, the nation was in the midst of the Cold War and feared the possibility of nuclear attack by the Soviet Union. We were told that there was only one second between a flash and the explosion of a hydrogen bomb. As we practiced ducking under our desks, I tried to understand how long a second really was. I finally had to face the fact that I was doomed because there wasn’t time to do much of anything!

Other Activities

Judy Caldwell, who became my best friend, always had creative ideas for having fun. We spent many times together sketching our own fashion designs, writing to pen pals, collecting stamps, exploring Pine Hollow creek and woods, attending tap dancing lessons at Buhl Club, and swimming at the Buhl Park pool. My friend discovered that grade-schoolers could borrow books from the high school library. What a bonanza! At once I immersed myself in the lives of the impoverished but resourceful and happy Five Little Peppers, as described in a series of books about five children of the Pepper family written by Margaret Sidney.

The school provided at least one extra-curricular activity, weekly swimming lessons for sixth-graders at a pool in the basement of St. John’s Church that was located in the nearby town of Sharon. Learning how to save oneself from drowning was certainly a worthwhile endeavor, but that unheated water was very cold!
My brother Mike has the following recollections of those days:

The flag pole located in the front of the school was the center of a lot of play and ceremonial activity. I believe I was on some sort of detail assigned to raise the flag in the morning and another kid or two lowered it in the evening. When I saw the 1983 holiday movie, “A Christmas Story,” in which the kid got his tongue frozen to the flagpole, I immediately thought of the flag pole at Robison School where the same thing happened to [one of my friends]. I guess it was a common occurrence back then.

At one time, a tree planting ceremony was held in the front of the school commemorating something special (don’t remember what) – I wonder if the trees are still growing.The girls’ and boys’ restrooms were located in the basement of the school adjacent to the furnace room. I remember the smell of the furnace room as I think they burned coal (it really wasn’t offensive). The janitor must have been the best in the business because I recall how impressed I was as a little boy that the school was so neat and clean.

Something I always thought of: While attending the Robison School, I was told that at one time the 7th Street hill in front of the school was used for a soap box derby race. Kids would make a soap box racer and race them at a yearly organized event until an accident of some sort occurred and the event was discontinued. I don’t know if the story is true or there were actually any races, but as a kid I remember I was disappointed they no longer held the event because I would have been there with my racer.

Another memory: Prior to the school being dismissed, I along with others on the safety patrol left school early to attend to our assigned posts. My post was the crossing at 7th Street and Ridge Avenue. We picked up our long bamboo poles with red flags on the end, which were stored under the outside produce stand at the corner grocery store. When the students crossed the road, we held the poles out and stopped the traffic and let the kids cross safely.

After-School Fun

Mike continues:

I can’t recall the name of the grocery store but can recall what the owner looked like. [According to Judy Caldwell Nelson, the store was called “Stewarts’ Corner Grocery,” owned by the Stewart brothers.] He was real good with the children and treated them well. I bought a lot of penny candy from him.

Also, on Fridays two Filipino men hawked Duncan Yo-Yo’s at that location. The men sold Duncan Yo-Yo’s of all price ranges and special yo-yo string that sold for 5 cents each. They held yo-yo contests weekly and at the end of the school year the yo-yo company gave away a grand prize. It was a Duncan Yo-Yo encrusted with various colors of glass that looked like diamonds and must have been worth millions of dollars! I never won anything but enjoyed the event. I think one of the kids also won a bicycle one year.

sharpsville_photo_fifth_grade

Miss Allen’s Fifth Grade Class, 1950-1951. I’m in the middle row, third from left.

Moving On

The school year came to an end in May or early June. I don’t remember whether there was any preparation or guidance for our move to the Sharpsville Junior-Senior High School for seventh grade, but I do recall how sad Miss Allen was to see us go after having us as her homeroom students for two years.

The more that time has passed, the more idyllic those early school years seem to have been, unspoiled and full of promise. We were fortunate that those dedicated grade school teachers managed to provide us with a strong basic education, and in a building of such a grand design as the Emma Robison School.

— Ann Angel Eberhardt (SHS 1958), Goodyear, AZ,
with help from Michael Angel (SHS 1960), London, KY,
and Judy Caldwell Nelson (SHS 1958), Shoreline, WA. March 2012.

PEBLY & 13th STREET SCHOOLS

Harry E. Pebly Elementary School

Click on image to enlarge. Click Esc key to return.

The Harry E. Pebly Elementary School was named after the then superintendent of the Sharpsville Joint School System. Harry Eugene Pebly, Sr. (1894-1967), had studied at Thiel College, Michigan State College, and University of Pittsburgh, where he received a Master’s in Education. After serving the school system for 36 years as coach, teacher, principal, and superintendent, he retired in 1956. (Pages 16-17 in the 1957 Devil’s Log Sharpsville High School yearbook features his photograph and an article expressing a fond farewell and appreciation.)

After my brother Pat Angel’s first year at Deeter, he recalls this about his years at Pebly School:

I remember the faces and many of the names of the teachers, most notably Mrs. Kilburn, my third grade teacher (Pebly, 1957-58). She was the teacher who cast me as the ‘ugly duckling’ in the school play which I considered then and now a great honor. As a very shy child it boosted my self confidence to play the lead role in that little school play. I like to think that Mrs. Kilburn had that in mind when she choose me. Her husband was a plumber and he had a shop near where the only red light was in town. 

My best friend all through elementary school, Mickey A_____…was from the only African American family in Sharpsville. He lived in the “projects” and had 2 sisters, Shirley and Martha. They were Seventh Day Adventists and my friend’s mother often gave him and me Bible lessons when I would go over and play at his house. I remember playing Monopoly with him and his dad.

Mickey would show up each school morning at my door to walk with me up the Second Street hill to Pebly. In the fifth grade we become ‘blood brothers’ by cutting the palms of our hands with a knife and then pressing the cuts together, mixing our blood. I’m sure we were influenced by the TV series (1954-55) on Davy Crockett (‘King of the Wild Frontier’) on Walt Disney’s ‘Disneyland’. I remember that we both pledged to be true and loyal friends forever.

I think Mickey and his family moved from Sharpsville after elementary school. I went back to the projects in the 1970s and made inquires about Mickey’s whereabouts. Some folks remembered the family as being the first black family in the projects but didn’t know where they had moved to. I wish I could find him and reminisce about our childhood and to tell him how much his friendship meant to me.

A news report from The Record-Argus, Greenville, PA, newspaper (page 12, February 7, 1956) mentions the school:

A name for a new street leading to the Harry E. Pebly Elementary School is to be selected by council. Council may ask Sharpsville school pupils to select the name.

Patrick doesn’t recall much about this street except that it was “engineered differently than the older streets in Sharpsville and an oak tree planted in someone’s honor (Mr. Pebly?) in the school courtyard. The tree is still there — bigger of course than when it was planted in 1956.”

According to Google Maps street view, the 1950s style building still stands but the Harry E. Pebly Elementary School is indicated as “closed”.


Thirteenth Street School

A booklet commemorating Sharpsville’s Centennial in 1974 records that the Thirteenth Street school buildings were erected as annexes to the Deeter Building.

In 1922 the school board purchased a plan of lots at 13th Street to take care of the pressing school needs of that area. The two wooden structures were moved from the Deeter Building to these lots to provide Grades 1 and 2. The buildings were open to the public in 1922 and served the community until they were closed in 1958.

The property at 13th was later sold on bid. All students from the 13th Street area subsequently attended school at the Seventh Street School.


These elementary schools are no longer around, but our memories live on. The Class History in the 1958 Devil’s Log goes on to say:

[We] survived the beginning stages of adjusting to a brand new life…with the kindness and consideration of our grade school teachers to help us over the rough spots, we soon passed over those carefree, wonderful days of skipping rope, playing marbles, dusting erasers, washing boards, playing kick-the-can, prisoners base, [and] mumblety peg….


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

DEETER ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

During the 1950s and 60s, Sharpsville, like other towns across the United States, was experiencing an increase in the number of school-age children due to the post-World War II baby boom. Consequently, the Emma Robison School wasn’t the only elementary school in Sharpsville at that time.

This story covers Deeter Elementary School, but later we’ll also revisit Pebly and 13th Street elementary schools. If you attended any of these or others in the area as a child, please consider sharing your recollections and any photos you may have.

From the Class History in the 1958 Devil’s Log, the Sharpsville (PA) High School yearbook (page 94):

Way back in the year 1946 about 200 eager, aspiring little toddlers left their Mommie’s arms and ventured forth into a strange and curious world…

Some of these fearless little ones ventured into the inner and sinister recesses of the Deeter Building. Others roamed boldly into the unknown at the 13th Street School…, the Robison Building at 7th Street was greedily gobbling up the young innocents who wandered trustingly into the big doors. Still, in other sections, Clark and South Pymatuning to be specific, future and then unknown friends of ours were suffering fates at equally strange and unknown establishments.


Deeter Elementary School

sharpsville_cent plate_deeter

“Emma Deeter School – 1869” depicted on a plate commemorating Sharpsville’s centennial year. (Source: Ebay)

All I knew about Deeter Elementary School was this: If you were of elementary school age in the 1950s, you either went to Deeter School or Robison School. (In seventh grade, students from all the elementary schools attended Sharpsville Junior-Senior High School.)

According to the March 2014 issue of Sharpsville Area Historical Society newsletter, Deeter School was named for Miss Emma Deeter, who was a student during the early 1880s and later became a teacher. The yellow brick building, located on the corner of East Main and Mercer Avenue, was built in 1870, according to the Sharpsville Area Historical Society’s walking tour of the town.

[In] 1870, General Pierce swapped [a frame building used as the first schoolhouse in Sharpsville] for a parcel uptown as well as donation of $2,000 toward a new school building. The new building (upon the site now occupied by the Mertz Towers at 52 S. Mercer Ave.),…expanded twice in 1876 and 1883, was later named the Deeter Building.

A photo taken in the 1930s of Sharpsville from the top of the Shenango Furnace Company’s #1 Furnace, includes a distant view of Deeter School “with its belfry.” This photo can be seen in the March 2013 issue of Sharpsville Area Historical Society Newsletter.

I don’t know if the school that we attended was based on geographical boundaries or not. (The other elementary school, Robison, was across town on Seventh Street.) My older brother and I attended Robison, across town on Seventh Street, in the early 1950s. Later (1955-1956), although we still lived on Second Street, my younger brother went to Deeter, which was closer to our home. According to my 1955 diary, Pat’s first-grade teacher at Deeter was Mrs. Kenton. Here are his recollections:

I went to Deeter in the first grade and then to Pebly elementary school for the second (1956-57) to sixth grade (1960-61). I was 6 years old when I started Deeter in September 1955 but soon turned 7 years old in October 1955….. There was a flight of stairs and halfway up the stairs, there was a reproduction of a painting of boys in a field flying kites on a windy day. There was a pretty big playground and during the summer there was a program that engaged children in arts and crafts activities to keep them out of trouble during the idle summer months I suppose. My chosen craft was casting plaster of paris figurines and painting them. 

I  remember the ‘canteen’ – an outbuilding on the school grounds where there was a weekly (Saturday night?) ‘dance’ or ‘record hop’. That’s where I first heard the pop song, ‘Rock around the Clock.’

I also remember all of the children in the entire school being marched single file from the school down the hill (Walnut Street?) to Dr. [James A.] Biggins office where we all got polio shots. That would have been in the 1955-56 school year…. Those of us who received the polio shot in our left arms back then earned a little round scar which remains visible on my arm to this day. My children didn’t get a polio shot but rather an oral dose, so the scar dates the children of the 1950s and 60s.  

Click on image to enlarge.


Most of those elementary schools are no longer around, but our memories do live on. The Class History in the 1958 Devil’s Log goes on to say:

[We] survived the beginning stages of adjusting to a brand new life…with the kindness and consideration of our grade school teachers to help us over the rough spots, we soon passed over those carefree, wonderful days of skipping rope, playing marbles, dusting erasers, washing boards, playing kick-the-can, prisoners base, [and] mumblety peg….


— Ann Angel Eberhardt (SHS 1954-1958), Goodyear, AZ
— Pat Angel (SHS 1964-1968), London, KY

September 2, 2014

ROBISON SCHOOL III

Hup, two, three, four. You’re in the army now.

Robison Elementary School was the school I attended from third through sixth grades. The school was a large red brick building with wooden flooring and two grand staircases leading to the second floor. There were beautiful polished railings on the sweeping stairways.

As I recall, the fourth through sixth grade homerooms were on the second floor. Miss Bruner was my fourth grade teacher and I believe she secretly wanted to be an army sergeant. Of course, women were not permitted in the armed services in those days unless they were nurses. Not to be deterred, Miss Bruner probably decided that the next best thing would be to become a teacher and treat her students like army recruits.

When we students left school in the afternoon, we all had to line up four or more abreast on the upper stairway. Miss Bruner had a wooden ruler and she would rap it sharply on the stairway railing in time to her hearty cries of “Left, left….left, right, left.”

We were not permitted to descend – and escape – until we were all keeping perfect step. Sometimes we would march in place for five or more minutes until we reached the gloriously perfect cadence that probably filled Miss Bruner’s heart with rapture. And woe unto he or she whose marching was deficient, for that ruler could rap on other things besides the railing – like arms, hands, heads, etc.

Of course, other homeroom teachers lined their students up in the same manner and made them march as well. But no other teacher expressed the military ardor of Miss Bruner. Someone should have presented her with honorary sergeant stripes.

Unfortunately that beautiful old school was torn down and replaced with a more modern structure with absolutely no personality.

[Read memories of Robison School by other writers here and here.]

 

– Judy Caldwell Nelson (SHS 1958), Shoreline, WA, March 2013